Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 4: Harmony of the Law, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
Deut. 16:1, 2, 5-17
1. 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.
1. Observa mensem Abib, et fac Pesah Jehovae Deo tuo: quia mense Abib eduxit to Jehova Deus tuus ex Aegypto nocte.
2. 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.
2 Et sacrificabis Pesah Jehovae Deo tuo de pecudibus et bobus, in loco quem elegerit Jehova ut habitare faciat nomen suum ibi.
5. Thou mayest not sacrifice the passover within any of thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee:
5. Non poteris sacrificare Pesah in aliqua e portis tuis quas Jehova Deus tuus dat tibi.
6. 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.
6. Sed in loco quem elegerit Jehova Deus tuus ut habitare faciat nomen suum ibi: sacrificabis Pesah ad vesperam, occumbente sole, tempore quo egressus es ex Aegypto.
7. 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.
7. Assabis autem ac comedes in loco quem elegerit Jehova Deus tuus, postea mane conversus reverteris in tabernacula tua.
8. 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.
8. Sex diebus comedes infermentata, die autem septimo erit solennitas Jehovae Deo tuo: non facies opus ullum.
9. 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.
9. Septem hebdomadas numerabis tibi, ex quo ceperit falx esse in segete, incipies numerare septem hebdomadas.
10. 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:
10. Postea celebrabis solennitatem hebdomadum Jehovae Deo tuo pro facultate spontaneae marius tuae quod dabis pront benedixerit tibi Jehova Deus tuus.
11. 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.
11. Et laetaberis coram Jehova Deo tuo, tu et filius tuus et filia tua, et servus tuns et ancilla tua, et Levita qui est intra portas tuas, et peregrinus, et pupillus, et vidua, qui fuerint in medio tui, in loco quem elegerit Jehova Deus tuus ut habitare faciat nomen suum ibi.
12. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt: and thou shalt observe and do these statutes.
12. Et recordaberis quod servus fueris in Aegypto, propterea custodies ac facies statuta haec.
13. Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy wine:
13. Solennitatem tabernaculorum facies septem diebus, quum collegeris tu de area tua, et de torculari tuo.
14. 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.
14. Et laetaberis in solennitate tua, tu et filius tuus et filia tua, et servus tuus et ancilla tua, et Levita, et peregrinus, et pupillus, et vidua, qui habitaverint intra portas tuas.
15. 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.
15. Septem diebus solennitatem celebrabis Jehovae Deo tuo in loco quem elegerit Jehova: quum benedixerit tibi Jehova Deus tuus in cunctis frugibus this, et in omni opere manuum tuarum, et eris tantummodo laetus.
16. 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:
16. Tribus vicibus quotannis conspicietur omnis masculus tuus coram Jehova Deo tuo, in loco quem elegerit, in solennitate inferment atorum, et in solennitate hebdomadum, et in solennitate tabernaculorum, neque quisquam conspicietur coram Jehova vacuus.
17. Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which he hath given thee.
17. Quisque secundum donum manus suae, secundum benedictionem Jehovae Dei tui quam dedit tibi.
1. Observe the month Abib. For what purpose God instituted the Passover, has already been shewn in the exposition of the First Commandment; for since it was a symbol of redemption, and in that ceremony the people exercised themselves in the pure worship of the One God, so as to acknowledge Him to be their only Father, and to distinguish Him from all idols, I thought that the actual slaying of the lamb should be introduced amongst the Supplements to the First Commandment. It only remains for us to speak here of what relates to the Sabbath. This then was the first solemn day, on which God would have His people rest and go up to Jerusalem, forsaking all their business. But mention is here made not only of the Paschal Lamb, but He also commands sheep and oxen to be slain in the place which He should choose. In these words He signifies that on that day a holy convocation was to be held; which is soon after more clearly expressed, for I have already given the two intermediate verses in the institution of the Passover itself, He therefore prohibits their slaying the Passover apart in their own cities, but would have them all meet in the same sanctuary. It has been elsewhere said that one altar was prescribed for them, as if God would gather them under one banner for the preservation of concord and the unity of the faith. What is added respecting the solemnity of the seventh day is very appropriate to this place.
