Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 edition.

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LEVITICUS - Chapter 23

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Leviticus xxiii.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 2. Holy. The Hebrew, Chaldean, and Septuagint 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. (Menochius)

Ver. 3. Sabbath. Hebrew, "the rest of rest;" a day in which no unnecessary servile work must be done, no more than on the great holidays, ver. 6, 8. (Haydock) --- Called holy, because it shall be really so: in which sense the word is often used, Isaias 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, Matthew 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, Exodus xii. 6, 12. (Menochius)

Ver. 8. In fire. Septuagint, "holocausts," extraordinary ones, besides the daily burnt-offerings, Numbers 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 Hebrew and Septuagint. (Calmet)

Ver. 10. Land of Chanaan, at which time these feasts began to be observed. (Menochius) See Leviticus 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 [of] 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. (Josephus, [Antiquities?] 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, (Genesis 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. (Pliny, xviii. 20.) Those officers who collected the first-fruits among the latter were styled Parasites. Many of the festivals among the heathens, occurred at the end of harvest. (Aristotle, ad Nicom. viii.) The Jews might reap their wheat, but they could not taste it, before they had offered the first-fruits, at Pentecost. (Chap. xxiii. 17; Exodus xxiii. 16.) --- Of ears. Hebrew homer, 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 50 days of Pentecost were counted. (Calmet)

Ver. 14. Corn (polentam). Some translate bruised corn, or a sort of cake. See chap. 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. (Menochius) --- 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; (Luke vi. 1,) a term which had puzzled all the interpreters until Jos. Scaliger made this discovery. (Emend. vi.) 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. (Calmet)

Ver. 16. Sacrifice. Hebrew 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. (Calmet)

Ver. 17. Loaves. The Protestants supply wave loaves, (Haydock) though their Hebrew text has nothing. The Samaritan is more correct. (Houbigant)

Ver. 18. Lambs. More were prescribed, Numbers xxviii. 27. Josephus joins all together. ([Antiquities?] B. iii. 10.)

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

Ver. 21. Most holy. Hebrew, "a holy convocation." (Haydock) --- 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. (Tirinus) See Numbers xxix. 3. --- The sound of trumpets, which ushered in the year with great solemnity, reminded the Jews of the approaching fast, ver. 27, (Maimonides) 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. (Genesis xxii. 11.; Zacharias ix. 14.) The Jews on this day sound the horn 30 times, feast, and wish one another a happy year. (Boxtorf, xyn. 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. (Calmet)

Ver. 28. Servile is not in the original, or in the other versions, nor in the Vulgate, ver. 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, chap. xvi. 29. (Calmet)

Ver. 29. Every. It was difficult for any grown-up person to be entirely guiltless, amid such a variety of precepts, (Menochius) which St. Peter says neither they nor their fathers could bear, Acts xv. 10: and St. James (iii.) observes, in many things we all offend. If any proved so happy as to keep without blame, (Luke i. 6.; Haydock) they were bound, at least, to grieve for the injury done to God by their fellow-members. See Daniel ix. 5. (Menochius)

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

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. (Tirinus) --- Tabernacles: Greek Scenopegia; because, during the octave, the Jews lived in tents, or booths, made of branches, &c., ver. 42.

Ver. 36. Most holy. Hebrew, "an holy assembly." The great day of the festivity, John vii. 37. --- Congregation. Hebrew 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. Septuagint 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. (Calmet)

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, ver. 5, 8. (Haydock)

Ver. 40. Fairest tree, branches of the orange or citron tree, laden with blossoms and fruit. (Tirinus) --- Josephus ([Antiquities?] 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 Arabic 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 Esdras viii. 12. --- Willows. Septuagint 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 Kings 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. (Calmet) --- 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, Numbers xxviii. 11. (Haydock)

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. (St. Augustine, 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. (Romans xiv.; Galatians iv.; Colossians ii.) We are not therefore allowed to Judaize abstaining from work on the Jewish sabbath, (Council of Laodicea,) as Antichrist will require. (St. Gregory, 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. (St. Jerome, ep. ad Hed. ib.[ibid.?, St. Gregory, ep. xi. 3.?]; St. Augustine, de C.[City of God?] 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, (Esther ix., and 1 Machabees 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., John x. 22-23. (Worthington)


Bible Text & Cross-references:

Holy-days to be kept.

1 And the Lord spoke to Moses, *saying:

2 Speak to the children of Israel, and thou shalt say to them: These are the feasts of the Lord, which you shall call holy.

3 Six days shall ye do work: the seventh day, because it is the rest of the sabbath, shall be called holy. You shall do no work on that day: it is the sabbath of the Lord in all your habitations.

4 These also are the holy-days of the Lord, which you must celebrate in their seasons.

5 *The first month, the fourteenth day of the month at evening, is the Phase of the Lord:

6 And the fifteenth day of the same month, is the solemnity of the unleavened bread of the Lord. Seven days shall you eat unleavened bread.

