For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2004 James Melough

23:1.  “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,”


23:2.  “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the Lord, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts.”


The fact that God spoke to Moses the representative of law, and not also to Aaron the representative of grace, declares that these are commands, not options: every word was to be obeyed.  And as throughout Scripture, the literal commands given Israel are figurative of spiritual instructions to the Church.  The convocations of Israel are types of the assemblages of believers today, and as His earthly people were to meet according to divine order so also are we.  He didn’t leave the meetings of his earthly people to human arrangement, nor does he leave the assemblages of those who constitute the Church.  They too are to meet according to the order He himself has appointed and recorded in His Word.


The fact that they were called feasts tells us that they were occasions of abundance and rejoicing, nor should the meetings of the Church be any less so spiritually.  Whether we come together to eat the Lord’s Supper, to pray, or to study the Scriptures, it should be a time of soul-satisfaction and gladness.


23:3.  “Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings.”


In the numerology of Scripture six is the number of imperfection and incompleteness, and it is instructive to note also what is written in 2 Peter 3:8, “... one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”  It is six thousand years since the creation of Adam, but in God’s sight those six millennia are the equivalent of just six days, and it is readily apparent that God’s great “week” is drawing to a close; but as each work week of six days is followed by a sabbath of rest, so will earth’s great “week” (six thousand years) of toil be followed by a sabbath: the Millennium, the thousand years of rest and blessedness that will bring earth’s troubled history to a glorious peaceful close.


It is instructive to note that in the old dispensation the people worked for six days and rested on the seventh; but in the new, they begin with rest, and then work.  Our service is to be rendered, not to try to earn salvation, but to express our gratitude for salvation bestowed as God’s priceless free gift in response to faith, the gift of life having been secured for us by Christ’s perfect work completed at Calvary when He said, “It is finished,” John 19:30.


23:4.  “These are the feasts of the Lord, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons.”


“... feasts” is better translated set times, i.e., times appointed by God for the assembling of His people to hear His voice.  There were seven such convocations, Passover and the feast of Unleavened bread being in fact one feast.


During this dispensation of grace all of them have been superseded by the Lord’s Supper, the weekly commemoration of His death and resurrection, to which they all pointed.


23:5.  “In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord’s passover.”


The origin of this feast is recorded in Exodus 12.  On the eve of their departure from Egypt the children of Israel feasted on the Passover lamb, while the Angel of the Lord passed through the land slaying all the firstborn of the Egyptians, the firstborn of the Israelites being protected by the blood of the Passover lamb which they had been commanded to apply to the doors of their dwellings.  Only the spiritually blind will fail to see in the ritual of the Passover the typological foreshadowing of the greater deliverance made available to sinners by the blood of the true Passover Lamb shed at Calvary, as it is written, “For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us,” 1 Corinthians 5:7.


The factors of fourteen are two and seven, two being the number of witness; and seven, the number of perfection or completeness, so that the events of that first Passover night on the fourteenth of the first month, were the symbolic witness to the perfection and eternal efficacy of the then still future sacrifice which they foreshadowed.


Since there are twelve months in the year, and twelve is the number of responsibility, the fact that the Passover was on the first month, points to the absolute imperative of man’s responsibility to have his sins atoned for if he is to escape hell, and enter heaven, that responsibility being discharged only when he confesses himself a justly condemned sinner, and then trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Savior Who has atoned for every man’s sin by taking man’s guilty place, and shedding His own precious blood at Calvary for the remission of men’s sins.


The offering of the sacrifice “at even” marks it as the last sacrifice of the day, that fact declaring symbolically that the one of which it was but the type, is the only sacrifice which men can offer to God for the remission of their sins, as it is written in Hebrews 10:26-27, “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.”


23:6.  “And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the Lord: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread.”


