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Archive for the ‘OT Law: Holidays’ Category

Feast of Tabernacles

Posted by Chris on September 13, 2008

The Feast of Tabernacles is the last major Jewish Biblical holiday in our study.  It is also known as the Feast of Booths because of the command to build and live in temporary dwellings for the seven days of the festival (Lev 23:42-43).  Faithful Hebrews made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to give offerings from the recent harvest and constructed booths during their stay.


  • 15th day of 7th month
  • Celebrated for 8 days: first day Israel gives offerings and fruits of the land; 8th day hold a sacred assembly (Lev 23:36,40; Deut 16:13)
  • Occurred after harvest (Lev 23:39; Deut 16:13)
  • Implication that they were to do “no regular work” throughout the entire festival (Num 29:12)

What to Offer

  • The daily offerings followed the following pattern: (Num 29:13-34)
  • On the first day (in addition to regular burnt, grain, & drink ofg’s):
    • Burnt: 13 bulls; 2 rams; 14 male lambs
    • Grain: same as normal grain ofg
    • Sin: 1 male goat
  • Each subsequent day, decrease the number of bulls by one
  • Seventh day, seven bulls for the burnt ofg; everything else unchanged

Sacred Assembly

  • Scripture seems to speak of two different assemblies.  There is one which occurs on the eighth day—what I would call the “normal” assembly, the one which marked the climax of a multi-day festival; but Num 29:12 says that on the starting date, a sacred assembly should be held.
    • This is not the 8th day.  The feast of tabernacles starts on the 15th day of the 7th month.  The day of atonement is on the 10th day of the 7th month, therefore the 15th cannot be the end of the FoT.
    • Therefore I will assume that this first assembly was also when the first day’s offerings were made and but also special plant offerings- in addition it was a day of rest.
  • Like other assemblies: do no work (Num 29:35)
  • Burnt:1 bull, 1 ram, 7 male lambs, along with their grain and drink ofg’s (Num 29:37)
  • Sin: male goat
  • Regular grain and drink and burnt ofg’s

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The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)

Posted by Chris on August 2, 2008

This is part of a series. See the description and introduction and glossary.

My cultural and informal knowledge of contemporary Jewish practice is very limited. Thus, I try not to say too much in these opening remarks about the way these festivals are celebrated in our culture. One difficulty with understanding Jewish festivals is the difference in beliefs amongst Jews themselves. Orthodox Jews will differ greatly in the significance they attach to Yom Kippur from that of reformed Jews. But all would agree that Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is significant because of its themes of atonement and repentance from us, before God. We can see a parallel in that “liberal” and “conservative” Christians would explain the purpose of Jesus’ life and death differently, but all those explanations would include the ideas of atonement and forgiveness.

All that being said, I am going to try and understand the Day of Atonement as it was given by God to the Hebrews in the Law. The most important thing to understand is that this day, the 10th day of the 7th Hebrew month (see Timeline), was the only occasion for entering into the Most Holy Place (MHP) of the Tent of Meeting (ToM, later the Temple) (Lev 16:2). And only the High Priest (HiPt) could enter. One person, one time per year. That’s it. This restriction reflected the holiness of God and the separation of God from sinful people.

Purpose: to atone for the people and the holy things

  • High Priest and his household: the Bull SinOfg, Burnt Ofg
  • Israel: their Sin and Burnt Ofg’s
  • MHP & ToM: the Goat SinOfg (from the community)
    • For that reason, no one else is to be in ToM at this time
  • Altar: both the bull and the goat’s blood together sprinkled; the fat of the bull and goat burnt

Offerings to prepare

  • HiPt was contribute the following for offerings before entering (Lev 16:3,6,11)
    • Sin: young bull
    • Burnt: Ram
  • From the community (Lev 16:5, 8-10)
    • Sin: 2 male goats, one to atone for people and one as scapegoat
    • Burnt: Ram

How to conduct the offering

  • Bull: (Lev 16:12-27) process similar to sin ofg for anointed priest
  • Scapegoat: presented alive before Lord and sent into desert (Lev 16:10); takes with it the sins of Israel and is released in a remote area (20-22)
  • Sin Goat: same as Bull (Lev 16:15-19)
  • Rams: sacrificed after HiPt exits the MHP (Lev 16:23-24)

