THE PENTATEUCH PART III: LEVITICUS
Lesson 11: Chapter 23 continued
The Seven Annual Feasts fulfilled in the Mission of the Messiah
Most Holy Lord,
In Your wisdom You began to prepare mankind for the coming of the Redeemer-Messiah when Adam first fell from grace. You preserved a holy remnant from the family of Adam and created a holy covenant nation to bring forth the promised Son born from the seed of the Woman—a Son who was destined to defeat Satan, sin and death. The people of the Sinai Covenant became the vehicle of salvation for the other nations of the earth until the time was fulfilled for the mission of the Messiah. In the Sacred Annual Feasts You not only laid the pathway for the first Advent of the Messiah but also the plan for His Second Coming. Send Your Holy Spirit to guide us in our study and to prepare our hearts that we might be vigilant like the five faithful virgins with bright burning oil lamps who were ready for the return of the Bridegroom (Mt 25:1-13) and not like the invited wedding guest who was rejected from the feast because he was not clothed in the wedding garment of grace (Mt 22:11-14). We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Then never let
anyone criticize you for what you eat or drink, or about observance of annual
festivals, New Moons or Sabbaths. These are only a shadow of what was coming:
the reality is the body of Christ.
The Liturgical Calendar in Leviticus Chapter 23 presents the annual sacred feast days as they occurred in their liturgical order from spring to fall (Ex 12:2; 13:4). St. Paul wrote that the weekly Sabbath, the annual festivals and periodic feasts were “only a shadow of what was coming”—it was God’s plan that all the various purity laws and the ordained festivals should be fulfilled in Jesus Christ. In reviewing each of the annual festivals we will address their historical significance for Israel in remembering and re-living the Exodus experience and how each remembrance feast prefigured the mission of the Messiah.
Question: When Jesus inaugurated the Eucharistic
banquet in place of the Passover Seder, did He declare the Eucharist a
remembrance feast? If so, what do we memorialize? See Luke 22:19-20;
1 Corinthians 11:23-25,
CCC 1357 and 1362.
Answer: Yes, the Eucharist is a feast of remembrance in which we not only “remember” but relive the night of the Last Supper. We look back in time remembering Christ’s self-offering and sacrificial death for the sake of our salvation, and we look forward in time to when He will return and we will join Him in the celebration of the heavenly banquet.
SACRIFICE AND THE FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD
In the spring of 30 AD, when Jesus was in Jerusalem for the feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread, the sacrifice of the Passover victims took place in the Temple following the afternoon service of the daily Tamid sacrifice. Philo of Alexandria (first century AD Jewish theologian), writing about the various Jewish periodic and annual festivals, identified the hour the covenant community gathered to offer the Passover victims: And after the feast of the new moon comes the fourth festival, that of the Passover, which the Hebrews call pascha, on which the whole people offer sacrifice, beginning at noon day and continuing till evening (Special Laws II, XXVII ).(1)
Noon was the designated time for the community of Israel to gather for the first Passover sacrifice in Exodus 12:6 (literally “between the twilights”), and it was also the time in the first century AD when the people gathered at the Temple on the fourteenth of Abib/Nisan for the annual Passover sacrifice: [If] one slaughtered it before midday it is invalid, since it is said, At Twilight [Ex 12:] (Mishnah: Pesahim, 5:2 H-I). However, the writings of the first century AD Jewish priest/historian Flavius Josephus and the procedure for the Passover sacrifice in the Mishnah recorded that the actual sacrifice of the Passover lambs and kids couldn’t begin until after the afternoon Tamid (Mishnah: Pesahim 5:1). The perpetual offering of the morning and afternoon Tamid sacrifice took precedent over all other sacrifices including the Sabbath and festival sacrifices ( Num 28:10, 15, 24 twice, 31; 29:6, 11, 16, 19, 22, 25, 28, 31, 34, and 38).
Josephus wrote that the daily afternoon Tamid sacrifice took place at about three in the afternoon at the Jerusalem Temple (Antiquities of the Jews, 14. 4.3 ). However, to accommodate the large number of animals to be sacrificed at Passover, the afternoon Tamid was offered an hour earlier and the slaughter of the Passover victims began at the time that was normally the sacrifice of the afternoon Tamid.(2) The sacrifices of the Passover kids and lambs took place from three in the afternoon (the ninth hour Jewish time) to five PM our time (the eleventh hour Jewish time): So these high priests, upon the coming of their feast which is called the Passover, when they slay their sacrifices, from the ninth hour till the eleventh, but so that a company not less than ten belong to every sacrifice (for it is not lawful for them to feast singly by themselves), and many of us are twenty in a company (The Wars of the Jews, 6.9.3 ). From five in the afternoon until sundown (c. six PM at that time of year in the Holy Land) the priests cleansed the Temple of the blood spilled from the thousands of sacrificed Passover victims and other sacrifices offered that day and prepared the Temple for the next morning’s services. The Feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread were celebrated at the full moon cycle at the time of the vernal equinox when the day was evenly divided between the hours of light and darkness.(3)
Question: According to Exodus 12:3, on what day of
the month were the Passover lambs and kids were selected for sacrifice on the
first Passover in Egypt?
Answer: They were selected for sacrifice on the tenth day of the month.
St. John recorded that the day Jesus ate dinner with friends in Bethany (Jn 12:1) it was six days before the Passover sacrifice, which according to the Law took place on the fourteenth of Abib/Nisan (Ex 12:6; Lev 23:5; Num 28:16). The next day Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem with cheering crowds hailing Him as the Messiah on the day we celebrate as Palm Sunday (Jn 12:12-19).
Question: Please answer the following questions.
According to the information St. John gave in John 12:1-2 what day of the week did Jesus have dinner with His friends in Bethany?
See Exodus 12:3, 6, 8-10;
John 12:1-2, 19:31, Mark 14:12,
17-26, 45-46; Matthew 16:21; Acts 10:40; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. Hint: remember
that the ancients counted any sequence without the concept of a zero-place
value; therefore, counting a sequence of days or hours began with the first day
or hour counted as one in the sequence. Also remember that the Jewish day
began at sundown.