This is the OT equivalent of what is commanded in 1 Corinthians 5:7, “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened.  For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”


The factors of fifteen are three and five, three being the number of resurrection and full revelation; and five, the number of responsibility.  Only the born-again man is capable of fulfilling the truth portrayed by the numeral three, i.e., resurrection, for only those who have been raised up out of spiritual death through faith in Christ as Savior, are capable of demonstrating by their lives that they have had a spiritual resurrection.


Relative to the numeral five, man has five fingers on each hand: he is responsible to do God’s work.  He has five toes on each foot: he is responsible to walk in obedience before God.  He functions by means of his five senses: he is responsible to act as becomes the masterpiece of God’s creation, for he has been made in the image of his Creator, Genesis 1:26-27, and is responsible to demonstrate that fact by his manner of living.


Since leaven is the biblical symbol of sin, the absence of leaven is the typological figure of sinlessness.  Bread is a symbol of the written Word, so that Israel’s being commanded to eat unleavened bread for seven days is symbolic of the truth that the believer is responsible to feed his new spiritual life on the unleavened bread of the written Word; and since the seven days represent all of man’s life - seven being the number of completeness - the additional truth being taught is that his eating that spiritual food is to be a lifelong practice.


23:7.  “In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.”


Those seven days were to begin with their gathering together in holy assembly to hear God’s voice, i.e., by listening to the reading and exposition of the Scriptures, undoubtedly by the priests, and by prophets when such were present.


Since that “first day” is the OT counterpart of the Christian first day of the week, the lesson being taught is that that day on which we eat the Lord’s Supper is to be also a day on which we have our souls nurtured through the ministry of the written Word by those whom God has gifted to do that work.


The proscription of regular work on that first day applies also to this present dispensation.  It is to be a day of rest, the only work done being that which the Westminster Catechism very correctly describes as “the work of necessity and mercy.”


No spiritual mind should have difficulty seeing in this proscription of work the symbolic announcement of the truth declared in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”


23:8.  “But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.”


The Christian equivalent of the Israelite’s “offering made by fire,” is the presentation of our worship as we sit around the Lord’s table to eat the Lord’s Supper; and since fire is one of the symbols of the Holy Spirit, the fact that Israel’s offering was to be “made by fire” translates into the truth that the worship presented at the Lord’s Supper is to be only that which He, the Holy Spirit impels.  Sadly, and to our shame, the activity of the flesh is all too often far more evident at that meeting than is the energy of the Spirit, with the result that God is dishonored, and the souls of spiritual believers grieved.


Inasmuch as the offering was to be presented on each of the seven days, we learn the truth that the presentation of worship isn’t to be confined to the first day of the week: it is to be daily and lifelong; and from 1 Samuel 15:22 we learn that obedience is the highest expression of worship, as it is written there, “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams,” the Lord Himself reiterating that same truth in His words to the disciples in John 14:15-21, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.  He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me....”


The repetition here of the command given in verse 7 “Ye shall do no servile work therein,” declares the importance of this directive.  God, Who created man, knows also man’s need of rest, hence His appointment of the seventh day of each week to be such a day.  Man’s rejection of God’s appointment of the seventh day of the week as a day of rest, and his substitution of any other day of the week for that same purpose, may seem innocuous, but it isn’t.  It has wrought irreparable harm, for the rest that God provided by designating the OT sabbath, and the NT first day of the week, as a universal day of rest, was rest undisturbed by the clamor of the world’s business, and is impossible to obtain in the midst of that cacophony.


The malaise which attends the disruption of the Divine order relative to man’s day of rest is evident everywhere in the nervous and physical disorders now afflicting so many of the world’s people.


23:9.  “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,”


23:10.  “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest:”


This sheaf of firstfruits is generally viewed as a typological picture of Christ in resurrection, as described in 1 Corinthians 15:20, “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.”


Since the priest was God’s representative to the people, their bringing the first sheaf of the harvest to him was their practical acknowledgment of God as the Giver of the harvest; and the principle being declared in this is that we too are to make that same grateful confession relative to everything we have.  Since under law one tenth was the mandated amount to be returned to God, it should surely be axiomatic that no less is to be given Him during this dispensation of grace.  Nor does grace leave any room for that parsimonious spirit which would quibble as to whether He should be given His portion out of our net or gross income.  The truly grateful heart will gladly give generously.


