LEVITICUS CHAPTER 23.
The Feasts of the Lord.
THE SABBATH. - V.1. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, v.2. Speak unto the children of Israel and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the Lord which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are My feasts. The word originally means fixed or appointed times, which the Lord had marked out, separated, distinguished from the ordinary course of daily life, and therefore found its chief application in the case of the festivals. While the chapter contains a calendar of the festivals, its purpose is chiefly, as the restricting relative clause indicates, to mark those festivals upon which there should be solemn meetings for the purpose of worship. V.3. Six days shall work be done, the ordinary business of life should be done on the six days of the week, and the words are not merely a permission, but a command; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein. The Sabbath was to be distinguished not only by the fact that the Jews desisted from work, but chiefly because they assembled for the purposes of worship; it is the Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings. By the last expression the convocation of the Sabbath is distinguished from that of all the annual festivals, for the Sabbath was usually celebrated at home, in the country, in town, in village, in hamlet, throughout the land, and wherever the Jews lived, while the great festivals were celebrated chiefly, if not entirely, at the places where the Lord’s Sanctuary was erected.
THE PASSOVER AND THE OFFERING WHICH FOLLOWED IT. - V.4. These are the feasts of the Lord, in the narrower sense, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons. This instruction was carried out with strict literalness in after-years, the exact date of the new moon in each month being fixed by the elders of the Jews and announced with great solemnity. V.5. In the fourteenth day of the first month, of the month Abib, or Nisan, with which the church-year began, at even, is the Lord’s Passover. Cp. Ex. 12, 6-20. V.6. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread unto the Lord; seven days ye must eat unleavened bread. Although at a later period the two festivals were considered as one, for all practical purposes, and often identified, yet the distinction was observed, and careful writers did not neglect to refer to it, Mark 14, 1. V.7. In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation, a solemn assembly for purposes of worship; ye shall do no servile work therein. On this day all business and work was strictly suspended, as on a most solemn Sabbath. V.8. But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord seven days, although these days were not closed to the ordinary work in the house, in the shop, and on the farm. In the seventh day is an holy convocation; ye shall do no servile work therein, as on the first day. Of the annual festivals, the Passover, with the Feast of Unleavened Bread connected with it, came first in the cycle of the church-year, first in the great historic event it commemorated, first in its obligation, and first in its spiritual and typical significance. V.9. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, v.10. Speak unto the children of Israel and say unto them, When ye come in to the land which I give unto you, for it was only at that time that this special instruction was to come into force, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the first-fruits of your harvest unto the priest, a sheaf of barley, which ripens in Palestine in April; v.11. and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, by which the gift was sanctified to Jehovah, who then designated it for the use of the priests, to be accepted for you; on the morrow after the Sabbath, after the first day of the holy convocation, on the sixteenth of Nisan, the priest shall wave it. V.12. and ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf an he-lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the Lord. As Israel, by the offering of the sheaf of first-fruits, consecrated the entire new harvest and the daily bread depending upon this harvest to the Lord and confessed that its maintenance depended upon the divine goodness, so, by the burnt offering, the people declared their unworthiness of the Lord’s goodness and their need of His mercy. V.13. And the meat-offering thereof, to accompany the burnt offering, shall be two-tenth deals (somewhat over five quarts) of fine flour, wheaten flour, mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the Lord for a sweet savor; and the drink-offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin, a trifle more than a quart. V.14. And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, roasted at the fire, nor green ears, of the new harvest, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your god; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings, in the land of Canaan, as long as the Levitical priesthood endured. The use of the new grain for food in any form whatever before the ceremony of waving on the sixteenth of Nisan was absolutely forbidden. All our possessions, all the members of our bodies, should be consecrated to the Lord for diligence in good works.
