The Three Great Feasts

By Bro. Vince Kluth
God told the Hebrews under Moses' covenant that for three times thou shalt keep a feast unto me in the year.  These festivals came with an interesting set of blessings and challenges.

God told the Hebrews under Moses' covenant that for three times thou shalt keep a feast unto me in the year.  These festivals came with an interesting set of blessings and challenges.  These events were the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which started with the Passover; the Feast of Weeks (or Harvest), which ended at Pentecost; and the Feast of Tabernacles (or Ingathering).  Three times in the year all thy [Jewish] males shall appear before the Lord God for a simultaneous celebration, and none shall appear before me empty, meaning they had to bring gift offerings.  Sometimes wives would accompany the men, as in the case of Hannah.  Providentially, they were timed to minimize impacts to their agrarian work schedule.  Passover occurred before harvest time, Pentecost was between the end of corn harvest and before the grape vintage, and Tabernacles at the conclusion of the season's harvest. [1]  It served to reinforce the memory of God's mercies, to thank the Lord for His ongoing providence, to maintain relationships with their brethren abroad, and to encourage joyfulness.


But how would the Jews be notified?  These feasts must be kept simultaneously across Judah and Israel, an area of approximately 82 miles by 355 miles, roughly the size of South Carolina. [2]  According to James Freeman, "The first appearance of the new moon was the starting point. To determine this the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem took the deposition of two impartial witnesses as to the time they had seen the new moon. A person with a bundle of brushwood or straw was sent to the top of Mount Olivet, where he kindled his torch and waved it back forth until he was answered by similar torches from the surrounding hills. Those who responded would then signal with their torches to others further out in the regions –who would then do the same thing– until the entire land was notified."


All these feasts pointed to a part of God's redemption (table, right). We no longer observe these, since God said Let no man therefore judge you ... in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.


Table 1:  God's Festivals of Redemption





OT and NT References

1a) Passover

1 day

God's miraculous salvation from slavery

Jesus' death on the cross

Ex 12:1-13,

1Cor 5:7,

Lk 22:15-22

1b) Unleavened Bread

7 days

Moral separation from the world; holiness, purity

Victory over sin in the believer's life

Ex 12:14-20; Deut 16:1-8; 1Cor 5:6-8

2) Weeks (Harvest) and Pentecost

1 day (= 50th day after 7 weeks)

Completion of God's provision, comforting men with food

Coming of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter who satisfies and feeds our souls

Deut 16:9-12; Lev 23:15-22; Acts 2:1-4

3) Tabernacles

7 days

Joyful reminder of God's blessings during their wilderness sojourn

Our eternal rejoicing in heaven after all souls have been harvested

Deut 16:13-15; Matt. 13:30;  John 7:2, 37-38; Rev. 14:14-16, 19:1-5



In table 1 above, several things stand out.  First, some events lasted a single day, while others were seven days.  Historically, Christ's death on the cross, and the arrival of the Holy Spirit, were both single-day fulfillment events.  Furthermore, the number seven appears to reflect a permanent state of change.  The child of God is purified once by Christ at the cross, to forever live a holy life separated to God and (one day) a perfectly sinless life.  Likewise, upon His coming in the last day, we'll look back and reflect on His goodness to us, both from the past and ever on into the future, as we live with Him forever in glory. 


God's festivals were designed to illustrate Jesus' work of redemption and salvation, and thus causing God's people to rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.  False religion and the bondage of a works gospel only serves to take your joy away.


[1] Observations from James M. Freeman, The New Manners and Customs of the Bible, Bridge Logos publishing, Alachua, FL, 1998, p.119

[2] Kingdom size from Rose Publishing's Then and Now Bible Maps, 1997, p.8.


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