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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 23

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-44

Chapter 23

Chapter twenty-three, God outlines the various holidays, the feast days for the children of Israel. First of all in the first three verses, God deals with the Sabbath day once more.

The seventh day is a sabbath day of rest, a holy convocation; you shall not do any work: it is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings. [Now there are seven feasts that are listed here.] On the fourteenth day of the first month [The month of April in the Jewish calendar, the fourteenth day] is the Lord's passover. [So then is when the Passover feast was celebrated, the fourteenth day of the first month.] And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the Lord: [So the fourteenth day is Passover, then the next day begins a seven day feast period of unleavened bread in which they were to cleanse their house of all leavened bread, and they were to have this week of vacation, resting, feasting unto the Lord They're not to do any work during that week's time. So they were vacations, actually.] And the Lord spake unto Moses saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, [verse ten] when you've come into the land that I've given it unto you, and you shall reap the harvest thereof, then shall ye bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it. And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf of the he lamb without blemish of the first year a burnt offering unto the Lord. And the meal offering [and they tell how it should be given] and the drink offering ( Leviticus 23:3-6 , Leviticus 23:9-14 )

So this was the offering of firstfruits unto God, which was separate from the Feast of Pentecost. But this was just bringing to God when they come into the land, the firstfruits of the harvest. The firstfruits belonging to God and recognizing that the firstfruits are God's, not the leftovers, but that which is first.

Then God deals with the Passover Feast.

And then you shall count from the day after the sabbath [That is the final sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.] that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering; for seven sabbaths shall be complete: Even on the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer the new meal offering unto the Lord. And ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: and they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked [notice] with leaven ( Leviticus 23:15-17 );

Now each of these feasts had its fulfillment in Jesus Christ, and in the church, and in the New Testament. Of course, the Feast of the Passover, we have no problem with that, Christ becoming our Passover, Christ the bread of life, unleavened, so the Feast of the Unleavened Bread.

Then we have the Feast of Pentecost of fifty days. Interestingly enough, the bread is to have leaven; offer the whole loaf leavened. Now the Feast of Pentecost was the foreshadowing of the church actually, so it was significant that in Acts chapter two, when the day of Pentecost was fully come, the disciples were gathered together in one accord, in one place. And suddenly there was a noise from heaven that sounded like a mighty rushing wind. And there were cloven tongues of fire that sat upon each of them, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them the ability, or prompted their speech. So the descent of the Holy Spirit, the birth of the church was foreshadowed by the Feast of Pentecost, which was really the ingathering of the firstfruits unto the Lord. Which on the day of Pentecost, the first of the multitude that were to be saved through the preaching of the gospel and through the ministry of the church were brought in. Some three thousand souls were added to the church that day; that was the firstfruit.

Now Jesus knew that His church would never be perfect or pure. He gave parables that indicated this, and God knew it in the Old Testament. That's why the loaves were to have leaven in them, because leaven is always a symbol of sin actually. So in this offering, which was a foreshadowing of the church, there was leaven in it. Don't let anybody tell you that the church history is pure, it isn't; it's horrible. That's one reason why I'm glad I'm not really related to any human, organized effort called a church, because I don't have to answer for the corrupt history of the church. Believe me, its history is corrupt. I blush when I read of some of the things that the Popes have done in the past. If they made movies out of them they would be worse than Hollywood has come out with yet. The history of the church is not pure. God knew that there would be a corrupting influence in the church.

Jesus gave parables of the kingdom of heaven, and people have misinterpreted these parables, completely twisting them around. For instance, Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is like a woman hiding a bit of leaven in the meal, and in the loaf", you know making her dough, putting a bit of leaven in it, "until the whole loaf is leavened" ( Matthew 13:3 ). "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that is very small, and yet it grew up into a great tree, and the birds of the air came and nested in it" ( Matthew 13:31-32 ), and people found shelter in the shade underneath.

So there were those theologians that interpreted those parables as being wonderful. The church was the leaven in the loaf, which was the world, and the church is going to gradually bring its good influence until the whole world is going to be converted. The church was the mustard seed planted in the world growing up into a great tree that everything can find shelter underneath. It was going to just cover the earth and shelter all men and they would all be benefited by the shade. But wherever you find birds in the scripture, you find them in an evil sense, "where birds were lodging in its branches". Unfortunately, there have been a lot of birds lodging in the branches of the church.

