The Jewish Feasts: Part 13, Yom Kippur Factoids

Cross section of Herod’s Temple, looking south. ©2012 Bristol Works, Inc. Rose Publishing Inc.

Interesting Facts and Misconceptions:

Where is the Ark of the Covenant now?

Based primarily on research done by Dr. Randall Price (Searching for the Ark of the Covenant and The Lost Ark and the Last Days: In Search of Temple Treasures) I believe that the Ark is in a cave beneath the Temple Mount. It was accessible and possibly seen after the 1967 “6-Day War” prior to the sealing of Warren’s Gate by the Jordanian Waqf.

When was the Ark ever in Herod’s Temple?

Never! Leviticus 16 describes God’s commandments for Yom Kippur in the Tabernacle. These were followed with appropriate modifications in the days of Solomon’s Temple, but when that Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, the Ark disappeared. Old Jewish traditions hold that Jeremiah hid it somewhere before the destruction.

How did Yom Kippur work without an Ark?

The problem was bigger than that: not only was the Ark gone, but as prophesied in Ezekiel 9 and 10, so was God’s Sh’khinah (Divine Presence), and even the two large cherubim statues were missing. There was nothing in there except haShetiya, the Foundation Stone on which the Ark sat. What was sprinkled with blood? Just the stone. There is, to this day, a shallow niche carved into the stone that is the exact dimension, location and orientation to have supported the Ark, so that is where the High Priest’s attention was focused.

How did it work with no Temple at all?

Some Jewish congregations still attempt to offer a blood sacrifice by wringing the neck of a chicken, but this is a minority practice. In the late 1st century, rabbis decided that the Temple ritual could be replaced by Tefilah (prayer), Teshuva (repentance), and Tzedakah (charity). Those are all good things, surely, but one might say, “Why not just accept your own Messiah?” What about the interval of the Babylonian Captivity, when there was also no Temple? I would ask you to remember that salvation was never a result of sacrifice! Sacrifice was a response of faith in a gracious God!

How did the High Priest accomplish so much in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur if he could enter only once a year?

It is not true that the High Priest went into the Holy of Holies only once a year. He went only on Yom Kippur, but on that day he went in four times: (1) He entered to lay coals from the altar, and to burn incense. (2) He entered again to sprinkle the bull’s blood for his own atonement. (3) He entered yet again to sprinkle the goat’s blood for the people’s atonement. (4) Finally, he entered to remove the spent coals at the close of the ceremony.

Given the unrighteousness of many High Priests, how many were struck dead entering the Holy of Holies?

None, as far a we know. But righteousness was not required, or none would have survived; only “ritual cleanness” kept them alive. There was a long process that was required to achieve this ceremonial virtue. It began four days earlier, and involved many washings, immersions, and changes of attire. Part of this procedure was Biblical, part was traditional.

Was a rope really tied to the High Priest’s leg so that he could be pulled out if his attendants quit hearing the tinkling of his bells and pomegranates?

Pure myth! To begin with, there were no bells and pomegranates, because Scripture required him to enter in pure white linens, with no decoration. In the second place, during the key moments of his entry, no other humans were allowed into even the inner Temple courts, let along into the Temple itself. Thirdly, it would have been impossible to pull him through the veil in any case. It was not one veil, it was actually two very heavy veils stretching from side to side and ceiling to floor, with no space on any side. There was a space of one cubit separating the two veils. The outer one was pinned to the left doorpost and the inner to the right doorpost so that they might never reveal what lay beyond. When entering the Holy of Holies, the Priest would pass below the pin on the left side of the outer curtain, walk between the curtains, pass beneath the pin on the right side of the inner curtain, and then walk beside that curtain until he reached the Ark. To exit, he reversed the route. It is impossible for me to conceive of a rope with a body attached being pulled through that circuitous route. Nor would this have been needed; see below regarding cleaning of the Holy of Holies.

Are the scarlet thread stories true?

I have heard two versions. One holds that a scarlet thread was attached to the wall beside the outer veil. If by the next day the thread was found to have turned snow white, then God had accepted the sacrifice. Otherwise, the sacrifice had been rejected and Israel’s sins were unforgiven. The continuation of this story holds that after Jesus’ crucifixion, and up to the AD 70 destruction of the Temple, the thread never changed color. This isn’t absurd on its face, like the rope theory, but if it were true, we would find volumes of lamentations over those 40 years of rejection. This would be known as the greatest national calamity ever to strike Israel. I think even more so than the Temples’ destruction. The second version is the same, except that the thread was attached to a horn of the Scapegoat. I reject this version as well. I think that this one is probably a corruption of a story in rabbinical literature which records that a scarlet strand of some sort was tied across both horns of the goat and used to secure a heavy rock so that the sure-footed goat would be pulled over the cliff to its destruction.

How far out of the Temple was the goat taken?

According to rabbinical sources, 90 ris. After five separate unit conversions, I worked this out to about 7 miles. Watchers were stationed at key locations between Temple and cliff so that successful completion of the goat’s assassination could be signaled back by means of flags, and the next steps of the ceremony begun.

Would the Ark with its poles even have fit into the Holy of Holies?

Very astute question! We know the dimensions of the room, of the Ark, and even of the poles. Yet almost every depiction of these things shows the Ark oriented with its poles parallel to the veil, which cannot be! In reality, the Ark went in like a car into a garage. And on either side of it stood a very large statue of a stylized cherub.

How was the Holy of Holies kept clean, or did it never get dirty?

Of course, it got dirty! Hundreds of years of dust bunnies, charcoal dust, incense smoke, insects, and mouse droppings, not to mention hundreds of years of bullock and goat blood! And, potentially, dead High Priests. Before you ask, no, the High Priest didn’t do the cleaning. Above the Holy of Holies was a “drop ceiling” consisting of wooden rectangular tiles set into a framework. Referring to the attached diagram, there was a large chamber over the Holy of Holies, and the ceiling below could be accessed from there. Workmen could, after suitable cleansing, be lowered on ropes to work using tools with long handles. The rules prevented them from touching anything in the room with their own bodies, nor were they allowed to dally or “sight-see”.

Table of Contents: The Jewish Feasts
Start of Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 1, Chapter Introduction
Previous in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 12, Atonement
Next in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 14, Tabernacles

The Jewish Feasts: Part 12, Atonement

Yom Kippur, not Passover, is the most important of the Jewish Feasts!

The Days of Awe are the most somber period of the Jewish Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the capstone of the Days of Awe. The correct form of the Feast name is Yom HaKippurim, (the Day of Coverings); but Yom Kippur is the more common name.

I have heard it said many times that Passover is the most important Jewish Feast. That is simply not true. With no Temple to worship in, Passover has certainly become the most well known and faithfully celebrated of the Feasts, but for sheer spiritual impact, Yom Kippur is by far the most vital. it is a recognition of personal and national sin, and a plea for salvation.

