Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, April 23rd, 2024
the Fourth Week after Easter
Take your personal ministry to the Next Level by helping StudyLight build churches and supporting pastors in Uganda.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 16

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Deuteronomy 16:0


The Passover ReviewedA Festal CalendarThe PassoverThe Feasts: Passover and Unleavened Bread
Deuteronomy 16:1-8Deuteronomy 16:1-8Deuteronomy 16:1-4Deuteronomy 16:1-8
Deuteronomy 16:5-8
The Feast of Weeks Reviewed The Harvest FestivalOther Feasts
Deuteronomy 16:9-12Deuteronomy 16:9-12Deuteronomy 16:9-12Deuteronomy 16:9-12
The Feast of Tabernacles Reviewed The Festival of Shelters
Deuteronomy 16:13-17Deuteronomy 16:13-15Deuteronomy 16:13-15Deuteronomy 16:13-15
Deuteronomy 16:16-17Deuteronomy 16:16-17Deuteronomy 16:16-17
Justice Must be Administered (Deuteronomy 16:18-13)Laws Dealing with Justice and Religion (Deuteronomy 16:18-20)Administration of Justice (Deuteronomy 16:18-13)Judges
Deuteronomy 16:18-20Deuteronomy 16:18-20Deuteronomy 16:18-20Deuteronomy 16:18-20
Abuses in Worship (Deuteronomy 16:21-7)
Deuteronomy 16:21-1Deuteronomy 16:21-1Deuteronomy 16:21-1Deuteronomy 16:21-1

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-8

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 16:1-8 1”Observe the month of Abib and celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God, for in the month of Abib the LORD your God brought you out of Egypt by night. 2You shall sacrifice the Passover to the LORD your God from the flock and the herd, in the place where the LORD chooses to establish His name. 3You shall not eat leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat with it unleavened bread, the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), so that you may remember all the days of your life the day when you came out of the land of Egypt. 4For seven days no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory, and none of the flesh which you sacrifice on the evening of the first day shall remain overnight until morning. 5You are not allowed to sacrifice the Passover in any of your towns which the LORD your God is giving you; 6but at the place where the LORD your God chooses to establish His name, you shall sacrifice the Passover in the evening at sunset, at the time that you came out of Egypt. 7You shall cook and eat it in the place which the LORD your God chooses. In the morning you are to return to your tents. 8Six days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a solemn assembly to the LORD your God; you shall do no work on it.”

Deuteronomy 16:1 “Observe” This is such a recurrent term (BDB 1036, KB 1581, Qal INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE) in Deuteronomy- 73 times! This chapter is written in the same Hebraic style as the Ten Commandments of chapter 5.

“month” This is the same root as “new moon” (BDB 294 I). See Special Topic: Ancient Near Eastern Calendars.

“Abib” This word means “new grain” (BDB 1), which would denote the first ripened sheaves of barley. It was the Canaanite designation for the time period of March-April. Later in the writing the Babylonian word Nisan is used for this time period. Exodus 12:2, Exodus 12:6 gives specific dates mentioned here generally.

“celebrate” This common VERB, “do,” “make” (BDB 793, KB 1581) is used several times in chapter 16 and is translated several ways:

1. “celebrate,” Deuteronomy 16:1, Deuteronomy 16:10, Deuteronomy 16:13

2. “shall be,” Deuteronomy 16:8

3. “shall be careful to observe,” Deuteronomy 16:12

4. “shall not. . .make,” Deuteronomy 16:21


“by night” When the Death Angel passed over at night (BDB 538), Pharaoh said, “go now” (cf. Exodus 12:31-33). The Israelites left immediately.

Deuteronomy 16:2 “from the flock and the herd” Compare Exodus 12:5 with 2 Chronicles 30:24; 2 Chronicles 35:7, which opened up the sacrifice from a sheep or a goat to the entire range of domestic animals.