Question: For how many days, as the ancients counted,
was the Passover victim to be kept by the families before the sacrifice? See
Exodus 12:3-6. For how many days was Jesus in Jerusalem for everyone to see and
judge His perfection before the Passover sacrifice on Thursday the fourteenth?
Answer: The unblemished Passover victim was to be kept for five days from the tenth to the fourteenth (as the ancients counted). Every day for five days Jesus, the unblemished Lamb of God, was present in Jerusalem from Sunday to Thursday (as the ancients counted) for everyone to see and judge His perfection.
St. Paul wrote: For our Passover had been sacrificed, that is, Christ; let us keep the feast … (1 Cor 5:7b-8a).
Question: How was the sacrifice of the Passover lambs
and kids a remembrance of the first Passover in Egypt?
Answer: Just as the children of Israel were saved from the death of the tenth Egyptian plague by the sacrifice of the unblemished Passover victim and the “sign” of its blood in the form of a cross across their doorways (from the threshold to the lintel to both doorposts; Ex 12:13, 22-23), Jesus offered His life as the acceptable, unblemished victim of sacrifice so that we might be spared from the judgment of eternal death by the sign of the Cross and by claiming His precious blood that washes away our sins and saves us from eternal death.
Question: Attending the meal of the Passover victim
on the Feast of Unleavened Bread was a sacred obligation of the Old Covenant
people. How was the required sacred memorial meal of the Passover victim on
the first night of Unleavened Bread fulfilled in the Eucharist in which Christ,
our Passover victim becomes our sacred meal? See CCC 2180-82.
Answer: We did not have to be present at the sacrifice in the spring of 30 AD, but it is a precept of the Church that we have to be present on the Lord’s Day for the celebration of the sacred meal, just as the faithful of the Old Covenant were required as a covenant obligation to keep the pilgrim feast of Unleavened Bread and to eat the sacred meal that prefigured the Last Supper and the Eucharistic banquet. The Feast of Unleavened Bread memorialized the meal the Israelites ate as the firstborn of Egypt died and the firstborn of Israel were spared. Eating the Eucharistic meal of the glorified Christ gives spiritual life to those who partake of the Body and infuses them with the very life of Christ.
According to the four Gospels, the Passover in 30 AD took place on a Thursday. The Passover lambs and kid-goats were sacrificed at the Temple after the afternoon Tamid service from three o’clock in the afternoon to five o’clock in the evening—normally the time of the afternoon Tamid sacrifice that had been advanced a hour because of the Passover (The Wars of the Jews, 6.9.3 ).(4) At each sacrifice of the Passover victims the fat of the animal was burned on the altar fire, and the blood of every victim was splashed at the foot of the altar. Then, the body of the skinned animal that had been presented to God was returned to the offers as God shared His sacrifice with His people, making the meat of the victim sanctified “holy food.” The groups of people then took the whole bodies of their Passover sacrifice back to where they were staying in Jerusalem to roast the meat for a sacred meal that began after sundown (Ex 12:8-10). No bones of the animal were to be broken in the preparation or in eating the sacrifice (Ex 12:46; Num 9:12).
At sundown, the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Jesus met with His friends and family in an upper banquet room in Jerusalem to eat the sacred meal of the Passover victim with unleavened bread, bitter herbs and red wine. And while they were eating he said, In truth I tell you, one of you is about to betray me’ (Mt 26:21), prophesying Judas betrayal. After Judas left Jesus concluded the Old Covenant Seder and instituted the Eucharistic banquet, offering those present His Body and Blood in the sacred meal that of the New Covenant people of God and signaling the beginning of His Passion. Afterward they withdrew to the Mount of Olives where He was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. On Friday morning He was tried and crucified—it was “Preparation Day,” the day before the holy Sabbath of the seven day holy week of the pilgrim feast of Unleavened Bread (Jn 19:31).
Question: Why was the meal of the Passover victim on
the first night of Unleavened Bread a “sacred meal” where “holy food” was
consumed? Hint: recall the reason for the “wave” or “heave” gestures with
offerings that are to be consumed by the priests or the people in their
communion meals. See Ex 29:26-27;
Lev 7:30-34; 8:29; 10:14-15; 21:22-23; 22:1-3, 7-8.
Answer: The food of any sacrificial animal that was presented at God’s altar of sacrifice was a gift to God, but sacrifices that were not whole burnt offerings God shared with His priests and His people to be eaten in a sacred meal. It was “holy food” because it was food that came from God. Any person eating the “holy food” had to be in a state of ritual purity. The meal of the Passover victim was “holy food” and the food that Jesus, God the Son gave to His disciples at the Last Supper was “holy food” because it not only came from God but it came from His sacrificed flesh and blood.
The sacred meal of the New Covenant—the Body and Blood of the Savior consumed by Jesus’ disciples in the Last Supper (Mt 26:26-28; Mk 14:22-25; Lk 22:19-20)—fulfilled what was prefigured in eating the “holy food” of the meal of the Passover victim. It was what Jesus foretold in the Gospel of John 6:53-58.
Question: Is our Eucharistic banquet, eaten by the
faithful at every Catholic Mass (and in the Divine Liturgy of our Eastern Rite
brothers and sisters) a sacrificial meal where “holy food” is consumed? Why?
How can our meal be compared to the Old Covenant sacrifices? See Lev 22:1-3;
Rom 12:1; 1 Cor 11:23-32, CCC 1362-72.
Answer: The Eucharist is a true sacrifice. It is the sacrifice of the Redeemer offered up on the altar of the Cross in the spring of 30 AD, on the morning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. That same sacrifice is made present on our altars—transcending time and space. It is the holy and unblemished sacrifice that God accepted from His Son, which He returns to us by transforming the bread and wine of our acceptable offering into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of His Son—it is the Son’s acceptable sacrifice combined with the personal surrender/sacrifice of our own lives (Rom 12:1) that makes us acceptable to God as we consume the “holy food” of Christ’s Passover.
