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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Deuteronomy 16



Concerning the feasts of passover, weeks, and tabernacles: of constituting judges and officers: the planting of groves is forbidden.

Before Christ 1451.

Verse 2

Ver. 2. Thou shalt—sacrifice the passover, &c.— "Read," says Mr. Locke, "from Dr. Cudworth, thou shalt sacrifice the passover of the flock, and the peace-offerings (thereof) of oxen; i.e. sheep for the passover, and oxen for the peace-offerings, or the chagigah."

Verse 3

Ver. 3. Even the bread of affliction So called because it was insipid, and not easily digested, and therefore served to remind them of their afflicted state in Egypt. Concerning these several feasts, we refer to the passages in the Margins of our Bibles. The word passover, in ver. 2 signifies not only the paschal lamb, which was offered on the fourteenth day, but all the paschal service which followed after as appears by the next words, of the flock and the herd.

Verse 7

Ver. 7. And thou shalt turn in the morning, and go unto thy tents Moses speaks of tents here, because they had no other dwellings when these precepts were delivered. It means, however, their habitations in general. These words are to be considered barely as a permission, not a command. Thou shalt turn, or thou mayest turn; i.e. "after you have eaten the paschal lamb at the sanctuary, you are allowed to return home, if you please." Yet pious people, who were able to bear so great a charge, were wont, no doubt, to stay the whole seven days before they returned home. It is inferred likewise from ver. 8 that those who went home after celebrating the passover, returned again to the place of public worship against the seventh day of the feast, to keep the solemn assembly to the Lord, unless they lived at too great a distance; in which case, their presence might be dispensed with. See Lowth and Kidder.

REFLECTIONS.—God charges them here carefully to observe his solemnities, as nothing would serve more effectually to secure them in their allegiance to him. The first and chief of these is the passover; which was typical of that divine Lamb, whose sacrifice is the price of our eternal redemption, Seven days they did eat unleavened bread in remembrance of their bondage, and the haste with which they were thrust out of Egypt. And this signal mercy they must not only once a year, but all their days, remember, as a constant motive to love and serve God. Note: A dying Jesus, and our redemption by him, must be continually in our eye; and his love towards us every day fresh in our memory, and warm upon our hearts.

Verse 15

Ver. 15. Therefore thou shalt surely rejoice Cecrops ordained at Athens a similar law to this; commanding that masters of families should make a feast for their servants after harvest, and eat together with them who had jointly laboured in tilling the ground; for that God delighted in the honour done to servants in consideration of their labour. Macrob. Saturnal. lib. 1: cap. 10. It is probable, that Cecrops derived this law from Moses. He lived about the time of the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, and, according to Eusebius, first instructed the Greeks to give to God the name of Ξευς, that is to say, the living God. Prep. Evan. lib. 10: p. 487. Pausanias says more than once, that Cecrops first gave to Ξευς, or Jupiter, the appellation of most high. See Arcad. Oper. p. 237 and Horat. Ephesians 1:0 lib. 2.

Verse 16

Ver. 16. All thy males i.e. all from twenty to fifty years old. Males only were obliged to be present on these occasions. 1. Because the weakness and infirmity of the female sex rendered them not able to bear so long a journey without great danger and fatigue. 2. Because their chastity would be exposed to many dangers in so vast a concourse of people. 3. Because the care of their families and their domestic offices must have been neglected. The chief intention of these solemnities was to keep the Israelites from corrupting their religion by idolatrous practices, or superstitious rites; and the providence of God is remarkable in defending their country during their absence at these seasons; there having been scarcely any instance of its being attacked by their enemies, though nothing could have invited them more strongly to an incursion, than the advantages which these occasions gave them. See Joseph Mede's Discourses.

Verse 18

Ver. 18. In all thy gates This expression is thought to refer to the custom of keeping their courts in the gates, or in chambers over the gates of their cities: the gate, among the Hebrews, being the same as the forum among the Romans. See Genesis 19:1. 2 Kings 7:1. It is probable, that the Ottoman court was called the Porte, because all their affairs, public as well as private, were transacted under the gate of the palace. See Dr. Shaw's Travels, vol. 1: p. 409.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The feast of the tabernacles was the last holy solemnity, during which they dwelt in booths, in memory of their sojourning in the wilderness; and with feasting and holy joy commemorated God's mercies towards them. They were enjoined to invite, as before, the necessitous to partake with them, that none might be mourning for want in these days of rejoicing. Note; (1.) When we are happy ourselves, we should call our neighbours to rejoice with us, and seek to communicate that gladness of heart which we enjoy. (2.) God expects a grateful acknowledgment; and be it little or much, it is alike accepted, according to our several abilities.

2nd, 1. Magistrates are to be appointed in every city. The charge given them is to observe impartial justice: they must be swayed by no influence, nor take any gift; but, alike above the love of money as the fear of man, judge righteous judgment. Note; Uprightness, in the seat of justice, is among the greatest blessings that any land can enjoy. 2. All groves are forbidden near God's altar; and every image, as the object or medium of worship which God abhors, idolatry being among the greatest of crimes, and most to be dreaded in all its appearances. Let us beware then of the delusions of the church of Rome, where this accursed idol-worship is established; and God not only dishonoured by images, but adoration paid to pictures and statues of pretended saints, yea, even to dead men's bones, and such vile relicks.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 16". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.