Enter subtitle here

[Devarim 16 Orthodox Jewish Bible (OJB)]

See also Leviticus 23 (Annual Feasts)

The Feast of Passover

1 Observe [Be shomer] the month of Abib [Aviv - springtime, i.e., Nisan], and keep the passover [ perform the Pesach offering] unto Yahweh thy Elohim: for in the month of Abib [Aviv] Yahweh thy Elohim brought thee forth out of Egypt [Mitzrayim] by night [lailah].

'... it was not enough that God should be privately regarded, or that the people should be exercised as individuals in matters of wisdom and holiness. Israel was intended to be a holy nation. National life is a part of the true life of men. The insulated mum-miffed life of individuals is one of the abortions of the present evil state. It was therefore needful that there should be institutions to give them a collective life of the right development.

It was good that privately they should be prosperous and godly, but this did not complete the circle of what was needful for their well-being. There were therefore public institutions which supplied the means of developing the beautiful symmetry of human life that should exist in a perfect nation, a nation of divinely regulated life, private and public. These institutions come into view in the feasts of the law, one of the most picturesque and charming features of the national life constituted by the Law of Moses. Three times in the year every male had to appear at an appointed time, to keep a certain feast, according to the law (Lev. 23).

There was first the feast of the passover; second, the feast of weeks or firstfruits; and third, the feast of tabernacles, which divided off the year into convenient sections that redeemed it from monotony, besides rousing the nation periodically into purifying and noble and healthful activity (v16).

These feasts were something of which the world has no experience in Gentile life, and of which it is very difficult for us to form an adequate idea. The mere fact of coming together at a common centre was a circumstance involving much that was good; it took the people away from their own houses and neighbourhoods for about a fortnight at least each time, and we all know the good effects a holiday such as this would involve.

Then the people of one neighbourhood would journey together, which would be a pleasant stimulus of the social element, and appears to be partly what is referred to in the Psalm, "I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go up to the house of the Lord". "Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem." There is also a panegyric of Jerusalem, in which one of the features of excellence is thus extolled:

"Whither the tribes of the Lord go up to give thanks unto the name of the Lord".

And then it was not a coming together to hold a meeting in the formal sense of modern notions, but a coming together to enjoy a good time.

"Thou shalt rejoice before the Lord thy God, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are among you, in the place which the Lord thy God hath chosen to place his name there" (v11).

"Thou shalt eat before the Lord thy God from year to year in the place which the Lord shall choose, thou and thy household."

The picture presented to the mind by such directions is that of a whole nation breaking up at a given date, and leaving the homesteads of common life, and swarming joyously together at a common place of assembly to spend a fortnight's thorough enjoyment together. It would be a different form and class of enjoyment from that we are acquainted with in Gentile holidays. There would not be the rude and objectless hilarity of inebriated crowds jostling together in mere friskiness without any central idea or purpose. Israel came together not only to rejoice but to worship God and to hear the law expounded.

'...We are considering at present the character of all these institutions as modes of national life, when they were in force in the land, and the effect of their contemplation is to generate those rapturous sentiments of admiration with which the Psalms of David abound.

What a joyous, subdued, ennobling occasion it would be for all Israel to come together, released from their daily toils for a season, and in full enjoyment of each other's society, opening their minds in gratitude in the historic contemplations involved in the feast.

We must also remember that all these public occasions would be tinctured with the spirit of those private commandments which enjoined kindness to the unfortunate and justice to all. A feast sweetened with mercy and truth, and enjoyed with the opulent plenty of every barn-floor and vineyard, and adorned with all the picturesque accessories of a beautiful land and a beautiful situation, intermingled with song and feasting and prayer, exhibits even at this distant date a definite idea of what human life ought to be, and cheers the heart with some prospect of a day to come when that idea will be realized over the wide world, when the kingdom is restored to Israel and all nations made subject to the sway of their king.

Oh, happy day, when many people shall go and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob' for he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths."

Law of Moses Ch 9

14 And thou shalt rejoice in thy feast [chag], thou, and thy son [ ben], and thy daughter [ bat], and thy manservant [eved], and thy maidservant [amah], and the Levite [Levi], the stranger [ger], and the fatherless [yatom (orphan)], and the widow [almanah], that are within thy gates [she'arim].

It is not possible to over-estimate the beneficence of these institutions. It was not only that the whole nation was thus kept in continual sympathy with divine views of their existence as a nation, but these feasts provided these occasions of purposeful and enlightened activity that were calculated to redeem life from the stagnation and monotony of a life unregulated by law.

Consider also the recuperation with which it would bless the whole community; they would all go back from these feasts refreshed and renewed in health, and ready to address themselves with renewed pleasure to the daily avocations of their farm lives. The feasts were sufficiently frequent to prevent the intervals having that depressing and vulgarizing effect which comes from long continuance in one rut of labour.

Such variety of activity as the law provided kept every human exercise efficient; even the hearing of the law at the feasts would be attended with a delight that is unknown to the jaded faculties of poor modem times, when every man is a mere unit, and has to shift for himself in the diversification of his private life as best he may.

The whole tendency of the Mosaic institution is well expressed in the 144th Psalm, "That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as comer stones, polished after the similitude of a palace: that our garners may be full, affording all manner of store: that our sheep may bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our streets: that our oxen may be strong to labour; that there be no breaking in, nor going out; that there be no complaining in our streets .... He showeth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation." "Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the Lord."

Law of Moses Ch 9.

The Three annual feasts

16 Three times in a year [Shalosh p'amim bashanah] shall all thy males appear before Yahweh thy Elohim in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread [Chag Matzot], and in the feast of weeks [Chag HaShavu'os], and in the feast of tabernacles [Chag HaSukkot]: and they shall not appear before Yahweh empty [empty-handed]:

Man has the first place all the way through, especially in the one great institution that brings man back to Elohim in reconciliation. It was to be in a man and not in a woman that the righteousness of Elohim was to be declared for the putting away of sin by forgiveness. It was to be by the obedience of one man that justification was to be provided for believing and obedient sinners, and not by the obedience of one man and woman, although it was by the disobedience of one man and woman that death entered the world --not that the law was laid down to Eve: it was to Adam the command was addressed:

"Thou shalt not eat": but Eve considered herself included (Gen. 3:2), and was, in fact, included as one flesh with Adam (2:23). So in the case of the last Adam--the remover of sin: his bride, the Lamb's wife, shares the victory achieved by him when it has been decided at the judgment-seat who constitute such.

In both cases, it is the male that is the subject of direct operation. Though there is neither male nor female in Christ Jesus, it is by a man and not by a woman that life has come, though she is instrumentally contributory: for as she was the beguiler of Adam, to the death and ruin of both of them, so she is made his rescuer, in being made use of in a virgin descendant of the House of David to bring the Saviour into the world. Male and female are thus coordinate in the scheme without interfering with the headship appointed in the beginning.

As Paul beautifully expresses it in his letter to the Corinthians: "Nevertheless, neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God" (11:11).

There is congruity in all the ways of Elohim when the relations established by His law are observed. Man is the head, but only for nurture and protection and honour of the woman. Woman is man's equal fellow-heir of the salvation that is offered in Christ, but not to usurp the position that belongs to man both by natural constitution and divine appointment. Man is for strength, judgment, and achievement. Woman is for grace, sympathy, and ministration. Between them, they form a beautiful unit--"heirs together of the grace of life"

Law of Moses Ch 23