23:11.  “And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.”


Waving involved the priest's presentation of the offering horizontally towards the altar, and then back to himself, this being the ritual acknowledgment of God as the Giver, and the offerer, as the recipient, willing to use for the glory of the Giver, everything that has been given.


Its being presented “on the morrow after the sabbath” is also instructive, for it teaches symbolically that we cannot give anything to God until we have first entered by faith into the eternal rest made available to us through Christ’s death and resurrection.  A further truth is also taught in that it was the priest, not the man himself, who waved the sheaf: the moment we accept Christ as Savior and Lord, we become a royal kingdom of priests as it is written in 1 Peter 2:9, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”


23:12.  “And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the Lord.”


That unblemished young male lamb is a type of Christ, the sinless One, relative to Whom it is written in Hebrews 9:14 “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”  Apart from the Lord’s having first “offered Himself without spot to God,” for the expiation of our sins, we would have been incapable of ever even approaching God, never mind having either fitness or desire to offer Him any sacrifice.


23:13.  “And the meat (meal) offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the Lord for a sweet savor: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin.”


Two tenth deals were the equivalent of about a fifth of a bushel, the fine flour here being a type of the Lord’s sinless humanity in perfect submission to the Holy Spirit, portrayed here, as frequently in Scripture, by the oil.  “... an offering made by fire,” also a type of the Holy Spirit, but emphasizing His perfect holiness consuming all that is unholy, whereas the oil speaks of His anointing power energizing the believer’s service.


“... for a sweet savor” assures us that all Spirit-directed worship and service are as pleasing to God as is the fragrance of incense to the nostrils of men.


Since wine is a biblical symbol of joy and gladness, see Psalm 104:15, “wine that maketh glad the heart of man,” the drink offering which accompanied many of the other offerings, represents not only the pleasure which the Father found in the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, but also the joy with which the Son offered that sacrifice.


Inasmuch as four is the number of earth and testing, “the fourth part of an hin” may serve, not only to emphasize the fact that the Lord’s sacrifice of Himself was here on earth, but also to remind us that the spiritual blessings made available to us through that sacrifice are to be enjoyed here amid all the trials of earth, and then eternally in heaven with nothing of earth to mar our joy.


23:14.  “And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.”


Nothing of the harvest was to be eaten until God had first been given the portion which acknowledged Him as the Giver; and the lesson for us is that He is to be similarly honored as the Giver of every blessing we enjoy, the greatest of those blessings being the Lord Jesus Christ given, as He Himself declared in John 6:32-33, “Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.”


In the present context the spiritual equivalent of Israel’s presentation of that harvest offering is our presentation of Christ at the moment when we first present Him to God through faith as our Savior and Lord.  As Israel could not eat of the produce of the new harvest until they had presented Him with the firstfruits, neither can we partake of the spiritual riches that are available only through Christ, until we have first, through faith, presented Him to God as our Savior and Lord.  Only then can we begin to feast on the spiritual riches spread before us on the pages of Scripture, for it is written, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned,” 1 Corinthians 2:14.


23:15.  “And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete:”


23:16.  “Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat (meal) offering unto the Lord.”


Since the sabbath speaks of rest; and seven is the number of perfection or completeness; and fifty (5, number of human responsibility; multiplied by 10, the number of God as Governor of all things) this brings us typologically to that stage of a believer’s life where he has learned that as a child of God he is responsible to obey his heavenly Father, and accordingly presents himself as a new meal offering, a new man in Christ, possessed of Christ’s life and nature, to do all that his Father may command.


This was the feast of Pentecost, the name being derived from the fifty days; and clearly it foreshadows the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2:1-4


23:17.  “Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the Lord.”


These two wave loaves represent the believer; “out of your habitations” emphasizing that they represent him as a man still in his human body here on earth; there being two of them speaking of the fact that he has two natures: the old, Adamic and earthy; and the new, Christological and spiritual, heavenly.  Some however, understand the two loaves to respresent believing Jews and Gentiles as described in Ephesians 2:14-17, “For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: and came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.”


“... two tenth deals” was about a fifth of a bushel.  Their being of “fine flour” speaks of them as being characterized by Christlikeness, for He is frequently set before us in the OT under the figure of fine flour.  Their being baked with leaven, the biblical symbol of sin, declares that through his cleansing in the blood of Christ, there is no sin on the believer, but because the old nature still dwells within him, side by side with the new nature, there is sin in him, it being his responsibility to strive against the desire of that old nature to manifest itself by producing sin in his life.


The presence of that old nature within the believer however, doesn’t alter the fact that as one who has been born of the Spirit, he is still - body, soul, and spirit - “a firstfruits unto the Lord;” and however much the flesh may obscure that truth, the certain assurance is given us that that condition is soon to be abolished, as it is written, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is,” 1 John 3:2.


23:18.  “And he shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto the Lord, with their meat (meal) offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of a sweet savor unto the Lord.”


While, as we have seen, the bread represents believers still here on earth, its being offered in conjunction with seven unblemished lambs of the first year, one young bullock, and two rams - all of which typify Christ - brings to every believer the assurance that whatever may be lacking in us, is abundantly supplied by the fulness that is in Him.


The seven unblemished lambs speak of the spotless perfection of God’s Lamb, their being “of the first year” pointing to His having become our Substitute, not by dying naturally of old age, but by willingly laying down His life in the full vigor of young manhood.


The young bullock represents Him in all the vigor of young manhood, going to Calvary as the strong, patient, willing Servant of God and man, to die in our stead for the remission of our sins.


Since the ram is the biblical symbol of dedication, their being sacrificed as a burnt offering represents Christ’s dedication of Himself even unto death, first for the Father’s glory, while the second portrays Him as dying in our guilty stead for our sins.


“... with their meal offering, and their drink offerings.”  The meal, as already discussed, represents the Lord’s humanity, while the drink offerings (symbol of joy) point first to the fact that

it was the Lord’s delight to do His Father’s will, even unto death, as it is written, “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart,” Psalm 40:8; but He also delighted in “bringing many sons unto glory,” Hebrews 2:10.


“... even an offering made by fire.”  The fire is a type of the Holy Spirit, but emphasizing His perfect holiness consuming all that is unholy.  It was through the Holy Spirit that the Lord offered Himself to God, see Hebrews 9:14, “... Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God....”


“... a sweet savor unto the Lord.”  This has also been rendered, “whose fragrance will appease Yahweh.”  No other sacrifice could ever appease a Holy God, for all of them were but types of that one which alone could satisfy His righteous claims.  All of them had to be repeated year by year continually, as it is written, “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect,” Hebrews 10:1.  “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God .... for by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified,” Hebrews 10:14.


23:19.  “Then ye shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings.”


This young goat represents the Lord Jesus Christ taking our sins upon Himself, and expiating them by His vicarious death.


The two yearling lambs represent Him as the One, Who having atoned for our sins, has “made peace through the blood of His cross,” Colossians 1:20.  The two lambs may point to the dual character of His death: He has satisfied all the righteous claims of a Holy God; and has also met our dire need by giving His life as the ransom price of our souls, thus making peace between us and God.


23:20.  “And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits for a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the Lord for the priest.”


The “bread of the firstfruits” consisted of the two wave loaves mentioned in verse 17.  They, with the two lambs, were to be presented to the Lord as a wave offering; and as discussed already, the bread and the lambs are both types of Christ: the loaves portraying Him as the One Who, by His death and resurrection, has become the living bread upon which His people feed; while the lambs set Him before us as the One Who, by His death and resurrection, has delivered them from death, so that they stand before God, “accepted in the beloved,” Ephesians 1:6, because they are now possessed of His life and nature.