7 The first day shall be most solemn unto you, and holy: you shall do no servile work therein:

8 But you shall offer sacrifice in fire to the Lord seven days. And the seventh day shall be more solemn, and more holy: and you shall do no servile work therein.

9 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying:

10 Speak to the children of Israel, and thou shalt say to them: When you shall have entered into the land which I will give you, and shall reap your corn, you shall bring sheaves of ears, the first-fruits of your harvest, to the priest:

11 Who shall lift up the sheaf before the Lord, the next day after the sabbath, that it may be acceptable for you, and shall sanctify it.

12 And on the same day that the sheaf is consecrated, a lamb without blemish, of the first year, shall be killed for a holocaust of the Lord.

13 And the libations shall be offered with it, two tenths of flour tempered with oil, for a burnt-offering of the Lord, and a most sweet odour: libations also of wine, the fourth part of a hin.

14 You shall not eat either bread, or parched corn, or frumenty of the harvest, until the day that you shall offer thereof to your God. It is a precept for ever throughout your generations, and all your dwellings.

15 *You shall count therefore from the morrow after the sabbath, wherein you offered the sheaf of the first-fruits, seven full weeks,

16 Even unto the morrow after the seventh week be expired, that is to say, fifty days, and so you shall offer a new sacrifice to the Lord.

17 Out of all your dwellings, two loaves of the first-fruits, of two tenths of flour leavened, which you shall bake for the first-fruits of the Lord.

18 And you shall offer with the loaves seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one calf from the herd, and two rams, and they shall be for a holocaust with their libations, for a most sweet odour to the Lord.

19 You shall offer also a buck-goat for sin, and two lambs of the first year, for sacrifices of peace-offerings.

20 And when the priest hath lifted them up with the loaves of the first-fruits before the Lord, they shall fall to his use.

21 And you shall call this day most solemn, and most holy. You shall do no servile work therein. It shall be an everlasting ordinance in all your dwellings and generations.

22 *And when you reap the corn of your land, you shall not cut it to the very ground: neither shall you gather the ears that remain: but you shall leave them for the poor and for the strangers. I am the Lord your God.

23 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying:

24 *Say to the children of Israel: The seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall keep a sabbath, a memorial, with the sound of trumpets, and it shall be called holy.

25 You shall do no servile work therein, and you shall offer a holocaust to the Lord.

26 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying:

27 *Upon the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the day of atonement, it shall be most solemn, and shall be called holy: and you shall afflict your souls on that day, and shall offer a holocaust to the Lord.

28 You shall do no servile work in the time of this day: because it is a day of propitiation, that the Lord your God may be merciful unto you.

29 Every soul that is not afflicted on this day, shall perish from among his people:

30 And every soul that shall do any work, the same will I destroy from among his people.

31 You shall do no work therefore on that day: it shall be an everlasting ordinance unto you in all your generations, and dwellings.

32 It is a sabbath of rest, and you shall afflict your souls, beginning on the ninth day of the month: from evening until evening you shall celebrate your sabbaths.

33 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying:

34 Say to the children of Israel: From the fifteenth day of this same seventh month, shall be kept the feast of tabernacles seven days to the Lord.

35 *The first day shall be called most solemn and most holy: you shall do no servile work therein. And seven days you shall offer holocausts to the Lord.

36 The eighth day also shall be most solemn and most holy, and you shall offer holocausts to the Lord: for it is the day of assembly and congregation: you shall do no servile work therein.

37 These are the feasts of the Lord, which you shall call most solemn and most holy, and shall offer on them oblations to the Lord, holocausts and libations according to the rite of every day.

38 Besides the sabbaths of the Lord, and your gifts, and those things that you shall offer by vow, or which you shall give to the Lord voluntarily.

39 So from the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you shall have gathered in all the fruits of your land, you shall celebrate the feast of the Lord seven days: on the first day and the eighth shall be a sabbath, that is, a day of rest.

40 And you shall take to you on the first day, the fruits of the fairest tree, and branches of palm trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God.

41 And you shall keep the solemnity thereof seven days in the year. It shall be an everlasting ordinance in your generations. In the seventh month shall you celebrate this feast,

42 And you shall dwell in bowers seven days: every one that is of the race of Israel, shall dwell in tabernacles:

43 That your posterity may know, that I made the children of Israel to dwell in tabernacles, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.

44 And Moses spoke concerning the feasts of the Lord to the children of Israel.



1: Year of the World 2514.

5: Exodus xii. 18.; Numbers xxviii. 16.

15: Deuteronomy xvi. 9.

22: Leviticus xix. 9.

24: Numbers xxix. 1.

27: Leviticus xvi. 29.; Numbers xxix. 7.

35: John vii. 37.