Exodus 23:16
And the feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labours, which thou hast sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field.
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(16) The feast of harvest.—It was calculated that the grain-harvest would be completed fifty days after it had begun. On this fiftieth day (Pentecost) the second festival was to commence by the offering of two loaves made of the new wheat just gathered in. On the other offerings commanded, see Leviticus 23:18-20. The Law limited the feast to a single day—the “day of Pentecost”—but in practice it was early extended to two days, in order to cover a possible miscalculation as to the exact time.

The feast of ingathering.—Elsewhere commonly called “the feast of tabernacles” (Leviticus 23:34; Deuteronomy 16:13; Deuteronomy 16:16; Deuteronomy 31:10; 2Chronicles 8:13; Ezra 3:4; Zechariah 14:16-19, &c.). Like the feast of unleavened bread, this lasted for a week. It corresponded to a certain extent with modern “harvest-homes,” but was more prolonged and of a more distinctly religious character. The time fixed for it was the week commencing with the fifteenth and terminating with the twenty-first of the month Tisri, corresponding to our October. The vintage and the olive-harvest had by that time been completed, and thanks were given for God’s bounties through the whole year. At the same time the sojourn in the wilderness was commemorated; and as a memorial of that time those who attended the feast dwelt during its continuance in booths made of branches of trees. (See Leviticus 23:40; Nehemiah 8:14-17.)



Exodus 23:16

The Israelites seem to have had a double beginning of the year-one in spring, one at the close of harvest; or it may only be that here the year is regarded from the natural point of view-a farmer’s year. This feast was at the gathering in of the fruits, which was the natural close of the agricultural year.

This festival of ingathering was the Feast of Tabernacles. It is remarkable that the three great sacred festivals, the Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles, had all a reference to agriculture, though two of them also received a reference to national deliverances. This fact may show that they were in existence before Moses, and that he simply imposed a new meaning on them.

Be that as it may, I take these words now simply as a starting-point for some thoughts naturally suggested by the period at which we stand. We have come to the end of another year-looked for so long, passed so swiftly, and now seeming to have so utterly departed!

I desire to recall to you and to myself the solemn real sense in which for us too the end of the year is a ‘time of ingathering’ and ‘harvest.’ We too begin the new year with the accumulated consequences of these past days in our ‘barns and garners.’

Now, in dealing with this thought, let me put it in two or three forms.

I. Think of the past as still living in and shaping the present.

It is a mere illusion of sense that the past is gone utterly. ‘Thou carriest them away, as with a flood.’ We speak of it as irrevocable, unalterable, that dreadful past. It is solemnly true that ‘ye shall no more return that way.’

But there is a deeper truth in the converse thought that the apparently transient is permanent, that nothing human ever dies, that the past is present. ‘The grass withereth, the flower fadeth,’-yes, but only its petals drop, and as they fall, the fruit which they sheltered swells and matures.

The thought of the present as the harvest from the past brings out in vivid and picturesque form two solemn truths.

The first is the passing away of all the external, but of it only. It has all gone where the winter’s cold, the spring rains, the summer’s heats have gone. But just as these live in the fruitful results that have accrued from them, just as the glowing sunshine of the departed ardent summer is in the yellow, bending wheat-ear or glows in the cluster, so, in a very solemn sense, ‘that which hath been is now’ in regard to every life. The great law of continuity makes the present the inheritor of the past. That law operates in national life, in which national characteristics are largely precipitates, so to speak, from national history. But it works even more energetically, and with yet graver consequences, in our individual lives. ‘The child is father of the man.’ What we are depends largely on what we have been, and what we have been powerfully acts in determining what we shall be. Life is a mystic chain, not a heap of unconnected links.

And there is another very solemn way in which the past lives on in each of us. For not only is our present self the direct descendant of our past selves, but that past still subsists in that we are responsible for it, and shall one day have to answer for it. The writer of Ecclesiastes followed the statement just now quoted as to the survival of the past, with another, which is impressive in its very vagueness: ‘God seeketh again that which is passed away.’

So the undying past lives in its results in ourselves, and in our being answerable for it to God.

This metaphor is insufficient in one respect. There is not one epoch for sowing and another for reaping, but the two processes are simultaneous, and every moment is at once a harvest and a seed-time.

This fact masks the reality of the reaping here, but it points on to the great harvest when God shall say, ‘Gather the wheat into My barns!’

II. Notice some specific forms of this reaping and ingathering.

{1} Memory.

It is quite possible that in the future it may embrace all the life.

‘Chambers of imagery.’

{2} Habits and character. Like the deposit of a flood. ‘Habitus’ means clothing, and cloth is woven from single threads.

