James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,Leviticus 23:1-44
FEASTS OF THE LORD
There is nothing more affecting in all this legislation than the provision God makes for the physical happiness and the temporal welfare of His people. He wants them to rejoice if only they rejoice in Him (Php 4:4). This chapter sets this forth.
Compare the Revised Version and observe that the word in Leviticus 23:2 is “set feasts” or “appointed seasons.”
Why are they called set feasts of the Lord? Is it not because He appointed them, and because He would be glorified in them? What other title do they receive (Leviticus 23:2)? When holy convocations are mentioned we think of public gatherings at the tabernacle, or later on, at the temple; but these were commanded only for the three occasions, the Passover in the spring, and the feast of weeks (Pentecost), and atonement in the autumn (Exodus 34:22). Probably, therefore, the other convocations were local gatherings crystallized afterwards in the weekly synagogue.
THE WEEKLY SABBATH (Leviticus 23:3)
What is the first feast mentioned (Leviticus 23:3)? Although the weekly Sabbath is included among these appointed seasons, yet it is distinguished from them by the fresh heading of Leviticus 23:4, and by verses 37-38. It is indeed an appointed season, but dating from the creation of man, and not here first prescribed. It is in this sense a kind of germ of all the other appointed seasons.
How is the sanctity of the weekly Sabbath expressed in the Revised Version? What was prohibited on this day? Did this prohibition extend only to outside work, or what we would call in our day business affairs?
Do you remember what was taught previously about the two reasons for the weekly Sabbath? A memorial of God’s rest in creation it was, and yet also a memorial of redemption (Exodus 31:13; Deuteronomy 5:15). While the redemption specifically in mind is the Jews’ deliverance from Egypt, yet it is a type of our spiritual deliverance from sin through Christ.
The original Sabbath rest of God, in which man participated, was marked by sin, so that the whole creation became “subjected to vanity” (Romans 8:20). God could not rest in this state of things, and began a work of new creation. The object of this is the restoration of that Sabbath rest which thus was interrupted; hence, the weekly Sabbath looked forward as well as backward.
THE PASSOVER AND UNLEAVENED BREAD (Leviticus 23:4-8)
The feasts of the Passover and unleavened bread we met in Exodus, but here we learn how the latter shall begin and end with a holy convocation, and be characterized by the omission of servile work. This last seems to refer to labor in the field and otherwise, outside of the home.
The spiritual meaning of these two feasts we have considered. Through the slaying of the lamb and sprinkling of its blood Israel secured deliverance from Egypt, and by eating its flesh strength for the journey before them. The unleavened bread, however, had more than an historic reference. Leaven is the type of evil or moral corruption, and its removal signifies that the redeemed nation must be a holy and separate people.
THE SHEAF OF THE FIRSTFRUITS (Leviticus 23:9-14)
In connection with the two feasts just named, what further ceremony is established (Leviticus 23:10-11)? With this what offering should be presented (Leviticus 23:12-13)? What prohibitions are entailed (Leviticus 23:14)?
We have here a preliminary feast of the harvest. The waiving of the sheaf of the firstfruits indicates that the whole harvest to follow belonged and was consecrated to God. Until this action was taken they were not at liberty to use the harvest. In this we have another symbol. Israel is God’s firstborn among the nations (Exodus 4:22), of the redeemed earth. She is the earnest of the redemption of all these nations the beginning of the world’s harvest, which shall be realized in the millennial age.
And the idea is not exhausted yet, as we judge by 1 Corinthians 5:7-8. Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us, and the sheaf of the firstfruits in His resurrection was presented unto God as a type of the resurrection of all His people (1 Corinthians 15:20).
PENTECOST, OR THE FEAST OF WEEKS (Leviticus 23:15-22)
How long after the presentation of the sheaf of the firstfruits came the next feast (Leviticus 23:15-16)? What should be offered on this day (Leviticus 23:17-20)? With what should these loaves be baked (Leviticus 23:17)? What was the design of this offering (Leviticus 23:17)? Because this feast came on the fiftieth day after the presentation of the sheaf of the firstfruits, it is called the Feast of Pentecost, from the Greek numeral meaning fifty; and the Feast of Weeks, because it followed seven weeks after that of the sheaf.
