Deuteronomy 16 – The Three Major Feasts
A. The observance of Passover.
1. (1-2) The sacrifice of the Passover.
Observe the month of Abib, and keep the Passover to the Lord your God, for in the month of Abib the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night. Therefore you shall sacrifice the Passover to the Lord your God, from the flock and the herd, in the place where the Lord chooses to put His name.
a. You shall sacrifice the Passover to the Lord . . . in the place where the Lord chooses to put His name: At the first Passover, each family in Israel sacrificed the Passover lamb at their home. But when Israel came into the Promised Land, the sacrifice was to be made at the tabernacle (and later, the temple).
b. For in the month of Abib the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night: Exodus 12 describes the first Passover, when Israel was delivered from Egypt, and God sent His judgment upon the firstborn of Egypt. God passed over the homes which obediently sacrificed the Passover lamb and applied its blood to the door posts of the home.
c. Keep the Passover to the Lord: Prophetically, the feast of Passover clearly presents Jesus as our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7), the Lamb of God who was sacrificed, and whose blood was received and applied, so the wrath of God would pass over us.
2. (3-4) The Feast of Unleavened Bread, associated with Passover.
You shall eat no leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it, that is, the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), that you may remember the day in which you came out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life. And no leaven shall be seen among you in all your territory for seven days, nor shall any of the meat which you sacrifice the first day at twilight remain overnight until morning.
a. For you came out of the land of Egypt in haste: For the first Passover, the unleavened bread was a practical necessity; they left Egypt in such a hurry there was no time to allow for the dough to rise.
b. And no leaven shall be seen among you in all your territory for seven days: But the Feast of Unleavened Bread, following Passover, continued to be important. Leaven was a picture of sin and corruption, because of the way a little leaven would influence a whole lump of dough, and also because of the way leaven would “puff up” the lump – even as pride and sin makes us “puffed up.”
i. Significantly, God called them to walk unleavened after their initial deliverance from Egypt; symbolically, they were being called to a pure walk with the Lord.
ii. Some suggest there was also a health aspect in getting rid of all the leaven; that since they used a piece of dough from the previous batch to make the bread for that day, and did so repeatedly, that harmful bacteria could take hold in the dough – so it was good to remove all leaven and start all over at least once a year.
iii. The purity of the feast of Unleavened Bread followed upon the blood-deliverance of Passover; we can only walk in purity before the Lord after we have had the blood-deliverance at the cross.
c. You shall eat no leavened bread with it: Prophetically, the feast of Unleavened Bread relates to the time of Jesus’ burial, after His perfect, sinless sacrifice on the cross, during which He was received by God the Father as holy and complete (the Holy One who would not see corruption, Acts 2:27), perfectly accomplishing our salvation.
i. We may regard the burial (or actually, entombment) of Jesus as a small thing in God’s redemptive plan; but it was an essential part of Paul’s gospel: For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
3. (5-8) Regulations for Passover.
You may not sacrifice the Passover within any of your gates which the Lord your God gives you; but at the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide, there you shall sacrifice the Passover at twilight, at the going down of the sun, at the time you came out of Egypt. And you shall roast and eat it in the place which the Lord your God chooses, and in the morning you shall turn and go to your tents. Six days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a sacred assembly to the Lord your God. You shall do no work on it.
B. The observance of the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost).
1. (9-10) The Feast of Weeks.
You shall count seven weeks for yourself; begin to count the seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the grain. Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the Lord your God blesses you.
a. From the time you begin to put the sickle to the grain: The Feast of Weeks (or Pentecost) was a feast associated with the joy of harvest, during which Israelites brought a freewill offering unto the Lord, as a demonstration of the thanks in their heart.
2. (11-12) The joy of Pentecost.
You shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your gates, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are among you, at the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide. And you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall be careful to observe these statutes.
a. You shall rejoice: There was no ritual of sacrifice commanded at Pentecost. Instead, it was a time of joyful thanksgiving for the harvest, and heart-response to God.
b. You shall remember: The joy of Pentecost was intensified by remembering the bondage Israel had escaped.
c. And you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall be careful to observe these statutes: Leviticus 23:15-21 describes how, at the feast of Pentecost, Israel was to celebrate by bringing a new grain offering to the Lord and by waving two loaves of leavened bread unto the Lord. Prophetically, this is a powerful picture of the work of God in the New Covenant, fulfilled at the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2.
i. No atoning sacrifice was necessary because the price had already been paid by Jesus.
ii. There was a great harvest unto God, and great thanksgiving for that harvest.
iii. The response to God on the day of Pentecost was not done out of obligation to a particular law. It was the joyful heart-response of God’s people unto Him.
iv. The church, founded on the day of Pentecost, would include the “leavened bread” of the Gentiles, waved as holy before God – made holy by the work of Jesus the Messiah.
C. The observance of the Feast of Tabernacles.
1. (13-15) How to observe the Feast of Tabernacles.
You shall observe the Feast of Tabernacles seven days, when you have gathered from your threshing floor and from your winepress. And you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant and the Levite, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow, who are within your gates. Seven days you shall keep a sacred feast to the Lord your God in the place which the Lord chooses, because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you surely rejoice.
a. You shall observe the Feast of Tabernacles seven days: This was to happen on the fifteenth day of the Jewish month Tishri (on the Jewish ceremonial calendar). The Feast of Tabernacles was a time to rejoice in God’s deliverance and provision for Israel during the time of wilderness wandering; a time when having come into the Promised Land, looking back with gratitude on all God had done to deliver and provide in the tough times of the wilderness.
i. Leviticus 23:39 says of the Feast of Tabernacles, on the first day there shall be a sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a sabbath rest. The Feast of Tabernacles began and ended in rest; it was all about celebration and rest and refreshment, remembering what God had done.
b. Your manservant and your maidservant: We see here also the great social good God intended in the Sabbath and in the Feasts; in other ancient cultures, there was no day off, and there were no holidays. Here, God commands both holidays and “vacation days” – all centered on Him!
c. Observe the Feast of Tabernacles: Prophetically, the feast of Tabernacles speaks of the millennial rest of comfort of God for Israel and all of God’s people; it is all about peace and rest, from beginning to end.
i. Tabernacles is specifically said to be celebrated during the millennium (Zechariah 14:16-19).
2. (16-17) The command to observe each of these three feasts.
Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed. Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you.
a. Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses: These were only three (four, actually, counting the feast of unleavened bread as a separate feast) of the seven feasts of Israel. Not mentioned in this chapter are the feasts of trumpets, of firstfruits, and of the Day of Atonement.
b. All your males: Yet, the feasts mentioned in this chapter were the most important feasts in Israel – and every Jewish man, to the best of His ability, was to go to the place of the tabernacle (or later, the temple) and celebrate this feast with the whole nation of Israel.
i. Jesus was obedient to this command; He made the trip from Galilee to Jerusalem to be at these feasts (Luke 2:41, John 7:2, 10).
3. (18-20) The appointment of judges and officers.
You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates, which the Lord your God gives you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with just judgment. You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous. You shall follow what is altogether just, that you may live and inherit the land which the Lord your God is giving you.
a. You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates: God knew the importance of just judges and officials to a nation. Therefore God commanded that they shall not pervert justice . . . nor show partiality . . . nor take a bribe; instead, they were to follow what is altogether just. A judge has the responsibility to do justice.
4. (21-22) Prohibition of idol trees and pillars.
You shall not plant for yourself any tree, as a wooden image, near the altar which you build for yourself to the Lord your God. You shall not set up a sacred pillar, which the Lord your God hates.
a. You shall not plant for yourself any tree, as a wooden image, near the altar: Such sacred totems were common among the Canaanites. Israel might have been tempted to be “seeker sensitive” and add such items to their worship of the God of Israel. He wanted none of it. God says of such thing, which the Lord your God hates.
© 2006 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission