Leviticus 23:40
And you shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.
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(40) And ye shall take you on the first day.—The four species of vegetable production here ordered are a distinctive feature of this festival. They have been most minutely defined during the second Temple.

Boughs of goodly trees.—Better, the fruit of goodly trees, as the margin rightly renders it. As this phrase is too indefinite, and may simply denote the fruit of any choice fruit-tree, there can hardly be any doubt that in this instance, as in many other cases, the lawgiver left it to the administrators of the Law to define its precise kind. Basing it therefore upon one of the significations of the term here translated “goodly,” which is to dwell, to rest, the authorities during the second Temple decreed that it means the fruit winch permanently rests upon the tree—i.e., the citron, the paradise-apple. If it came from an uncircumcised tree (see Leviticus 19:23), from an unclean heave-offering (comp. Numbers 18:11-12), or exhibited the slightest defect, it was ritually illegal.

Branches of palm trees.—During the second Temple this was defined as the shoot of the palm-tree when budding, before the leaves are spread abroad, and whilst it is yet like a rod. It is technically called lulab, which is the expression whereby it is rendered in the ancient Chaldee version. The lulab must at least be three hands tall, and must be tied together with its own kind.

The boughs of thick trees.—This, according to the same authorities, denotes the myrtle branch, whose leaves thickly cover the wood. To make it ritually legal it must have three or more shoots round the stem, and on the same level with it. If it is in any way damaged it is illegal. This accounts for the ancient Chaldee version rendering it by “myrtle branch.”

Willows of the brook.—That species, the distinguishing marks of which are dark wood and long leaves with smooth margin. The palm, the myrtle, and the willow, when tied together into one bundle, constitute the Lulab. Whilst the psalms are chanted by the Levites during the sacrifices, the pilgrims, who held the Lulabs or palms, shook them thrice, viz., at the singing of Psalm 118:1, then again at Leviticus 23:25, and at Leviticus 23:29. When the chant was finished, the priests in procession went round the altar once, exclaiming, “Hosanna, O Lord, give us help, O Lord! give prosperity !” (Psalm 118:25). Whereupon the solemn benediction was pronounced by the priests, and the people dispersed amidst the repeated exclamations, “How beautiful art thou, O altar !” It is this part of the ritual which explains the welcome that the multitude gave Christ when they went to meet Him with palm-branches and shouts of hosanna (Matthew 21:8-9; Matthew 21:15; John 12:12-13).

Leviticus 23:40. Of goodly trees — Namely, olive, myrtle, and pine, mentioned Nehemiah 8:15-16, which were most plentiful there, and which would best preserve their greenness. Thick trees — Fit for shade and shelter. And willows — To mix with the other, and in some sort bind them together. And as they made their booths of these materials, so they carried some of these boughs in their hands, as is affirmed by Jewish and other ancient writers.23:33-44 In the feast of Tabernacles there was a remembrance of their dwelling in tents, or booths, in the wilderness, as well as their fathers dwelling in tents in Canaan; to remind them of their origin and their deliverance. Christ's tabernacling on earth in human nature, might also be prefigured. And it represents the believer's life on earth: a stranger and pilgrim here below, his home and heart are above with his Saviour. They would the more value the comforts and conveniences of their own houses, when they had been seven days dwelling in the booths. It is good for those who have ease and plenty, sometimes to learn what it is to endure hardness. The joy of harvest ought to be improved for the furtherance of our joy in God. The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof; therefore whatever we have the comfort of, he must have the glory of, especially when any mercy is perfected. God appointed these feasts, Beside the sabbaths and your free-will offerings. Calls to extraordinary services will not excuse from constant and stated ones.The boughs of goodly trees - Or, the fruit (see the margin) of the citron trees. It is said that every Israelite at the Feast of tabernacles carried in one hand a bundle of branches and in the other a citron. The branches seem to have comprised the boughs of palm-trees, "thick trees" and willows here named. See the note to Leviticus 23:42; Nehemiah 8:15-16. 34-44. the feast of tabernacles, for seven days unto the Lord—This festival, which was instituted in grateful commemoration of the Israelites having securely dwelt in booths or tabernacles in the wilderness, was the third of the three great annual festivals, and, like the other two, it lasted a week. It began on the fifteenth day of the month, corresponding to the end of our September and beginning of October, which was observed as a Sabbath; and it could be celebrated only at the place of the sanctuary, offerings being made on the altar every day of its continuance. The Jews were commanded during the whole period of the festival to dwell in booths, which were erected on the flat roofs of houses, in the streets or fields; and the trees made use of are by some stated to be the citron, the palm, the myrtle, and the willow, while others maintain the people were allowed to take any trees they could obtain that were distinguished for verdure and fragrance. While the solid branches were reserved for the construction of the booths, the lighter branches were carried by men, who marched in triumphal procession, singing psalms and crying "Hosanna!" which signifies, "Save, we beseech thee!" (Ps 118:15, 25, 26). It was a season of great rejoicing. But the ceremony of drawing water from the pool, which was done on the last day, seems to have been the introduction of a later period (Joh 7:37). That last day was the eighth, and, on account of the scene at Siloam, was called "the great day of the feast." The feast of ingathering, when the vintage was over, was celebrated also on that day [Ex 23:16; 34:22], and, as the conclusion of one of the great festivals, it was kept as a sabbath. Boughs, Heb. the fruit, i.e. fruit-bearing boughs, or branches with the fruit on them, as the word fruit seems to be taken, 2 Kings 19:30 Ezekiel 19:12. Goodly trees, to wit, the olive, myrtle, and pine, as they are mentioned, Nehemiah 8:15,16, which were most plentiful there, and which would best preserve their greenness or freshness.

