In this chapter we will read about the communion between God and His People, Israel, and how that communion has been preserved in the nation by three yearly festivals or feasts, with it’s practices and laws of each. These festivals, we have already gone over several times and yet here once again they are repeated.
1 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. 2 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. 3 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. 4 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.
5 You must not sacrifice the Passover in any town the Lord your God gives you 6 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. 7 Roast it and eat it at the place the Lord your God will choose. Then in the morning return to your tents. 8 For six days eat unleavened bread and on the seventh day hold an assembly to the Lord your God and do no work.
First off the NIV uses the word Aviv, while other translations all use Abib. The festival of Passover occurs in the month of Aviv/Abib, it is said that this is the only month with a name in scripture.
“Aviv” is a Hebrew word meaning “barley ripening”, “greenness” or “spring season”. “Abib” is also a Hebrew word meaning “a young ear or ears of barley”. Aviv/Abib is a description of a stage in the growth cycle of the barley, and is the first month of the ancient Hebrew calendar corresponding to Nisan. Nisan coincides with March-April of our calendar or the first month of the ecclesiastical year in the Jewish calendar according to the Torah. Nisan in the Hebrew and Babylonian calenders, is the month of the barley ripening and the first month of spring.
The Passover is so important to the Israelites that it was to be observed the whole month, though for one week only it was to be kept as a festival. The month of Aviv was a special order from God, for the remembrance of the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt (Ex. 12) and the “passing over” of the forces of destruction and the sparing of the firstborn of the Israelites on the eve of the Exodus.
The Passover is also called the Festival of Unleavened Bread. During the festival, for seven days, all leaven, whether in bread or other mixtures, is prohibited, and only unleavened bread, we know this as matzo, may be eaten. The unleavened bread symbolizes both the Israelites suffering while in slavery and the haste with which they left Egypt in the course of the Exodus.
Though the festival of Passover is meant to be one of great rejoicing, strict dietary laws and special prohibitions must be observed from beginning to end of the celebration.
The Festival of Weeks
9 Count off seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain. 10 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. 11 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. 12 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt, and follow carefully these decrees.
The Festival of Weeks or Feast of Weeks, also known as Pentecost in English, is celebrated seven weeks after Passover.
(see Lev 23:5-8,15-17 for details)
The Festival of Weeks is known as Shavuot to the Jews, along with the Passover and the Festival of Tabernacles, it is one of three formal assemblies for the Lord, that constitute the “appointed times” for Israel to gather together. Shavuot means “weeks” and marks the wheat harvest in the land of Israel.
Leviticus 23 tell us that the Festival of Weeks should follow the Passover 50 days later, according to the Lord’s command, and is called “counting the Omer”. It comes from the accent practice of offering an omer (two dry quarts) of barley to the Lord on the second day of Passover. The Festival of Weeks is also the time when God revealed the Law to Israel at Mount Sinai. The counting of days and weeks is understood to express anticipation and desire for the giving of the law.
For a number of reasons these festivals have a close connection between the life and ministry of Jesus the Messiah and the gift of the Holy Spirit which empowers the Lords people to do His work. So we can see a connection with the Passover and the giving of the Law, to the book of Acts as well.
The Festival of Tabernacles
13 Celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing floor and your winepress. 14 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. 15 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.
The Festival of Tabernacles or Feasts of Booths, is described in Lev 23, is also known to modern Jews as Sukkah. A Sukkah is a makeshift shade, whether a booth, hut or some kind of mini shelter made from readily available materials such as leftover plant stalks, leaves or branches, to construct these shelters to produce shade.
When the Israelites first left Egypt, they had no tents or houses to protect themselves. They would have gathered whatever brush they could find to keep the sun off their heads. However, God Himself also sheltered them from the sun’s rays; His presence was the sukkah they needed!
The Festival is a week long celebration. The people are told that they must keep the Festival of Tabernacles, but notice that there is no repetition of the law’s details concerning the sacrifices that were to be offered in great abundance this feast, because the care of these laws belonged to the priests and levites, who had no need for repetition as the people had. This is to be a joyful celebration commanded for all. It is the will of God that His people be a joyful people.(Vs 14)
16 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: 17 Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you.
The laws concerning the three solemn festivals are summed up.
- All the males must make their personal appearance before God, at a place God chooses at each festival.
- That “No one” should appear empty handed, that every man must bring some offering according to the proportion God has blessed them.
18 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. 19 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. 20 Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the Lord your God is giving you.
While in the wilderness, Moses had appointed judges to settle disputes among the people, but now that they will be settling in Canaan and dispersed into various towns and villages, a more extended arrangement concerning justice and judges. Notice that no instructions are given as to the number of judges and officials. More then likely the numbers will be determined by the size of the population of the place they will be appointed to.
Worshiping Other Gods
21 Do not set up any wooden Asherah pole beside the altar you build to the Lord your God, 22 and do not erect a sacred stone, for these the Lord your God hates.
Obviously God Hates when His people worship other gods.
(First mention of Asherah pole Ex 34:13)