Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Observe the month of Abib, and keep the passover unto the LORD thy God: for in the month of Abib the LORD thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt by night.XVI.
Deuteronomy 16:1-8. THE PASSOVER. (See on Exodus 12)
(1) The month Abib was so called from the “ears of corn” which appeared in it.
By night.—Pharaoh’s permission was given on the night of the death of the first-born, though Israel did not actually depart until the next day (Numbers 33:3-4).
(2) Of the flock, and of the herd.—The Passover victim itself must be either lamb or kid. (See on Deuteronomy 14:4, and comp. Exodus 12:5.) But there were special sacrifices of bullocks appointed for the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which followed the Passover. (See Numbers 28:19.)
(6) At even, at the going down of the sun, at the season that thou comest forth from Egypt.—The word “season” here is ambiguous in the English. Does it mean the time of year, or the time of day? The Hebrew word, which usually denotes a commemorative time, might seem to point to the hour of sunset as the time when the march actually began. If so, it was the evening of the fifteenth day of the month (See Numbers 33:3). But the word is also used generally of the time of year (Exodus 23:15; Numbers 9:2, &c.); and as the Passover was to be kept on the fourteenth, not the fifteenth day, the time actually commemorated is the time of the slaying of the lamb which saved Israel from the destroyer, rather than the time of the actual march. It is noticeable that, while the Passover commemorated the deliverance by the slain lamb in Egypt, the Feast of Tabernacles commemorated the encampment at Succoth, the first resting-place of the delivered nation after the exodus had actually begun.
(8) A solemn assembly.—Literally, as in the Margin, a restraint—i.e., a day when work was forbidden. The word is applied to the eighth day of the feast of tabernacles in Leviticus 23:36, and Numbers 29:35, and does not occur elsewhere in the Pentateuch.
Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: begin to number the seven weeks from such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn.Deuteronomy 16:9-12. THE FEAST OF WEEKS, OR PENTECOST.
(9) From such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn.—The word for sickle only occurs here and in Deuteronomy 23:25. In Leviticus the weeks are ordered to be reckoned from the offering of the wave sheaf on the sixteenth day of the first month, two days after the Passover. This sheaf was of barley, the first ripe corn. A different view is sometimes taken of the word “Sabbath “in Leviticus 23:11; but the view given here is correct according to the Talmud.
(10) A tribute.—This word (missah) occurs nowhere else in the Bible. The marginal rendering, “sufficiency,” is its Aramaic or Chaldæan sense. The idea seems to be “a proportionate offering “—i.e., a free will offering, proportioned to a man’s means and prosperity. In Exodus 34:20; Exodus 23:15, we read, “None shall appear before me empty.” The command is made general for all the three feasts in Deuteronomy 16:16-17 further on.
(11) Thou shalt rejoice before the Lord thy God.—This aspect of the feast of weeks is specially insisted upon in Deuteronomy. Its relation to the poor appears also in the command connected with this feast in Leviticus 23:22, to leave the corners of the fields un-reaped for them.
Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy wine:Deuteronomy 16:13-15. THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES.
(13) Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days.—For details of the observance see the passages already referred to in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, but more especially Leviticus 23:33-43.
(14) Thou, and thy son . . .—The rejoicing of the Feast of Tabernacles was proverbial among the Jews. On the persons who are to share the joy, Rashi has an interesting note. “The Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow,—My four (Jehovah’s), over against thy four—thy son, thy daughter, thy manservant, thy maidservant. If thou wilt make My four to rejoice, I will rejoice thy four.”
(15) Seven days.—An eighth day is mentioned both in Leviticus 23:36 and Numbers 29:35. But the seven days of this feast are also spoken of in both those passages (Leviticus 23:36 and Numbers 29:12). There is, therefore, no contradiction between the two passages. The eighth day is treated apart from the first seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles, somewhat in the same way as the Passover is always distinguished in the Pentateuch from the six days which followed it, and which are called the Feast of Unleavened bread. The reason for the distinction in that case becomes clear in the fulfilment of the feast by our Lord. The Passover is His sacrifice and death. We keep the feast of unleavened bread by serving Him in “sincerity and truth.” The Feast of Tabernacles has not yet been fulfilled by our Lord like the two other great feasts of the Jewish calendar. Unfulfilled prophecies regarding it may be pointed out, as in Zechariah 14. Our Lord refused to signalise that feast by any public manifestation (John 7:2-10). There may, therefore, be some reason for separating the eighth and last day of the Feast of Tabernacles from the former seven, which will appear in its fulfilment in the kingdom of God. It is remarkable that the dedication of Solomon’s temple, the commencement of the second temple and the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, all occurred about the time of the Feast of Tabernacles.
Thou shalt surely rejoice.—In the Hebrew this is a somewhat unusual form of expression. Literally, thou wilt be only rejoicing. Rashi says it is not a command, but a promise.
Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty:(16) Three times in a year.—So Exodus 23:17. And in Exodus 34:23-24 a promise is added that their land should be safe in their absence.
Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment.(18) Judges and officers.—A fresh section of the book, as read in the synagogues, begins with these words.
The land is now considered as the seat of the Kingdom of Jehovah, to the end of ch. 18. See Introduction for a complete analysis, and comp. Joshua 23:2, which shows that these magistrates were already appointed.
Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.(19) See Exodus 23:6; Exodus 23:8.
Thou shalt not plant thee a grove of any trees near unto the altar of the LORD thy God, which thou shalt make thee.(21) Thou shalt not plant thee a grove.—Heb., ashêrah, sometimes used of images, but here evidently of the grove itself. The worship of Jehovah allowed of no secret rites; and nothing that could lead to the abominations of heathen idolatry could be permitted near Jehovah’s altar.
Neither shalt thou set thee up any image; which the LORD thy God hateth.(22) Image.—Explained by Rashi of a single stone, whether statue or pillar.