The former festival marked the beginning of the harvest with the first sheaf of barley, and this, the completion of the grain harvest, with the reaping of the wheat. In the former the sheaf was presented as it came from the field, but in this the offering was of the grain as prepared for food. Why it might be baked with leaven we do not know.
Speaking of the typical aspect of this feast, and comparing it with the Passover, there God was seen to be the Redeemer of Israel, here He is seen to be her preserver.
Comparing it with the sheaf of the firstfruits, there we see a type of Christ’s resurrection as “the firstfruits of them that sleep,” but here a type of the descent of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost when “the church of the firstborn” was formed as the beginning of the great ingathering of the whole number of the elect (Acts 2:1-4; Colossians 1:18; Jam 1:18).
As compared with the weekly Sabbath, this feast, in celebrating the rest after the labors of the harvest, became a type of the great rest to follow the harvest at the end of this age (Matthew 13:39).
THE FEAST OF TRUMPETS (Leviticus 23:23-25)
We have seen that the Feast of the Sabbath on the seventh day of each week was a germ of the whole series of septenary feasts. The Feast of Pentecost on the seventh week, and now the Feast of Trumpets at the
beginning of the seventh month carry forward the idea. Spring, summer and autumn each has its feast. This seventh month, corresponding to that period of our year from the middle of September to the middle of October was the great month of the Jewish year in that three great events occurred in it the Feast of Trumpets, the great Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles.
The blowing of trumpets was an announcement from God to His people that the great glad month had come, the month of atonement and of the greatest festivity of the year resulting from that atonement, and the earthly blessing accompanying it.
On other occasions trumpets were blown only by the priests and at the central sanctuary, but in this case they were blown by everyone who would throughout the whole land.
How reconciled we could be to the noises preceding New Year’s Day, or the 4th of July, Thanksgiving Day, if only the blowing of the horns were an act of worship in recognition of the goodness and faithfulness of God!
THE DAY OF ATONEMENT (Leviticus 23:26-32)
The Day of Atonement has been considered in chapter 16. Coming at this season of the year it demonstrated the complete rest brought in, both for God and His people, through the expiation of their guilt.
How were the people on this day to express penitence for their guilt (Leviticus 23:27)? (Compare Isaiah 58:3-7; Zechariah 7:5.) What penalty followed the absence of such penitence (Leviticus 23:29)? How do these great truths of sin, repentance, expiation, and rest apply to the people of all ages?
THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES (Leviticus 23:35-43)
This is the greatest of the feasts. When did it begin, what is it called, and how long did it last? On what two days were holy convocations called?
What reference to the complete harvest is found in this enactment (Leviticus 23:39)? With what unusual feature was this feast to be celebrated (Leviticus 23:40)? What did the dwelling in booths commemorate (Leviticus 23:42-43)? As the Passover typified our redemption through Christ, the unleavened bread our feeding upon Him for strength, the first sheaf His restoration from the dead, Pentecost the descent of the Holy Ghost, or the spiritual ingathering of the first fruits of the world’s harvest in the formation of the church, so the Feast of Tabernacles is thought to typify the completion of that harvest in the final ingathering of the elect at the end of the age. Then all that are Christ’s shall either rise from the dead or be translated to meet Him in the air at the second coming (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
The eighth day after the feast is a type of that new week ushered in by the millennial age, when the earth and all that is therein shall experience the rest promised to the people of God (Zechariah 14; 16; 21).
1. Quote Php 4:4.
2. What feast may be said to be the germ of all the others?
3. To what does the weekly rest day look forward?
4. Of what is “leaven” always the type in Scripture?
5. Of what is the sheaf of the firstfruits the type?
6. What is the Feast of Weeks the type of, compared with that of the firstfruits?
7. What was the great month of the Jewish year and why?
8. Give the name, history and typical significance of the greatest of the feasts.