Three Festivals of Israel
Moses reviewed, in summary fashion, the three festivals that the Israelites were to observe throughout the year. The first of these was the Passover, which was to be observed in “the month of Abib,” which means “green ears” (which approximates our month of April). This festival commemorated the major event in the life of Israel, their deliverance from Egyptian bondage. It served as an annual reminder of their slavery in and deliverance from Egypt. It was to be celebrated in the place of God’s choosing (16:6). They were to abstain from eating leavened bread (16:3). Instead, they were to eat “unleavened bread, the bread of affliction” to commemorate their hasty departure from Egypt (16:3). They were also to completely consume their meat during each night of the festival (16:4), cooking the meat in the vicinity of the sanctuary (16:5-7). The observance was to conclude with “a solemn assembly to the Lord your God” (16:8).
The Feast of Weeks was an observance that celebrated God’s provision of the harvest. This one-day festival was also known as … Feast of Harvest in Exodus 23:16 … the “day of first-fruits” in Numbers 28:26 … and Pentecost (based on the Septuagint’s translation of “fifty days” in Leviticus 23:16). Notice the instructions of Moses in these verses …
First, “you shall count … ” (16:9). The people were to count seven weeks from the time their harvest began in March or April.
Second, “you shall celebrate … ” (16:10). The feast was to be celebrated with the giving of a freewill offering.
Third, “you shall rejoice … ” (16:11). The people were to rejoice “before the Lord your God.” C.H. Spurgeon said, “When we bless God for mercies we prolong them, and when we bless Him for miseries we usually end them. Praise is the honey of life, which a devout heart sucks from every bloom of providence and grace. We may as well be dead as be without praise; it is the crown of life.”
Fourth, “you shall remember … ” (16:12). God never wanted for the Israelites to forget their obligation to Him.
The Feast of Booths was to be observed in commemoration of the wilderness wanderings when the Israelites lived in booths (Leviticus 23:42-43). It was celebrated after the fall harvest (Leviticus 23:39). The Israelites were to construct booths (Leviticus 23:40) and live in them for a week (Leviticus 23:39).
The Principle of Justice
The administration of justice in the new land was a matter of concern for Moses. He gave instructions for the appointment of “judges and officers in all your towns” (16:18). Moses declared that these judges and officers were required to “judge the people with righteous judgment” (16:18). In order to do this they would have to do at least four things. Each of these point to the fact that judges were to be men of integrity.
First, “you shall not distort justice” (16:19).
Second, “you shall not be partial” (16:19).
Third, “you shall not take a bribe” (16:19).
Fourth, “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue” (16:20).
Practices to Be Avoided
Deuteronomy 16:21 – 17:7
16:21 – 17:7
Once again, Moses reminded the people that they were to avoid idolatry and anything that might tempt them to worship idols or participate in idolatrous practices. They were prohibited from setting up an Asherah (16:21-22) and bringing blemished sacrifices to the Lord (17:1). Idolaters were to be executed (17:2-7) so that the religious stability of the nation might not be threatened.