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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 23

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-3


Verses 1-3:

This text begins the section consisting of Lev 23-25, regulating certain holy days and seasons. The first of these is the seventh day Sabbath.

"Feasts," moed, "an appointment meeting." The common concept of a "feast" is a bountiful, festive meal. This is not always the meaning of the term in Scripture. A meal may be served, but the primary meaning is that of an appointed time of meeting.

"Convocation," miqra, "a calling together," an assembly, in this instance for religious purposes.

All told, there were seven "holy convocations" annually, in addition to the weekly Sabbath: the first and last days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread; Pentecost; Yom Kippur; the Feast of Trumpets; and the first and last days of the Feast of Tabernacles.

"Sabbath," shabbath, "cessation, rest," The context determines if the "sabbath" is the seventh day of the week, or if it is some other special holy day. In this text, it is the seventh day, or weekly Sabbath. It began at sunset on Friday, and ended at sunset on Saturday. All work was forbidden. This was Israel’s most holy day. Its purpose: to commemorate the Person and work of Israel’s God (Ge 2:1-3; Ex 16:23-29; 20:8-11); to afford needed rest and refreshment; and to afford opportunity to reflect on His Person and Law.

The first and last days of this observance were days of holy convocation. No servile work might be done on these days.

Jesus was crucified on Nisan 15, the day after the Paschal meal. The note in Joh 18:28 regarding the Pharisees’ reluctance to enter the judgment hall because of the Passover, does not refer to the Paschal lamb, but to the Peace Offering which must be offered and eaten on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Nu 28:19-24 lists the public sacrifices to be offered on each of the days of this week’s festival. De 16:17 prescribes the Peace Offerings which might be offered at an individual’s discretion.

Verses 4-8

Verses 4-8:

Nisan became the first month of the religious year, because this was the month of the first Passover in Egypt, Ex 12:2-15. Originally, the head of each household was responsible for the Passover rites. But with the establishment of the Aaronic priesthood, the priestly rights for the nation were vested in Aaron’s sons, and sacrifices apart from the Temple were forbidden, see De 16:5, 6.

The head of each household must bring his Passover lamb to the tabernacle, where the priest would offer the blood on the altar. The lamb was then taken away, to be cooked in preparation for the Paschal meal.

"Feast"(verse 4) is moed, the term used in verse 2. But in verse 6 it is chaq, meaning "festival," or festive occasion.

The Passover itself was one day only, the fourteenth of Nisan. The Feast of Unleavened Bread lasted seven days, from Nisan 15 through 21. During this week, only unleavened bread was allowed to be eaten, Ex 12:34. The two festivals were not the same, but they were observed together, and were called indiscriminately the "Feast of the Passover" or the "Feast of Unleavened Bread."

According to traditional ritual, three men entered the barley field, with basket and sickle, immediately following sunset on Nisan 14. They harvested ears of the grain equal to about three pecks and three pints, and brought them to the altar at the tabernacle (Temple). The priest offered these ears of grain as a wave offering, in token of the consecration of the entire barley harvest to Jehovah.

Along with the wave offering of grain, a Burnt Offering of a Iamb, and a Meat (food) Offering of double the usual quantity was offered, and a drink offering of wine (Le 1:10-13; 2:1-16).

This was to be a perpetual ordinance for all Israel, no matter where they might live.

Prior to the waving of the sheaf of barley, no bread made from the new flour, no parched grain, nor fresh grain was to be eaten. The lesson from this is that the first and the best belongs to God, as a token of His ownership and man’s stewardship, see Pr 3:9, 10.

Verses 9-14

Verses 9-14:

This text contains further provisions for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which were to be observed only after Israel entered the Land of Promise. The "morrow after the sabbath" is the second day of the feast, regardless of what day of the week the observance fell.

In Le XI of his book, "The Temple, Its Ministry and Services" (Eerdman’s), Alfred Edersheim provides details of the rituals and services which accompanied the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread festivals.

The Sabbath day principle applies in every age. God designed man with a need for rest, relaxation, and meditation one day out of seven. The seventh day of the week (Saturday) was enjoined upon Israel in the Law of Moses. Its observance was mandatory. Death by stoning was the penalty for violation. The seventh day Sabbath was not mandatory, nor was its penalty prescribed, for any other people. It was a shadow, cast by the Body, Christ. Jesus blotted out the ordinances of the Law, including those regarding the Sabbath day, in His death on the cross, Col 2:14-17. Thus God’s people today are not under the Sabbath day law.

