This chapter centers on three major, God- ordained feasts. Three times each year the male Israelites were to appear before the Lord in the place which He would designate (16:16). Those three feasts are identified as:
Passover/Unleavened bread (16:1-8,16), kept as a reminder that God had spared Israel’s firstborn in Egypt and delivered them out of slavery.
Feast of weeks (16:9-12), also called “Feast of Harvest” (Exodus 23:16) and “Pentecost” (Acts 2:1). Firstfruits of the harvest were offered to the Lord fifty days after the Sabbath of the Passover (Leviticus 23:15,16).
Feast of Tabernacles (16:13-15), also called “Feast of Ingathering” (Exodus 23:16), kept as a memorial to the fact that in the wilderness Israel dwelt in tents, but the Lord provided for them.
Those special celebrations were a time of sacrifice for the Israelites: “. . . and they shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed. Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD . . .” (Deuteronomy 16:16,17).
Those feasts required a journey on the part of the men of Israel, as they were charged to assemble “in the place which the LORD chooses . . .” (Deut. 16:15).
Attending those annual feasts also called for a change in regular routines. They were not everyday occasions – each was “a sacred feast to the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 16:15), called “holy convocations” (Leviticus 23:2,4). There was a specialness to them.
What about the mental outlook of the Israelite men who traveled to observe these God-appointed times of worship? They were a time to rejoice: “You shall rejoice before the LORD your God . . . at the place where the LORD your God chooses . . . you shall rejoice in your feast . . .” (Deut. 16:11,14).
What a privilege it is to bow before the Creator of the universe and offer our praise to Him! Just like the Jews of old, we need to rejoice as we approach our Father in worship. We step away from the cares and corruption of the world and we come to honor Him Who is the First and the Last. The Psalmist rejoiced in the privilege he had to worship, saying, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the LORD’” (Psalm 122:1). We should emulate such joy!
Guidelines for the judgment and conduct of judges and officers in Israel (16:18-20) – These people were to judge Israel “with just judgment” (16:18). In the process, they were not allowed to pervert justice, show partiality, or accept bribes, because bribes blind people’s eyes and twist righteous folks’ words (16:19).
— Roger D. Campbell