Exodus 23:15
Thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread: (thou shalt eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded thee, in the time appointed of the month Abib; for in it thou camest out from Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty:)
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(15) The feast of unleavened bread.—See the Notes on Exodus 12:15-20.

In the time appointed of the month Abib.—From the 14th day of the month Abib (or Nisan) to the 21st day. (See Exo. Xii. 18, 13:4-7.)

None shall appear before me empty.—Viewed religiously, the festivals were annual national thanks-givings for mercies received, both natural and miraculous—the first for the commencement of harvest and the deliverance out of Egypt; the second for the completion of the grain-harvest and the passage of the Red Sea; the third for the final gathering in of the fruits and the many mercies of the wilderness. At such seasons we must not “appear before God empty,” we must give Him not only “the salves of our lips,” but some substantial acknowledgment of His goodness towards us. The law here laid down with respect to the first feast is afterwards extended to the other two (Deuteronomy 16:16).

23:10-19 Every seventh year the land was to rest. They must not plough or sow it; what the earth produced of itself, should be eaten, and not laid up. This law seems to have been intended to teach dependence on Providence, and God's faithfulness in sending the larger increase while they kept his appointments. It was also typical of the heavenly rest, when all earthly labours, cares, and interests shall cease for ever. All respect to the gods of the heathen is strictly forbidden. Since idolatry was a sin to which the Israelites leaned, they must blot out the remembrance of the gods of the heathen. Solemn religious attendance on God, in the place which he should choose, is strictly required. They must come together before the Lord. What a good Master do we serve, who has made it our duty to rejoice before him! Let us devote with pleasure to the service of God that portion of our time which he requires, and count his sabbaths and ordinances to be a feast unto our souls. They were not to come empty-handed; so now, we must not come to worship God empty-hearted; our souls must be filled with holy desires toward him, and dedications of ourselves to him; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.On the Feast of Unleavened Bread, or the Passover, see Exodus 12:1-20, Exodus 12:43-50; Exodus 13:3-16; Exodus 34:18-20; Leviticus 23:4-14. On the Feast of the Firstfruits of Harvest, called also the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Pentecost, see Exodus 34:22; Leviticus 23:15-21. On the Feast of Ingathering, called also the Feast of Tabernacles, see Leviticus 23:34-36, Leviticus 23:39-43.14-18. Three times … keep a feast … in the year—This was the institution of the great religious festivals—"The feast of unleavened bread," or the passover—"the feast of harvest," or pentecost—"the feast of ingathering," or the feast of tabernacles, which was a memorial of the dwelling in booths in the wilderness, and which was observed in the seventh month (Ex 12:2). All the males were enjoined to repair to the tabernacle and afterwards the temple, and the women frequently went. The institution of this national custom was of the greatest importance in many ways: by keeping up a national sense of religion and a public uniformity in worship, by creating a bond of unity, and also by promoting internal commerce among the people. Though the absence of all the males at these three festivals left the country defenseless, a special promise was given of divine protection, and no incursion of enemies was ever permitted to happen on those occasions. This may be either,

1. A precept, as it is generally understood, that none should ever come at those times without some offering or other, for the support of the Levites, and of the worship of God; but the determination of this, or what they would give, was left to their choice. Or,

2. A promise to encourage them to come so oft from their remotest habitations to Jerusalem, because

they should never appear before God in vain, i.e. to no purpose, or without some benefit, for so the word rekam oft signifies. So it may be parallel to Isaiah 45:19, I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain. But the former sense is more probable, by comparing this with its parallel place, Deu 16:16,17.

Thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread,.... Which began on the fourteenth of the month Abib or Nisan, and lasted seven days, during which time no leavened bread was to be eaten by the Israelites, or to be in their houses, of which see the notes on:See Gill on Exodus 12:15, Exodus 12:18, Exodus 12:19, Exodus 12:10, Exodus 13:6, Exodus 13:7.

thou shall eat unleavened bread, seven days, as I commanded thee, in the time appointed of the month Abib; from the fourteenth of the month to the twenty first:

for in it thou camest out of Egypt; in such haste that there was no time to leaven the dough in the troughs; in commemoration of which this law was given, and this feast was kept:

and none shall appear before me empty; at this feast and the two following ones; for, besides the offerings and sacrifices appointed, at the feast of passover was brought a sheaf of the first fruits of the barley harvest; and at the feast of pentecost the two wave loaves or cakes of the first fruits of the wheat harvest; and at the feast of tabernacles they appeared with palm tree branches, and boughs of goodly trees, and poured out water fetched from Siloam, before the Lord: but to this appearance the Jewish doctors (b) say,"there was no measure fixed; for everyone, if he would, might go up and appear, and go away: according to another interpretation, for the burnt offering of appearance, and the peace offerings of the Chagigah, which a man is bound to bring, as it is written, "ye shall not appear empty"; there is no measure from the law, as it is written, "a man according to the gift of his hand", Deuteronomy 16:17, but the wise men fix a measure; to the burnt offering a meah of silver, to the Chagigah two pieces of silver:''some understand this, not of their bringing anything with them to appear before the Lord with, but of what they should be blessed with there; even with the presence of God, and communion with him, and with the blessings of his grace and goodness; so that however they came, they should not remain, nor go away empty, and so have no cause to repent their appearance before him; but the former sense seems best.

