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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 16

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-22

CRITICAL NOTES.—The religious ordinances to be observed in Canaan are continued. Three great festivals are prominently mentioned—Feast of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. Former regulations concerning them are presupposed (Exodus 12:0, Leviticus 23:0, Numbers 28:29), and attention is drawn to certain additional particulars.

Deuteronomy 16:1-8. The Feast of Passover. Abib, first month of the ecclesiastical year, corresponds with our April (Exodus 12:2; Exodus 13:4). Passover, prepare, i.e., keep the Passover in its widest sense, including not only the paschal lamb, but sacrifices and offerings during the seven days.

Deuteronomy 16:2. Sacrifice, i.e., offer sacrifices proper to the feast (Numbers 28:19-26).

Deuteronomy 16:3. Affliction. Israel had to leave in anxious flight and were unable to leaven the dough. This reminds them of oppression and deliverance from it.

Deuteronomy 16:4. Leavened. A repetition of two points in the observance. No leaven to be seen for the seven days (Exodus 13:7); and none of the flesh of the paschal lamb was to be left till the next morning (Exodus 23:18). Coasts, borders, districts.

Deuteronomy 16:5. Gates. The place is fixed. The slaughtering, sacrificing, roasting and eating were to take place at the sanctuary, not as formerly, in different houses.

Deuteronomy 16:6. Thy tents, not to their homes in the country but their lodgings near the sanctuary. “Other paschal offerings were yet to be offered day by day for seven days, and the people would remain to share them, and especially to take part in the holy convocation on the first and seventh days. The expression, ‘unto thy tents,’ means simply ‘to thy dwellings,’ as in 1 Kings 8:66. The use of ‘tents’ as a synonym for ‘dwellings,’ (cf. Isaiah 16:5) is a trace of the original nomadic life of the people.” (Speak. Com.)

Deuteronomy 16:9-13. Feast of weeks—Seven weeks, called feast of weeks, week of weeks (Exodus 34:22; Leviticus 23:10; Acts 2:1-4). Begin, lit. “from the beginning of the sickle to the corn”—i.e., from beginning of corn harvest. Corn harvest began by the presentation of the sheaf of first-fruits on the second day of the Passover, which agrees with the time in Leviticus 23:15.

Deuteronomy 16:10. Tribute. A word which is only used here, and signifies sufficiency, need. “Israel was to keep this feast with sacrificial gifts, which everyone was able to bring according to the extent to which the Lord had blessed him. and—

Deuteronomy 16:11. To rejoice before the Lord at the place where His name dwelt with sacrificial meals, to which the needy were to be invited (cf. Deuteronomy 14:29), in remembrance of the fact that they also were bondsmen in Egypt.” (Del.) Rejoice, i.e., honour the Lord with sacred songs.

Deuteronomy 16:13-16. Feast of Tabernacles. This was observed at the end of harvest after the corn had been gathered in. Nothing fresh is added except the appointment of the place and the attendance of domestics, portionless Levites, the stranger, fatherless and widow.

Deuteronomy 16:16. Three times a year the males were to attend. “Women were not commanded to undertake the journey, partly from natural weakness of their sex, and partly on account of domestic cares.” None must appear empty. Gifts must be offered according to God’s blessing upon each.

Deuteronomy 16:18-20. Officers formerly appointed to aid Moses in settlement of disputes were sufficient while they were in the wilderness. In Canaan a different arrangement will be required. Judges—the Shoterim, officers (lit. writers, see Exodus 5:6) who were associated with the judges, according to Deuteronomy 1:15, even under the previous arrangement, were not merely messengers and servants of the courts, but secretaries and advisers of the judges, who derived their title from the fact that they had to draw up and keep the geneaological lists, and who are mentioned as already existing in Egypt as overseers of the people and their work. (Keil). Gates. The place of public resort and courthouse of Eastern cities. No rule is given for the number. They were to be just in their decisions; not to respect persons, nor take gifts. Grove, a group of trees, adorned with altars, and dedicated to a particular deity, or a wooden image in a grove (Judges 6:25; 2 Kings 23:4-6). These places were strong allurements to idolatry. Image. Statue, pillar, or memorial stone dedicated to Baal. See Exodus 23:24; Leviticus 26:1; 2 Kings 10:26; Hosea 10:1; Micah 5:12.

