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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 23

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2514. B.C. 1490.

Directions concerning the sabbath, Leviticus 23:1-3 . The passover, Leviticus 23:4-8 . The first-fruits, Leviticus 23:9-14 . The feast of pentecost, Leviticus 23:15-22 . Of trumpets, Leviticus 23:23-25 . Of atonement, Leviticus 23:26-32 . Of tabernacles, Leviticus 23:33-44 .

Verses 1-2

Leviticus 23:1-2. In this chapter Moses, by divine appointment, gives more particular directions about the observation of those solemnities which were before instituted. These, in our translation, are termed feasts; but the word מועדי , mognadee, here used, rather means solemn seasons, or meetings, and as the day of atonement was comprehended in them, which was not a feast, but a fast, they certainly are improperly termed feasts. The literal translation of the words is, solemnities of Jehovah, which ye shall proclaim for holy convocations, these are the solemnities. They are termed holy convocations, because on these days they were called together and assembled to hear the law, to offer sacrifices, and to address prayers and thanksgivings to God.

Verse 3

Leviticus 23:3. The seventh day is first named as a holy convocation A day to be kept holy by every Israelite, in all places wheresoever they dwelt, as well as while they lived in the wilderness; and as a day of rest, in which they were to do no work A similar prohibition is declared Leviticus 23:28, concerning the day of expiation, excluding all works about earthly employments, whether of profit or of pleasure; but upon other feast-days he forbids only servile works, as Leviticus 23:7; Leviticus 23:21; Leviticus 23:36; for surely this manifest difference in the expressions used by the wise God, must needs imply a difference in the things. In all your dwellings Other feasts were to be kept before the Lord in Jerusalem only, whither all the males were to come for that end; but the sabbath was to be kept in all places, both in synagogues, and in their private houses.

Verse 4

Leviticus 23:4. These are the feasts of the Lord The solemnities, as the same word is rendered, Isaiah 33:20, where Zion is called the city of our solemnities.

Verse 5

Leviticus 23:5. In the fourteenth day See Exodus 12:18. At even For all the Jewish festivals were kept from evening to evening, their day beginning in the evening. Is the Lord’s passover Exodus 12:11. Though Moses had often before mentioned this, and several other of their solemnities, he here sets them down all together, according to the order of time in which they were kept, that this chapter might serve the Jews for a general table of all their religious festivals.

Verse 8

Leviticus 23:8. Ye shall offer unto the Lord seven days Every day of the seven was to have a sacrifice offered upon it, about which there are particular directions, Numbers 28:10-25; and the first and last days of the week’s festival were to be days of universal assembly for religious duties at the place of public worship.

Verse 10

Leviticus 23:10. When ye come into the land, &c. In the wilderness they sowed no corn, and therefore could not be obliged by this precept till they came into Canaan. And shall reap the harvest Begin to reap, as the sense shows, and is explained Deuteronomy 16:9. Then ye shall bring a sheaf Or handful, as the margin has it; but in the Hebrew it is omer.

And they did not offer this corn in the ear, or by a sheaf, or handful, but, as Josephus affirms, and may be gathered from Leviticus 2:14-16, purged from the chaff, dried, and beaten out.

Verse 11

Leviticus 23:11. He shall wave the sheaf Or omer, rather. In the name of the whole congregation, it was lifted up toward heaven, as an acknowledgment to God for his goodness, and with prayer for his blessing upon all their ensuing harvest, which it, as it were, sanctified to them, and of which it gave them a comfortable use. For then we may eat our bread with joy, when God hath accepted our works. And thus should we always begin with God; begin our lives with him, begin every day with him, begin every work and business with him: Seek ye first the kingdom of God Reader, dost thou do this? The morrow after the sabbath After the first day of the feast of unleavened bread, which was a sabbath, or day of rest, as appears from Leviticus 23:7; or upon the sixteenth day of the month. And this was the first of those fifty days, in the close whereof was the feast of pentecost.

Verse 13

Leviticus 23:13. Two tenth-deals Or parts, of an ephah; that is, two omers; whereas in other sacrifices of lambs there was but one tenth-deal prescribed. The reason of which disproportion may be this; that one of the tenth-deals was a necessary attendant upon the lamb, and the other was peculiar to this feast, and was an attendant upon the oblation of the corn, and was offered with it in thanksgiving to God for the fruits of the earth.

