Deuteronomy 16 Commentary

To go directly to that verse

Moses on Mt Nebo (Deuteronomy 34:1+)
Listen to Mt Nebo as you Ponder How Moses' May Have Felt
Deuteronomy by Irving Jensen- used by permission
Source: Ryrie Study Bible


Dt 1:1-4:43 Dt 4:44-26:19 Dt 27:1-34:12




Historical Review Legal

Looking Back

40 Years

Looking Up
What God
Expected of Israel
Looking Ahead
What God
Will Do for Israel
Recapitulation of Wanderings Rehearsal
of Israel's Law
of Israel's Covenant
Historical Appendices
Remembrance of the past Commandments
for the Present
Dt 27:1-30:20
Blessing and Cursing
Dt 31:1-34:12
Death of Moses
Take Heed
Don't forget
Two Choices Affecting
the Future
Moses' Parting Words
Dt 1:1-4:43
Looking Back
Dt 4:44-11:32
Exposition of Decalogue
Dt 12:1-16:17
Ceremonial Laws
Dt 16:18-20:20
Dt 21:1-26:19
Dt 27:1-28:68
Ratification of Covenant
Dt 29:1-30:20
Terms of Covenant
Dt 31:1-34:12
Moses' Song, Blessing, Death

Plains of Moab

ca. 2 Months
Moses: Author

(Except Dt 34)

Deuteronomy 16:1  "Observe the month of Abib and celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God, for in the month of Abib the LORD your God brought you out of Egypt by night.

  • the month: Ex 12:2-20 34:18 Lev 23:5 Nu 9:2-5 28:16 
  • for in: Ex 12:29-42 13:4 23:15 34:18 
  • Deuteronomy 16 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


  • The Passover Reviewed  Dt 16:1–8
  • The Feast of Weeks Reviewed Dt 16:9–12
  • The Feast of Tabernacles Reviewed Dt 16:13–17
  • Justice Must be Administered Dt 16:18–20

Calendar of Jewish Feasts
(Source: Rose Guide to the Tabernacle 
Excellent Teaching Resource)


Curry - The biblical author now repeats the requirement that the Hebrews are to have three pilgrim festivals each year in honour of Yahweh: the Feast of Unleavened Bread (which includes Passover), the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Booths (Exod. 23:14–19). These three celebrations form the very heart of the Israelite religious calendar. Foundational to all three is the Sabbath; they are structured on the sabbatical principle. Thus, the Sabbath is at the very core of Israel’s ceremonial worship. (EPSC-Dt)

Observe - This recurs in Deuteronomy som 73x! Israel is to ‘observe’ this feast and this opening reminds one of the Fourth Commandment, which begins with the same word: Observe the sabbath day to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you.’ (Dt 5:12)

Deut. 2:4; Deut. 4:2; Deut. 4:6; Deut. 4:9; Deut. 4:15; Deut. 4:23; Deut. 4:40; Deut. 5:1; Deut. 5:10; Deut. 5:12; Deut. 5:29; Deut. 6:2; Deut. 6:3; Deut. 6:12; Deut. 6:17; Deut. 6:25; Deut. 7:8; Deut. 7:9; Deut. 7:11; Deut. 7:12; Deut. 8:1; Deut. 8:2; Deut. 8:6; Deut. 8:11; Deut. 10:13; Deut. 11:1; Deut. 11:8; Deut. 11:16; Deut. 11:22; Deut. 11:32; Deut. 12:1; Deut. 12:13; Deut. 12:19; Deut. 12:28; Deut. 12:30; Deut. 12:32; Deut. 13:4; Deut. 13:18; Deut. 15:9; Deut. 16:1; Deut. 16:12; Deut. 17:10; Deut. 19:9; Deut. 23:9; Deut. 23:23; Deut. 24:8; Deut. 26:16; Deut. 26:17; Deut. 26:18; Deut. 27:1; Deut. 28:1; Deut. 28:9; Deut. 28:45; Deut. 28:58; Deut. 29:9; Deut. 30:10; Deut. 30:16; Deut. 31:12; Deut. 33:9;

The month of Abib (means "new grain," later called Nisan - Neh 2:1, Esther 3:7) and celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God, for in the month of Abib the LORD your God brought you out of Egypt by night - Abib (Nisan = Babylonian designation, Neh 2:1) means "newly ripened grain" and hence springtime, March-April (See above or see another Hebrew Calendar) is when they would harvest the first ripened sheaves of barley. "For" explains why it is to be celebrated to the LORD, because it was the LORD who brought Israel out of Egypt on Passover night, for when the Death Angel passed over at night Pharaoh said, “send them out of the land in haste,” (Ex. 12:33+) and the Israelites left immediately.

Curry - As will become evident throughout chapter 16, the entire festal calendar of Israel is patterned on the weekly Sabbath.  The reason for the celebration is to commemorate Yahweh’s deliverance of Israel out of Egypt. ‘by night’. This is an obvious reference to the destruction of the firstborn in Egypt at midnight and to the subsequent call for Israel to leave Egypt, which took place ‘at night’ (Exod. 12:29–32).(Ibid)

Deere - Each year Passover was observed a month later for those unable to partake of the feast during Abib because of ceremonial uncleanness or absence on a journey (Num. 9:6–12+).

Passover (06453pesach/pesah is a masculine noun thought by some writers (Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon) to have its origin from pacach/pasah which apparently means to pass over; to spare (Ex 12:13, 23, 27 - "Jehovah will pass" = pasah). Pesach/pesah virtually always refers to the Passover, either the feast or the Passover animal. Note that the Passover is combined with the Feast of Unleavened Bread by Luke who writes "the Feast of Unleavened Bread…is called the Passover, was approaching." (Lk 22:1+) Rooker adds that "These two ceremonies were apparently combined at the beginning, for the Passover lamb was to be eaten with unleavened bread (Ex 12:8)." (NAC)

Utley PassoverPassover (Order of Service)

TSK on Passover- This word comes from the Hebrew verb {pasach,} to pass, to leap or skip over.  The destroying angel passed over the houses marked with the blood of the Paschal Lamb, so the wrath of God passes over those whose souls sprinkled with the blood of Christ.  1Co 5:7.  As the paschal lamb was killed before Israel was delivered, so by the death of Christ, we have redemption through his blood.  It was killed before the tables of the law were delivered to Moses, or Aaron's sacrifices were enjoined; thus deliverance comes to men, not by the works of the law, but by the only true passover, the Lamb of God. Ro 3:25.  Heb 9:14.  It was killed the first month of the year, which prefigured that Christ should suffer death in that month.  Joh 18:28.  it was killed in the evening.  Ex 12:6. Christ suffered at that time of the day.  Mt 27:46.  Heb 1:2. At even the sun sets; at Christ's passion, universal darkness was upon the whole earth.  The passover was roasted with fire, denoting the sharp and dreadful pains that Christ should suffer, not only from men, but God also.  It was to be eaten with bitter herbs, Ex 12:8; not only to put them in remembrance of their bitter bondage in Egypt, but also to testify our mortification to sin, and readiness to undergo afflictions for Christ, Col 1:24; and likewise to teach us the absolute necessity of true repentance in all that would profitably feed by faith on Christ, the true paschal lamb.

Related Resources:

Utley Ancient Near Eastern Calendars

(1 Kgs. 6:1,37-38; 8:2)
(Nippur Calendar)
(Geezer Calendar)
Modern Equivalents
Abib ("greenheads" of barley) Nisanu Nisan March-April
Ziv (spring brilliance) Ayaru Iyyar April-May
  Simanu Sivan May-June
  Du-uzu Tammuz June-July
  Abu Ab July-August
  Ululu Elul August-September
Ethanim (permanent water source) Teshritu Tishri September-October
Bul (rains on produce) Arah-samna Marcheshvan October-November
  Kislimu Chislev November-December
  Tebitu Tebeth December-January
  Shabatu Shebat January-February
  Adaru Adar February-March

Copyright © 2014 Bible Lessons International

Deuteronomy 16:1-17

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. - Deuteronomy 16:15


Chicago is the American city most in need of joy, at least according to a recent, unscientific online survey. Taken by the Mars Candy Company, the survey of nearly 350 American cities placed Chicago first, followed by New York, Houston, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. As a result, Mars—maker of M&Ms, Snickers, Milky Way, Twix, Dove, and Three Musketeers candy bars—in an effort to spread more joy, gave away 50,000 free samples of their candy bars on Michigan Avenue in Chicago on October 1, 2009. That induced smiles!

In today’s reading, the people of Israel received instructions to joyfully celebrate God’s blessings to them in three sacred festivals: Passover (vv. 1-8), the Feast of Weeks (vv. 9-12), and the Feast of Tabernacles (vv. 13-17). Passover celebrates the nation’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt. No yeast is permitted in the Passover meal as a symbolic reminder of Israel’s hurried departure. The Feast of Weeks, also called Pentecost, marked the firstfruits of the wheat harvest and was a holiday of thankfulness for God’s provision and blessing. The Feast of Tabernacles was another harvest festival commemorating the Exodus from Egypt to Canaan. The people lived in small booths in order to remember and honor God’s provision during their long journey in the wilderness.

Specific historical events and the people’s overall relationship with God were involved in these joyful occasions. These were national feasts, not individual choices or even family traditions. All of God’s people were to gather together in obedience to His command. These were also times for worship and offerings, not just pleasure or leisure (though those were included). No work was permitted to be done, as that would have been a distraction. Celebrating was intended to draw the community’s attention to their blessings and the Giver of these good things. This completed the circle and so made their joy “complete” (v. 15; see John 16:24).


How can “celebrate,” “rejoice,” and “be joyful” be obeyed as biblical commands? We’re so used to thinking of joy only as a spontaneous emotion that it might sound as if we’re being told to force or fake a feeling. Instead, we’re being given a godly understanding of joy. Joy begins with obedience. And when we stop in obedience to count our blessings, like the Israelites in today’s reading, we realize that the Giver of blessings is also the Giver of joy. In this case, feelings follow actions!

Deuteronomy 16:1-17

The gift is acceptable according to what one has. - 2 Corinthians 8:12


A few years ago USA Today revealed that more than 40 percent of Americans felt that it was okay to cheat on their taxes. These statistics probably haven’t changed much since then. Some feel this way because they believe that the government wants too much of their money. Others don’t agree with the way their money is spent. Many feel that the load is unevenly distributed. We certainly don’t agree with the ethics of those who cheat on their taxes, but according to biblical principles we can sympathize with the desire for an equitable tax burden.

An evenly distributed burden is also the ideal behind the guidelines for giving outlined in the Old and New Testaments. Under the Law of Moses, God’s people were required to present themselves to the Lord three times a year. Each time they were not to come before the Lord “empty-handed” but were to bring a gift in proportion to the way God had blessed them (Deut. 16:16–17).

This principle was reflected in all of the offerings required of Israel. The type of offering to be brought was dependent upon the worshiper’s income. Where a wealthier person may have been required to bring a sheep or a goat, the poor were told to bring only two doves (Lev. 5:7). If a worshiper could not afford doves, they were permitted to offer grain instead (Lev. 5:11). It was not God’s intent that offerings brought to Him would be a burdensome tax on His people’s spiritual life.


It can be tempting to think primarily in terms of the amount when we give to God. How much does He want? Should we give Him ten percent? Should we base it on our gross income or our net? Should we give less than a tithe? The biblical pattern, however, is to begin with the spirit rather than the amount. Our giving is pleasing to God “if the willingness is there” (2 Cor. 8:12). Like the believers in Macedonia in Paul’s day, we need to give ourselves to the Lord

Deuteronomy 16:1-20

These are my appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of the Lord, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies. - Leviticus 23:2


What’s your favorite holiday? Perhaps it’s Christmas, with its fresh evergreens, snow, Nativity scenes, and concerts of Handel’s Messiah. Or maybe Easter, a season to meditate on the life-giving death and resurrection of our Lord. If you like bright sun and outdoor barbecues, no doubt you enjoyed the Fourth of July, just past. Or do you prefer more personal holidays, such as your birthday or wedding anniversary?

Such occasions help form the rhythm of our lives--times of rest, remembrance, celebration, and worship. The special feasts described in today’s reading served much the same purpose for the nation of Israel.

Passover commemorated the night that the angel of the Lord “passed over” the Israelite houses in Egypt. In the last of the ten plagues, he killed the firstborn son wherever there was no blood on the doorposts (see Ex 12:1-28). Passover was immediately followed by the Feast of Unleavened Bread, named for the bread without yeast that the people carried in their hasty departure from slavery (cf. 1Cor. 5:6, 7, 8). This festival took place in the month of Abib (March or April on our

calendars), the first month of the Jewish year. Passover is “New Year’s Day,” a fresh start for God’s people.

The Feast of Weeks, or Firstfruits, was a harvest festival. At the wheat harvest, the people celebrated it to show joy and thankfulness for God’s blessing. This event took place in May or June, and was also called “Pentecost.” In the history of the church, Pentecost is the day the Holy Spirit first descended on the believers. Jewish tradition also links this festival with the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai.

The Feast of Tabernacles, or Booths, took place in September or October, and was also a harvest festival. The people lived in booths made of tree branches and foliage in order to remember the journey from Egypt to the Promised Land.


While the feasts described in today’s reading are not normative for the church, we, too, can plan special occasions of celebration and worship.

Deuteronomy 16:2  "You shall sacrifice the Passover to the LORD your God from the flock and the herd, in the place where the LORD chooses to establish His name.

  • sacrifice: Ex 12:5-7 Nu 28:16-19 2Ch 35:7 Mt 26:2,17 Mk 14:12 Lu 22:8,15 1Co 5:7 
  • in the place: De 12:5,11,14,18,26 15:20 
  • Deuteronomy 16 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

You shall sacrifice the Passover to the LORD your God from the flock and the herd, in the place where the LORD chooses to establish His name - God will show Israel where to worship. This is to be a national celebration, not regional. 

Guzik - Prophetically, the feast of Passover clearly presents Jesus as our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7+), the Lamb of God Who was sacrificed (Jn 1:29+), and whose blood was received and applied, so the wrath of God would pass over us.

Utley- “from the flock or the herd” Compare Ex 12:5 with 2 Chr. 30:24; 35:7, which opened up the sacrifice from a sheep or a goat to the entire range of domestic animals. LORD chooses -  In Egypt this was a family service; in Deuteronomy it has been reserved for central sanctuary worship (cf. Dt 12:5, 11, 13, 14, 18, 21, 26; 14:23, 25; 15:20; 16:2, 6, 7, 11, 15, 16; 17:8, 10; 18:6; 23:16; 26:2; 31:11).

Currid - A problem arises over an apparent conflict regarding the nature of the Passover sacrifice. In Exodus 12:3–6 a lamb is prescribed as the only acceptable sacrifice. In verse 2 of the present chapter, the prescription appears to be broadened to include animals from ‘the flock and the herd’. Perhaps the latter refers to sacrifices not only at Passover but during the entire Feast of Unleavened Bread. These two celebrations are clearly linked in the present passage. (Ibid)

Chooses reflects God's omniscient sovereignty to do as He pleases and knows best for their (our) good and His glory. Choose is a keyword in chapter 16 (Deut. 16:2; Deut. 16:6; Deut. 16:7; Deut. 16:11; Deut. 16:15; Deut. 16:16) And further, the place the LORD choses is a key thought in Deuteronomy occurring 22 times! (Dt 12:5, Dt 12:11, Dt 12:14, Dt 12:18, Dt 12:21, Dt 12:26, Dt 14:23,Dt 14:24, Dt 14:25, Dt 15:20, Dt 16:2, Dt 16:6, Dt 16:7, Dt 16:11, Dt 16:15, Dt 16:16, Dt 17:8,Dt 17:10, Dt 18:6, Dt 23:16, Dt 26:2, Dt 31:11)

Chosen (0977bahar/bachar  in most contexts means to choose or to select, to take a keen look at, to prove, to . It denotes a choice, which is based on a thorough examination of the situation and not an arbitrary whim. Lot choose Sodom (Ge 13:11). Moses chose able men (Ex 18:25). "Theologically, bāchar asserts the sovereignty of God in all of life. It affirms divine omnipotence and capacity for choice and in so doing declares that purpose and personality, expressing itself in agape love, lie at the heart of reality." (Gilbrant) TWOT adds that bahar/bachar is often "used to express that choosing which has ultimate and eternal significance." "Bāḥar is used 30 times in Deuteronomy, all but twice referring to God's "choice" of Israel or something in Israel's life." (Vine) Bahar in Deuteronomy - Deut. 4:37; Deut. 7:6; Deut. 7:7; Deut. 10:15; Deut. 12:5; Deut. 12:11; Deut. 12:14; Deut. 12:18; Deut. 12:21; Deut. 12:26; Deut. 14:2; Deut. 14:23; Deut. 14:24; Deut. 14:25; Deut. 15:20; Deut. 16:2; Deut. 16:6; Deut. 16:7; Deut. 16:11; Deut. 16:15; Deut. 16:16; Deut. 17:8; Deut. 17:10; Deut. 17:15; Deut. 18:5; Deut. 18:6; Deut. 21:5; Deut. 23:16; Deut. 26:2; Deut. 30:19; Deut. 31:11;

Deuteronomy 16:3  "You shall not eat leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat with it unleavened bread, the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), so that you may remember all the days of your life the day when you came out of the land of Egypt.

  • eat: Ex 12:15,19,20,39 13:3-7 34:18 Lev 23:6 Nu 9:11 28:17 1Co 5:8 
  • bread: 1Ki 22:27 Ps 102:9 127:2 Zec 12:10 2Co 7:10,11 1Th 1:6 
  • for thou camest: Ex 12:32,33,39 
  • mayest: Ex 12:14,26,27 13:7-9 Ps 111:4 Lu 22:19 1Co 11:24-26 
  • Deuteronomy 16 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


You shall not eat leavened bread with it - In the night of Passover, the Israelites could not wait until morning for the bread to rise. 

Seven days you shall eat with it unleavened bread, the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), so that you may remember all the days of your life the day when you came out of the land of Egypt - The eating of unleavened bread was to symbolize and remind Israel of the affliction from which the LORD had delivered. them. The purpose in turn was to stimulate their remembrance of their great deliverance by the strong arm of the LORD. 

Utley on unleavened - Leaven, which was regularly used in sacrificial items (cf. Lev. 7:13; 23:17), became a symbol of sin and rebellion. The fermentation was viewed in this symbolic feast as Israel’s opportunity on an individual basis to examine their lives for any hint of rebellion or disobedience to YHWH. As the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16) functioned on a national level, the Feast of Unleavened Bread functioned on an individual or family level. This annual required feast being combined with the Passover feast kept the gracious deliverance of YHWH ever before the minds and hearts of His people. As grace and promise provided deliverance from Egypt, so Israel depended on these unchanging divine characteristics to save her as the years went by (cf. 4:9).

Guzik - Leaven was a picture of sin and corruption, because of the way a little leaven would influence a whole lump of dough, and also because of the way leaven would “puff up” the lump—even as pride and sin makes us “puffed up.”. Significantly, God called them to walk unleavened after their initial deliverance from Egypt; symbolically, they were being called to a pure walk with the LORD.

Is this not what the NT version of "passover" is to do for believers? It is to stir our memories (CROSS) and invigorate our hope (hope sure, not hope so = Second Coming). And so Paul records...

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do  (present imperative see our need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey) this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do (present imperative see our need to depend on the Holy Spirit to obey)  this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death (FIRST COMING) until He comes (SECOND COMING). (1Co 11:23-26+)

Deuteronomy 16:4  "For seven days no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory, and none of the flesh which you sacrifice on the evening of the first day shall remain overnight until morning.


For seven days no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory - Seven is a complete number and leaven is a symbol of sin.

And none of the flesh which you sacrifice on the evening of the first day shall remain overnight until morning - Lit., "the meat that you sacrifice on the first day."  It was to be burned (Ex. 12:10).  The passover meal was to be eaten on the first day but not retained to the next day. 

