THE PENTATEUCH PART III: LEVITICUS
Lesson 10, Chapters 22-23
The Holiness Code Continued: Part III
Holiness in Consuming Sacred Food
The Sabbath and the Annual Holy Feasts
From Your altar You give us holy food to sustain us on our journey to salvation—the holy food that is the very Body and Blood of Your Son. Negligence and ignorance of what the covenant people received in the holy food from Your altar in the desert Sanctuary was condemned under the Law of the Old Covenant. Receiving holy food in negligence and ignorance is also condemned in the New Covenant established by Your Son. Help us to be ever mindful, Lord of the warning Your servant St. Paul gave the Corinthians to not to receive the sacred food of the Eucharist from Your altar in sin or ignorance least we be judged and held accountable for both receiving holy food in an unworthy manner and for profaning the Body and Blood of our Lord in unbelief. Most Holy Spirit, guide us in our study of the sacred character of the Old Covenant sacrificial banquet and the appointed holy feast days that prefigured both the Eucharistic banquet and God’s plan of the redemption of mankind through the mission of the Messiah. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Whenever you eat this bread, then, and drink this cup, you are proclaiming the Lord’s death until he comes. Therefore anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily is answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone is to examine himself and only then eat of the bread or drink from the cup; because a person who eats and drinks without recognizing the body is eating and drinking to his own condemnation. [..]. If we were critical of ourselves we would not be condemned, but when we are judged by the Lord, we are corrected by the Lord to save us from being condemned along with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:26-32
blameless priests served the God-head by offering blameless sacrifices, while those
who were blemished and offered blemish sacrifices and whom Moses described in
Leviticus were separated from the altar. And who else is the blameless priest
offering a blameless sacrifice than the person who holds fast to his confession
and fulfills every requirement the account of martyrdom demands? He is the one
we have spoken of before.
Origen of Alexandria (c. 185-254), Exhortation to Martyrdom 30
I know also that
not even bodily blemishes in either priests or victims passed without notice,
but that it was required by the law that perfect sacrifices must be offered by
perfect men—a symbol, I take it, of integrity of soul.
St. Gregory Bishop of Nazianzus (329/330-372/389), Oration 2 (In Defense of His Flight to Pontus) 94
The Holiness Code continues in Chapter 22 with a series of laws divided into four parts. Parts I and II each contain seven laws for a total of fourteen (seven times two) laws addressing conditions that cause a priest or layman/woman within the priest’s household to be prohibited from eating holy food from God’s altar. Parts III and IV each contain seven laws for a total of fourteen (seven times two) laws that address regulations for priestly offerings and laws regulating the offering of sacrificial animals.
The Fourteen Laws in Parts I and II:
The Fourteen laws in Parts III and IV pertaining to sacrificial animals:
Parts I and II: The fourteen laws pertaining to the eating of holy food by a priest or by the laity within his household (Lev 22:1-16).
“they must sanctify it;
I am Yahweh”
Laws for priests
“I am Yahweh” repeated after laws #1 and #7
have sanctified them
Laws for laity in a priest’s household
# 1- #7
have sanctified these offerings.”
|Fourteen (seven times two) laws|
M. Hunt © copyright 2010
Part I: Conditions that prevented the priests from eating holy food in verses 3-8:
Please read Leviticus 22:1-9: Holiness in Consuming
Sacred Food for the Priests
21:1Yahweh spoke to Moses and said: 2‘Speak to Aaron and his sons. They must be consecrated by the holy offerings of the Israelites and must not profane my holy name; for my sake they must sanctify it; I am Yahweh.
These instructions are addressed to Aaron and his priestly descendants. The Hebrew text reads: “Instruct Aaron and his sons to separate themselves from the sacred donations of the Israelite people and that they not profane My holy name which they consecrate to Me” (The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, page 318; JPS Commentary: Leviticus, page 147). The “holy food” included the portions of the “wave offerings” of the people’s communion sacrifices, the sin sacrifices, and the reparations sacrifices that were to be eaten either by the priests in the Sanctuary or the portions of the people’s communion offerings that could be eaten within the camp by the priests with their families: You, your sons and daughters with you, will eat in a clean place the forequarter offered and the thigh presented, for these have been given to you and your children as your due from the Israelites’ communion sacrifices. The thigh presented and the forequarter offered, once the fat has been burnt, revert to you and your sons with you, after they have been presented before Yahweh with the gesture of offering, in virtue of a perpetual law as Yahweh has ordered (Lev 9:14-15). The separation that is imposed for uncleanness is explained in verses 4-6.
Yahweh’s acceptance of the sacrifices offered by His ordained priests sanctified those offerings, including the wave offerings that God shared with His priests that become holy food eaten in a sacred banquet. The priests in turn are sanctified by the sacred food and therefore must be in a state of ritual purity when eating them. The focus of this part of the Holiness Code, as in the other sections, is that a holy God needs a holy Sanctuary, holy priests to serve in it, a holy people to offer worship and to eat the sacred meal in fellowship with Yahweh.
Law #1: 3Say to them: “Any one of your descendants, for all time, who in a state of uncleanness approaches the holy offerings consecrated to Yahweh by the Israelites, will be outlawed from my presence, I am Yahweh.
Question: What is the purpose of this law?
Answer: The purpose of this law was to prevent ritually impure priests from having physical contact with consecrated offerings that could become defiled.
The word “outlawed” in the Hebrew text is literally “cut off.” The Hebrew wording differs from the usual formula we have seen in Leviticus (JPS Commentary: Leviticus, page 147). Here the idea is that God directly rejects the nearness of impure priests and evicts them from standing in His presence (see 1 Kng 8:25; Is 48:19; Jer 33:18). The phrase “for all time” indicates a lasting statute, enduring so long as the Sinai Covenant endures. The sacred obligation of each priest was to maintain a state of ritual cleanness in approaching Yahweh’s holy altar, in serving in the Tabernacle and in eating Yahweh’s sacred food.
Question: What was the penalty for a priest who
neglected this sacred obligation?
Answer: The penalty was to be cut off from access to Yahweh’s Sanctuary.
Law #2: 4Anyone of Aaron’s line who is afflicted with a contagious skin-disease
Verse four begins a list of impurities that defile a priest. The first two conditions are a repeat of the laws for the laity concerning skin diseases in Chapter 13.
Law #3: 5or a discharge will not eat holy things until he is clean.
The word translated “holy things” is in the Hebrew text kodashim (The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, page 318; JPS Commentary: Leviticus, page 148). The kodashim are the sacrificial offerings returned by God to his priests that are eaten in the sacred meal of which a priest may eat only when he is pure. Not only is the unclean priest forbidden to enter the Sanctuary but he is not eligible to eat the holy food from the Israelite’s sacrifices allotted for the priestly families that was allowed to be eaten within the camp (Lev 7:34; 10:14-15).
Law #4: Anyone who touches anything made unclean by a dead body,
Normally, ritual uncleanness made a priest or a layman or woman ritually unclean until sundown; however, the ritual defilement by a corpse was different. This kind of defilement required a seven day ritual cleansing (Num 19:11-16) and was considered an impurity so severe that even a vessel that came into contact with a corpse was rendered impure and had to be destroyed.
Law #5: or who has a seminal discharge,
See the law for the layman in Leviticus 15:15-18.
Law #6: 5or who is made unclean by touching any kind of reptile or any one who has contaminated him with his own uncleanness, be it what it may, 6in short, anyone who has had any such contact will be unclean until evening, and must not eat holy things until he has washed his body. 7At sunset he will be clean and may then eat holy things, for these are his food.
All reptiles/swarming things are listed among the unclean animals in Leviticus 11:24 and 29-30. Persons who were in a state of ritual impurity could also transmit their impurity to the priest by physical contact.
Question: What was necessary for the priest to become
ritually cleansed after becoming ritually unclean himself or by coming in
contact with an impure person or vessel?
Answer: He had to bathe and at sunset he became ritually pure again and able to eat the holy food that was his rightful portion.
Law #7: 8He must not eat an animal that has died a natural death or been savaged; he would contract uncleanness from it. I am Yahweh.
Conclusion: 9They must keep my rules and not burden themselves with sin. If they profane them, they will incur death;
A priest who willfully disobeyed God’s laws in association with ritual purity has committed a sin that can defile the entire Sanctuary, thereby putting the entire covenant community at risk. Such an offense in defiance of the Law didn’t just defile a priest’s body but also his soul; the penalty was death. The priest/prophet Ezekiel, who observed the ritual purity laws all his life, was able to confess to God: Lord Yahweh, my soul is not defiled. From my childhood until now, I have never eaten an animal that has died a natural death or been savaged; no tainted meat has ever entered my mouth (Ez 4:14).