9. Seven weeks shalt thou number. It must be observed that the Passover fell in a part of the year when the harvests were beginning to ripen; and consequently the first-fruits, of which I treated under the First Commandment, were then offered. Seven weeks afterwards they celebrated another feast-day, which was called Pentecost, i.e., the fiftieth, by the Greeks. There was just this number of days between the departure of the people and the publication of the Law. Another offering of first-fruits was then made, in which each one, according to his ability, and in proportion to the produce of the year, consecrated a gift to God of the harvested fruits. In order that they might be more ready and cheerful in their liberality, God’s blessing is set before them, as if Moses had commanded the people to testify their gratitude; since whatever springs from the earth, is the mere bounty of God Himself.
11. And thou shalt require. On another ground he exhorts and excites them to willingness, because the service of God brings this rejoicing; for there is nothing which ought more to stimulate us to obedience, that when we know that God rather consults our good than seeks to obtain any advantage from us. Ungodly men, indeed, rejoice also, nay, they are wanton and intemperate in their joy; but since that joy is not only transient, but their laughter is turned into weeping and gnashing of teeth, it is not without cause that Moses here magnifies it as a peculiar blessing, to rejoice before God; as if a father should invite his children to delight themselves together with him. But by this external exercise, believers were reminded that there is no real or desirable joy, unless in reference to God. And surely, however the wicked may exult in their pleasures, and abandon themselves to gratifcations, still, since tranquillity of conscience, which alone brings true rejoicing, is wanting to them, they do not enjoy the merriment into which they plunge themselves. Finally, Moses amplifies by a comparison the good which they enjoyed in the service of God, when he says, “And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt;” for that their present condition might be more pleasant to them, he heightened its sweetness by the recollection of their most miserable captivity. I have here neglected Cicero’s 360 very subtle distinction between the words gaudium and laetitia, for unless I take both of them in a good sense, I could not translate the Hebrew words, whereby God would express how indulgently He deals with His children. Meanwhile, this passage contains an exhortation to render thanks to God our deliverer.
13. Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles. Its first day was called the day of In-gathering, (collectionum,) because the produce of the whole year was then stored in their granaries 361 and provision cellars. Since, therefore, they then rested from their rural labors, it was a convenient time of year for the celebration of the festivals; for in order that they might more willingly go up to Jerusalem, it was arranged by God, that it should be done with but little expense and sacrifice of their domestic interests. Where our translation is, “When Jehovah shall have blessed thee,” it stands literally, “Because he shall bless thee,” 362 but the sense is nearly the same; for Moses assures them that, provided they devote their minds diligently and faithfully to the service of God, they shall never want grounds for rejoicing, since He will never interrupt the flow of His blessing. The end, therefore, of the fifteenth verse, is not a mere command, but also a promise; as if he had said, that, if they were not ungrateful, there was no fear but that God would continually supply new cause for gladness; and these two clauses are to be taken in connection, “God will bless thee, and, therefore, thou shalt only rejoice;” for in this passage I willingly interpret thus 363 the particle אך, ak. It is indeed absurd to take it adversatively. It will not, therefore, be improper to explain it exclusively, as if he said, that, there should be no sorrow or anxiety, which should hinder them from the performance of their pious duty; those who render it “surely,” approach also to this meaning.