Currid - The Passover celebration of verses 1–2 is tied to the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Exod. 23:14–17): these are one, single major festival. One of the principal characteristics of this feast is abstention from leaven. And this prohibition not only applies to the central sanctuary but to the whole of Israel. Unleavened bread only is to be consumed by the people. It is called ‘the bread of affliction’. That is an example of metonymy; namely, the bread is a figure that specifically symbolizes Israel’s hasty escape out of Egypt. There they had no time to leaven dough or cook it: ‘so the people lifted onto their shoulders dough [which] had not yet been leavened, in kneading bowls wrapped in clothes’ (Exod. 12:34). In addition, the word ‘affliction’ is used in a more general way of Israel’s slavery in Egypt (see Exod. 3:7, 17; 4:31). And, thus, the term may in fact be a reference to the entire period of Israel’s oppression and distress at the hands of the Egyptians. (Ibid)

Deuteronomy 16:5  "You are not allowed to sacrifice the Passover in any of your towns which the LORD your God is giving you;


You are not allowed to sacrifice the Passover in any of your towns which the LORD your God is giving you - "Remember, Moses is addressing, for the most part, the children of the exodus generation. This verse implies that every generation should put themselves in the place of that first generation who experienced the power and presence of God, yet rebelled and died in the wilderness. Each of the annual feasts were to help Israel trust more in YHWH’s presence and provision. He was with them and for them, as He had been with their ancestors." (Utley)

Deuteronomy 16:6  but at the place where the LORD your God chooses to establish His name, you shall sacrifice the Passover in the evening at sunset, at the time that you came out of Egypt.

  • in the evening at sunset: Ex 12:6-9 Nu 9:3,11 Mt 26:20 Heb 1:2,3 9:26 1Pe 1:19,20 
  • Deuteronomy 16 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

Related Passage:

Exodus 12:6-9 ‘You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight. 7 ‘Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 ‘They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 9 ‘Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, both its head and its legs along with its entrails.

Comment  on twilight - This meant either between sunset and dark or between 3 and 5 P.M. The latter time period is probably correct because it would allow more time for slaughtering and preparing the animal, which would be needed later when many sacrifices would be offered at the sanctuary.

Mt 26:19-21 The disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover. 20 Now when evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples. 21 As they were eating, He said, “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me.”


But at the place where the LORD your God chooses to establish His name, you shall sacrifice the Passover in the evening at sunset, at the time that you came out of Egypt - In the first Passover the sacrifices were slain by every family in their house (Ex 12:46+) but now the Passover must be sacrificed at the central place of worship. Sunset was the beginning of a new day for Israelites.

Deuteronomy 16:7  "You shall cook and eat it in the place which the LORD your God chooses. In the morning you are to return to your tents.

  • cook: Ex 12:8,9 2Ch 35:13 Ps 22:14,15 
  • in the place: De 16:2,6 2Ki 23:23  Joh 2:13,23 11:55 
  • Deuteronomy 16 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

You shall cook and eat it in the place which the LORD your God chooses - First the Tabernacle, later the Temple.

In the morning you are to return to your tents - The tents housed the pilgrims from around the land. 

NET NOTE - The rules that governed the Passover meal are found in Exod 12:1–51, and Deut 16:1–8. The word translated “cook” (בָּשַׁל, bashal) here is translated “boil” in other places (e.g. Exod 23:19, 1 Sam 2:13–15). This would seem to contradict Exod 12:9 where the Israelites are told not to eat the Passover sacrifice raw or boiled. However, 2 Chr 35:13 recounts the celebration of a Passover feast during the reign of Josiah, and explains that the people “cooked (בָּשַׁל, bashal) the Passover sacrifices over the open fire.” The use of בָּשַׁל (bashal) with “fire” (אֵשׁ, ’esh) suggests that the word could be used to speak of boiling or roasting.

Deuteronomy 16:8  "Six days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a solemn assembly to the LORD your God; you shall do no work on it.

  • Six days: Ex 12:15,16 13:7,8 Lev 23:6-8 Nu 28:17-19 
  • solemn assembly: Lev 23:36 2Ch 7:9 Ne 8:18 Joel 1:14 
  • Deuteronomy 16 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

Six days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a solemn assembly to the LORD your God; you shall do no work on it - a Sabbath day on which no work is to be done.

Solemn Assembly (06116atsarah from atsar = to restrain, retain) is a feminine noun that means assembly, and in most contexts has a religious connotation which is why it is most often translated as "solemn assembly." Solemn assemblies included those prescribed by God such as the Feast of Passover (Dt. 16:8) and the all-day gathering at the end of the Feast of Booths (Neh 8:18) Other assemblies were either for the worship of Baal (2 Ki 10:20) or were detestable to God because Israel's heart was not right before the LORD (Isa 1:13; Amos 5:21)..

Atsarah - 11x in 11c - assembly(2), solemn assemblies(1), solemn assembly(8). Lev. 23:36; Num. 29:35; Deut. 16:8; 2 Ki. 10:20; 2 Chr. 7:9; Neh. 8:18; Isa. 1:13; Jer. 9:2; Joel 1:14; Joel 2:15; Amos 5:21

Deuteronomy 16:9  "You shall count seven weeks for yourself; you shall begin to count seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain.

  • De 16:10,16 Ex 23:16 34:22 Lev 23:15,16 Nu 28:26-30 2Ch 8:13 Ac 2:1 1Co 16:8 Heb 2:1 
  • Deuteronomy 16 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


You shall count seven weeks for yourself; you shall begin to count seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain - Leviticus passage below provides a more definite calculation

Leviticus 23:11-15  ‘He shall wave the sheaf before the LORD for you to be accepted; on the day after the sabbath the priest shall wave it. 12‘Now on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb one year old without defect for a burnt offering to the LORD. 13 ‘Its grain offering shall then be two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering by fire to the LORD for a soothing aroma, with its drink offering, a fourth of a hin of wine. 14 ‘Until this same day, until you have brought in the offering of your God, you shall eat neither bread nor roasted grain nor new growth. It is to be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwelling places.  15 ‘You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete sabbaths.

Deuteronomy 16:10  "Then you shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God with a tribute of a freewill offering of your hand, which you shall give just as the LORD your God blesses you;

  • a tribute:  De 16:16 Lev 5:7 12:8 25:26 *margins Nu 31:28,37 Pr 3:9,10 
  • just as: De 16:17 Pr 10:22 Joe 2:14 Hag 2:15-19 Mal 3:10,11 1Co 16:2 2Co 8:10,12 9:5-11
  • Deuteronomy 16 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

Calendar of Jewish Feasts
(Source: Rose Guide to the Tabernacle 
Excellent Teaching Resource)


Then you shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God with a tribute of a freewill offering of your hand, which you shall give just as (in proportion to how) the LORD your God blesses (barak) you - The Feast of Weeks (aka, Feast of the Harvest = Ex 23:16+ or day of the first fruits = Lev 23:9–22+; Nu 28:26–31+; Pentecost = Acts 2:1+) was also to celebrated at the Tabernacle (later the Temple). The freewill offering is made, not out of requirement, but out of devotion (e.g., Ex. 35:29+) The worshiper is to bring whatever offering his means allow (Dt 16:17).

Utley - It was the May–June harvest festival or the time of the wheat harvest. YHWH, not Ba’al, was the provider!

Tribute (04530)(missāh) Occurring only in Dt. 16:10 in the expression, "in proportion to the blessing" (NIV), missāh has cognates in Middle Hebrew, Jewish Aramaic, Christian Palestinian Aramaic, Egyptian Aramaic and Syriac, all meaning "sufficiency." It is often found in the Targums, the Aramaic translation and paraphrase of OT Scripture, used for Biblical Hebrew nouns denoting sufficient or surplus amounts. The Feast of Weeks, a harvest festival, began seven weeks after the "sickle was put to the standing grain" (Deut. 16:9). At these feasts, the burnt offerings, grain, drink and fellowship offerings were to be accompanied by freewill offerings (Num. 29:39). Israel was always to remember their past (they had been slaves in Egypt, 15:15) and show compassion toward the poor and downtrodden. Each was encouraged to contribute freely, according to their ability. (Complete Biblical Library - Incredible Resource)

NET NOTE - The Hebrew phrase חַג שָׁבֻעוֹת (khag shavu’ot) is otherwise known in the OT (Exod 23:16) as קָצִיר (qatsir, “harvest”) and in the NT as πεντηχοστή (pentēchostē, “Pentecost”).

Freewill offering (05071nedabah from verb nadab = to incite willingly = the free, voluntary desire of the heart to give of oneself or of one’s resources to the service of the Lord - Ex 25:2, 35:21, 1Chr 29:6, Ezra 1:6) is a feminine noun meaning willingness, a freewill offering, a voluntary gift and is from the root ndb which describes "an uncompelled and free movement of the will unto divine service or sacrifice." (TWOT) Most often, however, the term is utilized to signify an offering, a gift, or a sacrifice given voluntarily, as opposed to one offered in dutiful fulfillment of an obligation or vow (Lev. 22:23). Many from the congregation of Israel whose hearts were willing gave of their possessions as freewill offerings for the building of the Tent of Meeting and its services (Ex. 35:29; 36:3; cf. Lev. 7:16; Ezra 1:4; 3:5; 8:28; Ezek. 46:12; Amos 4:5). (Ibid) A freewill offering is one that is voluntary and not compulsory, prompted only by the impulse of the donor. The psalmist uses nedabah figuratively praying "O accept the freewill offerings (Lxx = ekousia = voluntary, done without compulsion, of one's own free will) of my mouth." (Ps119:108) In Ps 68:9 nedabah describes a "plentiful (Lxx = ekousia - voluntary, spontaneous) rain."

QUESTION - What is the Feast of Weeks (PENTECOST)?

ANSWER - Described in Leviticus 23, The Feast of Weeks is the second of the three “solemn feasts” that all Jewish males were required to travel to Jerusalem to attend (Exodus 23:14–17; 34:22–23; Deuteronomy 16:16). This important feast gets its name from the fact that it starts seven full weeks, or exactly 50 days, after the Feast of Firstfruits. Since it takes place exactly 50 days after the previous feast, this feast is also known as “Pentecost” (Acts 2:1), which means “fifty.”

Each of three “solemn feasts”—Passover, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles—required that all able-bodied Jewish males travel to Jerusalem to attend the feast and offer sacrifices. All three of these feasts required that “firstfruit” offerings be made at the temple as a way of expressing thanksgiving for God’s provision. The Feast of Firstfruits celebrated at the time of the Passover included the first fruits of the barley harvest. The Feast of Weeks was in celebration of the first fruits of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Tabernacles involved offerings of the first fruits of the olive and grape harvests.