I, Yahweh, have sanctified them.
This is the second statement identifying the food as holy because Yahweh sanctified it from His altar. The second statement signals the end of this part of the laws for priests concerning ritual defilement and eating holy food. It is the dividing point between the two sets of seven laws concerning priests. The next part addresses the eating of holy food within a priest’s household.
Part II: Conditions for laity associated with a priest’s household eating holy food in laws #1- #7 in verses 10-13:
Please read Leviticus 22:10-16: Laws Concerning the Laity Eating Holy Food within a Priest’s Household
Law #1: 10“No lay person may eat anything holy; no guest
Law #2: or employee of a priest may eat anything holy.
Law #3: 11But if the priest has acquired a slave by purchase, the slave may eat it
A slave either purchased or born of a slave was considered a member of the priest’s household.
Law #4: Like anyone born in his household; they will share his food.
Law #5: 12If a priest’s daughter marries a layman, she will have no share in the holy things set aside,
A married daughter was the responsibility of her husband.
Law #6: 13but if she is widowed
Law #7: or divorced and, being childless, has had to return to her father’s house as when she was young, she may share her father’s food.
Widowed and divorced daughters could become members of their father’s household.
Conclusion: No lay person may share it; 14anyone who does eat a holy thing by inadvertence, will restore it to the priest with one-fifth added. 15They may not profane the holy offerings which the Israelites have set aside for Yahweh. 16By eating these, they would burden them with guilt requiring a sacrifice of reparation; for I, Yahweh, have sanctified these offerings.”’
The conclusion provides the reason for the laws in parts I and II: holy food eaten by a ritually defiled priest or by unauthorized persons profanes the food sanctified by Yahweh.
Question: What is the penalty for an unauthorized lay
person eating holy food? See Leviticus 5:15-16.
Answer: A unauthorized person who ate holy food committed a sin against God and a sacrifice of reparation was required: If someone is unfaithful and sins inadvertently by infringing Yahweh’s sacred rights, as a sacrifice of reparation he must bring Yahweh an unblemished ram from his flock, the value of which will be decided by you in silver shekels according to the rate of the sanctuary-shekel. He will make amends for what his sin subtracted from the sacred rights, adding one-fifth to the value, and give it to the priest. The priest will them perform the rite of expiation for him with the ram for the sacrifice of reparation and he will be forgiven (Lev 5:15-16).
Commenting on the penalty for eating holy food out of ignorance, St. Jerome wrote: At the end, it is stated, “if a man eats of the sanctified things through ignorance, iniquity and wickedness are laid at his feet, and he shall be bound by a vow.” Thus also the apostle teaches us that we are to eat the Eucharist of the Lord with caution, least we eat to our condemnation and judgment. If Ignorance is condemned under the law, how much more will full knowledge be condemned according to the Gospel? St. Jerome (c. 347-420), Against Pelagians 1.34
The laws in parts III and IV concern priestly offerings of sacrificial animals:
“Yahweh spoke to Moses and said…”
Unacceptable sacrificial animals
Laws #1- #7
“Yahweh spoke to Moses and said”
Offering animals for sacrifice
Laws #1- #7
who make you holy…
|Fourteen (seven times two) laws|
M. Hunt © copyright 2010
Part III: Seven laws addressing sacrificial offerings
Please read Leviticus 22:17-25
17Yahweh spoke to Moses and said: ’18Speak to Aaron, to his sons, and to all the Israelites and say:
Law #1: “Any member of the House of Israel or any alien resident in Israel who brings an offering either in payment of a vow or as a voluntary gift, and offers it as a burnt offering to Yahweh, 19must, if he is to be acceptable, offer an unblemished male, be it bull or sheep or goat.
Law #2: 20You will
not offer anything with a blemish, for it would not make you acceptable.
A person is made acceptable to God through offering an acceptable sacrifice.
Law #3: 21If anyone
offers Yahweh a communion sacrifice, either to fulfill a vow or as a voluntary
offering, the animal, be it from the herd or flock, must be perfect, if he is
to be acceptable; it must be unblemished.
Through the prophet Malachi God condemned both the priests and the laity who brought blemished animals to His altar for sacrifice, thus polluting God’s holy altar. In the discourse both laity and priests are cursed for such offenses: Cursed be the rogue who has a male in his flock but pays his vow by sacrificing a blemished animal to me! (Mal 1:14; read the entire passage in Mal 1:6-2:9).
Law #4: 22You will not offer Yahweh any animal which is blind, lame, mutilated, ulcerous, scabby or covered in sores. Not part of such an animal will be offered on the altar as food burnt for Yahweh.
Law #5: 23As a voluntary offering, you may offer a bull or a lamb that is underdeveloped or deformed; but such will not be acceptable in payment of a vow.
Law #6: 24You will not offer Yahweh an animal if its testicles have been bruised, crushed, torn or cut off.
Law #7: You may not do that in your country, 25and you may not accept any such from the hands of a stranger, to be offered as food for your God. Their deformity is a blemish, and they would not make you acceptable.”’
Both the priest offering the sacrifice and the individual sacrifice must be unblemished to be acceptable to God. Compare the necessary soundness of priests to the necessary soundness of animals offered in sacrifice in the prohibitions that prevented both priests and animals from approaching God’s holy altar of sacrifice:
|Prohibitions for Priests||Prohibitions of Sacrificial Animals|
|Blindness (Lev 21:19)||Blindness (Lev 22:22)|
|Disabled arm or leg (Lev 21:19, 20)||Injured or maimed leg (Lev 22:22)|
|Ulcerous (Lev 22:4)||Ulcerous (Lev 22:22)|
|Scabby (Lev 21:20)||Scabby (Lev 22:22)|
|Deformed (Lev 21:19, 20)||Deformed (Lev 22:23)|
|Damaged testicles (Lev 21:20)||Damaged testicles (Lev 22:24)|
|Defective eyes (Lev 21:20)|
|May not “draw near” the altar (Lev 21:17-18)||Israelites may not bring near (Lev 22:20, 24)|
|M. Hunt © copyright 2010|
Part IV: Laws governing when an animal is acceptable for sacrifice:
Please read Leviticus 22:26-33: When Animals are Acceptable
26Yahweh spoke to Moses and said:
Law #1: 27‘A calf,
Law #2: lamb,
Law #3: or kid will stay with its dam for seven days after being born. From the eighth day onwards, it will be acceptable as food burnt for Yahweh.
The significance of seven days untouched and left in the care of its mother recalls the perfection of Creation when there was no death for animals. On the eighth day the animal’s life may be put to a new purpose as its blood is applied to God’s altar for the sake of the covenant people.
Law #4: 28But no animal, whether cow
Law #5: or ewe, will be slaughtered on the same day as its young.
If God is so caring about the lives of newborn animals, how deeply must he care about the lives of human babies? Commenting on Leviticus 22:27, St. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215) wrote: Scripture says, “At lease grant the offspring to its mother for its first seven days.” For if nothing comes to be without reason and milk flows in the mothers for the nourishment of the offspring, then in taking the offspring away from the providential endowment of the milk, a person is doing violence to nature. So Greeks and anyone else who runs the law down ought to blush for shame if the law is generous over irrational beasts. Yet some people actually expose human offspring to abortive death. By prophetic authority the law has for a long time cut short their ferocity through this commandment of which we have been speaking. For is the law refuses to allow the offspring of irrational creatures to be separated from their mother before taking milk, it is far more forceful in preparing human beings against that cruel, uncivilized view [exposure to death of infants]. If they ignore nature, at least they may not ignore the lessons of the law (Stromateis 2.92-4).
Law #6: 29If you offer Yahweh a sacrifice with praise, do it in the acceptable manner;
Law #7: 30it must be eaten the same day; you will leave nothing over till next morning. I am Yahweh.
The todah communion sacrifice had to be eaten within the Sanctuary in front of the Tabernacle in the presence of God (Lev 3:1-17; 7:11-15/7:1-15). The holy food had to be consumed the same day the sacrifice was offered, with its fat burned on the altar and the blood splashed against the altar (Lev 3:2, 8, 13). The sacrificial animal had to be an unblemished male or female from the herd or flock (Lev 3:1, 6, 12).
Conclusion: 31You will keep my commands and put them into practice, I am Yahweh. 32You will not profane my holy name—so that I may be honored as holy among the Israelites, I, Yahweh, who make you holy, 33I who brought you out of Egypt, to be your God, I, Yahweh.’
