Chapter 23


The Appointed Religious Feasts

    • The Lord told Moses to give the Israelites the following instructions about His appointed festivals which they were to observe:

      • You have six days a week for your regular work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of complete rest, a holy convocation. You are not to do any work on this day and you should observe it wherever you live.”

        • Guzik notes, “This chapter introduces us to the seven annual feasts Israel celebrated. These feasts are rich with symbolic and prophetic significance…The Sabbath was not properly a feast, but like the feast days, it was a day set apart unto the Lord, and so a reminder regarding the Sabbath is here.”

      • Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum has an enlightening article, “The Feasts of Israel,” which will really take your understanding of these feasts to the next level. I highly recommend it since clarity on this topic has very interesting prophetic implications. I’ll include a few of his quotes about each feast.

        • In addition to the Sabbath, the following feasts are to be observed by sacred assembly at their appointed time each year.”

Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread

          • The Lord’s Passover begins at sundown on the 14th day of the 1st month. The Festival of Unleavened Bread begins the next day (the 15th). For 7 days you must eat only unleavened bread. On the first and last day of the festival, the people are not to do any work and they are to hold a sacred assembly. Every day for 7 days, you must present a fire offering to the Lord.”

          • Guzik writes, “On the Jewish ceremonial calendar, the first month was known as Nisan; Passover was held on the fourteenth of Nisan each year. The feast of unleavened bread was a week-long celebration the week immediately following Passover (from Nisan 15 to Nisan 21).”

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “This day in the ancient Hebrew lunar calendar occurred in late March, April, or early May.”

        • The Hebrew name for this feast is “pesach.” On Passover Dr. Fruchtenbaum writes, “There were two key elements in the biblical practice of Passover: first the killing of the lamb; secondly, the eating of the lamb. […] Within the framework of the Old Testament, the messianic significance is found in Isaiah 52:13-53:12. The coming Messiah is pictured in terms of a lamb in that statements made of the Servant of Jehovah in Isaiah 53 are similar to statements used of the paschal lamb. In this passage, Isaiah teaches that the Messiah would be the final Passover lamb. […] Yeshua clearly identified Himself in terms of the Jewish observance of the Passover, therefore, the Passover is fulfilled by the death of the Messiah.”

        • On the Feast of Unleavened Bread Fruchtenbaum writes, “…Ezekiel 45:21-24 prophesies that it (the Feast of Unleavened Bread) will be observed during the Messianic Kingdom (the 1,000 year Millennium in which Christ reigns). Not all of the festivals will be observed during the Messianic Kingdom, but this one will. […] The Feast of Unleavened Bread is fulfilled by the offering of the sinless blood of the Messiah. This is the point that the writer of Hebrews makes quite extensively in Hebrews 9:11-10:18. While the Passover was fulfilled by the actual death of Yeshua, the the Feast of Unleavened Bread was fulfilled by the offering of His sinless blood.”

Feast of the Firstfruits

          • When you get to the land that I’m giving you and you reap your first harvest, bring the priest a bundle of grain from the first cutting. The day after the Sabbath, the priest will lift it up (wave it) before the Lord so He will accept it. On the same day, you must sacrifice an unblemished year old male lamb as a burnt offering to the Lord along with a grain offering of 4 quarts of flour mixed with olive oil and a quart of wine. Don’t eat any bread, grain, or kernels until you have brought this offering. This law is permanent and must be kept throughout your generations, regardless of where you are located.”

          • The day after the Sabbath is Sunday. Harris notes, “The firstfruits at Passover would be barley, which ripens in the warmer areas as early as March.”

        • Dr. Fruchtenbaum writes, “Since AD 70, this feast was largely ignored because it is a feast of agriculture. Jews of the Diaspora were not allowed to own land because of Gentile law, therefore, they could not farm the land and the feast could not be practiced for most of the centuries since AD 70. […] Insofar as the messianic significance is concerned, the Feast of Firstfruits was fulfilled by the Resurrection of Yeshua. This is what Paul brings out in 1 Corinthians 15:20-23. […] The firstfruits always means ‘the first of more to come later.’ Indeed, someday believers will be the ‘more to come later.’”

