The Passover Reviewed
1 "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. 2 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. 3 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. 4 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.
5 "You may not sacrifice the Passover within any of your gates which the LORD your God gives you; 6 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. 7 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. 8 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.
The Feast of Weeks Reviewed
9 "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. 10 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. 11 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. 12 And you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall be careful to observe these statutes.
The Feast of Tabernacles Reviewed
13 "You shall observe the Feast of Tabernacles seven days, when you have gathered from your threshing floor and from your winepress. 14 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. 15 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.
16 "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. 17 Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you.
Justice Must Be Administered
18 "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. 19 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. 20 You shall follow what is altogether just, that you may live and inherit the land which the LORD your God is giving you.
21 "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. 22 You shall not set up a sacred pillar, which the LORD your God hates.
1 "You shall not sacrifice to the LORD your God a bull or sheep which has any blemish or defect, for that is an abomination to the LORD your God.
2 "If there is found among you, within any of your gates which the LORD your God gives you, a man or a woman who has been wicked in the sight of the LORD your God, in transgressing His covenant, 3 who has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, either the sun or moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded, 4 and it is told you, and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently. And if it is indeed true and certain that such an abomination has been committed in Israel, 5 then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has committed that wicked thing, and shall stone to death that man or woman with stones. 6 Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness. 7 The hands of the witnesses shall be the first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So you shall put away the evil from among you.
8 "If a matter arises which is too hard for you to judge, between degrees of guilt for bloodshed, between one judgment or another, or between one punishment or another, matters of controversy within your gates, then you shall arise and go up to the place which the LORD your God chooses. 9 And you shall come to the priests, the Levites, and to the judge there in those days, and inquire of them; they shall pronounce upon you the sentence of judgment. 10 You shall do according to the sentence which they pronounce upon you in that place which the LORD chooses. And you shall be careful to do according to all that they order you. 11 According to the sentence of the law in which they instruct you, according to the judgment which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left from the sentence which they pronounce upon you. 12 Now the man who acts presumptuously and will not heed the priest who stands to minister there before the LORD your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall put away the evil from Israel. 13 And all the people shall hear and fear, and no longer act presumptuously.
Principles Governing Kings
14 "When you come to the land which the LORD your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, "I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me,' 15 you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 16 But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the LORD has said to you, "You shall not return that way again.' 17 Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself.
18 "Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, 20 that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel.
Memorials"Benchmarks for a New Nation
16:1 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.
Like the Body of Christ in our own time, Israel was to be God- living example to the nations of God and His will. Within this reality, chapters 16 and 17 give foundational principles that have clear parallels for us today.
First, we see God called Israel to institute yearly feasts to remind them of His blessings. The Passover was one of these feasts. It reminded them of the judgment of the death angel that "passed over" every Israelite- home where the blood of a sacrificial lamb had marked the doorway (16:1-8). In the New Testament, Jesus is called our "Passover Lamb." He has become the Lamb that has taken away the just punishment of death for our sins when He died in our place upon the cross. Today we celebrate the "Lord- Table" to remember that Christ has become our Passover Lamb.
Secondly, the Jews were to celebrate the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles. These feasts reminded Israel how greatly they had been blessed since God gave them freedom from Egyptian slavery. For these feasts they were to bring freewill offerings to the temple and share with the poor God- blessing and prosperity from their fields. "Every man shall give as he is able according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you" (16:19-20).
In like fashion, we today are called by God to treat our own financial blessings as stewards of His divine blessing. We are to give to help the poor, support ministry, and reach the lost. As a nation, just as the church today, they were called by God to also seek and maintain social justice (16:18-17:13). This practical responsibility is still foundational for our witness for Christ among the nations.
Lastly, guidelines were given to protect the eventual kings of Israel from the corruption and compromise such power tends to breed. They were not to have large amounts of horses for military conflicts; instead their dependency was to be on God. They were not to take multiple wives. This was a common practice of the times, where political alliances were developed through marriage into families of kings of other nations. Nor was a king to seek great wealth for himself. These three measures forced the king to rely upon God and meditate on and live out the scriptures.
We can readily see the wisdom of God in how He sought to establish Israel as a unique nation that honored God at every level of life, from religious feasts to the role of a king. God- wisdom is still the best guide for every area of life today. Follow Him and enjoy the fruit!