Question: If God alone is holy and nothing else and
no one else is inherently holy except God, how does He make Israel holy? How does He make the New Covenant believer holy? See the passages listed
above proclaiming God’s holiness and the command for the covenant people to be
holy above for your answer; also see CCC 749, 852.
Answer: The sanctity of the old Israel and the sanctity of the new Israel (the universal Church) cannot be generated internally by the individual believer; sanctification must come from outside human beings who are born in sin. The Law sanctified the Old Covenant believer and Israel, but the Holy Spirit sanctifies the New Covenant believer and the Church
The believer can only become holy by the sanctification and consecration received through the Most Holy Trinity, who is the only holy One. In the Old Covenant, the Israelites were sanctified and consecrated through obedience to God’s Law: You will keep my laws and put them into practice, for it is I, Yahweh, who make you holy (Lev 20:8). It was in living in obedience to the Law that God sanctified and consecrated Israel in her mission to be a witness for God to the other nations of the earth and to possess the Promised Land. However, in the New Covenant the believer is redeemed in the blood of Jesus Christ, and it is the indwelling power of God the Holy Spirit who sanctifies and consecrates His people for their mission to carry the Gospel of salvation to the ends of the earth on their faith journeys to salvation in the Promised Land of heaven.
There is no holiness apart from God; it is Yahweh exclusively who sanctifies Israel as His covenant people (see Lev 20:8; 21:8, 15, 23; 22:9, 16, 32). Holiness is opposed to that which is impure or profane, and in Leviticus it is the impure and profane that is a product of sin in the world that is forbidden to a people sanctified by God who offer sacrifice and worship in His holy Sanctuary (Vasholz, page 281).
The Sabbath and the Seven Annual Holy Feasts
The Sabbath was
given to the Jews to be observed literally, like other things, as rites
symbolically signifying something deeper. A particular kind of vacation, you
see, was enjoined on them. Take care to carry out what that vacation
signifies. A spiritual vacation, I mean, is tranquility of heart; but tranquility
of heart issues from the serenity of a good conscience. So the person who
really observes the Sabbath is the one who doesn’t sin. This, after all, is
the way the command was given to those who were commanded to observe the
Sabbath: “You shall perform no servile work.” “Everyone who commits sin is the
slave of sin.”
St. Augustine Bishop of Hippo (354-430), quoting from Leviticus 23:3 and John 8:34 in Sermon 270
The Holiness Code’s list of moral law (Chapters 18-20) and ritual prerequisites for acceptable sacrifice (Chapters 21-22) are now followed by the list of the solemn feasts of Yahweh’s liturgical calendar that defines the rhythm of life for the covenant people. The Hebrew word for Yahweh’s solemn festivals is mo’ed, which means “appointed time, place, meeting” (The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, page 417). The Hebrew word moed/mo’aday occurs forty-nine times in Leviticus and until this chapter the word has occurred exclusively in referring to the Tabernacle as the “Tent of Meeting”, the ‘ohel mo’ed (Kiuchi, Leviticus, page 415).
These are Yahweh’s solemn appointed times for the covenant people to gather in His presence, to offer sacrifice and worship, and to have fellowship with God.(1) The months of the year and the calendar of feasts were determined by the cycle of the moon, thus the Psalmist wrote: He made the moon to mark the seasons [mo’ed = appointed times] … (Psalm 104:19). Therefore, every feast day that falls on the fifteenth of the lunar month is during a full moon cycle and the feasts that fall on the fifteenth in the spring and fall are to be celebrated on the spring and fall equinoxes, when the division of day and night are equal.(2)
The chapter begins with a re-statement of the Sabbath obligation that is followed by the list of annually appointed festivals that were to be observed within a liturgical cycle. Scholars are not in agreement as to whether the list contains seven or eight appointed feasts. Most modern scholars manipulate the text to produce the pattern of the number seven, so prevalent in the Leviticus Holiness Code since Chapter 18, either by combining Passover and Unleavened Bread into one eight-day feast—as it was later celebrated in the first century AD (Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative, page 359; Kiuchi, Leviticus, page 417), or by treating the Feast of Firstfruits as only a ceremony and not a feast with its own unique sacrifices (Matthews, Leviticus: Holy God, Holy People, page 202), or by separating out the Sabbath from the seven annual feasts as the paradigm for all the other feasts (The Navarre Bible: Pentateuch, pages 495-96). At least the approach of the Navarre scholars is a more honest and a less manipulative approach to the text of Chapter 23. But there doesn’t have to be an either/or approach—seven feasts versus eight feasts. Instead, this is probably another unique seven-eight pattern in Scripture—a pattern that always points to a shift or forward momentum historically in God’s definitive plan of salvation. There are, in fact, three different seven/eight patterns in Leviticus Chapter 23.
In Scripture the numbers seven and eight together form a remarkable connection which points to God’s divine plan impacting the destiny of His people. As we have noted seven, according to its etymology, means that which is spiritually full and complete, while eight not only signifies salvation, redemption and new/re-birth but the Hebrew word shemoneh, the cardinal number “eight,” literally means that which is “satiated” or “superabundant” (The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon, pages 1032-33). Therefore, a seven/eight pattern reveals that which is spiritually full and complete, having superabundant redemption and salvation.
Yahweh’s covenants are in a seven/eight pattern: Seven covenants are revealed in the Old Testament and the eighth covenant in the New Testament is the New Covenant in Christ Jesus. The classes of furniture in the desert Tabernacle and in the Jerusalem Temple, the one place on earth where God dispensed His grace and forgiveness, reflected the numbers seven and eight: there were seven articles of sacred furniture in the Tabernacle and eight in the Jerusalem Temple. We have already seen a few seven/eight patters in Leviticus in the priestly ordination rites that covered a seven day period and with the priests assuming their duties on the eighth day (Lev 8:33-9:2), in the ritual purity laws where one became defiled and remained ritually unclean for a seven day period before becoming ritually clean and able to come to the Sanctuary on the eighth day (Lev 12:2-3; 14:8-10; 15:13-14, 28-29), and in the time between the birth of an animal suitable for sacrifice and when it could be offered in sacrifice (Lev 22:27). In addition to the Sabbath obligation and the seven annual feasts forming a seven/eight pattern, the first two annual feasts and the last feast in the liturgical calendar reflect the significant seven/eight pattern. For some of the Scripture passages associated the seven/eight patterns and other examples of the seven/eight patterns in Scripture see the document “The Significance of Numbers in Scripture.”(3)
The divine command to keep the “appointed seasons” of Yahweh in Chapter 23 begins with Yahweh’s announcement to Moses and by the re-statement of the Sabbath obligation. This is followed by Yahweh’s second statement of the appointed feasts and a list of the seven feasts, a third announcement of the solemn feasts and a recapitulation on the Feast of Tabernacles. The divine commands concerning the feasts end with Moses delivering Yahweh’s announcement to the children of Israel:
“Yahweh spoke to Moses and said…These are my appointed times (mo’ed)”
The seventh day
“These are appointed
times (mo’ed) of Yahweh, holy gatherings which you shall
proclaim in their appointed seasons”
Seven annual feasts
of Yahweh: Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Weeks (Pentecost),
Trumpets, Day of Atonement, Tabernacles
“These are appointed
times (mo’ed) of Yahweh ...”
Recap on the feast of Tabernacles
“And Moses announced the appointed times (mo’ed) of Yahweh to the sons of Israel.”
|The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. 1, pages 321-25; M. Hunt © copyright 2010|
The Seven Holy Feasts of Remembrance
This day must be
commemorated by you, and you must keep it as a feast in Yahweh’s honor. You
must keep it as a feast-day for all generations; this is a decree for all
At your festivals,
solemnities and new-moon feasts, you will sound the trumpets over your burnt
offerings and communion sacrifices, so that they recall you to the remembrance
of your God. I am Yahweh your God.
It is important to note that no feast day sacrifice, even the Sabbath sacrifices, took precedence over the offering to the communal whole burnt offering to the Tamid lamb in the morning and afternoon liturgical service. The daily whole burnt offering of the Tamid communal sacrifice was the most important single sacrifice of the covenant people. It was to last so long as the covenant at Sinai endured and was to only end with the coming of the Redeemer-Messiah (Dan 7:13-14; 12:11-13). The offering of the Tamid is commanded in associating with the annual and periodic feasts fourteen (seven times two) times in Numbers 28:10, 15, 23, 24, 31; 29:6, 16, 19, 22, 25, 28, 31, 34, and 38. Also see Leviticus 16:28 for the Tamid offered at the Feast of Atonement. According to the Mishnah: Yoma both the morning and afternoon Tamid lambs were offered in sacrifice on the Day of Atonement.