Question: In Leviticus 22:1-2 God told the
people they were sanctified and consecrated by eating His “holy food” when they
were in a ritually pure state. Like the Old Covenant people of God, when we
receive our “holy food” in a state of grace are we sanctified and consecrated?
Answer: Yes, we are consecrated and sanctified by the Holy Spirit when we consume the sacrifice of Christ in the “holy food” of the Eucharist banquet.
Jesus fulfilled the Feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread completely, even the command that none of the bones of the Passover victim were to be broken.
Question: How was the command that none of the bones
of the Passover victim were to be broken (Ex 12:46; Num 9:12) fulfilled in the
Passion and death of the Christ? See John 19:31-37.
Answer: To hasten the deaths of the crucifixion victims the Romans broke their legs, but finding that Jesus was already dead the Roman soldier pierced His side instead. St. John testified that none of His bones were broken in fulfillment of Scripture.
THE FEAST OF
This feast wasn’t to be celebrated annually until the Israelites took possession of the Promised Land and collected the first agricultural spring harvest. The name of the feast comes from the presentation of the first sheaf of the barley harvest in the early spring which was a harbinger of the continuing fruitful barley harvest and the first in the sequence of the harvests for that year (wheat in late spring and fruit in the early fall). In addition to the public ceremony there were also individual offerings by the heads of every family in which the family’s offering was placed in a basket in front of the altar as the offerer made a public profession of faith in God and his family’s commitment to the covenant (Dt 26:1-11). There was also the command to set aside a small portion of the first batch of dough made from the grain of the new harvest to be consecrated to Yahweh—in the consecration of the portion taken from the first lump of dough, God consecrated all of the bread dough used to make bread for the rest of the year (Num 15:17-21; Neh 10:38/37).
Question: According to Leviticus 23:9-14, on what day
was the Feast of Firstfruits celebrated?
Answer: During the seven day pilgrim feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Firstfruits was to be celebrated on the day after the Sabbath (Saturday) of the holy week of Unleavened Bread—on a Sunday.
Question: In the spring of 30 AD after Jesus was
tried, crucified, died and laid in His tomb, for how many days was Jesus in the
tomb and on what day did He arise from the dead?
Answer: He was in the tomb from Friday and Saturday (the Sabbath), and He arose from the dead on the third day (as the ancients counted). He arose on the Sunday of the holy week of Unleavened Bread.
Question: What was significant about that Sunday, the
day after the Sabbath that fell within the holy week of Unleavened Bread
according to the Liturgical Calendar?
Answer: Sunday, the day after the Sabbath within the holy week of Unleavened Bread, was the day for the annual celebration of the Feast of Firstfruits in the Liturgical Calendar of Yahweh’s ordained annual feasts. Jesus arose from the dead on the Feast of Firstfruits—He is the first-fruits of the Resurrection.
Question: What was the required sacrifice for that
feast day in addition to the first fruits of the barley harvest (also commanded
as an offering to Yahweh in Leviticus 2:14-16)? See Leviticus 23:12-13.
Answer: The required offering was an unblemished male lamb, a grain offering of two-tenths of an ephah of wheat flour mixed with oil, and a wine libation.
The whole burnt offering (completely consumed on the altar fire) sacrifice of an unblemished male lamb on the Feast of Firstfruits is the only communal (for the entire people) single unblemished male lamb whole burnt offering (Lev 1:10), grain, and wine offering for any of the feasts. The only other communal single unblemished male lamb sacrifice besides the sacrifice for the Feast of Firstfruits was the morning and afternoon Tamid (described in the singular as a single sacrifice), whose sacrifice coincided uniquely with Jesus crucifixion at nine o’clock in the morning (Mk 15:25) and His death at three in the afternoon (Mt 27:46; Mk 15:34; Lk 23:44-46).
Jesus, arising from the dead on the Feast of Firstfruits perfectly fulfilled the feast that commemorated the redemption of the firstborn the night of the tenth plague and the resurrection of the Israelites as a people freed from slavery in Egypt. In His resurrection Jesus has freed mankind from slavery to sin and death and He is the “first-fruits” of the resurrection of the dead.
Question: How did St. Paul refer to Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15:20-23? Why was the resurrection of Jesus on the Feast of
Firstfruits part of God’s divine plan? Also see Colossians 2:16-17;
14:4 and CCC 655.
Answer: St. Paul called Jesus the “new Adam” and the “first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep.” His bodily resurrection is a visible sign of the promise of our future bodily resurrection. The connection to the ancient feast celebrating the first of the year’s harvest prefigured the beginning of the harvest of souls into heaven, as Paul wrote in Colossians 2:16-17, all the Old Covenant feasts prefigured what was to be fulfilled by the Messiah.
Jesus perfectly fulfilled what was signified in the Feast of Firstfruits. The first fruits” of the harvest given to God in the Feast of Firstfruits were a harbinger of the greater harvest this was to continue, just as Christ’s resurrection is the “first fruits” or harbinger of the greater harvest of the resurrection that is to come. It was also the first offering in the sequence of the harvests that were to continue through the year. Just as the literal offering of the first fruits of the harvest were the first in a sequence in a promise of what was to come, so too St. Paul writes of the conversion of Epaenetus as the “first fruits” of the Christians in Asia (Rom 16:5) and the conversion of the household of Stephanus as the “first fruits” of Christians in Achaia (1 Cor 1:16). St. James called Christians the “first fruits” of God’s people (James 1:18), and the book of Revelation calls those who follow the Lamb the “first fruits” to God (Rev 14:4).
St. Paul combined the concept of the Feast of Firstfruits as a harbinger of what is to come and the first in a sequence in his letter to the Corinthians to describe Christ’s resurrection as the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep. As it was by one man that death came, so through one man has come the resurrection of the dead. Just as all die in Adam, so in Christ all will be brought to life; but all of them in their proper order: Christ the first-fruits, and next, at his coming, those who belong to him (1 Cor 15:20-23).