THE PASSOVER.—Deuteronomy 16:1-8

The Passover is one of the most important of all feasts. In its design and circumstances it is most impressive, solemn, and full of instruction to the Christian. Its lessons are repeated in the New Testament and embodied in the great work of the Redeemer.

I. The feast in its design. Hearers are supposed to be well informed concerning these ordinances. But “a re-inforcement of this ordinance was the more necessary because its observance had clearly been intermitted for thirty-nine years. One passover only had been kept in the wilderness, that recorded in Numbers 9:0.” (Speak. Com.)

1. To commemorate wonderful deliverance. For “the Lord thy God brought thee out of Egypt.” Deliverance from bondage, from Pharaoh, cruel task masters, from scenes of horror and ghastly death which no imagination can depict. God is in history, working death for the sinner and life for the believer. “He can create and He destroy.”

2. To celebrate a new birth. The deliverance marks a new era in Jewish history. “History herself was born on that night when Moses led forth his countrymen from the land of Goschen,” says Bunsen. Hence the month of its occurrence is the beginning of the sacred year. “This month shall be to you the beginning (the head) of months” (Exodus 12:1). The day of deliverence was the beginning of national life, and its observance was “the celebration of the day of independence.” Men only begin to live when they are converted to God, and redeemed from sin. Then they are new creatures, one people under Jehovah their King. No longer enslaved, they are led forth to victory, and to a land which God gives for an heritage for ever.

II. The feast in its circumstances of time and place. These are specific.

1. The time. “In the month Abib,” (Exodus 13:4), from March to April in the spring of the year, when barley ripens and nature assumes its beauty, a fit picture of that new life bestowed in redemption, a striking proof of harmony between the works of God and the wonders of grace. God in wisdom connects the celebration of the nation’s birth with the regeneration of nature (Isaiah 43:1; Isaiah 43:15-17).

2. The place. “In the place which the Lord shall choose.” The place was chosen and sanctified by God Himself. Formerly they met and partook of sacrifice in their own homes. Now all males had to appear in the sanctuary. They were thus confined to appoint places kept from self-will and foolish devices, and governed by one law of worship. We must ever recognise God in the solemnity of the place where He puts His name. No sacrifice is accepted unless presented on the altar which sacrifices it.

3. Its duration. Seven days, and the last, the seventh, was a day of solemn assembly in which no servile work was done. “A holy convocation,” a special season of social intercourse and devotion.

III. The feast in its typical meaning. As a sacred memorial to be continually observed, it reminds of many events and sets forth many truths.

1. It was a type of Christ—the lamb slain for us, by whose blood we are sprinkled (Hebrews 12:24; 1 Peter 1:2), and in whom we have redemption. In Him is created a people, a nation of kings and priests to God, to whom belong freedom, holiness, and honour. “Christ, our passover, is sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7).

2. It was a symbol of Christian fellowship. The lamb was not eaten alone, but in families and by companies at first. In later times it was slain at the altar, yet eaten at the table. In the Christian Church we have a fellowship of redeemed souls, bought with a price and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. In Christ we have one faith, one baptism, one hope, and one home. At His table we should keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, and cultivate that feeling which is a foretaste of the joys of heaven. “Ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”


In the deliverance of Israel from bondage, we have a type of greater deliverance in Christ’s redemption through His blood.

I. Redemption by great sacrifice. Egypt lost her firstborn—firstborn of man and beast. What a ghastly scene, death everywhere! What a loss, what a sacrifice for the freedom of the oppressed! “I gave Egypt for thy ransom” (Isaiah 43:3). But how great the price of our redemption! Paul obtained his Roman privileges “with a great sum” (Acts 22:28). Our deliverance cost the life of the Son of God. “Who gave Himself a ransom for all.”

II. Redemption by great power. In the great deliverance which made Israel free, God was manifest in every step.

1. It was timely. It was a “night” of despair and distress, a night of thick darkness. But God never forgets His promise; times all events and works deliverance in His own way. “When the tale of bricks is doubled, then comes Moses.” “Even the self-same day it came to pass” (Exodus 12:41).