Since the Feast of Weeks was one of the “harvest feasts,” the Jews were commanded to “present an offering of new grain to the Lord” (Leviticus 23:16). This offering was to be “two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah” which were made “of fine flour . . . baked with leaven.” The offerings were to be made of the first fruits of that harvest (Leviticus 23:17). Along with the “wave offerings” they were also to offer seven first-year lambs that were without blemish along with one young bull and two rams. Additional offerings are also prescribed in Leviticus and the other passages that outline how this feast was to be observed. Another important requirement of this feast is that, when the Jews harvested their fields, they were required to leave the corners of the field untouched and not gather “any gleanings” from the harvest as a way of providing for the poor and strangers (Leviticus 23:22).

To the Jews, this time of celebration is known as Shavuot, which is the Hebrew word meaning “weeks.” This is one of three separate names that are used in Scripture to refer to this important Jewish feast. Each name emphasizes an important aspect of the feast as well as its religious and cultural significance to both Jews and Christians. Besides being called the Feast of Weeks in Leviticus 23, this special feast celebration is called the “Day of the Firstfruits” in Numbers 28:26 and the “Feast of Harvest” in Exodus 23:16.

The Feast of Weeks takes place exactly 50 days after the Feast of Firstfruits. It normally occurs in late spring, either the last part of May or the beginning of June. Unlike other feasts that began on a specific day of the Hebrew calendar, this one is calculated as being “fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath” (Leviticus 23:15–16; Deuteronomy 16:9–10).

Like other Jewish feasts, the Feast of Weeks is important in that it foreshadows the coming Messiah and His ministry. Each and every one of the seven Jewish Feasts signifies an important aspect of God’s plan of redemption through Jesus Christ.

Jesus was crucified as the “Passover Lamb” and rose from the grave at the Feast of Firstfruits. Following His resurrection, Jesus spent the next 40 days teaching His disciples before ascending to heaven (Acts 1). Fifty days after His resurrection and after ascending to heaven to sit at the right hand of God, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit as promised (John 14:16–17) to indwell the disciples and empower them for ministry. The promised Holy Spirit arrived on the Day of Pentecost, which is another name for the Feast of Weeks.

The spiritual significances of the Feast of Weeks are many. Some see the two loaves of leavened bread that were to be a wave offering as foreshadowing the time when the Messiah would make both Jew and Gentile to be one in Him (Ephesians 2:14–15). This is also the only feast where leavened bread is used. Leaven in Scripture is often used symbolically of sin, and the leavened bread used in the Feast of Weeks is thought to be representative of the fact that there is still sin within the church (body of Christ) and will be until Christ returns again.

On the Day of Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks, the “firstfruits” of the church were gathered by Christ as some 3,000 people heard Peter present the gospel after the Holy Spirit had empowered and indwelt the disciples as promised. With the promised indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the first fruits of God’s spiritual harvest under the New Covenant began. Today that harvest continues as people continue to be saved, but there is also another coming harvest whereby God will again turn His attention back to Israel so that “all of Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26). |

Deuteronomy 16:11  and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite who is in your town, and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your midst, in the place where the LORD your God chooses to establish His name.

  • De 16:14 12:7,12,18 Isa 64:5 66:10-14 Hab 3:18 Ro 5:11 2Co 1:24 Php 4:4 
  • Deuteronomy 16 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite who is in your town, and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your midst, in the place where the LORD your God chooses to establish His name - It was a time of joy because of the harvest provided by Yahweh.

Guzik - "There was no ritual of sacrifice commanded at Pentecost. Instead, it was a time of joyful thanksgiving for the harvest, and heart-response to God."

Rejoice (08055)(samah) A verb meaning to rejoice; to be joyful, to be glad; to gloat. It describes a state and agitation of rejoicing, of being happy: of people (1 Sam. 11:9); of tribes of Israel (Deut. 33:18); of God rejoicing in His works (Ps. 104:31); of people rejoicing in the Lord Himself (Deut. 12:12; Ps. 32:11). It takes on the sense of making others rejoice, to be glad in its intensive stem (Jer. 20:15); making people rejoice the heart of others (Ps. 19:8[9]). Wine can gladden the hearts of persons (Eccl. 10:19). God gladdens His people with His presence (Isa. 56:7); but also their enemies when He judges Israel (Ps. 89:42[43]). Although the word is used of all rejoicing, it is found most often in Psalms and describes religious and spiritual rejoicing (Ps. 5:11[12]; 9:2[3]; 14:7; 16:9; 19:8[9], etc.; but also 1 Sam. 2:1; Deut. 12:7; Joel 2:23, etc.). (Complete Word Study Dictionary – Old Testament) 

See also:

Complete Biblical Library Well attested in Semitic, the verb sāmach means "to rejoice" or "to be glad." Sāmach and its derivatives are distributed throughout the OT with only a handful of Books lacking an occurrence. In the Qal stem, sāmach means simply "to rejoice." There are many occasions for rejoicing cited in the OT, such as meeting a loved one (Exo. 4:14), drinking wine (Ps. 104:15), a good word (Prov. 12:25), being released from prison (Jer. 41:13) and gaining a victory over an enemy (1 Sam 19:5). The most common cause of rejoicing, however, was the salvation of the Lord (e.g., 2 Chr. 20:27; Pss. 9:2; 64:10; 92:4). God's people were to celebrate his goodness to them by observing regular feasts, such as the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:40) and the Feast of Weeks (Deut. 16:11). Tithing was also to be a joyful occasion (14:26). Rejoicing was to be an active event, as can be seen from its association with singing (Ps. 9:2), eating and drinking (Deut. 12:18), clapping hands (Ezek. 25:6) and playing musical instruments (Job 21:12). Indeed, a person's heart (Exo. 4:14) and soul (Ps. 86:4) are said to rejoice.

Vine - Usage Notes: "to rejoice, be joyful." This verb also occurs in Ugaritic (where its radicals are sh-m-h) and perhaps in Aramaic-Syriac. It appears in all periods of Hebrew and about 155 times in the Bible.

Śāmaḥ usually refers to a spontaneous emotion or extreme happiness which is expressed in some visible and/or external manner. It does not normally represent an abiding state of wellbeing or feeling. This emotion arises at festivals, circumcision feasts, wedding feasts, harvest feasts, the overthrow of one's enemies, and other such events. The men of Jabesh broke out joyously when they were told that they would be delivered from the Philistines (1 Sam. 11a:9). The emotion expressed in the verb śāmaḥ usually finds a visible expression. In Jer. 50:11 the Babylonians are denounced as being glad and "jubilant" over the pillage of Israel. Their emotion is expressed externally by their skipping about like a threshing heifer and neighing like stallions. The emotion represented in the verb (and concretized in the noun śimḥâ) is sometimes accompanied by dancing, singing, and playing musical instruments. This was the sense when David was heralded by the women of Jerusalem as he returned victorious over the Philistines (1 Sam. 18:6). This emotion is usually described as the product of some external situation, circumstance, or experience, such as found in the first biblical appearance of śāmaḥ: God told Moses that Aaron was coming to meet him and "when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart" (Exod. 4:14). This passage speaks of inner feeling which is visibly expressed. When Aaron saw Moses, he was overcome with joy and kissed him (v. 27). Therefore, the verb śāmaḥ suggests three elements: (1) a spontaneous, unsustained feeling of jubilance, (2) a feeling so strong that it finds expression in some external act, and (3) a feeling prompted by some external and unsustained stimulus.

This verb is used intransitively signifying that the action is focused on the subject (cf. 1 Sam. 11:9). God is sometimes the subject, the one who "rejoices and is jubilant": "The glory of the Lord shall endure for ever: the Lord shall rejoice in his works" (Psa. 104:31). The godly are to "be glad in the Lord, and rejoice… and shout for joy…" (Psa. 32:11). Śāmaḥ can also mean "to be joyful or glad." In the place the Lord chooses, Israel is "to be joyful" in all in which the Lord blesses them (Deut. 12:7). Used thus the verb describes a state into which one places himself under given circumstances. It has a further and technical sense describing all that one does in making a feast before God: "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" (Lev. 23:40).

In a few cases the verb describes an ongoing state. In 1 Kings 4:20 the reign of Solomon is summarized as follows: "Judah and Israel were many, as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking, and making merry."(Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament and New Testament Words)

Samah - 148x - Exod. 4:14; Lev. 23:40; Deut. 12:7; Deut. 12:12; Deut. 12:18; Deut. 14:26; Deut. 16:11; Deut. 16:14; Deut. 24:5; Deut. 26:11; Deut. 27:7; Deut. 33:18; Jdg. 9:13; Jdg. 9:19; Jdg. 19:3; 1 Sam. 2:1; 1 Sam. 6:13; 1 Sam. 11:9; 1 Sam. 11:15; 1 Sam. 19:5; 2 Sam. 1:20; 1 Ki. 5:7; 2 Ki. 11:20; 1 Chr. 16:10; 1 Chr. 16:31; 1 Chr. 29:9; 2 Chr. 6:41; 2 Chr. 15:15; 2 Chr. 20:27; 2 Chr. 23:21; 2 Chr. 24:10; 2 Chr. 29:36; 2 Chr. 30:25; Ezr. 6:22; Neh. 12:43; Est. 8:15; Job 21:12; Job 22:19; Job 31:25; Job 31:29; Ps. 5:11; Ps. 9:2; Ps. 14:7; Ps. 16:9; Ps. 19:8; Ps. 21:1; Ps. 30:1; Ps. 31:7; Ps. 32:11; Ps. 33:21; Ps. 34:2; Ps. 35:15; Ps. 35:19; Ps. 35:24; Ps. 35:27; Ps. 38:16; Ps. 40:16; Ps. 45:8; Ps. 46:4; Ps. 48:11; Ps. 53:6; Ps. 58:10; Ps. 63:11; Ps. 64:10; Ps. 66:6; Ps. 67:4; Ps. 68:3; Ps. 69:32; Ps. 70:4; Ps. 85:6; Ps. 86:4; Ps. 89:42; Ps. 90:14; Ps. 90:15; Ps. 92:4; Ps. 96:11; Ps. 97:1; Ps. 97:8; Ps. 97:12; Ps. 104:15; Ps. 104:31; Ps. 104:34; Ps. 105:3; Ps. 105:38; Ps. 106:5; Ps. 107:30; Ps. 107:42; Ps. 109:28; Ps. 118:24; Ps. 119:74; Ps. 122:1; Ps. 149:2; Prov. 5:18; Prov. 10:1; Prov. 12:25; Prov. 13:9; Prov. 15:20; Prov. 15:30; Prov. 17:21; Prov. 23:15; Prov. 23:24; Prov. 23:25; Prov. 24:17; Prov. 27:9; Prov. 27:11; Prov. 29:2; Prov. 29:3; Prov. 29:6; Eccl. 3:12; Eccl. 3:22; Eccl. 4:16; Eccl. 5:19; Eccl. 8:15; Eccl. 10:19; Eccl. 11:8; Eccl. 11:9; Cant. 1:4; Isa. 9:3; Isa. 9:17; Isa. 14:8; Isa. 14:29; Isa. 25:9; Isa. 39:2; Isa. 56:7; Isa. 65:13; Isa. 66:10; Jer. 20:15; Jer. 31:13; Jer. 41:13; Jer. 50:11; Lam. 2:17; Lam. 4:21; Ezek. 7:12; Ezek. 25:6; Ezek. 35:14; Ezek. 35:15; Hos. 7:3; Hos. 9:1; Joel 2:21; Joel 2:23; Obad. 1:12; Jon. 4:6; Mic. 7:8; Hab. 1:15; Zeph. 3:14; Zech. 2:10; Zech. 4:10; Zech. 10:7

Samah refers to with one's whole disposition as indicated by its association with the heart (cf. Ex 4:14 Ps 104:15 105:3), the soul (Ps 86:4); and with lighting up of the eyes (Pr 15:30).

