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Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, [1834], at

Leviticus Chapter 23

Leviticus 23:1

lev 23:1

The specified times for public worship according to the Law were;

(1) The daily morning and evening sacrifices, sometimes called "the continual burnt-offering."

(2) The weekly Sabbath.

(3) the day of the new moon.

(4) the "set feasts" Num 29:39 or appointed times of annual observance, of which there were five, the Passover, the Day of Pentecost, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles. For each of these occasions special sacrifices were appointed Num. 28; 29.

Leviticus 23:2

lev 23:2

The feasts - literally, the appointed times. So in Lev 23:4, Lev 23:37, etc. This section Lev. 23:1-38 sets forth for practical guidance the relation in which the appointed times of the Lord, weekly as well as annual, stood to the ordinary occupations of the people.

Holy convocations - Days of sabbatical rest for the whole people; they owed their name to gatherings for religious edification, which, in later times, were probably held in every town and village in the holy land. There were in the course of the year, besides the weekly Sabbaths, seven days of holy convocation Exo 12:16; Num 28:18, Num 28:25-26; Num 29:1, Num 29:12, Num 29:35, with a distinction between them as regards strictness of observance (compare Lev 23:3, Lev 23:28 with Lev 23:7).

Leviticus 23:3

lev 23:3

The seventh day had been consecrated as the Sabbath of Yahweh, figuring His own rest; it was the acknowledged sign of the covenant between God and His people. See the Exo 20:1-11 notes. As such it properly held its place at the head of the days of holy convocation.

Leviticus 23:4

lev 23:4

The recurrence of the sabbatical number in the five annual days of holy convocation should be noticed.

Leviticus 23:5

lev 23:5

In these verses, the Passover, or Paschal Supper, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, are plainly spoken of as distinct feasts. See Exo 12:6, Exo 12:15, Exo 12:17; Num 28:16-17.

Lev 23:5

See Exo 12:6. According to the Hebrew mode of reckoning, the 15th day of the month began on the evening of the 14th. The day of holy convocation with which the Feast of Unleavened Bread commenced Lev 23:7 was the 15th, and that with which it terminated was the 21st. Compare Num 28:16-17.

Lev 23:6

Feast - The three festivals (often called the Great Festivals), Passover, Pentecost and tabernacles, to which the name חג chag, i. e. a feast or rejoicing properly belongs Lev 23:6, Lev 23:34, Lev 23:39, Lev 23:41, were distinguished by the attendance of the male Israelites at the national sanctuary (compare Exo 23:17; Exo 34:23; Deu 16:16). In later times they were called by the rabbins "pilgrimage feasts." It is worthy of note that the Hebrew word is identical with the Arabic "haj", the name of the pilgrimage to Mecca, from which comes the well-known word for a pilgrim, "haji".

Lev 23:7

No servile work - literally, no work of labor, no work that belongs to one's worldly calling, such as labor in agriculture or handicraft. The preparation of food was permitted Exo 12:16, a licence not granted on the weekly Sabbath, or on the day of atonement Lev 23:28, Lev 23:30; Exo 20:10; Exo 35:3.

Lev 23:8

The sacrifices here meant are named in Num 28:19-24.

Leviticus 23:9

lev 23:9

These verses contain a distinct command regarding the religious services immediately connected with the grain harvest, given by anticipation against the time when the people were to possess the promised land.

Lev 23:10

Sheaf - The original word, "omer", means either a sheaf Deu 24:19; Rut 2:7, or a measure Exo 16:16. Our version is probably right in this place. The offering which was waved Lev 7:30 was most likely a small sheaf of barley, the grain which is first ripe. The first fruits of the wheat harvest were offered seven weeks later in the loaves of Pentecost. See Lev 23:15-17. The two offerings thus figure the very commencement and the completion of the grain harvest; compare Rut 1:22; Rut 2:23.

Lev 23:11

On the morrow after the sabbath - It is most probable that these words denote the 16th of Abib, the day after the first day of holy convocation (see Lev 23:5-8 note), and that this was called "the Sabbath of the Passover", or, "the Sabbath of unleavened bread".

Lev 23:13

Two tenth deals - Two omers, or tenth parts of an ephah, about a gallon and three quarters. See Lev 19:36 note. The double quantity (contrast Exo 29:40; Num 15:4; Num 28:19-21), implying greater liberality, was appropriate in a harvest feast.

Drink offering - This and Lev 23:18, Lev 23:37 are the only places in the book of Leviticus in which drink-offerings are mentioned. See the Exo 29:40 note.

Lev 23:14

Bread ... parched corn ... green ears - These are the three forms in which grain was commonly eaten. The old name, Abib, signified "the month of green ears." See Jos 5:11.

Lev 23:15

The morrow after the sabbath - See Lev 23:11 note.

Seven sabbaths - More properly, seven weeks (compare Deu 16:9). The word Sabbath, in the language of the New Testament as well as the Old, is used for "week" (Lev 25:8; Mat 28:1; Luk 18:12, etc.).

Lev 23:16

The morrow after the seventh week was the 50th day after the conclusion of a week of weeks. The day is called in the Old Testament, "the feast of harvest" Exo 23:16, "the feast of weeks," "the feast of the first fruits of wheat harvest" Exo 34:22; Deu 16:10, and "the day of the first fruits" Num 28:26. The word "Pentecost" used in the heading of this chapter in English Bibles is found only in the Apocrypha and the New Testament, Tobit 2:1; 2 Macc. 12:32; Act 2:1; Act 20:16; Co1 16:8.