Thick trees, fit for shade and shelter.

Willows of the brook, which might do well to mix with the other, and in some sort to bind them together. And as they made their booths of these materials, as is apparent from Ne 8, so it seems they did also carry some of these boughs in their hands, as is affirmed by Jewish and other ancient writers.

Ye shall rejoice; which joy they testified by feasting, thanksgiving, &c. And ye shall take you the boughs of goodly trees,.... Which the three Targums interpret, of citrons; and so Jarchi and Aben Ezra; and the Jews are so tenacious of observing this, that in those countries where this fruit grows not, they will send for it from Spain, where there is plenty of it: the Targum of Jonathan, paraphrases it, "ye shall take of yours"; suggesting these boughs must be their own, or the bundle of them, with others they call the "lulab", must be their own property, and not another's; though it is said (u), if it is a gift it will do, even though it is given on condition to be returned again:

branches of palm trees: which were very common in the land of Judea, and especially about Jericho; see John 12:13; the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem call them "lulabs", which is the name the Jews give to the whole bundle they carried in their hands on this day:

and the boughs of thick trees; which the Targums and Jewish writers in general understand of myrtles, being full of branches and leaves:

and willows of the brook; a sort of trees which delight to grow by brooks and rills of water: these, according to the Jewish writers, were not taken to make their booths of, though that seems to be the use of them, from Nehemiah 8:15; but to tie up in bundles, and carry in hands; the citron in their left hand, and a bundle made of the other three sorts of boughs of trees in the right hand, which they called the "lulab":

and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days; because of the blessings of his goodness bestowed upon them in the plentiful harvest and vintage they had been favoured with, and in remembrance of past mercies, showed to their fathers in the wilderness, giving them food and drink, and guiding and protecting them with the pillar of cloud and fire; and at the same time, also, thankful for the different circumstances they were in, having cities, towns, and houses to dwell its, and fields and vineyards to possess, when their fathers lived in a wilderness for forty years together; and especially such of them expressed their joy before the Lord, who had any knowledge of this being a type of the Messiah tabernacling in human nature, they had the promise of, to be their spiritual Redeemer and Saviour: these seven days are kept by the Jews now, chiefly in carnal mirth, and so for ages past, as by carrying the above boughs in their hands, and going round about the altar with them, and, shaking them, and crying Hosanna, and by making use of all sorts of music, vocal and instrumental, piping, dancing, leaping, skipping, and various gestures, even by persons of the highest rank, and of the greatest character for sobriety (w); and particularly by fetching water from Siloah, when in their own land, and pouring it with wine upon the altar, which was attended with such expressions of joy, that it is said, that he who never saw the rejoicing of drawing of water, never saw any rejoicing in his life (x): the Jews give this reason of the ceremony, because at this feast was the time of the rains, see Targum of Jonathan on Leviticus 23:36; and therefore the holy blessed God said, pour water before me, that the rains of the year may be blessed unto you (y); but others have thought there was something more mysterious in it, and that it had respect to the pouring out of the Holy Ghost; for, they say (z), the place of drawing water was so called, because they drew the Holy Ghost, as it is said, "ye shall draw water with joy out of the wells of salvation", Isaiah 12:3; to this our Lord is thought to allude; see Gill on John 7:37, John 7:38, some of the ceremonies used at this feast have been imitated by the Heathens: Strabo (a) says, the carrying branches of trees, dances, and sacrifices, were common to the gods, and particularly to Bacchus; and there was such a likeness between these and the rites of Bacchus, that Plutarch (b) thought the Jews at this time kept two feasts to the honour of him; whereas, as Bishop Patrick observes, the profane Bacchanalia of the Gentiles were only a corruption of this festival.

