The Festivals (23:1–3)
23–25 This feast came to be known as “New Year’s Day” among the Jews. Trumpets were blown not only on this day but also on the first day (new moon) of every month. Since there were no calendars available, trumpets were sounded across the land to signal to the Israelites the beginning of a new month, a new agricultural season, a new year.
According to Numbers 29:1–6, the following offerings were to be presented to the Lord on this feast day: a bull, a ram, and seven lambs as burnt offerings, each accompanied by a grain offering. All these were in addition to the daily burnt offering (Exodus 29:38–41). Finally, a goat for a sin offering was to be presented.86 These offerings were to be a pleasing aroma acceptable to the Lord (see Leviticus 1:5–17 and comment).
Day of Atonement
(Leviticus 16:1–34; Numbers 29:7–11)
26–32 See Leviticus 16:1–34 and comment.
Feast of Tabernacles (23:33–44)
(Numbers 29:12–40; Deuteronomy 16:13–17)
33–36 The Feast of Tabernacles was the third and last of the great festivals of Israel; it is also called the Feast of Ingathering in Exodus 23:16. It was the main harvest festival of the year, so it was a festival characterized by thanksgiving.87
But this feast had another significance as well, and that had to do with its name: Tabernacles. The Hebrew word for “tabernacles” can also mean “booths” or “huts.” At this festival, the Israelites were to come to the tabernacle area and erect small booths or huts to live in for the seven days of the festival. This was to remind the Israelites that after they had been delivered from Egypt, they lived in “booths” in the desert. They had no permanent, secure dwelling place; they were totally dependent on God.88
We too need this reminder, we who live in secure homes in secure countries; we too are totally dependent on God’s provisions every day of our lives.
37–38 These verses are enclosed in parentheses to indicate they are a separate summary of the entire chapter.
39–44 These verses contain final instructions concerning the Feast of Tabernacles.
According to Numbers 29:12–39, large numbers of animals were to be sacrificed during the seven days of this festival: a total of seventy bulls, fourteen rams and ninety eight lambs were to be presented as a burnt offering, each with its accompanying grain offering and drink offering of wine. In addition, a goat was to be offered each day as a sin offering.89 The large number of sacrifices required gave an indication of the prosperity the Israelites would enjoy in the promised land. Thus they were to show their gratitude for God’s abundant provisions by returning to Him these offerings.
According to Numbers 29:39, the Israelites were encouraged to give voluntary offerings in addition to the required offerings specified for Israel’s various festivals. These voluntary offerings included fellowship offerings (see Leviticus 3:1–17), freewill offerings and offerings brought as the result of a vow (see Leviticus 7:16; Numbers 6:121).God’s people are always to do more than the minimum required; God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). Let us never be satisfied with only “doing our duty.” Jesus said that a servant who only did his duty should consider himself an unworthy servant (Luke 17:10); Christians are called to do more than their duty.
It was on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles that Jesus stood in the temple and promised the gift of the Holy Spirit to anyone who believed in Him (John 7:37–39). A short time later He offered Himself as the final sacrifice to atone for the sins of all be lievers. With Jesus’ death, the elaborate sacrificial system of Israel was rendered obsolete; a few years later it came to an end altogether when the Jewish temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. God requires no further sacrifice for sin; Jesus’ death is the once for all sacrifice for all mankind (Hebrews 7:26–27; 10:10).