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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Leviticus 23

Verse 1

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 2

Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts.

Speak unto the children of Israel ... Concerning the feasts, [ mow`ªdeey (H4150) Yahweh (H3068), the sacred assemblies] - the times of assembling, or solemnities (Isaiah 33:20); and this is a preferable rendering, applicable to all sacred seasons mentioned in this chapter, even the day of atonement, which was observed as a fast. They were appointed by the direct authority of God and announced by a public proclamation which is called "the joyful sound" (Psalms 89:15). Those "holy convocations were evidences of divine wisdom, and eminently subservient to the maintenance and diffusion of religious knowledge and piety.

Verse 3

Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings.

The seventh day is the sabbath - (see the notes at Exodus 20:8-2.20.9.) The Sabbath has the precedence given to it, and it was to be a "holy convocation," observed by families 'in their dwellings,' where practicable, by the people repairing to the door of the tabernacle; at later periods, by meeting in the schools of the prophets, and in synagogues.

Verse 4

These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons.

Feasts of the Lord ... in their season. Their observance took place in the parts of the year corresponding to our March, May, and September. Divine wisdom was manifested in fixing them at those periods-in winter, when the days were short and the roads broken up, a long journey was impracticable; while in summer the harvest and vintage gave busy employment in the fields. Besides, another reason for the choice of those seasons probably was to counteract the influence of Egyptian associations and habits. And God appointed more sacred festivals for the Israelites on the month of September than the people of Egypt had in honour of their idols. These institutions, however, were for the most part prospective, the observance being not binding on the Israelites during their wanderings in the wilderness, while the regular celebration was not to commence until their settlement in Canaan.

Verse 5

In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD's passover.

The Lord's passover - (see Exodus 12:2; Exodus 12:14; Exodus 12:18.) The institution of the Passover was intended to be a perpetual memorial of the circumstances attending the redemption of the Israelites, while it had a typical reference to a greater redemption to be effected for God's spiritual people. The distinctions here marked deserve attention - "the Lord's Passover," the Passover of the lamb, the paschal day, was celebrated on the 14th day of Abib (see the note at Leviticus 13:4); the festival, "the feast of unleavened bread, was held on the 15th day; and the whole solemnity, which commenced on the 14th, terminated on the 21st day of that month. On the first and last days of this feast the people were forbidden to work; but while on the Sabbath they were not to do any work, on feast days they were permitted to dress meat; and hence, the prohibition is restricted to "no servile work." At the same time, those two days were devoted to "holy convocation" - special seasons of social devotion. In addition to the ordinary sacrifices of every day, there were to be "offerings by fire." on the altar (see the note at Numbers 28:19), while unleavened bread was to be eaten in families all the seven days (see 1 Corinthians 5:8).

Verses 6-9

And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 10

Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest:

A sheaf of the first-fruits - a sheaf [ `omer (H6016)], an omer of the first-fruits of the barley harvest. The barley being sooner ripe than the other grains, the reaping of it formed the commencement of the general harvest season; because previous to that, no Israelite could begin his harvest nor eat of the new grain. The offering described in this passage was made on the sixteenth of the first month (Abib or Nisan), the day following the first passover Sabbath, which was on the fifteenth (corresponding to the beginning of our April), and the second day of the festival, the sixteenth of the month (Josephus, 'Antiquities,' book 3:, ch. 10:, sec. 5); but it was reaped after sunset on the previous evening, by persons deputed to go with sickles and obtain samples from different fields. These being laid together in a sheaf or loose bundle, were brought to the court of the temple, where the grain was winnowed, parched, and bruised in a mortar. Josephus mentions that it was [ qaaliy (H7039)] (Leviticus 23:14) parched or dried before the fire, because the grain might not be generally ripe.