In that the lambs and the loaves were “for the priest,” i.e., for his food, the truth being thus symbolically declared is that the Christ Whom they represent is the spiritual food which sustains the life of the believer, who through faith in Him, has become a spiritual priest, as it is written, “And (He) hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father,” Revelation 1:6, and again, “And (He) hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth,” Revelation 5:10.


Relative to there being two lambs, as noted already, the one represents Christ’s dedication of Himself even unto death, first for the Father’s glory, while the second portrays Him as dying in our guilty stead to expiate our sins.


23:21.  “And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation unto you: ye shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.”


Since this is a virtual repetition of verse 7, the comments on that verse apply here also.


23:22.  “And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the Lord your God.”


This is likewise a virtual repetition of 19:9-10, so that the comments there apply here also.


23:23.  “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,”


23:24.  “Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation.”


As the seventh day of each week was to be observed as a sabbath of rest, so also was the first day of each seventh month, the special character of this command being related to the fact that seven is the biblical number of completeness or perfection; and a month, the twelfth part of a year, being connected with those under the government of God, e.g., the twelve tribes of Israel; and the Church, built upon the foundation of the doctrine of the twelve apostles. 


The blowing of trumpets may point both to the rapture of the Church, and also to the regathering of Israel at the beginning of the Millennium.


In addition to the prophetic nature of this feast, there may be also the intimation of the spiritual truth that those who are submissive to God’s government experience joy and gladness, the explanation for this being given by the Lord Himself in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”


The blowing of trumpets speaks also of the sounding forth of the good news of the Gospel, it being the responsibility of every believer to be such a “trumpet” in the hand of the Holy Spirit.


Its being also “an holy convocation” reminds us that holiness is required of all who would enjoy true peace, rest, and gladness.


23:25.  “Ye shall do no servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord.”


Since this verse is virtually the same as verse 8, the same comments made there apply here also.


23:26.  “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,”


23:27.  “Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord.”


Since ten is the number of God in government, the mention of the tenth day reminds us that this was a command, not an option.


“... atonement” is also rendered Day of propitiation or expiation.  It was the day when the offering of the prescribed sacrifices would propitiate God for one year by putting away Israel’s sin: but only for a year!  The ritual would have to be repeated the next year, for it was merely a symbol of the only sacrifice that could make perfect and eternal atonement for sin, i.e., the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, as it is written, “And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God,” Hebrews 10:11-12.  His sitting down signifies the perfection of His sacrifice.  Another would never be needed.


Every OT sacrifice was merely a type pointing to that one perfect sacrifice which would need no repetition, it being written in Hebrews 9:12-14 relative to the Lord’s presentation of Himself without spot to God the Father, “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.  For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?


“... and ye shall afflict your souls,” is also rendered practice self-denial; humble your souls; abstain and fast.


This emphasizes the truth that we are not to do anything that would cater to the flesh, which is the enemy of the spirit.


“... and offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord.”  As discussed already, every such offering was but a type of that offered by the Lord at Calvary, where He, “... through the eternal Spirit (typified by the fire) offered himself without spot to God,” Hebrews 9:14.


23:28.  “And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the Lord your God.”


The comments on verse 7 apply here also.


23:29.  “For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people.”


“... afflicted” conveys the thought of being humbled, repentant, sorrowful, the truth symbolically declared in this being that there is no pardon for those who refuse to repent of their sins, the reality of the repentance being certified by abandonment of sin.  In the life of the believer sin should be accidental and regretted, never premeditated and enjoyed.  The deadly consequence of refusal to repent is announced in the fact that the unrepentant Israelite was to be “cut off from among his people,” it being unclear whether the cutting off was to be by death, or expulsion from the camp of Israel.  There is however, no uncertainty relative to the consequence of refusal to repent of one’s sins: he who dies unrepentant will die “the second death,” Revelation 20:14, i.e., suffer eternal torment in the unquenchable flame of the dreadful lake of fire.