“in the place where the LORD chooses to establish His name” In Egypt this was a family service; in Deuteronomy it has been reserved for central sanctuary worship (cf. Deuteronomy 12:5, Deuteronomy 12:11, Deuteronomy 12:13, Deuteronomy 12:14, Deuteronomy 12:18, Deuteronomy 12:21, Deuteronomy 12:26; Deuteronomy 14:23, Deuteronomy 14:25; Deuteronomy 15:20; Deuteronomy 16:2, Deuteronomy 16:6, Deuteronomy 16:7, Deuteronomy 16:11, Deuteronomy 16:15, Deuteronomy 16:16; Deuteronomy 17:8, Deuteronomy 17:10; Deuteronomy 18:6; Deuteronomy 23:16; Deuteronomy 26:2; Deuteronomy 31:11).

Deuteronomy 16:3 “unleavened bread” The Israelites could not wait until morning for the bread to rise. This detail of the exodus night gave rise to the Exodus' Passover feast being combined with an agricultural feast (cf. Exodus 12:15-20; Exodus 23:14-17; Exodus 34:18).

Leaven, which was regularly used in sacrificial items (cf. Leviticus 7:13; Leviticus 23:17), became a symbol of sin and rebellion. The fermentation was viewed in this symbolic feast as Israel's opportunity on an individual basis to examine their lives for any hint of rebellion or disobedience to YHWH. As the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:0) functioned on a national level, the Feast of Unleavened Bread functioned on an individual or family level.

This annual required feast being combined with the Passover feast kept the gracious deliverance of YHWH ever before the minds and hearts of His people. As grace and promise provided deliverance from Egypt, so Israel depended on these unchanging divine characteristics to save her as the years went by (cf. Deuteronomy 4:9).

“bread of affliction” See Exodus 12:8.

“(for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste)” The Jews left in haste at Pharaoh's request (cf. Exodus 12:31-33).

“that you remember. . .Egypt” The Passover has historical and theological significance. In Egypt the Passover experience was family oriented; in Deuteronomy it foreshadowed the coming central sanctuary service; in Jesus' day it became a combination of both (part at the temple and part at home or where pilgrims were staying while in Jerusalem).

Deuteronomy 16:4 Remember, Moses is addressing, for the most part, the children of the exodus generation. This verse implies that every generation should put themselves in the place of that first generation who experienced the power and presence of God, yet rebelled and died in the wilderness. Each of the annual feasts were to help Israel trust more in YHWH's presence and provision. He was with them and for them, as He had been with their ancestors.

Deuteronomy 16:5 “in any of your towns” This is literally “gates” (BDB 1044, cf. Deuteronomy 12:15, Deuteronomy 12:17, Deuteronomy 12:21), thereby referring to a future time after Israel had conquered Canaan (cf. Deuteronomy 16:18).

Deuteronomy 16:6 “in the evening at sunset” For the Israelites this was the beginning of a new day (cf. Genesis 1, cf. Exodus 12:6. ).

Deuteronomy 16:7 “You shall cook and eat it The Hebrew can mean “boil” or “cook” (BDB 143, KB 164, Piel PERFECT), but because of Exodus 12:8-9, it must mean “cook.”

“you are to return to your tents” This can mean: (1) the wilderness wandering setting (or at least on the plains of Moab); (2) the pilgrims going to Jerusalem stayed in tents during these seven feast days; or (3) it is an idiom meaning “return to your homes.

Deuteronomy 16:8 “a solemn assembly to the Lord your God” The festival ended with a corporate worship setting (cf. Exodus 12:16, “a holy assembly”). One purpose for the central sanctuary was to develop a sense of corporate identity and community.

Verses 9-12

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 16:9-12 9”You shall count seven weeks for yourself; you shall begin to count seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain. 10Then you shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God with a tribute of a freewill offering of your hand, which you shall give just as the LORD your God blesses you; 11and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite who is in your town, and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your midst, in the place where the LORD your God chooses to establish His name. 12You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall be careful to observe these statutes.”

Deuteronomy 16:10 “the Feast of Weeks” This is also called (1) the Feast of Harvest in Exodus 23:16) and (2) the Feast of First Fruits in Numbers 28:26. Later, it became Pentecost (rabbinically linked to the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai), which means “fifty days.” It was the May-June harvest festival or the time of the wheat harvest. YHWH, not Ba'al, was the provider!

