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HAYDOCK CATHOLIC BIBLE COMMENTARY ON THE OLD TESTAMENT



LEVITICUS 23

 

CHAPTER XXIII.

 

Ver. 2.  Holy.  The Heb. Chal. and Sept. add, "and meet together; or, these are my feasts of assembly."  On these days the people were called together to hear the word of God, &c.  M.

 

Ver. 3.  Sabbath.  Heb. "the rest of rest;" a day in which no unnecessary servile work must be done, no more than on the great holidays, v. 6. 8.  H. --- Called holy, because it shall be really so: in which sense the word is often used.  Isai. ix. 6. &c. --- Day; you must not even dress meat, which was also forbidden on the day of expiation. --- Lord, on which he ceased from work, and which you must keep in his honour. --- Habitations.  In the temple, the priests were intent upon sacrificing, which was indeed a material, but not a formal, violation of the sabbath.  Matt. xii. 5.

 

Ver. 6.  Bread.  The obligation of eating none but this sort of bread began at the second evening of the 14th, which was the beginning of the 15th of Nisan.  Ex. xii. 6. 12.  M.

 

Ver. 8.  In fire.  Sept. "holocausts," extraordinary ones, besides the daily burnt-offerings.  Num. xxviii. 19. --- More holy than the five intermediate days, on which servile work was allowed.  In this and the former verse, more and most are not specified in the Heb. and Sept.  C.

 

Ver. 10.  Land of Chanaan, at which time these feasts began to be observed.  M.  See Lev. ii. 14. --- Before the harvest commenced, first-fruits were offered to the Lord.  A gomer containing about three pints of barley was given to the priests, by the nation at large, as each  individual was not bound to make a particular solemn offering.  The judges deputed three men to gather this barley on the evening of the 15th Nisan, where the neighbourhood assembled near Jerusalem.  It was gathered by them in three different fields, after having been thrice assured that the sun was set, and that they had leave to reap, in answer to their triple demands on each head.  Then they placed the ears in three boxes, which they brought to the court of the sanctuary, and having ground the barley, and poured a log of oil and an handful of incense upon it, presented it to the priest, who heaving it in the form of a cross, threw as much as he could hold in his hand upon the altar, and kept the rest for himself.  Joseph. iii. 10. &c.  Private people offered also in kind or in money their first-fruits, or between the 40th and the 60th part of what their land produced.  This custom is almost as ancient as the world, (Gen. iv. 3,) and we may say that it forms a part of natural religion, which all nations have observed.  Porphyrius esteems it an  impiety to neglect it.  He says that the Thoes, living on the borders of Thrace, were in a moment destroyed, because they offered neither sacrifices nor first-fruits.  De Abstin. ii. 7.  The ancient Romans and Greeks were very punctual in this respect.  Plin. xviii. 20.  Those officers who collected this first-fruits among the latter were styled Parasites.  Many of the festivals among the heathens, occurred at the end of harvest.  Aristot. ad Nicom. viii.  The Jews might reap their wheat, but they could not taste it, before they had offered the first-fruits, at Pentecost.  C. xxiii. 17.  Ex. xxiii. 16. --- Of ears.  Hebrew homor, or gomer, "a sheaf," denotes also a measure, which was called an assaron, containing almost three pints.

 

Ver. 11.  Sabbath.  Onkelos has "the good day," from which the fifty days of Pentecost were counted.  C.

 

Ver. 14.  Corn (polentam).  Some translate bruised corn, or a sort of cake.  See C. ii. 4. --- Dwellings, even out of the holy land, which was peculiar to this law.  Grotius.

 

Ver. 15.  Sabbath.  Not the ninth day of the week, but the first day of the Passover; from the morrow of which seven weeks or 49 days were reckoned; and the next day was Pentecost.  M. --- They began, therefore, to count on the 16th of Nisan, and end on the 6th of the third month Sivan.  All the intermediate days took their denomination from this second day of the Passover; so that the next Saturday was called the first sabbath after the second day; in Greek Deuteroproton, the second-first; (Lu. vi. 1,) a term which had puzzled all the interpreters until Jos. Scaliger made this discovery.  Emend. 6.  The Samaritans count from the day after that sabbath which follows the Passover; so that if the festival fall on Monday, they celebrate Pentecost later than the Jews.  See their Letter to Huntington.  C.

 

Ver. 16.  Sacrifice.  Heb. mincha, which relates to the offerings of corn and liquors.  Two loaves of wheaten flour leavened, were presented probably by the nation.  This festival was instituted in memory of the law being given from Mount Sinai, which was a figure of the law of grace promulgated by the Holy Ghost and by the apostles, on the day of Pentecost.  C.

 

Ver. 17.  Loaves.  The Protestants supply wave loaves, (H.) though their Heb. text has nothing.  The Sam. is more correct.  Houbigant.

 

Ver. 18.  Lambs.  More were prescribed.  Num. xxviii. 27.  Josephus joins all together. (B. iii. 10.)

 

Ver. 20.  Use.  None of the peace-offerings were burnt upon the altar, as the bread was leavened.  C.

 

Ver. 21.  Most holy.  Heb. "a holy convocation."  H. --- It is generally supposed that it had an octave, though the Scripture says nothing of it.

 

Ver. 24.  Memorial, or a memorable sabbath. This third great festival sanctified the commencement of the civil year in Tisri, the sabbatical month, according to the ecclesiastical calculation. T.  See Num. xxix. 3. --- The sound of trumpets, which ushered in the year with great solemnity, reminded the Jews of the approaching fast, v. 27, (Maimon.) and of those terrible sounds which had been heard at Sinai.  Theodoret, q. 32.  The Rabbins say that a ram's horn was used, because Abraham had sacrificed a ram instead of his son.  Gen. xxii. 11.  Zac. ix. 14.  The Jews on this day sound the horn 30 times, feast, and wish one another a happy year.  Boxtorf. syn. xix.  We know not on what account this festival was instituted.  But it was probably ordained in order that the people might learn to thank God for the favours received during the past year, and might beg his blessing on that, upon which they were now entering.  C.