Associated with the first fruits of the harvest was the command to take a portion of dough from the first batch of dough made with the newly harvested grain as a holy offering to be consecrated by Yahweh (Num 15:17-21; Neh 10:38/37). The holiness of the first piece of dough made from the new grain assured the holiness of all the dough made from the harvest. It is in the same way that the holiness of the faithful remnant of Old Covenant people of God who embraced Jesus as the Redeemer-Messiah and spread His Gospel of salvation were a sample of dough, consecrated by God as the first bishops and leaders of the universal Church who in turn consecrated the much greater yield in the growth of Christianity across the face of the earth. It is a comparison St. Paul made in Romans 11:16: When the first-fruits are made holy, so is the whole batch; and if the root is holy so are the branches.
THE FEAST OF
Like the Feast of Firstfruits, the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost is also associated with a harvest as is the Feast of Tabernacles/Shelters. The offering of the first of the wheat harvest was part of the celebration of the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost, and therefore it is also designated a “first fruits” feast (Ex 34:22; Lev 23:16-17; Num 28:26). The instructions to keep the feast when they take possession of the Promised Land in Deuteronomy 16:9-12 commands the Israelites that in giving God a portion of the bounty from their harvest to remember that they were once slaves in Egypt.
Question: What is unique about the dates for the Feast
of Firstfruits and the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost in the list of God ordained
annual festivals in Leviticus Chapter 23:5-43?
Answer: Firstfruits and Weeks/Pentecost are the only two annual feasts that do not have a specific date.
Question: How was the day of celebration for the Feast of Weeks determined? Like the Feast of Firstfruits, on what day of the week did the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost fall as a perpetual law? Read Leviticus 23:15-16 and see the chart below to help you with your answer.
From the day after the Sabbath, the day on which you bring the sheaf of offering, you will count seven full weeks. You will count fifty days, to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then you will offer Yahweh a new cereal offering (Lev 23:15-16).
|M. Hunt © copyright 2010|
Answer: It was determined by counting seven times seven weeks from the day after the Sabbath that fell within the holy week of Unleavened Bread, which was the Sunday celebration of the Feast of Firstfruits. The fiftieth day was the day to celebrate the Feast of Weeks. The fiftieth day was always a Sunday.
Question: By what Greek name was this feast known in
the first century AD? What did the name of the feast mean? What did the name
signify from the Exodus experience and what did it commemorate?
Answer: In Greek it was called “Pentecost,” which literally meant “fiftieth day.” Not only was it fifty days from the Feast of Firstfruits but it celebrated the day the children of Israel witnessed the Theophany at Mt. Sinai, fifty days after leaving Egypt. The feast commemorated the day God descended upon the mountain in fire. It was the day Israel became a covenant people.
Question: How was the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost like
the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Tabernacles/Shelters? See
Deuteronomy 16:16; 2 Chronicles 8:13.
Answer: They were all “pilgrim feasts” that required all men faithful to the covenant to come to Yahweh’s Sanctuary three times a year.
Acts 2:1-11 records that faithful Jews and Gentile proselytes “from every nation under heaven” were in Jerusalem to attend the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost in the late spring of 30 AD.
Question: What happened on the Feast of
Weeks/Pentecost in the spring of 30 AD, fifty days after Jesus’ Resurrection
and ten days after His Ascension? Who was present to witness the event? What
was the significance of this event in salvation history? See Acts 1:1-14; 2:1-13.
Answer: The fiery presence of God the Holy Spirit descended upon and indwelled the faithful Apostles and disciples of Jesus the Redeemer-Messiah. They were praying in the Upper Room in Jerusalem together with Mary, Jesus’ mother. It was the birth of the New Covenant people of God.
According to the requirements for the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost, every family was to bring two loaves of leavened wheat bread made from the wheat of the harvest for presentation at the Sanctuary and later to the Temple (Lev 23:17). The Venerable Bede saw these two loaves as prefiguring Jews and Gentiles, gathered from the same harvest into the New Covenant Church as equal offerings to God: Two loaves of bread made from the first fruits of the new harvest were rightly ordered to be offered, for the church gathers those it can consecrate to its Redeemer as a new family from both peoples, the Jews and the Gentiles (Homilies on the Gospels 2.17).
Please note that sometime shortly after the resurrection of Christ the Jews began to celebrate the Feast of Firstfruits on the day immediately after the sacred meal of the Passover victim eaten on the first night of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, changing the celebration from the first day after the Sabbath to the sixteenth of Abib/Nisan and changing the celebration of the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost to the sixth of Sivan. The impact of this change meant that from then on the feasts of Firstfruits and Weeks/Pentecost would no longer fall annually on a Sunday but that the day of the week would change from year to year. The Samaritans (who were never allied with the Jerusalem Temple) and the Karaite sect of Judaism, which claims descent from the Sadducees, continue to celebrate Firstfruits on the day after the first Sabbath of the holy week of Unleavened Bread, continually, in obedience to the perpetual law (Lev 23:14) to celebrate the Feast of Firstfruits on a Sunday. They also celebrate the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost on a Sunday fifty days later, just as commanded in Leviticus 23:11 (Howard and Rosenthal, The Feasts of the Lord, page 76).
The Karaites are the only Jews who continue to observe the Feast of Firstfruits. The Book of Jubilees, discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls, identifies the celebration of Weeks/Pentecost as fifty days from Firstfruits, counted from the day after the Sabbath of the Passover Holy Week (Jubilees 6:17).(5) Flavius Josephus noted that Pentecost used to always be celebrated on the first day of the week—on the day we call Sunday. In Antiquities of the Jews 13.8.4 (252) Josephus wrote: And truly he did not speak falsely in saying so; for the festival, which we call Pentecost, did then fall out to be the next day to the Sabbath … With this statement Josephus offers evidence that the festival of Pentecost used to always fall on a Sunday, and since the day for the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost was determined by the day Firstfruits was celebrated, Josephus’ statement implies that Firstfruits also used to be celebrated always on a Sunday but that the day for that feast was changed.
