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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Deuteronomy 16

With Deu 16:1-17 of this chapter, the section that started in Deuteronomy 12:1 is closed. It is its climax. This is not about the priests, but about the people in connection with the place the LORD has chosen to make His Name dwell. From Deu 16:18 onwards the constitutional aspect of the life in the land is discussed more, and this is directly correlated with the LORD’s dwelling place. They have to find that place.

The significance of the place is underscored by the obligation for all men to go there, three times a year, to celebrate there before the LORD. These feasts occur four times in the books of Moses. This does not happen as a mere repetition, but in accordance with the character of each of those books.

1. In Exodus 23 and Exodus 34 the feasts are mentioned
a. in connection with the laws God has given Moses (Exodus 23) and
b. in the covenant confirmation after the history with the golden calf when God acts in grace toward His people (Exodus 34).
The feasts are connected with the covenant.

2. In Leviticus 23, the three feasts are called ‘appointed times’. They are in the priest’s book. The feasts are an opportunity to bring offerings during a holy convocation. There we also see the feasts in their prophetic context. They refer to time periods in God’s plan with His people.

3. In Numbers 28-29 the feasts are spoken about to the people in the wilderness, on their way to the land. God asserts His rights over the people. He calls the sacrifices on the occasion of these feasts, “My offering” (Num 28:2). That is to show what God desires for Himself. That is beautiful, especially in a wilderness situation.

4. In Deuteronomy 16 the feasts are connected with the place where God dwells. The whole people come together, not at the entrance of the tent of meeting as in Leviticus and Numbers, but in Jerusalem, near the temple.

Our meetings have characteristics of Leviticus. In our meetings with the brothers and sisters we express the unity of God’s people. It also knows the characteristics of Deuteronomy. In Deuteronomy everything is in the singular. It is not primarily about doing this together with all the other Israelites, but about a personal meeting with the LORD at that place. Thus, when we come together, we corporately, but also personally, bring our sacrifices of praise and thanks to God. God sees the heart of each of His own.

The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread belong together, it is a unity. The Feast of the first fruits is part of the Feast of Weeks. The Feast of the first fruits always is in the week of unleavened bread. Seven weeks later, in the third month, the Feast of Weeks is celebrated. In the seventh month, also three feasts are celebrated. So the three great feasts are in the first, third and seventh month.

These feasts are linked to the harvest. The Feast of the first fruits is celebrated when the barley harvest has ripened. Then comes, seven weeks later, the wheat harvest. Then the Feast of Weeks is celebrated with the first fruits of the wheat harvest (Exo 34:22) in the form of the two loaves of bread. The next stage of the harvest is the wine harvest. Finally, the olives are harvested.

When the entire harvest has been harvested, the Feast of Booths is celebrated, the feast of the entire collection. Then the harvest has already been processed: the pressing of the grapes and the threshing of the wheat has taken place. From the very beginning to the final phase, from the first to the seventh month, are the harvest months. The feasts mark the beginning and the end of it: “Also [you shall observe] the Feast of the Harvest [of] the first fruits of your labors [from] what you sow in the field; also the Feast of the Ingathering at the end of the year when you gather in [the fruit of] your labors from the field” (Exo 23:16).

Verses 1-8

Passover and Unleavened Bread


“Abib” means ‘green ears’. That speaks of a new beginning, it is as it were Spring. It starts with the sacrifice of the Passover. This is mentioned six times in the Bible and every time from a different point of view, i.e. aligned with the character of the book in which it is mentioned.

1. In Exodus 12 the Passover is called for the first time, there the feast is kept for the first time (Exo 12:11). All subsequent times it will be a feast of remembrance, but the first time it will be the reality of salvation. It is the first feast mentioned in connection with entering the land.
In Egypt it is celebrated in the houses. In the land, and that is what it is about in this book, it may only be celebrated in the place where the LORD dwells. What once happened in the houses of the Israelites takes place in the land in connection with the house of God, the temple.
It represents the central idea that God’s intention was to save a people in the midst of which He can dwell. He has not only freed a people from judgment, but done so with a purpose. This purpose is presented here, while we think back to what we can call ‘the birth’ of God’s people.

2. In Leviticus 23, the Passover is the starting point for achieving the sabbatical rest (Lev 23:1-5). The Passover is the beginning of the months (Exo 12:2). In the prophetic application of Leviticus 23, the sabbath refers to the time when God can rest in all the creation.

3. In Numbers 9 the Passover gives strength to traverse the wilderness and reach the end of the journey (Num 9:1-14).

4. In Deuteronomy 16 it is related to the land and the meeting with the LORD (Deu 16:1-2; 2Chr 30:1-5; 2Chr 35:1; 16-19; Ezra 6:19).