 Christians celebrate Easter as a salvation event, and rightly so, because Easter celebrates specifically the time and actuality of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. Jews celebrate Passover at roughly the same time as Easter, but not at all as a salvation event. As stated in earlier parts of this series, Passover is a celebration of redemption from slavery and resurrection as a people.

©Ron Thompson 2020

 In AD 325, Emperor Constantine and the Council of Nicaea officially severed Easter from Passover. This was unfortunately done for explicitly anti-Semitic reasons; however, given the salvation emphasis placed on Easter by non-Jews, it was probably best to do so.

Recall that the ten Days of Awe are all about repentance and reconciliation. On the final day, on Yom Kippur, one’s deeds will be judged by God, and his or her state of salvation determined for the coming year. As you can see from Leviticus 23, above, the day is a Sabbath. Not only that, but the phrases “you are to deny yourselves” (stated twice) and “Anyone who does not deny himself on that day is to be cut off from his people” are regarded as a command to fast, on pain of excommunication. The Hebrew terms used here literally mean to “humble, or afflict one’s soul”. Traditionally they are taken to include fasting, abstinence from sex, and refraining from personal grooming. Yom Kippur is the only Biblically mandated fast day, though rabbinic Judaism does recognize certain other somber days as fast days, and Zechariah 8:19 mentions several months when ancient fasts were practiced.

The Temple Precincts

The ritual of Yom Kippur for Tabernacle observance is described in more detail in Leviticus 16. It is quite complicated. More so in Temple days, and still more after the addition of Oral Traditions. There are very strict and detailed regulations regarding the attire of the High Priest (Heb. Cohen HaGadol), his multiple cleansings, and who and at what times other people could enter the Temple precincts. The actual Temple/Tabernacle observance included the following, in brief:

  • The High Priest would cast lots over two male goats: one, designated as Chatat, was to be sacrificed; the other was to set aside “for Azazel”; this one would be “brought before the people” so that their sins would symbolically be laid upon him.
  • The Priest would sacrifice a young bull to atone for, or “cover”, his own sin and that of his household, and the sacrificial goat, to atone for the sins of the people.
  • Under smoke from incense, blood from these sacrifices was to be sprinkled, with his finger, inside the Holy of Holies, on the Mercy Seat, the front of the Ark, and “toward the east”, that is, between the Ark and the Veil.
  • Outside the Holy of Holies, blood was also to be sprinkled on the Horns of the Altar.
  • Having completed these actions, the High Priest was to lay his hands on the head of the live goat and “confess over it all the transgressions, crimes and sins of the people of Isra’el” (CJB). This, the “Scapegoat” now carrying all the sins of the people, was then to be led out of the city to an uninhabited area about 7 miles away, by a fit man appointed to the task. Ostensibly, this goat was to be released, but in practice, it was usually pushed off a cliff to prevent it from wandering back with the people’s sins. Accomplishment of this task was then signaled back to the Temple.
  • The bullock and the goat were then cut open; the fat and fatty organs were burned on the altar, and the rest of the carcass taken out and burned (on the Mount of Olives in Temple times).
  • The High Priest would then read from Torah in the Court of Prayer (aka, the Court of women).
  • Next, the Priest would sacrifice his ram, the ram for the people and seven additional rams.
  • Finally, he would remove the incense pan and ladle from the Holy of Holies.

For a really good description of the Temple ritual, derived from rabbinical documents, refer to this excellent article by a knowledgeable rabbi: The Service of the High Priest

Important Concepts

  • As seen previously, the Passover Lamb or Kid was a fellowship offering, to be killed and shared as a meal between friends or family.
  • The bull and goat sacrificed on Yom Kippur were sin offerings. As such, they could atone for (temporarily cover over), but not permanently remove, the sins of the people. Sin offerings had to be completely burned, not eaten. You don’t want to re-ingest your sins!
  • The rams were burnt offerings. They were consumed completely in fire, with the rising smoke symbolizing righteous prayer and thanksgiving.
  • The goat for Azazel was symbolically innocent, vicariously taking on itself the sins of the people and carrying them away. Its killing was not a sacrifice; it was merely a disposal.

Note especially: Hebrews 9:22 says that,according to the Torah, almost everything is purified with blood (CJB, emphasis mine). The context is speaking specifically about ritual vessels and implements, but the same is true with people. The Torah provides atonement through sacrifice for “unintentional sin”, i.e., for sins committed thoughtlessly, accidentally, negligently, or perhaps even in passion. No place in the entire Bible do we ever find a sacrifice for intentional disobedience or rebellion against God! There is no atonement for intentional sin! The theme of Yom Kippur is “regeneration”, that is, salvation. So how is any human being saved? Under Torah, it is by God’s grace, through faith–as pictured in the Scapegoat. Under the New Covenant, by God’s grace, through faith–as delivered for all times past or future by Jesus, the antitype of the Scapegoat!

Table of Contents: The Jewish Feasts
Start of Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 1, Chapter Introduction
Previous in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 11, Trumpets
Next in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 13, Yom Kippur Factoids

The Jewish Feasts: Part 11, Trumpets

The Fall Feasts start on Tishri 1, a date which in modern times is generally called Rosh Ha-Shana (or Rosh Hashanah, “Head of the Year”). This is Israel’s, and Judaism’s, civil New Year. Celebrating the holiday as the start of a new year makes sense, because Yom Kippur on Tishri 10 does bring a new beginning to the land; however, of far more Biblical significance is the Leviticus Feast, the Day of Trumpets (Heb. Yom Teruah, literally, Day of Soundings).

In Jewish Eschatology, in the Olam HaBa (“the World to Come”), Messiah will one day climb the Mt. of Olives and angels will fly around the world, blowing trumpets and summoning all Israel back to the Land. Alive and dead alike will fly instantaneously to Jerusalem, where they will repent and, on Yom Kippur, be forever saved. Sound somewhat familiar?

Metal trumpets were used on many formal occasions in Israel, but rams’ horns (Heb. shofar, pl. shofarim) were used to warn of enemy attacks, to rally Israelite forces, to signal the calling of an assembly, and at other times when immediate corporate regathering was required. The ritual of Yom Teruah required that only shofarim be used. Typically, four types of “note” were blown in the morning, around the morning (Shacharit) prayer time, as described on the slide below.

I am a Premillennial, Pretribulational, Evangelical Christian. I believe that there will be a Rapture of the Church, followed by (not necessarily immediately by) a period of Tribulation on Earth, and then a “Millennial Reign” of Jesus from a throne in Jerusalem. Given that background and the fact that I believe the Feasts to be prophetical, perhaps you see why I find the Day of Trumpets tradition described above to be so interesting! Note also the congruent language of the following two New Testament scriptures:

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 (ESV)
[16] For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command [shout – KJV], with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. [17] Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. [18] Therefore encourage one another with these words.

1 Corinthians 15:51 (ESV)
[51] Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, [52] in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. [53] For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.