23:30.  “And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people.”


“... destroy” is also rendered “put to death,” a dreadful example of such a death being that of the man in Numbers 15:32-36, who was stoned to death by God’s command for gathering sticks on the sabbath day; and we are missing the lesson being taught here if we fail to see in that man’s death God’s warning against the folly of attempting to be saved by works rather than faith in Christ, apart from works, see Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith: and that not of yourselves: it is gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast,” and again, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost,” Titus 3:5.


23:31.  “Ye shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.”


The repeated warnings against the fatal consequences of working on the sabbath emphasize the deadly nature of attempting to be saved by our own good works.  All such effort will bring the offender down to hell and the eternal torment of the lake of fire, the severity of the punishment being because all such work denigrates the sacrifice of Christ.


23:32.  “It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath.”


“... and ye shall afflict your souls,” is also rendered practice self-denial; humble your souls; abstain and fast, i.e., do not gratify the lusts of the flesh.


As noted already, God’s numerical system operates on base seven, eight being simply the number of a new beginning, so that the spiritual significance of numbers greater than seven is obtained by factorizing.  Nine therefore is the number of fulness of resurrection, for its factors are three raised to the second power, and three is the number of resurrection: Christ, e.g., was raised on the third day.  Israel’s celebration of a sabbath on the ninth day is the symbolic declaration of the truth that we who have been raised up out of spiritual death, through faith in a resurrected Savior, are also to walk in the full enjoyment of that glorious truth.


“from even unto even” makes it clear that the “affliction of their souls” continued through a night and a day, and in this is foreshadowed our own experience, for we pass through the experience portrayed by the night and day; those of the night being the events which we can’t understand, and which all too often evoke the impatient question, Why, Lord? while those of the day correspond to what we can understand: we are all too well aware of our wrongdoing that has provoked God’s chastisement.


All of this prompts the obvious question, How can a period of trouble, of soul affliction, be called a sabbath, a period of rest?  The answer is simple: the spiritual believer, no matter how severe the trial, rests in the peaceful assurance of knowing the sufficiency of God’s grace in every circumstance of life, the assurance given Paul being also given us, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness,” 2 Corinthians 12:9, there being added the further assurance, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose,” Romans 8:28; those who love God being they who obey Him, see John 14:15,21


It was his grasp of this truth that impelled the hymnist to pen the words, “When we’ve reached the end of our hoarded resources, our Father’s full giving has only begun.”


23:33.  “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,”


23:34.  “Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the Lord.”


The factors of fifteen are three and five, three being the number of resurrection; and five, of responsibility, so that the order appointed for Israel during those seven days is the OT figure of God’s appointment for us during the time represented by the seven days, i.e., the whole of our Christian lives.  As those who have been raised up out of spiritual death - resurrection being portrayed by the numeral three - we are responsible, (responsibility being portrayed by the numeral five), to be God’s instruments to make the good news of the Gospel known to all men.


Since seven is the number of perfection or completeness; and a month (the twelfth part of a year) speaks of our responsibility to be obedient under God’s government, Israel’s experience during the feast of tabernacles is the symbolic picture of what should characterize the whole of our lives, that period being represented by the seven days of the feast of tabernacles.


23:35.  “On the first day shall be an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.”


23:36.  “Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord: on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord: it is a solemn assembly; and ye shall do no servile work therein.”


That first day of the feast was a type of the first day of the week during this present age, and as Israel was to meet in holy assembly, and refrain from the work that would be legitimate on the other six days, so are we to assemble on the first day of the week to eat the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of His death and resurrection.


The fact that the offering was to be “made by fire,” - the fire being a type of the Holy Spirit - reminds us that our worship is to be only as indited by Him.  It is not left to us to compose what we present in worship.  Every hymn sung, every Scripture read, every prayer offered, is to be as impelled by the Holy Spirit.  Everything else is the self-willed product of the flesh, and is not only an abomination to God, but a distraction to spiritual believers.


