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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Leviticus 23

 

 

Introduction

Leviticus 23. The Sacred Calendar (pp. 103-105).—The chapter, though reading as one whole, has been considerably expanded by a later priestly writer. The original sections apparently referred to the three great feasts: (passover and) unleavened bread (Leviticus 23:9 ff.), "weeks" (Leviticus 23:15 ff.), ingathering (Leviticus 23:39 ff.). That the chapter is not a unity is shown by the new commencement in Leviticus 23:9, the repetition of Leviticus 19:9 in Leviticus 23:22, the reference to Leviticus 16:30 in Leviticus 23:26 ff., and the parallel sections in Leviticus 23:33 ff. and Leviticus 23:39 ff. The festivals now belong to the whole community (not to a family or village, 1 Samuel 16:5); H emphasizes their connexion with agriculture (Leviticus 23:10; Leviticus 23:42); to P their three characteristics are rest, assemblage at the sanctuary, and the set sacrifice.


Verses 1-3

Leviticus 23:1-3. The Sabbath, which is to be kept holy, i.e. unprofaned by any kind of work for individual profit, and marked by a religious gathering, apparently at a synagogue. The term "set feast" (RV) means "an assembly." The same word is used in the name for the shrine, "the tent of meeting." The older name for these feasts was hag, properly a pilgrimage; this term, however, would not apply to the Sabbath.


Verses 4-8

Leviticus 23:4-8 (P). The Passover (pp. 102f.), which was regularly followed by a week when no leaven was to be eaten (cf. Deuteronomy 16:1-8, Exodus 12:1-14). The first month (see on Leviticus 16) is Nisan (March-April). The Passover commences, like all Jewish feasts, at evening, or, in the Heb. phrase, "between the two evenings," i.e. between sunset and dark: for the sacrifice, see Numbers 28:17-25.


Verses 9-14

Leviticus 23:9-14 (H). The Festival of Unleavened Bread or Mazzoth (see pp. 102f.).—The "wave sheaf" is to be cut on the first day of the week, apparently after the Sabbath of the passover week, i.e. on the 16th of the month (but no date is actually given). For the ⅕th ephah (about 3½ quarts), cf. Leviticus 2:14. Wine has not hitherto been mentioned in H: in P only in Exodus 29:40. No part of the new crop is to be used till the offering to Yahweh has been made.


Verses 15-22

Leviticus 23:15-22. The Harvest Festival, or "Weeks," i.e. of the completion of the corn harvest (p. 103, Numbers 28:26-31). In a country so varied topographically as Palestine, there may be two months' difference between the harvest in the valleys and in the high lands. The fixing of a definite date would follow the centralisation of the festival. The loaves waved at this festival are the same in size as at Mazzoth, but two instead of one, and they are leavened. There is no need of haste, as when the sheaf of the first-fruits had to be presented without any delay seven weeks before. Instead of one lamb, as at the earlier festival, two lambs and one goat; all belong to the priest. For Leviticus 23:22, see Leviticus 19:9*.


Verses 23-25

Leviticus 23:23-25. The Festival of Trumpets (p. 104), which appears here for the first time. The early Hebrew year (see on 16) began on what is now the seventh month; hence this is a New Year's festival, and it is useful also in marking the month in which fell both the Day of Atonement and "Tents." It was on the 1st day of the 7th month that Ezra publicly read the Law (Nehemiah 8:2).


Verses 26-32

Leviticus 23:26-32. The Day of Atonement (P).—No details are here given: a knowledge of Leviticus 16 is implied. The humiliation of the day's services is alone mentioned. If the ritual of the "Day" is later than 444 B.C. (see on Leviticus 16) this section must be a still later addition.


Verses 33-44

Leviticus 23:33-44. The Festival of "Tents (pp. 1021)."—This the final harvest home (fruit and vintage). It would naturally be, as elsewhere, of a joyous character. The Hebrew countryside, indeed, had turned the vintage into an organised picnic and camped out for a week; the celebrations are referred to in Judges 21:19, 1 Kings 8:2; 1 Kings 12:32 (Jeroboam fixed the celebration in N. Israel, not unnaturally, a month later) and Ezekiel 45:25, Ezra 3:4 etc. It is definitely ordained in Deuteronomy 16:13 f. Here two descriptions of the festival are given, broken by Leviticus 23:37 f., which is properly the conclusion of the whole section.


Verses 39-43

Leviticus 23:39-43 is probably the earlier; no sacrifices are mentioned, but the character of a solemn commemoration of the wilderness years is given to the joyous week, as the Church connected pagan winter and spring festivals with the Incarnation and Resurrection. Leviticus 23:33-36 prescribe sacrifices, though in quite general terms, and a universal cessation of work. This holding of the feast in the more religious post-exilic spirit is described in Nehemiah 8:13-18 (where "the second day" (Leviticus 23:13) is probably a mistake), and greatly enlarged provisions are detailed in Numbers 29:12-38. For the celebration in NT times, cf. John 7:14; John 7:37.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Leviticus 23:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/leviticus-23.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, December 9th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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