OLD TESTAMENT SACRED OCCASIONS
A. Ralph Johnson
I. THE WEEKLY SABBATH (Saturday—the seventh day of the week)
The Sabbath was given in remembrance of God’s rest at the end of the six days of creation (Ex. 20:8-11), and the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt (Deut. 5:12-15). It also foreshadows the future time when all of God’s people will rest with Him (Heb. 4:1-11). The first recorded observance was in the wilderness on the way to Mount Sinai (Ex. 16:21-30). It was observed by refraining from labor and by assembling for religious worship (Lev. 23:3). Sacrifices and offerings were made (Num. 28:9-10). They were prohibited from building a fire, boiling, baking or even picking up sticks (Ex. 16:23-26; 35:2-3; Num. 15:32-35). Those who broke the Sabbath laws were to be stoned to death (Ex. 31:14-15). It was to be observed from sunset to sunset. (Gen. 1:3-5, 31; cf. Lev. 23:32). On the Sabbath the priests ate the shewbread in the Tabernacle (Lev. 24:5-9).
II. NEW MOONS (Beginning of month –Num. 10:10; 28:11-15; 1Chron. 23:31; 2Chron 2:4; Col. 2:16)
III. YEARLY FEASTS (Ex. 23:14-17; Deut. 16:16)
A. Three Initial Major Feasts
1. THE PASSOVER, "Feast of Unleavened Bread" (Ex. 12:1-40; 13:3-10; Lev. 23:4-8; Num. 28:16-25; Deut. 16: 1-8).
Passover took place on the 14th day (Lev. 23:4) of the first month –Nisan (about April). A yearling male lamb or kid was killed at evening and the blood placed on the lintel and doorposts. It was roasted with the head, legs and inwards and eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. It was eaten in haste with loins girded, shoes on and staff in hand. No uncircumcised person was to eat. Anything remaining until morning was burned. In later years it was eaten in a special place (Deut. 12:18-21).
It commemorated the passing of the death angel over Egypt and foreshadowed the death of Christ (1Cor. 5:7).
The Feast of Unleavened Bread was on the 15th of Nisan, (Lev. 23:6), the next day after the Passover. From the day of the Passover (14th day) for seven days (21st. day at evening), they were to eat no leavened bread. The seventh day was another assembly.
2. FEAST OF PENTECOST, “Feast of Weeks” (Lev. 23:15-21; Num. 28:26-31; Deut. 16:9-12).
Pentecost means, “Fiftieth” and was so called because it was counted from the Sabbath after the Passover seven Sabbaths (49 days). The first day after the seventh Sabbath was the day of Pentecost. On this day (about June) all of the males gathered and, with the sacrifices, offered two loaves as first-fruits of the wheat harvest.
3. FEAST OF TABERNACLES (Lev. 23:23-44; Deut. 16:13-15).
This feast began on the first day of the seventh month (October) with an assembly before the Lord and blowing of trumpets. On the tenth day was the Day of Atonement. Offerings were made and they rested and fasted. On the fifteenth day the seven days began in which they dwelt in booths in remembrance of their wanderings in the wilderness.
B. Two Lesser Feasts (instituted later)
3. FEAST OF PURIM (“Lots”)
Purim was established in remembrance of the deliverance of the Jews through Esther (Esther 3:7; 9:24-32). It is celebrated on 14th and 15th of the 12th month (Adar, around February or March).
4. FEAST OF DEDICATION (“Hanukah”)
The Feast of Dedication (“Feast of Lights”), in December, was in remembrance of reconsecration of the temple which had been desecrated by Antiochus Epiphanes (1Mac. 4:52-59; Jn. 10:22; Dan. 8:9-14, 23-25; Dan. 11:28-45).
IV. SABBATICAL YEAR (Ex. 23:10-11; Lev. 25:1-7; Deut. 15:1-18)
Every seventh year the land was to rest and payment of debts were terminated. What grew naturally could be eaten but there was to be no planting and harvesting. Failure to keep these “sabbaths” of the land was accounted for in their 70 years captivity (Lev. 26:34-35; 2Chron 36:21)
V. YEAR OF JUBILEE (Lev. 25:8-55)
After seven Sabbaths of years (49 years), on the Day of Atonement (October) the sounding of the ram’s horns announced the beginning of the Jubilee which extended through the 50th year. Servants were to be set free, property was to be returned to its original owners, and there was to be no harvest, although they could eat from whatever grew naturally.