Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
A Calendar, enumerating Sacred Days and Seasons
This ch. and the next shew more of the influence of P than any earlier part of the ‘Law of Holiness.’ In fact, P is the source of more than half the verses in 23. In analysing the contents, we find a collection of independent laws introduced severally by special formulae (Leviticus 23:2; Leviticus 23:4; Leviticus 23:9; Leviticus 23:23; Leviticus 23:33). We also find two threads running through the ch., which are not difficult to separate. The one, drawn from H as its source (Leviticus 23:9-20; Leviticus 23:22; Leviticus 23:39 b, 40–43), contemplates sacred seasons in their relation to land and to agriculture. In the view of H, the three set feasts mentioned as ‘the morrow after the sabbath’ (of Maẓẓoth, i.e. of unleavened bread), the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Booths, have for their purpose the celebration of three stages in nature’s yield of the produce of the earth, viz. the first sheaf cut, the end of the barley and wheat harvest, and the completion of the vintage gathering. In presenting this point of view H agrees with JE (Exodus 23:15-16; Exodus 34:18; Exodus 34:22) and Deut. (Deuteronomy 16:1; Deuteronomy 16:9; Deuteronomy 16:13). On the other hand, the element drawn from P (Leviticus 23:1-8; Leviticus 23:21; Leviticus 23:23-39 a, Leviticus 23:39 c, Leviticus 23:44) is in full harmony with the title (Leviticus 23:2; Leviticus 23:4), and regards these seasons as ‘holy convocations,’ and times for religious observances, in accordance with its fundamental aim, viz. to set forth Mosaic legislation. It apparently therefore fixes them without reference to their character as nature’s festivals. Moreover, P forbids work (Leviticus 23:3; Leviticus 23:7-8; Leviticus 23:21; Leviticus 23:25; Leviticus 23:28; Leviticus 23:35), and prescribes in several instances an offering made by fire (Leviticus 23:8; Leviticus 23:18; Leviticus 23:27; Leviticus 23:30 f., Leviticus 23:36 f.). The compilation was thus made by an editor (Rp) who had both H and P before him, and fitted together excerpts from each, with a certain amount of harmonizing, as elsewhere.
 A Reviser, who, probably after that collection had been combined with the Priestly Code, introduced further elements from that Code.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts.2, 3. If we pass from ‘say unto them’ (Leviticus 23:2) to ‘These are,’ etc. (Leviticus 23:4), we perceive that the intermediate words have the air of an insertion by a reviser, writing in the spirit of P, and desiring to attain completeness by including the weekly sabbath with its ‘holy convocation.’ This inference is supported by the form of the subscription, where (Leviticus 23:38) the words, ‘Beside the sabbaths of the Lord,’ etc., have somewhat the air of an addition to the summarized description of the feasts (Leviticus 23:38) which have been enumerated.
an holy convocation] i.e. an assembly called together at the sanctuary for religious purposes. They were summoned (cp. Leviticus 23:24) according to Numbers 10:2 (where ‘calling’ is in the original identical with the word here rendered ‘convocation’) by blowing of trumpets, cp. the Mohammedan custom, by which the muezzin summons the faithful to prayer from the top of a mosque. The expression found here occurs outside this ch. only in Exodus 12:16, and in the directions for the observance of festival days in Numbers 28:18; Numbers 28:25 f., Numbers 29:1; Numbers 29:7; Numbers 29:12 (all P).
Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings.
These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons.
In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD'S passover.Feasts of the Passover and Unleavened Bread (5–8)
The law in detail is set forth Exodus 12, and is accordingly here assumed as known, and only the chief regulations are mentioned.
5. the first month] corresponding to the latter part of March with the former part of April. Here, as elsewhere, P denotes the months by numbers only, whereas JE and Deut. give them the names by which they were known in Canaan or Phoenicia, in this case Abib (Exodus 13:4; Exodus 23:15; Exodus 34:18; Deuteronomy 16:1), while in Nehemiah 2:1; Esther 3:7 it is called by its Babylonian name Nisan. See further in Driver (C.B.), Exodus 12:2.
on the fourteenth day of the month at even] The Jewish day commencing at sunset, the Passover lamb was to be killed before sunset on the day which both by their reckoning and ours was the 14th, and eaten on what we should call the night between the fourteenth and fifteenth days.
passover] The etymological meaning of the Heb. word peṣaḥ is obscure. See Driver, Exod. p. 408 for the various conjectures. The LXX. (πάσχα, Pascha, whence the adjective paschal) and so the N.T. (e.g. Matthew 26:17) transliterate it. Our word is taken from the explanation in Exodus 12:13 which refers it to the sparing of the Israelitish houses on the occasion of the slaying of the Egyptians’ firstborn.
And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread.6. unleavened bread] For details, see Exodus 12:15 ff.
In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.7. servile work] The expression (see R.V. mg. and introd. note to ch.) is used in reference to the three great festivals and that of the New Year, and implies a less strict abstinence from labour than was demanded by the corresponding rule for the sabbath (Leviticus 23:3) and the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:28). In the former case it was probably only work of an agricultural kind that was forbidden.
But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.8. an offering made by fire] The details of this offering are given in Numbers 28:2 ff.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,9–14. An offering of firstfruits (H)
Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest:
And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.11. The ritual here set forth has no parallel elsewhere in the Pentateuch. Deuteronomy 26:2 prescribes that ‘the first of all the fruit of the ground’ shall be offered, but gives no direction as to any particular day. In Deuteronomy 16:9-10 the nature of the offering is left undetermined, and the date is seven weeks ‘from the time thou beginnest to put the sickle to the standing corn.’
shall wave] See Appendix IV, pp. 183 ff.
the morrow after the sabbath] For this vague expression see introd. note to ch. Driver (LO T.9 p. 55 note) says that it is understood traditionally of the 1st day of Maẓẓoth (unleavened bread); but this is an unusual sense of ‘sabbath.’ He considers it probable that in its original connexion the ‘sabbath’ meant here was the ordinary weekly sabbath which fell during the seven days of Maẓẓoth.
