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Bible Commentaries

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Deuteronomy 16

A.M. 2553. B.C. 1451.

A repetition of the laws concerning the passover, Deuteronomy 16:1-8 . The feast of pentecost, Deuteronomy 16:9-12 . That of tabernacles, Deuteronomy 16:13-15 . All the males are to attend them, Deuteronomy 16:16 , Deuteronomy 16:17 . An appointment of judges and officers, Deuteronomy 16:18-20 . A caution against groves and images, Deuteronomy 16:21 , Deuteronomy 16:22 .

Verse 1

Deuteronomy 16:1. As a further preservative against idolatry, Moses proceeds to inculcate upon them a strict regard to the most exact observance of the three great annual festivals, appointed by their law to be celebrated at the stated place of national worship, these being designed for this very end, to keep the people steady to the profession and practice of the religion of the one true God. The first of these feasts was the passover, with that of unleavened bread; comprehending the sacrifice of the paschal lamb, with other sacrifices and oblations prescribed for each day of that whole week during which it was to continue. Of which see on Exodus 12:13. Observe the month of Abib Or of new fruits, which answers to part of our March and April, and was, by a special order from God, made the beginning of their year, in remembrance of their deliverance out of Egypt. By night In the night Pharaoh was forced to give them leave to depart, and accordingly they made preparation for their departure, and in the morning they perfected the work.

Verses 2-3

Deuteronomy 16:2-3. Thou shalt sacrifice the passover Strictly so called; which was the paschal lamb. The sheep and oxen here mentioned were additional sacrifices which were to be offered in the seven days of the paschal solemnity, Numbers 28:18. Indeed, the passage may be rendered, Thou shalt therefore observe the feast of the passover unto the Lord thy God with sheep and with oxen. Bread of affliction So called, because it was not pleasant nor easily digested, and was appointed to be used to put them in mind of their afflictions and miseries in Egypt, and of their coming out from thence in haste, being allowed no time to leaven or prepare their bread.

Verses 5-6

Deuteronomy 16:5-6. Thou mayest not sacrifice the passover within any of thy gates That is, of thy cities, as that word often signifies: see Genesis 22:17; Genesis 24:60. But at the place which the Lord shall choose And in no other place. The reason of this is evident the passover itself was a sacrifice; hence Christ, as our passover, is said to be sacrificed for us, 1 Corinthians 5:3; and many other sacrifices, as we have just seen, were to be offered during the seven days of the feast. Now no sacrifice was accepted but from the altar that sanctified it. It was therefore necessary that they should go up to the place of the altar; for though the paschal lamb was entirely eaten by the owners in their separate apartments, yet it must be killed in the court of the tabernacle or temple, its blood sprinkled, and its inwards burned upon the altar. Besides, by confining them to the appointed place, he kept them to the appointed rule, from which they would have been apt to vary, and to introduce foolish inventions of their own, had they been permitted to offer these sacrifices within their own gates, from under the inspection of the priests. Add to this, that being appointed to attend where God had chosen to place his name, they were hereby directed to have their eye up to him in the solemnity, and the desire of their hearts toward the remembrance of his name, and were pointed to the place where the Messiah, the true passover, was to be slain. At even at the season that thou camest out of Egypt That is, about the time thou wast preparing to come out.

Verse 7

Deuteronomy 16:7. Thou shalt turn in the morning The words are only a permission, not an absolute command. After the solemnity was over, they might return to their several places of abode. Some think they might return, if they pleased, the very morning after the paschal lamb was killed and eaten, the priests and Levites being sufficient to carry on the rest of the week’s work. But this is evidently a mistake; for the first day of the seven was so far from being the day of their dispersion, that it was expressly appointed for a holy convocation. Nor was it their practice to disperse on that day, but to keep together the whole week, 2 Chronicles 35:17. The meaning, therefore, is, as the paraphrase of Jonathan expounds it, In the morning, after the end of the feasts, thou shalt go to thy tents; that is, thy dwellings, which Moses calls here tents, referring to their present state, and to put them in mind afterward, when they were settled in better habitations, that there was a time when they dwelt in tents.