(b) Bartenora in Misn. Peah, c. 1. sect. 1.

Thou shalt keep the feast of {g} unleavened bread: (thou shalt eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded thee, in the time appointed of the month Abib; for in it thou camest out from Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty:)

(g) That is, Easter, in remembrance that the angel passed over and spared the Israelites, when he slew the first born of the Egyptians.

15a. The first pilgrimage, the seven days’ festival of Maẓẓoth or Unleavened Cakes. Cf. the parallel Exodus 34:18; and the later regulations in Deuteronomy 16:3-4; Deuteronomy 16:8; Leviticus 23:6-8 (P), 9–14 (H and P); Exodus 12:14-20 and Numbers 28:17-25 (both P). This feast celebrated the beginning of the barley-harvest (which begins in Palestine towards the end of April or the beginning of May, some weeks before the wheat-harvest): cf. Leviticus 23:10-14 H (the ‘wave-sheaf’ of the first-fruits of the harvest to be presented then to Jehovah). The reason why this spring festival was observed in particular by eating unleavened cakes must remain matter of conjecture: perhaps it was simply because, at a time when men were busy with the harvest, such cakes (cf. on Exodus 12:8) were most quickly and easily prepared (Wellh. Hist. p. 87; Nowack, Arch. ii. 146; EB. iii. 3591). Eerdmans (Expositor, Nov. 1909, p. 459 ff.) conjectures that it was to preserve, in accordance with a primitive conception, the ‘soul’ of the corn for the seed of the year to come. The feast is regarded as commemorating the day of the Exodus in Exodus 13:3-10 (JE), Deuteronomy 16:3, Exodus 12:14-20 (P): in Exodus 12:34; Exodus 12:39 (J) a historical motive for the use of unleavened cakes is suggested; the haste viz. with which the Israelites left Egypt gave them no time to leaven their dough.

seven days … empty] These words, breaking the grammatical connexion between v. 15a and v. 16, have been most probably introduced here by a later hand from Exodus 34:18 b, 20c. The words, ‘as I commanded thee,’ refer apparently to Exodus 13:6 J (cf. v. 4 ‘Abib’), and are in their proper place in J’s covenant (Exodus 34:10-26; see p. 372), but cannot well be original in E.

15b. none shall appear before me empty] So Exodus 34:20 c, Deuteronomy 16:16 c (with the explanation in v. 17 ‘every man shall give [an offering] as he is able, according to the blessing of Jehovah which he hath given thee,’ i.e. according as he can afford to give, out of the produce of the year). In Deuteronomy 16:16 c the clause actually follows the one corresponding to Exodus 23:17 = Exodus 34:23, so that it refers to all three pilgrimages; and no doubt this was its original place (viz. after Exodus 34:23 = Exodus 23:17): it would be natural to expect an offering to be prescribed for each pilgrimage.

appear before me] The standing phrase for visiting a sanctuary as a worshipper, esp. at the three great pilgrimages (Exodus 34:20; Exodus 34:23-24, Deuteronomy 31:11, 1 Samuel 1:22), but also used more generally (Isaiah 1:12, Psalm 42:2). It is however held by many,—on the basis, primarily, of grammatical considerations affecting Exodus 23:15; Exodus 34:20, Isaiah 1:12, and Psalm 42:2,—that in these and similar passages (Exodus 34:23-24,) Deuteronomy 16:16 (twice), Exodus 31:11) the existing punctuation does not represent the original vocalization, and that the true sense of the phrase is (with other vowel points) see my face, see the face of Yahweh, i.e. visit Him as Sovereign (so Ges., Dillm., Kirkpatrick on Psalm 42:1, and others). The usual phrase for admission to the presence of a royal person (2 Samuel 3:13; 2 Samuel 14:28; 2 Samuel 14:32, 2 Kings 25:19; cf. Genesis 43:3) was applied to visiting the sanctuary; but as objection came to be felt to the expression ‘seeing the face of God’ (cf. Exodus 33:20), the vocalization,—and perhaps, in Exodus 23:17, 1 Samuel 1:22, even the consonantal ext,—was altered so as to express the idea of ‘appearing before God.’

Verse 15. - The feast of unleavened bread. This commenced with the Passover, and continued for the seven days following, with a "holy convocation" on the first of the seven and on the last (Leviticus 23:5-8). Unleavened bread was eaten in commemoration of the hasty exodus from Egypt (Exodus 12:34). A sheaf of new barley - the first-fruits of the harvest - was offered as a wave-offering before the Lord (Leviticus 23:10-14). Every male Israelite of full age was bound to attend, and to bring with him a free-will offering. In the time appointed of the month - i.e., on the fourteenth day (Exodus 12:18). None shall appear before me empty. This rule applies, not to the Passover only, but to all the feasts. Exodus 23:15The Fundamental Rights of Israel in its Religious and Theocratical Relation to Jehovah. - As the observance of the Sabbath and sabbatical year is not instituted in Exodus 23:10-12, so Exodus 23:14-19 do not contain either the original or earliest appointment of the feasts, or a complete law concerning the yearly feasts. They simply command the observance of three feasts during the year, and the appearance of the people three times in the year before the Lord; that is to say, the holding of three national assemblies to keep a feast before the Lord, or three annual pilgrimages to the sanctuary of Jehovah. The leading points are clearly set forth in Exodus 23:14 and Exodus 23:17, to which the other verses are subordinate. These leading points are משׁפּטים or rights, conferred upon the people of Israel in their relation to Jehovah; for keeping a feast to the Lord, and appearing before Him, were both of them privileges bestowed by Jehovah upon His covenant people. Even in itself the festal rejoicing was a blessing in the midst of this life of labour, toil, and trouble; but when accompanied with the right of appearing before the Lord their God and Redeemer, to whom they were indebted for everything they had and were, it was one that no other nation enjoyed. For though they had their joyous festivals, these festivals bore the same relation to those of Israel, as the dead and worthless gods of the heathen to the living and almighty God of Israel.

Of the three feasts at which Israel was to appear before Jehovah, the feast of Mazzoth, or unleavened bread, is referred to as already instituted, by the words "as I have commanded thee," and "at the appointed time of the earing month," which point back to chs. 12 and 13; and all that is added here is, "ye shall not appear before My face empty." "Not empty:" i.e., not with empty hands, but with sacrificial gifts, answering to the blessing given by the Lord (Deuteronomy 16:16-17). These gifts were devoted partly to the general sacrifices of the feast, and partly to the burnt and peace-offerings which were brought by different individuals to the feasts, and applied to the sacrificial meals (Numbers 28 and 29). This command, which related to all the feasts, and therefore is mentioned at the very outset in connection with the feast of unleavened bread, did indeed impose a duty upon Israel, but such a duty as became a source of blessing to all who performed it. The gifts demanded by God were the tribute, it is true, which the Israelites paid to their God-King, just as all Eastern nations are required to bring presents when appearing in the presence of their kings; but they were only gifts from God's own blessing, a portion of that which He had bestowed in rich abundance, and they were offered to God in such a way that the offerer was thereby more and more confirmed in the rights of covenant fellowship. The other two festivals are mentioned here for the first time, and the details are more particularly determined afterwards in Leviticus 23:15., and Numbers 28:26. One was called the feast of Harvest, "of the first-fruits of thy labours which thou hast sown in the field," i.e., of thy field-labour. According to the subsequent arrangements, the first of the field-produce was to be offered to God, not the first grains of the ripe corn, but the first loaves of bread of white or wheaten flour made from the new corn (Leviticus 23:17.). In Exodus 34:22 it is called the "feast of Weeks," because, according to Leviticus 23:15-16; Deuteronomy 16:9, it was to be kept seven weeks after the feast of Mazzoth; and the "feast of the first-fruits of wheat harvest," because the loaves of first-fruits to be offered were to be made of wheaten flour. The other of these feasts, i.e., the third in the year, is called "the feast of Ingathering, at the end of the year, in the gathering in of thy labours out of the field." This general and indefinite allusion to time was quite sufficient for the preliminary institution of the feast. In the more minute directions respecting the feasts given in Leviticus 23:34; Numbers 29:12, it is fixed for the fifteenth day of the seventh month, and placed on an equality with the feast of Mazzoth as a seven days' festival. השּׁנה בּצאת does not mean after the close of the year, finito anno, any more than the corresponding expression in Exodus 34:22, השּׁנה תּקוּפת, signifies at the turning of the year. The year referred to here was the so-called civil year, which began with the preparation of the ground for the harvest-sowing, and ended when all the fruits of the field and garden had been gathered in. No particular day was fixed for its commencement, nor was there any new year's festival; and even after the beginning of the earing month had been fixed upon for the commencement of the year (Exodus 12:2), this still remained in force, so far as all civil matters connected with the sowing and harvest were concerned; though there is no evidence that a double reckoning was carried on at the same time, or that a civil reckoning existed side by side with the religious. בּאספּך does not mean, "when thou hast gathered," postquam collegisti; for בּ does not stand for אחר, nor has the infinitive the force of the preterite. On the contrary, the expression "at thy gathering in," i.e., when thou gatherest in, is kept indefinite both here and in Leviticus 23:39, where the month and days in which this feast was to be kept are distinctly pointed out; and also in Deuteronomy 16:13, in order that the time for the feast might not be made absolutely dependent upon the complete termination of the gathering in, although as a rule it would be almost over. The gathering in of "thy labours out of the field" is not to be restricted to the vintage and gathering of fruits: this is evident not only from the expression "out of the field," which points to field-produce, but also from the clause in Deuteronomy 16:13, "gathering of the floor and wine-press," which shows clearly that the words refer to the gathering in of the whole of the year's produce of corn, fruit, oil, and wine.

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