The heartfelt joy is equivalent to inner peace and tranquility. The first use of this Hebrew verb samach give a sense of what David is saying the precepts of the LORD will do for the hungry heart (Lv 23:40).

From an email I received from Grace Bible Church team ministering in Haiti Oct, 2000 helping establish Awana's (Bible memory program) among the poor children… an example of what God's precepts can do in real life

"As he was video taping and filming the Awana training, Rod Henegar sensed an overwhelming appreciation of how Awana is going to minister to the children of Haiti. When the children first arrived at the new club, their faces showed visible apprehension, but as they studied the Scriptures and God's Word, their countenance seemed to take on an "angelic aura" and their desire to come back again was so apparent--"Such a transformation!" (Ed: Beautiful example of supernatural word producing a supernatural result = "rejoicing the heart"!)

Deuteronomy 16:12  "You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall be careful to observe these statutes.

Related Passage:

Dt 5:15+ ‘You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day. 


You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall be careful to observe these statutes - "The theological reason for the Feast of Weeks (agricultural harvest) was Israel’s experience of slavery in Egypt." (Utley)

Guzik - The joy of Pentecost was intensified by remembering the bondage Israel had escaped. Leviticus 23:15–21 describes how, at the feast of Pentecost, Israel was to celebrate by bringing a new grain offering to the LORD and by waving two loaves of leavened bread unto the LORD. Prophetically, this is a powerful picture of the work of God in the New Covenant, fulfilled at the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. No atoning sacrifice was necessary because the price had already been paid by Jesus.. There was a great harvest unto God, and great thanksgiving for that harvest. The response to God on the day of Pentecost was not done out of obligation to a particular law. It was the joyful heart-response of God’s people unto Him.. The church, founded on the day of Pentecost, would include the “leavened bread” of the Gentiles, waved as holy before God—made holy by the work of Jesus the Messiah.

Curry - ‘You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt’—this is a direct quotation from the Decalogue (see Dt 5:15+). It is part of the Fourth Commandment, which requires obedience to the Sabbath. The Feast of Weeks is obviously structured on the Sabbath command, and it bears a similar purpose to that of the Sabbath: they both denote freedom from oppression and dependence on the one and only true God! That gives one reason to be joyful!

Deuteronomy 16:12 F. B. Meyer Our Daily Homily

THIS gave the touch of gentle tenderness to Israel's treatment of the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. They knew what loneliness and desperate suffering were; and from their own experience could speak to the heart. Without tenderness and sympathy, what are our gifts to the poor worth? It is as important to give graciously and kindly as to give at all. None are so sensitive as sufferers, whether in mind, body, or circumstance; they are quick to notice the slightest roughness or harshness in our manner of bestowing relief; they would prefer a pittance given with tender sympathy to a larger gift flung at them grudgingly. But what can give this thoughtful sympathetic manner like the memory of our own sufferings, when we were bondmen in Egypt!

It may be that God is passing thee through some fiery ordeal, to teach thee and fit thee to be His almoner, touching and soothing as His outstretched hand of pity. Soon thy present sorrow shall be but a memory; but thou wilt be called to minister to the fatherless, the widow, the stranger. Always say in thine heart, God is passing me through this sorrow, and comforting me, and delivering me, that I may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble with the very accent, caress, and tender word which He hath spoken to me. "Blessed be the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our affliction, that we may be able to comfort them that are in any affliction through the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God."

In heaven itself we shall never quite forget that we were bondmen once, but were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ. This will give a new meaning to the song of adoring gladness.

Summary of Numbers 28-29 Calendar (Source: Bible Knowledge Commentary)
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Deuteronomy 16:13  "You shall celebrate the Feast of Booths seven days after you have gathered in from your threshing floor and your wine vat;

  • the feast: De 31:10 Ex 23:16 34:22 Lev 23:34-36 Nu 29:12-40 2Ch 5:3 7:8-10 2Ch 8:13 Ezr 3:4 Ne 8:14-18 Zec 14:16-18 Joh 7:2 
  • Deuteronomy 16 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

Calendar of Jewish Feasts
(Source: Rose Guide to the Taberna


You shall celebrate the Feast of Booths seven days after you have gathered in from your threshing floor and your wine vat  (Exod. 23:16; 34:22).- According to Leviticus 23:34, its timing is definite: from the fifteenth to the twenty-first of the seventh month. The feast marked not only the joy and thankfulness of a grateful people for God’s provision at the end of the agricultural season (Lev 23:39–41), but was to be a perpetual reminder (Deut 16:13ff.) to the people of God’s care for his own whom he had rescued from Egypt during those long years in the wilderness (Lev 23:42–43). The feast was closed by a day of rest, featured by a holy convocation, marking not only the climax of the religious year but symbolizing the rest of the believer in his God (Lev 23:39). Prophetically, the feast finds final fulfillment in that grand day when God will raise up the fallen booth of David (Amos 9:11) and give shelter to his repentant, redeemed, and re-gathered people (Isa 4:6).

Utley -  The Feast of Booths came in the fall and was during the ingathering time (cf. Exod. 23:16; 34:22). For the theological reason for this feast see Lev. 23:33–43. The background to “booths” is said to reflect the Israelites’ experience of:  agricultural life in Egypt, where booths were built in the fields at harvest time;  living in temporary housing (i.e., tents) during the exodus and wilderness wandering period and the temporary shelters needed for pilgrims to stay at the central sanctuary (less probable)

Guzik - This was to happen on the fifteenth day of the Jewish month Tishri (on the Jewish ceremonial calendar). The Feast of Tabernacles was a time to rejoice in God’s deliverance and provision for Israel during the time of wilderness wandering; a time when having come into the Promised Land, looking back with gratitude on all God had done to deliver and provide in the tough times of the wilderness.. Leviticus 23:39 says of the Feast of Tabernacles, on the first day there shall be a sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a sabbath rest. The Feast of Tabernacles began and ended in rest; it was all about celebration and rest and refreshment, remembering what God had done.

Curry - This celebration is so important that elsewhere in the Old Testament it is simply referred to as ‘the feast’ (1 Kings 8:2, 65; 12:32). Its special importance is further confirmed by Leviticus simply calling it ‘the feast of Yahweh’ (Lev. 23:39). Held at the central sanctuary, this pilgrim feast is to be one of great joy: the term in the final verse translated ‘indeed’ is emphatic in Hebrew. God richly provides for his people and they are to rejoice in his provision. In regard to all the pilgrim festivals Deuteronomy, more than any other book of the Pentateuch, stresses the rejoicing of Israel in response to these days of celebration. (Ibid)

NET Note - The Hebrew phrase חַג הַסֻּכֹּת (khag hassukot, “festival of huts” or “festival of shelters”) is traditionally known as the Feast of Tabernacles. The rendering “booths” (cf. NAB, NASB, NRSV) is now preferable to the traditional “tabernacles” (KJV, ASV, NIV) in light of the meaning of the term סֻכָּה (sukkah, “hut; booth”), but “booths” are frequently associated with trade shows and craft fairs in contemporary American English. Clearer is the English term “shelters” (so NCV, TEV, CEV, NLT), but this does not reflect the temporary nature of the living arrangement. This feast was a commemoration of the wanderings of the Israelites after they left Egypt, suggesting that a translation like “temporary shelters” is more appropriate.

Booths (tabernacles) (05521sukkah from sakak = to weave together) meant a shelter, a hut, a booth or a thicket. Sukkah described temporary shelters for animals (Ge 33:17), soldiers (2Sa 11:11), prophets (Jonah 4:5). In Lev 23:42-43 it refers to the booths constructed for the harvest feast, the Feast of Booths (Hebrew transliterated = hag [feast] hassukkot), which was held in the Fall (15th of Tishri - late Sept to Oct - see table for the Seven Great Feasts of Israel)

QUESTION - What is the Feast of Tabernacles / Booths / Sukkot?

ANSWER - The Feast of Tabernacles, also known as the Feast of Booths and Sukkot, is the seventh and last feast that the Lord commanded Israel to observe and one of the three feasts that Jews were to observe each year by going to “appear before the Lord your God in the place which He shall choose” (Deuteronomy 16:16). The importance of the Feast of Tabernacles can be seen in how many places it is mentioned in Scripture. In the Bible we see many important events that took place at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles. For one thing, it was at this time that Solomon’s Temple was dedicated to the Lord (1 Kings 8:2).

It was also at the Feast of Tabernacles that the Israelites, who had returned to rebuild the temple, gathered together to hear Ezra proclaim the Word of God to them (Nehemiah 8). Ezra’s preaching resulted in a great revival as the Israelites confessed their sins and repented of them. It was also during this Feast that Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37–39).

The Feast of Tabernacles takes place on the 15th of the Hebrew month Tishri. This was the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar and usually occurs in late September to mid-October. The feast begins five days after the Day of Atonement and at the time the fall harvest had just been completed. It was a time of joyous celebration as the Israelites celebrated God’s continued provision for them in the current harvest and remembered His provision and protection during the 40 years in the wilderness.

