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Bible Commentaries

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible
Leviticus 23

 

 

Verse 1

The specified times for public worship according to the Law were;

(1) The daily morning and evening sacrifices, sometimes called “the continual burnt-offering.”

(2) The weekly Sabbath.

(3) the day of the new moon.

(4) the “set feasts” Numbers 29:39 or appointed times of annual observance, of which there were five, the Passover, the Day of Pentecost, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles. For each of these occasions special sacrifices were appointed Numbers 28; 29.


Verse 2

The feasts - literally, the appointed times. So in Leviticus 23:4, Leviticus 23:37, etc. This section Exodus 12:16; Numbers 28:18, Numbers 28:25-26; Numbers 29:1, Numbers 29:12, Numbers 29:35, with a distinction between them as regards strictness of observance (compare Leviticus 23:3, Leviticus 23:28 with Leviticus 23:7).


Verse 3

The seventh day had been consecrated as the Sabbath of Yahweh, figuring His own rest; it was the acknowledged sign of the covenant between God and His people. See the Exodus 20:1-11 notes. As such it properly held its place at the head of the days of holy convocation.


Verse 4

The recurrence of the sabbatical number in the five annual days of holy convocation should be noticed.


Verses 5-8

In these verses, the Passover, or Paschal Supper, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, are plainly spoken of as distinct feasts. See Exodus 12:6, Exodus 12:15, Exodus 12:17; Numbers 28:16-17.

Leviticus 23:5

See Exodus 12:6. According to the Hebrew mode of reckoning, the 15th day of the month began on the evening of the 14th. The day of holy convocation with which the Feast of Unleavened Bread commenced Leviticus 23:7 was the 15th, and that with which it terminated was the 21st. Compare Numbers 28:16-17.

Leviticus 23:6

Feast - The three festivals (often called the Great Festivals), Passover, Pentecost and tabernacles, to which the name חג chag i. e. a feast or rejoicing properly belongs Leviticus 23:6, Leviticus 23:34, Leviticus 23:39, Leviticus 23:41, were distinguished by the attendance of the male Israelites at the national sanctuary (compare Exodus 23:17; Exodus 34:23; Deuteronomy 16:16). In later times they were called by the rabbins “pilgrimage feasts.” It is worthy of note that the Hebrew word is identical with the Arabic “haj”, the name of the pilgrimage to Mecca, from which comes the well-known word for a pilgrim, “haji”.

Leviticus 23:7

No servile work - literally, no work of labor, no work that belongs to one‘s worldly calling, such as labor in agriculture or handicraft. The preparation of food was permitted Exodus 12:16, a licence not granted on the weekly Sabbath, or on the day of atonement Leviticus 23:28, Leviticus 23:30; Exodus 20:10; Exodus 35:3.

Leviticus 23:8

The sacrifices here meant are named in Numbers 28:19-24.


Verses 9-22

These verses contain a distinct command regarding the religious services immediately connected with the grain harvest, given by anticipation against the time when the people were to possess the promised land.

Leviticus 23:10

Sheaf - The original word, “omer”, means either a sheaf Deuteronomy 24:19; Rth 2:7 , or a measure Exodus 16:16. Our version is probably right in this place. The offering which was waved Leviticus 7:30 was most likely a small sheaf of barley, the grain which is first ripe. The first fruits of the wheat harvest were offered seven weeks later in the loaves of Pentecost. See Leviticus 23:15-17. The two offerings thus figure the very commencement and the completion of the grain harvest; compare Rth 1:22 ; Rth 2:23 .

Leviticus 23:11

On the morrow after the sabbath - It is most probable that these words denote the 16th of Abib, the day after the first day of holy convocation (see Leviticus 23:5-8 note), and that this was called “the Sabbath of the Passover”, or, “the Sabbath of unleavened bread”.

Leviticus 23:13

Two tenth deals - Two omers, or tenth parts of an ephah, about a gallon and three quarters. See Leviticus 19:36 note. The double quantity (contrast Exodus 29:40; Numbers 15:4; Numbers 28:19-21), implying greater liberality, was appropriate in a harvest feast.

Drink offering - This and Leviticus 23:18, Leviticus 23:37 are the only places in the book of Leviticus in which drink-offerings are mentioned. See the Exodus 29:40 note.

Leviticus 23:14

Bread … parched corn … green ears - These are the three forms in which grain was commonly eaten. The old name, Abib, signified “the month of green ears.” See Joshua 5:11.

Leviticus 23:15

The morrow after the sabbath - See Leviticus 23:11 note.

Seven sabbaths - More properly, seven weeks (compare Deuteronomy 16:9). The word Sabbath, in the language of the New Testament as well as the Old, is used for “week” (Leviticus 25:8; Matthew 28:1; Luke 18:12, etc.).

Leviticus 23:16

The morrow after the seventh week was the 50th day after the conclusion of a week of weeks. The day is called in the Old Testament, “the feast of harvest” Exodus 23:16, “the feast of weeks,” “the feast of the first fruits of wheat harvest” Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16:10, and “the day of the first fruits” Numbers 28:26. The word “Pentecost” used in the heading of this chapter in English Bibles is found only in the Apocrypha and the New Testament, Acts 2:1; Acts 20:16; 1 Corinthians 16:8.