Please read Leviticus 23:1-4: The Sabbath Obligation
1Yahweh spoke to Moses and said: 2‘Speak to the Israelites and say: The solemn festivals of Yahweh [mo’ade YHWH] to which you will summon them are my sacred assemblies [miqra’e qodes]. “These are my solemn festivals [‘elleh hem mo’aday]: 3“You will work for six days [literally = six days you will work], but the seventh will be a day of complete rest [shabbat shabbaton = Sabbath of Sabbaths], a day for the sacred assembly on which you do not work at all. Wherever you live, this is a Sabbath for Yahweh. 4These are Yahweh’s solemn festivals [elleh mo’ade YHWH], the sacred assemblies [miqra’e qodes] to which you will summon the Israelites on the appointed day:
Hebrew translation is quoted from Milgrom, Leviticus, page 1952; also see JPS Commentary: Leviticus, page 155).
3“You will work for six days [literally = six days you will work], but the seventh will be a day of complete rest, a day for the sacred assembly on which you do not work at all. The weekly Sabbath was literally in Hebrew shabbat shabbaton, a “Sabbath of Sabbaths”, or as it is rendered in the Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon, “sabbath of sabbatic observance” (page 992). It is a superlative expression that set aside the seventh day from all other holy days of rest (also see this superlative used in Ex 16:23; 31:15; 35:2; Lev 23:3). The word Sabbath is related to the Hebrew word “rest” (shabbaton) and the number “seven” (shibah). In the instructions for the annual feasts, those feast days that are also days of “rest” are literally designated “sabbaths:” the Feast of Trumpets (Lev 23:24), and the first and eighth days of the Feast of Tabernacles/Shelters (Lev 23:39). Ancient Israel’s observance of a weekly Sabbath was not practiced by other Near Eastern peoples and was another distinction that made Israel different from her neighbors (Vasholz, page 284).
No matter where an Israelite lived, even if he could not travel to attend the sacred assembly of the covenant people in the presence of Yahweh at the Sanctuary or later at the Temple, he had to observe the covenant obligations of the Sabbath rest. This command to keep the Sabbath rest is the beginning of the liturgical calendar of sacred time—divinely ordered weekly and annual appointments between Yahweh and His covenant people.
Question: Do the New Covenant people of the universal
Church have a divinely ordained appointed time to come into the Lord’s
presence? See CCC 2180-81.
Answer: The Lord’s Day (Sunday) is the New Covenant Sabbath. It is a mortal sin to willfully neglect worshiping the Lord in His Sanctuary on the Lord’s Day or to willfully neglect a feast day that is a Holy Day of Obligation.
Question: What comparison can be made between the
Catholic Church’s Holy Days of Obligation and Old Covenant feast days?
Answer: The Holy Days of Obligation in the Church’s liturgical calendar equate to the Old Covenant Sacred Assemblies and pilgrim feasts where participation in worship at Yahweh’s Sanctuary was required.
The introduction to the liturgical calendar’s “appointed times” in verses 1-4 is laid out in a reverse chiastic pattern in the Hebrew text (Hebrew word order is a bit different from the English translation, but you can still see the pattern in the English translation). A chiastic pattern emphasizes the importance of the passage. The “X” in the outline below marks the pivot point in the pattern:
A-1: you will summon them
B-1: the sacred assemblies (appointed times) of YHWH
C-1: these are my solemn festivals (appointed times)
D-1: six days
E-1: you will work
X: but the seventh will be a day of complete rest, a day for the sacred assembly on which
E-2: you do not work at all
D-2: this is the (seventh day) Sabbath for YHWH
C-2: these are YHWH’s solemn festivals (appointed times)
B-2: the sacred assemblies
A-2: to which you will summon Israel on the appointed day
(See Milgrim, Leviticus, page 1952).
Yahweh’s Sabbaths are a link to the first Creation event (Gen 2:1-4a) and points to Israel as a “new creation” in God’s plan for man’s salvation. Just as God rested on the seventh day of the first Creation, Israel, as Yahweh’s new creation must enter into that same “rest” created for the first humans in what was a time of perfect communion between man and God.
Question: What was the significance of Israel, as a covenant people and as individual laymen and women, keeping Yahweh’s Sabbath?
Answer: It was a demonstration of fidelity to God and to His covenant with Israel. In the first covenant with man in the garden Sanctuary, man’s disobedience and expulsion from the garden Sanctuary signaled the end of the unity between man and God in the one earthly Sanctuary. At Sinai that one earthly Sanctuary has been re-established and the Sabbath observance is the demonstration of the Israelites’ commitment to the covenant relationship that Adam and Eve abandoned in their sin and the fellowship within God’s Sanctuary from which they were exiled.
Question: How was the Old Covenant demonstration of
fidelity to God and covenant commitment on the Sabbath in offering sacrifice
and worship transformed in the New Covenant?
Answer: Our commitment to sacred worship and communion with God on the Lord’s Day is the same as the Old Covenant people’s commitment to the Sabbath—worshiping on the Lord’s Day is a demonstration of fidelity to Jesus Christ and covenant union with the Most Holy Trinity celebrated in the sacred sacrificial meal of the Eucharistic banquet.
No specific sacrifices are mentioned for liturgical worship on the Sabbath in Leviticus, but the book of Numbers records that on the Sabbath two unblemished male lambs were offered with two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering and an accompanying wine libation. These lambs were offered in sacrifice in addition to the perpetual burnt offering of the morning and afternoon Tamid lambs and their accompanying grain offerings and wine libations (Num 28:9-10).
The importance of the Sabbath obligation is directly tied to the welfare of the covenant people in their relationship with God. The Sabbath obligation is repeated in eight different sections of the Law within the Pentateuch ( Ex 20:8-11; 23:12; 31:12-17; 34:21; 35:1-3; Lev 19:3, 30; 23:3; Dt 5:12-15). In Leviticus it is coupled with honoring parents (Lev 19:3) and with reverence toward the Tabernacle (Lev 19:30; 26:2). To dishonor the Sabbath is tantamount to dishonoring God and rejecting the sanctity of the covenant relationship.
Question: Is neglect of the Lord’s Day or receiving
the Eucharist in an unworthy manner also tied to the welfare of the New
Covenant people in their relationship with the Most Holy Trinity? See 1
Answer: Yes; to dishonor the Eucharist by receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in a profane way or to neglect the Lord’s Day worship is tantamount to dishonoring Christ and rejecting the sanctity of the covenant union with the Most Holy Trinity.
Instructions for the appointed annual feast of the liturgical calendar are given four times in the Pentateuch:
Other feasts like Hanukkah (also called the Feast of Dedication) and Purim were not divinely appointed feasts but were instead national feasts inaugurated by the people (1 Mac 4:36-59; 2 Mac 10:1-8; Jn 10:22; Est 9:20-32; ). After the Jews dropped the books of first and second Maccabees from their canon in the Middle Ages the celebration of Hanukkah no longer appears in any part of the Jewish Old Testament.
Please keep in mind the English word “feast” means “festival.” The word has also come to be associated with “eating” because often a festival celebration involves a meal but not in all cases, for example the Passover only involved the sacrifice. The eating of the sacrifice in a meal occurred on the first day (beginning at sundown) of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Ex 12:8).
Leviticus 23:4: The Seven Divinely Appointed Annual Sacred
4“These are Yahweh’s solemn festivals, the sacred assemblies to which you will summon the Israelites on the appointed day:
These solemn occasions are designated “feasts of remembrance.” In observing these annual feasts the children of the Exodus didn’t just “remember” the Exodus experience, but every generation was invited to relive the Exodus experience and apply it to their lives (Ex 13:8, 10, 14-16). Please notice that five of the feasts are given a specific date; those feasts were to occur on that same date in the same month every year. Two of the seven feasts, however, were not given a date but were instead given a specific day within a certain week of the appointed month so that every year those two feasts fell on the same day of the week, year after year within the cycle of sacred festivals.
Feast #1, the Passover: 3The
fourteenth day of the first month, at twilight is the Passover of Yahweh;
The instructions for the first sacrifice of the Passover are given in Exodus Chapter 12. In those instructions the month of the Passover observance was to become the first month in Israel’s liturgical calendar. The appointed time of the Passover remembrance begins at sundown on the 14th of Abib and continues until the next sundown, which signals the beginning of the next day. The ritual for the annual sacrifice of the Passover victims in the first century AD in the Second Temple Period are given in the Mishnah in the section designated Pesah. The Passover sacrifices took place immediately after the afternoon Tamid sacrifice, which on that occasion was scheduled earlier than the normal time of three in the afternoon (Mishnah: Pesahim 5:1; JPS Commentary: Leviticus, page 156).