Verse 14

Leviticus 23:14. Ye shall eat neither bread nor corn Of this year’s growth. This was a most reasonable testimony of their respect for God, to give him the first place, and pay their tribute of gratitude to the donor before they used his gifts. They who lived at a distance from the tabernacle, or temple, were allowed to eat new corn on this day after mid-day, because the offering to God was always presented before that time.

Verses 15-16

Leviticus 23:15-16. From the morrow From the sixteenth day of the month, and the second day of the feast of unleavened bread, inclusively; seven sabbaths shall be complete Namely, forty-nine days; unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath Which made just fifty days; whence this feast, from a Greek word, πεντηκοστη , pentecoste, which signifies the fifteenth day, was called pentecost. Ye shall offer a new meat (or flower) offering Another first-fruit-offering, made of wheat, which was then ripe.

Verse 17

Leviticus 23:17. Two wave loaves of two tenth-deals There was one tenth-deal in each loaf. They were called wave-loaves, because they were presented to God by waving them toward heaven. Baken with leaven Contrary to the established law in other bread or flower offerings, Leviticus 2:11-12. The reason may be, that these first-fruits were a symbol of the leavened bread which the Israelites commonly used.

Verse 18

Leviticus 23:18. One bullock and two rams In Numbers 28:11; Numbers 28:19, it is two young bullocks and one ram. Either therefore it was left to their liberty to choose which they would offer, or one of the bullocks there, and one of the rams here, were the peculiar sacrifices of the feast-day, and the others were attendants upon the two loaves, which were the proper offering at this time. And the one may be mentioned there, and the other here, to teach us, that the addition of a new sacrifice did not destroy the former, but both were to be offered, as the extraordinary sacrifices of every feast did not hinder the oblation of the daily sacrifice.

Verse 19

Leviticus 23:19. One kid In Leviticus 4:14, the sin-offering for the sin of the people is a bullock, but here a kid, &c.; the reason of the difference may be this: because that was for some particular sin of the people, but this only in general for all their sins.

Verse 20

Leviticus 23:20. Wave them Some part of them, in the name of the whole; and so for the two lambs otherwise they had been too large and too heavy to be waved. For the priests Who had to themselves not only the breast and shoulder, as in other sacrifices which belonged to the priest, but also the rest which belonged to the offerer; because the whole congregation being the offerers here, it could neither be distributed to them all, nor given to some without offence to the rest.

Verse 21

Leviticus 23:21. A holy convocation A sabbath, or day of rest, called pentecost; which was instituted, partly in remembrance of the consummation of their deliverance out of Egypt, by bringing them thence to the mount of God, or Sinai, as God had promised; and of that admirable blessing of giving the law to them on the fiftieth day, and forming them into a commonwealth under his own immediate government; and partly in gratitude for the further progress of their harvest, as in the passover they offered a thank-offering to God for the beginning of their harvest. The perfection of this feast was the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles on this very day in which the law of faith was given, fifty days after Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us. And on that day the apostles, having themselves received the first-fruits of the Spirit, begat three thousand souls through the word of truth, as the first-fruits of the Christian Church.

Verse 22

Leviticus 23:22. When ye reap, thou From the plural, ye, he comes to the singular, thou, because he would press this duty upon every person who had a harvest to reap, that none might plead exemption from it. And it is observable, that, though the present business is only concerning the worship of God, yet he makes a kind of excursion to repeat a former law of providing for the poor, to show that our devotion to God is little esteemed by him if it be not accompanied with acts of charity to men.

Verse 24

Leviticus 23:24. A sabbath Solemnized with the blowing of trumpets by the priests, not in a common way, as they did every first day of every month, but in an extraordinary manner, not only in Jerusalem, but in all the cities of Israel. They began to blow at sunrise, and continued blowing till sunset. This seems to have been instituted, 1st, To solemnize the beginning of the new year, whereof, as to civil matters, and particularly as to the jubilee, this was the first day; concerning which it was fit the people should be admonished, both to excite their thankfulness for God’s blessings in the last year, and to direct them in the management of their civil affairs. 2d, To put a special honour upon this month. For, as the seventh day was the sabbath, and the seventh year was a sabbatical year, so God would have the seventh month to be a kind of sabbatical month, on account of the many sabbaths and solemn feasts which were observed in this, more than in any other month. And by this sounding of the trumpets in its beginning, God would quicken and prepare them for the following sabbaths, as well that of atonement, and humiliation for their sins, as those of thanksgiving for God’s mercies.