5. In Joshua 5 the people entered the land and the Passover serves as a retrospective to the starting point (Jos 5:10-11).

6. In 1 Corinthians 5 it is said that Christ is the Passover (1Cor 5:7b).

Our feast as Christians is only one feast. That one feast is when we gather around the Lord. All feasts, the feast character, are expressed par excellence in the worship meeting. Christian holidays do not occur in the Bible.

Unfortunately, in the course of Israel’s history, both the Passover and the Feast of Booths have increasingly lost their significance for the people of God. At the end of their history, when King Josiah celebrates the Passover, it appears that the meaning of the Passover has been lost since the days of Samuel: “There had not been celebrated a Passover like it in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet” (2Chr 35:18a). For the Feast of Booths this is true even since the days of Joshua (Neh 8:18).

The Passover is “to the LORD”, that is to say, in His presence, with Him (Deu 16:1-2). He desires that His people should come to Him. Thus the Lord Jesus speaks of “My guest room” (Mk 14:14), a room where He and His disciples will celebrate the Passover. The LORD fervently desires that they should celebrate for Him and bring Him what is due to Him, a rich sacrifice service of burnt offerings and sacrifices of thanksgiving. It is said here to the individual Israelite.

This section begins with “bread of affliction” (or “bread of misery”) in Deu 16:3 and ends with “altogether joyful” in Deu 16:15. When we come to Him, we do not only speak of the glories of the Lord Jesus, but also of our affliction or misery. We must not forget that, or think it is something inferior. At the end of his life, the great apostle Paul, who spoke of so many blessings, speaks of himself as the greatest of sinners (1Tim 1:15). And the chapter on worship in this book, Deuteronomy 26, also speaks about that (Deu 26:5-8). We never must forget where we come from.

There is no exalted level without the ‘bread of affliction associated with it. We see this also in Ephesians 1 where we read about sonship, but connected with “the redemption through His blood” and “the forgiveness of our trespasses” (Eph 1:5-7). This is the “Paschal aspect” of the Lord’s Day when we gather as a church to celebrate the Lord’s Supper at the Lord’s Table.

Passover is what God was for me, how He turned away judgment and delivered me from Egypt and brought me into the land. The Lord’s Supper has to do with the Lord Jesus’ request to remember Him in what He has done. In the Lord’s Supper we remember Him Who is the Lamb and has surrendered Himself in accordance with the will of the Father. The Lord also wants this remembrance not only to take place at His Supper, but “all the days of your life” (Deu 16:3). We must never forget that He redeemed us at the expense of Himself and made us His property.

The period of “seven days” (Deu 16:4) represents our whole life. Throughout our lives there may be present “in all your territory”, that is in all areas of life, nothing unleavened, that is something of sin. I have to think about that at the place where the Lord Jesus dwells. Nothing that defiles thoughts and hearts should be allowed throughout the land. That’s why we always have to add that ‘bread of affliction. This will lead us to be impressed by our salvation over and over again, and not to resorting to old feelings.

The Passover may not be celebrated at one’s own discretion or at a place of one’s own choice (Deu 16:5). The first letter to the Corinthians is the only one addressed in the full sense of the word to a local church (1Cor 1:1-2). In that letter is written about the celebration of the Lord’s Supper at the Lord’s Table (1Cor 10:14-17; 1Cor 11:23-26). This celebration is part of the local revelation of the body of Christ. There believers come together, not just in their own cities, but based on the oneness of the church. There He is in the middle.

We celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the houses. We may live, seven days, on from the Passover. This period is at the same time also a preparation for the next Passover.

The place where the LORD dwells is a wonderful point of attraction for the whole people. This is in the heart of Hezekiah. He sends out the invitation to all twelve tribes (2Chr 30:1). The whole people must be welcome in that place. Some of them come to Jerusalem (2Chr 30:11). Then he can celebrate, even though many have not come.

The Passover is celebrated at the end of the day, at sunset (Deu 16:6). It symbolizes that the death of the Lord Jesus is a conclusion. The old is past. The evil powers have been defeated. The liberation is a fact.

In Deu 16:7 it seems as if the people return to their tents after eating the Passover. Nevertheless, the Feast of Unleavened Bread is part of it all. On the last day there is a solemn assembly (Deu 16:8). Then the feast is over, i.e. after seven days, and the people return to their tents (2Chr 30:21; 2Chr 35:17).