2. It was miraculous. God accomplished what Moses and Aaron could not. They were saved from plagues, from death of the firstborn, from a watery grave and a mighty foe. “Neither hast thou delivered thy people at all. Now shalt thou see what I will do” (Exodus 5:23; Exodus 6:1). All enemies must fall and all difficulties vanish before Omnipotence.” “For by strength of hand the Lord brought you out of this place” (Exodus 13:3).

III. Redemption commemorated. “Observe the month and keep the Passover.” This has no common event, but a special display of Divine power towards a helpless people. “It was a memorable night—‘a night of observations,’ that night of the Lord” (Exodus 12:42). God’s mercies in providence and grace should be remembered.

1. Gratefully.
2. Continually.

3. Socially. As long as Jewish polity existed the Passover was to be observed. “Ye shall keep it a feast throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever” (Exodus 12:14; Leviticus 23:4).

IV. Redemption a motive to consecrated life. Israel were bought and claimed by God for Himself and no other. “I will redeem you, and I will take you to me for a people.” If we have been delivered from the captivity of Satan, the bondage and corruption of sin, we must live to God. No longer in Egypt, no longer our own, but a new life—a life of righteousness, faith, and obedience in Christ. Life through Christ is a redemptive force, the motive power, the Divine impulse to a higher destiny. Moral suasion, moral stimulants, moral laws, can never work out moral freedom and beget moral character. “Being made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.”


What does this unleavened bread mean? Two things, I think. First, Christ; for He is the believer’s food. The unleavened bread sets forth Christ in one aspect, as much as the lamb sets Him forth in another. The main portion of the feast was the flesh of the lamb, for which the life of the redeemed was derived. In the Israelite feeding upon unleavened bread, we have presented to us the believer drawing his strength from Jesus, the spotless and holy one—the unleavened bread. “I am the bread of life.” But there is another meaning of the unleavened bread, and that is holiness, uprightness, singleness of eye. Just as the bread was not the main staple of the passover feast, but the lamb, so holiness is the accompaniment rather than the principal portion of the Christian feast. In the case of every believer the unleavened bread must accompany feeding upon Christ as the lamb. God has joined these two things together, let us not put them asunder. If we are redeemed by the blood of the lamb, let us live upon the unleavened bread; let us show forth the sincerity and truth which God requires in our life. “Purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover was sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:7.)—From Step. A. Blackwood,


Deuteronomy 16:1-2. The appointed ordinance.

1. Obligatory, appointed by direct authority of God. “Observe, thou shalt sacrifice.” It should always be a privilege, but God makes it a duty to remember providential deliverances. The observance is not optional, a matter of convenience, but a necessity. 2, Universal. Offspring reap benefits given to ancestors. Ordinances bind families to each other and to God.

3. Perpetual in Jewish Church. Not only in the night of deliverance, but annually in the journeys of the wilderness, and “for ever” in Canaan. Christians will thus celebrate the Lord’s supper to the end of time, and in heaven for ever will they praise their Redeemer.

Deuteronomy 16:2. Of the flock.

1. The lamb slain.

2. The blood sprinkled.

3. The flesh eaten. Deliverance possible through it, the Lamb of God. But the blood must be sprinkled and spiritual strength sustained. The provisions of the atonement must be applied to the need of the soul. “By one we enter into the divine covenant, and by the other are made partakers of the divine nature.”

Deuteronomy 16:4. Unleavened bread.

1. Affliction. “The bread of affliction.

2. Haste. “For thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt in haste.”

3. Purity. No decay, no corruption, the purity of new life. No leaven in heart, home and assembly. “Watch carefully against corruption in life and doctrine, be punctual in your preparation to and participation of the Christian passover.”—Trapp.

At the going down of the sun (Deuteronomy 16:6), between three and six o’clock in the evening. This corresponds with the ninth hour of the great atonement day, when Jesus, the Lamb of God, cried with a loud voice and gave up the ghost.”

Deuteronomy 16:8. A solemn assembly. Observed personally, publicly and socially Those who violate the Sabbath and neglect religious ordinances disobey God and endanger the welfare of the nation.