Verse 11

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. The morrow after the sabbath - i:e., the day after the Sabbath, not the weekly Sabbath, but the first day of unleavened bread, which was to be kept as a Sabbath; because upon it there was to be a holy convocation, and no servile work was to be done. After some incense had been sprinkled on it, the priest waved it aloft before the Lord toward the four different points of the compass, took a part of it and threw it into the fire of the altar, all the rest being reserved to himself. It was a proper and beautiful act, expressive of dependence on the God of nature and providence-common among all people, but more especially becoming the Israelites, who owed their land itself, as well as all it produced, to the divine bounty. The offering of the wave-sheaf sanctified the whole harvest (Romans 11:16: see the notes at Deuteronomy 26:5-5.26.10). At the same time this feast had a typical character, and pre-intimated the resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:20), who rose from the dead on the very day the first-fruits were offered.

Verses 12-14

And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the LORD.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 15

And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete:

Ye shall count ... from the morrow after the sabbath - i:e., after the first day of the Passover week, which was observed as a Sabbath.

Verse 16

Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD.

Number fifty days. The 49th day after the presentation of the first-fruits, or the 50th including it, was the feast of Pentecost (see also Exodus 23:16; Deuteronomy 16:9).

Verse 17

Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the LORD.

Ye shall bring out of your habitation ... Since the presentation of these loaves would take place, not in the dark, but certainly in daylight, this may explain the special expression, "the day of Pentecost was fully come" (Acts 2:1-44.2.47) - i:e., in the morning of the day, which commenced on the preceding evening. These loaves were made of "fine" or wheaten flour, the quantity contained in them being somewhat more than 10 lbs. weight. Since the wave-sheaf gave the signal for the commencement, the two loaves solemnized the termination of the harvest season. They were the first-fruits of that season, being offered unto the Lord by the priest in name of the whole nation (see the note at Exodus 34:22).

The loaves used at the Passover were unleavened, those presented at Pentecost were leavened-a difference which is thus accounted for-that the one was a memorial of the bread hastily prepared at their departure, while the other was a tribute of gratitude to God for their daily food, which was leavened. 'The feast of Pentecost prefigured the mission of the Holy Spirit-the first-fruits of the Spirit which followed that sacred day on which the law was given, and by which the spirit of bondage was introduced, as it also prefigured the first-fruits of the new Church (Acts 2:1-44.2.47), and of the ministry of the apostles, and of that new bread with which the Jews first, and then the Gentiles, were to be fed' (Spanheim, 'Chronol. Sac. Par.,' 1:, cap. 15).

Verses 18-20

And ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto the LORD, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savour unto the LORD.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 21

And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation unto you: ye shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.

Ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day ... an holy convocation. Though it extended over a week, the first day only was held as a Sabbath, both for the national offering of first-fruits and a memorial of the giving of day only was held as a Sabbath, both for the national offering of first-fruits and a memorial of the giving of the law.

Verse 22

And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the LORD your God.

Thou shalt not make clean riddance ... - (see the note at Leviticus 19:9.) The repetition of this law here probably arose from the priests reminding the people, at the presentation of the first-fruits, to unite piety to God with charity to the poor.

Verse 23

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 24

Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation.

In the seventh month, in the first day of the month. That was the first day of the ancient civil year. Tisri, the first civil month, coincides with the latter part of September and the beginning of October.

Shall ye have a sabbath, [ shabaatown (H7677)]. The change of termination in the word for "sabbath" seems to indicate a shade of difference in the meaning (Hengstenberg, 'Uber den Tag des Herrn').

A memorial of blowing of trumpets. Jewish writers say that the trumpets were sounded thirty successive times; and the reason for the institution was for the double purpose of announcing the commencement of the new year, which was (Leviticus 23:25) to be religiously observed (see Numbers 29:3), and of preparing the people for the approaching solemn fast.

Verses 25-26

Ye shall do no servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verses 27-32

Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD.

On the tenth day of this seventh month. On the 14th day of the first month (ecclesiastical year) the Israelites came out of Egypt; in 50 days after that the law was given from mount Sinai; then Moses was forty days on the mount (Exodus 24:18; Deuteronomy 9:9). After he came down he was 40 days interceding for the people, who had committed the sin of the golden calf (Deuteronomy 9:18). Again, he was 40 days on the mount for renewing the tables of the covenant (Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 10:10). But these numbers-the 14 and 50, and the three 40's, and three added days (either intervening between the 40's or at the close of them-come to the 187th day of the year, which falls on the tenth day of the seventh month, or the day of atonement.