Other rules for the Holiday

  • Fasting (Lev 16:29,31; 23:27,32; Num 29:7)
  • Do not work (Lev 16:29,31; 23:28,31-32; Num 29:7)
  • Hold a sacred assembly (Lev 23:27; Num 29:7-11)
    • Same ofg as monthly ofg (except only 1 bull for burnt)
  • Called a “Sabbath rest” (Lev 23:32)

Consequences for Improper actions/offerings

  • If one did not fast, they were to be cut off from the community (Lev 23:30)

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Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah)

Posted by Chris on July 26, 2008

This is part of a series. See the description and introduction and glossary.

The Feast of Trumpets is not very well-known by that name but that many people could identify the modern name, Rosh Hashanah, as a contemporary Jewish holy day—in fact, as the Jewish New Year’s Day.
It occurs on the first day of the 7th Hebrew month, Ethanim, which is also known as Tishrei. Why have the New Year in the 7th month? Here’s the brief Wikipedia explanation: “[It] is the first month of the civil year and the seventh month of the ecclesiastical year in the Hebrew calendar.” So again, it is important to understand that the Hebrew understanding of time differed from our own.

Ethanim is the holiest month on the Hebrew calendar, with three of the six major holidays occurring. See timeline.

Very little is said in the Old Testament about this Feast, with references in only two short passages. It stands out because of the Lord’s commands to commemorate it with trumpet blasts.

Characteristics of the Feast

  • On first day of 7th month (Lev 23:24, Num 29:1)
  • Have a sacred assembly with trumpet blasts (Lev 23:24, Num 29:1)
  • Do no work (Lev 23:24-25, Num 29:1)

What to offer

  • Regular monthly and daily ofg’s
  • Burnt: (with regular grain ofg) 1 bull, 1 ram, 7 male lambs
  • Sin: 1 male goat

The significance or place of this holy feast within the greater focus of the Israelite religion is not explicitly stated in the Bible. My first impression is that the Feast served as a preparation for the other two festivals celebrated that month. Several commentaries said similar things. I will also quote from John Gill who shares some of the theories offered by Jewish historians.

What this blowing of trumpets was a memorial of is not easy to say; some think it was in memory of the wars the people of Israel had with their enemies the Amalekites and Canaanites, and the victories they obtained over them, and particularly in remembrance of the walls of Jericho falling down at the sound of rams’ horns; but then it must be by anticipation: it is more commonly received with the Jews that it was on the account of the binding of Isaac on this day, being delivered through a ram being sacrificed in his stead; and on this account it is said, that the trumpets blown on this day were made of rams horns, and no other might be used.

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Festival of Weeks (Pentecost)

Posted by Chris on July 19, 2008

This is part of a series. See the description and introduction and glossary.

The Festival of Weeks, aka Pentecost, is described (and named- ‘pent’ means five right?) as taking place 50 days after Passover. The precise timing is that it occurs 50 days after the Sabbath day (Saturday) that follows Passover. Passover was not tied to a day of the week but rather a day on the calendar so it would have varied as far as days of the week [WARNING: if somehow the Hebrew calendar worked out that the 14th of the month was always a certain day, I’d be wrong. I don’t know of this being the case]. Anyway, as with many things in the Old Testament, knowing the context helps to understand how something can be “incorrect” but still “right.” Sabbaths represented a HOLY day every week. It doesn’t surprise me that they would count from the Sabbath as it was celebrated amidst other holidays because it was the day God ordained for rest and asked for regular dedication.

Known less commonly as the “Day of Firstfruits” (Num 28:26), the Festival of Weeks was an occasion to honor God with the first crops of the fields as thanks for Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and an opportunity to enjoy God’s rest (they took a Sabbath rest from work, and by reaching the Promised Land were in a more permanent state of rest).