Deuteronomy 16:1-8. We may learn—

1. That there is no service without separation from the world.
2. That separation from the world is only accomplished by God’s help.
3. That the consequences of separation must be sanctification to God.
(1) By self surrender.
(2) By continual obedience. Or—
1. Christian life is of divine origin.
2. Christian life is social in its nature.
3. Christian life is supreme in our conduct.

THE FEAST OF WEEKS.—Deuteronomy 16:9-12

Pentecost signifies fiftieth. This feast was held seven weeks (a week of weeks) after the Passover, counting from the second day of that feast. It is called “the feast of harvest” (Exodus 23:16). On this fiftieth day the second festival commenced by the offer of two loaves of fine flour, “which were the first fruits of the wheat harvest” (Leviticus 23:17). The feast was to be kept by sacrificial gifts and joy.

I. A festival of joy. “Thou shalt rejoice before the Lord thy God.’,

1. The joy of harvest. Joy after severe toil and long patience—joy in reaping the results of labour and enjoying the bounty of God—the joy of public thanks giving. “They joy before thee according to the joy of harvest” (Isaiah 9:3).

Now o’er the corn the sturdy farmer looks,

And swells with satisfaction to behold
The plenteous harvest which repays his toil.
We, too, are gratified, and feel a joy
Inferior but to his, partakers all
Of the rich bounty Providence has strew’d
In plentiful profusion o’er the field.—Hurdis.

2. Joy of social intercourse. Thou, thy son and daughter, thy domestics, strangers, and fatherless (Deuteronomy 16:11). Goodwill and kindness to men were manifested in these festivals. Our joys are increased by letting others share them. “Happiness was born a twin,” says Byron. The blessings of God upon us, should create a glad heart, a radiant countenance, and a liberal hand.

II. An acknowledgement of dependence upon God. This festival was a national and devout expression of their dependence upon God for the fruits of the earth and the possession of their privileges. The Jew was not permitted to touch his crop until he had presented the first fruits. “This,” says a writer, “was a beautiful institution, to teach the Israelites that it was not the soil, nor the raindrops, nor the sunbeams, nor the dews, nor the skill of their agriculturists, that they had to thank for their bounteous produce, but that they must rise above the sower and reaper, and see God, the giver of the golden harvest, and make His praise the key-note to their harvest home.”

III. A memorial of great events. Two grand events seem to be referred to.

1. Deliverance from bondage. “Thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt.” To stimulate gratitude to God and liberality to men.

2. The giving of the law. The law was given from Sinai on the fiftieth day from Egypt. These stated celebrations would commemorate and authenticate ancient events. Written records are not always safe; get corrupted or lost, and only impress the few who read them. But general celebrations of a nation’s birth and history recall to gratitude and keep alive a conscious dependence upon Divine providence. The exodus of Israel is not a matter of curious antiquity. but of world interest. The giving of the law and the miracles of early history are revelations of God to man, an evidence that heaven and earth are near to each other in government and purpose.

IV. A type of Pentecost in the Christian Church. It was on the day of Pentecost that the Holy Spirit was poured out and new power bestowed on the Church. As “the first fruits” of the earth were presented of old, so the first fruits from heaven were gathered in by the conversion of three thousand from “every nation under heaven.” The thunders of Sinai were hushed by the mighty wind at Jerusalem, and the curse of the Law contrasted by the blessings of the gospel. “The voice of words” is followed by “the tongue of fire.”

THE TRIBUTE OF FREEWILL.—Deuteronomy 16:10

In the sacrifices there must not only be devout acknowledgement of Divine goodness, but voluntary dedication to God.

I. Our offerings must be presented with a willing mind. “A free will offering.” The heart must be touched before the gift is taken by “the hand.” There must be no hesitation, no constraint. Without this, whatever be the value of the gift, and the splendour of the altar on which it is put, there can be no acceptance.” Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

II. Our offerings should be proportionate to God’s blessing upon us. This frees us from all excuse. We can give something. “For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not” (2 Corinthians 8:12). Think of God’s mercies.

1. In ordinary affairs. In our harvests and families, in prosperous trades and professions. In the comforts and privileges of life. What shall we render to God for these?