The Passover Reviewed
v. 1 keep the PassoverThe Feast of Passover is the oldest continually observed holiday ("holy day") in history, having been observed continually for around 3,500 years wherever Jews have lived in the world. It was meant to commemorate the day that the death angel "passed over" the houses which had the blood of the sacrificial lamb painted on their doorposts. It was observed in "the month of Abib," which takes places in our Spring, either in March or April. More detail can be found on the observance of Passover in Exodus 12, Leviticus 23:5-8 and Numbers 28:16-25. The Passover is a dramatic foreshadowing of Jesus Christ, who was the spotless Lamb slain so that those who will place themselves under the power of His blood would not taste eternal death.
v. 2 sacrifice the Passover-The Passover" here is meant to refer to the Passover sacrifice, the unblemished lamb which would be slain and eaten by the family.
where the Lord chooses to put His nameUp until this point, the Passover was celebrated by individual families in their own homes. Here however, God commands that when they enter into the Promised Land and He chooses the place where the Tabernacle (and later the Temple) was situated, they were to bring their Passover lambs to that one communal place and sacrifice them together as a nation.
v. 3 eat no unleavened breadThe day immediately following the Feast Of Passover was the beginning of the next Feast on the Jewish calendar, the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Unleavened bread was a reminder to them of the hasty departure they made from Egypt, and that they did not have time to make bread which would rise. Leaven also later came to symbolize people- deliberate sin, due to the fact that leaven causes bread to rise as it decays rapidly, giving off gasses which form air pockets in the dough. The Feast of Unleavened Bread was fulfilled by Jesus not only because He had no sin in Him, but also because when, after His crucifixion (on Passover) His body was placed in a tomb, it did not see decay (in fulfillment of Psalm 16:10).
v. 4 for seven daysThe children of Israel were required to thoroughly cleanse their homes of all traces of leaven, seven days before the Feast began. This was a reminder to them that the Passover represented not only a spotless, sinless sacrifice but also God- desire that His people follow suit and allow Him to deal with the sin in their own lives (1 Cor. 5:6-8).
v. 8 you shall do no work on itThe Feasts of Israel were considered Sabbaths, and just as on the weekly Sabbath they were to do no rest, on the Feast days they were prohibited from doing any typical labor. God desired to see His people set aside all of the mundane tasks which are associated with daily living and focus only on Him for that time.
The Feast of Weeks Reviewed
v. 9 count seven weeks for yourselfThe Feast of Weeks took place seven weeks after the Feast of First Fruits, a date by which they had put the sickle to their barley and harvested the first fruits of their crop. They would count out seven weeks, or seven sets of sevens, which added up to 49 days, and celebrate the Feast of Weeks on the fiftieth day. Thus the Feast became known in the Greek language as "Pentecost," which means "fiftieth day." The Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost, was fulfilled on the day that the Holy Spirit was sent to fill His church in Acts 2:1-4.
v. 10 freewill offeringThe Feast of Weeks was meant to honor and thank God for the harvest which had fully come. Therefore besides the sacrificial animals which were to be brought before the Lord (described in Leviticus 23:15-21) they were to bake two loaves of bread, bring them to the Tabernacle or Temple and waive them there before Him in thanksgiving for the harvest. As Weeks was later fulfilled in the Acts 2 Pentecost, those two loaves are thought to represent Jews and Gentiles who were being brought to God and saved together as part of the greatest harvest season the world has ever seen.
The Feast of Tabernacles Reviewed
v. 13 observe the Feast of TabernaclesSometimes called the Feast of Ingathering or the Feast of Booths, Tabernacles was a Fall Feast which takes place in our months of September or October. The Feast was meant to commemorate the years in which the children of Israel wandered through the wilderness and experienced miraculous provision from God. As explained in verse 16, along with Unleavened Bread and Weeks, it was a "pilgrim Feast," or one for which all of the males in Israel were required to travel to Jerusalem to observe the holiday. There they would build leafy huts made out of tree branches in which to live for the seven days of the Feast, a reminder of the conditions in which they lived in the wilderness. More detailed information on the observance of Tabernacles is found in Exodus 23:16 and Leviticus 23:33-43. This Feast is commonly agreed upon as one which will be fulfilled in our future, when Jesus returns to this earth and dwells ("tabernacles") with us for 1,000 years.
v. 17 empty-handedWhen traveling to Jerusalem for the three pilgrim feasts, the men were to bring something in their hand with which to celebrate. The Lord desired for these to be joyous occasions, and therefore not a time for meager provisions.
Justice Must Be Administered
v. 18 appoint judges and officers in all your gatesOnce Israel was firmly established in the Promised Land, every city was to have its own representative government, including local courts. The next few verses will establish the necessity of honesty and integrity among those making judgments, and the next chapter will describe a system of appeals to higher courts which was available to those unsatisfied with the rulings of the lower local courts.
v. 21 any tree as a wooden imageThe pagans who had previously inherited Canaan planted groves of trees which they considered sacred, and under which they would worship their gods. They had also set up wooden images, much like "totem poles," to represent and honor their goddess Asherah. However the religion prescribed by God in His Word knows nothing of this, and therefore the Lord here prohibits the incorporation of pagan worship practices into His own.
v. 22 sacred pillarThe Canaanites also built stone pillars which were meant to represent male fertility. The children of Israel were repeatedly forbidden to incorporate such idolatry into their own lives or religions.
v. 2 if there is found among youChapter 17 begins with instructions concerning those who would later rebel against the commands of the Lord in Israel. These commands are not intended to apply to every person who commits sin, because everyone in Israel would be a sinner, as we all are. These commands are to be applied to the person who willfully breaks the covenant of the Lord, as described in the next verse.
v. 3 served other gods and worshiped themThis is the description of the particular transgression which called for the severe punishment described in this chapter. The person who deliberately breaks their covenant with God in such a way that they turn away from Him to worship other gods, whether they be pagan idols or the hosts of Heaven (many of the pagans would worship the sun, moon, and stars), was to be put to death. One reason for this severity would be that the individual had broken a covenant with God which was much like marriage, and the penalty for adultery in Old Testament Israel was death. Another reason for the severity was that God knows how infectious and contagious apostasy is; that if apostasy were allowed to remain undealt with in Israel, it could easily spread throughout the entire nation and lead all of them astray. Thus it could have eternal ramifications for hundreds of thousands of people.
v. 4 you shall inquire diligentlyIf an Israelite heard that another Hebrew was following after false gods, it was their responsibility to look into the matter rather than just ignoring it. However, the Lord also commands them to make a diligent inquiry, rather than jumping to a conclusion on the basis of hearsay. There was to be a thorough examination of the matter, and He describes in later verses the fact that there were to be witnesses included in the investigation.
v. 6 two or three witnessesThe Lord is so mindful of the life of men that He demands two or three eyewitnesses of an event in order to put a person to death for a capital crime. He tells them specifically in this verse that the testimony of one witness is not enough, but that it would require at least two eyewitnesses who were willing to stand up and verbally accuse the condemned in public.
v. 7 the first against him to put him to deathThe one who is willing to stand up and publicly accuse the condemned is also required to be the first one to pick up a stone against them in putting them to death. This would have the effect of cautioning the witness against making a false accusation or even a hasty decision on what they have seen. It would also subject them to the penalty of blood vengeance if they had wrongfully condemned someone to death (19:15-21).
v. 8 too hard for you to judgeThe Lord makes provision for cases which were too difficult for the lower, local courts to decide. In that case, verse 9 instructs them to take the case to the priests, who would seek direction from the Lord on what to do with the accused. Thus the process involves a direct word from God.
v. 12 who acts presumptuouslyThe word "presumptuously" means "in arrogance," and refers to the person who chooses not to obey the word given by God through the Priests. The previous few verses state that when the Lord has spoken through His representatives on a matter, great care was to be taken to obey His voice and carry out His will. Here, He instructs that the man who does not respect and heed the voice of God should suffer the penalty that was at first to abide upon the accused.
Principles Governing Kings
v. 14 like all the nations that are around methis is the only passage in the Law which addresses the possibility of a monarchy. Moses here steps again into the role of prophet, looking by the Spirit into Israel- future and predicting that the day will come on which they will demand that God give them a king so that they could be like all the other nations around them. This was fulfilled in the days of Samuel and Saul (1 Sam. 8:5,19,20; 10:19), and was an unfortunate turn of events, as God desired for Israel to be a theocracy, rather than a monarchy. He Himself wanted to be the only King over Israel, and to set them apart from other nations in that way. However, the Lord does give them instructions that will ensure that they will be somewhat distinct from the other nations, in that their king will have strict guidelines around them to guide their spiritual path and moral behavior.
v. 15 whom the Lord your God choosesThey were not to hold elections, but were to rather seek the voice and will of God concerning the identity of their king. The Lord also instructs them to ensure that a fellow Israelite takes the throne, rather than a foreigner.
v. 16 shall not multiply horses for himselfOnce Israel began to look up to a king, his tendency would be to desire the accouterments of other monarchies around him. The Lord here advises him not to begin to accumulate horses for himself, as the tendency would be to put his trust in horses and chariots as the strength of Israel. God desired that all of Israel and her king would put their trust in Him alone for their security and strength. Egypt was a country which abounded in renowned breeds of horses, but the Lord desired that His people would never return to that nation which had oppressed them, and from which He had just delivered them.
v. 17 neither shall he multiply wives for himselfPolygamy was never God- desire for His people. As Genesis 2:24 states, every man is to leave his father and mother and cleave to his one wife, and that the two of them shall become one flesh. This is impossible to do with more than one wife, and so the Lord instructs at the very outset of the Scriptures that marriage is to be between one man and one woman, in a lifelong relationship of love and commitment. However, when Israel enthrones her king, he will begin to become puffed up and desire to multiply horses, wives, and gold for himself. As in the case with Solomon, that would be a road to inevitable disaster.
v. 18 shall write for himself a copy of this LawIsrael- king, before taking the throne, was to be required to hand-write a copy of the entire Law of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy). This would have the effect of ensuring that he was familiar with the Word and the desires of God, and would help serve as a defense against transgressing the commands of God listed in this chapter.