Verses 9-12

The Feast of Weeks


The first mowing stroke in the standing corn is for the sheaf of first fruits of the barley harvest. Then there must be counted, seven weeks. The sickle made its first stroke for us on the morning of the Lord Jesus’ resurrection, a new beginning for us. We must count from the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and not from His birth.

The Feast of Weeks or Pentecost – according to the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, derived from the word pentecost, which is ‘fifty’ (Lev 23:16) – we may also celebrate every first day of the week. Therefore, that counting must have preceded it; we must learn to count according to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Then comes the working of the Holy Spirit – Pentecost – as pleasure in our lives. He can feel at home with us when we have learned to appreciate the resurrection and glorification of the Lord Jesus.

In Acts 1 we see the disciples during those seven weeks, that is, until the ascension of the Lord Jesus. The Lord shows Himself as the Risen One and speaks of the kingdom. There is also an expectation of the Father’s promise and learning to be a witness in the world. My position is one of a witness. I am also on my way to the place where the Lord has gone. I also go to the upper room, which the Lord Jesus calls ‘My guest room’, to be there with His disciples. There they persevere in prayer and keep His word. The consequences we see in Acts 2: The Holy Spirit comes (Acts 2:1-4).

The result is a “freewill offering” offered to the LORD their God (Deu 16:10). We see this in the believers who have received the Holy Spirit: “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). They can renounce earthly blessings: “And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they [began] selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need” (Acts 2:44-45). They give what is due to the Lord and what is due to poor members of the church (cf. 1Cor 16:2).

The result is joy before God with all who are there too. The memory of origin – “you were a slave in Egypt” – does not fade away. The awareness of this and of what they are today only increases the joy and gratitude. They must share the abundant blessing God has given them with those around them who are less fortunate, so that they too may rejoice.

Verses 13-15

The Feast of Booths


The Feast of Booths is the climax. Unfortunately, celebrating it seems to have been only temporary, at least it is not celebrated for long in the way God intended. Only in Nehemiah 8 we hear of it again (Neh 8:14-18). Then it is celebrated by a weak remnant, as it has not been since the time of Joshua. These are the feasts of the LORD; therefore they are so quickly forgotten.

After four months, the entire harvest has been reaped. At the end of the year, as if there were no more months to come, harvesting takes place. In a spiritual sense it is celebrated when believers have learned to bring in the whole harvest, whatever can be brought in from the land. That is why the Feast of Booths is so easily forgotten. It takes spiritual growth to celebrate that feast. It is not just about collected food, but about food that has been prepared for consumption.

The threshing floor and the wine vat represent God’s final actions in judgment (Rev 14:14-20). The threshing floor represents the judgment where the chaff is separated from the wheat; the wine vat represents the unsparing judgment of the earth’s harvest, where the harvest is all vain, human religion. After this comes the full time of blessing for the earth. Blessing only comes after God has purified the ground for it.

Not every Israelite has an equally rich harvest. Therefore, those who have collected more, must share with the poor. In the application it concerns brothers and sisters who have collected from God’s Word, in which we certainly should not primarily think of those who have a public service, such as brothers who serve with the Word.

If we see that a brother or sister has very little spiritual insight, we should not complain about it. It is much better – and this is God’s intention – to see them as an occasion to share in the riches ingathered. This is possible in the houses, in the mutual contacts and also in the meeting of the believers. The meeting is not only for rich believers who, so to speak, have obtained a great harvest, but for rich and poor.

The result is that they can be “altogether joyful” (Deu 16:15). This brings to mind what John writes in his first letter: “These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete” (1Jn 1:4). The apostle John is such a rich brother. He speaks of eternal life as the fruit of the land. John has harvested it and distributes it in his letters, he seeks fellowship with others, poorer believers, and that gives him complete joy.

None of us has collected everything personally. We have received a lot from wealthier brothers. Paul is also such a wealthy brother. He desires to distribute to the Philippians, who are not as rich as he is (Phil 1:25). In this way he also wants to come with a fulness of blessing to the believers in Rome, to tell them of that fulness, and that will also give joy (Rom 15:29).

Verses 16-17

Do Not Come Empty-Handed


Each one comes with a gift for the LORD according to the measure with which the LORD has blessed them. There is no excuse for not coming to that place. There are always brothers and sisters who have collected a lot and others who have collected less. No one should ever come empty-handed. It is unthinkable that one has not collected anything, because God blesses each of His own.

Verses 18-20

Righteous Justice


Here begins a new section, which is related to the previous chapters because it still concerns the place where the LORD dwells. He is the center. From these verses up to and including Deuteronomy 19 it is about the civil, political life, while in the previous chapters it is more about the religious life. The previous section is about worship, this section is about maintaining worship according to the law of God.

