|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
23:1-3 In this chapter we have the institution of holy times; many of which have been mentioned before. Though the yearly feasts were made more remarkable by general attendance at the sanctuary, yet these must not be observed more than the sabbath. On that day they must withdraw from all business of the world. It is a sabbath of rest, typifying spiritual rest from sin, and rest in God. God's sabbaths are to be religiously observed in every private house, by every family apart, as well as by families together, in holy assemblies. The sabbath of the Lord in our dwellings will be their beauty, strength, and safety; it will sanctify, build up, and glorify them.
HOLY DAYS AND SEASONS: WEEKLY, MONTHLY, ANNUAL,
SEPTENNIAL, AND EVERY HALF-CENTURY.
CHAPTER 23. THIS Part consists of chapters 23, and 25, with chapter 24 parenthetically introduced. Every religion must have its round of holy days and seasons:
1. To give occasion for manifesting joyous thankfulness to the Giver of all good things.
2. To keep alive the memory of past events around which religious associations cling.
3. To impress upon the hearts of the worshippers those sacred mysteries which are regarded as essential characteristics of the system.
1. The duty and happiness of rejoicing before the Lord find a prominent place under the Mosaic dispensation, as they must in any religion where man feels himself in a covenant relation with God, brought nigh to him by himself, and no longer estranged from him who is his only true life and happiness. Accordingly, the first thought of the annual Jewish festivals is that of joyous thankfulness, such as is becoming to reconciled children grateful to their Father for the many bounties that they receive at his hands. The first gift of God of which man becomes conscious is that of the daily sustenance provided for him, and therefore we should expect holy days to be appointed to commemorate the goodness of God in bestowing the gifts of the earth. The first aspect, therefore, in which to regard the three great annual festivals - the Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles - is that they were days of thanksgiving for the fruits of the earth dispensed by God to man. First, with regard to the Passover. We read at verses 10, 11, "When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf [or an omer] of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it." The words, "the morrow after the sabbath," mean, as we shall see, the day after the first day of Unleavened Bread, that is, the second day of the feast, Nisan 16, which fell early in April, when the first barley was ripening in Palestine. On the 14th day of Nisan (the day of the Paschal sacrifice) a certain quantity of standing barley was marked off, by men specially appointed for the purpose, in a field ploughed the previous autumn and sown at least ten weeks before the Passover, but not prepared artificially in such a way as to hasten the crop. On the following day, Nisan 15, at sunset, three men were sent to the selected field, and, in the presence of witnesses, cut the ears of corn before marked, and brought them into the temple. On the next day, Nisan 16, this corn, whether in the form of a sheaf or of flour, was offered to the Lord by being waved before him, and then consigned to the priest. Here, by the presentation of the firstfruits of the year, an acknowledgment is made that the products of the earth are by right God's. This is one of the objects of the Feast of the Passover. Secondly, as to Pentecost. After the sheaf, or omer, had been offered on Nisan 16, it was allowable to make the new year's barley into bread, but the dedication of the grain crops was not complete until a portion of the wheat crop had also been offered. This was done a week of weeks later, at the Feast of Pentecost, forty-nine days after the presentation of the barley, and fifty days after the first day of Unleavened Bread. On this day, two leavened loaves, of the same size as the shewbread loaves, were waved before the Lord, and then delivered to the priest. These loaves were made out of ears of corn selected and reaped as the barley had been seven weeks before, and then threshed and ground in the temple. They were regarded as the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, though they were not made of the first cut wheat; and from their presentation the festival has the name of the Feast of Harvest (Exodus 23:16); the Feast of the Firstfruits of the Wheat Harvest (Exodus 24:22); the Day of the Firstfruits (Numbers 28:26); while, from its date relatively to the Passover, it is called the Feast of Weeks (Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16:10). The name, Feast of Pentecost, is found only in the Apocrypha (Tobit 2:1; 2 Macc. 12:32), and in the New Testament (Acts 2:1; Acts 20:16; 1 Corinthians 16:8). The meat offerings might not be made of the new year's flour until these two loaves had been offered. Thirdly, with regard to the Feast of Tabernacles. The festivals connected with the seasons of the year and the products of the soil were not ended until the Feast of Ingathering (Exodus 23:16; Exodus 34:22), or Tabernacles (verse 34; Deuteronomy 16:13; Ezra 3:4; Zechariah 14:16; Jeremiah 7:2), had been celebrated. This festival occurred about the beginning of October, and commemorated the final gathering in of all the fruits of the year, specially of the olives and the grapes. It was observed by a general dwelling in booths made of the branches of palms, willows, olives, pines, myrtles, and other close-growing trees (verse 40; Nehemiah 8:15), in which all the Israelite males, with the exception of the sick, lived for seven days, and kept harvest home.