At this point, I will shock many of you by stating that, as with all of the other Feasts, I believe that the day of this Feast, on the Jewish calendar, is the actual day that the prophesied event occurred during Jesus First Advent or will occur during His Second. You say, how can you possibly reconcile that view with

Matthew 24:30,36 (ESV)
[30] Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

[36] “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.

My response is that Jesus is here comparing Himself to a bridegroom and quoting Jewish traditional wedding language. After betrothal, the groom would return with his father to the family home and begin adding to it living quarters for the new couple (“In my father’s home are many rooms…”). The groom would do the work, under his father’s supervision, and only his father could make the decision that enough progress had been made. There would be no advance warning. At some point, father would say to son, “Okay, that’s enough”, and that night the son and his attendants would go to collect the bride and her attendants. Jesus’ statement therefore is not a direct answer to the question posed and cannot be definitively said to preclude any effort to predict the date.

©Ron Thompson 2020, from my personal collection

I am not claiming to make a prediction of the date of the Rapture! It could be this Saturday (Yom Teruah, in AD 2020), or it may not happen for many years. I also don’t know what time of day it might occur, though I would guess sometime near morning prayers in Jerusalem. What I do think, is that the Rapture is likely to occur on Yom Teruah some year in the not too distant future.

For more on Jesus’ use of marriage metaphor, see: Jesus and Hebrew Wedding Imagery.

Table of Contents: The Jewish Feasts
Start of Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 1, Chapter Introduction
Previous in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 10, The Days of Awe
Next in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 12, Atonement

The Jewish Feasts: Part 10, The Days of Awe

©Ron Thompson 2020

As Israel’s hot summer months come to a close, we enter the Fall Feast season. The first two of these Feasts define the most solemn days of the Jewish year, and the final one, the most joyous. The first two are intimately connected: Yom Teruah, the Day of Trumpets (also known as Rosh Ha-Shanah, Head of the Year, the Jewish secular New Year), on Tishri 1, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement on Tishri 10. These two days and the intervening eight days are called, collectively, the Days of Awe (Heb. Yamim Noraim). The entire 10-day period is devoted to intense personal, individual repentance, prayer and righteous deeds (Heb. T’shuvah, tefilla, and tzedakah) and to acts of reconciliation. Joyous celebrations such as weddings and bar and bat mitzvahs do not take place during these days.

The “Book(s) of Life” are a concept that most Christian denominations don’t give much attention to, though there are quite a few somewhat obscure scriptures about them. There are mentions in Exodus, 1 Samuel, Daniel, Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Malachi, Luke, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Philippians, Hebrews, and of course, Revelation. Plus several Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphal books. I won’t go into the Christian theology here, but I must talk about the Jewish, because it is extremely relevant to the Days of Awe.

The Book of Life (or Book of the Living, Heb. Sefer Hayyim) have taken on huge significance in the writings of Rabbi Akiva, and the Jewish Talmud states that,

 “Three books are opened in Heaven on Rosh Ha-Shanah, one for the thoroughly wicked, one for the thoroughly righteous, and one for the intermediate. The thoroughly righteous are forthwith inscribed in the Book of Life, and the thoroughly wicked in the Book of Death, wile the fate of the intermediate is suspended until the Day of Atonement.”

Most people would certainly have considered themselves among the intermediate, but who really knows, so pretty much everyone must consider themselves as such. Thus, the 10-day span of the Days of Awe are marked by ritual cleansing (immersion), prayer and fasting, intense introspection, acts of repentance and, frankly, fear. But wait; the consequences are so dire for those not written in the Book of Life, that the rabbis very early decided than 10 days was not enough, and the tradition grew of starting a month early, on Elul 1.

©Ron Thompson 1008. On Masada, a typical Jewish baptistry (Heb. mikvah).

So here is what the period looked like: On Elul 1, all Jews went to the most convenient mikvah (ritual baptistery), spring or river for immersion and cleansing from sin, then, for 40 days, the process of virtual self-flagellation would proceed, culminating in the Pilgrim Festival of Yom Kippur, to be covered in Part 12. Of course, all intervening Sabbaths and the Day of Trumpets/Rosh Ha-Shanah Feast were scrupulously observed. At the conclusion of the 40 days, Jews from around Israel and the Diaspora convened at the Temple Mount for the most important Feast of the year.

The Parapet of the Temple, adapted from Rose Guide to the Temple,
© Copyright 2012 Bristol Works, Inc.

Consider now a late summer in AD 29. It is Elul 1, and John the Baptizer is standing by the water near the village of Bethany Beyond the Jordan, not too far from Jericho (Luke 3). He is baptizing devout Jewish men and women from the district, and chastising those simply obeying their legalistic impulses. He raises his head and sees, walking towards him, his cousin Jesus of Nazareth, who some 33 years earlier had caused him to jump in his mother’s womb. Jesus speaks to John, then steps into the water and is baptized, not for His own sin, but in order to conform to the ritual necessities expected of Him, and to receive the blessing given Him by Father and Spirit that day.

Following His baptism, Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness for the requisite 40 days of prayer and fasting. At the end of this time, on Yom Kippur, Satan appears to Him and tests Him in three ways:

Luke 4:1-12 (CJB)
[4:1] Then Yeshua*, filled with the Ruach HaKodesh* [Holy Spirit], returned from the Yarden* [Jordan] and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness [2] for forty days of testing by the Adversary. During that time he ate nothing, and afterwards he was hungry. [3] The Adversary said to him, “If you are the Son of God, order this stone to become bread.” [4] Yeshua* answered him, “The Tanakh* [Old Testament] says, ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’

[5] The Adversary took him up, showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world, [6] and said to him, “I will give you all this power and glory. It has been handed over to me, and I can give it to whomever I choose. [7] So if you will worship me, it will all be yours.” [8] Yeshua* answered him, “The Tanakh* says, ‘Worship ADONAI* your God and serve him only.’”

[9] Then he took him to Yerushalayim*, set him on the highest point of the Temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, jump from here! [10] For the Tanakh* says,

‘He will order his angels
to be responsible for you and to protect you.
[11] They will support you with their hands,
so that you will not hurt your feet on the stones.’”

[12] Yeshua* answered him, “It also says, ‘Do not put ADONAI* your God to the test.’”

The Gospels differ in the order presented, but I think that Luke is most likely chronologically correct by putting Him last on the “highest point of the Temple“, the parapet on the southeastern corner of Solomon’s Porch (see diagram). Yom Kippur being a required Pilgrim Festival, as many as a million people would have been below him in the Temple courts, the Plaza outside, or down in the City of David or its surroundings. Many would have only to raise their eyes to see the drama if Jesus had failed this test.

The Temptation of Jesus does not get the attention it deserves! It is, in my opinion, one of the key events in all of human history.

