In the wilderness,
I found Israel.
Like the first fruit
On the fig tree,
In its first season,
I saw your ancestors.
But they came
They consecrated themselves
A thing of shame.
They became detestable,
Like the thing they loved.”
Yahweh, via Hosea, pointed out that their ancestors were like grapes plucked in the wilderness. They were like the first fruits of the first season of a fig tree. In the wilderness, they made a covenant with Yahweh. But then, their ancestors came to Baal-peor, as mentioned in Numbers, chapter 25. There, they intermarried with the women of Moab and worshipped the Canaanite fertility god of Baal. Thus, they consecrated themselves to the shameful Baal god. They became detestable, just like this Baal god. All this happened as they entered the land of Canaan.
“Thus says Yahweh.
The devotion of your youth.
Your love as a bride.
You followed me in the wilderness,
In a land not sown.
Israel was holy to Yahweh.
She was the first fruits of his harvest.
All who ate of it were held guilty.
Disaster came upon them.’
Yahweh wanted them to remember the days of their youth when they were devoted to him like a young bride. They followed Yahweh in the sparse wilderness. Israel was holy to Yahweh like the first fruits of his harvest. However, things have changed since the events of hundreds of years ago in the Exodus. All who ate became guilty and disaster came to them. Thus Jeremiah proclaimed this oracle of Yahweh.
With your substance.
With the first fruits of all your produce.
Then your barns will be filled with plenty of wheat.
Your vats will be bursting with wine.”
If you honor Yahweh with your goods, and especially the first fruits of your harvest, then your barns will be filled with wheat and other crops. Your vats will be bursting with wine. It seems that this was an agricultural society with wheat and grapes as the dominant crop.
“They cried aloud to Heaven, saying.
‘What shall we do with these?
Where shall we take them?
Your sanctuary is trampled down and profaned.
Your priests mourn in humiliation.
Here the gentiles are assembled against us to destroy us.
You know what they plot against us.
How will we be able to withstand them?
If you do not help us?’
Their problem was simple as they cried out to heaven where God was. They wanted to know what to do about these cultic items since there was no Temple. Where should they take the first fruits and the tithes? The sanctuary was trampled and profaned. The priests were mourning. The gentiles were plotting against them to destroy them. There is no way that they can withstand them other than help from God.
“But I alone went often to Jerusalem for the festivals, as it is prescribed for all Israel by an everlasting decree. I would hurry off to Jerusalem with the first fruits of the crops and the firstlings of the flock, the tithes of the cattle, and the first shearings of the sheep. I would give these to the priests, the sons of Aaron, at the altar. Likewise, I would give a tenth of the grain, wine, olive oil, pomegranates, figs, and rest of the fruits to the sons of Levi who ministered at Jerusalem. Also for six years I would save up a second tenth in money and go and distribute it in Jerusalem. A third tenth I would give to the orphans and widows, and to the converts who had attached themselves to Israel. I would bring it and give it to them in the third year. We would eat it according to the ordinance decreed concerning it in the Law of Moses and according to the instructions of Deborah, the mother of my father Tobiel. My father had died and left me an orphan. When I became a man I married a woman named Anna, a member of our family. By her I became the father of a son I called Tobias.”
Tobit goes on to explain why he is righteous. He went alone to the festivals at Jerusalem. The fact that he could take time to go to Jerusalem meant that he might have been among the rich of his area. He brought his tithes with him. He explained that he gave the tithes to the priests and Levites in Jerusalem. Every 3rd year, he would give a 10th to the orphans, widows, and converts to Judaism. This is one of the mentions of converts to Judaism. He followed the ordinances of the Law of Moses and his grandmother Deborah since his father had died and left him an orphan. Finally, he married Anna, from his family, and had a son called Tobias.
“Thus I cleansed them from everything foreign. I established the duties of the priests and the Levites, each in his work. I provided for the wood offering, at appointed times, and for the first fruits.
O my God, for good.’
Nehemiah on this second trip had accomplished his task. He had cleansed Jerusalem from everything foreign. He had reestablished the priests and Levites in their work. There would be sacrifices in the Temple at the appointed times. He wanted God to remember him for all the good that he had done.