Verse 8

Deuteronomy 16:8. Six days That is, besides the first day on which the passover was killed. So that, in all, unleavened bread was eaten seven days.

Verses 9-10

Deuteronomy 16:9-10. Thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn To reap the first-fruits of the barley-harvest, the wave sheaf in particular, which was offered to the Lord on the sixteenth day of that month. Thou shalt keep the feast of weeks So called, because it was seven weeks after the bringing the sheaf at the passover, that is, fifty days, whence it was termed pentecost: see on Leviticus 23:16. It was also called the feast of first- fruits, Numbers 28:26. With a tribute of free-will-offering Over and besides the sacrifice for the day, and the two loaves and sacrifices with them, Numbers 28:27-31; Leviticus 23:17-20. God here directs that they should make some voluntary oblation.

Verse 12

Deuteronomy 16:12. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bond-man This is added to show, 1st, That to remind them of this was one principal end of this feast. 2d, As a motive to engage them to a cheerful obedience to all the other commands of God. 3d, To induce them to regard their poor servants and strangers in this feast.

Verses 14-16

Deuteronomy 16:14-16. Thou shalt rejoice In God, and in the effects of his favour, serving and praising him with a glad heart. Shall all thy males appear before the Lord That is, from twenty to fifty years of age. The women were not obliged to be present at these solemnities; 1st, Because the weakness of their sex rendered them unable to bear so long a journey as many of them would have had to take, without more fatigue than would have been consistent with their health. 2d, Because the care of their children and servants demanded their presence at home. 3d, Because they were represented in the men. No doubt the chief intention of these sacred feasts was to promote piety toward God, and mutual love toward each other, among the Israelites. By the various solemn services in which they were engaged at these seasons, their minds would be awakened to a sense of the infinite importance of religion, and excited to reverence and stand in awe of the Divine Majesty, while many would be inspired unfeignedly to praise and love the Author of all their mercies. By being brought so often together from all parts of the country, their acquaintance with, and regard for each other, would be both continued and increased, and the bond of union among them, as a community, greatly strengthened. Thus also they would be preserved from the idolatrous rites and superstitious practices of their heathen neighbours, and their attachment to their own happy constitution, both civil and religious, would be confirmed.

Verse 18

Deuteronomy 16:18. Judges Chief magistrates, to examine and determine causes and differences. Officers Who were subordinate to the other, to bring causes and persons before them, to acquaint people with the sentence of the judges, and to execute their sentence. Thy gates Thy cities, which he here calls gates, because there were the seats of judgment set. Pursuant to this law, in every town which contained above a hundred and twenty families, there was a court of twenty-three judges; in the smaller towns, a court of three judges.

Verses 19-20

Deuteronomy 16:19-20. Thou shalt not wrest judgment Not give a forced and unjust sentence. Thou shalt not respect persons Not give sentence according to the quality of the person, his riches or poverty, friendship or enmity, but according to the justice of the cause. A gift doth blind the eyes of the wise Biases his mind, that he cannot discern between right and wrong. And pervert the words of the righteous That is, the sentence of those judges who are inclined and used to do righteous things, and have the reputation of being righteous men; it makes them give a wrong judgment. That which is altogether just Hebrew, righteousness, righteousness, doubling the expression to give it emphasis; that is, nothing but righteousness in all causes and times, and to all persons equally.

Verse 21

Deuteronomy 16:21. Thou shalt not plant thee a grove To plant groves in honour of the true God, was a part of primitive worship, as we see by the example of Abraham, Genesis 21:33. But the Gentiles having abused this custom, and made trees and groves, dedicated to their idols, the scenes of the most vile and abominable superstitions, God saw fit to prohibit the Israelites from planting any such groves near the place of divine worship, lest they should have taken occasion from hence to blend the worship of idols, and the impure rites of heathenism, with the service of the true God.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 16". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/deuteronomy-16.html. 1857.