Festival of Weeks: Timeline

  • Takes place on 6th day of 3rd month, Sivan.
  • 50 days after passover; starts day after Sabbath, count off seven weeks and the day after the 7th Sabbath (Lev 23:15-16);
    • The 7 weeks are from the “time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain” (Dt 16:9)

Nature of celebration

  • On 50th day, hold a sacred assembly; do no work (Lev 23:21; Num 28:26)
  • Thankfulness is important: Israel commanded to give freewill ofg’s and to rejoice for the Temple and remember they had been brought out of Egypt (Dt 16:11-12)

What to Offer

  • Grain: on 50th day, an ofg of new grain (Lev 23:16)
    • 2 loaves made from 2/10ep flour, w/yeast (Lev 23:17)
  • Burnt: (with their grain and drink ofg’s) (Lev 23:18; Num 28:27-31):
    • 7 male lambs, 2 rams, 1 bull
    • 1 young bull (Num says 2 young bulls)**
  • Sin (Lev 23:19; Num 28:30): one male goat
  • Fellowship (Lev 23:19): 2 lambs
  • Wave: the grain and fellowship ofg’s (Lev 23:20)
  • Freewill: give in proportion to blessings the Lord has given you (Dt 16:11)

**Here is a discrepancy between biblical texts. Is it one young bull or two? John Gill refers to the Jewish historians Maimonides and Josephus. They both wrote that the sacrifice that included one bull in Leviticus 23 was distinct from the burnt offering given for the Festival of Weeks. Thus, there would be a total of 3 bulls. For more info, here is the link to the commentary.

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Passover & Feast of Unleavened Bread

Posted by Chris on July 16, 2008

This is part of a series. See the description and introduction and glossary.

Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread fit together as one long celebration. The Torah teaches about them in five different sections of scripture: Exodus 11-12, Leviticus 23, Numbers 9 & 28, and Deuteronomy 16. The different texts both synchronize to give a good picture of Passover but also differ in purpose to complement one another.The last post I made on Old Testament time is important here. Passover starts on the 14th day of the first month (see Timeline), at twilight. Twilight also means that the next day, according to Hebrew tradition, would be starting. The Feast of Unleavened Bread started the next day, the 15th There’s not enough information for an amateur like me to understand everything. For example, the Feast calls for celebrations on the first and last days of the Feast—would that be at twilight on the 15th or during the day on the 16th? I assume it’s during the day on the 16th, even though that’s the second day according to “calendar time.” But know that this difference in measuring time, along with the lack of a detailed explanation (no need for that for the people who were receiving the books), accounts for any lapses and I do not think this is an issue that should provoke controversy as far as judging the historicity and uniformity of scripture.

Another controversial topic is where the Passover is celebrated. The earlier mentions of Passover instruct Israelites to celebrate Passover and the Feast wherever they are; Deuteronomy commands them to come to the “one place”, i.e. Jerusalem. I believe that this was given as a future command for when God would lead them to build a Temple. Controversy still surrounds the issue of date and authorship of Deuteronomy. It was “found” much later by King Josiah and many scholars would say that he had the book written for, among other reasons, exerting control over Hebrews by requiring them to come to Jerusalem. Discussing this issue is neither my area of expertise nor the purpose of this study.

Passover Purpose: to atone for the people and the holy things
  • Commemorate the Passover in Egypt (Ex 12:14,25-27)
  • Remember God sparing the firstborn Hebrews in Egypt (Ex 11-12)
  • Egypt Passover: each family sacrifices a y/o male w/o defect (goat or sheep) at twilight and put the blood and the doorframes. Same night, they cook the meat in a certain way and eat it in a certain fashion (Ex 12:1-11)
  • This gives us a picture of the Passover being a time of celebration and thankfulness for what God has done, especially in His work of saving us from an oppressor through the blood of a sacrificial lamb

When you enter the land that the LORD will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’ ” Then the people bowed down and worshiped. Exodus 12:25-27

Passover Meal
  • Do not break the bones of the sacrifice (Ex 12:46; Num 9:12)
  • Eat a lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, not leaving any until morning (Num 9:11-12)
  • Those who were unclean could eat (Num 9:10)
  • No foreigner could eat except a slave (Ex 12:43-45) unless all males in household circumcised
  • Must be eaten inside the house (Ex 12:46)
Feast of Unleavened Bread: Sacred Assembly on first & last days (Ex 12:16, Num 28:17,25, Lev 23:6-8 )
  • Give offerings equivalent to monthly offerings
  • Regular daily offerings
  • So not work on these days except to prepare food
Unleavened Bread purpose & activitie
  • Eat bread w/o yeast for 7 days (Ex 12:15,19-20)
    • They left Egypt so quickly that they did not have time to prepare food (Ex 12:39)