It is difficult to determine why the “perpetual law” was broken and a change was made for celebrating Firstfruits sometime in the first century AD other than to prevent Firstfruits from coinciding with the day Jesus of Nazareth was resurrected from the dead. The divine instructions for the celebration of the Feast of Firstfruits foreshadowed God’s plan that the Christ should be resurrected on the Feast of Firstfruits on a Sunday and that the birth of the New Covenant Church would be on the Sunday of the Feast of Pentecost. The first four feasts in the Old Covenant Liturgical Calendar were perfectly fulfilled in the First Advent of the Messiah.
THE LONG SUMMER HARVEST
Coming between the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost in the late spring and the Feast of Trumpets in the early fall was the long summer grain harvest.
Question: If God’s plan for man’s redemption in the coming
of the Redeemer-Messiah was foreshadowed as St. Paul testified in the Old
Covenant annual feasts, and if the Messiah’s First Advent has been fulfilled in
the first four feasts of the Old Covenant Liturgical Calendar, at what point in
salvation history are we now in the progression of that plan? See Matthew 9:37-38;
Luke 10:2; John 4:35.
Answer: It is the period of the long summer harvest—the gathering of souls, like the gathering of the harvested grain, into God’s storehouse of heaven.
Question: Who are the laborers in the “fields”? See
Answer: The laborers are the faithful disciples of Jesus Christ who are obedient to His command to spread the Gospel of salvation to the ends of the earth.
THE FEAST OF
If the first four feasts are perfectly fulfilled in the Messiah’s First Advent, what about the remaining four feasts? St. Paul wrote that all the annual feasts were “shadows of the reality of Christ” (Col 2:16-17).
The Feast of Trumpets was the first feast after the summer harvest. It was commemorated in a Sacred Assembly and day of rest held in the early fall on the first day of Tishri, and since the feast marked the beginning of the civil calendar it was also known in Hebrew as “the head of the year,” or Rosh Hashanah. The feast was celebrated by the blowing of trumpets and in a liturgical service with prescribed sacrifices (Num 29:2-6) in addition to the morning and afternoon Tamid sacrifice.
Question: What was the significance of the Feast of
Trumpets? See the chart on the Seven Annual Feasts in the appendix of the previous
lesson and Exodus 32:30, 35; 33:6.
Answer: It was a Sacred Assembly and an ingathering of Israel announced by the blowing of many trumpets. It was a day of remembrance in which the covenant people recalled when the children of Israel waited to hear God’s judgment after the sin of the Golden Calf. The ten days that came between the Feast of Trumpets and the Feast of Atonement were to be days of preparation and repentance.
If the first four feasts have been perfectly fulfilled in the First Advent of Jesus Christ, is it possible that the last three feasts foreshadow the Second Advent/Second Coming of Christ at the end of time?
Question: How did Jesus say He would return and how
did St. Paul describe the sudden coming of Jesus’ Second Advent? Is there a
connection to the Feast of Trumpets? See Matthew 24:29-31 and 1 Thessalonians
Answer: His Second Advent will be announced by the sound of angels blowing trumpets—this will signal the ingathering of the nations prior to the Last Judgment, just as the Feast of Trumpets announced the ingathering of Israel and signaled the time of preparation for God’s judgment on the Day of Atonement.
Question: What will happen immediately upon Jesus’
Second Advent? See John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15; 1 Thessalonians 4:16b-17 and
Answer: First, the righteous dead already in heaven will be resurrected (spirits united with physical bodies). Then, the wicked dead will be resurrected and together with all righteous dead (including those waiting in Purgatory) and those still living, all will come before God’s throne and face the Last Judgment.
If the Feast of Trumpets foreshadows God’s unfolding plan of salvation, then it may prefigure the return of the Messiah to call the nations to judgment as He foretold in Matthew 25:31-32: When the Son of man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory. All nations will be assembled before him and he will separate people one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats
The resurrection of all the dead, “of both the just and the unjust,” will precede the Last Judgment. This will be “the hour when all who are in the tombs will hear [the Son of man’s] voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.” Then Christ will come “in his glory, and all the angels with him … (CCC# 1038; quoting Acts 24:15 and Jn 5:28-29).
The instructions for this feast were first given prior to the sin of the Golden Calf in Exodus 30:10 and extensive instruction is given in Leviticus Chapter 16. This feast was a national day of repentance and atonement and the only day when the High Priest was permitted to enter the Holy of Holies where God dwelled among His people above the Mercy-seat of the Ark of the Covenant: Once a year, Aaron will perform the rite of expiation on the horns of the altar; once a year, on the Day of Expiation, with the blood of the sacrifice for sin, he will make expiation for himself, for all your generations to come. It is especially holy for Yahweh (Ex 30:10).
Question: What did this Old Covenant feast signify?
Answer: This feast signified calling Israel to judgment in a national day of fasting, repentance and expiation.
St. Paul wrote about the superiority of the New Covenant over the Old in that the Old Covenant high priest had to make atonement for the people’s sins year after year with the blood of bulls and goats that is incapable of taking away sin (Heb 10:4). But, he assured the faithful, we have a superior covenant and a superior high priest who is Jesus Christ representing His people with His sacrifice in the heavenly Tabernacle: The Law appoints high priests who are men subject to weakness; but the promise on oath, which came after the Law, appointed the Son who is made perfect for ever. The principal point of all that we have said is that we have a high priest of exactly this kind. He has taken his eat at the right of the throne of divine Majesty in the heavens, and he is the minister of the sanctuary and of the true Tent which the Lord, and not any man, set up. Every high priest is constituted to offer gifts and sacrifices, and so this one too must have something to offer… As it is, he had been given a ministry as far superior as is the covenant of which he is the mediator, which is founded on better promises. If that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no room for a second one to replace it (Heb 7:28-9:3, 6-7).
In this sense, Jesus has completed and fulfilled what was necessary in the Old Covenant Feast of Atonement, but does this feast also figure in God’s ultimate plan of salvation in the same way as the other feasts?
Question: If the Feast of Trumpets prefigured the
Second Advent of Christ and the bodily resurrection, what comes next in the
order of eschatological events?
