Most Deuteronomy 16 is a repeat of the cultic calendar we’ve seen before several times. The main changes, of course, have to do with the location of the feasts. You guessed it, they are to take place at the Temple. Three times a year, everyone is supposed to gather in Jerusalem. It’s hard to imagine that this was ever practicable.

Feast of unleavened bread

In the month of Abib, the people must keep the Passover. Everyone should offer a sacrifice (from the flock or the herd). This sacrifice can’t be left out over night. It has to be fully eaten on the day of the sacrifice. The passage mentions twice that this sacrifice absolutely cannot be made locally – it can only be made at the Temple.

They also should not eat leavened bread for seven days, with the seventh day spend in “solemn assembly” (v.8).

Feast of weeks

Seven weeks “from the time you first put the sickle to the standing grain” (v.9), the people are to make a freewill offering. The worshipper is to “rejoice before the Lord your God” along with his relatives, servants, local Levite, sojourners, orphans, and widows.

The term “rejoice with” has been used a number of times in relation to making a sacrifice. I’m assume that it means that the sacrifice must be shared with those people.

Feast of booths (or tabernacles)

The feast of booths lasts seven days, taking place around the time that threshing and wine-making is done. Once again, the rejoicing of the feast must involve relatives, servants, the local Levite, the sojourner, the orphan, and the widow.

Commenter Abbie at The King and I points out that no mention is made of living in booths during the feast, despite the name. According to her, this is “keeping with the theory that that practice was a post-exilic novelty added late to Leviticus.”

Miscellanea

It’s the attack of the killer choppy scribe again, because the last few verses go off on a completely different subject that would fit better in Deut. 17.

The first part talks about appointing judges to oversee each town. We’ve already seen the judges before, as well as the demand that they judge without partiality, and without taking bribes.

The next bit prohibits the planting of trees “as an Asherah beside the altar of the Lord your God which you shall make” (v.21). I doubt that they would mention this unless it had happened, in which case it seems that a second god was being worshipped in the Temple. That’s pretty interesting. Even more interesting is the name, since Asherah is a mother goddess who is variously seen as consort to other gods. In other words, did God have a wife?

It’s a fascinating topic and one that I’d like to do a little more research on. If anyone can recommend reading materials, that’d be fantastic!

And, lastly, Moses tells the people that they “shall not set up a pillar, which the Lord your God hates” (v.22). Odd that God should suddenly hate these pillars when the patriarchs spent a good deal of Genesis building them.