(u) Misn. Succah, c. 3. sect. 13. & Maimon. & Bartenora in ib. R. Alphes, par. 1. Succah, c. 2. fol. 376. 1.((w) Maimon. Hilchot Lulab. c. 7. sect. 10. c. 13, & c. 8. sect. 12, 13, 14, 15. (x) Misn. Succah, c. 5. sect. 1. 4. (y) R. Alphes, par. 1. Roshhashanah, c. 1. fol. 346. 2.((z) T. Hieros. Succah, fol. 55. 1.((a) Geograph. l. 10. p. 322. (b) Sympos. l. 1. prob. 3.

And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.
40. fruit of goodly trees] i.e. fruit of goodly (ornamental, beautiful) trees, or goodly tree fruit (so Dillm.).

boughs of thick trees] According to Onkelos, myrtle branches, but the expression may have a more general signification. It has been doubted whether this various material was to be used for the construction of the booths, or for the purpose of making a lûlâb or festal bouquet. Among the later Jews the lûlâb (Jos. Ant. iii. 10. 4) consisted of a myrtle, willow, and palm branch, and an ethrôg (orange or citron) carried in the hands. In Nehemiah’s time (Nehemiah 8:15) there is found no more than a general agreement with the text here as to materials. See further in Jos. Ant. xiii. 13. 5, and the Mishna Sukkah iii. 1 ff.On the fifteenth of the same month the feast of Tabernacles was to be kept to the Lord for seven days: on the first day with a holy meeting and rest from all laborious work, and for seven days with sacrifices, as appointed for every day in Numbers 29:13-33. Moreover, on the eighth day, i.e., the 22nd of the month, the closing feast was to be observed in the same manner as on the first day (Leviticus 23:34-36). The name, "feast of Tabernacles" (booths), is to be explained from the fact, that the Israelites were to dwell in booths made of boughs for the seven days that this festival lasted (Leviticus 23:42). עצרת, which is used in Leviticus 23:36 and Numbers 29:35 for the eighth day, which terminated the feast of Tabernacles, and in Deuteronomy 16:8 for the seventh day of the feast of Mazzoth, signifies the solemn close of a feast of several days, clausula festi, from עצר to shut in, or close (Genesis 16:2; Deuteronomy 11:17, etc.), not a coagendo, congregando populo ad festum, nor a cohibitione laboris, ab interdicto opere, because the word is only applied to the last day of the feasts of Mazzoth and Tabernacles, and not to the first, although this was also kept with a national assembly and suspension of work. But as these clausaulae festi were holidays with a holy convocation and suspension of work, it was very natural that the word should be transferred at a later period to feasts generally, on which the people suspended work and met for worship and edification (Joel 1:14; Isaiah 1:13; 2 Kings 10:20). The azareth, as the eighth day, did not strictly belong to the feast of Tabernacles, which was only to last seven days; and it was distinguished, moreover, from these seven days by a smaller number of offerings (Numbers 29:35.). The eighth day was rather the solemn close of the whole circle of yearly feasts, and therefore was appended to the close of the last of these feasts as the eighth day of the feast itself (see at Numbers 28 seq.). - With Leviticus 23:36 the enumeration of all the yearly feasts on which holy meetings were to be convened is brought to an end. This is stated in the concluding formula (Leviticus 23:37, Leviticus 23:38), which answers to the heading in Leviticus 23:4, in which the Sabbaths are excepted, as they simply belonged to the moadim in the more general sense of the word. In this concluding formula, therefore, there is no indication that Leviticus 23:2 and Leviticus 23:3 and Leviticus 23:39-43 are later additions to the original list of feasts which were to be kept with a meeting for worship. וגו להקריב (to offer, etc.) is not dependent upon "holy convocations," but upon the main idea, "feasts of Jehovah." Jehovah had appointed moadim, fixed periods in the year, for His congregation to offer sacrifices; not as if no sacrifices could be or were to be offered except at these feasts, but to remind His people, through these fixed days, of their duty to approach the Lord with sacrifices. אשּׁה is defined by the enumeration of four principal kinds of sacrifice-burnt-offerings, meat-offerings, slain (i.e., peace-) offerings, and drink-offerings. בּ יום דּבר: "every day those appointed for it," as in Exodus 5:13.
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