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Deuteronomy: Chapter 16

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1Observe the month a Heb Asherah of Abib by keeping the passover to the LORD your God, for in the month of Abib the LORD your God brought you out of Egypt by night. 2You shall offer the passover sacrifice to the LORD your God, from the flock and the herd, at the place that the LORD will choose as a dwelling for his name. 3You must not eat with it anything leavened. For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it—the bread of affliction—because you came out of the land of Egypt in great haste, so that all the days of your life you may remember the day of your departure from the land of Egypt. 4No leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory for seven days; and none of the meat of what you slaughter on the evening of the first day shall remain until morning. 5You are not permitted to offer the passover sacrifice within any of your towns that the LORD your God is giving you. 6But at the place that the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his name, only there shall you offer the passover sacrifice, in the evening at sunset, the time of day when you departed from Egypt. 7You shall cook it and eat it at the place that the LORD your God will choose; the next morning you may go back to your tents. 8For six days you shall continue to eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a solemn assembly for the LORD your God, when you shall do no work.

9You shall count seven weeks; begin to count the seven weeks from the time the sickle is first put to the standing grain. 10Then you shall keep the festival of weeks to the LORD your God, contributing a free‐will offering in proportion to the blessing that you have received from the LORD your God. 11Rejoice before the LORD your God—you and your sons and your daughters, your male and female slaves, the Levites resident in your towns, as well as the strangers, the orphans, and the widows who are among you—at the place that the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. 12Remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and diligently observe these statutes.

13You shall keep the festival of booths a Meaning of Heb uncertain for seven days, when you have gathered in the produce from your threshing floor and your wine press. 14Rejoice during your festival, you and your sons and your daughters, your male and female slaves, as well as the Levites, the strangers, the orphans, and the widows resident in your towns. 15Seven days you shall keep the festival to the LORD your God at the place that the LORD will choose; for the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all your undertakings, and you shall surely celebrate.

16Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose: at the festival of unleavened bread, at the festival of weeks, and at the festival of booths. a Meaning of Heb uncertain They shall not appear before the LORD empty‐handed; 17all shall give as they are able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God that he has given you.

18You shall appoint judges and officials throughout your tribes, in all your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, and they shall render just decisions for the people. 19You must not distort justice; you must not show partiality; and you must not accept bribes, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of those who are in the right. 20Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, so that you may live and occupy the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

21You shall not plant any tree as a sacred pole a Heb him beside the altar that you make for the LORD your God; 22nor shall you set up a stone pillar—things that the LORD your God hates.


a Heb Asherah

a Meaning of Heb uncertain

a Heb him

Text Commentary view alone
Commentary spanning earlier chapters

11.1–32 : Loyalty to the covenant provides the condition for life in Canaan.

The punishments and rewards noted in this section are predominantly addressed to a plural “you,” stressing communal rather than individual responsibility.

2 :

The frequent word today in Deuteronomy emphasizes the contemporaneity of the covenant (see 5.3n. ). Discipline, see 8.5n.

4 :

See Ex 14 .

6 :

The address is based upon the early tradition of the revolt of Dathan and Abiram (Num 16 ). There is no mention of Korah's rebellion (Num 16.3–11 ), which was very likely added by the Priestly school after this abstract was made.

10–12 :

The Nile valley must be irrigated through human effort; Canaan depends upon seasonal rainfall. The difference is mentioned to stress Israel's dependence upon God, who gives and withholds rain (Am 4.7–8 ), as well as the fundamental sanctity of the land of Israel.

14 :

The early rain comes at the end of the summer drought (October‐November); the later rain comes in the spring (March‐April).

16–17 :

See 7.12–14n.

18–21 :

See 6.6–9 .

24 :

Every place … yours, a legal ritual that effected transfer of title by pacing out the perimeter of the territory (see 25.9n.; Gen 13.17 ). The territory is described in terms of the ideal limits of David's empire (see 1.7n. ). The Western Sea, the Mediterranean.

26–32 :

The two ways (see ch 28; 30.15–20 ).

26 :

Curse, the sanctions for violating a treaty, which a vassal assumes in a sworn oath (see 28.15–68 ).