Jesus, just like Adam, was placed on earth without a sin nature, meaning that they did not have the innate propensity to challenge God’s will. But both were human, and both could be persuaded by temptation. Adam and his mate were tempted by Satan in three ways that we have come to call, The Lust of the Flesh, The Lust of the Eyes, and The Pride of Life. They failed this test and condemned all their descendants to a life of sin. Jesus was tempted in the same fashion and resisted on all counts! He passed all three tests. Had He not done so, we would have no Savior!

Table of Contents: The Jewish Feasts
Start of Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 1, Chapter Introduction
Previous in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 9, Weeks
Next in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 11, Trumpets

The Jewish Feasts: Part 9, Weeks

Shavuot, also known as Late Firstfruits, or by its Greek equivalent, Pentecost, is another agricultural festival, this time marking the beginning of the late spring wheat harvest. Also, it celebrates the fact that the Israelites reached Mt. Sinai “in the third month”, Sivan, traditionally on the date Sivan 1. Also by tradition (probably true) the 10 Commandments and “Rulings”, Israel’s Torah, were given to Moses on Sivan 6 or 7, 50 days after crossing the Reed Sea. That date is therefore associated with revelation and revival. Assuming, as I do, that Nisan 17 is the correct date of the Early Firstfruits celebration (see Part 8), then Sivan 7 is the correct date for Late Firstfruits.

Leviticus 23 establishes precisely that Shavuot is to be celebrated on the 49th week and a day, i.e., the 50th day, counting from Day #1 on Early Firstfruits. Traditionally, the days are counted off formally; this is known as the Counting of the Omer. An omer is a measure of dry produce volume, about the amount of barley or wheat that can be held by one person without tying, or bundling; a “sheaf”.

©Ron Thompson 2020

In terms of typology, as mentioned above, and in previous parts:

  1. Passover looks back at Israel’s Redemption from slavery to Egypt by the Death Angel, and, by Jesus’ proclamation of the New Covenant on the actual evening of the Feast, forward to all believers’ Redemption from slavery to sin .
  2. Unleavened Bread looks back at Israel’s Sanctification by removal of the stain of slavery, and, by Jesus’ death on the actual day of the Feast (not on the sacrifice day), forward to all believers’ Sanctification by removal of the stain of sin.
  3. Early Firstfruits looks back at Israel’s Resurrection as a people as they cross the Reed Sea, and, by Jesus, the Firstfruit of Resurrection, on the actual day of the Feast, forward to all believers’ Resurrection.

In the same pattern, Shavuot looks back to Israel’s Revelation in God’s Torah delivered at Sinai, and, by Jesus’ delivery of the Holy Spirit (Heb. Ruach HaKodesh) on the actual day of the Feast, forward to all believers’ Revelation in New Testament Torah. John 14:26 (ESV), [26] But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

Notice also that, unlike the previous feasts, Shavuot bread must contain leaven! Why is this? Because it represents the sin that we enter with on the Feast day. The required animal sacrifices then cover that sin, so that the worshippers leave ritually clean.

Shavuot is another of the three regalim, or pilgrim feasts, a Shabbat which all adult males in Israel or the Diaspora must attend annually, if they are physically able.

This is a good place for a parenthetical slide. Leviticus 23:22 seems to hang line a non sequitur between Shavuot and the Fall Feasts. Is there something we can learn from it? I think it bears a very important truth! We are living in a parenthetical time. All other verses in the Chapter represent historical events in the life of Israel, but with prophetic themes that benefit both Israel and the New Testament church. In this verse, the command for Israel is pretty much, “Step aside and leave the gleanings to ‘the poor and the foreigner (non-Jew)'”. Days after Jesus’ Ascension, on and after Shavuot (Pentecost), the Holy Spirit was imparted to all Believers. It is now the so-called “church age” when we, both Jew and non-Jew, glean from what Israel planted. The Spirit will, by the Theology I follow, depart again at the Rapture of the Church, which we will talk about more in the next Part of this Series.

Table of Contents: The Jewish Feasts
Start of Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 1, Chapter Introduction
Previous in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 8, Early Firstfruits
Next in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 10, The Days of Awe

The Jewish Feasts: Part 8, Early Firstfruits

The next and last of the Spring Feasts is Yom ha-Bikkurim, the Day of Early Firstfruits. This is considered an agricultural festival; a celebration of the beginning of the spring barley harvest. It was commanded at Mt. Sinai, but was not to take effect until the Israelites were in the Promised Land, planting their own crops. The timing corresponds to the day that the redeemed slaves miraculously crossed the Red Sea (actually, the Yam Suf, or Sea of Reeds–I personally believe this is a reference to the upper reaches of the Gulf of Suez, near the town of Suez, where I think that papyrus and other reedy swamp plants would have washed down from the Bitter Lakes region at the ebb tides; but there is much scholarly disagreement on this). The theme of Resurrection attaches to this Feast because it is seen to commemorate both their resurrection from sure death at the hands of Pharaoh’s army, and more particularly, their resurrection as a people who essentially lost their national existence when they were enslaved.

©Ron Thompson 2020

I don’t think it needs to be said that Jesus’ resurrection took place on this, the third day after His death and burial! I do not want to spend much time here arguing the exegesis of Matthew 12:40 (ESV), were Jesus said, [40] For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Some well-meaning conservative Christians have argue on this basis that the Crucifixion must have taken place on a Wednesday; however, this is well-attested Hebrew idiom, and my preferred hermeneutic requires that figures of speech must be considered (see Zuck, Roy B., Basic Bible Interpretation) in translating and properly understanding Scripture. In my view, both Scripture and ancient traditions force the acceptance of a Friday Crucifixion.

©Ron Thompson 2020

Please study closely the slide above, where I have laid out the timeline, as I believe it to be, for the Jewish Spring Feasts, beginning with Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Note that I have enumerated each day during the period Nisan 10 through 21. Note, too, that I have placed the Lamb Sacrifices and the “First day of Unleavened Bread” on Thursday, Nisan 14, the day before the start of the traditional “Passover Week”,  as I have previously explained. Next, see that I have placed the Day of Early Firstfruits, on Sunday, Nisan 17, the same as the third day of the 7-day Feast of Unleavened Bread.

 More on this timing below, but first, look closely at the three heading lines, colored blue on the slide. The middle line shows an equivalent Gregorian date for each of the days covered. I have often been curious about where the Crucifixion and Resurrection would fit on our modern Gregorian calendar.  You can find a lot of conflicting–guesses?– on the Internet. Finally, I determined to figure it out for myself. Most attempts that I have seen place them in the period AD 30 – 33, which make sense from a historical point of view. Another vital clue is that every Jewish month, by definition, begins on a New Moon. With some searching, I was able to find charts showing calculated new moon dates going back much farther than I needed. Assuming the Crucifixion was indeed on a Friday, it turns out that it is somewhat rare for Nisan 15 to fall on a Friday, and that fact led me to decide that it must have occurred on Friday, April 5, 0030.