“a freewill offering” This allowed the people to bring an offering in accordance to how much the Lord had blessed each one (cf. Deuteronomy 16:17). This is a universal principle of giving (cf. Deuteronomy 16:2 Corinthians 8-9).

Deuteronomy 16:11 YHWH wants everyone to know His past acts for Israel and His special care for those in need (cf. Deuteronomy 16:14; Deuteronomy 12:12, Deuteronomy 12:18, Deuteronomy 12:19; Deuteronomy 14:27, Deuteronomy 14:29; Deuteronomy 26:11-13).

Deuteronomy 16:12 “You shall remember” The theological reason for the Feast of Weeks (agricultural harvest) was Israel's experience of slavery in Egypt.

Verses 13-15

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 16:13-15 13”You shall celebrate the Feast of Booths seven days after you have gathered in from your threshing floor and your wine vat; 14and you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your towns. 15Seven days you shall celebrate a feast to the LORD your God in the place which the LORD chooses, because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.”

Deuteronomy 16:13 “Feast of Booths” The Feast of Booths came in the fall and was during the ingathering time (cf. Exodus 23:16; Exodus 34:22; Leviticus 23:33-43).

The background to “booths” is said to reflect the Israelites' experience of:

1. agricultural life in Egypt, where booths were built in the fields at harvest time

2. living in temporary housing (i.e., tents) during the exodus and wilderness wandering period

3. the temporary shelters needed for pilgrims to stay at the central sanctuary (less probable)

Deuteronomy 16:15 YHWH wants to bless His people so that they may rejoice (BDB 970, KB 1333, Qal PERFECT) individually, as a family, and as the people of God (cf. Deuteronomy 12:7, Deuteronomy 12:12, Deuteronomy 12:18; Deuteronomy 14:26; Deuteronomy 16:11, Deuteronomy 16:14; Deuteronomy 26:11; Deuteronomy 27:7).

Verses 16-17

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 16:16-17 16”Three times in a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses, at the Feast of Unleavened Bread and at the Feast of Weeks and at the Feast of Booths, and they shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed. 17Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you.”

Deuteronomy 16:16 “Three times in a year all your males shall appear” Verses Deuteronomy 16:16 and 17 are summary verses which apply to all three feasts (cf. Exodus 23:14, Exodus 23:17). Remember meals were special times of friendship and family fellowship. These feasts allowed Israel to:

1. develop a sense of national community

2. teach God's gracious acts to new generations

3. help the poor and needy

4. rejoice in the goodness of the God of Israel and His fulfillment of covenant promises/blessings

Why only men? Does this reflect the submissive role of women? Surely the ancient Near East was not egalitarian, but women were honored within Israel (e.g., Proverbs 31:0).

I think there are two good possibilities:

1. the women were needed at home in a ranching and agricultural setting, especially if the men were absent

2. the practice of men only would have noticeably marked Israel's worship as different from Canaanite fertility worship, where women were expected

For a good, brief discussion of these three annual pilgrimage feasts see Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel, vol. 2, pp. 484-502.

“Feast” This Hebrew term (BDB 290, KB 290), both the VERB and the NOUN, refers to one of the three annual worship days at the central sanctuary. It could be translated “pilgrim-feast.”

Deuteronomy 16:17 “give as he is able” This refers to the universal principle of giving-each is to give as he is able (cf. Deuteronomy 16:10; Deuteronomy 2:0 Corinthians 8-9). See Special Topic: Tithing

Verses 18-20

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 16:18-20 18”You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers in all your towns which the LORD your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. 19You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous. 20Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you.”

Deuteronomy 16:18-20 This is a separate section which should go with chapter 18. It deals with guidelines for civil leadership (tribal judges, Levitical judges, kings, priests, and prophets).