 

Ver. 28.  Servile is not in the original, or in the other versions, nor in the Vulg. v. 30; whence it is inferred, that this day of atonement was to be kept like the sabbath: so that even meat could not be made ready on it lawfully.  C. xvi. 29. C.

 

Ver. 29.  Every.  It was difficult for any grown-up person to be entirely guiltless, amid such a variety of precepts, (M.) which S. Peter says neither they nor their fathers could bear, Acts xv. 19: and S. James (iii.) observes, in many things we all offend.  If any proved so happy as to keep without blame, (Lu. i. 6.  H.) they were bound, at least, to grieve for the injury done to God by their fellow members.  See Dan. ix. 5.  M.

 

Ver. 32.  Sabbaths.  The Church adopts this custom in her divine office.  The Jewish day began and ended with sun-set.  Ex. xii. 6.  C. --- No part of the ninth of Tisri belonged to this feast, (v. 27,) which only began at the expiration of it.  H.

 

Ver. 34.  Seven days, during which the people were bound to rejoice, but not to abstain from servile work; except on the first and eighth day. T. --- Tabernacles: Gr. Scenopegia; because, during the octave, the Jews lived in tents, or booths, made of branches, &c. v. 42.

 

Ver. 36.  Most holy.  Heb. "an holy assembly."  The great day of the festivity, Jo. vii. 37. --- Congregation.  Heb. hatsereth, "retention."  All were bound to wait till this day was over.  In other festivals, it was sufficient if they were present one day.  This was the concluding day of the feast of tabernacles.  Sept. exodion.  Plutarch (Sym. iv. 5.) observes, that this festival greatly resembles that of Bacchus.  Ovid (Fast. iii.) speaking of the feast of Anna Perenna, describes it thus:

                            Sub Jove pars durat, pauci tentoria ponunt,

                            Sub quibus e ramis frondea facta casa est.

Casaubon (on Athen. iv. 9. and v. 5.) mentions other feasts, on which the pagans dwelt under tents.  The devil has caused his slaves to imitate most of the holy ceremonies of the true religion.  C.

 

Ver. 39.  Eighth.  On the feast of the Passover, the 7th day after the 15th was kept holy, because the 14th, or the Phase, made also a part of the solemnity, v. 5. 8.  H.

 

Ver. 40.  Fairest tree, branches of the orange or citron tree, laden with blossoms and fruit. T. --- Josephus (iii. 10) says, they took branches of myrtle, willows, and palm trees, on which they fixed oranges.  This is the fruit which the Hebrews generally understand to be hereby designated.  In the same sense the Arab. and Syriac translate "golden apples." --- Thick trees, of any species; though Josephus, &c. restrain it to the myrtle, which was certainly used on this occasion.  2 Esd. viii. 12. --- Willows.  Sept. adds also, "branches of agnus from the torrent."  Perhaps Moses only meant that these branches should be used in forming the tents; but the Jews hold them in their hands, while they go in solemn procession round the pulpit in their synagogues, during every day of the octave, before breakfast, crying out Ana hosiah na, &c.  "Save us, we beseech thee, O Lord; we beseech thee, grant us good success."  They gave the title of hosannah to those branches; in allusion to which, the children sung in honour of Jesus Christ, Hosanna to the Son of David. --- Rejoice; dancing and singing before the altar of holocausts, 2 K. vi. 14.  The wisdom of God shines forth, in thus attaching to his worship a carnal people, by intermingling with the most solemn ceremonies some relaxation and pleasure.  By calling them together so often in the year, they became also better acquainted with one another, and more in love with their religion and country.  The ancient lawgivers entertained the like sentiments.  Seneca, Strabo x.  But the pagans generally carried these diversions to excess.  C. --- In this chapter we find six festivals specified: 1. sabbath; 2. Passover; 3. Pentecost; 4. trumpets; 5. expiation; 6. tabernacles, lasting till the octave day of assembly and collection.  These three last were celebrated in the 7th month, the 1st of the civil year.  There was also a feast on all the new moons.  Num. xxviii. 11.  H.

 

Ver. 42.  Days.  Tostatus affirms they might pass the nights in their houses; but most people suppose, the Jews spent the whole octave in bowers.

 

Ver. 44.  Feasts.  In the institution of these feasts, as in the other regulations of Moses, there was something ceremonial, which might be altered, and something moral, which regards even those times when the Jewish religion was to cease.  S. Aug. q. 43. --- Hence we must conclude, that the obligation of keeping certain days holy must always remain.  But those appointed for the Jews, as they foretold the future Messias, must be changed, lest otherwise we might seem to confess that he is still to come.  Rom. xiv.  Gal. iv.  Colos. ii.  We are not therefore allowed to Judaize abstaining from work on the Jewish sabbath, (C. of Laodicea,) as Antichrist will require.  S. Greg. ep. xi. 3. --- But we must keep Sunday instead, (as even Protestants maintain, though there be no Scripture for it,) by authority of tradition, in memory of Christ's resurrection, &c.  S. Jerom, ep. ad Hed. ib. S. Aug. de C. xxii. 30.  So also we observe the Christian festivals, in honour of our Lord and his saints, instead of those which God appointed for the Jews, either by himself or by his ministers: for we find that some were instituted after the time of Moses, (Est. ix. and 1 Macc. iv.) and these were sanctioned by the observance of Christ himself, It was the feast of the dedication, and Jesus walked in the temple, &c.  Jo. x. 22-3. W.

 

 








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