Other historical events corresponding to the Feast Day

Although I am personally convinced that the Resurrection had to have been on Sunday, Nisan 17, you may have noticed that in the second and forth slide, I have shown it as Nisan 16 or 17. This is a nod to conflicting opinions based on Leviticus 23:11 (CJB) [11] He is to wave the sheaf before ADONAI*, so that you will be accepted; the Cohen* is to wave it on the day after the Shabbat*. A Biblical “wave offering” is a ritual waving of an agricultural product by a Priest (Heb. Cohen) in an up/down left/right, in out pattern–sort of like a 3D genuflection. The question about this verse that has puzzled the sages from antiquity is, what Shabbat does this verse refer to–the Nisan 15 Shabbat, as the Pharisees believed, or the included Saturday Shabbat, as the Sadducees believed? Modern scholars tend to favor the former because they suppose that (a) the Pharisees were more powerful, and (b) the Nisan 15 Shabbat was more important. Both of those suppositions are wrong! The Saturday Sabbath is more important, and the Pharisees, while most popular with the am ha-aretz, or common people, had little actual power. The Sadducees had almost total control over the Temple and its ritual.

Table of Contents: The Jewish Feasts
Start of Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 1, Chapter Introduction
Previous in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 7, Unleavened Bread
Next in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 9, Weeks

The Jewish Feasts: Part 7, Unleavened Bread

My last two blog entries dealt with the Jewish Feast of Passover, its preparation (including the sacrifices) during the preceding days, the actual Biblical Feast, lasting only through the twilight time between Nisan 14 and 15, and it’s correct relationship to Biblical Soteriology. Today I’m moving on to the second Feast, Unleavened Bread.

Unleavened Bread is the second of the Spring Feasts, and in fact it spans the entire seven days now traditionally called “Passover“. The first and last days of the feast are “convocations”, or Sabbaths, no matter on which day of the week they occur. The Saturday Sabbath within this seven-day span is considered an “especially holy Sabbath”, particularly if it falls on Nisan 15. If the Saturday Sabbath and either of the holiday Sabbaths occur on consecutive days, then cooking and other related Sabbath prohibitions are relaxed during the first of the two days.

Deuteronomy 16:16-17 (ESV) designates three days each year as regalim, or “pilgrim festivals“, which all ritually clean adult males (12 and above) are required to attend:

[16] “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed. [17] Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God that he has given you.

In practice, attendance during Unleavened Bread is only required until the end of the first full day. In fact, many Jews started home on Nisan 16, though many stayed for the entire week. I am confident that an early return to Nazareth was the context in which Jesus’ family left him behind as recorded in

Luke 2:41-47 (CJB)
[41] Every year Yeshua’s* parents went to Yerushalayim* for the festival of Pesach*. [42] When he was twelve years old, they went up for the festival, as custom required. [43] But after the festival was over, when his parents returned, Yeshua* remained in Yerushalayim*. They didn’t realize this; [44] supposing that he was somewhere in the caravan, they spent a whole day on the road before they began searching for him among their relatives and friends. [45] Failing to find him, they returned to Yerushalayim* to look for him. [46] On the third day they found him—he was sitting in the Temple court among the rabbis*, not only listening to them but questioning what they said; [47] and everyone who heard him was astonished at his insight and his responses
.

Adapted from Rose Guide to the Temple,
© Copyright 2012 Bristol Works, Inc.

Where in Jerusalem was Jesus most likely “sitting … among the rabbis? Most likely on these stone steps (on the Temple diagram) or on the porch at their top (the Hel). The rabbis mentioned were probably Pharisee members of the Sanhedrin, who at that time regularly convened in the Chamber of Hewn Stone (below the arrow). During times like this they would often walk out to the porch to talk to worshippers and answer theological questions.

Historically, Exodus 12:39 (CJB) records that the Israelites prepared unleavened dough for their flight from Egypt: [39] They baked matzah* loaves from the dough they had brought out of Egypt, since it was unleavened; because they had been driven out of Egypt without time to prepare supplies for themselves. Leaven later came to prefigure sin to Israel, so that the removal of leaven from the Land during this feast symbolized the removal of sin–i.e., sanctification.

By His crucifixion, Jesus bought our salvation, in all its aspects. His crucifixion is seen in all of the Feasts, and each Feast prefigures at least one of those aspects. It turns out that important events in either Jesus’ first or second advent have evidently occurred or are scheduled to occur on Feast days relevant in some way to the events themselves. So far:

  1. Passover symbolized redemption from slavery (to Egypt/to Sin), and it was precisely on the Feast of Passover (during the Seder) that Jesus proclaimed the New Covenant as foretold in Jeremiah 31:32 (CJB),: [32] (33)“For this is the covenant I will make with the house of Isra’el* after those days,” says ADONAI*: “I will put my Torah* within them and write it on their hearts; I will be their God, and they will be my people.
  2.  Unleavened Bread symbolized Sanctification, or removal from Israel (of Egypt/of Sin), and it was precisely on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread that Jesus was crucified to provide salvation, including payment for, and sanctification from, sin.

Table of Contents: The Jewish Feasts
Start of Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 1, Chapter Introduction
Previous in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 6, The Lamb of God
Next in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 8, Early Firstfruits

The Jewish Feasts: Part 6, The Lamb of God

“Theology” is the study of God, and “Soteriology” is the study of, or theology of, salvation.

As an Evangelical Christian and a Calvinist, I believe, with Ephesians 2, that God’s Salvation is by God’s Grace, through God’s Faith acting in us. I believe that Salvation has always been by Grace, through Faith. In Temple times, yes, certainly there were many legalists, but the sages always understood that the sacrifices were a response of faith to Salvation, not a means of it. And if not, were Jews of the Babylonian Captivity forever lost because they had no temple and therefore no sacrifices? No, they had their faith and a gracious God!

We understand that Salvation is, in one sense, a process (personal conviction of sin), culminating in an event. Not, I think, a result of following some yellow brick road through random verses in Romans with a well-meaning friend or stranger, and then repeating back a magic prayer. The best statement I know of to explain salvation is:

Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)
[6] And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

While the Salvation event is a jewel to be sought, it is in reality a jewel with many separate facets (see slide, below): It gathers us into fellowship with likeminded believers; in fact, usually, God brings us into contact with believers in order to introduce us to the reality of His existence. The key facet is regeneration, replacement of our old nature by the new. This results in short- and long-term joy. It also brings redemption from slavery to sin. As we live among God’s people and learn God’s will, we experience sanctification, a turning from sin towards a purer life. Eventually, we all die, but we look forward to ultimate resurrection, followed by revelation of all truth.

So, these facets of Salvation are typified by the recognized themes of the Jewish Feasts! The order is precisely that of the feasts, on Israel’s civil calendar beginning in the fall.

