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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature
The root-idea of the word is to be found in what we should term the pleasures of the table, the exercise of hospitality.
To what an early date the practices of hospitality are referable may be seen in . It was usual not only to receive persons with choice viands, but also to dismiss them in a similar manner; accordingly Laban, when he had overtaken the fleeing Jacob, complains (), 'Wherefore didst thou steal away from me and didst not tell me, that I might have sent thee away with mirth, and with songs, and with tabret, and with harp?' See also;;; . This practice explains the reason why the prodigal, on his return, was welcomed by a feast (). Occasions of domestic joy were hailed with feasting; thus, in , Abraham 'made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned.' Birthdays were thus celebrated (), 'Pharaoh, on his birthday made a feast unto all his servants' (;; comp. Herod. i. 133). Marriage-feasts were also common. Samson () on such an occasion 'made a feast,' and it is added, 'for so used the young men to do.' So Laban, when he gave his daughter Leah to Jacob (), 'gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast.' These festive occasions seem originally to have answered the important purpose of serving as evidence and attestation of the events which they celebrated, on which account relatives and neighbors were invited to be present (; ). Those processes in rural occupations by which the Divine bounties are gathered into the hands of man, have in all ages been made seasons of festivity; accordingly in , Absalom invites all the king's sons, and even David himself, to a sheep-shearing feast, on which occasion the guests became 'merry with wine' (, sq.). The vintage was also celebrated with festive eating and drinking (). Feasting at funerals existed among the Jews (). In , among other funeral customs mention is made of 'the cup of consolation, to drink for their father or their mother,' which brings to mind the indulgence in spirituous liquors to which our ancestors were given, at interments, and which has not yet entirely disappeared. To what an extent expense was sometimes carried on these occasions, may be learned from Josephus, who, having remarked that Archelaus 'mourned for his father seven days, and had given a very expensive funeral feast to the multitude,' states, 'which custom is the occasion of poverty to many of the Jews,' adding, 'because they are forced to feast the multitude, for if any one omits it he is not esteemed a holy person.'
As among heathen nations, so also among the Hebrews, feasting made a part of the observances which took place on occasion of animal sacrifices (;;;; ). These sacrificial meals were enjoyed in connection with peace-offerings, whether eucharstic or votive. To the feast at the second tithe of the produce of the land, which was to be made every year and eaten at the annual festivals before Jehovah, not only friends, but strangers, widows, orphans, and Levites, were to be invited, as well as the slaves. If the tabernacles were so distant as to make it inconvenient to carry thither the tithe, it was to be turned into money, which was to be spent at the place at which the festivals were held in providing feasts (;; ). Charitable entertainments were also provided, at the end of three years, from the tithe of the increase. The Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, were to be present (;; ). At the feast of Pentecost the command is very express (). 'Thou shalt rejoice before the Lord thy God, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy man-servant, and thy maid-servant, and the Levite that is within thy gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are among you.' The Israelites were forbidden to partake of food offered in sacrifice to idols (), lest they should be thereby enticed into idolatry or appear to give a sanction to idolatrous observances ().
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Feasts'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature". https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/kbe/f/feasts.html.