{3} Outward consequences, position, reputation, etc.

III. Make a personal reference to ourselves.

What sort of harvest are we carrying over from this year? Lay this to heart as certain, that we enter on no new year-or new day-empty-handed, but always ‘bearing our sheaves with us.’ ‘Be not deceived! God is not mocked. Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.’

But remember, that while this law remains, there is also the law of forgiveness, ‘Go in peace!’ and there may be a new beginning, ‘Sin no more!’

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.In the end of the year - Compare Exodus 34:22. The year here spoken of must have been the civil or agrarian year, which began after harvest, when the ground was prepared for sowing. Compare Leviticus 23:39; Deuteronomy 16:13-15. The sacred year began in spring, with the month Abib, or Nisan. See Exodus 12:2 note, and Leviticus 25:9.

When thou hast gathered - Rather, when thou gatherest in.

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. The feast of harvest, i.e. of wheat harvest, for barley harvest was before this time. This feast was otherwise called pentecost.

Quest. How were these the first-fruits, when a sheaf was offered to God in the feast of the passover?

Answ. That sheaf was generally of barley, which was less considerable than their wheat; but this was the first-fruits of their wheat, which was their principal grain, and they had no bread before this time from the growth of that year.

The feast of ingathering, to wit, of all the rest of the fruits of the earth, as of the vines and olives. This was also called the feast of booths, and of tabernacles. See Leviticus 13:43 Numbers 29:12 Deu 16:13. All their three feasts had a respect to the harvest, which began in the passover, was carried on at pentecost, and was fully completed and ended in this feast.

In the end of the year; of the common or civil year, which began in September, as the sacred year began in March.

And the feast of harvest,.... This is the second feast, the feast of wheat harvest, between which and barley harvest were fifty days; or between the firstfruits of the one and the first fruits of the other were seven weeks, as Aben Ezra observes, and was sometimes called the feast of weeks; at which feast were to be brought:

the first fruits of thy labours, which thou hast sown in the field; the two wave loaves or cakes, made of the first new wheat, which was the effect of their labour in tilling the field, and sowing it with wheat, and reaping it:

and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field; this is the third feast in the year to be kept, and was kept at the close of the year, at the revolution of it, when a new year began that is, according to the old account, which made Tisri the month in which this feast was kept, the first month of the year; whereas, according to the new count, it was the seventh month from the month Abib, now made the first of the months upon the Israelites coming out of Egypt in that month: this is the same feast with the feast of tabernacles, but here called the feast of ingathering, because at this time of the year all the fruits of the earth were gathered in; the corn, and wine, and oil, and all other fruits, on account of which there was great rejoicing, as there ought to be.

And the {h} feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labours, which thou hast sown in the field: and the {i} feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field.

(h) Which is Whit Sunday, in token that the law was given 50 days after they departed from Egypt.

(i) This is the feast of tabernacles, signifying that they lived for 40 years in the tents or the tabernacles in the wilderness.

16a. The second pilgrimage, the Feast of Harvest, celebrating the completion of the wheat harvest (Exodus 34:22), in June, and marked by the offering of firstfruits from the ripened grain (in Exodus 34:22 ‘the firstfruits of wheat harvest’ takes the place of ‘the firstfruits of thy labours’ here). The term ‘Feast of Harvest’ is found only here: in Exodus 34:22 and in Dt. (Deuteronomy 16:10; Deuteronomy 16:16) it is called the Feast of Weeks, on account of its being kept seven weeks after the sickle was first put to the corn, Deuteronomy 16:9, or (in H) after the first sheaf of the year’s harvest had been presented to Jehovah as a wave-offering, Leviticus 23:15 (see v. 10); and in Numbers 28:26 (P) the Day of firstfruits. For the regulations in the other codes, see Deuteronomy 16:9-12; Leviticus 23:15-21 (H and P: in H loaf of fine flour, baked with leaven, is to be ‘waved’ as firstfruits to Jehovah; in a gloss (based on Num Exo 28:27-30) the required sacrifices are prescribed); Numbers 28:26-31 (P).

labours] work, as v. 12 (G.-K. § 93ss); cf. 1 Samuel 25:2 Heb. The following words explain what is meant: (even) of that which thou sowest would be clearer.