Question: Read the instructions in Exodus 12:1-5;
13:3-4 for the Passover sacrifice. On what day was the Passover victim
selected, what kind of animal was acceptable for sacrifice, and on what day did
the sacrifice take place?
According to the way the ancients counted, the unblemished victim had to be selected and kept for five days before the sacrifice. The covenant people were to eat their Passover sacrifices in a sacred meal with family and friends within the camp of God. One animal was to be selected for every ten to twenty people (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 17.9.3). Since Passover was not a pilgrim feast, one did not have to be present for the sacrifice, but one had to be present for the sacred banquet that night at sundown. Even a slave could offer the animal for sacrifice: He who says to his slave, “Go and slaughter a Passover offering in my behalf”—[If] he slaughtered a kid, let him eat it. [If] he slaughtered a lamb, let him eat it. [If] he slaughtered both a kid and a lamb, let him eat from the former (Mishnah: Pesahim 8:2A-D).
The English word “Passover” is a misnomer according to the JPS Commentary. The Jewish scholars of the JPS Commentary point out that the verb pasah does not mean “to pass over, skip over,” but means “to straddle, hedge.” The literal meaning then is “to stand with one leg on one branch and the second leg on the other;” the JPS Commentary renders the word “protective offering” rendering Exodus 12:23: “For when the LORD goes through to smite the Egyptians, He will see the blood on the lintel and the two doorposts, and the LORD will protect the door and not let the Destroyer enter and smite your home” ( emphasis mine; JPS Commentary: Exodus, page xx; JPS Commentary: Leviticus, page 156).
The observance of the Passover sacrifice and the eating the sacred meal of the victim with family and friends on the Feast of Unleavened Bread was so important that an alternate date was set a month later for the Israelites who were unable to keep their appointments with God on the designated dates because of ritual defilement or because they were away on a long journey (Num 9:6-13). Resident aliens who agreed to submit to circumcision were also invited to offer a Passover sacrifice and to eat the sacred meal in the company of the covenant people (Ex 12:48-49; Num 9:14).(5)
Feast #2, the Feast of Unleavened Bread: 6and the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of Unleavened Bread for Yahweh. For seven days you will eat unleavened bread. 7On the first day you will hold a sacred assembly; you will do no heavy work. 8For seven days you will offer food burnt for Yahweh. On the seventh day there will be a sacred assembly; you will do no heavy work.”’
Question: What was the total length of time
designated for the two feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread? Is there a
seven/eight pattern associated with the two feasts?
Answer: Passover was on the 14th of Abib (Nisan is the Babylonian name of the month) and Unleavened Bread lasted from the 15th to the 21st, a period of seven days. The two feasts together lasted a total of eight days forming a seven/eight pattern.
The two feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread form another seven/eight pattern, with Unleavened Bread lasting seven days and the one day of the Passover sacrifice that was the day before; counted together the two feasts covered an eight day period.
The two feasts were consecutive but the sacrifices and the significance of each feast was different and in the Bible they are always listed as two separate feasts.
Question: What was the significance of the Passover?
What were the Israelites to “remember” in their celebration of the Passover and
the sacred meal? See Exodus 12:12-14, 22-27. Hint: the blood of the victim
when from the threshold to the doorpost above the door and the side lintels
forming a “sign” of redemption (Ex 12:13, 23).
Answer: In the Feast of the Passover the Israelites were to recall the deliverance of the first born of Israel on the night of the tenth Egyptian plague as the angel of death passed over the houses marked by the sign of the bloody sign of a cross over the doorways.
The fathers of every generation were to tell their sons: This is because of what Yahweh did for me when I came out of Egypt (Ex 13:8; emphasis mine). In the sacrifice and in the sacred meal every generation of Israel was to relive the Exodus experience.
Question: What was the significance of the Feast of
Unleavened Bread? See Exodus 12:8; 13:3-10.
Answer: The sanctification of Israel in eating the sacred meal of the Passover victim and Yahweh’s redemption of Israel from bondage in Egypt.
Question: How did the Feast of Unleavened Bread get
its name? See Exodus 12:15-20.
Answer: The Israelites were required to remove all leaven from their houses and to eat only unleavened bread for seven days.
Question: The Feast of Unleavened Bread was a pilgrim
feast that every Israelite male over the age of thirteen had to attend by
coming before God’s holy altar. But in addition to the requirement to eat the
Passover victim in a sacred meal on the first night of Unleavened Bread, what
else was required within the seven day holy week period? Could the Israelites
leave the camp of God after the sacred meal of the Passover victim on the first
night? Also see Num 28:16-25.
Answer: If they lived near to the camp of God they could come and go, but they had to be present to eat the sacred meal at sundown on the first day of Unleavened Bread on the fifteenth of Abib, they had to be present for the liturgical services of the Sacred Assembly on the morning after the Passover meal, and they had to be present for the Sacred Assembly on the last day of the feast, on the twenty-first.
Prescribed sacrifices were offered each of the seven days of Unleavened Bread. Festival celebrants also brought voluntary festival communion offerings each of the seven days to offer at God’s holy altar for sacrifice and to eat the portion of the sacrifice God returned to them in meals of celebration within the camp of God (Mishnah: Hagigah; Lev 7:16-17; 22:23; 2 Chr 30:22-33). For the Sacred Assemblies on the fifteenth and twenty-first attendance was required in the Sanctuary/Temple where specific sacrifices were offered for the community together will the people’s festival communion sacrifices.(6) As in all the feast days, the prescribed sacrifices for the seven days of Unleavened Bread were offered in addition to the daily communal whole burnt offering to the Tamid (Num 28:23-24).
Question: What were the required sacrifices for the
seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread? See Numbers 28:16-25.
Answer: For each of the seven days the community was to offer, in addition to the Tamid sacrifice, two young bulls, a ram and seven yearling lambs (all without blemish) together with the accompanying cereal offerings, and a goat as a sin sacrifice.
Feast #3, the Feast of Firstfruits:
9Yahweh spoke to Moses and said:
10‘Speak to the Israelites and say: “When you
enter the country which I am giving you and reap the harvest there, you will
bring the priest the first sheaf of your harvest,
11and he will present it to Yahweh with the
gesture of offering, for you to be acceptable. The priest will make this
offering on the day after the Sabbath,
on the same day as you make this offering, you will offer Yahweh an unblemished
lamb one year old as a burnt offering.
13The cereal offering for that day will be two-tenths of wheaten flour
mixed with oil, as food burnt as a smell pleasing to Yahweh. The libation will
be a quarter of a hin of wine.
will eat no bread, roasted ears of wheat [grain] or fresh produce [new grain] before
this day, before making the offering to your God. This is a perpetual law for
all your descendants, wherever you live.
[..] = literal translation (The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, page 322; JPS Commentary: Leviticus, page 158).
Yahweh spoke to Moses and said: This phrase designates a new section. The Feast of Firstfruits is not a continuation of the Feast of Unleavened Bread but is a separate feast with a prescribed blood sacrifice, grain offerings and a wine libation even though the feast fell within the holy week of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Question: This feast is associated with the barley
which was ready to be harvested at this season of the year. The wheat harvest
didn’t take place for approximately another six weeks. What event was this
festival to be associated with that signified the meaning of the feast?
Answer: This feast wasn’t to be celebrated until the children of Israel were in possession of the Promised Land. The offering of the first sheaf to Yahweh was in thanksgiving for the fertility of the land.
Verse 14 has a translation error in the NJB: You will eat no bread, roasted ears of wheat or fresh produce before this day, before making the offering to your God. The passage should read: You will eat no bread, roasted ears of grain or new grain before this day, before making the offering to your God. The Israelites were not to eat any barley bread or roasted ears of barley, or new grain of the barley harvest before the first offering of the barley that was presented in Yahweh’s Sanctuary. Of course they could eat wheat bread—they are commanded to eat unleavened wheat bread during the entire seven day period of Unleavened Bread ( Ex 12:15-20; 13:6-7; Lev 23:6; Num 28:17; Dt 16:3; Ez 45:21).
The command to offer the first fruits of the annual barley harvest when the Israelites took possession of the Promised Land is in addition to the command to offer Yahweh the first-fruits of men and animals in Exodus 13:11-16 and the command to offer the first fruits of the soil in Exodus 23:19 and 34:26. Now the offering of the first fruits of the soil will be associated with three sacred feasts: Firstfruits, which occurs at the same time as the first grain harvest of the early spring (barley); Weeks, which will fall during the wheat harvest in the late spring; and Tabernacles/Shelters, which celebrated at the time as the fall fruit harvest.