As one of the three feasts that all “native born” male Jews were commanded to participate in, the Feast of Tabernacles is mentioned multiple times in Scripture, sometimes called the Feast of the Ingathering, the Feast to the Lord, or the Feast of Booths (Exodus 23:16; Deuteronomy 16:13). As one of the pilgrim feasts (when Jewish males were commanded to go to Jerusalem), it was also the time when they brought their tithes and offerings to the Temple (Deuteronomy 16:16). With the influx of people coming to Jerusalem at that time, we can only imagine what the scene must have been like. Thousands upon thousands of people coming together to remember and celebrate God’s deliverance and His provision, all living in temporary shelters or booths as part of the requirements of the feast. During the eight-day period, so many sacrifices were made that it required all twenty-four divisions of priests to be present to assist in the sacrificial duties.

We find God’s instructions for celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles in Leviticus 23, given at a point in history right after God had delivered Israel from bondage in Egypt. The feast was to be celebrated each year on “the fifteenth day of this seventh month” and was to run for seven days (Leviticus 23:34). Like all feasts, it begins with a “holy convocation” or Sabbath day when the Israelites were to stop working to set aside the day for worshiping God. On each day of the feast they were to offer an “offering made by fire to the Lord” and then after seven days of feasting, again the eighth day was to be “a holy convocation” when they were to cease from work and offer another sacrifice to God (Leviticus 23). Lasting eight days, the Feast of Tabernacles begins and ends with a Sabbath day of rest. During the eight days of the feast, the Israelites would dwell in booths or tabernacles that were made from the branches of trees (Leviticus 23:40–42).

The Feast of Tabernacles, like all the feasts, was instituted by God as a way of reminding Israelites in every generation of their deliverance by God from Egypt. Of course, the feasts are also significant in that they foreshadow the work and actions of the coming Messiah. Much of Jesus’ public ministry took place in conjunction with the Holy Feasts set forth by God.

The three pilgrim feasts where all Jewish males were commanded to “appear before the Lord in the place he chooses” are each very important in regards to the life of Christ and His work of redemption. We know with certainty that the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread are symbolic of Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross. Likewise, we know that Pentecost, which marked the beginning of the Feast of Weeks, was the time of Jesus’ bodily ascension. And most scholars would agree that the Feast of Tabernacles is symbolic of Christ’s Second Coming when He will establish His earthly kingdom.

There are also some who believe that it was likely during the Feast of Tabernacles that Jesus was born. While we celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25, most scholars acknowledge that this tradition was begun in the fourth century AD by the Roman Catholic Church and that the exact day of Jesus’ birth is unknown. Some of the evidence that Jesus might have been born earlier in the year during the Feast of the Tabernacles includes the fact that it would be unlikely for shepherds to still be in the field with their sheep in December, which is in the middle of the winter, but it would have been likely they were in the fields tending sheep at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles. The strong possibility that Jesus was born at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles is also seen in the words John wrote in John 1:14. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” The word John chose to speak of Jesus “dwelling” among us is the word tabernacle, which simply means to “dwell in a tent.”

Some believe it is very likely that John intentionally used this word to associate the first coming of Christ with the Feast of Tabernacles. Christ came in the flesh to dwell among us for a temporary time when He was born in the manger, and He is coming again to dwell among us as Lord of Lords. While it cannot be established with certainty that Jesus was born during the Feast of Tabernacles, some believe there is a strong possibility the Feast of Tabernacles not only looks forward to His second coming but also reflects back on His first coming.

The Feast of Tabernacles begins and ends with a special Sabbath day of rest. During the days of the feast all native Israelites were “to dwell in booths” to remind them that God delivered them out of the “land of Egypt” and to look forward to the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, who would deliver His people from the bondage of sin. This feast, like all of the feasts of Israel, consistently reminded the Jews and should remind Christians as well that God has promised to deliver His people from the bondage of sin and deliver them from their enemies. Part of God’s deliverance for the Israelites was His provision and protection of them for the 40 years they wandered in the wilderness, cut off from the Promised Land. The same holds true for Christians today. God protects us and provides for us as we go through life in the wilderness of this world. While our hearts long for the Promised Land (heaven) and to be in the presence of God, He preserves us in this world as we await the world to come and the redemption that will come when Jesus Christ returns again to “tabernacle” or dwell among us in bodily form.

Related Resource:

Deuteronomy 16:14  and you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your towns.

  • De 12:12 26:11 Ne 8:9-12 Ec 9:7 Isa 12:1-6 25:6-8 30:29 35:10 1Th 5:16 
  • Deuteronomy 16 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


and you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your towns 

Rejoice (08055)(samah) A verb meaning to rejoice; to be joyful, to be glad; to gloat. It describes a state and agitation of rejoicing, of being happy: of people (1 Sam. 11:9); of tribes of Israel (Deut. 33:18); of God rejoicing in His works (Ps. 104:31); of people rejoicing in the Lord Himself (Deut. 12:12; Ps. 32:11). It takes on the sense of making others rejoice, to be glad in its intensive stem (Jer. 20:15); making people rejoice the heart of others (Ps. 19:8[9]). Wine can gladden the hearts of persons (Eccl. 10:19). God gladdens His people with His presence (Isa. 56:7); but also their enemies when He judges Israel (Ps. 89:42[43]). Although the word is used of all rejoicing, it is found most often in Psalms and describes religious and spiritual rejoicing (Ps. 5:11[12]; 9:2[3]; 14:7; 16:9; 19:8[9], etc.; but also 1 Sam. 2:1; Deut. 12:7; Joel 2:23, etc.). (Complete Word Study Dictionary – Old Testament) 

See also:

Deuteronomy 16:15  "Seven days you shall celebrate a feast to the LORD your God in the place which the LORD chooses, because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.

  • Seven days: Lev 23:36-42 Nu 29:12-38 
  • because: De 16:10 7:13 28:8-12 30:16 
  • Deuteronomy 16 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

Seven days you shall celebrate a feast to the LORD your God in the place which the LORD chooses, because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful - Harvest was a time of joy and thanksgiving to Yahweh for His bountiful blessings. 

Utley - YHWH wants to bless His people so that they may rejoice (BDB 970, KB 1333, Qal PERFECT) individually, as a family, and as the people of God (cf. Dt 12:7, 12, 18; 14:26; 16:11, 14; 26:11; 27:7).

Guzik - Prophetically, the feast of Tabernacles speaks of the millennial rest of comfort of God for Israel and all of God’s people; it is all about peace and rest, from beginning to end.. Tabernacles is specifically said to be celebrated during the millennium (Zechariah 14:16–19+).

Deuteronomy 16:16  "Three times in a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses, at the Feast of Unleavened Bread and at the Feast of Weeks and at the Feast of Booths, and they shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed.

  • Three times: Ex 23:14-17 34:22,23 1Ki 9:25 
  • and they shall: Ex 23:15 34:20 1Ch 29:3-9,14-17 Ps 96:8 Pr 3:9,10 Isa 23:18 Isa 60:6-9 Hag 1:9 Mt 2:11 Mk 12:3 
  • Deuteronomy 16 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


Three times in a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses, at the Feast of Unleavened Bread and at the Feast of Weeks and at the Feast of Booths, and they shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed - (cf Ex. 23:17; 34:23–24; cf. 2 Chr. 8:13) These three feasts were to be attended by all the men over 20 years of age and if possible their families were to go as well (Dt 16:11, 14, cf Ex 23; Lv 23; Nu 28, 29.Note the Feast of Unleavened Bread includes the Passover Feast and are treated as one feast. 

Guzik - Jesus was obedient to this command; He made the trip from Galilee to Jerusalem to be at these feasts (Luke 2:41, John 7:2, 10).

Utley - Remember meals were special times of friendship and family fellowship. These feasts allowed Israel to: develop a sense of national community,  teach God’s gracious acts to new generations, help the poor and needy and rejoice in the goodness of the God of Israel and His fulfillment of covenant promises/blessings

Jack Deere - These feasts were so important to Israel’s religious life that after the Dispersion some Jews residing far from Palestine still attended one or more of the festivals whenever possible (cf. Acts 2:9–11, the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost). Attending these feasts gave the Israelites opportunity to acknowledge the Lord as their Deliverer and Provider. It also gave them opportunity to express their faith in the Lord as they left their families in God’s care to journey to the sanctuary. These festivals demonstrated that worshiping God should be a joyful experience in which the participants gratefully share in the bounty of His blessing (Deut. 16:11, 14–15; cf. 12:7, 12, 18; 14:26).

Curry - Application - All three of the pilgrim feasts of Israel are to be celebrated yearly and they are to take place at the central sanctuary. The primary reason for these festivals is clear: it is so that Israel, as a covenant community, can collectively affirm her faith in Yahweh as deliverer and provider. He has redeemed the Israelites out of Egypt, and he now provides for them abundantly in the land of Canaan. That is deserving of joyous worship from the covenant people. As Christians, we do not have a central sanctuary in which we all come to celebrate what God has done for us. Yet, in a sense we do participate in a pilgrim feast. The Scots Confession puts it this way: ‘As the fathers under the Law, besides the reality of the sacrifices, had two chief sacraments, that is, circumcision and Passover, and those who rejected these were not reckoned among God’s people; so do we acknowledge and confess that now in the time of the gospel we have two chief sacraments, which alone were instituted by the Lord Jesus and commanded to be used by all who will be counted members of his body, that is, Baptism and the Supper or Table of the Lord Jesus, also called the Communion of His Body and Blood. These sacraments, both of the Old Testament and of the New, were instituted by God not only to make a visible distinction between his people and those who were without the Covenant, but also to exercise the faith of his children …’ Christians celebrate the Passover feast at the Lord’s Supper because of the redeeming work of Christ, and the fact that he continues to provide for us his grace in order to live and thrive. As Paul so aptly states, ‘For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed’ (1 Cor. 5:7). Therefore, at the Lord’s Supper Christians rejoice greatly because of his work for us. (Ibid)

Summary of The Seven Feasts (Source: The Fall Feasts)

The Spring Feasts consisted of…

1) Passover (Pesach) (See Study of NT word for Passover (3957pascha)

2) Unleavened Bread (Chag HaMatzot)

3) Firstfruits (HaBikkurim)

4) Pentecost (Shavuot)

The Fall Feasts consisted of…

5) Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah)

6) Atonement (Yom Kippur)

7) Tabernacles (Sukkot)

Warren Wiersbe summarizes Deuteronomy 16

From the seven feasts on the Jewish calendar (Lev. 23), Moses selected three to emphasize, and they bear a message to the believer today.