Answer: The Last Judgment.
Question: How might this feast prefigure the Last
Judgment? How will it be different? See Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 14:15;
20:11-15; 2 Pt 3:3-10.
Answer: The difference is that there is no chance for repentance in the Last Judgment. It will be the last of the “harvest” of souls in a judgment that is final.
St. John received a vision of the Last Judgment which he described in Revelation 20:11-12: Then I saw a great white throne and the One who was sitting on it. In his presence, earth and sky vanished, leaving no trace. I saw the dead, great and small alike standing in front of his throne while the book lay open. And another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged from what was written in the books, as their deeds deserved. The event of the Last Judgment will bring the “Last Days” of the Messianic era, also known as the “Final Age of Man,” to an end (Acts 2:16-21).
Peter wrote to the Church that the Last Judgment is a day that is coming but which Christ the Living Word is holding back until the time for salvation is completed: It is the same Word which is reserving the present heavens and earth for fire, keeping them till the Day of Judgment and of the destruction of sinners … The Day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then with a roar the sky will vanish, the elements will catch fire and melt away, the earth and all that it contains will be burned up (2 Pt 3:7-10).
CCC 1038 part b, quoting from Mt 25:31, 32-46: Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left…. And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
CCC 1059: “The holy Roman Church firmly believes and confesses that on the Day of Judgment all men will appear in their own bodies before Christ’s tribunal to render an account of their own deeds” (Council of Lyons II : DS 859; cf. DS 1549).
All seven of the annual festivals were occasions to “remember,” but the specific command “to remember” is given for the feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread (Ex 13:3, 8-10; Dt 16:3) for the Feast of Trumpets (Lev 23:24), and for the Feast of Tabernacles/Shelters (Lev 23:43). In all the annual feasts the people “remembered” what Yahweh had done for them and at the same time the sacrifices, rituals and prayers served to bring the covenant people to the “remembrance” of God.
Tabernacle/Shelters was celebrated in the early fall at the time of the fall equinox and the harvest of the grapes, figs and olives. Just as the first three feasts in the Liturgical Calendar were grouped together within the same month, so do the last three feasts fall with in the same month. Passover, Firstfruits, and Unleavened Bread formed a seven/eight pattern with the one day observance of the Passover sacrifice followed by the eight days of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Tabernacles/Shelters, the final feast, also embraced seven/eight pattern with Tabernacles/Shelters celebrated with liturgical services and sacrifices for seven days and concluding with a Sacred Assembly with prescribed sacrifices on the eighth day.
During the entire eight day period of Tabernacles/Shelters and the final Sacred Assembly more sacrifices were offered than for any of the other annual feasts combined. In addition to the daily sacrifices of goats, rams, and lambs (in addition to the daily communal Tamid sacrifice), over the eight day period seventy bulls were sacrificed representing the seventy nations of the earth who are the descendants of Noah in Genesis chapter 10 (see the list of sacrifices in Num 29:12-38).
Question: What did the Feast of Tabernacles/Shelters
signify for the Old Covenant people of God?
Answer: This feast signified God’s presence in the Tabernacle in the midst of Israel. After the Ark of the Covenant was lost in 587/6 BC, the feast also looked forward to the coming of the Messiah when God would again dwell among His people. The feast memorialized the building of the Tabernacle when the people lived in their tents with God in their midst and it also signified giving thanks for the productivity of the Promise Land in the offering of the first-fruits of the fruit harvest.
On the Feast of Tabernacles the Jews not only looked back in time to the Exodus experience but they also looked foreword in time to the coming of the Messiah. In the days of the Jerusalem Temple, the seven days of every daytime liturgical service for this feast began with a “water pouring out ceremony” where the High Priest led a procession of the people carrying palm branches to the Siloam pool that was fed by the waters of the Gihon stream, the only water source for the city of Jerusalem and the name of one of the four rivers of Eden (Gen 2:13). As they processed they chanted the Hallel (“praise God”) Psalms (Psalm 113-118). Especially meaningful were the verses from the Messianic Psalm 118:22-27 (emphasis mine): 22 The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; 23 This is the LORD’s doing, and we marvel at it. 24 This is the day which the LORD has made, a day for us to rejoice and be glad. 25 We beg you, LORD, save us [Hosanna]; we beg you, LORD, give us victory! 26 Blessed in the name of the LORD is he who is coming! We bless you from the house of the LORD. 27 The LORD is God, he gives us light. Link your processions, branches in hand, up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, I thank you, all praise to you, my God. I thank you for hearing me, and making yourself my Savior. Give thanks to the LORD for he is good, for his faithful love endures for ever (Ps 118:22-29). Psalm 118:25-26 is also what the crowds chanted as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (Mt 21:9; Mk 11:9-10; Lk 19:38; Jn 12:13).
After collecting the waters in a golden pitcher, the High Priest led the procession back to the Temple courtyard where their return was announced by the blowing of the shofar, the ram’s horn trumpet. The High Priest then led the people in a procession around the sacrificial altar as they all chanting from the final verses of Psalm 118. However, on the seventh day of the feast they processed around the altar seven times chanting those verses so full of the promise for the coming of the Messiah (Mishnah: Sukkah, 4:1, 4:5, 4:9). After the procession, the High Priest poured out the water at a corner of the altar.
While the morning liturgy was celebrated with water from the holy Gihon (signifying life and God’s abundant blessings), the evening liturgical service was celebrated with “the ceremony of lights.” Four huge lamp-stands burned within the courtyard of the Temple, lighting up the entire Temple complex—the Mishnah records that every courtyard in Jerusalem was illuminated by the lights from the Temple during the nighttime celebration (Mishnah: Sukkah, 5:2-3).