Question: The Feast of Firstfruits is one of only two
of the seven annual feasts that did not have a specific date—all five of the
other feasts were to be celebrated on a specific date every year. According to
the text, when was the Feast of Firstfruits to be celebrated within the holy
week of Unleavened Bread and what sacrifices were presented to God at His
Answer: After the Israelites took possession of the Promised Land, they were to bring forward the first of the barley harvest to Yahweh’s priest on the first day after the Sabbath of the holy week of Unleavened Bread—on a Sunday. In addition of the offering of the first sheaf of the barley harvest, an unblemished male lamb a year old was presented as a whole burnt offering together with two-tenths of wheaten flour mixed with oil and a wine libation of a quarter hin of wine.
Question: What did this feast commemorate from the
Answer: The feast signified the resurrection of Israel as a free people; recognizing the redemption of the first-born in Egypt and God’s bounty in the Promised Land.
The designation of Passover on the fourteenth of Abib and Unleavened Bread lasting seven days more days ensured that at some point during the eight days of the two feasts that a Sabbath fell within the time period. It was commanded that the Feast of Firstfruits was be celebrated the day after the Sabbath of Unleavened Bread, on the first day of the week, the day we call Sunday within the eight-day period of Passover and Unleavened Bread.
Sometime in the first century AD the designated celebration of this feast was changed from the day after the Sabbath to Abib/Nisan the 16th, the second day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Giving Firstfruits a specific date ensured that the celebration that for centuries always fell on a Sunday within the Passover/Unleavened Bread holy week, now no longer always fell on a Sunday. And since the next feast had to be calculated seven weeks later, on the fiftieth day after Firstfruits (as the ancients counted; Lev 23:16), the celebration of the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost was also altered and no longer always fell on a Sunday. The Book of Jubilees, a book that was considered to be inspired Scripture in the first century BC, recorded that God ordained the celebration of the Feast of Firstfruits on the day after the holy Sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Jubilees 6:17) and the first century AD Jewish priest, Flavius Josephus, also recorded in his history of the Jews in c. 80/90 AD that a generation earlier the date was changed so as to not always fall out on the Sunday of the holy week of Unleavened Bread (Antiquities of the Jews, 13.8.4 ). We will discuss the reason for the change in the Jewish tradition later in the study.
Question: Looking at the instructions and sacrifices
for the seven feasts in Leviticus Chapter 23, what commands are unique to the
celebration of Firstfruits for the covenant community that are not part of the
other feast days with the exception of the other feast linked to Firstfruits,
the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost?
The only other sacrifice of a single, unblemished yearling male lamb for the community as a whole was not for a feast day but for the daily communal Tamid sacrifice where a single male lamb was offered in the morning and a second single male lamb in the afternoon—both lambs were considered to be a single sacrifice.(7)
14bThis is a perpetual law for all your descendants, wherever you live.
The commands and regulations for the observance of the Feast of Firstfruits are ordained to be a perpetual law observed by all generations (vs. 14). Only the feasts of Weeks/Pentecost, Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles/Shelters in this list are also designated as “perpetual” laws (vs. 21, 31 and 41).
Feast #4, the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost: 15From the day after the Sabbath, the day on which you bring the sheaf of offering, you will count seven full weeks. 16You will count fifty days, to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then you will offer Yahweh a new cereal offering. 17You will bring bread from your homes to present with the gesture of offering—two loaves, made of two-tenths of wheaten flour baked with leaven; these are the first-fruits for Yahweh. 18In addition to the bread, you will offer seven unblemished lambs a year old, a young bull and two rams, as a burnt offering to Yahweh with a cereal offering and a libation, as food burnt as a smell pleasing to Yahweh. 19You will also offer a goat as a sacrifice for sin, and two lambs a year old as communion sacrifices. 20The priest will present them before Yahweh with the gesture of offering, in addition to the bread of the first-fruits. These, and the two lambs, are holy things for Yahweh, and will revert to the priest. 21On the same day, you will hold an assembly; for you this will be a sacred assembly; you will do no heavy work. This is a perpetual law for your descendants, wherever you live. 22When you reap the harvest in your country, you will not reap to the very edges of your field, nor will you gather the gleanings of the harvest. You will leave them for the poor and the stranger. I am Yahweh your God.”’
The date of the Feast of Weeks was determined by counting seven weeks of days, in Hebrew sheva’ shabbatot (JPS Commentary: Leviticus page 159], from the day after the Sabbath of Unleavened Bread—from the Sunday celebration of the Feast of Firstfruits. The way the ancients counted with no zero-place value, the Feast of Weeks was to be celebrated fifty days later on a Sunday (the day of Firstfruits was counted as day #1).
Question: What are the mandatory offerings and
sacrifices for this feast? See Leviticus 23:15-20.
Answer: The first fruits of the wheat harvest and two loaves of leavened wheat bread from each family. The blood sacrifices included: two young bulls, a ram and seven yearling lambs for a burnt offering with the accompanying cereal offerings; a goat as a communal sin sacrifice and two lambs as communion sacrifices for the priests; all sacrifices offered on each of the seven days.
These sacrifices were offered in addition to the daily Tamid communal sacrifice. No leaven could be presented on the altar (Lev 7:13), but the offerings of loaves of leavened wheat bread by every family that was presented to Yahweh and the two lambs as communion sacrifices would be eaten in a sacred meal by God’s priests.
Question: How many Sacred Assemblies were required
attendance for the covenant people during this feast?
Answer: There were Sacred Assemblies on the morning of the first day (the fifteenth) and last day (the twenty-first) of the Unleavened Bread Holy Week.
Question: What did this feast signify in remembrance
from the Exodus experience?
Answer: The Feast of Weeks signified the origination of Israel as the covenant people. It was a festival of joy recalling the giving of the Law at Sinai fifty days after leaving Egypt resulting in the birth of the corporate covenant at Sinai which was also the birth of the nation of Israel as the Bride of Yahweh.
The instructions not to harvest the edges of the fields and not to gather the gleanings from the fields are repeated from Leviticus 19:9-10. Coming between the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost and the next feast in the liturgical calendar was the long summer harvest.
Feast #5, the Feast of Trumpets: 23Yahweh spoke to Moses and said: 24‘Speak to the Israelites and say: “The first day of the seventh month will be a day of rest [sabbath] for you, of remembrance and acclamation, a sacred assembly. 25You will do no heavy work and you will offer food burnt for Yahweh.”’
This one-day feast day has no name in Leviticus; in Numbers it is called the Feast of Acclamations (Num 29:1) and it later came to be called the Feast of Trumpets. This was the first of the three last feasts in the liturgical calendar celebrated the early autumn, falling on the first day of the seventh month. The “seventh month” is not named but after the exile it was known by its Babylonian name, Tishri. This feast came to be known as the Feast of Trumpets because the feast was announced by the blowing of the ram’s horn trumpet one hundred times (Jewish Book of Why, vol. I, page 225). The text of Leviticus 23:24 in the Tanach reads: In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe complete rest, a sacred occasion commemorated with loud blasts—the Hebrew zikhron teru’ah literally means “commemoration by blasting” and it is assumed the “blasting” came from the ram’s horn, called in Hebrew the shofar; it is the same designation in Hebrew that occurs in Numbers 29:1 (JPS Commentary: Leviticus, page 160).
It became the common practice to announce an assembly of the covenant people by the blowing of the shofar: Blow the horn [shofar] on the New Moon … on the full moon for the day of our pilgrimage festival (Tanach, Ps 81:4). The first of Tishri in the early fall also marked the civil New Year as opposed to the liturgical calendar that began on the first of Abib in the spring; therefore, this feast is also called “Head of the Year,” Rosh Hashana, since it was the first feast in the civil calendar. The single day celebration of the Feast of Trumpets/Rosh Hashana was the occasion for a compulsory Sacred Assembly and liturgical service with the prescribed sacrifices of a young bull, a ram and seven yearling lambs as whole burnt offerings, cereal offerings a goat sin sacrifice and accompanying wine libations (Num 29:2-6). It was also a “sabbath” day of rest and became a time of repentance in preparation for the Feast of Atonement ten days later.
Question: What did this feast signify in the Exodus
Answer: It signified the ingathering of the covenant people in preparation for Yahweh’s judgment/favor in the renewal of the covenant after the sin of the Golden Calf—the covenant failure that made the Feast of Atonement necessary.
