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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Deuteronomy 16

Verse 1

1. Observe… Abib The day for the commencement of the observance would be known from tradition as well as from Exodus 12:2. Comp. also Numbers 9:1-14, and Leviticus 23:1-8.

Verses 1-17

THE THREE GREAT RELIGIOUS FESTIVALS: PASSOVER, FEAST OF WEEKS OR PENTECOST, AND FEAST OF TABERNACLES, Deuteronomy 16:1-17.

The directions for the observance of these feasts have already been given in the preceding books, Exodus xii; Leviticus xxiii; Numbers xxviii, 29. What is here said is on the supposition that the hearers were familiar with the nature of these sacred festivals and with the general regulations for their observance. The assembling of the people at one central place of worship, to be appointed by Jehovah their God, is enjoined, and the requirement emphasized by the repetition of the expression “in the place which the Lord shall choose.” Deuteronomy 16:2; Deuteronomy 16:6-7; Deuteronomy 16:11; Deuteronomy 16:15-16. The feast of trumpets and the great day of atonement are as positively required as these festivals, (see Leviticus 23:23, seq.,) but need not be referred to here, as the assembling of the people at the central sanctuary is the thing Moses wished to impress upon the people.

Verse 2

2. Thou shalt… sacrifice the passover The term passover, in its primary meaning, is applied to the lamb or kid; but the word was also used in an extended meaning for all the offerings of the feast.

In the place which the Lord shall choose The observance of these festivals was to become connected with their national life, and for that reason a central sanctuary would be desirable. Here all the tribes could meet to commemorate the great events connected with their providential history.

Verse 3

3. The bread of affliction The people left Egypt in haste, and, no doubt, with anxiety and dread. The unleavened bread was a symbol to them of their flight and of the burdens and servile life that preceded it.

Verse 4

4. No leavened bread… in all thy coasts seven days Moses here repeats the requirement of Exodus 13:7.

Neither shall… any thing of the flesh… remain… until the morning Comp. Exodus 12:10, Exodus 24:25; Numbers 9:12. None of the lamb was to be kept, for fear that putrefaction might occur. Stanley, in his description of the Samaritan passover, which is still observed on Gerizim, after narrating the manner in which the victims are slain, roasted, and eaten, says: “The remnants were gathered into mats, and put on a wooden grate or hurdle over the hole where the water had been originally boiled; the fire was again lit and a huge bonfire was kindled. By its blaze, and by candles lighted for the purpose, the ground was searched in every direction for the consecrated particles of sacramental elements; and these fragments of the flesh and bone were thrown upon the burning mass.” History of the Jewish Church, Am. ed., part i, p. 564.

Verses 5-6

5, 6. There thou shalt sacrifice the passover Moses here presents a new feature in connexion with the keeping of the passover when they shall be permanently settled as a nation in the land promised to their fathers for their possession. At its institution in Egypt there was no central sanctuary for them, and the passover was kept at their several homes. Hereafter at the one common place designated by Jehovah as the place of his choice it is to be kept.

Verse 7

7. Thou shalt roast The Hebrew word בשׁל ( bashal) may mean to boil, but it is also used in a general sense of preparing food for use by cooking.

Go unto thy tents Or, dwellings. The term tents may have been used to remind them of their long dwelling in tents through the years of their wandering.

Verse 9

THE FEAST OF WEEKS, OR PENTECOST.

No additional legislation is given in reference to this festival besides what is in Leviticus and Numbers, except that its public celebration was to be at the central sanctuary, and its festivities were to be participated in by the servants, the Levites, the foreigners, the widows, and the fatherless.

9. Seven weeks shalt thou number It was called the feast of weeks from the fact that a week of weeks intervened between the passover and this festival. It was called Pentecost from its occurring on the fiftieth day from the second day of the passover. It was eminently a feast of gladness over the firstfruits of the principal harvest. It differed from the other two great national festivals in being confined to a single day. It came to be viewed as a commemoration of the giving of the law. There is, however, no allusion to this in connexion with the rules for its observance, either in the Old Testament or in Josephus.

Verse 10

10. With a tribute of a free will offering Rather, with a measure. A spontaneous tribute in proportion to their ability. THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES.

In Exodus 23:16, this is spoken of as “the feast of ingathering at the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field.” At this feast the people dwelt in booths made of the “boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees and willows of the brook.” Leviticus 23:40. This was the great harvest feast of the year. The fruit of the olive orchards and the vineyards had been at this time gathered. It was at this feast, “in the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.” Amid the joyous festivities of this great national thanksgiving how these words of Jesus must have impressed the assembled multitudes! No wonder many of the listeners said, “Of a truth this is the Prophet. Others said, This is the Christ.” John 7:37, seq. Comp. Leviticus 23:34-43; Numbers 29:12-40; Nehemiah 8:14-18.

Verse 13

13. Gathered in thy corn and thy wine Better thus, in thy gathering from thy threshing floor and thy wine-press. At the present time very little wine is made in Palestine. “No wine is made from the very extensive vineyards of Hebron except a little by the Jews.” ROBINSON’S Biblical Researches, vol. ii, p. 442. “Wine is not the most important, but rather the least so, of all the objects for which the vine is cultivated.” Bibliotheca Sacra, Nov., 1846.

Verse 16

16. Three times in a year shall all thy males appear The women were not required to attend these festivals, yet it is evident that both women and children went to them. It has been questioned whether the Israelites had been accustomed to observing stated religious feasts in Egypt. The expressions used in Exodus 3:18; Exodus 5:1, seem to imply that they had such observances. The latter passage is very suggestive: “Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness.”

Verse 18

18. In the administration of justice, when the Israelites should be settled in the Promised Land, there was need of a stable form of government. Moses had already arranged for the appointment of civil officers to settle the disputes of the people. See Exodus 18:0. That method was adapted to their life in the camp and on the march. Moses now provides for (1) civil officers in every town, and gives directions as to their judicial proceedings.

Deuteronomy 16:18 to Deuteronomy 23:7. (2) He arranges for a high judicial court at the central sanctuary. Deuteronomy 17:8-13. (3) Finally, he gives direction for the choice of a king. Deuteronomy 17:14-20.

Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates No rule is laid down as to the number of these officers. They were to be, probably, in proportion to the number of inhabitants.

Verse 21

21. Thou shalt not plant thee a grove… near unto the altar Literally, as an Asherah. The prohibition is equivalent to, “Thou shalt not set up any wooden column of Asherah.”

Verse 22

22. Neither… set up any image The Hebrew word means a pillar or obelisk set up in honour of some deity. In some passages it is applied to a statue of Baal. 2 Kings 3:2. In Genesis 28:18, the term is used for the stone which Jacob set up as a pillar.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 16". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/deuteronomy-16.html. 1874-1909.