It is important, and the reason for this article, that you recognize that

Jesus is not just the archetype of the Passover Lamb; He is also typified by, and fulfills the prophetic vision of, all Biblical Jewish Feasts and Sacrifices!

In1 Peter 1:18-19 (ESV), the Apostle tells us, “You were ransomed … with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb… without blemish or spot” The emphasis on “like” is mine, and I removed a comma that is not in the Greek. Peter is here comparing Jesus with, really, all of the efficacious sacrificial animals, not just the Passover Lamb.

John the Baptizer, in John 1:29 (ESV), said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”  But, what does it mean to call Him “The Lamb of God“? Was John prophesying that Jesus would be crucified during the Passover Feast, some 3-1/2 years in the future? The people hearing John in that day, in that place, would have missed that point and immediately known that John was pointing out to them the person who he believed to be the promised Messiah!

Prior to Jesus’ appearance, the Jewish rabbis taught that personifications of “the Lamb” in the Old Testament were speaking of the coming Messiah. Take, for example,

Isaiah 53:7 (ESV)
[7] He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.

At the bottom of Part 4, I mentioned some reasons that many theologians mistakenly think that the Gospel of John conflicts with the synoptics, and thus proves that the Last Supper could not have been a Passover Seder. Part of their belief is that Jesus must have been crucified at the time of the Passover sacrifices because “He was the Passover Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world.” That, too, is a misreading of John.

Here is a list of some things that I think make it impossible for Jesus to have died on Nisan 14, at the same time as the sacrifices:

  • Most importantly, a proper understanding of the scriptures and the cultural traditions make the narrative of the four Gospels clear and consistent. The sacrifices were on Nisan 14, the Crucifixion on Nisan 15.
  • In Exodus, the killing of the sacrifice was of little importance; what mattered is what happened in the home that night—the smearing of the blood on the doorposts and the sharing of the final meal in slavery. Followed, of course by the passing over by the angel of death. In the commemoration, the sacrifice was governed by ritual, but it was still not a holiday occurrence—the meal was now the essential feature and made more-so by Jesus. During that one, all-important twilight, at the Passover Seder, Jesus proclaimed for all time the New Covenant in His body and blood!
  • If Jesus had died alongside the Passover sacrifices, His death would have been forever connected with that one sacrifice alone. In fact, His death represented every other sacrifice as well!

The key take-home from this lesson is that, while Jesus was certainly the ultimate Passover Lamb, it was not as the Passover Lamb that He saved us! Passover lambs were never sin offerings. A sin offering became a symbolic receptacle for the sins of the people, and could not be eaten, because one would be symbolically re-ingesting the same sins. The Passover lambs were a type of fellowship offering, a remembrance of redemption from slavery, and a celebratory meal between family and/or friends. It not only could be eaten, but it must be eaten.

So, where did salvation truly lie? In Jesus, the Scapegoat of Yom Kippur!
Stay tuned for a future instalment.

Table of Contents: The Jewish Feasts
Start of Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 1, Chapter Introduction
Previous in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 5, Passover
Next in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 7, Unleavened Bread

The Jewish Feasts: Part 5, Passover

Leviticus 23:5 
Passover (Pesach) 
[5] '"In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the 
month, between sundown and complete darkness, 
comes Pesach* for ADONAI*.

Passover—as commanded in Lev 23—is the only major Jewish feast that lasts less than a day. It spans, in fact, only the relatively short amount of time “between sundown and complete darkness“. Ring a bell? This is the period between Jewish days, as explained in Part 2 of this series. The annual Passover dinner, the Seder, begins during this time span, but ends around midnight. The passage below, from Exodus, describes the original Passover, in Egypt, and the preparation days in advance of it.

Exodus 12:1 (CJB)
Chapter 12
[12:1] ADONAI* spoke to Moshe* and Aharon* in the land of Egypt; he said, [2] “You are to begin your calendar with this month; it will be the first month of the year for you. [3] Speak to all the assembly of Isra’el* and say, ‘On the tenth day of this month, each man is to take a lamb or kid for his family, one per household—[4] except that if the household is too small for a whole lamb or kid, then he and his next-door neighbor should share one, dividing it in proportion to the number of people eating it. [5] Your animal must be without defect, a male in its first year, and you may choose it from either the sheep or the goats.
[6] “‘You are to keep it until the fourteenth day of the month, and then the entire assembly of the community of Isra’el* will slaughter it at dusk. [7] They are to take some of the blood and smear it on the two sides and top of the door-frame at the entrance of the house in which they eat it. [8] That night, they are to eat the meat, roasted in the fire; they are to eat it with matzah* and maror*. [9] Don’t eat it raw or boiled, but roasted in the fire, with its head, the lower parts of its legs and its inner organs. [10] Let nothing of it remain till morning; if any of it does remain, burn it up completely.
[11] “‘Here is how you are to eat it: with your belt fastened, your shoes on your feet and your staff in your hand; and you are to eat it hurriedly. It is ADONAI‘s* Pesach* [Passover]. [12] For that night, I will pass through the land of Egypt and kill all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both men and animals; and I will execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt; I am ADONAI*. [13] The blood will serve you as a sign marking the houses where you are; when I see the blood, I will pass over [Hebrew: pasach*] you—when I strike the land of Egypt, the death blow will not strike you.
[14] “‘This will be a day for you to remember and celebrate as a festival to ADONAI*; from generation to generation you are to celebrate it by a perpetual regulation.

The passage above was the command given by God to the Israelite slaves after Pharaoh refused to let them leave following the ninth plague on Egypt. The Israelites obeyed, the Egyptians scoffed, and that night (Nisan 15) at midnight, God killed the firstborn children and livestock of any family in the land that did not have the blood smeared on their doorposts. The next morning, Pharaoh let the Israelites leave, they crossed the Red Sea, and began their trek to the Promised Land.

Some 50 days after the exodus from Egypt, Moses halted the Israelites at Mt. Sinai, where God delivered the Torah (the “teachings”, commonly called “the Law”) to them. Leviticus 23 is part of that Torah, and the Spring Feasts are annual commemorations of the Exodus.

The celebrations in following years and centuries are somewhat of a reenactment. They have always differed from the original events, and in years with no Tabernacle or Temple, they are in some ways quite different—but there are noted similarities.

Verse 2 defines Nisan as the starting month for the religious, or ecclesiastical, not the civil, calendar. Nisan is a borrowed Akkadian name; in Moses’ day it was called Aviv.

Verses 3 through 5 were followed as long as there was a Temple. The purpose of the time span between selection and sacrifice was twofold. First, to allow time for inspection and observation of the animal, to ensure that it met the standards of verse 5. Second, in so doing it would allow the owners to become emotionally invested in the animal; it isn’t an offering, it’s a sacrifice—with a cost. Unlike other sacrifices where a pigeon or grain product could be substituted by a poor family, in this case it had to be a lamb or kid, but the expense could be divided between families.

In Egypt, animals were sacrificed at individual homes, without priestly supervision, during the dusk period. In Temple times, all sacrifices had to be done in the Temple, and because there were so many they were done before dusk and the actual Feast days. In Egypt, the blood was smeared around the doors, but in Tabernacle and Temple, it was splashed on the altar base. In Egypt and later years, the animal was roasted (no other method of cooking was permitted), then eaten that night, with unleavened bread (Heb. matzah, symbolizing sinlessness) and bitter herbs (Heb. maror, symbolizing the bitterness of slavery).

In the absence of a Temple, there are of course no sacrifices. Different Jewish sects modify the traditions in ways they judge are appropriate. The Seder generally includes some sort of roast meat, and there are generally shank bones from a lamb on each plate.

The table ritual of verse 11 was specified in Egypt, but not thereafter. Traditionally the Passover meal, or Seder, begins at sundown and the ritual portions are finished by complete darkness; then the remainder of the time until midnight is spent in table fellowship. In Egypt, the entire animal was spitted and roasted; in later ritual, the animal was butchered in advance, and only edible meats were roasted. In both Egypt and later tradition, none of the meat could be left for morning; if it was, it had to be burned.

Verses 11 – 13 only applied in Egypt, of course. At midnight, in tradition, guests break from the table and stream out to the streets and rooftops to sing the hallel (“praise” songs, Psalm 113 – 118) together—an entire city in choir!

More on this next time, but the Passover was not a sin offering, and you had to already be ritually sinless to partake in it. The theme of the Feast is Redemption from slavery, not salvation or regeneration. Though there were rigid requirements for the animal being sacrificed, it was the meat that was ultimately important, not the actual act of sacrifice. To clarify this important point, I plan to dedicate the entire next article to the actual meaning we should attach to Passover, in terms of Christian soteriology, or salvation theology.

©Ron Thompson 2020: Passover Plate and Coasters

Table of Contents: The Jewish Feasts
Start of Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 1, Chapter Introduction
Previous in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 4, Spring Feasts
Next in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 6, Lamb of God

The Jewish Feasts: Part 4, Spring Feasts

©Ron Thompson 2020

Technically, there are three Feasts in the spring month of Nisan, as bracketed in the slide above; but because they are contiguous (even overlapping) and so closely related, it became traditional practice to lump them together as a single Feast, which was called Passover (Heb. Pesach). I will present details of each component Feast in future editions, but for now I want to provide, in narrative form, a description of the events that preceded a typical Passover week, with notes about Jesus’ last Passover.

Since all bar mitzvah (Son of Commandment) Jewish males, age 13 and over, were required to be in Jerusalem for this Feast, nearby roads, bridges, wells and mikvoth (ritual baths, baptistries) were repaired well in advance and the city cleaned up for hordes of out-of-town visitors. Groups of roughly 7 to 12 people (usually families) would share one lamb or kid, sized so that no meat would be left over after the upcoming Seder. Selection of the animals had to be done no later than Nisan 10, so that was effectively the date that at least one representative from each group had to arrive. Jesus arrived that day on a donkey, with Peter and John who appear to have shared the preparation duty.

Though the Passover Week would not start until the Seder meal during the dusk between Nisan 14 and 15, the sacrifices had to be completed during the day on Nisan 14. This day was also called “the first day of unleavened bread”, because all leaven had to be consumed, sold to Gentiles or destroyed before the Seder and the following week-long Feast of Unleavened Bread.

There were usually at least a million people in Jerusalem for Passover, so around a hundred thousand animals had to be sacrificed in a single day! All 12 courses (rotations) of priests and as many Levites as possible would be on duty. Typically, one or two worshippers with each animal would gather around the Temple Mount and on top, in the outer courts and the Court of Prayer (also known as the Court of Women, or the Treasury). As quickly as possible, these worshippers would be led in groups through the Nicanor Gate separating the Court of Prayer from the Court of Israel. Two lines of priests would be stationed in the slaying area on the north side of the altar, each priest holding a gold or silver bowl as shown below.

Property of the Temple Institute, Jerusalem

The function of the worshiper in this ceremony was to bring the animal and the slaying knife, to kneel in front of one of the priests, and to tenderly hold the animal as a way of identifying with it, emotionally and spiritually. The worshipper, not the priest, would then slit its throat quickly and humanely. The blood would be drained into the priest’s bowl and passed down the line of priests to be splashed at the base of the altar, near a drain that would channel much of it down into the Kidron valley, below. After finishing with the slaying, worshippers would carry their animals to an adjacent area where they would hang it from one of several posts provided for the purpose and quickly cut out portions of meat dedicated to the temple personnel, and parts forbidden for consumption. The forbidden parts would be carried by priests up a ramp onto the altar and tossed into a fire. The worshippers would skin the rest of the offering and cut it up for cooking. The meat would be wrapped in the skins and taken back into the city to be roasted on a spit in ovens constructed for that purpose.

The reason I spent so much energy describing the above process is that it can’t be understood from the Bible alone, and probably 98% of what you read on the Internet is flawed. Many Christians say that there had to have been two Seders, or the Last Supper must have been some other meal. There are three main reasons for this confusion:

  1. First, many believe that Jesus was crucified “on Passover”, at the same time the lamb (singular) was sacrificed. For historical and theological reasons that I will go into in future days, the Crucifixion absolutely could not have been on Passover, and it could not have been on the same day as the sacrifices (plural). Jesus was crucified during traditional Passover week, but not until after the Biblical Passover Feast, the one and only Seder. There were not two Seders.
  2. There is also confusion about terminology–the Preparation Day was on the first day of unleavened bread, but that is the day before the first day of The Feast of Unleavened Bread.
  3. Also, in John 18:28, when the Pharisees refused to go into Pilate’s headquarters with Jesus in the morning lest they be defiled and unable to “eat the Passover” (ESV), the meal they were concerned about could not have been the Seder, because defilement from entering a Gentile home only lasted until sundown! Instead, it had to refer to the important chagigah meal at noon following the Seder. More on all these issues later.

Table of Contents: The Jewish Feasts
Start of Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 1, Chapter Introduction
Previous in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 3, An Overview
Next in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 5, Passover

The Jewish Feasts: Part 3, An Overview

The Jewish calendar year is divided into 12 lunar months, each beginning on a new moon. In seven out of every 13 years, an additional lunar month is added to keep the seasons in their proper time frames; think of these extra months as “leap months”. For most of its history, Israel has actually used two separate calendars that differ only in their starting months. The civil calendar starts in the month of Tishri, and it is this calendar that you will see used most often today. The religious calendar begins seven months later, in the month of Nisan. The Bible primarily uses the religious calendar, and in particular, “the first month of the year”, Nisan, is the proper time for the Spring Feasts, and “the seventh month of the year”, Tishri, is the time for the Fall Feasts. What about the Gregorian calendar, used by most of the world in modern times? Well, of course modern Israel uses that, too, but only for international dealings.