2. In special providences. Many like Israel have special deliverances to commemorate, almost miraculous escapes from danger and death. These should affect our hearts “Where God sows plentifully he expects to reap accordingly.” “Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord thy God which He hath given thee” (Deuteronomy 16:17).

III. Our offerings should be an expression of the subjection of our will to God’s will. If we love God we shall obey Him. Our hearts and gifts will be presented without delay. But if we hate God and forget His mercies, we shall withhold His due. The mind is discovered by its expressions, the willingness measured by the quality of the offering. Gifts full and free indicate gratitude and readiness to please; gifts blemished and stingy prove lack of reverence and submission to God. If we render not according to God’s blessing upon us we may lose all we have. “Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up.”


Deuteronomy 16:10-11. Keep the feast.

1. In national union. All the tribes, rich and poor, were to go up to Jerusalem, and there proclaim in united gatherings their dependence upon God. National unity was recognised by worship to a common Redeemer.

2. In national joy. They must rejoice in receiving from and giving to God, and in helping one another. (a) Sacredjoy. “Rejoice before the Lord thy God.” True joy is a serious thing (Bonar). Worldly joy is like a shallow brook, deceptive and gliding away. (b) Social joy. All within the family and in the gates were to rejoice together. Common mercies should create common joys.

3. In national beneficence. Servants, Levites and strangers, the widow and the fatherless, must be remembered. The wants of the needy must be supplied. The law of beneficence then as always must be “as the Lord thy God hath blessed thee.”

Feast of first fruits. The appointment of these feasts may be considered as—I. Commemorative: Of the day on which they came out of Egypt, and of the day on which they received the law. II. Typical: Of the Resurrection, and of the descending of the Spirit on the Apostles,. III. Instructive: Of our obligations and duty towards God.—C. Simeon, M.A.

Deuteronomy 16:9-11. 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 2:0), 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, Chron. Sac.

THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES.—Deuteronomy 16:13-15

This festival was instituted in grateful commemoration of the security of Israel when dwelling in booths or tabernacles in the wilderness. It began on the 15th day of the month Tisri (from the end of our September and beginning of October), and lasted a week. It was celebrated only at the sanctuary. Offerings were presented on the altar every day and booths were used. on the housetops, in the streets, or in the fields for the dwelling of the people. (Leviticus 23:42; Nehemiah 8:15-16.)

I. A Feast of Ingathering. “After that thou hast gathered in thy corn and wine.” There was no disappointment, no failure in the crops. In these “harvest homes,” each season was marked with devout recognition of God’s providence. In the Passover the sickle “was put to the corn.” In Pentecost the cereal crops were harvested, and now in the Feast of Tabernacles, everything was gathered in, securely stored, and the husbandman rewarded for his toil. “Thou shalt keep the feast of ingathering in the end of the year when thou hast gathered in thy labours.” (Exodus 23:16.)

II. A time of universal joy. “Thou shalt rejoice in thy feast.” Gladness was a special characteristic of this autumnal gathering, it was a standing type of festivity, and there was a standing proverb that “He who had never seen the rejoicing at the pouring out of the water of Siloam (a ceremonial of the Feast of Tabernacles) had never seen rejoicing in his life.” The joy was on two accounts.

1. For the past. For God’s miraculous deliverance and guidance through the wilderness. For the corn, wine and oil, and the produce of the land. What a contrast between the land of promise and the desert draught!

2. For the future. God opened up a bright prospect. They were to rejoice in hope and expectation of further blessings. “Because the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase,” etc. (Deuteronomy 16:15). God’s people are commanded and should always be a cheerful people to “rejoice evermore, to rejoice in the Lord always.”

III. A Memorial of Pilgrim Life. “That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 23:43). The people left their homes and abode in “tabernacles.” “The feast typifies this our pilgrim state, the life of simple faith in God, for which God provides; poor in this world’s goods but rich in God. The church militant dwells as it were in tabernacles; hereafter in hope to be received into everlasting habitations in the Church triumphant. It was the link which bound on their deliverance from Egypt to the close of their pilgrim life, and their entrance into rest. The yearly commemoration of it was not only a thanksgiving for God’s past mercies, it was a confession also of their present relation to God, that here we have no continuing city; that they still needed the guidance and support of God; and that their trust was not in themselves nor in man, but in Him.”—Dr. Pusey.