29–30 :

These verses represent an editorial intrusion. Previously, blessing … and the curse identify the benefits of covenantal obedience and the sanctions for breach of covenant (vv. 26–28; 28.2,15 ). That theme is the expected climax of this chapter. Here they are restricted to a series of positive and negative sayings shouted from mounts Gerizim and … Ebal, in anticipation of ch 27 . Gerizim, on the south, and Ebal, on the north, flank the pass guarded by the city of Shechem in the central hill country. This geographic restriction fits poorly in a chapter otherwise directed to the entire land (vv. 22–25,31–32 ).

30 :

The oak of Moreh, at Shechem (see Gen 12.6 ).

31–32 :

Transition to the legal corpus.

32 :

Diligently observe … statutes and ordinances, cited in reverse order at 12.1 to effect the transition from the literary frame of Deuteronomy (chs 1–11 ) into the laws (chs 12–26 ).

Ps 81 : A hymn for the feast of booths (Deut 16.13–15 ).

The psalm is composed of a hymn of praise (vv. 1–5a ) and a divine oracle (vv. 5b–16 ). The Gittith, see Ps 8n. Asaph, see Ps 73n.

1 :

The God of Jacob, repeated in v. 4 ; this epithet, along with “Israel” (vv. 4,8,11,13 ) and “Joseph” (v. 5 ) indicate northern provenance (seven uses in all).

3 :

Our festal day, the festival of booths, when the law would be proclaimed (vv. 9–10 ) and the covenant (“ordinance” in v. 4 ) renewed. According to Lev 23.24 , the festival began at the full moon..

6 :

Salvation from slavery and oppression in Egypt (Ex 6.6–7 ).

7 :

Meribah, Ex 17.7; Num 20.13 . Selah, see Ps3.2n.

9–10 :

The first commandment (Ex 20.1–2 ) quoted in reverse order (There shall be no strange God … I am the Lord your God). Foreign god, see Deut 32.12 .

10 :

God fills the mouths of the people with food (v. 16 ).

11–12 :

The infidelity of the wilderness generation (Ps 78.17,40 ), a warning to the psalmist's contemporaries.

13–16 :

Israel's obedience would mean victory over foes and agricultural bounty. Finest of the wheat, Deut 32.14; Ps 147.14 . Honey from the rock, see Deut 32.13 .

16.1–17 : The festival calendar.

Previously, each male Israelite was commanded to undertake three pilgrimages to “appear before the LORD”: to make an offering at one of the multiple local sanctuaries (v. 16; Ex 23.14–18 ). These occasions, which Deuteronomy redirects to the central sanctuary, were called “pilgrimage festivals” (v. 16; Ex 23.14 ). The three festivals were Unleavened Bread (Heb “mazzot”), harvest, and ingathering (Ex 23.14–17; 34.18,23 ). Deuteronomy renames the latter two “weeks” (v. 10 ) and “booths” (Heb “sukkoth,” v. 13 ), their current names.

1–8 :

Passover was originally a separate, family observance (Ex 12.1–13 ,21–23), involving a nighttime slaughter of a sheep or goat in the doorway of the house, where the blood was smeared to mark the house as Israelite. Deuteronomy's centralization of worship necessitated the redirection of the paschal slaughter to the central sanctuary (vv. 2,6–7 ). The older blood ritual then merges with the Festival of Unleavened Bread, also celebrated in early spring. In contrast to Deuteronomy, the festivals of Passover and Unleavened Bread remain distinct in Lev 23.5–6; Num 28.16,17–25 .

1 :

Abib (lit. “new ear” of grain), in early spring, when ears of barley, the first crop, began to ripen (Ex 13.4; 23.15; 34.18 ). Originally the first month of the Hebrew calendar (Ex 12.2 ), later called “Nisan.”

2 :

From the flock and the herd, earlier the offering was restricted to the flock only (Ex 12.4–5 ,21).

3 :

For seven days, combining the seven‐day observance of the Festival of Unleavened Bread (Ex 12.14–20; 23.15 ) and the one‐day observance of Passover (vv. 1–3a,4b–7 ).