Feast of Pentecost (or Feast of Weeks)

        • Beginning with the day you brought your first bundle of grain to the priest for the Feast of Firstfruits (the day after the Sabbath) count 7 full weeks, or 50 days (the day after the 7th Sabbath) and present an offering of new grain to the Lord. Bring two loaves of bread made with choice flour and yeast as an offering to the Lord from your first crops. With the bread, you must also present seven unblemished, year old, male lambs, one bull, and two rams as burnt offerings to the Lord. You must also offer one male goat as a sin offering and two one year old male lambs as a peace offering. The priest will lift up (wave) the two lambs and the bread as special offerings to the Lord and these offerings will belong to the priests. On this day, you must not do any ordinary work and you must also hold a sacred assembly. This is a permanent law and you must keep it throughout your generations no matter where you live. When you harvest your crops, leave the grain at the edges of your fields and don’t pick up what the harvesters drop. These are to be left for the poor people living among you. I am the Lord your God.”

        • Fruchtenbaum notes, “…the date of this feast was…seven weeks plus one day after the second day of Passover. […] This was the only festival where leaven was permitted to be added to the sacrifice. Leaven is a symbol of sin, and those who are represented by this sacrifice are sinners.”

        • Fruchtenbaum further notes 3 elements of messianic significance:

              1. The Feast of Weeks is specifically fulfilled by the birth of the church (Acts 2:1-4). […] It was on this occasion that the Holy Spirit began a new ministry. […] The first time the Holy Spirit began to do His work of baptism was in Acts 2. It is a unique ministry that concerns the Church and the Church alone.”

              2. The two loaves “represent two types of people in the Church: Jews and Gentiles, united into one body (Ephesians 2:11-16; 3:5-6). Furthermore, these loaves were to be leavened. Since leaven is a symbol of sin, this means that Jewish and Gentile sinners are brought into the Church, the body of the Messiah.”

              3. …the Feast of Weeks is also called the ‘Day of Firstfruits” because it marked the firstfruits of the summer harvest. The application is that the firstfruits were Jewish believers. […] The Feast of Weeks is fulfilled by the birthday of the Church that is constituted of Jewish and Gentile believers into one body. The firstfruits aspect is fulfilled by virtue of the fact that Jewish believers were the first ones in this Body during the first century.”

      • Fruchtenbaum then notes the significance of the 4 month interval between the first four feasts and the last three feasts which is mentioned briefly in Leviticus 23:22 (the command to leave grain for the poor when reaping their harvest). “During the pause between the two sets of festivals, life is to continue along normal lines. This interval is pictured as a summertime of labor in the fields in preparation for the final harvest of the summer and before the fall harvest. […] Unless one understands what is really happening, it almost seems like an unnecessary interruption. […] The messianic implication is the insertion of the Church Age, interrupting the program of the feasts of Israel. Indeed, the ‘gleaning for the poor and the stranger’ is a very good picture of the mission of the Church itself in gospel evangelism. […] Leviticus 23:22, being a parenthetical verse interrupting the discussion of the feasts of Israel, is significant in that it symbolizes the present age in which we all live and in which the program of the feasts of Israel has been temporarily interrupted.”

Feast of Trumpets

      • On the first day of the 7th month you are to observe a day of complete rest, commemorated by a holy assembly and the blowing of trumpets. No one is to do any work and you must present a fire offering to the Lord.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “The Israelite calendar was divided into two half-years. The first half-year began with the first month, Nisan (Babylonian name) or Abib (the more ancient agricultural name). The second half-year began with the seventh month (Tishri in the modern Jewish calendar)…This day in the ancient Hebrew lunar calendar occurred in September or October. This festival is celebrated today as Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year.”

        • Fruchtenbaum discusses some very interesting Jewish legends concerning this day in his article that I linked above, but here I will simply touch on the messianic significance of this day which are two fold.

              1. The regathering of Israel is signaled by the blowing of a trumpet in Isaiah 27:13. One significance of the Feast of Trumpets is that Israel will become a state before the Great Tribulation itself.”

              2. The Rapture of the Church will be the ultimate fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets.”

            • For many, the timing of the end of days events is a touchy subject. Since many of the passages that discuss end times events are symbolic in nature, there are a wide variety of end times interpretations and it is a subject I prefer not to be dogmatic about. However, since we are discussing the prophetic link of the Israelite feasts to end times events, I have chosen to include Fruchtenbaum’s interpretation. He recognizes that some individuals believe that the Church will go through the Tribulation. If you’re interested in Fruchtenbaum’s case for a pre-tribulation rapture you can check out his article at the link above. Some may get hung up on the term “Rapture” which does not appear in Scripture. While this subject is outside of the scope of this chapter, I will note that Fruchtenbaum views the Rapture as occurring at Christ’s 2nd coming, just after the resurrection of the believing dead. Therefore, he does not interpret the Rapture as an arbitrary or random event as some denominations believe, but rather an element of Christ’s 2nd coming. Ultimately, how an individual interprets end times prophecy depends on their view of the identity of Israel and the Church. Those who believe that the Church has replaced Israel (either totally or partially), will see the New Testament passages that refer to Israel as referring to the Church. Therefore, these individuals may view the Church as being present during the Tribulation. However, those who reject the interpretation that the Church has supplanted Israel, will likely arrive at opposing conclusions.