In addition to Shabbat, we will be looking at seven Major Feasts spread over three Festival Seasons:

  1. The Spring Feasts take place in Nisan, the first month of the religious calendar. There are three feasts in quick succession, related, for our purposes, to Israel’s past and to Jesus’ first advent.
  2. The Interval Feast is in Sivan, the third month of the religious calendar. There is one feast, relating to the present age and the time between Jesus’ advents.
  3. The Fall Feasts take place in Tishri, the seventh month of the religious calendar. Three feasts that relate to Israel’s future and to Jesus’ second advent.

As we progress through the Feasts, I’ll show that each has both historical and prophetic significance, and that, in particular, each speaks volumes about the Messiah, Jesus. Additionally, there are agricultural aspects to each feast, but those have more significance to Israel’s history than to us. Finally, the rituals of the feasts hold a lot of significance with respect to a believer’s walk, but my emphasis here is more theological, and not on the ritual, so that will be a bit out of our scope.

Given the fact that I’m limiting my scope, both to increase the probability that I can accomplish what I’ve set out to do, and to avoid boring anyone by actually trying to cover all 69 slides that I started out with… I’ve just presented you with a comprehensive list of study topics related to the feasts, but I’m going to leave gaps going forward, and I encourage you to study some on your own.

©Ron Thompson 2020

This is a slide you will see over and over, with various parts emphasized. Please look it over now, and yes, before you ask, I am going to claim that the events listed in the final column are not only pictured by the related Feast, but took place, or will take place, on the actual Feast days.

Next time, I will delve into the Spring Feasts.

Table of Contents: The Jewish Feasts
Start of Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 1, Chapter Introduction
Previous in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 2, On Sabbaths and Days
Next in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 4, Spring Feasts

The Jewish Feasts: Part 2, On Sabbaths and Days

Before proceeding to discussions of the seven annual Principal Feasts in the remainder of Lev 23, verse 3 emphasizes, by its placement in the chapter, the equal or greater importance of the regular, weekly, Saturday Sabbath. As we will see, there are Sabbath days embedded within some of the Feasts. These days are in addition to the weekly Sabbaths. If a Feast Day Sabbath falls on a Saturday, the rituals for the two, already fairly similar, are combined into one.

In the Bible, the term “Sabbath” (Heb. Shabbat, Shabbos, or Shabbes) means “rest“, or “ease“. A Sabbath Day, therefore, is a “day of rest or ease.” As a child, I was taught that “Sabbath” means “seventh.” That is a myth! Sabbath and its Hebrew equivalents aren’t even close to meaning seventh; nevertheless, the weekly Sabbath is always on Saturday. The concept of a “Christian Sabbath” on Sunday has no Biblical support and is merely a product of the heretical theology that claims that Israel permanently forfeited God’s Promises and was subsequently replaced in God’s Kingdom by the Church.

The Jewish Change of Day: 
The Twilight 
Daylight 
Any Jewish calendar day 
Sundown: The 
trailing edge of the 
sun dips below the 
horizon 
Twilight 
Belongs 
to both 
da s 
Night 
The next Jewish calendar day 
Nightfall: Three 
medium-magnitude 
stars first visible in 
the sky
©Ron Thompson 2020

This is a good time to introduce the Jewish concept of “days“, which we’ll need to understand going forward. Most Christians understand that the Jewish day starts and ends somewhere around the evening hours. It is actually much more complicated than that, and I have tried to illustrate it in the above slide.

Every Jewish day officially ends at sundown, which is defined by ancient Jewish law as the instant that a priest standing on the Temple ramparts signals that the last sliver of the sun has dipped below the western horizon. If for weather or other reasons (like, there is no Temple!) that instant could not be observed, then estimation was allowed. In present days, it’s all determined by computer, with latitude, longitude and altitude all taken into account.

Here is where it starts to get strange! It turns out that the next day doesn’t start when the previous day ends. It doesn’t start until nightfall, officially the instant at which a priest, standing in the same location, can first distinguish three “medium-magnitude” stars in the sky. Try doing that in a modern, brightly lit city sky! As to how one defines a star’s magnitude, that’s obviously very subjective. But again… computers to the rescue.

So, what do we do with the twilight period between sundown and nightfall? Technically, it belongs to both days–or to neither of them. Let me give an example: Right now, as I sit here at the keyboard, it is not quite 5 pm on a Friday evening where I am. Today, where I am (based on my latitude, longitude and height above standard sea level), will formally end at Sunset (Shkia), 6:54 pm local time. The twilight, or dusk, period (Tzait Hakochavim) will last 72 minutes, and end at 8:06 pm.

Tomorrow is Shabbat. Anything that is illegal for a Jew to do on Shabbat, must be completed by 6:54 pm today, at the absolute latest. Tomorrow, dusk ends at 8:05 pm. Anything illegal for a Shabbat must not begin until that time or later. Thus, the twilight time acts as a safety factor to make sure one does not violate Shabbat! This is part of what we call “building walls around Torah.” We will run across this twilight thing again…

Table of Contents: The Jewish Feasts
Start of Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 1, Chapter Introduction
Next in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 3, An Overview

The Jewish Feasts: Part 1, Chapter Introduction

The Jewish Principal 
Feasts 
Leviticus 23

Leviticus 23 provides a convenient outline for a discussion of the eight principal Feasts of Israel, including the weekly Sabbath observance.

The first two verses of the chapter set the theme for the rest, and perhaps require some explanation for non-Jewish readers:

Leviticus 23:1-2 
Chapter Theme 
[23:1] ADONAI* said to Moshe* , [2] "Tell the people 
of Isra'el*: 'The designated times of ADONAI* which 
you are to proclaim as holy convocations are my 
designated times. 
All passages quoted from The Complete Jewish Bible, 
ODavid H. Stern. 
* Indicates transliterated Hebrew names and terms

In most English translations of the Bible, we see “lord”, in lower or mixed case, used to indicate a functional title for a ruler, and “LORD”, spelled in all-caps, as a reverent substitution for the “Covenant Name”, or “Divine Name” יהוה, yud-heh-vav-heh, YHVH, Yahweh, Jehovah, etc. “Adonai” and “ADONAI” are equivalent Hebrew substitutions for “the lord” and “the LORD”, respectively.

“Moshe” is an English transliteration of the Hebrew name that has come to our standard English versions in its Anglo-Saxon rendering as “Moses”. In this and future slides, transliterations are indicated by a following asterisk.

One other term on this slide requires explanation: A “convocation” (Heb., miqra) is “a sacred assembly, calling, or reading.” Though translations of the term in Lev. 23:1 appear at first glance to refer to the feasts themselves, the context of the remaining verses in the chapter clearly indicate that the “convocations” are here the associated Sabbaths, or days when ordinary work is not permitted.

Table of Contents: The Jewish Feasts
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