Verse 27

Leviticus 23:27. Afflict your souls With fasting and bitter repentance for all, and especially their national sins, among which, no doubt, God would have them remember their sin of the golden calf. For as God had threatened to remember it in after-times to punish them for it, so there was great reason why they should remember it to humble themselves for it.

Verse 29

Leviticus 23:29. Whatsoever soul Either of the Jewish nation or religion. Hereby God would signify the absolute necessity which every man had of repentance and forgiveness of sins, and the desperate condition of all impenitent persons. Reader! hast thou considered this?

Verse 31

Leviticus 23:31. Of tabernacles Of tents, or booths, or arbours. This feast was appointed to remind them of that time when they had no other dwellings in the wilderness, and to stir them up to bless God, as well for the gracious protection then afforded them, as for the more commodious habitations now given them; and to excite them to gratitude for all the fruits of the year newly ended, which were now completely brought in.

Verse 32

Leviticus 23:32. From even to even The day of atonement began at the evening of the ninth day and continued till the evening of the tenth day. Ye shall celebrate your sabbath This particular sabbath is called your sabbath, possibly to denote the difference between this and other sabbaths; for the weekly sabbath is oft called the sabbath of the Lord. The Jews are supposed to begin every day, and consequently their sabbaths, at the evening, in remembrance of the creation, as Christians generally begin their days and sabbaths with the morning, in memory of Christ’s resurrection.

Verse 36

Leviticus 23:36. Ye shall offer A several offering each day. The eighth day Which, though it was not one of the days of this feast, strictly taken, yet, in a larger sense, it belonged to this feast, and is called the great day of the feast, John 7:37. And so indeed it was, as for other reasons, so because, by their removal from the tabernacles into fixed habitations, it represented that happy time wherein their forty years’ tedious march in the wilderness was ended with their settlement in the land of Canaan, which it was most fit they should acknowledge with such a solemn day of thanksgiving as this was.

Verse 37

Leviticus 23:37. A sacrifice A sin-offering, called by the general name, a sacrifice, because it was designed for that which was the principal end of all sacrifices, the expiation of sin.

Verse 38

Leviticus 23:38. Besides the sabbaths The offerings of the weekly sabbaths. God will not have any sabbath-sacrifice diminished because of the addition of others, proper to any other feast. And it is here to be noted, that though other festival days are sometimes called sabbaths, yet these are here called the sabbaths of the Lord, in the way of contradistinction, to show that these were more eminently such than other feast-days. Your gifts Which, being here distinguished from the free-will-offerings made to the Lord, may denote what they freely gave to the priests over and above their first-fruits and tithes or other things which they were enjoined to give.

Verse 39

Leviticus 23:39. This is no addition of a new, but only a repetition of the former injunction, with a more particular explication both of the manner and reason of the feast. The fruit Not the corn, which was gathered long before, but that of the trees, as vines, olives, and other fruit-trees; which completed the harvest, whence this is called the feast of ingathering.

Verse 40

Leviticus 23:40. Of goodly trees Namely, olive, myrtle, and pine, mentioned Nehemiah 8:15-16, which were most plentiful there, and which would best preserve their greenness. Thick trees Fit for shade and shelter. And willows To mix with the other, and in some sort bind them together. And as they made their booths of these materials, so they carried some of these boughs in their hands, as is affirmed by Jewish and other ancient writers.

Verse 42

Leviticus 23:42. In booths Which were erected in their cities or towns, either in their streets, or gardens, or the tops of their houses. These were made flat, and therefore were fit for this use.

Verse 44

Leviticus 23:44. The feasts of the Lord We have reason to be thankful that the feasts of the Lord now are not so numerous, nor the observance of them so burdensome and costly; but more spiritual and significant, and surer and sweeter earnests of the everlasting feast, at the last ingathering, which we hope to be celebrating to eternity!

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Leviticus 23". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/leviticus-23.html. 1857.
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