Leviticus 23

The Word Made Fresh

1The LORD said to Moses, 2“Tell the Israelites that there are certain required festivals which must be observed as sacred occasions. 3First, there is the Sabbath. There are six days of the week when you must do your work, but the Sabbath is a day of rest and sacred gatherings. You must not do any work on the Sabbath, regardless of where you dwell.

4“There are also appointed festivals you must observe in sacred gatherings at their proper times. 5The LORD’s Passover begins at sundown on the fourteenth day of the first month. 6Then the fifteenth day is the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and for seven days you may only eat bread which is baked without yeast. 7On the first of those seven days you must gather in a sacred assembly and do no work. 8On each of the seven days, present a burnt offering to the LORD, and on the seventh day gather in a sacred assembly and do no work.”

9The LORD said to Moses, 10“Tell the people that when they enter the land I am giving them, and gather the harvest, they are to bring a sheaf of the first grain they gather to the priest. 11 On the day after the Sabbath he will raise up the sheaf before the LORD so that it will be accepted on your behalf. 12On that same day you shall offer a spotless year-old lamb as a burnt offering, 13along with a grain offering of a gallon of finely ground flour mixed with oil, and burn it on the altar to make a pleasing smell for the LORD. Also add a quart of wine as a drink offering. 14You must not eat any bread or roasted grain on that day until the offering is given, and this rule is to be observed from now on, generation to generation, wherever you may have settled.

15 “After that, count seven full weeks, 16and on the next day, the fiftieth day, bring an offering of newly harvested grain to the LORD. 17From wherever you live, bring two loaves of bread made with a gallon of grain ground into fine flour, baked with leaven, and offer them as an offering of first fruits to the LORD. 18With that bread the priest must offer seven unblemished year-old lambs, one young bull and two rams as burnt offerings to the LORD, and it will be a pleasing smell to the LORD. 19In addition, offer one male goat as a sin offering and two male year-old lambs as a thanksgiving. 20The priest will raise the goat and lambs before the LORD along with the bread and the two lambs and they will be for the priests and will be sacred to the LORD. 21On that same day proclaim a sacred gathering and do no work. This is a permanent requirement wherever you settle.

22“When you gather your harvest of your land, don’t gather to the very edges of your fields, or pick up every kernel that is reaped. Leave them for the poor, and for the foreigner. I am the LORD your God.”

23Then the LORD said, 24“Tell the people that on the first day of the seventh month you must observe a day of complete rest, a holy gathering with trumpet blasts. 25Do no work and burn your offerings to the LORD.”

26The Lord said to Moses, 27“The tenth day of the seventh month is Yom Kippur, the ‘Day of Atonement.’ It shall be a sacred gathering for you. Refrain from eating that day and burn your offerings. 28Do no work that day. It is a day for you to make retribution for yourselves before the LORD your God. 29Anyone who does not deny himself that day must be separated from the people, 30and anyone who does any work that day I will destroy in the presence of the people. 31Do no work on that day; it is a permanent rule. 32Yom Kippur will be a Sabbath of complete rest and fasting. From the evening of the ninth day until the sun sets the next day you will keep it as a Sabbath.”

33The LORD said to Moses, 34“Tell the people of Israel that beginning on the fifteenth day of the seventh month they will observe to the LORD a celebration of shelters. 35The first day will be a sacred gathering, and you will do no labor. 36For seven days you will present offerings to the LORD by fire. On the eighth day there will be another sacred gathering and you will present offerings by fire to the LORD. It is to be kept solemnly, without engaging in your work.

37“These are the regularly appointed celebrations to the LORD which you must engage in as sacred gatherings for the purpose of honoring the LORD with burnt offerings and grain offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings, each to be offered on its appropriate day. 38These are to be observed in addition to your regular gifts and vows and freewill offerings which you give to the LORD.

39“So, on the fifteenth day of the seventh month after the harvest you will observe the festival of the LORD for seven days. You must rest on the first day and on the eighth day. 40On the first day gather the fruit from fruit trees, branches from palm trees, limbs of leafy green trees and willows which grow beside streams, and celebrate before the LORD your God for seven days. 41Do this every year in the seventh month. It is a permanent provision for every generation to come after you. 42All who are citizens of Israel shall live in shelters during this observance 43so that your children’s children will know that I made Israel live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.”

44So these are the required annual festivals Moses described to the people according to the LORD.

Commentary

1-2: In order to remain faithful to the covenant, the people are expected to observe special periodic occasions.

3: Every seven days they must observe the Sabbath.

4-5: A list of annual observances follows. First is the Passover sacrifice, to be kept on the 14th day of the first month (corresponding to mid-March through mid-April on our calendar) after sunset. That is a Thursday evening.

6-8: On the Friday evening following Passover they are to begin the Festival of Unleavened Bread which will last for seven days. The last day of the festival is to be kept as though it is a Sabbath day even though it is the day before the next Sabbath.

9-14: When they are settled in the land, every year they are to bring to the priest at the entrance to the tabernacle the first sheaf of the grain harvest. They must not eat any of the harvest until the sheaf has been presented. This is the offering of First Fruits, and is to be observed every year when the harvest is ready.

15-21: The next observance is the Festival of Weeks. It is calculated by counting 50 days from the day after the Sabbath after the offering of First Fruits. Later it will be known among Christians as Pentecost (from the Greek word for 50). Each settlement or village is to bring grain offerings, drink offerings, 7 yearling lambs, a young bull, and 2 rams as burnt offerings. In addition, they must bring a male goat for a sin offering and 2 male yearling lambs as an offering of well-being. That day also must be observed as a Sabbath day, with no labor.

22: And don’t forget, leave some of your crops in the fields for the poor people to glean!

23-25: A Festival of Trumpets is to be observed as a holy day of rest with burnt offerings on the first day of the seventh month – mid-to-late September (it is this occasion that the priest Ezra chooses for the reading of the Law to the people after the Exile – see Nehemiah 8:2).

26-32: The next observance is called Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It is to be kept on the 10th day of the 7th month (mid-September to mid-October in our calendar). It is described in detail in Chapter 16. It is to be kept as a Sabbath day and as a day of fasting.

33-44: The next is the Festival of Booths, or Succoth, to be kept on the 15th day of the seventh month. The seventh month is thus loaded with holy observances, corresponding to the seventh day of creation. (It is also the month in which the ark came to rest from the waters of the flood – see Genesis 8:4.) The people are to dwell in shelters to be reminded of their sojourn in the wilderness.

Takeaway

Sacred holidays (holy days) are set apart for the purpose of remembering the ways in which God has been with us and for us. They are important. Keep them!