Question: Do you see a pattern in the liturgical
calendar between the first and last feasts? See the chart of the annual feasts
in the appendix to this lesson.
Feast #6, the Day of Atonement: 26Yahweh spoke to Moses and said: 27‘But the tenth day of this seventh month will be the Day of Expiation. You will hold a sacred assembly. You will fast and offer food burnt for Yahweh. 28You will do no work that day, for it is the Day of Expiation, on which the rite of expiation will be performed for you before Yahweh your God. 29Anyone who fails to fast that day will be outlawed from his people; 30anyone who works that day I shall eliminate from his people. 31No work will be done—this is a perpetual law for your descendants wherever you live. 32It must be a day of complete rest [shabbat shabbaton] for you. You will fast; on the evening of the ninth day of the month, from this evening till the following evening, you will rest completely.’
You will recall that extensive instruction was given for this national day of repentance and expatiation in Leviticus Chapter 16 (see Lesson # 7). Additional instructions are given in Numbers 29:7-11. This was also a one day feast that began with fasting in the afternoon of the ninth and with the observance of the feast day beginning at sundown, which was then the beginning of the tenth of Tishri. The solemn feast day of repentance and expatiation was commemorated in a daytime liturgical service with sacrifices and offerings that cleansed and purified the people and the Sanctuary. The Day of Atonement ended at sundown after the service.
Question: What did this feast signify in reliving the
Answer: It signified calling Israel to judgment in a national day of fasting, repentance and expiation after the covenant failure in the sin of the Golden Calf.
Feast # 7, the Feast of Tabernacles/Shelters (also called “Booths”): 33Yahweh spoke to Moses and said: 34‘Speak to the Israelites and say: “On the fifteenth day of this seventh month there will be the feast of Shelters for Yahweh, lasting for seven days. 35The first day will be a day of sacred assembly; you will do no heavy work. 36For seven days you will offer food burnt for Yahweh. On the eighth day you will hold a sacred assembly and you will offer food burnt for Yahweh. It is a day of solemn meeting; you will do no heavy work.
The Feast of Tabernacles was also called the Feast of Shelters or Booths. During the holy week of this feast the Israelites were commanded to build shelters made out of the boughs of trees in memory of the tents they lived in during the Exodus experience. It was the last feast in the liturgical calendar. Like the feasts of Firstfruits, Weeks, and Atonement this feast was designated a “perpetual law” for all the descendants of Israelites wherever they may live (vs. 41).
Question: How many animals were offered in sacrifice
during the eight days of the festival which began and ended with a Sacred
Assembly? See Numbers 29:12-38.
Answer: Seventy bulls, fifteen rams, one hundred and five lambs as burnt offerings and eight goats as sin sacrifices.
Question: What did this feast signify from the Exodus
Answer: It signified God’s presence as He dwelled in the Tabernacle in the midst of His Covenant people when they lived in shelters in the wilderness. It also commemorated the building of the Tabernacle as a dwelling place for God among His people, and the feast memorialized giving thanks for the productivity of the Promised Land in the fruit harvest.
There was another singular aspect to this feast. In the period after the Ark of the Covenant was forever lost and the Temple Holy of Holies was an empty space this feast looked forward to the promise of the coming of the Redeemer-Messiah when God would again tabernacle among His people.
Notice that the Feast of Tabernacles is another seven/eight pattern with an initial seven day festival and a Sacred Assembly on the eighth day. In this joyous festival the people built shelters and lived in them for the seven day main period of the feast, offering free-will festival communion sacrifices daily (hagigah; Lev 23:38) and eating joyous meals within the camp of God in celebration.
Please read Leviticus 23:37-38: The Conclusion and
Recapitulation of the Feast of Tabernacles/Shelters
37These are Yahweh’s solemn festivals to which you will summon the Israelites, the sacred assemblies for the purpose of offering food burnt for Yahweh, consisting of burnt offerings, cereal offerings, sacrifices and libations, each on its appropriate day, 38besides Yahweh’s Sabbaths, and your presents and all your votive and voluntary gifts that you make to Yahweh. 39But on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you will celebrate the feast of Yahweh for seven days. The first and eighth days will be days of rest. 40On the first day you will take choice fruit, palm branches, boughs of leafy trees and flowering shrubs from the river bank, and for seven days enjoy yourselves before Yahweh your God. 41You will celebrate a feast for Yahweh in this way for seven days every year. This is a perpetual law for your descendants. 442You will keep this feast in the seventh month. For seven days you will live in shelters: all the citizens of Israel will live in shelters, 43so that your descendants may know that I made the Israelites live in shelters when I brought them out of Egypt, I, Yahweh your God.”’ 44Moses them promulgated Yahweh’s solemn festivals to the Israelites.
Question: Do you recall when St. Peter suggested to
Jesus that they should build shelters and live in them? What were the
circumstances surrounding Peter’s suggestion and what connection could there be
to this feast? See Mt 17:1-8; Mk 9:2-8; Lk 9:28-36.
Answer: During the events on the Mt. of Transfiguration when Jesus revealed His glory and the long dead Old Testament prophets Moses and Elijah appeared to consult with Jesus about His mission, St. Peter suggested to Jesus that they build shelters on the mountain in the presence of the great prophets. It was probably the time for the Feast of Tabernacles and Peter recognized that going to Jerusalem was no longer a covenant obligation since they had God who is the Redeemer-Messiah in the presence of His people.
It is significant that Jesus did not rebuke Peter for his suggestion. They continued on their journey after the experience. St. John’s Gospel records Jesus’ attendance at the Feast of Tabernacles in chapters 7 and 8 in the last year of His three-year mission, which would coincide with the events after the Transfiguration experience in the other Gospels.
Questions for group discussion:
Question: In Chapter 22 the priest’s relationship with God is centered on his personal sanctification in maintaining his ritual purity so he can “draw near” to God to serve at the altar, to serve in the Tabernacle, and to eat the holy food from Yahweh’s altar of sacrifice. How is our relationship with God also inherent upon our personal sanctification so we can “draw near” to God, to eat the sacrifice from His altar and serve His kingdom?
Question: Anthropologists have discovered that societies relive their origins in their religious rituals. The annual sacred feasts were they way every generation of the children of Israel could relieve the Exodus experience that was the defining historical moment for the covenant people. In the New Covenant, how do we celebrate our origins and how does every generation relive that experience in a feast of remembrance?
Next week’s lesson: How are the Seven Feasts fulfilled by the Redeemer-Messiah?
THE SEVEN SACRED
ANNUAL FEASTS OF THE OLD COVENANT:
The Feasts of Remembrance
Yahweh said to Moses, ‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them:
‘These are my appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of Yahweh, which
you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies’ (Lev 23:1-2).
Then never let anyone criticize you for what you eat or drink, or about observance of annual festivals, [..].. These are only a shadow of what was coming; the reality is the body of Christ (Col 2:16-17).
* = Pilgrim feasts: Exodus 23:14-17; 34:18-23; Deuteronomy 16:1-16
|Sacred Feast and Sacrifice||Scripture References||Old Testament/ Modern Time||Old Testament Remembrance and New Testament Application|
Sacrifice of unblemished yearling lambs and kids, one for every 10 to 20 people in a group.
Num 9:1-14; 28:16;
Dt 16:1-3, 4-7;
Jn 2:13; 11:55;
1 Cor 5:7;
Old Testament: Signifying Israel’s
deliverance from death in the tenth plague.
N.T.= last legitimate Old Covenant Passover sacrifice; Jesus prepares for His Passion (Lk 22:7-13).
(Hag Hamatzot). Seven day feast from the 15th -21st.
On the 15th at sundown eating the meal of the Passover victim with family and friends; mandatory assembly on the 15th and 21st ; mandatory sacrifices for 7 days = whole burnt offerings of 2 young bulls, a ram and 7 yearling lambs without blemish with cereal offerings; a goat for a sin offering. Individual festival communion offerings each day eaten in the camp of God/Jerusalem.
Ex 12:15-20; 39; 13:3-10; 23:15; 34:18;
Dt 16:3, 4, 8;
2 Chr 30:22-33;
Mk 14:1, 12;
1 Cor 5:6-8
7 day feast
Old Testament: Signified the sanctification of Israel by eating the Passover sacrifice in a sacred meal with unleavened bread.
For seven days eating bread with yeast (the symbol of sin) is forbidden. Remembering how Yahweh redeemed Israel from slavery.
N.T. = The Last Supper/first Eucharistic sacrifice, Passion and Crucifixion (Mt 26:19-29; 57; 27:27;
Mk 15:25; 33-39).