Leviticus 23:17

Habitations - Not strictly houses, but places of abode in a general sense. It seems here to denote the land in which the Israelites were to dwell so as to express that the flour was to be of home growth. The two loaves were to be merely waved before Yahweh and then to become the property of the priests. No bread containing leaven could be offered on the altar (see the Leviticus 2:11 note). The object of this offering seems to have been to present to the Lord the best produce of the earth in the actual condition in which it is most useful for the support of human life. It thus represented in the fittest manner the thanksgiving which was proper for the season. The loaves appear to be distinctively called “the first fruits for Yahweh,” and references to them are found in Romans 11:16; 1 Corinthians 15:20, 1 Corinthians 15:23; James 1:18; Revelation 14:4, etc. As these loaves offered before Yahweh sanctified the harvest of the year, so has “Christ the firstfruits” sanctified the Church, which, in its union with Him as the firstfruits, becomes also the Sanctifier of the world. See the services for Whitsuntide.

Leviticus 23:18

More properly, seven sheep of a year old (to be distinguished from the lamb in Leviticus 23:12), and a young bull which might be from one to three years old. Compare Numbers 28:26-27.

Leviticus 23:19

Properly, a shaggy he-goat Leviticus 4:23 and two sheep of a year old.

Leviticus 23:20

When living creatures were “waved” Leviticus 7:30 before Yahweh, it is said that they were led to and fro before the tabernacle according to an established form.

Leviticus 23:21

The self-same day - The Feast of Weeks was distinguished from the two other great annual feasts by its consisting, according to the Law, of only a single day. But in later times it is said that during the following six days the Israelites used to bring their offerings to the temple, and to give the week something of a festal character in the suspension of mourning for the dead.

Leviticus 23:22

The repetition of the Law (see the margin reference) is appropriately connected with the thanksgiving for the completed grain harvest.


Verse 24

A sabbath - Here and in Leviticus 23:39 a word which should rather be rendered a sabbatical rest.

Blowing of trumpets - Here and in Numbers 29:1, literally “shouting”. There is no mention of trumpets in the Hebrew text of the Law in connection with the day. However, there is no reason to doubt the tradition that the day was distinguished by a general blowing of trumpets throughout the land, and that the kind of trumpet generally used for the purpose was the curved horn of an animal or a cornet of metal, such as was used at Sinai Exodus 19:16, and on the Day of Jubilee Leviticus 25:9. It must have differed in this respect from the ordinary festival of the New moon when the long straight trumpet of the temple alone was blown (Numbers 10:2; Exodus 25:23; see cut).

Seventh month - Called by the Jews in later times it was called Tisri, but in the Old Testament Ethanim, 1 Kings 8:2. According to the uniform voice of tradition “the first day” of this month was the first day of the Civil year in use before the Exodus, and was observed as the festival of the New year. Some have viewed it as a commemoration of the Creation of the world Job 38:7: others, as the anniversary of the giving of the Law.


Verse 27

Also - Surely. On the special rites of the day, the tenth of Tisri, that is from the evening of the ninth day of the month to that of the tenth Leviticus 23:32, see Leviticus 16.


Verse 34

Seven days - Like the Passover, the feast of tabernacles commenced at the full moon, on the fifteenth day of the month, and lasted for seven days. The week of the feast was followed by an eighth day, forming strictly no part of it Leviticus 23:36, Numbers 29:35; Nehemiah 8:18, which was a day of holy convocation, and appears to have been generally distinguished by the word translated “solemn assembly” Deuteronomy 16:8; 2 Kings 10:20; Isaiah 1:13; Joel 1:14; Joel 2:15. From its derivation the word in the original appears strictly to denote a closing festival, and this rendering would apply with the most perfect fitness to the day after the week of the Feast of tabernacles, as the conclusion of the series of yearly festivals.


Verse 36

An offering made by fire - See Leviticus 23:8. The succession of sacrifices prescribed in Numbers 29:12-38, which forms such a marked feature in the Feast of Tabernacles, tends to show the distinctness of the “solemn assembly” from the festal week.


Verse 37-38

The meaning appears to be; “these are the yearly appointed times on which ye shall hold holy convocations and offer to Yahweh sacrifices, in addition to the Sabbath offerings Numbers 28:9-10 and to all your voluntary offerings.” Compare Numbers 29:39.


Verse 39

Also - Surely. The mode in which the Feast of Tabernacles is here reintroduced, after the mention of it in Leviticus 23:34-36, may suggest that this passage originally formed a distinct document.

The fruit of the land - i. e. the produce, including the grain, the olives, the vintage and the fruits of all kinds. The time of year so indicated would answer in the holy land to the beginning of October. See Exodus 23:16 note.


Verse 40

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.


Verse 42

Booths - According to Jewish tradition, what were used at the Feast of Tabernacles were strictly “tabernacula,” structures of boards, with a covering of boughs.

The “booth” in which the Israelite kept the Feast, and the “tent” which was his ordinary abode in the wilderness, had this in common - they were temporary places of sojourn, they belonged to camp-life. The seven days of abode in the booths of the festival was thus a fair symbol of the forty years of abode in tents in the wilderness. The Feast might well become the appointed memorial of this period of their history for the ages to come.

All that are Israelites born - The omission of the foreigners in this command is remarkable. Perhaps the intention was that on this joyous occasion they were to be hospitably entertained as guests. Compare Deuteronomy 16:14.


Verse 44

Feasts - Appointed times. See Leviticus 23:2 note.

 


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Bibliography Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Leviticus 23:4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/leviticus-23.html. 1870.

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