A Syrian ready to perish was my father - This passage has been variously understood, both by the ancient versions and by modern commentators. The Vulgate renders it thus: Syrus persequebatur patrem meum, "A Syrian persecuted my father." The Septuagint thus: Συριαν απεβαλεν ὁ πατηρ μου, "My father abandoned Syria." The Targum thus: אבא ית לאובדא בעא ארמאה לבן Laban arammaah bea leobada yath abba, "Laban the Syrian endeavored to destroy my father." The Syriac: "My father was led out of Syria into Egypt." The Arabic: "Surely, Laban the Syrian had almost destroyed my father." The Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel: "Our father Jacob went at first into Syria of Mesopotamia, and Laban sought to destroy him."
Father Houbigant dissents from all, and renders the original thus: Fames urgebat patrem meum, qui in Aegyptum descendit, "Famine oppressed my father, who went down into Egypt." This interpretation Houbigant gives the text, by taking the י yod from the word ארמי arammi, which signifies an Aramite or Syrian, and joining it to יאבד yeabud, the future for the perfect, which is common enough in Hebrew, and which may signify constrained; and seeking for the meaning of ארם aram in the Arabic arama, which signifies famine, dearth, etc., he thus makes out his version, and this version he defends at large in his notes. It is pretty evident, from the text, that by a Syrian we are to understand Jacob, so called from his long residence in Syria with his father-in-law Laban. And his being ready to perish may signify the hard usage and severe labor he had in Laban's service, by which, as his health was much impaired, so his life might have often been in imminent danger.
A Syrian ready to perish was my father - The reference is shown by the context to be to Jacob, as the ancestor in whom particularly the family of Abraham began to develop into a nation (compare Isaiah 43:22, Isaiah 43:28, etc.). Jacob is called a Syrian (literally, Aramaean), not only because of his own long residence in Syria with Laban Matthew 2:23, but because he there married and had his children (compare Hosea 12:12); and might be said accordingly to belong to that more than to any other land.
Unless we shall drink of the water that Christ gives, we cannot improve our own situation or of those that are around us. Only by being supplied by that grace which Jesus Christ can give us and is longing to bestow upon us, will the necessities of the souls that are ready to perish be met. TDG 301.5Read in context »
The tithe was to be exclusively devoted to the use of the Levites, the tribe that had been set apart for the service of the sanctuary. But this was by no means the limit of the contributions for religious purposes. The tabernacle, as afterward the temple, was erected wholly by freewill offerings; and to provide for necessary repairs and other expenses, Moses directed that as often as the people were numbered, each should contribute a half shekel for “the service of the tabernacle.” In the time of Nehemiah a contribution was made yearly for this purpose. See Exodus 30:12-16; 2 Kings 12:4, 5; 2 Chronicles 24:4-13; Nehemiah 10:32, 33. From time to time sin offerings and thank offerings were brought to God. These were presented in great numbers at the annual feasts. And the most liberal provision was made for the poor. PP 526.1
Even before the tithe could be reserved there had been an acknowledgment of the claims of God. The first that ripened of every product of the land was consecrated to Him. The first of the wool when the sheep were shorn, of the grain when the wheat was threshed, the first of the oil and the wine, was set apart for God. So also were the first-born of all animals; and a redemption price was paid for the first-born son. The first fruits were to be presented before the Lord at the sanctuary, and were then devoted to the use of the priests. PP 526.2
Thus the people were constantly reminded that God was the true proprietor of their fields, their flocks, and their herds; that He sent them sunshine and rain for their seedtime and harvest, and that everything they possessed was of His creation, and He had made them stewards of His goods. PP 526.3
As the men of Israel, laden with the first fruits of field and orchard and vineyard, gathered at the tabernacle, there was made a public acknowledgment of God's goodness. When the priest accepted the gift, the offerer, speaking as in the presence of Jehovah, said, “A Syrian ready to perish was my father;” and he described the sojourn in Egypt and the affliction from which God had delivered Israel “with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders.” And he said, “He hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, even a land that floweth with milk and honey. And now, behold, I have brought the first fruits of the land, which Thou, Jehovah, hast given me.” Deuteronomy 26:5, 8-11. PP 526.4Read in context »