Presenting the first sheaf of the barley harvest; a burnt offering of a single unblemished male lamb with a grain offering and wine libation.
Ex 23:19; 34:26;
Dt 26:5, 9-10;
1 Cor 15:20-23
No date: on the day
after the first Sabbath after Passover
always on a Sunday (day later changed)+
Old Testament: Signified the resurrection of Israel as a free people. Recognizing the redemption of the first-born in Egypt and God’s bounty in the Promised Land.
N.T. = Resurrection Sunday (Mt 28:1-8).
(Shavuot/Hag ha-Shavuot; Pentecost in Greek = 50th day;
also known as Hag ha-Katzir = Feast of the Harvest).
Mandatory assembly and sacrifices: first fruits of the wheat harvest, burnt offering of 1 young bull, 2 rams, 7 yearling lambs all with cereal offerings, goat as sin sacrifice, two lambs as communion sacrifices for the priests and the people’s individual festival communion offerings.
Ex 23:16; 34:22a;
2 Chr 30:22-33;
Acts 2:1-4; 20:16;
1 Cor 16:8
50 days from
Firstfruits (as the ancients counted); always on a Sunday
(day later changed)+
Old Testament: Signified the origination of Israel as the covenant people. A festival of joy recalling the giving of the Law at Sinai
50 days after leaving Egypt; thankfulness for the Lord’s blessings and birth
of the O.T. Church.
N.T. = birth of New Covenant Church; Acts 2:1-4.
First four feasts were fulfilled in Jesus’ first Advent.
The long harvest is the gathering of souls into heaven (
|THE LONG SUMMER HARVEST|
Beginning of the civil year.
A sacred assembly and a day of rest with acclamations commemorated with trumpet blasts and mandatory sacrifices: burnt offerings of a young bull, a ram, 7 unblemished yearling lambs with grain offerings and a goat sin sacrifice.
2 Sam 6:15;
1 Cor 15:52;
1 Thes 4:16-17
Old Testament: Signified the ingathering of the covenant
people in preparation for Yahweh’s judgment/favor and preparation for the day
of national expiation.
N.T. = (?) The Second Advent of Christ and the gathering of the nations (Mt 24:30-31; 1 Thes 1:10; 4:16-17).
DAY OF ATONEMENT (Yom Kippur)
Sacred assembly with mandatory sacrifices. For the high priest: a young bull sin sacrifice and a ram burnt offering. For the people: burnt offering of a young bull; a ram and 7 unblemished yearling lambs with cereal offerings and 2 goats as a sin sacrifice.
Lev 16:1-34; 23:26-32;
Heb 9:7; 10:3, 30-31; 10:19-22;
2 Pt 3:7;
Rev 17:4; 20:12
Old Testament: Signified calling Israel to judgment in a national day of fasting, repentance and expiation
N.T. = (?) The last of the harvest is the Final Judgment (Rev 14:15; 20:11-15).
also called FEAST OF SHELTERS OR BOOTHS
First of the fruit harvest (grapes and olives); living in booths made of tree boughs; offering daily sacrifices of bulls, rams, and lambs for burnt offerings and a goat for a sin sacrifice; the people’s individual festival communion offerings.
From the 1st to 8th days 70 bulls, 15 rams, 105 lambs and 8 goats sacrificed.
Ex 23:16b; 34:22b;
Lev 23:33-38; 39-43;
1 Kng 8:3, 65;
2 Chr 7:1;
2 Chr 30:22-33;
2 Pt 3:7, 10-13;
8 day feast
Old Testament: Signified God’s presence with His Covenant
people; looked forward to the coming of the Messiah. Memorializes the giving
of the Tabernacle and giving thanks for the productivity of the land.
NT = (?) Creation of the new heaven and earth (Rev 21:1-7).
|M. Hunt © copyright 1991, revised 2010|
All feast day sacrifices were offered with the whole burnt offering of the daily Tamid communal sacrifice (Num 28:10, 15, 23, 24, 31; 29:6, 16, 19, 22, 25, 28, 31, 34, 38; also see Leviticus 16:28 for the Tamid offered at the Feast of Atonement. According to the Mishnah: Yoma both the morning and afternoon Tamid lambs were offered in sacrifice on the Day of Atonement). The feasts of Hanukkah (1 Mac 4:52-61; 2 Mac 10:1-8) and Purim (Est 9:18-32) are not God ordained feast but are instead feasts inaugurated by the people.
* The 3 pilgrim Feasts: every Israelite male, 13 years or older, must present himself to Yahweh three times a year at the Temple in Jerusalem at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost, and at the Feast of Tabernacles; see Exodus 23:14-17; 34:18-23; Deuteronomy 16:16 and 2 Chronicles 8:13.
+Please note that sometime shortly after the resurrection of Christ the Jewish religious authority adjusted the dates of the annual Feast of Firstfruits and the next feast which was celebrated fifty days from Firstfruits, the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost. They began to celebrate the Feast of Firstfruits on the second day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, on the sixteenth of Abib/Nisan and the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost fifty days later on the forth of Sivan. This meant that Firstfruits and Pentecost no longer fell annually on Sundays, instead the day of the week the feast was celebrated changed from year to year. The “great Sabbath” of Passover week was at that time the Sabbath within the holy week of Unleavened bread and not the week prior to Unleavened Bread (see Jn 19:31).
National Annual Feasts inaugurated by the people and not by Yahweh:
These two festivals were national feasts that were not ordained by God’s divine command as were the seven annual festivals in Leviticus Chapter 23. They continue to be celebrated by Jews around the world and are patriotic festivals proclaimed by the people to celebrate a historical event that demonstrated God’s divine intervention and protection of the covenant people.
2. An example of the symbolic value of “eight” and a seven/eight symbolic pattern as Church Fathers like St. Clement interpreted the gematria (letter number value of names, words, and phrases) of numbers can be seen in the interpretation of God’s holy covenant name. In Hebrew the holy name is expressed in by the four consonants YHWH, which have a value of 10, 5, 6, and 5. Added together their total is 20 + 6 but multiplied by 3 (the Triune God) their value is 70, which is (7x10) +8, or as the Church Fathers saw it: spiritual perfection times perfection of order plus superabundant salvation.
3. In Leviticus only the names of the Hebrew months are given, there is no mention of the names of Babylonian months that came into use after the return from the Babylonian exile in the sixth century BC. Vasholz points out that if the Pentateuch wasn’t written down until the return from the Babylonian exile as some scholars suggest, then the Babylonian names should appear in the Hebrew text of the Pentateuch as they do in the post-exilic books like Esther, Ezra and Nehemiah (Vasholz, Leviticus, page 283). That the Babylonian names do not appear is evidence the Pentateuch was written down at a much earlier period.
4. Most modern Christian commentaries list Passover as the first of the three pilgrim feasts; however, nowhere in Scripture is Passover ever listed as a pilgrim feast. The Bible lists the pilgrim feasts in Ex 23:14-17, Dt 16:5-17, and 2 Chr 8:13 and it is the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread and not the Passover sacrifice that is listed as the pilgrim feast. The JPS Commentary: Leviticus lists the three pilgrim feasts as: Unleavened Bread, the Spring Harvest Pilgrimage (Weeks/Pentecost), and the Pilgrimage of Ingathering (Tabernacles/Booths) on page 153. God did not command that all covenant members were to be present at the sacrifice of the Passover victims, but they were required to be present to eat sacrifice made present in the sacred meal of the victim on the first night of Unleavened Bread. That Passover is not the pilgrim feast is significant to Christians. It is not necessary for us to be present at the sacrifice that took place in 30 AD, but it is necessary that we be present to consume the sacrifice of Christ made present in the holy food of the Eucharist.
5. Also see Ex 12:11, 21-27, 43-48; 34:25; Num 9:2-14; 28:16; 33:3; Dt 16:1-6; Josh 5:10-11; 2 Kngs 23:21-23; 2 Chr 30:1-18; 35:1-19; Ezra 6:19-20; Ez 45:1; Mt 26:2, 17-19; Mk 14:1, 12-16; Lk 2:41; 22:1-15; Jn 2:13, 23; 6:4; 11:55-12:1; 13:1; 18:28, 39; 19:14; 1 Cor 5:7; Heb 11:28. Note: in St. John’s Gospel he only refers to the day of the Passover sacrifice together with the next seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread as “the Passover.” Josephus wrote that it was the practice in the first century AD to count the two feasts as one single feast and refer to the entire eight days as “Passover” (Antiquities of the Jews, 14.2.1)
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2010 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.
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Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2010 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.