Verses 15-21

Verses 15-21:

The Feast of Pentecost was a one-day observance. It was reckoned by counting "seven sabbaths" or seven weeks, forty-nine days, beginning with the second day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, designating the fiftieth day as the day of the festival. "Pentecost" means "fifty-day feast."

The time for this festival was during the month Sivan, corresponding to about the first part of June. This was during the time of the wheat harvest.

The offerings for the day consisted of:

1. Two loaves of bread made of fine wheat flour and baked with leaven. These were the loaves commonly used in everyday life. Each loaf contained about five pints of flour, and likely weighed about five pounds.

2. Two lambs, offered as wave offerings along with the loaves of bread. These were to be the priest’s portion.

3. Seven year-old lambs, without blemish.

4. One young bullock.

5. Two rams.

The lambs, bullock, and rams were for a Burnt Offering.

In addition, there were the appropriate food and drink offerings, to be made by fire according to the prescribed ritual.

One kid of the goats was to be a Sin Offering, Le 4:27-35. Two of the lambs were for a Peace Offering, Le 3:6-11.

Pentecost was to be a perpetual holy day for Israel, wherever they might dwell. No servile work was to be performed on that day.

Verse 22

Verse 22:

This is a reinforcement of a command previously set forth, regarding provision for the poor and the foreigner in the land, Le 19:9, 10, q.v.

Verses 23-25

Verses 23-25:

The Feast of Trumpets was the only monthly festival that an holy convocation was held. The time: the first day of Tishri (Tisri), the seventh month of the religious year and the first month of the civil year. This corresponds with the latter part of September and the first part of October. The day was to be a "sabbath," or a festival observed by rest and by the blowing of trumpets.

"Blowing of trumpets," teruah, "shouting, a memorial of a joyful noise." Two different instruments are designated by the word "trumpet" One was a long instrument of metal, and originally served as a signal for marching. This instrument later was used to announce the monthly festival. The other instrument was usually made of a ram’s horn (shophar), or of metal in the shape of a horn, and was frequently used to express feelings of joy.

Special sacrifices were appointed for this festival, Nu 29:2-6:

1. One young bullock.

2. One ram.

3. Seven year-old lambs without blemish.

4. A food offering to be eaten with the sacrificial animals.’

These special offerings were in addition to the regular sacrifices.

Verses 26-32

Verses 26-32:

Instructions for Yom Kippur, the "Day of Atonement," are given in Levitus 16. This was to be a solemn day of fasting and complete cessation of all labor. It was a day of "affliction," or sorrow, as the people remembered and confessed their sins.

The solemnity of this day was part of the preparation for the joyous Feast of Tabernacles, which followed five days later.

Verses 33-44

Verses 33-44:

The Feast of Tabernacles followed Yom Kippur by five days. It began on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, and lasted for seven days. The first day of the Feast, and the day following, were designated as special sabbaths.

"Feast" in verse 34 is chaq (see comments on verse 5).

"Tabernacles," sukkah, "booth, covering, covert."

This was the most joyous of all Israel’s festivals. It came at the time of year when all crops were gathered and stored, the vintage was past, and the land awaited the "latter rains," to prepare it for the new crop. It afforded opportunity for the people to reflect on the bountiful mercies of God, in providing their needs through another year.

This festival was known by four various names:

1. Feast of Ingathering, Ex 23:16; 31:10; 2Ch 8:13; Ezr 3:4, commemorating Israel’s wilderness trek.

2. Feast of Tabernacles, text; De 16:13-16; 31:10; 2Ch 8:13; Ezr 3:4, commemorating Israel’s wilderness trek. 3. The Feast, 1 Kings 8:2; 1Ch 5:2; 7:8, 9.

4. Feast of Jehovah, so literally in Le 23:39.

This festival was to be observed by all Israeli males. Boughs of trees were to be cut, and used to fashion "booths" or arbors. Seven days the people lived in these booths. This was to remind them of Israel’s wilderness wandering and the fact that Jehovah had delivered them from Egypt. See Ne 8:15-17.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Leviticus 23". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/leviticus-23.html. 1985.
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