Passover (Dt 16:1–8) looks to the past and reminds us that we have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb of God (John 1:29; 1 Pet. 1:18–19). Redemption brings responsibility: feeding on the Lamb and removing from our lives all things that are wrong. (See 1 Cor. 5:1–8).

Pentecost (Dt 16:9–12) speaks of renewal and the coming of the Spirit of God to His people (Acts 2). It is a harvest festival that calls us to enter into His service and help reap the harvest (Luke 10:2; John 4:33–38; Acts 1:8).

Tabernacles (Dt 16:13–17) reminded the Jews that they had lived in booths as a pilgrim people in the wilderness. We are “sojourners and pilgrims” in this world (1 Pet. 2:11) and must not get too settled down. Tabernacles also looks to the future kingdom that God has promised His people when their pilgrim journey is ended.

We need these three reminders today, lest we forget our redemption responsibilities. (With the Word Bible Commentary)

Deuteronomy 16:17  "Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you.

  • as he is able: De 16:10 Lev 27:8 Ezra 2:63 Mk 12:41-44 2Co 8:12 9:6,7 
  • Deuteronomy 16 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

Every man shall give as he is able (lit = according to the gift of his hand), according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you - This is a good principle for giving in general as one is able. Luke says "Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was approaching.." (Lk 22:1+) In effect the two actually constituted one festival (Luke 2:41; Acts 12:3–4)

Deuteronomy 16:18  "You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers in all your towns which the LORD your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment.

  • Judges: De 1:15-17 Dt 17:9,12 19:17,18 21:2 Ex 18:25-26 Ex 21:6 1Ch 23:4 26:29 2Ch 19:5-11 Ps 82:2,3 Ro 13:1-6 
  • Deuteronomy 16 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

Related Passages:

Exodus 18:25-26+  Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. 26 They judged the people at all times; the difficult dispute they would bring to Moses, but every minor dispute they themselves would judge.

Deuteronomy 1:15-17+ (MOSES' APPOINTMENT OF LEADERS AT MT SINAI) “So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and experienced men, and appointed them heads over you, leaders of thousands and of hundreds, of fifties and of tens, and officers for your tribes.  16“Then I charged your judges at that time, saying, ‘Hear the cases between your fellow countrymen, and judge righteously between a man and his fellow countryman, or the alien who is with him. 17‘You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not fear man, for the judgment is God’s. The case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.’


You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers in all your towns which the LORD your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment (lit = “with judgment of righteousness”) - The judge or shaphat refers to the activity of a third party who sits over two parties at odds with one another. This third party hears their cases against one another and decides where the right is and what to do about it

MacArthur Judges” were those who adjudicated cases with the application of the law. “Officers” were subordinate leaders of various kinds. (MSB)

NET NOTE on judges - The Hebrew term וְשֹׁטְרִים (véshoterim), usually translated “officers” (KJV, NCV) or “officials” (NAB, NIV, NRSV, NLT), derives from the verb שֹׁטֵר (shoter, “to write”). The noun became generic for all types of public officials. Here, however, it may be appositionally epexegetical to “judges,” thus resulting in the phrase, “judges, that is, civil officers,” etc. Whoever the שֹׁטְרִים are, their task here consists of rendering judgments and administering justice.

Judges (08199shaphat is a verb that means to judge or govern. The basic meaning of this verb in the Qal stem is "to make decisions" as a community leader, mainly in disputes between community members. Moses did this and followed his father-in-law's advice and appointed other leaders to deal with the lesser cases (Exo. 18:22). Such officials were to maintain justice in the land (Deut. 16:18). They were accountable to represent God in "righteous" judgment (2 Chr. 19:6). While it frequently translated judge, this is somewhat misleading as shaphat is not typical of the modern concept of judge (as in a court of law), but is much more inclusive -- to function as ruler or governor - individuals (Jdg. 16:31; 1 Sa 7:16), king (1 Ki. 3:9); even God Himself (Ps. 50:6; 75:7) because He is the source of authority and will eventually conduct all judgments (Ps. 96:13).  In a judicial sense shaphat could refer to the arbitration of civil, domestic, and religious disputes (Dt. 25:1), fulfilled by the congregation (Nu 35:24), by individual judges (Ex 18:16; Dt. 1:16), by the king (1 Sa 8:5, 6, 20) or by God Himself (Ge 16:5; 1 Sa 24:12, 15). 

Deuteronomy 16:18-17:20

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved … who correctly handles the word of truth. - 2 Timothy 2:15


In his book entitled Jesus the Pastor, John Frye observes that today’s church is often tempted to look to models other than Jesus to guide its leaders. “I am not saying that Jesus has been totally neglected, rather, he has been relegated to other dimensions of Christian and local church experience,” he explains. “Jesus is shoved into our shadows as we read our management books, do our cultural surveys, attend our leadership seminars, and applaud or criticize one another’s endeavors.”

In many ways the problem that Frye identifies is not a new one. Israel’s new-found freedom brought the challenge of establishing corporate leadership structures that reflected God’s value system. Immediately, they faced the challenge of selecting judges capable of handling the inevitable problems that come when people live in community and are responsible for governing themselves. There were also religious questions and disputes that had to be settled by the priests and Levites. What’s more, God’s people would face an even graver leadership challenge in the future.

Moses warned that Israel would not always be satisfied with the leadership structure God had established for them. Like today’s church, the time would come when they would be tempted to turn to secular examples. Moses warned that in that day they would want to choose a king who was “like all the nations” around them (Deut. 17:14). In view of these temptations, it was critical that God’s Word should be their ultimate point of reference. Israel’s leaders may have looked like those of the surrounding nations in certain respects, but they were not to be like them.


Think of the most effective leader you know. What parallels do you see between that person’s leadership style and the leadership of Christ? Why not take a moment to write a quick note to them today sharing your observations and thanking them for their effort? Don’t forget that the church is not the only context where Christ-like leadership is needed. Jesus should be our leadership model whether the context is the church, the home, or the workplace. Where do you need to lead like Jesus today?

Deuteronomy 16:20 Follow justice and justice alone. - TODAY IN THE WORD

Second Presbyterian Church in Bloomington, Illinois, was gearing up for a capital building campaign when its new pastor proposed a different project—a homeless shelter. He convinced the congregation to support putting one in the church basement, persuaded union leaders to donate labor, and also prevailed upon government and local businesses to contribute. The Compassion Center opened in March 2004. Those in need can find job search and housing resources, GED classes, a sick bay, clothing, food, phones, computers with Internet access, and even washers and dryers for doing laundry.

Deuteronomy 16:19  "You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous.

  • distort : De 24:17 27:19 Ex 23:2,6-8 Lev 19:15 1Sa 8:3 12:3 Job 31:21,22 Pr 17:23 Ec 7:7 Isa 1:17,23 33:15 Jer 5:28 Eze 22:12 Mic 7:3 Hab 1:4 Zep 3:3-5 Ac 16:37 23:3 
  • respect: De 1:16,17 10:17 Ex 23:7,8 Pr 24:23,28 Ac 10:34 
  • Deuteronomy 16 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

Roman Statue of "Lady Justice"


Notice the interesting paradox in the statute above and the statement below - Since the 16th century, Lady Justice has often been depicted wearing a blindfold. The blindfold represents impartiality, the ideal that justice should be applied without regard to wealth, power, or other status. However bribery in effect blinds the judge who is to be the dispenser of justice! 

You shall not distort (pervert) justice; you shall not be partial ( favor; lit. = “do not recognize faces“), and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts (distorts) the words of the righteous - Ideally the judges were to treat each person as though they had no prior knowledge of him or her. What a powerful principle - bribes blind one's eyes to truth and justice and righteousness. The OT condemns bribery because it perverts justice in the judicial sphere and equity in the social sphere of the Hebrew covenant community (cf. Ex 23:8; Pr 17:23). Distort (natah) means to turn aside justice, to pervert it or to deny access to justice (Ex. 23:6) and effect a changing the just course of the law. Note the effect of a bribe - (1) blinds and (2) perverts (twist). 

Utley - This verse lists three guidelines for the judges, Moses’ helpers: (1)  ye shalt not distort justice (Hiphil IMPERFECT, cf. Exod. 23:6; 27:19; Deut. 16:19; 24:17; 27:19) (2) thou shalt not show partiality (Hiphil IMPERFECT, the literal Hebrew is “ye shall not look at a face”); (3) ye shalt not take a bribe ( Qal IMPERFECT, cf. Deut. 27:25).

Bribe - "money or favor given or promised in order to influence the judgment or conduct of a person in a position of trust." (Webster)

Justice (04941mishpat/mispat from shaphat = to judge, govern) is a masculine noun used over 400x in the OT and has general meanings including a judgment, a legal decision, a legal case, a claim, proper, rectitude.  Vine writes that mishpat/mispat "has two main senses; the first deals with the act of sitting as a judge, hearing a case, and rendering a proper verdict. Eccl. 12:14 is one such occurrence. Mishpat can also refer to the “rights” belonging to someone (Ex 23:6). This second sense carries several nuances: the sphere in which things are in proper relationship to one’s claims (Ge 18:19—first occurrence); a judicial verdict (Dt. 17:9); the statement of the case for the accused (Nu 27:5); and an established ordinance (Exod. 21:1).  (Vine's Expository Dictionary)

Bribe (07810shochad is a masculine noun referring to a bribe, a reward, a gift especially one to free someone from punishment, to corrupt a judge or to take a reward. It refers to what is given in a situation to influence persons to act or think in a certain way they would not normally. It was often given to pervert justice and to blind the judgment of even good persons (Ex. 23:8; Deut. 16:19). God does not take bribes (Deut. 10:17). The person who took a bribe was cursed by God (Deut. 27:25). The perversion of justice through bribes was a major downfall of Israel (1 Sam. 8:3). A bribe could consist of a major political gift or present to another king or nation, a glorified bribe (1 Kgs. 15:19).

Perverts (, overthrows)(05557) salaph means to twist, pervert, distort, overturn, overthrow. It means basically to distort, subvert, or mislead from what is normal. It is used of the effect of bribes on justice, hindering it (Ex. 23:8); and its process (Deut. 16:19); it is used of removing governmental powers as well (Job 12:19). It describes hindering or subverting the wicked and foolish in their ways (Prov. 13:6; 19:3; 21:12; 22:12).