Lev 23:17

Habitations - Not strictly houses, but places of abode in a general sense. It seems here to denote the land in which the Israelites were to dwell so as to express that the flour was to be of home growth. The two loaves were to be merely waved before Yahweh and then to become the property of the priests. No bread containing leaven could be offered on the altar (see the Lev 2:11 note). The object of this offering seems to have been to present to the Lord the best produce of the earth in the actual condition in which it is most useful for the support of human life. It thus represented in the fittest manner the thanksgiving which was proper for the season. The loaves appear to be distinctively called "the first fruits for Yahweh," and references to them are found in Rom 11:16; Co1 15:20, Co1 15:23; Jam 1:18; Rev 14:4, etc. As these loaves offered before Yahweh sanctified the harvest of the year, so has "Christ the firstfruits" sanctified the Church, which, in its union with Him as the firstfruits, becomes also the Sanctifier of the world. See the services for Whitsuntide.

Lev 23:18

More properly, seven sheep of a year old (to be distinguished from the lamb in Lev 23:12), and a young bull which might be from one to three years old. Compare Num 28:26-27.

Lev 23:19

Properly, a shaggy he-goat Lev 4:23 and two sheep of a year old.

Lev 23:20

When living creatures were "waved" Lev 7:30 before Yahweh, it is said that they were led to and fro before the tabernacle according to an established form.

Lev 23:21

The self-same day - The Feast of Weeks was distinguished from the two other great annual feasts by its consisting, according to the Law, of only a single day. But in later times it is said that during the following six days the Israelites used to bring their offerings to the temple, and to give the week something of a festal character in the suspension of mourning for the dead.

Lev 23:22

The repetition of the Law (see the margin reference) is appropriately connected with the thanksgiving for the completed grain harvest.

Leviticus 23:24

lev 23:24

A sabbath - Here and in Lev 23:39 a word which should rather be rendered a sabbatical rest.

Blowing of trumpets - Here and in Num 29:1, literally "shouting". There is no mention of trumpets in the Hebrew text of the Law in connection with the day. However, there is no reason to doubt the tradition that the day was distinguished by a general blowing of trumpets throughout the land, and that the kind of trumpet generally used for the purpose was the curved horn of an animal or a cornet of metal, such as was used at Sinai Exo 19:16, and on the Day of Jubilee Lev 25:9. It must have differed in this respect from the ordinary festival of the New moon when the long straight trumpet of the temple alone was blown (Num 10:2; Exo 25:23; see cut).

Seventh month - Called by the Jews in later times it was called Tisri, but in the Old Testament Ethanim, Kg1 8:2. According to the uniform voice of tradition "the first day" of this month was the first day of the Civil year in use before the Exodus, and was observed as the festival of the New year. Some have viewed it as a commemoration of the Creation of the world Job 38:7 : others, as the anniversary of the giving of the Law.

Leviticus 23:27

lev 23:27

Also - Surely. On the special rites of the day, the tenth of Tisri, that is from the evening of the ninth day of the month to that of the tenth Lev 23:32, see Lev. 16.

Leviticus 23:34

lev 23:34

Seven days - Like the Passover, the feast of tabernacles commenced at the full moon, on the fifteenth day of the month, and lasted for seven days. The week of the feast was followed by an eighth day, forming strictly no part of it Lev 23:36, Num 29:35; Neh 8:18, which was a day of holy convocation, and appears to have been generally distinguished by the word translated "solemn assembly" Deu 16:8; Kg2 10:20; Isa 1:13; Joe 1:14; Joe 2:15. From its derivation the word in the original appears strictly to denote a closing festival, and this rendering would apply with the most perfect fitness to the day after the week of the Feast of tabernacles, as the conclusion of the series of yearly festivals.

Leviticus 23:36

lev 23:36

An offering made by fire - See Lev 23:8. The succession of sacrifices prescribed in Num. 29:12-38, which forms such a marked feature in the Feast of Tabernacles, tends to show the distinctness of the "solemn assembly" from the festal week.

Leviticus 23:37

lev 23:37

The meaning appears to be; "these are the yearly appointed times on which ye shall hold holy convocations and offer to Yahweh sacrifices, in addition to the Sabbath offerings Num 28:9-10 and to all your voluntary offerings." Compare Num 29:39.

Leviticus 23:39

lev 23:39

Also - Surely. The mode in which the Feast of Tabernacles is here reintroduced, after the mention of it in Lev 23:34-36, may suggest that this passage originally formed a distinct document.

The fruit of the land - i. e. the produce, including the grain, the olives, the vintage and the fruits of all kinds. The time of year so indicated would answer in the holy land to the beginning of October. See Exo 23:16 note.

Leviticus 23:40

lev 23:40

The boughs of goodly trees - Or, the fruit (see the margin) of the citron trees. It is said that every Israelite at the Feast of tabernacles carried in one hand a bundle of branches and in the other a citron. The branches seem to have comprised the boughs of palm-trees, "thick trees" and willows here named. See the note to Lev 23:42; Neh 8:15-16.

Leviticus 23:42

lev 23:42

Booths - According to Jewish tradition, what were used at the Feast of Tabernacles were strictly "tabernacula," structures of boards, with a covering of boughs.

The "booth" in which the Israelite kept the Feast, and the "tent" which was his ordinary abode in the wilderness, had this in common - they were temporary places of sojourn, they belonged to camp-life. The seven days of abode in the booths of the festival was thus a fair symbol of the forty years of abode in tents in the wilderness. The Feast might well become the appointed memorial of this period of their history for the ages to come.

All that are Israelites born - The omission of the foreigners in this command is remarkable. Perhaps the intention was that on this joyous occasion they were to be hospitably entertained as guests. Compare Deu 16:14.

Leviticus 23:44

lev 23:44

Feasts - Appointed times. See Lev 23:2 note.

Next: Leviticus Chapter 24