IV. A type of Heaven. The booths on earth were frail, temporary and easily destroyed. “For a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from the storm and rain” (Isaiah 4:6.) But there is “a tabernacle that shall not be taken down.” The rest of Canaan typified the rest of heaven, the eternal home of the Christian pilgrim; where there are no tents, no wanderings and no sorrows; no thirst, no pain, no sin, no death. The convocation reminds us of “the general assembly” in the celestial city. In this world we are “strangers and sojourners,” let us prepare for the final ingathering of the fruits of God’s grace.


The rules concerning the three feasts are here summed up as in Exodus 23:16-17; Exodus 34:23. All males must appear. None must appear empty. All must give according to God’s blessing upon them. View these gatherings—

I. In their fixed periods. There was nothing arbitrary. The seasons corresponded to yearly epochs natural to an agricultural people. There is, something that may worthily bring them together. The energy which slept in the powers of nature, and which gradually developed in the produce of the seasons was the same which was roused in terror to destroy their foes. The god of nature was the moral governor of mankind. “The great fact of a moral government which men are pepetually forgetting, was, in the institutions of one people, linked on to those constantly recurring periods which man’s physical wants will not allow him to neglect, and thus challenged their attention, and if anything could, coloured as it were, and inoculated their whole consciousness.”

II. In promoting commercial prosperity. Facilities for buying and selling for mutual intercourse and trade were great. “Such festivals,” says a writer, “have always been attended with this effect. The famous old fair near Hebron arose from the congregating of pilgrims to the famous terebinth-tree of Abraham. The yearly fairs of the Germans are said to have had a similar origin and so the annual pilgrimage of the Mohammedans to Mecca, in spite of many adverse circumstances, has given birth to one of the greatest markets in the Eastern world. Thus, perhaps, more of the wealth of the Jews and of the greatness and glory of Jerusalem is to be traced to the simple laws of this one chapter than to all the wisdom and power of either or all of their kings.”

III. In cementing national unity. Three times a year did rich and poor meet in one place and on one common ground. Great multitudes would see each other and have opportunity of knowing each other. They would become interested in one another’s welfare and a bond of brotherhood would be formed to counteract schism and rebellion. Union gave firmness and solidity to the nation. One spirit cemented and animated all the tribes. Community of principles, fellowship in festivals and privileges bound all in one compact family. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”

IV. In preserving the religious sentiment. They were reminded of God in every feast, sacrifice, and offering. Faith, gratitude, love, and all the religious feelings, would be quickened and rightly centred. In their annual worship, God, the one supreme object, was kept before them. In their habitual charity they recognised the claims of the poor. Thus, in its twofold aspects towards God and man, their religion was strengthened to govern individual, social, and national life. Our religion must be the sovereign of the soul, ruling all life and controlling all its activities.


Deuteronomy 16:13-15. National philanthropy.

1. When God blesses a nation with prosperity He demands its liberality. Wealth, corn and wine are given not for selfish, but for useful purposes. Covetousness plans for selfish ends, benevolence should counter plan and organize resources for objects of divine philanthropy.
2. This liberality should be displayed to the nation’s own poor. (a.) In social feasts. “Rejoice in thy feast.” (b.) In benevolence to all classes. Those related and those not related (Deuteronomy 16:14). God has identified himself with the orphans and the poor, and delegated them to receive bounty meant for himself (James 2:5). The poor in our families, churches and nation have the first claim. “Charity begins at home.”

Friend, parent, neighbour, first it will embrace,
His country next, and next all human race.


Deuteronomy 16:16. Three times a year. The chief objects of the feast.

1. To recount God’s mercies.
2. To enhance the piety and patriotism of the people.
3. To promote friendly intercourse among families and sections and thus
4. To aid in preserving the society of the Church and the nation. (S. S. Journal). The connection of the feasts with the Life of Jesus. The Passover. Jesus and the cross. The Pentecost. Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The Tabernacles. Jesus and our heavenly home.—S. S. Journal.

