AN EXPOSITION OF LEVITICUS 23:4-44
Seven Biblical Feasts of Jehovah
The First Feast
Feast of Passover
Required the Person’s Presence in Jerusalem
4 These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons.
The Seven Feasts, or Appointed Times of the Lord, speak of God’s great plan of redemption. For example, the Feast of Passover commemorated the deliverance of the children of Israel out of Egypt. The people were in bondage, and the Lord delivered them. That Divine deliverance is a type of Christ, who delivers Christians from the bondage of sin. The Passover lamb was a type of Jesus, the Lamb of God who would take away sin.
The Seven Feasts, or Appointed Times of the Lord, were also prophetic of the history of national Israel. Their history begins with the Feast of Passover, signifying redemption, and ends with the Feasts of Tabernacles, which anticipates the final gathering of God’s people who rest with the Messiah in the kingdom of God upon the new heaven and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness (Rev. 20:1-3).
5 In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’s Passover.
The first month is in the Jewish calendar A’bib (Heb. ‘abib, green ears), or NISAN. It consisted of thirty days. According to the English calendar, March-April. Someone has suggested that the Feasts of Jehovah are like the clock in London called Big Ben. The Feasts of Jehovah reminded the Israelites of their God who wanted to fellowship with them at appointed times. The first appointed time of fellowship was to occur at even, or twilight, in the month of Nisan which marked the beginning of the year for Israel (Ex. 12:1).
It is instructive to note that the gathering was to take place at twilight, which reflects the time the Lord met with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. “And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. 9 And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?” (Gen. 3:8-9).
So the Passover was held in the month of Nisan, the beginning of the year commemorating the Passover which speaks of redemption. Redemption is the beginning of life for all of God’s people through the Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 5 explains. “For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.”
The apostle identifies the Passover lamb with its ultimate fulfillment in our Lord Christ Jesus. Jesus is a sacrifice for sin. He is a personal sacrifice, for Jesus is a sacrifice “for us.” Jesus is a penal atonement for sinners. He is a substitute for those who are the heirs of redemption. The people of God rest on the atoning sacrifice of the Messiah.
The Second Feast
Feast of Unleavened Bread
6 And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread.
The Hebrew word for feast, “hag”, only occurs in reference to three of the seven feasts. The word is used for the Passover (Ex. 12:14), the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the Feast of Tabernacles. The common word used in Leviticus 23 is the word “moed,” which means “appointed times.”
Unleavened refers to something made from unfermented dough (Lev. 2:4, 5; Num. 6:19). The Feast of Unleavened Bread began the day after the Passover, and lasted for seven days. On each of the seven days, just after the morning sacrifice, another sacrifice was offered and only unleavened bread was eaten (Ex. 13:7; 34:18).
The first and seventh days of this feast were celebrated by not performing any work. On the other days in this period work was permitted, unless there was a Sabbath, at which time the laws regulating the Sabbath were honored. The Feast of Unleavened Bread was an agricultural festival in which grain was offered as a first fruit offering to the Lord. The remainder of the crop was used by the owner.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread itself was to be celebrated immediately after Passover, for the Feast of Unleavened Bread speaks of sanctification. No leavened bread was to be eaten. Leaven is a type of sin in Scripture. Typically, to forsake leaven is to forsake sin. Every believer is to seek sanctification in Christ, not in legalistic self-efforts, which so many do.
As the believer is saved by grace through faith alone, so the believer is sanctified by yielding to the Spirit. “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). By walking in the Spirit, by daily keeping the Feast of Unleavened Bread, as Paul commanded in 1 Corinthians 5:8, the believer enjoys fellowship with the Lord, and is made holy. Jesus suffered once and for all (1 Cor. 5:7), but the keeping of the Feast is to be continual.
While the Feast of the Passover speaks of atonement, the Feast of Unleavened Bread speaks of sanctification and fellowship with the Lord on a daily basis. The Christian needs redemption, and holiness, without which, no one shall see God.
Seven days reflect a completed circle of time. The spiritual point is established. Each day the believer must have fellowship with the Lord. The week is typically designed to represent the whole of life. All of life is to be lived with the Lord in holiness. “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor. 5:7-8).
When Paul said to the Corinthians, “ye are unleavened,” he was referring to their position in Christ. So the exhortation is for the believer to live out practically, what they are positionally in Christ.
7 In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.
Servile work refers to laborious work. Necessary work, such as preparing food, was not forbidden on this day, but normal business was not permitted.
8 But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.
The Third Feast
Feast of Firstfruits
9 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
10 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest:
11 And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.
The waving of the sheath was to take place in the month of Nisan. Passover was on the 14th of Nisan. The Feast of Unleavened Bread was the next day on the 15th of Nisan. Then came the Sabbath, the 16th day of Nisan. On the morrow or day after the Sabbath, on the 17th day of Nisan, on the first day of the week, the sheaf of the firstfruits was to be waived by the priest. This was the beginning of the barley harvest.
The waving of the first sheaf had symbolic significance. First, it was a sign of an earnest or down payment. The waving of the sheaf indicated that more was to come. Second, it was a sample. It was cut from the field itself. Third, it was a sign of thanksgiving at what God had done for the nation.
In the New Testament, the term “firstfruits” is used in 1 Corinthians 15. “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept….23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming” (1 Cor. 15:20, 23).
The Feast of Firstfruits is a type of Jesus in His resurrection. When Jesus came forth from the grave, He came forth as true humanity. He was a sample of what was still in the grave. Believers shall one day have a body like that of Christ.
Jesus was not only a sample, He was an earnest, indicating more to come. And the world rejoiced. The disciples were glad. Hope revived. If Christ is raised, then every Christian can have confidence in their own resurrection from the dead. Jesus is the Representative Man who suffers for the redeemed, and then comes forth from the grave triumphant. He is an earnest, or guarantee of others in the field.
12 And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the LORD.
The name “burnt offering” is given to this sacrifice because it was to be totally consumed and was to rise in smoke towards heaven. The sacrifices in the other offerings were only partially consumed upon the altar.
13 And the meat offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the LORD for a sweet savour: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin.
The meat offering refers to an offering consisting of meal, cereal, or flour, unleavened cakes or wafers, or ears of corn. The meal offering was usually made in association to a burnt offering, or a peace offering (1 Chron. 21:23), except when there was poverty (Ezra 7:17; Neh. 13:5).
The drink offering (Heb. nesek, libation), refers to a sacrifice of wine, usually given with another sacrifice (Num. 29:11, 16, 18). The drink offering always used wine.
14 And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
The Fourth Feast
Feast of Weeks (Pentecost)
Required the Person’s Presence in Jerusalem
15 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven Sabbaths shall be complete:
The Feast of Pentecost was considered to be the birth date of the Jewish nation, because it was believed that on the Day of Pentecost, the Law was given by God to Israel. That cannot be proven, but it was believed.
What can be proven, from Scripture is that the Day of Pentecost was the birthday of the inauguration of the fullness of the Spirit in the Church. “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4).
16 Even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD.
This feast was called in the Greek, The Feast of Pentecost. It was held seven weeks and one day (50 days) after Passover, when the first ripe barley-sheaf was presented, and was also called The Feast of Weeks. In Exodus 23:16 it is called the Feast of Harvest.
17 Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the LORD.
Leaven does not always represent evil in the Bible. Here leaven speaks of the ordinary food of the people. Two loaves of baked bread were to be offered as firstfruits to the Lord. What do the two loaves suggest? The answer might be found in Acts 2 when, on the day of Pentecost, Jews and Gentiles were united in fellowship through the baptism of the Spirit. Prophecy was fulfilled, as Peter explained. “But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh:” (Acts 2:16-17).
It is interesting to note that the book of Ruth came to be read by the Jews on the Day of Pentecost. Ruth was a Moabitess. She was a Gentile woman who was brought into covenant relationship with God. She was included in the lineage of Christ. The Feast of Pentecost looked forward to the day when Jews and Gentiles were united in worship of the Lord.
