Deuteronomy 16


When Israel were settled in the land, they were to celebrate the feasts that are described in this chapter, Exodus 12:1-20 / Exodus 16:14-17 / Exodus 34:13-23 / Leviticus 23:1-44 / Numbers 28:16-29:40.

The Passover

‘Observe the month of Aviv and celebrate the Passover of the LORD your God, because in the month of Aviv he brought you out of Egypt by night. Sacrifice as the Passover to the LORD your God an animal from your flock or herd at the place the LORD will choose as a dwelling for his Name. Do not eat it with bread made with yeast, but for seven days eat unleavened bread, the bread of affliction, because you left Egypt in haste—so that all the days of your life you may remember the time of your departure from Egypt. Let no yeast be found in your possession in all your land for seven days. Do not let any of the meat you sacrifice on the evening of the first day remain until morning. You must not sacrifice the Passover in any town the LORD your God gives you except in the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name. There you must sacrifice the Passover in the evening, when the sun goes down, on the anniversary of your departure from Egypt. Roast it and eat it at the place the LORD your God will choose. Then in the morning return to your tents. For six days eat unleavened bread and on the seventh day hold an assembly to the LORD your God and do no work.’ Deuteronomy 16:1-8

The Passover is only mentioned briefly here since it had been fully described in Exodus 12:1-30. Notice that the Passover was to be held on the 14th day of the month. The Jews followed a lunar calendar, their month would begin with the New Moon. This means that the 14th day of the month would be the time of the Full Moon.

Some have wondered if the darkness of the sun at the death of Christ could have been caused by a solar eclipse. But this could not be the case, for it took place in the season of Passover, the time of the Full Moon.

It’s important to note that the Passover feast was to be celebrated first, this was the feast of unleavened bread and the Passover. Passover was a celebration of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt by the hands of God.

For Christians today, this feast is really important because Jesus is our Passover Lamb, John 1:29 / 1 Corinthians 5:7. Just as Israel were redeemed from Egyptian slavery, so too has the Christian been redeemed from the slavery of sin, Galatians 3:16 / Titus 2:14.

As the location was different each year, they would assemble where the tabernacle was placed in order to celebrate as a nation their deliverance from Egyptian captivity.

The Festival Of Weeks

‘Count off seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain. Then celebrate the Festival of Weeks to the LORD your God by giving a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings the LORD your God has given you. And rejoice before the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, the Levites in your towns, and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows living among you. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and follow carefully these decrees.’ Deuteronomy 16:9-12

The festival of weeks is the feast of harvest, whilst the feast of firstfruits begins at the start of the harvest, the feast of weeks begins at the end of the harvest, Exodus 34:22 / Leviticus 23:15-21 / Numbers 28:26-31. This feast was a time of celebration as they thanked God for proving the harvest in the first place.

Notice again, that God always takes care of the poor and anyone travelling through the land, they were to leave the grain which stood in the corners of the fields for those people. However, if anyone who was poor received any food, they had to do work in return for that food.

This was to be a period of great rejoicing as they witnessed their harvest for the year and remembered the blessings of God. They were also to remember their bondage in Egypt from which they were delivered.

The Festival Of Tabernacles

‘Celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing floor and your winepress. Be joyful at your festival—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns. For seven days celebrate the festival to the LORD your God at the place the LORD will choose. For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete. Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose: at the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Weeks and the Festival of Tabernacles. No one should appear before the LORD empty-handed: Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you.’ Deuteronomy 16:13-17

This was the last of the festivals, Purim and Hanukkah would be added much later. For an entire week, the people were to live in booths, in other words, they were to camp out. The reason for camping out was to remind them of their wilderness wanderings, Leviticus 23:33-43 / Numbers 29:12-39.

They were to remember that God will take care of their every need, just like He did in the wilderness wandering, Exodus 15:22-27 / Exodus 16:35 / Deuteronomy 8:4 / Deuteronomy 29:5.

The weather in Palestine was suited to this at this time of the year. The heat of summer had passed and the early rains were still a month away.

There was to be no work during this feast. It was a time of offering sacrifices in feasts to the Lord. This feast celebrated the end of the agricultural year when all the fruits of the harvest had been gathered.

This was a feast of thanksgiving for everything God had provided for them. Just like the Passover and feast of unleavened bread, this feast lasted for eight days, Numbers 29:12-38 / Deuteronomy 16:13-15 / Deuteronomy 31:10-13 / Ezra 3:4 / Nehemiah 8:18.

You will notice that the Day of Atonement wasn’t a day of celebration, it was a day to reflect upon their sin, but here, that day is followed by the feast of tabernacles, which was the most joyous of occasions for Israel. We could say that joy always follows repentance over sin.

For Christians today, when we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we are reminded that atonement was made for us at the cross, and the eating of the Supper is to be a time of celebration for the atoning sacrifice of Jesus.

The feasts were times when fellowship meals were eaten, everyone, therefore, was to bring food, that is, offerings, to be eaten by everyone during the meeting. If one didn’t bring an offering, then they weren’t demonstrating fellowship toward others, 2 Corinthians 8:4.


‘Appoint judges and officials for each of your tribes in every town the LORD your God is giving you, and they shall judge the people fairly. Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the innocent. Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the LORD your God is giving you.’ Deuteronomy 16:18-20

Israel is told to appoint judges and officials but we’re not told how this was carried out, but the Israelites were to select those who would work in making decisions in matters of dispute, Deuteronomy 1:13-15.

The place of judgments were at the gates of the cities where the judges and officials met, Ruth 4:1. These judges and officials were discouraged from taking bribes simply because bribes corrupt decisions.

When bribes are taken, judgments are twisted and favouritism is shown. In other words, there is no justice in a system that is controlled by bribes.

Worshipping Other Gods

‘Do not set up any wooden Asherah pole beside the altar you build to the LORD your God, and do not erect a sacred stone, for these the LORD your God hates.’ Deuteronomy 16:21-22

Israel is again reminded that they shouldn’t set up any idolatrous images, that is, they were to make nothing that became a religious symbol.

These were the practices of the Canaanites and Israel needed to hate them as much as God does, Deuteronomy 7:5 / Deuteronomy 7:13 / Zephaniah 3:3.

Go To Deuteronomy 17