On Jesus’ visit to the Jerusalem Temple in the fall of His last year of ministry before the events of the final Passover in the spring, He attended the pilgrim Feast of Tabernacles. It was probably during the “water pouring out ceremony” on the seventh day of the feast when He announced to the crowd that He was the fulfillment of the Messianic of Psalm 118:22-27 that the assembly had just chanted as they processed around the altar seven times: On the last day, the great day of the festival, Jesus stood and cried out: ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me! Let anyone who believes in me come and drink! As scripture says, “From his heart shall flow streams of living water”’ (Jn 7:37-38). Later that night, the final nighttime ceremony for the Feast of Tabernacles would have been the last “ceremony of light” for the seven days of the feast. The next morning, at the required eighth day Sacred Assembly: When Jesus spoke to the people again, he said: ‘I am the light of the world; anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark but will have the light of life’ (Jn 8:12).
There was no confusion over His actions or words in the minds of the covenant people who heard Jesus’ two announcements during the feast. Jesus was clearly telling the people of the covenant that He is the fulfillment of the promise of the feast—He is the Messiah who has come to redeem His people. Verse 22 of Psalms 118 was fulfilled when the Old Covenant people rejected their Messiah and He became “the stone which the builders rejected” –the builders were (as St. Peter identified them in Acts 4:11) the leadership of the Old Covenant people of God who built up the first Church of God’s covenant people. It is a verse Jesus would quote and apply to Himself (Mt 21:42) during the five days He taught in Jerusalem before the Passover sacrifice on Thursday. At that time He warned the Old Covenant Jews: ‘I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit’ (Mt 21:42-43). This is also the same verse from Psalm 118 that St. Peter quoted in his testimony in front of the Sanhedrin, the same Jewish law court that had condemned Jesus to death. Peter was put on trial for teaching the Gospel of salvation in the Temple and healing in Jesus’ name (emphasis mine): … you must know, all of you, and the whole people of Israel, that it is by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, and God raised from the dead, by this name and no other that this man stands before you cured. This is the stone which you, the builders, rejected but which has become the cornerstone. Only in him is there salvation; for of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved’ (Acts 4:10-12).
Jesus did not fulfill this feast in His first Advent, but will He fulfill it in His Second Advent?
Question: If the Feast of Tabernacles, like the two
previous feasts, also prefigured events that have not yet taken place in the
Second Advent of Christ, what event might this feast prefigure? According to
the Scriptures, what is to happen after the Last Judgment? See 2 Pt 3:13; Rev
21:1-7; CCC 1042-50.
Answer: The Old Covenant Feast of Tabernacles, which looked back in time to when God dwelled among His people in the desert Sanctuary and forward to when He would once again dwell among His people, may prefigure the creation of the new heaven and new earth.
St. John’s final vision in the book of Revelation revealed the creation of the final, eternal Tabernacle: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; the first heaven and the first earth had disappeared now, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, repaired as a bride dressed for her husband. Then I heard a loud voice call from the throne, ‘Look, here God lives [dwells] among human beings. He will make his home among them: they will be his people, and he will be their God, God-with-them [Emmanuel]. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness or pain. The world of the past has gone.’ Then the One sitting on the throne spoke. ‘Look, I am making the whole of creation new (Rev 21:1-5)
CCC 1043 (quoting 2 Pt 3:13; Eph 1:10): Sacred Scripture calls this mysterious renewal, which will transform humanity and the world, “new heavens and a new earth.” It will be the definitive realization of God’s plan to bring under a single head “all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth.
CCC 1044 (quoting Rev 21:4-5): In this new universe, the heavenly Jerusalem, God will have his dwelling among men. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.”
Question for group discussion: How did the Old Covenant Sabbath prefigure the New Covenant Lord’s Day, which is the foremost holy day of obligation in the universal Church? Compare the requirements for honoring the Old Covenant Sabbath and for keeping the New Covenant Day of the Lord. Is being faithful to keeping the Lord’s Day also a “sign” of covenant obligation and obedience to God? Why was it necessary to let go of the old seventh day Sabbath to have a new Sabbath that commemorates the eighth day of the New Covenant? See Exodus 20:8-11; 31:12-17; CCC 349, 2181-85.
Additional Feasts of the Sinai Covenant:
Weekly Feast of the Sabbath: The Sabbath is the seventh day of the week, commemorating the seventh day when God “rested” from His work of Creation (Gen 2:1-3). According to the Law of the Sinai Covenant it was a day that was to be set aside as a special day of rest for the people to worship and commune with God and was the sign of Israel’s commitment to the covenant (Ex 31:12-17). For the people of God, it was the only day of the week that was named. The Sabbath obligation was first announced in Exodus 16:23-29 in the wilderness on the way to Sinai in association with the event of the giving of the manna—a miracle which prefigured the Most Holy Eucharist. Other references to this obligation are repeated in Exodus 20:8-11 (Ten Commandments); 31:13-16 (repeated after the sin of the Golden Calf); 35:1-3 (reaffirmed before the Sanctuary was consecrated); Leviticus 23:3-4 (in the holy feasts of the Liturgical Calendar); and numerous references throughout the Old and New Testaments. Sacrifices for the Sabbath included two unblemished lamb as whole burnt offerings accompanied by the prescribed grain and wine libation. These sacrifices were offered in addition to the daily Tamid lambs (Num 28:4-10).
Periodic Feasts (monthly and holy year feasts):
New Moon Feasts: This was a calendar feast that marked the beginning of each lunar month. It was a single day observance celebrated with sacrifices and feasting. The official calendar of the covenant people was a lunar calendar that determined the religious/liturgical calendar which began in the spring in the month of Abib/Nisan. There was also a civil calendar which began in the month of Tishri in the early fall on the Feast of Trumpets, also called in Hebrew Rosh Hashanah, “head of the Year.” However, all religious feasts were to be determined by the lunar calendar. Even in Jesus’ time when it had been determined that the solar calendar was more accurate, the religious festivals were still determined according to the Law of the Covenant by the lunar cycle.
