Michael Boling – The Feasts of the Lord: The Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost) (Part 2)


The Feast of Shavuot (The Later First Fruits/Weeks/Pentecost) Part 2

“and the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labors which you have sown in the field;” (Exodus 23:16)

“And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest,” (Exodus 34:22)

15 ‘And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. 16 Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD. 17 You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the LORD. 18 And you shall offer with the bread seven lambs of the first year, without blemish, one young bull, and two rams. They shall be as a burnt offering to the LORD, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma to the LORD. 19 Then you shall sacrifice one kid of the goats as a sin offering, and two male lambs of the first year as a sacrifice of a peace offering. 20 The priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the LORD for the priest. 21 And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations. (Leviticus 23:15-21)

26 ‘Also on the day of the firstfruits, when you bring a new grain offering to the LORD at your Feast of Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work. 27 You shall present a burnt offering as a sweet aroma to the LORD: two young bulls, one ram, and seven lambs in their first year, 28 with their grain offering of fine flour mixed with oil: three-tenths of an ephah for each bull, two-tenths for the one ram, 29 and one-tenth for each of the seven lambs; 30 also one kid of the goats, to make atonement for you. 31 Be sure they are without blemish. You shall present them with their drink offerings, besides the regular burnt offering with its grain offering. (Numbers 28:26-31)

9 “You shall count seven weeks for yourself; begin to count the seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the grain. 10 Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the LORD your God blesses you. 11 You shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your gates, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are among you, at the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide. 12 And you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall be careful to observe these statutes. (Deuteronomy 16:9-12)

In the previous post, we explored the ceremonial aspects of the Feast of Shavuot specifically focusing on the agricultural and betrothal elements found in this important holiday. As promised, in this post we will focus on the rather significant aspect of the Feast of Shavuot, namely the remembrance and celebration of the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai.

The counting of the omer up to the beginning of Shavuot represented the time from the crossing by Israel of the Red Sea to the day when Israel received the commands of God at Mt. Sinai. Thus, Shavuot “is called the season of the giving of the Torah (Z’man Matan Toraseinu) in Hebrew because this is the literal day that God revealed Himself to the people of Israel as they stood at base of Mt. Sinai.”[1] One may argue that Scripture does not specifically state this was the exact day God revealed the Torah to Israel, however, the significance of this event in the course of Israel and for that matter, all believers, cannot be overlooked. As such, the great Jewish philosopher Maimonides noted, “just as one who is expecting the most faithful of his friends is wont to count the days and hours to his arrival, so we also count from the omer of the day of our Exodus from Egypt to that of the giving of the law, which was the object of our Exodus, as it is said: ‘I bare you on eagle’s wings, and brought you unto Myself.” And because this great manifestation did not last more than one day, therefore we annually commemorate it only one day.” [2]

In keeping with the giving of the Torah, an interesting reason that has been presented as to why this feast is named Shavuot, is that word literally means oaths. This solemn assembly is a remembrance of God making an oath with Israel which they accepted by declaring in Exodus 19:8, “We will do everything the LORD has said.” Thus, God “promised not to exchange us (Israel) for any other nation, and we promised HaShem (God) that we would not leave and exchange Him. Because of these oaths, the festival which is the anniversary of our receiving the Torah is called Shavuot.”[3]

As we can see, the centrality of the Torah to Jewish life is evident in the celebration of the Feast of Shavuot. As noted in the previous post, the importance of the Torah goes beyond the mere giving of a set of laws. While those laws were indeed important and vital to God’s relationship with Israel and theirs with Him, it is vital to engage once again the reality of what this covenantal giving of the law meant to both God and Israel, namely the giving of a betrothal marriage contract. Understanding this element is arguably the most important aspect of the Feast of Shavuot and its later fulfillment, something we will explore in our next and final post on Shavuot.

Jeremiah 2:2 states “Go and cry in the hearing of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD: “I remember you, The kindness of your youth, The love of your betrothal, When you went after Me in the wilderness, In a land not sown.” There a couple of things to note in this passage in order to understand what the prophet Jeremiah is referring to. One is the idea of betrothal and the other is the time period in which Jeremiah notes Israel became the bride. Notice the phrase “When you went after Me in the wilderness, in a land not sown.” This refers to the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai when Israel and God entered into a betrothal marriage contract.

This idea is also reflected in Ezekiel 16:8-9 which states “”When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time [was] the time of love; so I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine,” says the Lord GOD. “Then I washed you in water; yes, I thoroughly washed off your blood, and I anointed you with oil.” There are a number of key elements in this passage that speak to the reality of the betrothal marriage contract made at Mt. Sinai. The first is found in the phrase “I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine.” At Mt. Sinai, with the giving of the law, Israel became betrothed (married) to God. Further identification of a betrothal marriage ceremony is found in the idea of washing and anointing with oil, both elements of the Nis’uin portion of the betrothal process. (For an in-depth study of the betrothal process, please click here see my post on the betrothal process.) Rabbinical teaching averred “this verse speaks of God taking Israel as a wife. The bathing in water refers to Israel being immersed in a mikvah [4] prior to their marriage to God at Sinai. In fact, the Torah can be viewed as a ketubah, a formal written document which spells out the terms of a Jewish wedding contract.” [5]

The Torah being a marriage contract reveals the importance of what God was revealing to Israel and the importance of Israel’s declaration in Exodus 19:8 of their acceptance of the terms of this contract. This also speaks of why Shavuot is one of three holidays where the people of Israel were expected to return to Jerusalem to celebrate this solemn assembly. Essentially, it was a time of celebrating and remembering a wedding anniversary, a time of rejoicing of the day when God and Israel were betrothed to one another. The Torah was a legally binding document, or a ketubah. The binding nature of this arrangement is found in the Hebrew word for betrothal, erusin which “comes from the Hebrew verb aras. Aras is related to the Hebrew word asar, which means “to bind.” By this, we can see that the Hebrew language communicates to us that betrothal is legally binding.” [6] Remaining obedient to God’s law was a representation of Israel’s commitment to this marriage contract. It demonstrated their love for their bridegroom. To stray from the law was akin to searching after other lovers, something God forbid in the first of the Ten Commandments with the declaration, “You shall have no other gods before Me.”

Hopefully you have begun to see the importance of the Feast of Shavuot as not only an agricultural holiday celebrating the provision by God for His people in that regard, but perhaps more importantly, the importance of this holiday on a relational level between God and Israel through the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai.

In our next post, we will explore how the Feast of Shavuot was fulfilled in the New Testament analyzing once again this theme of marriage, covenant, and the renewal of this covenant with God’s people in Acts 2.

[1] http://www.feastsofthelord.com/ss/live/index.php?action=getpage&sid=204&pid=2181
[2] Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services (London: Religious Tract Society, 1874), 226.
[3] http://www.betemunah.org/shavuot.html
[4] A mikvah is a Jewish ritual bath.
[5] http://www.bethadonai.com/shavuot.html
[6] http://www.feastsofthelord.com/ss/live/index.php?action=getpage&sid=204&pid=2181

Michael lives in Belleville, IL, a suburb of St. Louis, MO with his wife Erica and daughter Alissa. An 8 year Navy veteran, he is now employed at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) where he oversees advanced educational programs. Michael holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Religion (Biblical Studies) from Liberty University. He is an avid reader and blogger operating the website Christian Apologetics and Intelligence Ministry (http://intelmin.org) which provides both original content and relevant posts and articles from around the web. Mike serves as the Managing Editor of Servants of Grace, and the editor for Servants of Grace Apologetics.

bolingme – who has written posts on Apologetics and Intelligence Ministry.

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