SPECIAL TOPIC: THE FEASTS OF ISRAEL

I. Mosaic Annual Feasts (cf. Exodus 23:14-17; Leviticus 23; Numbers 28; Deuteronomy 16)

A. All male Jews were required to attend three annual feasts (cf. Exod. 23:14,17; 34:23) if possible.

B. These feasts had agricultural, as well as national significance.

C. Each was a day of rest, worship, and community fellowship. 

D. The three required annual feasts

1. Passover (cf. Exod. 12:1-14,21-28; Lev. 23:4-14; Num. 28:16-25; Deut. 16:1-8; see Special Topic: The Passover)

a. thanksgiving and dedication of the barley harvest

b. commemorates the Exodus

c. it was followed by a seven day Feast of Unleavened Bread (cf. Exod. 12:15-20;34:18-20)

2. Pentecost (Feast of Weeks, cf. Exod. 23:16; 34:22)

a. thanksgiving and dedication of the wheat harvest

b. commemorates the giving of the Torah to Moses on Mt. Sinai by rabbinical reckoning

c. See Lev. 23:15-21; Num. 28:26-31

3. Tabernacles/Booths/Huts (Succoth)

a. thanksgiving for the general harvest

b. commemorates the beginning of the wilderness wandering period

c. see Exod. 23:16; 34:22; Lev. 23:34-44; Deut. 16:13-17

d. it was followed by an eight day feast (cf. Lev. 23:36; Num. 29:35-38)

E. Other annual feasts

1. New Year Celebration (Rosh Hashanah)

a. see Lev. 23:23-25; Num. 29:1-6 

b. this day of rest and sacrifice was held on the first day of Tishri

c. the feast aspect of this day, so common in the NT era, is unspecified in the Torah

2. Day of Atonement – "day of covering" or Yom Kippur (the only fast day)

a. a day of rest, fasting, and repentance

b. a ritual for the removal of corporate uncleanness (tabernacle, priests, and people)

c. see Exod. 30:10; Lev. 16; 23:26-32; 25:9; Num. 29:7-11

d. it is difficult to pin down when this feast was re-instituted after the Exile

 

II. Other Mosaic Feast Days

A. the Sabbath (see Special Topic: Sabbath)

1.  weekly day of rest and worship

2.  see Gen. 2:1-3; Exod. 16:22-30; 20:8-11; 23:12; 31:12-16; Lev. 23:1-3; Num. 28:9-10

B. Sabbath Year

1. every seventh year the land rested (no sowing)

2. see Exod. 23:10-11; Lev. 25:1-7; Deut. 15:1

3. it signified that YHWH owned the land and gave it to Israel

4. all slaves were set free (cf. Exod. 21:2-6) and all debts were forgiven (cf. Deut. 15:1-6)

C. Jubilee Year

1. every seventh Sabbath year (i.e., 50th year)

2. see Lev. 25:8-18; 27:17-24

3. release of debt and returning of land, freeing of slaves (cf. Lev. 25:10,13, very similar to Sabbath Year)

4. its inauguration is never recorded

D. New Moon

1. special offerings and a day of rest

2. see Num. 10:10; 28:11-15

3. possibly commemorated the setting up of the tabernacle (cf. Exod. 40:2,17)

4. Jewish calendar is based on lunar cycles

 

III. These rituals and regulations show a development over time. These feasts and one fast may have had a  beginning in pagan calendars (see Special Topic: Moon Worship), but developed into uniquely Jewish praise and devotion to YHWH.  Nature (seasonal), agricultural (planting, rain, and harvest), and national events (Exodus, giving of the Law, etc.) combined to highlight certain times of the year for worship.

 

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