Now the Lord knew that the church's history wasn't gonna be pure, wasn't gonna be ideal; and thus, even in the preshadowing of the church in the Old Testament, God had them make loaves. Now it isn't just sheaf the wheat, but now it is baked in a loaf which is a cohesive kind of a unit, but yet it has the leaven within it as it's offered to God; so the feast of Pentecost.

Then God gave a special little rule in verse twenty-two, which I find very fascinating.

When you reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when you reap, neither shall you gather any gleaning of your harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: for I am Jehovah your God ( Leviticus 23:22 ).

So the welfare program in the state of Israel was a very interesting welfare program. It wasn't a give-away. If you were poor, what you could always do is go and gather from the corners of the field. The people in the harvesting of their fields weren't to harvest the corners. Also, they weren't to go back through the second time for gleaning purposes. When they went through and picked the apricots or the peaches or whatever, once through that was it. Whatever was left, whatever wasn't ripe in the first pickings had to be left on the tree for the poor people to come in and gather. So the gleaners who would go in and gather after the harvesters. And thus, it was a welfare program for the poor people in the land, and the strangers; I feel a very excellent welfare program.

I notice that after they thresh the beans around here, that you'll see sometimes people going through and picking up the beans in the fields out here. I used to do that every year when I was a child. We had right behind our house a walnut orchard, and they always planted beans between the trees. We would go out and gather several quarts of beans when we were kids. Then we'd have those neat baked lima beans in the wintertime. Then my hands were always black because I'd go out after the harvesters, cause they always went through the walnut crop twice, but after the second time through, then whatever was left was ours. We were kids; we used to get a gunnysack of walnuts every year, sort of gleaning after them. A very excellent provision that God put in the law that they weren't to glean their fields. They were to leave that for the poor in the land.

Now we continue with the feast in verse twenty-three, or verse twenty-four.

In the seventh month, the first day of the month, there shall be a memorial of the blowing of the trumpets, a holy convocation. [You weren't to do any work on that day. Again it was just a holiday, the first day of the seventh month, because it marked actually the most holy month of the calendar, the Blowing of the Trumpets.] And then on the tenth day of the seventh month shall be the day of atonement: [Yom Kippur the day that the priest was to make an offering before the Lord for the sins of the people. And then also in the seventh month they were to have the feast of tabernacles] ( Leviticus 23:24 , Leviticus 23:27-28 ).

Now in verse thirty-two God is talking about this Yom Kippur.

It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, and from even unto even, ye shall celebrate your sabbath ( Leviticus 23:32 ).

That is why the Jews celebrate and count days not from midnight, they count days from sundown to sundown. So they celebrate their Sabbaths from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Then Saturday night the big sort of a celebration. They all take to the streets. They have street dances and everybody's cruising on their feet up and all walking up and down the streets. In fact, it's so crowded that you just have a hard time. It takes almost an hour to walk a block. You're just moving with the people but it's just everybody's out on Saturday night, because the Sabbath is now over. But this is where they get it. They were to celebrate "from even to even". They were to start on the evening on the ninth day, and they were to celebrate through the evening of the tenth day. So their day began at sundown and begins at sundown.

Now the Feast of Tabernacles was to take place on the fifteenth day of the seventh month. The tenth day was to be Yom Kippur, the first day, the Blowing of Trumpets. You're announcing, "This is the holy month", being the seventh month. On the first day of the Feast of the Tabernacles there was to be a holy convocation, not to do any work, on the eighth day a holy convocation. So the Feast of Tabernacles went for eight days that whatever day the Sabbath fell on was in that period, but also there were two extra Sabbaths. The first day of the feast and the last day of the feast were always Sabbath days, and considered as the Sabbath where there was no work to be done and to be observed just as any Sabbath day is observed.

Now at this Feast of Tabernacles this was a feast, which was a memorial to remind them of how God preserved their fathers through the forty years of wandering in the wilderness. So during this feast in the latter portion of the chapter, they were to build little booths. They were to move out of the house and live in these booths for the eight days of this feast. After you come in the land, you build houses and so forth, then you're to build these little booths beside your house. And you're to move into these booths and live in them for these eight days just to remind yourself of the hardships that your ancestors went through when they were coming out of Egypt, and coming into this land that God had promised unto them. So it was going back to rugged living for one week out of the year. I imagine the kids really had a great time with that. I don't suppose the parents appreciated it too much, but it was probably an exciting adventure, just like kids like to sleep out in tents and all. So they would make these booths and move out during this particular feast.


Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Leviticus 23". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/leviticus-23.html. 2014.
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