The Day of Atonement

      • On the tenth day of the 7th month you are to observe the Day of Atonement by holding a sacred assembly, practicing self-denial, and presenting a fire offering to the Lord. No one will engage in ordinary work- this is a day to make atonement for yourselves (make yourselves right) with the Lord. Anyone who doesn’t practice self-denial must be cut off from the community and I will destroy anyone who does any work on this day. This day is a Sabbath and must be observed beginning at sundown on the 9th day and ending at sundown on the 10th day. This day is to be observed throughout your generations wherever you may live.”

        • Jews today call the Day of Atonement “Yom Kippur.”

        • Fruchtenbaum notes, “The Day of Atonement is, of course, fulfilled with the Messiah. This concept is taught in the Old Testament in Isaiah 52:13-53:12. Here the Messiah is pictured as the final Day of Atonement sacrifice which contains the concept of substitution and the concept of atonement. […] The key element in the Day of Atonement is the element of affliction. In the biblical practice, it was the affliction of the soul. In the Jewish practice, it is the affliction of the body. The Day of Atonement is to be fulfilled by the Great Tribulation where both types of affliction will be present. […] The Feast of Trumpets is to be fulfilled by the Rapture of the Church, and the Day of Atonement is to be fulfilled by the Tribulation. Just as Feast of Trumpets precedes the Day of Atonement, by the same token, the Rapture will precede the Tribulation.”

The Feast of Tabernacles (Feast of Booths)

      • Beginning on the 15th day of the 7th month (after your harvests are complete) you are to observe the Feast of Tabernacles which lasts 7 days. On the first day a sacred assembly is to be held, no daily work is to be done, and you are to gather branches from majestic trees (such as palm fronds, boughs from leafy trees, and willow boughs). For seven days all native born Israelites are to live in small outdoor shelters and celebrate joyfully in remembrance of how their ancestors lived when I rescued them from Egypt. Each day a fire offering is to be presented to the Lord. On the 8th day another sacred assembly is to be held, a fire offering is to be presented and no work is to be done on that day either. This is a permanent law that is to be observed at the appointed time throughout your generations.”

        • Fruchtenbaum writes, “…Numbers 29:12-34 spells out the sacrifices for each day of the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles. All together, a total of 70 bulls are offered during this period. According to Judaism, these seventy bulls represent the seventy Gentile nations of Genesis 10. What is significant about this is that Judaism has connected this feast with the Gentiles, something that is not true of the other festivals.”

        • Fruchtenbaum continues, “Ultimately, the Feast of Tabernacles is to be fulfilled by the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom according to Zechariah 14:16-19. […] Under Mosaic Law the Feast of Tabernacles was obligatory only for the Jewish people. Under the Kingdom law, the Feast of Tabernacles will be obligatory for all Gentile nations in the Messianic Kingdom. Once a year, every Gentile nation will be required to send a delegation to Jerusalem to observe this particular festival. Just as the Feast of Tabernacles was a time of rejoicing following the affliction of the Day of Atonement, even so the Messianic Kingdom will be a time of great rejoicing following the affliction of the Great Tribulation.”

      • David Guzik mirrors Fruchtenbaum’s Messianic applications of the feasts of Israel in his commentary on Leviticus 23, “Jesus was actually crucified on the Passover (John 19:14). His body would have been buried, and His holy and pure sacrifice acknowledged by God the Father during the Feast of Unleavened Bread following, and He would have risen from the dead on Firstfruits, the day after Passover’s Sabbath. Additionally, the church was founded on the actual day of Pentecost…For this reason, many speculate it would be consistent for God to gather His people to Himself at the rapture on the day of the feast of trumpets – on the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. This can certainly be regarded as a possibility.”

      • These are the Lord’s appointed feasts to be observed with sacred assemblies and presenting fire offerings, burnt offerings, grain offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings at their designated times. These feasts are to be observed in addition to the Lord’s Sabbaths, and the offerings that you give as gifts, to fulfill vows, and voluntary offerings to the Lord.”