Appear before the Lord. The journey to Jerusalem pictured in “the Songs of Degrees” (Psalms 120-134).

The twofold aspects of the Feasts.

1. Looking back to deliverance.
2. Looking forward in hope of entering the “house not made with hands,” of being “gathered into the Lord’s garner.”

Deuteronomy 16:16-17. Not appear empty. Viewed religiously, the festivals were annual national thanksgivings for mercies received, both natural and miraculous—the first from the commencement of harvest and the deliverance out of Egypt; the second for the completion of the grain harvest and the passage of the Red Sea; the third for the final gathering in of the fruits and the many mercies of the wilderness. At such seasons we must not “appear before God empty,” we must give Him not only “the salves of our lips,” but some substantial acknowledgment of His goodness towards us. (Com. for English Readers).

Not empty.

1. An offering to be brought.
2. An offering for each individual.
3. An offering according to the ability of each. 4. An offering to the Lord (a) as an acknowledgment of His mercy, (b) as an expression of gratitude. Gifts are the natural results of gratitude and joy. “Bring an offering and come into His courts” (Psalms 145:8).


These words with the four next chapters give certain directions for the administration of justice. While Moses lived, he himself specially taught of God, was sufficient. But the people were soon to be scattered in the land and would no longer be encamped together, hence regular and permanent provision must be made for future order in civil and social government.

I. Right men must be chosen. The nation must select its own judges and officers, secretaries and advisers of judges, and every place was now to have its own administration. Imperfect sinful men were to be entrusted with solemn duty, to represent God and train up a nation in righteousness and truth.

II. These men must judge with impartial spirit. God seeks to implant right principles and cultivate right dispositions in men. Good laws must be rightly administered. Corruption and tyranny must disgrace no community, ruler, or subject.

1. No injustice. “They shall judge the people with just judgment.”

2. No perversion of judgment. “Thou shalt not wrest judgment” (Deuteronomy 16:19) in social, civil, or religious matters.

3. No partiality. “Thou shalt not respect persons,” rich or poor. “Hear the small as well as the great, be not afraid of the face of man for the judgment is God’s” (Deuteronomy 1:16-17).

4. No bribery. “Neither take a gift.” Pure justice was not often administered. Corruption was prevalent in Hebrew, as well as Oriental judges, was one of the crying evils which provoked God’s anger against his people and led first to the Babylonian captivity, and afterwards to the Roman conquest.

5. Nothing but right. “That which is altogether just shalt thou follow,” literally justice, justice; “the repetition for the sake of emphasis and solemnity. God is just, and at the great day will give to everyone his due. He should therefore rule and stay in fear of Him.” “Wherefore now let the fear of the Lord be upon you; take heed and do it: for there is no iniquity with the Lord our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts” (2 Chronicles 19:5-7).

“Mercy more becomes a magistrate
Than the vindictive wrath which men call justice!”—Longfellow.

III. The blessings which follow justice rightly administered. Right performance of duty always brings pleasure and reward.

1. Life is relieved. Evils are prevalent enough, without increasing them by official injustice. The purpose of government is to remove unjust burdens, to encourage progress, and reconcile all classes. “Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants” says Burke. “That thou mayest live.”

2. Inheritance is secured. Strife and emnity, robbery and injustice, create disorder and endanger life and property. Righteous laws duly administered bring peace to to the city, give security to the throne, and stability to the state. “Inherit the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”

3. Society is improved. When vice is unchecked and virtue neglected, when judgment is perverted and authority set at nought, there can be no improvement and progress in society. Wealth does not christianise, change does not ameliorate society. Laws must command good and forbid evil, punish transgression and reward obedience. “The function of a government,” says Gladstone, “is to make it easy for people to do good, and difficult for them to do evil.” “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil” (Romans 13:3).

IDOLATRY FORBIDDEN.—Deuteronomy 16:21-22

In giving practical directions for the administration of justice, Moses begins by denouncing idotatry, which is rebellion against supreme power. They are neither to plant groves, nor set up pillars in the worship of God.

I. Idolatry is enticing. This on many accounts.

1. By its prevalence. In some form or other it is the most popular religion in the world. Men bow down to the idols of luxury, ambition, pleasure and avarice. “For all people will walk every one in the name of his god” (Micah 4:5).

2. By its use. We naturally forsake God and cling to sin. Evil inclination leads to wrong choice, and men chose darkness rather than light.

II. Idolatry is treason against God. God is the sum of all moral qualities, the proprietor of all resources, and the giver of all existences. What more rational than to worship Him? We are bound, obligated to love Him. Nothing belies God, nor degrades man like the worship of images and statues. This is treason against heaven, the firstborn of all folly, the total of all absurdities. “An idol is nothing.”

III. Idolatry must be utterly forsaken. We must neither join the worshippers nor sanction the worship. Plant no grove of trees, for truth loves light and reproves dark. Set up no image by hands or in imagination. We must not enquire for idols, transfer our affections to them, nor address our prayers to them. God’s people are forbidden to examine or look at them. “Turn ye not (face not) unto idols, nor make to yourselves molton gods. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:4.)


Deuteronomy 16:18-20. Judges and Justice.

1. The supremacy of justice and right outweighed all personal considerations, all private pleasures and friendships. Right must be upheld and honoured.
2. The method of upholding justice. By imperfect men, chosen by the people, acting with impartial spirit and representing God. “Ye shall be as gods.”
3. The places in which justice was upheld. “In all thy gates.” The places of public resort where courts were held and business transacted. The Ottoman Porte derives its name (Porta) from this custom of administration. The word here means in every city and town. Amid the homes and daily affairs of men right and authority must be obeyed. Earthly courts must be a type of heavenly; human tribunals remind us of the power and jurisdiction of Him against whom “the gates of hell shall not prevail.”

Deuteronomy 16:21-22. Idolatry.

1. Its various forms. Idolatry previously forbidden; but law repeated against particular forms and places.
2. The people’s proneness to it.
3. The divine prohibition. No intermixture of worship, no tampering with danger. Entire avoidance.


Deuteronomy 16:1-4. Remember. A good memory is the best monument. Others are subject to casualty or time; and we know that the pyramids themselves, doting with age, have forgotten the names of their founders.—Fuller. The memory of past labours is very sweet.—Cicero.

Deuteronomy 16:4-8. The place. Public worship is the nearest resemblance of heaven.—Clarkson.

Deuteronomy 16:11-14. If men lived like men their houses would be temples—temples which we should hardly dare to inquire, and in which it would make us holy to be permitted to live (Ruskin).—Joy.

All who joy would win
Must share it—Happiness was born a twin.


Deuteronomy 16:9; Deuteronomy 16:13; Deuteronomy 16:16. Feasts. Festivals, when duly observed, attach men to the civil and religious institutions of their country: it is an evil therefore when they fall into disuse. For the same reason the loss of local observances is to be regretted: who is there that does not remember their effect upon himself in early life. (Southey.) Those are the rarest feasts which are graced with the most royal guests.—W. Secker.

Deuteronomy 16:18-20. Judge. Sir Mt. Hale was very exact and impartial in the administration of justice. He would never receive any private addresses or recommendation from the highest persons. One of the first peers of England once called upon him privately, to acquaint him with a suit in law to be tried before him, that he might better understand it in open court. Sir Mt. stopped him and told him that he never received information of causes, but where both parties might be heard alike. The nobleman went away, complained to the king and declared it a rudeness that could not be endured. His Majesty bade him to content himself that he was no worse used, and said “He verily believed he would have used himself no better if he had gone to solicit him in any of his own causes.”—Buck.

Deuteronomy 16:21-22. Image. Idolatry has its origin in the human heart. Men love sin and do not want to be reproved for it; therefore they form themselves a god that will not reprove them. (J. H. Evans.) All the princes of the earth have not had so many subjects betrayed and made traitors by their enemies as God hath lost souls by the means of images. Christ saith not, “Go preach unto the people by images,” but “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.”—Bp. Hooper.

“Yet man, this glorious creature, can debase
His spirit down to worship wood and stone,
And hold the very beasts which bear his yoke
And tremble at his eye for sacred things.


Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 16". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/deuteronomy-16.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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