The seven days are the equivalent of the seven days of our week, and the command to Israel to offer an offering translates into instruction to us to also present God with an offering: not just our worship as we meet on the first day of the week to eat the Lord’s supper, and thus remember His death and resurrection, but also the daily sacrifice of an obedient life as commanded in Romans 12:1, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”


The seven days however, have a broader typological significance: they represent also the whole of our earthly lives.  Worship is not just for Sunday: it is to be daily, and lifelong.


The repeated command to do no servile work emphasizes the fact that we cannot be saved by good works, but only by faith in Christ as Savior.


23:37.  “These are the feasts of the Lord, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord, a burnt offering, and a meat (meal) offering, a sacrifice, and a drink offering, every thing upon his day:”


The repeated emphasis on the need to keep the appointed feasts, is no doubt related to the fact that in the midst of the world’s distracting clamor we tend very quickly to forget about the things of God.


The continued mention of the fire is to reiterate the truth that in connection with our worship everything which isn’t impelled by the Holy Spirit is worthless; and the reference to the burnt offering is to remind us that our worship is to be all for God’s glory, anything in it which would bring glory to man being of the flesh, not of the Holy Spirit.


The meal offering, as always, represents the Lord’s perfect humanity, which was no less holy than was His deity; and the drink offering declares the pleasure He found in doing His Father’s will, even to the laying down of His life, His delight in rendering that sacrifice being undiminished by the terrible agony of His having to die by crucifixion.


“...everything upon his day” is also rendered “according to the day’s program; according to the ritual of each day; as the rite of each day prescribes.”  This continues to remind us that worship is to be according to God’s order, and not according to the vagaries of man’s imagination, but at the impulse of the Holy Spirit.


23:38.  “Beside the sabbaths of the Lord, and beside your gifts, and beside all your vows, and beside all your freewill offerings, which ye give unto the Lord.”


This teaches the truth that besides all the varied ways in which we might express our individual love and gratitude to God, we are to assemble around the Lord’s Table on the first day of each week to present our corporate worship in the manner He Himself has appointed; this being announced in the unambiguous language of the NT in Hebrews 10:25, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”


23:39.  “Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the Lord seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath.”


This was the harvest festival in which they gave thanks to God for His bounty; and the spiritual import of its beginning on the fifteenth day is easily read, for five is the number of human responsibility; and three, of resurrection.  Only those who have fulfilled their responsibility to associate themselves by faith with a crucified and risen Savior, will participate in the resurrection of life, John 5:28-29, when their bodies will be raised in power and glory to dwell for ever with Christ in heaven, see 1 Corinthians 15:35-58.


Its being on the fifteenth day of “the seventh month” declares the truth that obedience will yield its abundant reward in what the seventh month represents: the completion of life’s journey, and our entering into the enjoyment of eternal rest in heaven.


An obvious question presents itself here: in what way can harvest possibly be associated with resurrection, since it involves the cutting down of the grain?  The answer is that what was reaped was what had resulted from the earlier sowing of the seed.  It was the symbolic evidence of God’s ability to bring life out of death, as the Lord Himself declared, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit,” John 12:24.  The Lord’s death and resurrection were the confirmation of this truth.


It is only by living as those who have” become dead to the law by the body of Christ,” that we can bring forth spiritual fruit for

God’s glory, and our own eternal enrichment, Romans 7:4


The fact that the first and last days were sabbaths has also something to teach us.  The equivalent of the “first day,” is the day when we first entered into rest by trusting Christ as Savior; and the counterpart of the last day will be that on which we enter into the enjoyment of eternal rest in heaven.  But the last day was the eighth, and since eight is the number of a new beginning, the truth being presented symbolically here is that our last day on earth, and our first in heaven, will be a new beginning that will never have an end, for it will bring us into the enjoyment of eternal life in heaven.


23:40.  “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.”