In the literal sense we have nothing to do with these precepts, but we have to do with them in a spiritual sense. Not only is the aspect of priestly service connected to our meetings, but the judiciary is also involved. It is about the life of the church in its legal aspects, about matters that give rise to disagreement and how these should be resolved.

These verses are about justice. In the wilderness the judges are appointed over a number of persons (Exo 18:25). Here it is related to the cities (cf. 2Chr 19:5; 8) in which they will live, scattered over the land. In the land, justice is spoken in the gates of the city. The number of judges will also depend on the number of inhabitants per city.

Moses prescribes how the lower courts should be established. Not every issue between members of the people should be dealt with in the highest court. In our life as a church there is also a difference in disputes that require a ruling from the whole church and individual issues. Not every issue should be brought before the whole church, just as not every dispute between the Israelites should be settled in Jerusalem. God expects believers to be able to rule matters among themselves. Every believer can be a “judge” if he is spiritually minded (Gal 6:1), just as every believer can be a priest if he is spiritually minded.

Deu 16:18-20 contain the standards that judges should apply. These norms are determined by God. The emphasis is on righteousness, a word in Deu 16:20 mentioned twice in succession. The main thing is that righteous justice is pursued, that is, as God is and sees things. A conscious deviation from the norm God has given is distorting justice.

The judge should look at the accused as someone he has never seen and does not know. This prevents the judiciary from being influenced by personal prejudices (Pro 18:5; Pro 24:23). The judge must not succumb to bribery (Exo 23:8). The life in and possession of the land depends for them, and for their descendants, on fair justice.

Judges are people who have the right mind to make a statement between brothers. That is a difficult matter. One is not easily a judge; it is no easy task to go to a brother or sister to point out something repulsive to him or her. The ‘judging’ in the church is something every believer must be able to do: “Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent [to constitute] the smallest law courts? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life? So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church? I say [this] to your shame. [Is it so, that] there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren” (1Cor 6:2-5).

Dealing with such matters in the church is a preparation for the service in the realm of peace, where we will judge angels, meaning we will say what they should do (1Cor 6:3). We can only exercise government after we have come to know ourselves as He has always known us. We gain this knowledge to the full when we are “revealed before the judgment seat of Christ” (2Cor 5:10).

It concerns the log and the speck (Mt 7:3-5). The speck is not good, it needs to be removed. To help in removing the speck from the eye of the brother is only possible when the log has been removed from one’s own eye. When someone says something about the speck, it should not be possible to refer to a log in his own eye. The ‘judge’ should be beyond such reproach.

Verses 21-22

Nothing Beside and in the Place of God


The first thing the judges will have to deal with is the trampling of the rights of God (Deu 16:21). This is discussed in the section of Deuteronomy 16:21 to Deuteronomy 17:7. The rights of God always come first, before it comes to the brother who is defrauded. If God’s rights are violated, this has consequences for the relations within God’s people, between their members themselves. The corollary effect being the rights of the neighbor are also violated.

Unclean practices in worship must be condemned by the judge. It also means that a judge himself should not be condemnable in this. A judge who in his life uses forms of worship originating in the world is unfit to be a judge. He must know and uphold the right of God in this.

In addition to the form, the content is also essential (Deu 16:22). Sacrifice may only be made to God and not to ourselves. In worship, there should be no thought of our own importance. No honor should be brought to ourselves in any way. This can happen if we think too highly of our contribution, for example in the words used, or the song we have given out. If God’s Spirit leads us, everything will only be to the glory of the Lord Jesus. If we are led by the flesh, it will be to our own glorification. This last is hateful to Him, “the LORD your God hates” this.

God’s precepts about sacrifice must be the care of the judge. In a spiritual sense it is about knowledge of the Lord Jesus and His work. The glory and perfection of His Person may not be wronged. A judge shares in the appreciation that God has for the sacrifice of His Son. He ensures that it is only about the Lord Jesus and that all honor for the work He has done is brought to God alone.

In Deu 16:21-22 we see the care for the altar of the LORD, which is for us the Table of the Lord. In the service at the Lord’s Table, we may not add elements that do not belong there, we may not place anything beside it. This is most true for brothers who express themselves. The question is: what do we introduce in the sacrificial service? It must not be anything that is attractive to the flesh. It must certainly not be anything that glorifies ourselves. If we do not take these things into account, we despise the Lord Jesus in His rights.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Deuteronomy 16". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/deuteronomy-16.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.