A day of atonement - an annual festival, at which the sins of the whole year were expiated (see Leviticus 16:29-3.16.34). The ceremonial having been fully described in a preceding chapter, the only circumstance here dwelt upon is the affliction of soul corresponding to the season; and it is stated that the severest penalty was incurred by the violation of this day.

Verse 32. [ shabat (H7676) shabaatown (H7677); Septuagint, sabbata sabbatoon, festival of festivals]. The Sabbaths were reckoned from sunset to sunset.

Verses 33-44

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

The feast of tabernacles, [ chag (H2282) ha-Cukowt (H5521), festival of the booths (see the notes at Exodus 23:16; Exodus 34:22, where it is called, chag (H2282) haa'aaciyp (H614), feast of harvest; Septuagint, heortee skeenoon, skeenopeegia (John 7:2)], 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 Tisri, 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. To these seven days an eighth was added, called (Leviticus 23:36) [ miqraa' (H4744) qodesh (H6944)] a calling of assembly, "an holy convocation" [and in Numbers 29:35, hashªmiyniy (H8066) `ªtseret (H6116)] (cf. Nehemiah 8:18).

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 fields, or streets; and the trees made use of are by some stated to be the citron, the palm, the myrtle, the willow, and the pomegranate, 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, twigs of myrtle, and willow, formed into a bouquet at the lower part of the stem, were carried by men in one hand, while in the other was carried (Leviticus 23:40) a citron, or pomegranate, a kind of large lemon, [ pªriy (H6529) `eets (H6086) haadaar (H1926)] - 'the boughs (the fruit or produce) of goodly trees'-the fruit of the tree hadar (Benisch: see margin).

It appears from Nehemiah 8:17 that from the days of Joshua the Israelites had not dwelt in booths, according to the regulations of this feast. But on the return from the captivity the practice was revived, and Leviticus 23:15 enumerates the four species of boughs used for the constructing and covering of the booths. The modern Samaritans in Sichem construct their booths from branches of the arbutus tree (Robinson's 'Biblical Researches,' vol 3:, p. 328); and so also do the Karaite Jews, who march in triumphal procession, singing psalms, and crying "Hosanna!" which signifies, 'Save, we beseech thee!' (Psalms 118:15; Psalms 118:25-19.118.26.)

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 (John 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 modern Jews in Palestine celebrate only the first and the last day as a real feast, the intermediate days being half secular, half sacred.

Dr. Colenso says that this passage, where the Israelites are described as having dwelt in booths, is not consistent with Exodus 16:16, where they are represented as dwelling in tents. But there is no inconsistency. [For, not to insist on the true interpretation of Exodus 16:16, which has 'ohel (H168), tent, an idiomatic expression for a house or household, (Joshua 22:4; Judges 7:8), the word cikaah is used indifferently for any covert or shelter (Job 38:39), whether booths (Genesis 33:17) or tents (2 Samuel 11:11; Amos 9:11).] The fact is, that some might have tents, while others, who were poor, and not possessing the requisite materials, would content themselves with erecting booths of leafy boughs in the best way they could. Hence, the name of the first stage, "Succoth" (Exodus 12:37). It may be safely affirmed that those erections, in the hurry and privations of the exodian journey to Sinai, would be far ruder and more temporary wigwams than were ever imitated at any future season of the anniversary feast of memorial. For 'it was the first step, the last lingering on the confines of Egyptian vegetation, and the first step into the wandering state of the desert, that was henceforth to be commemorated' (Stanley's 'Lectures on the Jewish Church,' p. 124).

Verse 39. On the first day ... and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath, [ shabaatown (H7677)] - (see the note at Leviticus 23:24.)

Verse 40. Ye shall take you on the first day the boughs ... The four arboreal branches specified were not designed for the construction of the booths, but were to be carried into the temple, "to rejoice before the Lord seven days." Verse 41. Ye shall keep it a feast unto the Lord ... [ chaagag (H2287)] - to keep a festival, to celebrate a holiday by leaping and dancing-by sacred dances (Gesenius) (cf. Exodus 5:1).

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Leviticus 23". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/leviticus-23.html. 1871-8.