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Bible Commentaries

Gaebelein's Annotated Bible

Deuteronomy 16

Verses 1-17

12. The Firstlings and the Three Feasts

CHAPTERS 15:19-16:17

1. Concerning the firstlings (Deuteronomy 15:19-23 )

2. Passover (Deuteronomy 16:1-8 )

3. Feast of weeks (Deuteronomy 16:9-12 )

4. Feast of tabernacles (Deuteronomy 16:13-17 )

What is said in the closing verses of chapter 15 is supplementary to the law given concerning the first-born in Exodus 13:2 ; Exodus 13:12 and Numbers 18:0 . They were not to be worked or sheared. “Before the Lord thy God shalt thou eat it, year after year, in the place which the Lord shall choose, thou and thy household.” Nothing which had a blemish, was lame or blind could be sacrificed. The spotless Lamb of God is here in view once more and the type is given how we are to feed on Him in the presence of God, in the sanctuary.

The feasts were mentioned in Exodus 12:0 ; Leviticus 23:0 ; Numbers 28-29. Here only the Passover, the feast of weeks and the feast of tabernacles are given. The critics claim that there is contradiction between this chapter and the laws concerning the feasts in the previous books of the Pentateuch. Such contradiction, however, does not exist. That only these three feasts are mentioned here is in full harmony with the character and message of Deuteronomy.

Obedience, as we have repeatedly learned from the study of past chapters, is the demand of Jehovah from His people. The three prominent feasts were absolutely obligatory. Three times in a year all the males were commanded to appear before the Lord to keep these three feasts. No such demand was made in keeping the feast of trumpets and the day of atonement. Because these three feasts were to be obeyed, they are mentioned in Deuteronomy. The objections of the critics spring (as all other objections and criticisms) from the lack of spiritual discernment. The contradiction they see is only another evidence of the perfection of His Word. “The place, which Jehovah thy God will choose” occurs six times in this chapter. This was not mentioned in Exodus, Leviticus or Numbers. This again is characteristic of the book. Over twenty-five times mention is made of the place which Jehovah will choose, the gathering place of His people in His presence, and this demands obedience. What these feasts mean typically and dispensationally may be learned by consulting the annotations of Leviticus 23:0 . The fact is also to be remembered that they came out of Egypt (verses 3 and 12). They are commanded to rejoice on the feast of weeks (Pentecost) and on the feast of tabernacles (typical of the time of joy and blessing in the coming age); but the statement “thou shalt rejoice” is omitted in connection with Passover. Redemption is typified in that feast. This calls forth gratitude and praise to God. The solemnity of the death of the Lamb of God and the judgment our Lord had to pass through, must be the reason why the command to rejoice is absent.

Verses 18-22

13. Justice and the Choice of a King

CHAPTERS 16:18-17:20

1. Appointment of judges and their instruction (Deuteronomy 16:18-22 ; Deuteronomy 17:1 )

2. The higher court at the place He chooses (Deuteronomy 17:8-13 )

3. The choice and right of the king (Deuteronomy 17:14-20 )

This chapter leads us upon new ground. The obligations of the religious life of Israel were stated in the first part of chapter 16 and now the government of the people in the land is commanded. “Just as in its religious worship the Israelitish nation was to show itself to be the holy nation of Jehovah, so was it in its political relations also. This thought forms the link between the laws already given and those which follow. Civil order, that indispensable condition of the stability and prosperity of nations and states, rests upon a conscientious maintenance of right, by means of a well-ordered judicial constitution and an impartial administration of justice” (F. Delitzsch). Judges and officials were to be appointed and a higher judicial court for more difficult cases to be established, the latter at the place of the sanctuary. Idolatry is prominently mentioned again because it is the most serious matter, both individually and nationally, to forsake the one Jehovah. Apostasy from Jehovah and His covenant is wickedness. Chapter 16:21-22 also has reference to idolatry. The idolatrous altars and images were set up under, or, beside green trees. See 1 Kings 14:23 ; 2 Kings 17:10 ; Jeremiah 17:2 . Then there is provision made for the choice of a king. The Lord foresaw Samuel’s time, when the people would reject Him as their King and desire to be like other nations; and foreseeing their failures He made provision for this emergency.

“And yet the wisdom and grace of God are only the more, not the less, conspicuous in this provision. True, of Saul it was said, ‘I gave thee a king in Mine anger, and took him away in My wrath’ (Hosea 13:11 ). But this only brings out God’s real choice--David, ‘the beloved,’ type of One who is indeed that, and in whom a King is found who reigns forever. He is the One of whom the king that Deuteronomy announces is the shadow. Brought forth when priesthood has failed in Eli, and prophet in Samuel, the true king is God’s resource for Israel and the earth. For neither priesthood nor prophecy alone will set right the earth, or bring in the time when it shall be filled with the glory of the Lord. He must come to whom the throne belongs, and who shall bring back judgment to righteousness; He in whom Prophet, Priest, and King are one,--a threefold cord that never shall be broken” (Numerical Bible).

A comparison of verse 16 and 17 with 1 Kings 9-11 is most interesting. What failure man is in himself. And Solomon was the wisest and most influential of all the kings. This fact that Solomon did the very opposite from what the king should do has led the critics to say that this passage was written after Solomon. As if God did not know all this beforehand! But there is not allusion to Solomon’s kingdom at all in the words Moses spoke.

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Bibliographical Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 16". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gab/deuteronomy-16.html. 1913-1922.