Leviticus 23 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Leviticus 23)

Verse 2

[2] 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.

Ye shall proclaim — Cause to be proclaimed, by the priests.

Holy convocations — Days for your assembling together to my worship in a special manner.

Verse 3

[3] 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.

Ye shall do no work therein — So it runs in the general for the sabbath day, and for the day of expiation, Leviticus 23:28, excluding all works about earthly employments whether of profit or of pleasure; but upon other feast days he forbids only servile works, as Leviticus 23:7,21,36, for surely this manifest difference in the expressions used by the wife God must needs imply a difference in the things.

In all your dwellings — Other feasts, were to be kept before the Lord in Jerusalem only, whither all the males were to come for that end; but the sabbath was to be kept in all places, both in synagogues, and in their private houses.

Verse 4

[4] These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons.

These are the feasts of the Lord — Or rather, the solemnities: (for the day of atonement was a fast:) and so the word is used, Isaiah 33:20, where Zion is called the city of our solemnities.

Verse 10

[10] 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:

An omer — They did not offer this corn in the ear, or by a sheaf or handful, but, as Josephus, 3. 10 affirms, and may be gathered from Leviticus 2:14,15,16, purged from the chaff, and dryed, and beaten out.

Verse 11

[11] 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.

He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord — In the name of the whole congregation, which as it were sanctified to them the whole harvest, and gave them a comfortable use of all the rest. For then we may eat our bread with joy, when God hath accepted our works. And thus should we always begin with God; begin our lives with him, begin every day with him, begin every work and business with him: seek ye first the kingdom of God.

The morrow after the sabbath — After the first day of the feast of unleavened bread, which was a sabbath or day of rest, as appears from Leviticus 23:7, or upon the sixteenth day of the month. And this was the first of those fifty days, in the close whereof was the feast of pentecost.

Verse 13

[13] 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.

Two tenth deals — Or, parts, of an ephah, that is, two omers, whereas in other sacrifices of lambs there was but one tenth deal prescribed. The reason of which disproportion may be this, that one of the tenth deals was a necessary attendant upon the lamb, and the other was peculiar to this feast, and was an attendant upon that of the corn, and was offered with it in thanksgiving to God for the fruits of the earth.

Verse 14

[14] 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.

Bread — Made of new wheat.

Nor green ears — Which were usual, not only for offerings to God, but also for man's food.

Verse 15

[15] 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:

From the morrow — From the sixteenth day of the month, and the second day of the feast of unleavened bread inclusively.

Verse 16

[16] Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD.

A new meal-offering — Of new corn made into loaves.

Verse 18

[18] 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.

One bullock and two rams — In Numbers 28:11,19, it is two young bullocks and one ram. Either therefore it was left to their liberty to chuse which they would offer, or one of the bullocks there, and one of the rams here, were the peculiar sacrifices of the feast day, and the other were attendants upon the two loaves, which were the proper offering at this time. And the one may be mentioned there, and the other here, to teach us, that the addition of a new sacrifice did not destroy the former, but both were to be offered, as the extraordinary sacrifices of every feast did not hinder the oblation of the daily sacrifice.

Verse 19

[19] 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.

One kid — In Leviticus 4:14, the sin-offering for the sin of the people is a bullock, but here a kid; etc. the reason of the difference may be this, because that was for some particular sin of the people, but this only in general for all their sins.

Verse 20

[20] 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.

Wave them — Some part of them in the name of the whole; and so for the two lambs, otherwise they had been too big and too heavy, to be waved.

For the priests — Who had to themselves not only the breast and shoulder as in others, which belonged to the priest, but also the rest which belonged to the offerer; because the whole congregation being the offerer here, it could neither be distributed to them all, nor given to some without offence to the rest.

Verse 21

[21] 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.

An holy convocation — A sabbath or day of rest, called pentecost; which was instituted, partly in remembrance of the consummation of their deliverance out of Egypt by bringing them thence to the mount of God, or Sinai, as God had promised, and of that admirable blessing of giving the law to them on the 50th day, and forming them into a commonwealth under his own immediate government; and partly in gratitude for the farther progress of their harvest, as in the passover they offered a thank-offering to God for the beginning of their harvest. The perfection of this feast, was the pouring out of the holy spirit upon the apostles on this very day, in which the law of faith was given, fifty days after Christ our passover was sacrificed for us. And on that day the apostles, having themselves received the first-fruits of the spirit, begat three thousand souls thro' the word of truth, as the first-fruits of the Christian church.

Verse 22

[22] 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.

When ye reap, thou — From the plural, ye, he comes to the singular, thou, because he would press this duty upon every person who hath an harvest to reap, that none might plead exemption from it. And it is observable, that though the present business is only concerning the worship of God, yet he makes a kind of excursion to repeat a former law of providing for the poor, to shew that our devotion to God is little esteemed by him if it be not accompanied with acts of charity to men.

Verse 24

[24] 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.

A sabbath — Solemnized with the blowing of trumpets by the priests, not in a common way, as they did every first day of every month, but in an extraordinary manner, not only in Jerusalem, but in all the cities of Israel. They began to blow at sun-rise, and continued blowing till sun-set. This seems to have been instituted, 1. To solemnize the beginning of the new year, whereof as to civil matters and particularly as to the Jubilee, this was the first day; concerning which it was fit the people should be admonished, both to excite their thankfulness for God's blessings in the last year, and to direct them in the management of their civil affairs. 2. To put a special honour upon this month. For as the seventh day was the sabbath, and the seventh year was a sabbatical year, so God would have the seventh month to be a kind of sabbatical month, for the many sabbaths and solemn feasts which were observed in this more than in any other month. And by this sounding of the trumpets in its beginning, God would quicken and prepare them for the following sabbaths, as well as that of atonement and humiliation for their sins, as those of thanksgiving for God's mercies.

Verse 27

[27] 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.

Afflict your souls — With fasting, and bitter repentance for all, especially their national sins, among which no doubt God would have them remember their sin of the golden calf. For as God had threatened to remember it in after times to punish them for it, so there was great reason why they should remember it to humble themselves for it.

Verse 28

[28] 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.

Whatsoever soul — Either of the Jewish nation, or religion. Hereby God would signify the absolute necessity which every man had of repentance and forgiveness of sin, and the desperate condition of all impenitent persons.

Verse 32

[32] 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.

From even to even — The day of atonement began at the evening of the ninth day, and continued till the evening of the tenth day.

Ye shall celebrate your sabbath — This particular sabbath is called your sabbath, possibly to note the difference between this and other sabbaths: for the weekly sabbath is oft called the sabbath of the Lord. The Jews are supposed to begin every day, and consequently their sabbaths, at the evening, in remembrance of the creation, as Christians generally begin their days and sabbaths with the morning in memory of Christ's resurrection.

Verse 34

[34] 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.

Of tabernacles — Of tents or booths or arbours. This feast was appointed to remind them of that time when they had no other dwellings in the wilderness, and to stir them up to bless God, as well for the gracious protection then afforded them, as for the more commodious habitations now given them; and to excite them to gratitude for all the fruits of the year newly ended, which were now compleatly brought in.

Verse 36

[36] 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.

Ye shall offer — A several-offering each day.

The eighth day — Which though it was not one of the days of this feast strictly taken. Yet in a larger sense it belonged to this feast, and is called the great day of the feast, John 7:37. And so indeed it was, as for other reasons, so because, by their removal from the tabernacles into fixed habitations, it represented that happy time wherein their 40 years tedious march in the wilderness was ended with their settlement in the land of Canaan, which it was most fit they should acknowledge with such a solemn day of thanksgiving as this was.

Verse 37

[37] 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:

A sacrifice — A sin-offering, called by the general name, a sacrifice, because it was designed for that which was the principal end of all sacrifices, the expiation of sin.

Verse 38

[38] 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.

Beside the sabbaths — The offerings of the weekly sabbaths. God will not have any sabbath-sacrifice diminished because of the addition of others, proper to any other feast. And it is here to be noted, that though other festival days are sometimes called sabbaths, yet these are here called the sabbaths of the Lord, in way of contradistinction, to shew that this was more eminently such than other feast-days.

Your gifts — Which being here distinguished from the free-will-offerings made to the Lord, may note what they freely gave to the priests over and above their first-fruits and tithes or other things which they were enjoined to give.

Verse 39

[39] 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.

This is no addition of a new, but only a repetition of the former injunction, with a more particular explication both of the manner and reason of the feast.

The fruit — Not the corn, which was gathered long before, but that of the trees, as vines, olives, and other fruit-trees: which compleated the harvest, whence this is called the feast of in-gathering.

Verse 40

[40] 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.

Of goodly trees — Namely, olive, myrtle and pine, mentioned, Nehemiah 8:15,16, which were most plentiful there, and which would best preserve their greenness.

Thick trees — Fit for shade and shelter.

And willows — To mix with the other, and in some sort bind them together. And as they made their booths of these materials, so they carried some of these boughs in their hands, as is affirmed by Jewish and other ancient writers.

Verse 42

[42] Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths:

In booths — Which were erected in their cities or towns, either in their streets, or gardens, or the tops of their houses. These were made flat, and therefore were fit for the use.

Verse 44

[44] And Moses declared unto the children of Israel the feasts of the LORD.

The feasts of the Lord — We have reason to be thankful, that the feasts of the Lord, now are not so numerous, nor the observance of them so burdensome and costly; but more spiritual and significant, and surer and sweeter earnests of the everlasting feast, at the last in-gathering, which we hope to be celebrating to eternity.