2. The second aspect in which to regard the annum festivals is the historical one. The Passover is characterized by its historical associations to a greater degree than either of the other festivals. The whole national life of the Israelites received its character from the Egyptian Exodus, and accordingly the anniversaries of their religious year began with its commemoration. It was the events which had taken place in Egypt which gave to the Paschal sacrifice and the Paschal feast their primary signification; and while to us the Passover festival serves as a proof of the truth of those events, to the Jew it served as a memorial of them, preventing them from ever being forgotten or disregarded (cf. Exodus 13:3-16). The ancient Christian Fathers suggested that the Feast of Pentecost commemorated the institution of the old dispensation at Sinai, as, to Christians, it recalled the institution of the new Law by the gift of the fiery tongues at Jerusalem. This suggestion was adopted by Maimonides and the later school of Hebrew commentators, and it is a very probable conjecture; but as no appearance of it is found in the Old or New Testaments, nor even in early Hebrew writers, it cannot be regarded as a certainty. Historically, the Feast of Tabernacles is generally considered to commemorate the dwelling in tents throughout the forty years' wandering in the wilderness; but if this were so, it would have been called the Feast of Tents, for the words "tent" and "tabernacle" differ, and the Israelites did not dwell in tabernacles in the wilderness. Rather, it commemorates the first encampment of the Israelites after setting forth from Egypt, which took place at "Succoth," the meaning of which word is "tabernacle" (Exodus 12:37). Thus, as the event historically associated with the first harvest festival, the Passover, was the setting forth from Egypt, that associated with the last, the Feast of Tabernacles, was the resting at the end of the first day's journey at Succoth, where the people now felt that they were free, and began to rejoice in their freedom.
3. The typical character of the feasts, as well as their historical character, is more apparent in the Passover than in the other two feasts. St. Paul's testimony on this point is sufficient: "For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:7). Here we have the typical character of the Paschal lamb, and of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, authoritatively declared to us. The blood of the lamb slain on the night before the Exodus, being the means whereby the Israelites were delivered from the destruction which fell on all the rest of the inhabitants of the land, typified the still more efficacious bloodshedding by which the redemption of Christ's people was wrought. The Feast of Pentecost, if it commemorated the gift of the Law at Mount Sinai, pointed thereby to the giving of the better Law on the day when the Holy Ghost descended upon the apostles in Jerusalem; and in any case, as a Feast of Firstfruits, it was emblematic of those firstfruits of the Christian Church presented to God on that day (Acts 2:41). The Feast of Tabernacles, in which God's people commemorated their rejoicing in their newly found liberty after the slavery of Egypt, awaits its full typical fulfillment in the spiritual joy of the redeemed after they have been delivered from the burden of the flesh and the sufferings of the world; but its typical meaning is partially fulfilled in the blessed peace and joy spread abroad in the hearts of the children of God by reason of their adoption in Christ, whereby we have obtained an inheritance with the saints (Ephesians 1:11, 18). In the annual fast held on the 10th of Tisri, the great Day of Atonement, the typical element outweighs any other. The present and the past sink away in comparison with the future. The day suggests no thought of the seasons or of the products of the earth, and it recalls no event of past history. It teaches a lesson - the need of reconciliation; and by the entrance of the high priest into the holy of holies with sacrificial blood, and by the ceremony of the scapegoat, it typically foreshadows how that reconciliation is to he effected. The monthly festivals had a purpose different from the annual. They occurred on the new moon, or the first day of each month, and their intention was to dedicate each month to God. Only one of these monthly festivals is mentioned in this chapter the Feast of Trumpets. It is the feast of the new moon of the sacred seventh month, with which the civil year began. Because it was New Year's Day, it had more ceremonies attached to it than the first days of the other months. Whereas the feasts of the new moons in other months only sanctified the special month which they began, the Feast of Trumpets sanctified also the whole year, and was therefore an annual as well as a monthly feast. The weekly festival was the sabbath (see Exodus 20:10; Deuteronomy 5:15). This feast sanctified each week, as the monthly feasts sanctified each month; and like the annual festivals, it looked both backwards and forwards: backwards, to the sanctification bestowed upon it "Because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made" (Genesis 2:3); forwards, to the great sabbath in which Christ rested in the grave, and yet further onwards to another sabbath still to be enjoyed by the people of God. The sabbatical year and the jubilee were extensions of the sabbatical principle - certain civil and religious institutions and regulations being attached to each of them. Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And the Lord spake unto Moses,.... Much about the same time as before; and having delivered to him various laws concerning the holiness of the people of Israel, who were to serve him, and of the holiness of the priests, that were to minister in holy things to him, and of the purity and perfections of their sacrifices, he here appoints various times and seasons, for the more special worship and service of him:
saying; as follows.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Le 23:1-4. Of Sundry Feasts.
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