The Israelites were to cut boughs and branches of leafy trees, and make of them booths in which they would dwell for the seven days of the feast; all of this declaring symbolically that they were pilgrims and strangers on the earth, as are we, their citizenship and ours being in heaven, “For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come,” Hebrews 13:14.  We are to be like Abraham, of whom it is written that, “He looked for a (the) city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God,” Hebrews 11:10.


The reality of our heavenly citizenship however, is not certified by our living in booths for seven days each year, but by our attitude to the things of this world.  We are not to be scrabbling for its wealth, fame, pleasure, etc., and if our eyes are fixed on Christ and the treasure laid up for us in heaven, what the world calls treasure will hold no attraction for us.  We will be content to leave its so-called wealth to the poor worldling whom Satan has blinded relative to its worthlessness.


The Israelites were to rejoice during the seven days of their dwelling in booths, and in this God would have us learn that during our spiritually correspondent time here on earth, we too are to be living daily in the happy enjoyment of our salvation, while looking with glad expectation for the Lord’s return, or of our being called home to heaven to be for ever with Him.


23:41 “And ye shall keep it a feast unto the Lord seven days in the year.  It shall be a statute for ever in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month.”


The seven days (number of perfection or completeness) represent the totality of our lives here on earth; and as those seven days were to be for Israel a time of feasting and joy, so are the days of our lives to be passed, not in literal feasting, but in the spiritual equivalent: feeding our souls on the spiritual food of the Scriptures, the ambrosia of heaven.


“... in the seventh month.”  As discussed already, seven, the number which concludes God’s numerical series, is the number of completeness or perfection; and in the present context represents the whole of our earthly lives.  Spiritually speaking we are in the “seventh month” of that experience, our death, or the rapture bringing the series to an end; and surely the glorious prospect awaiting us in heaven should transmute that “seventh month” into a joyous celebration.


23:42.  “Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths:”


The time of booth-dwelling was exclusively for those who were Israelites by birth, and the truth being taught symbolically in this is that the equivalent experience is only for those who have been born again spiritually through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.


23:43.  “That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”


In this present context booths means tents, shelters, huts as of entwined boughs; and the fact that Israel dwelt in tents during the forty years of their sojourn in the wilderness reinforces the truth that we who are God’s redeemed people today are to live in spiritually equivalent fashion.  We are not to be settling down in the world as do those who are of the world.  On the contrary, we are to demonstrate by our lifestyles that we are pilgrims and strangers here, passing through on our way home, our citizenship being in heaven.  It is instructive to note that of all the Israelites who left Egypt on the night of the Passover, the only ones who entered Canaan were obedient Joshua and Caleb.  All the others died in the wilderness, it being their children, the second generation, who entered Canaan; the second generation, as always in Scripture, representing those who have been born again spiritually through faith in Christ.


It is a sorry reflection on their spiritual state that the lives of the majority of professing Christians today declare their citizenship to be of earth, not heaven.  It behooves each one of us to be absolutely certain that our citizenship is in heaven; or to use the terminology of the believers of an earlier generation, to be certain that we “have the root of the matter.”  It will be eternally too late to die and discover with unutterable horror, that what Satan had deluded us into thinking was the narrow way to heaven, was instead the broad and crowded way to hell.


23:44.  “And Moses declared unto the children of Israel the feasts of the Lord.”


This is just another way of saying that Moses instructed the people in the things of God.  He is a wise man who emulates Moses.


Relative to the feasts, The Believer’s Bible Commentary makes the following instructive observation: “A definite chronological progression can be traced in the Feasts ... The Sabbath takes us back to God’s rest after creation.  The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread speak to us of Calvary ... the Feast of Firstfruits pointing to the resurrection of Christ.  The Feast of Pentecost typifies the coming of the Holy Spirit .... the Feast of Trumpets pictures the regathering of Israel.  The Day of Atonement foreshadows the time when a remnant of Israel will repent and acknowledge Jesus as Messiah.  Finally the Feast of Tabernacles sees Israel enjoying the millennial reign of Christ.”

[Leviticus 24]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough