Deuteronomy 16 Bible Commentary

John Darby’s Synopsis

(Read all of Deuteronomy 16)
The dwelling-place of Jehovah and His solemn feasts

Chapter 16 connects the people with the dwelling-place of Jehovah, by solemnities in which He surrounds Himself with His people, blessed and happy in the deliverance which He has granted them under His reign.

The Passover and what it recalls

It gives us three solemn feasts—the Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. The spirit of each of these feasts suggests a few remarks. The Passover recalled deliverance, deliverance from bondage in Egypt [1] —for us under sin and Satan. The unleavened bread, truth in the inward parts, was here the bread of affliction. The knowledge of Christ, or the application of Christ to the heart, though coupled with deliverance and salvation, when it takes the form of repentance (and this is the case, when the question is of remembering one's deliverance), has always something bitter in it. Joy is not the point here. One has gone out in haste, by the mighty arm of God; and if one is happy, it is only as having escaped, feeling that it is through the power of God alone, and conscious of the state which required it all. They ate it during the night, and every one returned in the morning to his tent. They went home with the sense of the goodness of God, with the sense that it was a deliverance from the evil under which they had been by their own fault and to their own ruin.

Holiness obligatory, but also the joy of the redeemed

Holiness is presented in repentance and deliverance from the power of evil, under the form of conscience and judgment of sin; it is an obligation. One dares not remain any longer in evil. They were cut off if leaven was found in the house; whereas this holiness is in itself the joy of the redeemed. They were bound to keep the feast wherever God should put His name. God gathered the people around His dwelling-place, and linked them with His name and with Himself. [2] Their nationality and all their recollections were connected with the worship of Jehovah. It was another safeguard against idolatry (vers. 5-7).

Pentecost characterised by the free-will offering, the effect of the presence of the Holy Spirit

Seven weeks having elapsed, the people were again to gather around Jehovah. They numbered seven weeks from the time they began to put the sickle to the corn, from the day they began to reap the fruit of the land of promise. They waited for the perfect time of the work of God.

That which first of all characterised this feast was, that every one offered a free-will-offering, according to the blessing wherewith Jehovah his God had blessed him. It is the Holy Spirit, and the blessing flowing from Him, which this type presents to us. It is not only redemption, but the power of the things which are the result of it—not in full, however; they were only firstfruits offered to God. The presentation of these firstfruits to God is the effect of the power of the Holy Ghost. They are the remnant of Israel, historically in the beginning of Christianity, on the principle of redemption and of the new covenant; but, in fact, Christians themselves become the firstfruits of the creation of God. But the effect produced by the Holy Spirit, the effect of His presence in general, is that which characterises this feast.

There was no mention of free-will-offerings at the passover; they ate in haste and returned home. But the Holy Spirit has made the renewed heart willing; and according to the enjoyment of the fruits of the promise—according to the measure of the blessing of the Spirit of God, it can and will render to God the firstfruits of the heart, and of all that He has given us. Therefore (and it is what always accompanies this free-will-fruit of the Holy Spirit) they were to rejoice in the presence of Jehovah their God.

God surrounded Himself with joy, the fruit of His grace and blessing

The fruits of grace and of the Spirit manifest themselves in joy and in grace. [3] Blessing manifests itself in the spirit of blessing, in the joy and the good-will of grace. Blessed and precious results! Joy, and the desire for the joy of others, always flow from grace, known according to the power of the Spirit of God.

Thus the worshipper, his son and his daughter, his manservant and his maidservant, the Levite within his gates, the stranger, the orphan, and the widow, were to rejoice together in the place where Jehovah had set His name. God surrounded Himself with joy, the fruit of grace and of His blessing.

The remembrance of having been themselves bondmen was to touch the heart and influence the conduct of Israel; and by comprehending the grace which had delivered them when they were in that condition, they were to be led to act in grace towards those who were bondmen to them. They are admonished, at the same time, to observe the statutes of Jehovah; for the presence of the Holy Spirit, whilst ministering joy, leads to watchfulness and obedience. We enjoy the earnest and the firstfruits before God; but still it is down here, where watchfulness and restraint are needed.

The Feast of Tabernacles, as yet unfulfilled

When the ingathering of the harvest and vintage were ended (that is, God having gathered in His own, hidden them in His garner, and trodden His enemies in the winepress), then came the Feast of Tabernacles; a feast, the antitype of which we have not, it is certain, yet seen.

Although all the effects of the Passover and Pentecost are not yet accomplished, yet they have been fulfilled as to the event marked by them; but there has been as yet no fulfilment of the Feast of Tabernacles. This will take place when Israel, restored to their land after the end of this dispensation, will fully enjoy the effect of the promise of God. Consequently joy is put in the foreground, whilst in that which prefigured the presence of the Holy Ghost upon earth the free-will-offering came first.

Full joy connected with the time of rest when labour will be ended

This feast was to be kept during seven consecutive days. It is joy, full and complete joy; not according to the measure of the blessing, as in Pentecost, but because God had blessed them in all the works of their hands: therefore they certainly ought to rejoice. The spirit of that day belongs to us, although the fulfilment of it has not yet taken place. [4]

There is a joy that manifests itself in us in connection with the measure of the present effect of the presence of the Holy Spirit, a joy with requires watchfulness and to walk in the narrow way, and in which the remembrance of our former condition strengthens in us the spirit of grace towards others, and the presence of the Lord is specially marked.

There is a joy known to the heart, although the things which cause it have not yet had their accomplishment, a joy connected with the time of rest, when labour will be ended, and when there will no longer be any need of vigilance, nor of the remembrance of our misery, to urge us to share our blessings with others. The feast itself will suffice for the joy of all: "Thou shalt rejoice in thy feast." The Lord recalls the great principle of the three feasts, namely, to appear before Jehovah three times in a year, bringing offerings to Jehovah.

[Note: Deuteronomy 16:18-22 is discussed in the next chapter.]

[1] Egypt signifies properly the flesh, but that involves sin and Satan.

[2] This we have seen was part of Deuteronomic worship.

[3] This also characterises Deuteronomic worship.

[4] But it is to be remarked here, that in the account of tabernacles in this chapter, there is no reference to an eighth day as elsewhere. All refers properly to Israel placed in the land in present responsibility, but with promise of yet better things under the new covenant. To us it is anticipatively the eighth day, that great day of the feast. See John 7 where we get what to us is now in the place of the feast, connected with the glory of a rejected, but exalted, Christ—the outflowing fulness of the Holy Ghost.