Exodus 23:17
Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord GOD.
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(17) Three times in the year.—The terms of this verse, as compared with Exodus 23:14, limit the observance of the three festivals to the males, but add the important requirement of personal attendance at a given place. By “all thy males” we must understand all of full age and not incapacitated by infirmity or illness.

Exodus 23:17. All thy males — All that were of competent years, and health, and strength, and at their own disposal. It is probable, servants were exempt: for none was to appear without an offering: but most of these had nothing to offer.

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. To wit, such as are of competent years, and health, and strength, and such as were at their own dispose; for that servants were not bound to this may seem probable, because none of these concerned were to appear before the Lord empty, or without an offering, but the generality of servants had not any thing to offer. And the care and management of their domestic affairs did require the presence and care of many of their males.

Before the Lord God, i.e. in that place where God shall record his name, Exodus 20:24, as the tabernacle or temple.

Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord thy God. In the city of Jerusalem, when they were come into the land of Canaan, and the temple was there built: here they were to show themselves before the Lord as being his, and devoted to his service; concerning which the Misnic doctors have the following canon (c),"all are bound to appear except a man deaf and dumb, a fool, a little one, one of neither sex, or of both sexes, women, servants not free, the lame, the blind, the sick, an old man, and he that cannot go on his feet.''

(c) Misn. Chagigah, c. 1. sect. 1.

Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the LORD God.
17. Every male to appear before (see on v. 15) Jehovah three times in the year. The substantial identity with v. 14, coupled with the different word for ‘times,’ makes it probable that the verse has been introduced here from Exodus 34:23the Lord God] i.e. the Lord, Jehovah. The title ‘Lord’ is an indication that these pilgrimages are to be observed as marks of homage and respect to Jehovah, as Sovereign of the land (Di., Bä.).

Verse 17. - Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord God. This seems to moderns a very burthensome enactment. But we must remember that Palestine is not bigger than Wales, and that great gatherings had great attractions for many in the ancient world, when they were the only means by which information was spread, and almost the only occasions on which friends and relations who lived far apart could expect to see each other. The European Greeks had, in their Olympian and other games, similar great gatherings, which occurred once or twice in each year, and, though under no obligation to do so, attended them in enormous numbers. It may be doubted if the religious Hebrews felt the obligation of attendance to be a burthen. It was assuredly a matter of great importance, as tending to unity, and to the quickening of the national life, that they should be drawn so continually to one centre, and be so frequently united in one common worship. Most students of antiquity regard the Greek games as having exerted a strong unifying influence over the scattered members of the Grecian family. The Hebrew festivals, occurring so much more frequently, and required to be attended by all, must have had a similar, but much greater, effect of the same kind. Exodus 23:17"Three times in the year" (i.e., according to Exodus 23:14 and Deuteronomy 16:16, at the three feasts just mentioned) "all thy males shall appear before the face of the Lord Jehovah." The command to appear, i.e., to make a pilgrimage to the sanctuary, was restricted to the male members of the nation, probably to those above 20 years of age, who had been included in the census (Numbers 1:3). But this did not prohibit the inclusion of women and boys (cf. 1 Samuel 1:3., and Luke 2:31.).
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