THE FEAST OF WEEKS. - V.15. And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the sixteenth of Nisan, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave-offering; seven Sabbaths, or weeks, shall be complete. V.16. Even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall ye number fifty days, and ye shall offer anew meat-offering unto the Lord, one prepared from the grain of the new harvest. V.17. Ye shall bring out of your habitations, not from the Temple revenues, this being an extra offering, two wave-loaves of two-tenth deals (a little more than five quarts), bread like that used for daily food. They shall be of fine flour, of wheaten flour; they shall be baken with leaven, as the bread was always prepared in the homes; they are the first-fruits unto the Lord. V.18. And ye shall offer with the breads even lambs without blemish of the first year and one young bullock and two rams; they shall be for a burnt offering unto the Lord, with their meat-offering and their drink-offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savor unto the Lord. V.19. Then ye shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin-offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace-offerings. “The sin-offering was to excite the feeling and consciousness of sin on the part of the congregation of Israel, that, whilst eating their daily leavened bread, they might not serve the leaven of their old nature, but seek and implore from the Lord, their God, the forgiveness and cleansing away of their sin.” (Keil.) V.20. And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the first-fruits for a wave-offering before the Lord, the name being derived from the movement of the body and of the arms which accompanied the presentation to the Lord, with the two lambs; they shall be holy to the Lord for the priest. Thus the character of the festival, as one of joyful gratitude for God’s goodness and mercy, was emphasized. V.21. And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day that it may be an holy convocation unto you; ye shall do no servile work therein, as on the first and the last day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread; it shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations. V.22. And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, in mowing to the very border of the land, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest, the stalks and ears that dropped out in harvesting; thou shalt leave them unto the poor and to the stranger. I am the Lord, your God. To celebrate a festival of thanksgiving to the Lord for the blessings of His goodness and at the same time to ignore the needs of the poor is a combination which will hardly meet with the approval of the Lord,
THE FEAST OF TRUMPETS. - V.23. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, v.24, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a Sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation. It was a feast Sabbath, distinguished from the ordinary new moons, and a Sabbath of memorial. The feature of the day was the sounding of the trumpets, horns, or trombones, which belonged to the equipment of the Sanctuary, Num. 10, 2. V.25. Ye shall do no servile work there in; but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord. The day was afterward, if not at that time, celebrated as the Sew Year’s Day of the civil year, and the solemn assembly marked its prominence, as the Jews said, because it commemorated the creation, when all the sons of God shouted for joy, Job 38, 7. The blowing of horns was afterward not confined to the Sanctuary, but was indulged in very generally throughout the land. The burnt offering of the day is specified exactly in Num. 29, 1-6.
THE DAY OF ATONEMENT. - V.26. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, v.27. Also on the tenth day of this seventh month, the seventh month of the church-year, known as Tishri, there shall be a day of atonement; it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, show the grief and mourning which you feel on account of your sins by a complete fast, and offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord. Cp. chap. 16. The offerings are specified in detail Num. 29, 8-11. V.28. And ye shall do no work in that same day; for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the Lord, your God, the annual restoration of the relation between the covenant God and His people by the sprinkling of blood in the Most Holy Place. V.29. For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, not join the rest of the people in the fasting which showed the intensity of their mourning, he shall be cut off from among his people. V.30. And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people, for the strictest form of Sabbath rest was here demanded. V.31. Ye shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. V.32. It shall be unto you a Sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls. In the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your Sabbath. The exact length of the fast is specified, and the great rigor is to be noted with which the penalty of death was held forth for every transgression against the rest of the Sabbath and against the fast. The children of Israel mere to be made conscious, at least to some extent, of the heinousness and of the guilt of sin, that they might enter upon the celebration of the Day of Atonement with hearts full of genuine repentance.
THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES. - V.33. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, v.34. Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month, of the month Tishri, corresponding to the latter part of our September and the first part of our October, shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days unto the Lord, named the Feast of Booths on account of the temporary structures in which the children of Israel lived during that week, as described below. V.35. On the first day shall be an holy convocation; ye shall do no servile work therein, as on the other great festivals. V.36. Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord, in addition to the daily burnt offerings, as described Num. 29, 13-38. On the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord; it is a solemn assembly, concluding the festivities of the week in a manner befitting their importance; and ye shall do no servile work therein. V.37. These are the feasts of the Lord, as enumerated in this chapter, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, this being the feature which is stressed here, to offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord, a burnt offering, and a meat-offering, a sacrifice, and drink-offerings, the libations of wine, every thing upon his day; v.38. beside the Sabbaths of the Lord, and beside your gifts, and beside all your vows, and beside all your free-will offerings which ye give unto the Lord. V.39. Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the Lord seven days, for the Feast of Tabernacles was the festival of the completed harvest, not only of grain, but also of fruit. On the first day shall be a Sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a Sabbath, as stated above. V.40. And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, literally, “fruit of ornamental trees.” whose long composite leaves would serve well for purposes of decoration, branches of palm-trees, and the boughs of thick trees, such with heavy foliage, and willows of the brook, all these being used in the construction of booths; and ye shall rejoice before the Lord, your God, seven days. Cp. Neh. 8, 15 ff. V.41. And ye shall keep it a feast unto the Lord seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations; ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month. V.42. Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths, the strangers being excluded in the ordinance, since the second purpose of the festival was to remind the Israelites of their dwelling in tents in the wilderness, v.43. that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt. I am the Lord, your God. The keynote of the festival, therefore, was joy to the point of exultation, since the contrast between the fullness of the blessings enjoyed in Palestine, as it appeared in every harvest, and the desolation of the wilderness was so marked. Cp. Deut. 8. V.44. And Moses declared unto the children of Israel the feasts of the Lord. The Feast of Tabernacles is probably symbolic of the everlasting festival of joy which we shall celebrate with all the elect in heaven, where our hosannas will rise to the throne of the Lamb in endless refrain. 7)