Deuteronomy 16
Pulpit Commentary
Observe the month of Abib, and keep the passover unto the LORD thy God: for in the month of Abib the LORD thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt by night.
Verses 1, 2. - The month of Abib (cf. Exodus 41:2; 23. 15). The time is referred to as a date well known to the people. Keep the passover; make (עַשִׂיתָ) or prepare the passover. This injunction refers primarily to the preparation of the Paschal lamb for a festal meal (Numbers 9:5); but here it is used in a wider sense as referring to the whole Paschal observance, which lasted for seven days. Hence the mention of sheep (צאֹן) and oxen (בְקָר) in ver. 2, and the reference to the eating of unleavened bread for seven days "therewith," i.e. with the Passover. The animal for the Paschal supper was expressly prescribed to be a yearling of the sheep or of the goats (שֶׂה), and this was to be consumed at one meal; but on the other days of the festival the flesh of other animals offered in sacrifice might be eaten. The term "Passover" here, accordingly, embraces the whole of the festive meals connected with the Passover proper - what the rabbins call chagigah (Maimon., in 'Kor-ban Pesach,' c. 10. § 12; cf. 2 Chronicles 35:7, etc.).
Thou shalt therefore sacrifice the passover unto the LORD thy God, of the flock and the herd, in the place which the LORD shall choose to place his name there.
Thou shalt eat no leavened bread with it; seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread therewith, even the bread of affliction; for thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt in haste: that thou mayest remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life.
Verse 3. - Bread of affliction; bread such as is prepared in circumstances of trial and pressure, when there is no time or opportunity for the application of all the means required for the preparation of bread of the better sort. The Israelites had in haste and amid anxiety to prepare the Passover meal on the evening of their flight from Egypt, and so had to omit the leavening of their bread; and this usage they had to observe during the seven days of the festival in subsequent times, to remind them of the oppression the nation had suffered in Egypt, and the circumstances of difficulty and peril amidst which their deliverance had been effected.
And there shall be no leavened bread seen with thee in all thy coast seven days; neither shall there any thing of the flesh, which thou sacrificedst the first day at even, remain all night until the morning.
Verse 4. - No leavened bread; properly, no leaven (שְׂאֹר) (cf. Exodus 12:15). Not only was no leavened bread (מַצָּה) or dough (חָמֵץ) to be used by them, leaven itself was not to be in the house (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:7; see Kitto's 'Cyclop. of Bibl. Lit.,' vol. 3. p. 429).
Thou mayest not sacrifice the passover within any of thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee:
Verses 5, 6. - Not in their own houses or places of abode might the Paschal lamb be slain and eaten, but only at the place, which the Lord should choose to place his Name there. On the first occasion, while the people were still in Egypt and had no sanctuary or specially holy place where Jehovah s Name was set, the Passover was eaten in their own houses; but when God should choose a place as his sanctuary, only there could the ordinance be observed.
But at the place which the LORD thy God shall choose to place his name in, there thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even, at the going down of the sun, at the season that thou camest forth out of Egypt.
And thou shalt roast and eat it in the place which the LORD thy God shall choose: and thou shalt turn in the morning, and go unto thy tents.
Verse 7. - Thou shalt roast. The verb here primarily signifies to be matured by heat for eating; hence to be ripened as by the sun's heat (Genesis 40:10; Joel 3:13; Hebrews 4:13); and to be cooked, whether by boiling, seething, or roasting. Here it is properly rendered by roast, as it was thus only that the Paschal lamb could be cooked. And go unto thy tents; return to thy place of abode; not necessarily to thy proper home (which might be far distant), but to the place where for the time thou hast thy lodging. The phrase, "thy tents," which originally came into use while as yet Israel had no settled abodes in Canaan, came afterwards to be used as a general designation of a man's home or usual place of abode (cf. 1 Samuel 13:2; 2 Samuel 20:1; 1 Kings 8:66, etc.).