  • For 7 days offerings should be made to God
Other rules for the Holiday
  • Could be celebrated anywhere (Ex 12:20; Num 9:10), but all Israelites must celebrate (Ex 12:47)
  • After they reached the promised land, it was commanded that Passover should be celebrated at the Temple in Jerusalem (Deut 16)
  • Anyone who eats yeast during the seven days cut off from Israel (Ex 12:15,19)
  • Failure to celebrate (even if unclean or away), cut off from Israel (Num 9:13)

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Old Testament understanding of time

Posted by Chris on July 13, 2008

This is part of a series. See the description and introduction and glossary.

Before I move on to the specific holidays, it is important to try and give and explanation of how the Israelites view “days”.  It is helpful for understanding the timeline as you read the text.  My explanation is based only on my own logic and some elementary understanding of Jewish tradition; therefore it probably contains some faults but as I stumbled over some timeline issues, especially studying the Feast of Unleavened Bread, these conclusions were helpful to my holistic understanding of what is happening.

The Jewish “day” starts in the evening, at sundown.  So, the Sabbath begins on Friday night and goes into Saturday.  Saturday night, which is on the same “day” in the time sense, is not the Sabbath.

In other words, there is a difference between what I’ll call “Jewish time” and “calendar time.”  Let’s say that a 2 day feast starts on the 15th day of the month, a Wednesday.  Wednesday morning is the first day of the feast.  But Tuesday night is also the first day of the feast, even though that is the 14th.  Yet, the feast will still end on the 16th.  So the feast takes place on 3 different “calendar time” days but only lasts 48 hours.  It takes place over 2 “Jewish days,” ending at sundown on the 16th.

We can see parallels in our own culture.  Christmas is not celebrated by children after their bedtime at 8 pm on December 25th.  But Christmas Eve might include reading stories, opening a gift, or looking in the sky to see a plane fly that parents can call Santa.  In a way, the Christmas celebration takes place for 28 hours, from the night of Christmas Eve until the bedtime on December 25th.

The next post will deal with Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread and this understanding of time is important for understanding the passage of the Festival.  It is important, if for no other reason, than to make sense of the Feast so that you don’t get confused and have unnecessary doubts (there are enough other things to be confused over!)

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Introduction to Israel’s Holidays and Festivals

Posted by Chris on July 6, 2008

This is part of a series. See the description and introduction and glossary.

God appointed certain holidays and festivals for Israel as times of worship, thanksgiving, and as key components of the Jewish religion. Since I am doing a study on the system of offerings and sacrifices, I will mainly focus on these things rather than the purpose and significance. I will mention them though, as it is very important for understanding the theological “fit”, which is one of my desires in studying this theme in scripture- that these things are important and have something to teach us.

The timing of the holidays does not correspond to our calendar; there is a separate Hebrew calendar. For that reason, Passover takes place on different dates each year and is not tied to Easter, which is based in our calendar, though Jesus’ crucifixion took place during the Passover time.

I have made a rough timeline of the holidays and how they fit in with one another on the Hebrew calendar. Below that I will list a more extensive written outline that gives other names by which you may know these festivals and the approximate correspondence to our calendar.

A timeline of Jewish festivals on the Hebrew Calendar

A timeline of Jewish festivals on the Hebrew Calendar

1st month: Nisan

  • Day 14: Passover
  • Day 15-21: Feast of Unleavened Bread

3rd month- Sivan

  • Day 6: Festival of Weeks- Shavuot- Pentecost

Harvest-time (equivalent to Sept-Oct)
7th month: Ethanim (Bible) or Tishrei (Talmud). This is considered the holiest month of the year.

  • Day 1: Feast of Trumpets (what has evolved into Rosh Hashanah, which is one of four different new year’s)
  • Day 10: Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)
  • Day 15-22: Feast of Tabernacles (Feast of Booths or Sukkot)

I will discuss a total of 6 holidays and divide them into two categories, one for the pilgrim festivals (Israel required to travel to Jerusalem after it was conquered by David) and festivals that should be celebrated wherever one resided.

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