Thanks to the good folks at Evangelical Press, I’ve been able to spend some time reading through a review copy of John D. Currid’s commentary on Deuteronomy, a commentary in the EP Study Commentary series. Though I haven’t had time lately to do much posting, I’ve been itching to start a more formal series of review posts.
Recently I read through instructions regarding the festal calendar in Deut 16.1-17. While Deuteronomy’s treatment of the feasts does exhibit marked differences from treatment in Lev 23.1-44 and Numb 28-29, differences downplayed a bit in this volume, Currid draws attention to a covenantal aspect of the Israelite feasts.
To preface this, over the past 50 years, scholars have read Deuteronomy as sharing similarities with ancient Near Eastern vassal treaty documents. Whether they be 2d Millenium Hittite documents or 1st millennium Neo-Assyrian treaty documents, Deuteronomy shares several genre features with these treaties. In concluding his exposition of the feasts, Currid explains how the feasts function as part of the “treaty document” book of Deuteronomy:
[Deut 16.16-17] is a summary statement that announces that every male in Israel is required to participate annually in three pilgrimages to the central sanctuary…. One of the requirements in many ancient Near-Eastern treaties is that the vassal should periodically appear before the suzerain. In some of the cases, the vassal is to appear three times and to present tribute. That is perhaps part of the covenant background of the festal calendar of Israel.
Deuteronomy, pg. 300.
It seems to me that many in our churches cannot really identify with the idea of having feast days. Reading through the legislation for the feasts, therefore, is pretty dull and irrelevant sounding. To read such feasts in terms of a covenantal summons to appear before the suzerain, however, sort of recasts these texts. Perhaps a covenant summons can also cast the Lord’s supper in a different light – we aren’t simply getting together for a meal, but we have been summoned by our suzerain to present ourselves before him in a treaty ratification ceremony. But the amazing and wonderful twist is that we appear not primarily to present tribute to our king, but to receive strength and nourishment.
Currid’s application section is well put:
As Christians, we do not have a central sanctuary in which we all come to celebrate what God has done for us. Yet, in a sense we do participate in a pilgrim feast…. Christians celebrate the Passover feast at the Lord’s Supper because of the redeeming work of Christ, and the fact that he continues to provide for us his grace in order to live and thrive. As Paul so aptly states, “For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed” (1 Cor. 5:7). Therefore, at the Lord’s Supper Christians rejoice greatly because of his work for us.
Deuteronomy, pg. 301.
More posts to come on this excellent volume!