Each New Moon ceremony, in addition to the communal perpetual burnt offering of the daily morning and afternoon Tamid sacrifices (Num 28:15), included a goat offered as a sacrifice for sin along with its accompanying wine libation and the whole burnt offerings of two young bulls, one ram and seven male yearling lambs without blemish. A grain offering accompanied each sacrifice: for a bull three tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil; for a ram, two-tenths of fine flour mixed with oil; for each lamb one-tenth of fine flour mixed with oil. A libation of half a hin of wine accompanied the sacrifice for a bull, one-third of a hin for a ram and one-quarter of a hin for a lamb (Num 10:10; 28:11-15; 1 Sam 20:18; 1 Chr 23:31; 2 Chr 4:8; 8:13; 31:3; Ezra 3:5; Neh 10:33; Is 1:13-14; Ez 45:17; 46:3; Hos 2:11, 13; Amos 8:5; Col 2:16).
Sabbath Year Feasts: After the children of Israel took possession of the Promised Land, every seventh year was designated a Sabbath year of the Lord in which the land “rested.” The obligations for the Sabbath year are found in Exodus 23:10-11; Leviticus 25:1-7; 18-22; and Deuteronomy 15:1-11. The land must be “at rest” and cannot be sown nor can vines be pruned for a year. This holy year feast reminded the people that the land belonged to Yahweh. In addition to the rest for the land, all Israelites held as slaves were released from bondage and debts were forgiven; although there is some confusion as to whether this release from bondage was always in the Sabbath year or in the seventh year from when the Israelite was placed in bondage (see Ex 21:2-11; Neh 10:32).
Jubilee Feasts: The laws for observing the Jubilee Year are found in Leviticus 25:8-55 and Deuteronomy 15:12-18. The instructions for determining the jubilee are similar to counting the days from the Feast of Firstfruits to the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost, but instead of counting seven weeks of days the count was seven weeks of years. The Jubilee Year was to be a year of liberation in which the Israelites extended to each other the same mercy and forgiveness that God extended to the Israelites in their redemption from slavery in Egypt, in His forgiveness of the sin-debt they owed in the sin of the Golden Calf, and in the conquest of the Promised Land: slaves were freed, debts were forgiven, and the land, which was God’s gift to Israel, was returned to the original owner/tribal family.
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.
1. Philo of Alexandria identifies Passover as the fourth feast instead of the first feast because he is listing the feasts according to the civil calendar and not the liturgical calendar. In the civil year the first feast is Trumpets, the second is Atonement, the third is Tabernacles/Shelters and the fourth is Passover.
. Josephus wrote that the Romans requested a count of the animals sacrificed during the reign of the Emperor Nero to give them some idea of the numbers of Jews coming to the festival. He recorded that the number of animals sacrificed at that year’s Passover was “two hundred and fifty-six thousand five hundred” lambs and kids, and since no less than ten people were to feast on one animal, that for that holy week of Unleavened Bread there were about “two million seven hundred thousand and two hundred persons that were pure and holy” (Wars of the Jews, 6.9.3 [424-25]).
3. Unleavened Bread celebrated on the vernal equinox, Philo of Alexandria wrote: And there is another festival combined with the feast of the Passover, [...]. This month being the seventh [in the civil calendar] both in number and order, according to the revolutions of the sun, is the first in power; on which account it is also called the first in the sacred scriptures. And the reason, as I imagine, is as follows. The vernal equinox is an imitation and representation of that beginning in accordance with which the world was created. [..]. And again, this feast is begun on the fifteenth day of the month, in the middle of the month, on the day which the moon is full of light, in consequence of the providence of God taking care that there shall be no darkness on that day (Special Laws, II. 150-155).
4. There was an exception to the timing of the Passover service in the Temple if the day of the Passover sacrifice fell on a Friday “Preparation Day” for the Sabbath. In that case, the afternoon Tamid was offered even earlier so that there would be enough time cleanse the Temple before sundown and for families of the laity and the priesthood to make preparations for the Sabbath when no work could be done—not even lighting a fire to cook meals. According to the Mishnah, if Passover fell on a Friday, the Passover sacrifice would take place approximately between two and four in the afternoon while the Tamid was slaughtered at about twelve-thirty PM and placed on the altar at one-thirty PM: If, however, the eve of Passover coincided with the eve of the Sabbath [Friday], it was slaughtered at half after the sixth hour [12:30 pm] and offered up at half after the seventh hour [1:30PM] (Mishnah: Pesahim, 5:1D). The theory that Jesus died on the Cross on Friday at the ninth hour (three PM), at the very moment the Passover victims were beginning to be sacrificed in the Temple, is not supported by Scripture or by the record of Temple procedure for the sacrifice recorded in the Mishnah. The Gospel of John identifies the day of the Passover sacrifice as Thursday, the day before Jesus’ crucifixion and not on Friday as some have suggested. John’s Gospel is in agreement with the Synoptic Gospels as to the day of the Passover sacrifice being Thursday (Jn 12:1; Mt 26:17-27:36; Mk 14:12-15:25; Lk 22:7-23:34). The other problem with the theory is that the Mishnah records that when Passover fell on a Friday, which was Preparation Day for the Sabbath, the Passover sacrifice began after the Tamid sacrifice at about two in the afternoon. However, since the Passover was on Thursday and Jesus died on a Friday, the normal times were observed for the Tamid sacrifice. Thus, the morning Tamid, offered at the third hour in the morning Jewish time (nine in the morning our time) and the afternoon Tamid offered at the ninth hour in the afternoon Jewish time (three in the afternoon our time) perfectly coincided with Jesus’ crucifixion at the third hour or nine in the morning our time (Mk 15:25) and His death at the ninth hour Jewish time, which was three in the afternoon our time (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 14.4.3 ).
5. The Book of Jubilees was dated by R. H. Charles between 135 and 105 BC (Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 5, “Samaritan Pentateuch,” page 934).
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2010 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.
Last Supper and the Eucharist
1163, 1166-67, 1212, 1275, 1322-23, 1329, 1333, 1337, 1357, 1362-72, 1436, 2837
616-17, 627, 630
627, 645-46, 648, 655, 1166-67, 2174
697, 731-32, 767, 1076, 1287, 2623
The Second Advent
The Last Judgment
678-82, 1038-41, 1059
The New Heaven and Earth
1042-50, 1060, 2818