And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the LORD.
And the meat offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the LORD for a sweet savour: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin.13. of an ephah] approximately a bushel. The word does not appear in MT., the sense of the context supplying it.
an hin] Approximately 1½ gallons.
And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.14. For ‘parched corn’ and ‘fresh ears,’ see on Leviticus 2:14-16.
And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete:15. the morrow after the sabbath] See on Leviticus 23:11.
15–22. The Feast of Weeks (mainly H). Cp. Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16:10.
The name is taken from the seven weeks, which, as the average duration of harvest time, separated this feast from that of unleavened bread.
Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD.
Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the LORD.17. wave loaves] See Appendix IV, pp. 183 ff.
tenth parts] A.V. ‘tenth deals,’ and so in Leviticus 23:13. With the exception of these vv. the expression is peculiar to P, denoting the measure of fine flour used in a Meal-Offering. For the word ‘deals’ see on Leviticus 14:10.
And ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto the LORD, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savour unto the LORD.
Then ye shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings.
And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits for a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the LORD for the priest.
And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation unto you: ye shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.21. This v., unlike the rest of the section, has the characteristics of the Priestly Code. See above.
And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the LORD your God.22. And when … harvest] Probably inserted here from Leviticus 19:9 (also H), with which it is verbally identical.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,23–25. This has been called the Festival of the New Year. It is probable that the first day of the 7th month was associated with the reckoning of the commencement of a year (see further on Leviticus 25:9). There was evidently more than one mode of dating. In fact the Mishna (Tal. Bab. Rôsh Hashânâh, fol. 2a) gives four several months according to the purpose intended in each case. The old Hebrew year began in the autumn, as the Jewish civil year does now, while the Babylonian calendar made it commence in Nisan or March. If we consider the festival in the text to be a celebration of the New Year, it will be a survival of the old mode of reckoning. In Exodus 12 :2 P makes the year commence in spring, though this dating does not necessarily imply a Babylonian influence. Indications of a spring commencement in the times of the monarchy are found in 2 Samuel 11:1; 1 Kings 20:22; 1 Kings 20:26; 2 Chronicles 36:10, as referring to the time when kings go forth to war. See further HDB. Art. Time (I. Abrahams).
23–36. Three festivals, the Blowing of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles (P).
Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation.24. blowing of trumpets] See on Leviticus 23:2-3.
Ye shall do no servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,26–32. The Day of Atonement (P). See on ch. 16.
Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD.
And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the LORD your God.
For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people.
And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people.
Ye shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath.32. from even unto even] i.e. from sunset to sunset, according to the Jewish mode of reckoning the day.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,33–36. The Feast of Tabernacles (P). Cp. Numbers 29:7-11; Deuteronomy 16:13-15; Ezra 3:4. Deuteronomy 31:10 f. directs that in the sabbatical year the Law should be publicly read at this Feast, the carrying out of which regulation is recorded in Nehemiah 8:18.
Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the LORD.
On the first day shall be an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.
Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: it is a solemn assembly; and ye shall do no servile work therein.36. a solemn assembly] R.V. mg. closing festival. The Heb. word (‘ăẓéreth) does not in itself involve the idea of solemnity. It is used of the closing day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Deuteronomy 16:8), and (as here) in Numbers 29:35 (P); Nehemiah 8:18, of the extra day following the seven days of the Feast of Booths, which became ‘the great day of the feast’ (John 7:37). According to 2 Chronicles 7:9 (though not recognised in the parallel, 1 Kings 8:66), it formed a joyful celebration in thankfulness for the completion of the dedication of Solomon’s Temple.
These are the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD, a burnt offering, and a meat offering, a sacrifice, and drink offerings, every thing upon his day:37, 38. Subscription to the whole (see on Leviticus 23:2-4)
We may note that in the summary given in these vv. there is no mention of the Sin-Offering prescribed in Numbers 28:15; Numbers 28:22; Numbers 28:30; Numbers 29:5, &c.
Beside the sabbaths of the LORD, and beside your gifts, and beside all your vows, and beside all your freewill offerings, which ye give unto the LORD.38. beside the sabbaths of the Lord] See on Leviticus 23:2-3.
Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath.39. See introd. notes.
39–43. An Appendix, dealing with the Feast of Booths (mainly H)
And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.40. fruit of goodly trees] i.e. fruit of goodly (ornamental, beautiful) trees, or goodly tree fruit (so Dillm.).
boughs of thick trees] According to Onkelos, myrtle branches, but the expression may have a more general signification. It has been doubted whether this various material was to be used for the construction of the booths, or for the purpose of making a lûlâb or festal bouquet. Among the later Jews the lûlâb (Jos. Ant. iii. 10. 4) consisted of a myrtle, willow, and palm branch, and an ethrôg (orange or citron) carried in the hands. In Nehemiah’s time (Nehemiah 8:15) there is found no more than a general agreement with the text here as to materials. See further in Jos. Ant. xiii. 13. 5, and the Mishna Sukkah iii. 1 ff.
And ye shall keep it a feast unto the LORD seven days in the year. It shall be a statute for ever in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month.
Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths:
That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
And Moses declared unto the children of Israel the feasts of the LORD.44. Conclusion supplied by P.