Righteous (adjective) (06662saddiq from sadaq = to be just or righteous) is an adjective with describes one as upright or just. This root basically connotes conformity to an ethical or moral standard. And so saddiq pertains to a person being in accordance with a proper (right) standard (God's standard being the ultimate arbiter of what defines righteousness acceptable to God). Saddiq can also convey the sense of innocence (guiltless) when describing one having no sin or wrongdoing according to a right (righteous) standard (Ex 23:7). In the first use of saddiq in Scripture God says "Noah was a righteous (Lxx = dikaios) man." (Ge 6:9, 7:1 cp 2Pe 2:5-noteSaddiq describes Jehovah (Isa 26:7, 45:21, Jer 12:1, Lam 1:18, etc)  Utley adds that the term “just” or “righteous” is from the term, “measuring reed” or “straight edge” (see Special Topic at 1:16). Most words for sin in the Bible are a word play on this concept. (Righteousness)

Question:  What does the Bible say about bribery / giving or receiving a bribe?

Answer: A bribe is money, favor, or other consideration given in exchange for one’s influence against what is true, right, or just. The Bible is clear that giving or receiving a bribe is evil.

God’s Law, given to Moses for the people of Israel, forbade the taking of a bribe, “for a bribe blinds the discerning and perverts the words of the righteous” (Exodus 23:8). The same rule is repeated in Deuteronomy 16:19: “You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous.” The negative effects of taking a bribe are clearly outlined in these two passages. Bribery perverts justice. It is a blinding influence upon wisdom and discernment. It clouds the truth and perverts or twists the words of those who would be righteous in the sight of God.

The Law went even further in the case of a bribe involving the killing of an innocent person. A judge who takes a bribe to condemn to death an innocent person was as guilty as a paid assassin—he was to be “cursed” (Deuteronomy 27:25). There were incidents where this law against bribery was broken, to disastrous effect. The two men who testified against Naboth (1 Kings 21:4–16) and those who testified against Stephen (Acts 6:8–14) were probably bribed; in both instances, an innocent man was killed. When high officials give and receive bribes, it causes evil in a society. “The king establishes the land by justice, but he who receives bribes overthrows it” (Proverbs 29:4). Bribery is one characteristic of a corrupt society.

Isaiah prophesied against the evil of Israel when they had turned from the one true God and His laws. Isaiah likened the city of Jerusalem to an unfaithful harlot; the city was once full of justice, but it had become a place of rebellion, murder, and thievery. Her leaders were those who loved bribes and chased after the money bribery brought them (Isaiah 1:2–23). The people of Israel were not to follow the ways of evil but were to emulate God in their dealings with one another: “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe” (Deuteronomy 10:17).

The most heinous example of a bribe in the Bible is the thirty pieces of silver that Judas received to betray the Lord Jesus. A direct result of Judas’s treachery was that Jesus was arrested and crucified. Eventually, even Judas realized that his acceptance of a bribe was evil. But when he tried to return the money to the chief priests and elders, they refused it, calling it what it was—“blood money” (Matthew 27:3–9).

Delilah was bribed to entrap Samson (Judges 16:5). Samuel’s sons disrespected their office by taking bribes (1 Samuel 8:3). The wicked Haman bribed King Ahasuerus in an attempt to destroy the Jews in Persia (Esther 3:9). Felix left Paul in prison, hoping to receive a bribe from Paul (Acts 24:26). And the soldiers charged with guarding Jesus’ tomb were bribed by the chief priests and elders to spread a lie about the disappearance of Jesus’ body (Matthew 28:12–15). In each case, those receiving the bribes cared nothing for truth or justice.(Source:

Related Resources:

  • Holman Bible Dictionary Bribery
  • Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible Bribery
  • King James Dictionary Bribery
  • 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica Bribery
  • International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Bribery
  • The Jewish Encyclopedia Bribery

Deuteronomy 16:20  "Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you.

  • That which: etc. Heb. Justice, justice, De 25:13-16 Mic 6:8 Php 4:8 
  • live: De 4:1 Eze 18:5,9 Ro 10:5 
  • Deuteronomy 16 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue - lit., “righteousness, righteousness you must pursue!“ "The words “justice” in v. 20 and “righteousness” in v. 18 are from the same Hebrew root (BDB 841), which speaks of a standard. A judge ruled according to the standard which was the revealed will of God (“justice, and only justice”). Leaders (local and priestly judges) were to model the mercy, yet fairness, of YHWH (cf. Exod. 23:6–8)." (Utley)

Deere - These words (Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue) imply that impartial justice could be an elusive goal because of the weakness of human nature. Therefore it was absolutely essential that the standard set forth in the Law be followed precisely. Their lives and prosperity (Deut. 16:20) depended on their establishing impartial justice in the Promised Land.

that you may live and possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you - The point is that Israel persistence in the land was contingent upon her obedience to Yahweh's commandments and instructions (cf Dt 4:1, 25–26, 40; 5:16, 29, 33; 6:18; 8:1; 11:8–9, 18–21; 16:20; 32:46–47).

Deuteronomy 16:21  "You shall not plant for yourself an Asherah of any kind of tree beside the altar of the LORD your God, which you shall make for yourself.

  • Ex 34:13Jdg 3:7 1Ki 14:15 16:33 2Ki 17:16 21:3 2Ch 33:3 
  • Deuteronomy 16 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


You shall not plant for yourself an Asherah of any kind of tree beside the altar of the LORD your God, which you shall make for yourself -  Asherah was the Canaanite goddess her "beauty" represented by a wooden pole an image or a tree (the depravity and deception of idolatry are stunning that someone would worship a pole and think they were worshipping a god!) 

Deere - Anything that might lead to syncretism (accommodating worship of the Lord to pagan systems of worship) was prohibited. This

Guzik - Such sacred totems were common among the Canaanites. Israel might have been tempted to be “seeker sensitive” and add such items to their worship of the God of Israel. He wanted none of it.

Wiersbe - Idolatry was the great enemy of the spiritual life of the Jewish nation, and the judges had to be alert enough to detect it and courageous enough to deal with it. The “groves” were areas dedicated to the worship of Baal’s consort, Ashtoreth, and among their idols were wooden poles that symbolized the male member. Note that the idolaters tried to locate their worship centers as close to God’s altar as possible (Dt 16:21NIV, “beside the altar”). The idolaters wanted to encourage people to worship both Jehovah and Ashteroth, and eventually Ashtoreth would win out. If the judges were devoted to God, they would carefully investigate such practices, get the facts, condemn the guilty, and remove the idols from the land. They had to put Jehovah first. It can’t be emphasized too much that the religion of the Canaanite nations was unspeakably filthy and mingled blind superstition with gross immorality. Human nature being what it is, the Jews would be attracted to gods they could see and ceremonies that appealed to their sensual appetites. This explains why God commanded the Jews to wipe out every vestige of Canaanite religion from the land (Dt 7:1–11), for He knew that the hearts of the people were too often set on doing evil in spite of His holy laws and His warnings. (Be Equipped)

See Utley's discussion of Israel's Mandated Response to Canaanite Fertility Worship

Asherim (0842Asherah refers to "poles" representing and/or associated with the goddess Asherah - these poles could be cut down and burned (Jdg 6:25-26). They were made (1Ki 14:15) and set up (1Ki 14:23) after being carved (2Ki 21:7). In many cases, Asherah clearly refers to the deity and not to an image or symbol (Jdg. 3:7, 1 Ki. 18:19 and 2 Ki. 23:4). Asherah used 3x in Deuteronomy - Dt 7:5, 12:3, 16:21. 

Related Resources:

Deuteronomy 16:21-17:20

Righteousness guards the man of integrity, but wickedness overthrows the sinner. - Proverbs 13:6


On the cutting edge in the computer world is a group called the Silicon Valley Fellowship, a network of Christian leaders in high-tech firms. According to Christianity Today: “Start-up churches, new Bible studies, and a growing network of prayer groups are having a subtle but significant influence on the high-tech industry by changing the hearts and minds of entrepreneurs, who in turn are changing the way they work.” Chen Wenchi, CEO of Via Technologies, the third largest computer chipmaker in the world, is one such executive. Important meetings are preceded by prayer, Bible studies and praise sessions are held weekly, and the company pays careful attention to community needs in its factory locations. Says Chen: “God is placing me in Silicon Valley so I can be His servant here.”

In any age, in any sphere, godly leadership requires righteousness and integrity. That’s certainly true in today’s reading. It deals primarily with Israel’s political leadership. Favoritism and corruption were unacceptable in the legal system of God’s people. Judges were to “follow justice and justice alone” (Dt 16:20). Careful investigation was also important--one witness was insufficient evidence, and difficult cases were to be brought to the national worship center for a verdict. There was no “wall” between religion and society, quite the contrary, since true justice was associated with the Lord’s presence. Thus, it’s no surprise to find idolators and those showing contempt for God condemned to death.

The words of Moses about a king provided for an eventuality many years down the road. Rules for this future leader were designed to help him avoid the dangers of trusting in his military power (horses), greed (excessive wealth), and idolatry (foreign wives obtained for treaty purposes).


Leadership requires obedient faith, justice, and integrity. These qualities come from God, and leaders will be held accountable before Him.

Deuteronomy 16:22  "You shall not set up for yourself a sacred pillar which the LORD your God hates.

  • pillar, Ex 20:4 Lev 26:1 
  • which: De 12:31 Jer 44:4 Zec 8:17 Rev 2:6,15 
  • Deuteronomy 16 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


You shall not set up for yourself a sacred pillar which the LORD your God hates - Lewd perversions were practiced at the pillars by the pagans. Israel was not to imitate or emulate their abominable practices. See Utley's topic Pillars

MacArthur - A stone pillar symbolic of male fertility was prevalent in the Canaanite religion. These were forbidden by the first two commandments (Ex 20:3–6; Dt 5:7–10).

Sacred pillar (04676)(matstsebah from natsab = to take a stand) means something set upright, most often "a standing, unhewn block of stone utilized for religious and memorial purposes. Moses set up an altar and also twelve pillars at the base of Mount Sinai to represent the twelve tribes of Israel (Ex. 24:4). Septuagint stele = a commemorative stone block or pillar, monument, pillar from the time of Hom. inscribed and used as a grave marker, or for commemoration of events,