Deuteronomy 16:18 “You shall appoint for yourself, judges and officers in all your towns” These are the same as the local elders of the gates (e.g., Deuteronomy 21:19; Deuteronomy 22:15; Amos 5:10, Amos 5:12, Amos 5:15). Moses was chief judge, but he appointed helpers (cf. Deuteronomy 1:9-18; Exodus 18:13-27).

Deuteronomy 16:19 “You shalt not” This verse lists three guidelines for the judges, Moses' helpers:

1. You shalt not distort justice (BDB 639, KB 692, Hiphil IMPERFECT, cf. Exodus 23:6; Exodus 27:19; Deuteronomy 16:19; Deuteronomy 24:17; Deuteronomy 27:19)

2. You shalt not show partiality (BDB 647, KB 699, Hiphil IMPERFECT, the literal Hebrew is “ye shall not look at a face”)

3. You shalt not take a bribe (BDB 542, KB 534, Qal IMPERFECT, cf. Deuteronomy 27:25).

“bribe” A bribe does two things:

1. “blinds the eyes of the wise” - BDB 734, KB 802, Piel IMPERFECT, cf. Exodus 23:8; it is metaphorical for the power of money

2. “perverts (literally 'twist') the words of the righteous” - BDB 701, KB 758, Piel IMPERFECT, cf. Exodus 23:8; remember the term “just” or “righteous” is from the term, “measuring reed” or “straight edge” (see Special Topic at Deuteronomy 1:16). Most words for sin in the Bible are a word play on this concept.

Deuteronomy 16:20 “Justice” The words “justice” in Deuteronomy 16:20 and “righteousness” in Deuteronomy 16:18 are from the same Hebrew root (BDB 841), which speaks of a standard. A judge ruled according to the standard which was the revealed will of God (“justice, and only justice”). Leaders (local and priestly judges) were to model the mercy, yet fairness, of YHWH (cf. Exodus 23:6-8).

“you shall pursue” This VERB (BDB 922, KB 1191, Qal IMPERFECT) is used literally in Deuteronomy 11:4; Deuteronomy 19:6, but here it is metaphorical of Israel's judicial system. Other metaphorical uses are found in Psalms 34:14; Proverbs 21:21; Isaiah 51:5; and Hosea 6:3.

“that” Israel's possession of the land and the promises/blessings of YHWH were conditional (cf. Deuteronomy 4:1, Deuteronomy 4:25-26, Deuteronomy 4:40; Deuteronomy 5:16, Deuteronomy 5:29, Deuteronomy 5:33; Deuteronomy 6:18; Deuteronomy 8:1; Deuteronomy 11:8-9, Deuteronomy 11:18-21; Deuteronomy 16:20; Deuteronomy 32:46-47).

Verses 21-22

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Deuteronomy 16:21-22 21”You shall not plant for yourself an Asherah of any kind of tree beside the altar of the LORD your God, which you shall make for yourself. 22You shall not set up for yourself a sacred pillar which the LORD your God hates.”

Deuteronomy 16:21 Deuteronomy 16:21, Deuteronomy 16:2 and 17:1 are one paragraph. The paragraph deals with appropriate ways of offering sacrifices. For a brief description of Canaanite worship see Alfred J. Hoerth, Archaeology and the Old Testament, pp. 219-222 and William Foxwell Albright, Archaeology and the Religion of Israel, pp. 67-92.

“You shall not plant. . .an Asherah of any kind of tree” This “grove” or Asherah implies either a grove of trees or holes in the raised worship platforms of the Canaanites where the carved poles, or live trees representing the female consort of the male fertility gods, were put. This symbolized fertility worship. See note at Deuteronomy 12:3.

Deuteronomy 16:22 “You shall you not set up for yourself a sacred pillar” See note at Deuteronomy 12:3.

“God hates” See note at Deuteronomy 12:31.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why did the Lord want to have three annual assemblies?

2. Were all three feasts related to agriculture? Does this imply that Moses took already existing feasts and changed their purposes?

3. List and describe these feasts.

4. List three rules for the judges.




5. How is Deuteronomy 16:21-22 related to Deuteronomy 17:1?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 16". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/deuteronomy-16.html. 2021.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile