Leviticus 23


‘The LORD said to Moses, ‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘These are my appointed festivals, the appointed festivals of the LORD, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies. ‘There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a sabbath to the LORD. ‘These are the LORD’s appointed festivals, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times.’ Leviticus 23:1-4

The Appointed Festivals

In this chapter and the following two chapters we read about seven convocations, that is seven different times God’s people were to come together and stand before the Lord. The Book of Leviticus started the setting forth of five types of offerings. Now as we near its close, we have set forth for us seven appointed convocations.

The word ‘convocations’ means appointed time. These were annual feasts that all the Israelites were to attend, they were times of holidays and were joyous occasions for everyone.

The Weekly Sabbath

The Sabbath serves as the foundation for all other memorials, it’s foundational because it was established at creation. The day was counted as the beginning of sunset, for the Jews a day was observed as a lunar month of twenty-eight days each.

The first day of the month could not be determined until the appearance of the new moon, that is after sunset, although by the time of David the Jews had learned to calculate the day of the new moon, 1 Samuel 20:5.

The Jewish year consisted of twelve lunar months, that is 354 days, 8 hours, 45 minutes, and 38 seconds. An extra month was added to the year periodically to keep the year in conformity with the solar year, four times every eleven years.

If no adjustment had been made, the feasts would have made a complete cycle of the seasons once every thirty-four years. This was not possible among a people who were geared to an agricultural economy. Thus, the second month of Adhar was added whenever the 12th month ended more than four weeks before the Spring Equinox.

The Jews also observed a civil year which began in the seventh month of the religious year, Exodus 23:16 / Exodus 34:22. The Year of Jubilee began in the seventh month of the ritual year, Leviticus 25:8-10.

The Sabbath

The Sabbath itself wasn’t one of the celebration feasts but was to be kept as a sign of the covenant between God and the Israelites, Exodus 20:8-11 / Exodus 31:12-17. This also demonstrated to the other nations around that they were in a covenant agreement with God. Since the Sabbath was a sign, this demonstrated that since the time of creation no other nation kept the Sabbath as a special day, Genesis 2:1-3.

The sign of the Sabbath began at Mount Sinai, Exodus 16:23 / Exodus 20:8, and it was this day that Israel wasn’t permitted to work. Whilst all the other nations around them worked on this day, the Israelites were not permitted to work, instead, they were to rest and reflect upon the covenant they had with their God.

‘The LORD’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month.’ Leviticus 23:5

The Passover

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 was redeemed from Egyptian slavery, so too has the Christian been redeemed from the slavery of sin, Galatians 3:16 / Titus 2:14.

‘On the fifteenth day of that month the LORD’s Festival of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast. On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. For seven days present a food offering to the LORD. And on the seventh day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work.’ The LORD said to Moses, ‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land, I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. He is to wave the sheaf before the LORD so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath. On the day you wave the sheaf, you must sacrifice as a burnt offering to the LORD a lamb a year old without defect, together with its grain offering of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour mixed with olive oil—a food offering presented to the LORD, a pleasing aroma— and its drink offering of a quarter of a hin of wine. You must not eat any bread, or roasted or new grain, until the very day you bring this offering to your God. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.’ Leviticus 23:6-14

The Feast of Unleavened Bread

The day following the Passover was to begin a week of feasting. For this entire week, God’s people were to eat unleavened bread. On each day an offering was to be presented to the Lord.

Once the Israelites were in the land, they would further celebrate this feast by bringing a sheaf of the first fruits of their harvest. It was to be brought before the priest at the tabernacle. On the first day of the week, he would take the sheaf and wave it before the Lord.

Accompanying the sheaf would be the offering of a lamb and a grain offering with a libation of wine. The First day of the week, the first fruit sheaf, a sacrificed lamb, flour mixed with oil and wine.

This is a picture of the Resurrection of Christ. He is our Firstfruits, His resurrection is a promise of our resurrection which is to follow. Because of that, we have a continuing observance, it is an observance of bread and wine. It remembers the sacrificed Lamb and it looks forward to the day when the first fruits will be joined by the rest of the Harvest.

The Firstfruits

The first fruits were the first of four specific laws that God gave Israel that they were to keep when they came into the land of promise, Leviticus 14:34 / Leviticus 19:23 / Leviticus 25:2. The first fruits indicated that all nourishment came from God, and so, the offering of the first-fruits was an expression of thanksgiving to God for His provision. It also indicated that God would bless the rest of the harvest which was to come.

The New Testament uses the firstfruits offering as a metaphor in many places, Romans 8:23 / Romans 11:16 / Romans 16:5 / Romans / 1 Corinthians 15:20 / 1 Corinthians 15:23 / 1 Corinthians 16:15.

‘From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the LORD. From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the LORD. Present with this bread seven male lambs, each a year old and without defect, one young bull and two rams. They will be a burnt offering to the LORD, together with their grain offerings and drink offerings—a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the LORD. Then sacrifice one male goat for a sin offering and two lambs, each a year old, for a fellowship offering. The priest is to wave the two lambs before the LORD as a wave offering, together with the bread of the firstfruits. They are a sacred offering to the LORD for the priest. On that same day you are to proclaim a sacred assembly and do no regular work. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.’ Leviticus 23:15-21

The New Grain Offering

The next observance was to take place fifty days after the first Sabbath of the week of unleavened bread, that is Pentecost. It would also take place on the first day of the week.

Several offerings were to be made on this day, a grain offering of two loaves of bread, but these loaves were to be baked with leaven. A Burnt Offering of seven lambs of the first year, a bull, two rams. A sin-offering of a male goat, a peace offering of two male lambs. It was upon the celebration of this day following the death and resurrection of Christ that the Holy Spirit was given, Acts 2.

The Feast Of Weeks

The feast 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. 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 was poor received any food, they had to do work in return for that food.

‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the LORD your God.’ The LORD said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites: ‘On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of sabbath rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. Do no regular work, but present a food offering to the LORD.’ Leviticus 23:24-25

The Blowing of Trumpets

The Fall Festivals were initiated with a blowing of trumpets, this festival fell on the first day of the month, the day of the New Moon. Today the Jews celebrate Rosh Hashanah on this date, the New Year. This again was a day where no work was to be done.

The blowing of the trumpets marked the month in which the Day of Atonement took place and also the celebration of the feast of tabernacles.

‘The LORD said to Moses, ‘The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves, and present a food offering to the LORD. Do not do any work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement when atonement is made for you before the LORD your God. Those who do not deny themselves on that day must be cut off from their people. I will destroy from among their people anyone who does any work on that day. You shall do no work at all. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live. It is a day of sabbath rest for you, and you must deny yourselves. From the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening you are to observe your sabbath.’ Leviticus 23:26-32

The Day of Atonement

We have already seen the Day of Atonement at length in chapter 16. This was the day on which the High Priest would enter into the Holy of Holies to make atonement for the nation. Back in Leviticus 16 emphasis was placed upon the duties of the high priest on the Day of Atonement, Leviticus 16:29-34, but here the emphasis is placed upon what the Israelites had to do on the Day of Atonement.

It was different from all of the other festival times in that this was a day of fasting and a day when they were to humble themselves. Because they were to fast and humble themselves, tells us that this wasn’t a day of celebration, it was a day in which they had to reflect upon their sinfulness.

‘The LORD said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites: ‘On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the LORD’s Festival of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days. The first day is a sacred assembly; do no regular work. For seven days present food offerings to the LORD, and on the eighth day hold a sacred assembly and present a food offering to the LORD. It is the closing special assembly; do no regular work. (‘These are the LORD’s appointed festivals, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies for bringing food offerings to the LORD—the burnt offerings and grain offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings required for each day. These offerings are in addition to those for the LORD’s Sabbaths and in addition to your gifts and whatever you have vowed and all the freewill offerings you give to the LORD.) ‘So, beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month, after you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival to the LORD for seven days; the first day is a day of sabbath rest, and the eighth day also is a day of sabbath rest. On the first day you are to take branches from luxuriant trees—from palms, willows and other leafy trees—and rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. Celebrate this as a festival to the LORD for seven days each year. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come; celebrate it in the seventh month. Live in temporary shelters for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in such shelters so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in temporary shelters when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.’ So, Moses announced to the Israelites the appointed festivals of the LORD.’ Leviticus 23:33-44

The Feast of Booths

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.

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.

Go To Leviticus 24


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