18 And ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto the LORD, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savour unto the LORD.
19 Then ye shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings.
20 And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits for a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the LORD for the priest.
21 And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation unto you: ye shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.
Providing for the Poor
22 And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the LORD your God.
The Fifth Feast
Feast of Trumpets
23 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
24 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a Sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation.
This appointed time was held on the first day of the seventh month (Tishri), which was the civil month, commemorating the return of the children of Israel to the Land of Promise.
Four months passed from the fourth feast until the fifth, the Feast of Trumpets. It was celebrated by the blowing of horns from morning to evening. The Law would be read in public and the people would rejoice (Lev. 23:24, 25; Num. 29:1-6; Neh. 8:2, 9-12).The blowing of the trumpet is a call to worship God. This feast was quickly followed by the sixth feast, the Day of Atonement.
25 Ye shall do no servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD.
The Sixth Feast
Day of Atonement
26 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
27 Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD.
The seventh month is a reference to Tishri (Sept/Oct). Atonement, in the Old Testament era, was recognized by the satisfaction or payment made by animal sacrifices (2 Sam. 21:3), the offering of prayers, suffering, or acts of emotional repentance for wrongdoing, or an injury. During the ten days between the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement, the people gave themselves to repentance and prayer. The Day of Atonement was the day of Israel’s national cleansing. In the New Testament economy, the focus of attention on atonement is upon that which has been accomplished through the suffering of the God man, the Lord Jesus Christ. Individuals are reconciled to God by the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Rom.5: 11).
28 And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the LORD your God.
29 For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people.
30 And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people.
31 Ye shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
32 It shall be unto you a Sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your Sabbath.
The Seventh Feast
Feasts of Booths (Tabernacles)
33 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
34 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the LORD.
The Feast of Tabernacles was the eight day festival celebrating the fall harvest. It began on the 15th day of Tishri, five days after the Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:34; Deut. 16:13). The feast celebrated the wandering of the Jews in the desert, and was a reminder of the life they lived in booths, or tabernacles during that period, while being provided for by the Lord. The Feast of Tabernacles is also called the Feast of Booths, and Feast of the Ingathering (Ex. 23:16).
35 On the first day shall be an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.
36 Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: it is a solemn assembly; and ye shall do no servile work therein.
37 These are the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD, a burnt offering, and a meat offering, a sacrifice, and drink offerings, every thing upon his day:
38 Beside the Sabbaths of the LORD, and beside your gifts, and beside all your vows, and beside all your freewill offerings, which ye give unto the LORD.
39 Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a Sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath.
40 And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.
The Feast of Tabernacles plays a prominent role in prophecy In Zechariah 14. “And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles” (Zech. 14:15).
Dispensational theology believes the prophesy of Zechariah will be fulfilled during the Kingdom of God on the earth during a future millennial reign of Christ. Others believe the essential facet of the prophecy of Zechariah has been fulfilled according to gospel terms in the New Testament. Attention is drawn to the words of Jesus in John 7. “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38). The feast being observed in John 7 was the Feast of Tabernacles. An elaborate ceremony had arisen in association with this feast, whereby certain members of the nation went out to the Pool of Siloam and brought water back into the temple and poured it out. Jesus observed this ritual unfolding in Jerusalem. He stood up on the great day of the feast and cried out for people to come to Him and drink. He was the Living Water. He was greater than the Pool of Siloam. In later years, the Feast of Tabernacles was known for illuminating the temple area. King Herod had renovated the Second Temple to make it very beautiful. The dome was illuminated at night during the Feast of Tabernacles. Jesus stood up and said, “I am the light of the world.”
41 And ye shall keep it a feast unto the LORD seven days in the year. It shall be a statute for ever in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month.
42 Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths:
43 That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
44 And Moses declared unto the children of Israel the feasts of the LORD.
These are the feasts of Leviticus 23, setting forth many spiritual truths about Jesus the Lord.