7 :

Cook, more accurately, “boil,” like other standard sacrifices (Ex 29.1; Lev 6.28; 8.31; Num 6.19; Zech 14.21 ). This provision conflicts with the stipulation that the paschal offering be “roasted over the fire,” not “boiled in water” (Ex 12.8–9 ). The two inconsistent requirements for preparing the Passover are harmonized at 2 Chr 35.13 .

8 :

The Heb reads simply, “For six days you shall eat Unleavened Bread.” The NRSV's addition, continue, results in an eight‐day total for the festivals of Passover and Unleavened Bread, modeled after the Priestly version of the calendar: 1 day (Passover) + 6 days (unleavened bread) + 1 day (the solemn assembly); see Lev 23.3–8 . In contrast, Deuteronomy intended to fuse the two holidays into a single seven‐day observance.

9–12 :

The Festival of Weeks (Ex 34.22; Lev 23.15–16; Num 28.26 ), Heb “shavuot,” originally a “festival of harvest” (Ex 23.16 ) celebrated in June. In postbiblical Judaism, the festival came to be associated with the revelation at Mount Sinai (Ex 19–20 ); in the New Testament it is called Pentecost because it begins on the fiftieth day after Passover (Acts 2.1; 20.16; 1 Cor 16.8 ).

9 :

Begin to count … from the time the sickle is first put to the standing grain, the seven weeks begin when the grain is ripe, delaying the celebration until the conclusion of the harvest. The Holiness Collection offers a slightly different date for this festival (Lev 23.15 ).

11 :

You and your sons and your daughters, the command to rejoice specifies the inclusion of women (as v. 14; 12.12,18 ). Slaves … widows, the marginalized and the disadvantaged are also included. Stranger, better, “resident alien”; see 1.16n.

13–15 :

The festival of booths, originally the fall harvest festival, called “ingathering” (Ex 23.16; 34.22; cf. Lev 23.33–43 ).

16–17 :

The formulaic summary (“colophon”) reuses the conclusion of the older festival calendar in the Book of the Covenant (Ex 23.17 ). Two elements, however, reflect older assumptions inconsistent with the rest of this chapter: Passover (vv. 1–8 ) is not mentioned, and the pilgrimage requirement is directed to all your males (as Ex 23.17 ).

16.18–18.22 : Laws of public officials.

The proposed government has judicial, executive, and religious branches: local and central courts ( 16.18–17.13 ), kingship ( 17.14–20 ), Levitical priesthood ( 18.1–8 ), and prophecy ( 18.9–22 ). Each relates to the others and is subordinated to the authority of the word of God, the Torah of Deuteronomy. Even institutions that might claim absolute authority, such as king or prophet, are integrated into a comprehensive vision. The continual concern with centralization of worship connects this section with the preceding legislation on the sacrificial system. The ritual laws ( 16.21–17.1 ) seem to intrude between two paragraphs each concerned with justice ( 16.18–20; 17.2–7 ), but the repetition provides a transition into the new section, while establishing the underlying unity of both areas of community life: (A) worship ( 12.1–16.17 ); (B) justice ( 16.18–20 ); (A′) worship ( 16.21–17.1 ); (B′) justice ( 17.2–7,8–13 ).

16.18–17.13 : The organization of justice.

16.18–20 :

Deuteronomy here establishes a professionalized local judiciary.

18 :

Towns (lit. “gates”), the local sphere ( 12.15,17,21; 16.5 ), as distinguished from the central sanctuary; also the traditional place where the village elders dispensed justice (Job 29.7; Ruth 4.1,11; Lam 5.14 ). By leaving the elders unmentioned, Deuteronomy contracts or eliminates their authority, though they are mentioned elsewhere in older sections of Deuteronomy (e.g., 19.12; 21.2; 22.15 ).

19 :

You must not distort justice, an admonition, quoting Ex 23.6a (where the same verb is translated “pervert”). For a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise, the older law in Ex 23.8 , whose reference to “those with sight” (NRSV's “officials” is not correct) is revised in light of Deuteronomy's stress upon wisdom (see notes on 1.13; 34.9 ).

16.21–17.1 : Prohibitions against Canaanite cultic objects

( 7.5; 12.3; Ex 34.13 ).

16.21 :

Sacred pole, see 7.5n.

22 :

Stone pillar, see 7.5n.

17.1 :

See 15.21 , here broadened into a general law of sacrifice.

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