(even) of the firstfruits &c.] Heb. bikkurim (cognate with bekôr, ‘firstborn,’ ‘firstling’), denoting properly firstripe fruit (including cereals) in general (as Nahum 3:12 lit. ‘figtrees with bikkurim’), but used specially of those portions of the ‘firstripe fruit’ which were presented to Jehovah. Bikkurim occurs besides v. 19 (and the "" "" Exodus 34:22; Exodus 34:26), Leviticus 2:14; Leviticus 23:17; Leviticus 23:20, Numbers 13:20; Numbers 18:13; Numbers 23:26, 2 Kings 4:42 (‘bread of firstfruits’ brought to Elisha), Nehemiah 10:35; Nehemiah 13:31, Ezekiel 44:30†. Cf. p. 246.

No historical significance is in the OT. attached to this festival; but by the later Jews it was regarded as commemorating the giving of the law ‘in the third month’ of the Exodus (Exodus 19:1), which was supposed to have taken place 50 days after the 15th of the first month (Leviticus 23:6; the morning after the Passover on the 14th, Exodus 12:18).

16b. The third pilgrimage, the Feast of Ingathering, held at the end of the year, in September, when the threshing was finished, the vintage over, and the juice pressed out from the grapes and olives (Deuteronomy 16:13 ‘when thou gatherest in from thy threshing-floor and from thy wine-vat’). It is called the ‘Feast of Ingathering’ also in Exodus 34:22†: in Dt. (Deuteronomy 16:13; Deuteronomy 16:16, Deuteronomy 31:10) and P (Leviticus 23:34), as also in later writers generally (Ezra 3:4, 2 Chronicles 8:13, Zechariah 14:16; Zechariah 14:18-19†), it is called, from the custom of dwelling at the time in booths made of the branches of trees (Leviticus 23:40; Leviticus 23:42 [H]; Nehemiah 8:14-17), the Feast of Booths. This feast, according to Dt. (Deuteronomy 16:13; Deuteronomy 16:15), H and P (Leviticus 23:34; Leviticus 23:39, Numbers 29:12), lasted for 7 days (cf. Nehemiah 8:18). It was an occasion of hilarity (cf. Deuteronomy 16:15 end, Leviticus 23:40 b): in Jdg 9:27 a festival is mentioned, which seems to have been its Canaanite counterpart. Cf. also Jdg 21:19; Jdg 21:21. Comp., in the other codes, Deuteronomy 16:13-15; Leviticus 23:39-43 (mostly H); Leviticus 23:33-36, Numbers 29:12-38 (both P). In Leviticus 23:43 (H) the custom of dwelling in booths is explained as commemorating the fact that the Israelites dwelt in ‘booths’ after their departure from Egypt. ‘Booths,’ or huts, are not however the same as tents: and the actual origin of the custom is more probably to be found in the fact that those employed in gathering the fruit-harvest would sleep at the time in huts in the vineyards and olive-gardens (cf. Isaiah 1:8). Afterwards, however, the ancient practice had a commemorative meaning attached to it (cf. on vv. 14–17); and it was treated as a reminder of important events.

at the going out of the year] The old Hebrew year ended, with the agricultural operations for the year, in autumn: cf. on Exodus 12:2.

labours] lit. work—here of the product of the year’s work in agriculture.

Verse 16. - The feast of harvest. Fifty days were to be numbered from the day of offering the barley sheaf, and on the fiftieth the feast of harvest, thence called "Pentecost," was to be celebrated. Different Jewish sects make different calculations; but the majority celebrate Pentecost on the sixth of Sivan (May 25). The main ceremony was the offering to God of two leavened loaves of the finest flour made out of the wheat just gathered in, and called the first-fruits of the harvest. The festival lasted only a single day; but it was one of a peculiarly social and joyful character (Deuteronomy 16:9-11). Jewish tradition connects the feast further with the giving of the law, which must certainly have taken place about the time (see Exodus 19:1-16). The firstfruits. Rather, "Of the first-fruits." The word is in apposition with "harvest," not with "feast." Which thou hast sown. The sown harvest was gathered in by Pentecost; what remained to collect afterwards was the produce of plantations. The feast of ingathering. Called elsewhere, and more commonly, "the feast of tabernacles" (Leviticus 23:34; Deuteronomy 16:13; Deuteronomy 31:10; John 7:2), from the circumstance that the people were commanded to make themselves booths, and dwell in them during the time of the feast. The festival began on the 15th of Tisri, or in the early part of our October, when the olives had been gathered in and the vintage was completed. It lasted seven, or (according to some) eight days, and comprised two holy convocations. In one point of view it was a festival of thanksgiving for the final getting in of the crops; in another, a commemoration of the safe passage through the desert from Egypt to Palestine. The feast seems to have been neglected during the captivity, but was celebrated with much glee in the time of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 8:17). In the end of the year - i.e., the end of the agricultural year - when the harvest was over - as explained in the following clause. Exodus 23:16The 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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