The Word Made Fresh
1“In the month of Abib the LORD your God brought you out of Egypt in the night, and so in the month of Abib you are to celebrate the Passover. 2Sacrifice the Passover lamb or goat at the place the LORD your God will designate as a dwelling in the LORD’s name. 3For seven days eat only unleavened bread, the bread of torment, because you had to leave Egypt in a hurry. Every day of your life you should remember your escape from Egypt. 4Keep all yeast out of sight in all your country for seven days. Leave none of the meat you slaughtered on the evening of the first day until morning. 5Do not make the Passover sacrifice in any of your towns the LORD your God is giving you, 6but only at the place the LORD your God will choose for the LORD’s name. That is the only place you are permitted to offer the Passover sacrifice. Offer it at sunset, for that is when you left Egypt. 7Cook and eat it in the place the LORD your God chooses, and the next morning you may return to your tents. 8For six more days you may eat only bread that is without yeast, and on the seventh day gather solemnly together for a tribute to the LORD. Do no work on that day.
9“From the day you begin to cut the first standing grain, count seven weeks, 10and that is when you will begin to observe the Festival of Weeks, dedicated to the LORD your God with a freewill offering that represents a portion of the bounty you have received. 11Rejoice in the place the LORD your God has chosen as a home for the Name of the LORD. Rejoice with your children and your servants and the Levites who live in your towns, and foreigners, and orphans and widows living among you. 12Keep these rules and remember that you were slaves in Egypt.
13“After you have gathered all the grain you have threshed and all the wine you have pressed, celebrate the Festival of Booths, or Succoth. 14It is a joyful celebration for you and your children, your servants, Levites from your towns, foreigners, orphans and widows who live among you. 15Celebrate in the place the LORD your God chooses for seven days. The LORD is going to provide for you abundant crops and bless all your labors, and you will have plenty to celebrate.
16“These three times a year you shall come before the LORD at the place of the LORD’s choosing: the Festival of Unleavened Bread following the Passover, the Festival of Weeks, and the Festival of Booths. You must not come with empty hands, 17but shall give as you are able, each one in proportion to what the LORD has given you.
18“Appoint judges and other officials for each town throughout the tribal lands the LORD your God is giving you, and they shall judge the people fairly. 19Do not twist justice, or show partiality, and do not accept bribes. A bribe blinds the wise and twists justice. 20Seek truth and justice only so that you may live and continue to possess the land the LORD your God is giving you.
21“Never set up a tree or pole as a sacred object near the altar you build for the LORD, 22and do not pile up stones as sacred markers. These are things the LORD your God abhors.”
1-8: Moses orders the observance of the Passover on the 15th of Abib. It was a seven-day observance; the meat was eaten with unleavened bread. He insists that it must be observed in the sacred place God would designate, which would eventually be Jerusalem. Verse 7 implies that they will live in tents during the observance, and that probably applies only to those who must travel a distance.
9-12: The harvest festival – the Festival of Weeks – is commanded. Whereas the Passover was a solemn observance designed to help them remember God’s mighty work in bringing their ancestors out of Egypt, this is a celebration of rejoicing over the blessings God has given them in the harvest.
13-15 The Festival of Booths is commanded as well. This festival was to be held when all the crops were harvested and processed – the grain has been threshed and gathered, the grapes have been mashed and made into wine.
16-17: Moses specifies that every Israelite man must appear at the three festivals, but does not forbid women.
18-20: A change of subject matter comes rather abruptly here. Moses tells them to appoint judges. The one requirement seems to be honesty in the dispensation of justice. Simple, but effective.
21: The chapter ends with another warning about pagan practices. Totem poles and pillars were forbidden. The worship of pagan gods must not be mixed with the worship of God.
Compared to Israel in the wilderness, our society is extraordinarily more complex, which provides more distractions from our devotion to the LORD. It is so important for Christians today (and Jews as well) to observe special days throughout the year that are set apart to remind us of God’s mighty acts on our behalf.