Six days thou shalt eat unleavened bread: and on the seventh day shall be a solemn assembly to the LORD thy God: thou shalt do no work therein.
Verse 8. - On the seventh day shall be a solemn assembly. This is not placed in antithesis to the injunction, six days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, as if the Feast of Unleavened Bread (mazzoth) lasted only for six days and the seventh was to be devoted to a service of a different kind; it simply prescribes that the seventh day of the festival was to be celebrated by an assembling of the whole of those who had come to the feast; the festival was to be wound up with a day of holy convocation, in which no work was to be done (Leviticus 23:36). On all the days unleavened bread was to be eaten, and on the seventh there was besides to be a solemn assembly to the Lord (עֲצֶרֶת לַיחוָח), called in Leviticus 23:36, "a holy convocation" (מִקְרָא קֹדֶשׁ).
Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: begin to number the seven weeks from such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn.
Verses 9-12. - The Feast of Weeks (cf. Exodus 23:16). Verse 9. - From such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn; i.e. from the commencement of the corn harvest. The seven weeks were to be counted from this terminus; and as the corn harvest began by the presentation of the sheaf of the firstfruits on the second day of the Passover, this regulation as to time coincides with that in Leviticus 23:15.
And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks unto the LORD thy God with a tribute of a freewill offering of thine hand, which thou shalt give unto the LORD thy God, according as the LORD thy God hath blessed thee:
Verse 10. - This feast was to be kept with sacrificial gifts according to the measure of the free-will offerings of their hand, i.e. voluntary offerings which they gave as the Lord had blessed them; nothing was specially prescribed, each was to give of his own free-will as the Lord had prospered him. The word translated "tribute" in the Authorized Version (מִסַּת) occurs only here, and is of doubtful signification. The LXX. render it by καθὼς, as, according to; it is identical with the Aramaic מסת sufficiency, enough, and may be understood here of the full measure according to which their offerings were to be presented. The freewill offering of thine hand, here referred to, belonged to the gifts of burnt offerings, meat offerings, drink offerings, and thank offerings which might be offered at every feast along with the sacrifices prescribed (cf. Leviticus 23:38; Numbers 29:39). Of the latter no mention is made here, as the law regarding them was already sufficiently proclaimed (Numbers 28, and 29.); and in a popular address it was rather to what depended on the will of the people than to what was imperative by law, that attention had to be directed.
And thou shalt rejoice before the LORD thy God, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are among you, in the place which the LORD thy God hath chosen to place his name there.
Verse 11. - Rejoice before the Lord. "The expression, to rejoice before the Lord, denotes here nothing else than to honor him by sacred songs; comp. Spencer, 'De Legg. Hebrews Ritual.,' p. 881, edit. 3" (Havernick, 'Introd.,' p. 157). In the place which the Lord thy God hath chosen to place his name there; rather, shall choose, as in ver. 15.
And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt: and thou shalt observe and do these statutes.
Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy wine:
Verses 13-15. - The Feast of Tabernacles, properly, Booths (cf. Leviticus 23:33-44; Numbers 29:12-38). This feast was to be observed at the end of harvest, after the corn had been gathered into granaries, and the produce of the vineyard had been put through the press. Nothing is added here to the instructions already given respecting this festival; only the observance of it at the appointed sanctuary is enforced, and stress is laid on their making not only their sons and daughters and domestics, but also the Levite, the fatherless, the widow, and the stranger participators in their rejoicings. Thou shalt surely rejoice; rather, thou shalt be wholly joyous; literally, rejoicing only; Rosenm., "adnodum laetus."
And thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within thy gates.
Seven days shalt thou keep a solemn feast unto the LORD thy God in the place which the LORD shall choose: because the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands, therefore thou shalt surely rejoice.
Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty:
Verses 16, 17. - (Cf. Exodus 23:17; Exodus 34:23.) The law is repeated here with the additional clause, "at the place which the Lord shall choose;" and the words, "not empty," are explained to mean with gifts according to the gift of their hands, according to the blessing of Jehovah their God, which he had given them.
Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which he hath given thee.
Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment.
Verses 18-20. - Moses had at an earlier period appointed judges to settle disputes among the people, and had given instructions to them for the discharge of their duty (Exodus 18; Deuteronomy 1:12-18). Whilst the people were in the wilderness, united as one body and under the leadership of Moses, this arrangement was sufficient; but a more extended arrangement would be required when they came to be settled in Canaan and dispersed in towns and villages over the whole land. In prospect of this, Moses here enacts that judges and officers were to be appointed by the people in all their gates, in all their places of residence, which the Lord should give them. Verse 18. - Judges and officers. The "officers" (shoterim, writers) associated with the judges both in the earlier arrangements and in that which was to succeed were secretaries and clerks of court, and acted also as assessors and advisers of the judges. No instruction is given as to the number of judges and officers, or as to the mode of appointing them; nor was this necessary. The former would be determined by the size and population of the place where they were appointed, and the latter would, as a matter of course, follow the method instituted by Moses in the earlier arrangement (see Deuteronomy 1:13-15; Exodus 18:21-26).
Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.
Verse 19. - (Cf. Exodus 23:6, 8.) Respect persons (cf. Deuteronomy 1:17). Pervert the words [margin, matters] of the righteous; rather, the case or the cause of the righteous.
That which is altogether just shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
Verse 20. - That which is altogether just; literally, justice, justice. The repetition of the word is for the sake of emphasis, as in Genesis 14:10, "pits, pits," equal to full of pits.
Thou shalt not plant thee a grove of any trees near unto the altar of the LORD thy God, which thou shalt make thee.
Verses 21, 22. - In all states, the highest crime of which the judge has to take note is that of treason against the supreme Rower; and, under the theocracy, the act most distinctly treasonable was idolatry. In proceeding, therefore, to give some practical admonitions as to the things to be observed in the administration of justice, Moses begins by denouncing and forbidding this most flagrant form of iniquity. Verse 21. - Thou shalt not plant thee a grove of any trees; thou shalt not plant, i.e. place or set up, an asherah of any wood. The asherah was an idol of wood in the form of a pillar, usually placed by the side of the altars of Baal. It was the symbol of Astarte, the great Canaanitish goddess, the companion and revealer of Baal. The two are usually associated in the Old Testament (cf. Judges 2:13; Judges 6:28; 1 Kings 18:19; 2 Kings 23:4). The rendering "grove" has been taken from the LXX. and the Vulgate; but that it is an error is evident from 1 Kings 14:23; 2 Kings 17:10; and Jeremiah 17:2; where the asherah is said to be under a green tree; and from the use of such words as make, set up, cause to stand, build, to denote the action of producing an asherah (cf. 1 Kings 14:15; 1 Kings 16:33; 2 Kings 17:16; 2 Kings 17:10; 2 Chronicles 33:19; 1 Kings 14:23), none of which are appropriate to the planting of a grove. Here, indeed, the word "plant" is used, but this is only because, as the asherah was sunk in the earth that it might stand firm, it might be figuratively said to be planted, just as nails driven in are said to be planted (Ecclesiastes 12:11, where the same verb is used; comp. also Isaiah 51:16; Amos 9:15; Daniel 11:25).
Neither shalt thou set thee up any image; which the LORD thy God hateth.
Verse 22. - Any image; any pillar, etc. The Hebrew word (מַצֵבָה, mazzebah) denotes generally any pillar or stone that is set up, whether as a memorial (Genesis 28:18), or as a sign (Exodus 24:4; Isaiah 19:19), or for purposes of utility or ornament (Jeremiah 43:13). Here, as in other passages, it is a pillar or statue set up as an object of worship (cf. 2 Kings 3:2; 2 Kings 10:26; Hosea 10:1; Micah 5:12).

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