16. Three times in a year. We have previously said that although the other feast-days were not to be neglected, still, because God would make some allowance for the infirmity of His people, the necessity of going up to Jerusalem five times a year was not imposed upon them. Again, because only half of the seventh month contained three feast-days, i.e., from the first to the fifteenth, for the same reason it is only required of the males that they should leave their houses and celebrate the sacred convocations; for thus the females are spared, to whom traveling is not so convenient. Besides, through the fecundity promised them by God, they were almost always either pregnant or nursing. It is also certain that the boys and young men were excepted under the age of twenty, since God includes under the term males only those who were comprised in the census. If any object that in God’s spiritual worship there is no difference between males and females; the reply is easy, that the fathers of families presented themselves there in the names of their wives and children: so that the profession was extended to the other sex, and to those of tender age. To this David seems to allude, when he says: 364
"Thy people shall come with voluntary offerings in the day of thy assembly, in the beauties of holiness,” (Ps 110:3;)
for, speaking of the free-will-offerings of the people, he seeks an example of it, after the manner of the prophets, from the legal worship. Lest the Jews should object that there was danger of hostile invasion, if the land should be stripped of its defenses by the gathering together of all the men into one place, God anticipates this doubt in Exodus 34, promising that He will provide that no one shall desire to assail their forsaken homes; for to this the sentence refers: “I will cast out the nations before thee, and enlarge thy borders, so that no man shall desire thy land,” Ex 34:24 Whence also we gather, that God’s worship was not entirely established until all the neighboring nations were subdued, and He had placed His sanctuary in Mount Zion. Not that it was allowable for the people to omit the feast-days before that time; but that experience itself might teach them that God was wroth with them, whilst He deprived them of this special blessing; for fear and alarm arose only from their own fault. But let believers collect from hence the useful doctrine that, whenever they are following God, they will be safe under His protection, since it is in His power to repel the assaults of enemies, and everything that can harm them.
And they shall not appear before the Lord empty, 365 I know not how it could have entered the minds of some to suppose that God here promised that all should be rich who should present themselves three times (a year) before His sanctuary: whereas it is plain from the words of Moses that He requires from every one some gift in token of their gratitude. And perhaps 366 what historians relate respecting the Persians, that none should dare to address the king without a gift, was a more ancient custom, and common to other nations. God would indeed have a gift presented Him by each individual, as a symbol or earnest of their subjection; and, although this legal rite has ceased, yet its substance is to be retained, viz., that those only are true servants of God who do not boastfully make a mere empty profession, but effectually testify that they acknowledge Him as their King.
Tusc. Quoest iv., “Nam cum ratione animus movetur placide et constanter, tum illud gaudium dicitur; cum autem inaniter, et effuse animus exultat, tum ilia laetitia gestiens, vel nimia dici potest; quam ita definiunt, sine ratione animi elationem.” — Edit. Elz., 1661, p. 1088, a.
“Aux greniers, ou aux caves, ou fenils, et gardoirs de toute provision.” — Fr.
Vide A. V., De 16:15, “Because the Lord thy God shall bless thee,” etc.
“Car il y a ici un mot qui se prend bien pour Toutes fois; mais il signifie pareillement Tant y a, ou Quoy qu’il en soit, ou Pour vrai;” for there is here a word, which may properly mean, Nevertheless; but it also means However, or, At any rate, or, Truly. — Fr.
"Only (Utique, Vatablus; veruntamen, Pagninus; profrcto, Malvenda) joyful; understand, and not sad, i.e., You shall indulge in nothing but rejoicing.” — Pol. Syn. in loco.
“Populus tuus liberalitatum est,” etc. — Lat. “Ton peuple est de franche volonte,” etc. — Fr. See Calvin on Psalm 110, Calvin Translation Society’s Edition, vol. 4, p. 296, and note, p. 301.
“Others thus explain it, viz., that you should not be troubled at having to go so often to Jerusalem, because you should never go there in vain: some blessing shall always be brought away; I will not send you away empty.” Fagii Coll. Vers. in Poli. Syn. Ex 23:15.
“Nobody, of what rank soever, appeared before the king without a present, which custom prevails among the Orientals to this day. When he went on his progress, or marched out with his army, all the inhabitants of the countries or provinces through which he passed were obliged to declare their vassalage by some present or other; even the inhabitants of the villages and fields flocked to him with some donation, some offering sheep, oxen, corn, wine, etc.; others milk, cheese, dates, etc., every one according to his ability.” Ancient Universal Hist., Vol. 5:139, from Aeliani Var. Hist. 1:32, 33.
Dr. Kitto, in his little work, “The Court of Persia,” gives some remarkable particulars from Morier respecting this custom as still existing.