What is the Feast of Weeks?

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By BibleAsk Team


What is the Feast of Weeks?

The Feast of Weeks, also known as Shavuot in Hebrew, is a Jewish festival that occurs seven weeks after Passover. It marks the end of the grain harvest and commemorates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Traditionally, it is celebrated with various customs, including the reading of the Book of Ruth, all-night Torah study, and eating dairy foods. Shavuot holds significant religious and historical importance, reflecting both the agricultural and spiritual heritage of the Jewish people.

The Three Feasts 

The Feast of Weeks is one of the three main feasts that the Israelites were delighted to observe. These feasts were:

  1. The Feast of Unleavened Bread, where God’s children were to eat unleavened bread seven days
  2. The Feast of Weeks or the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of their labors in the field
  3. The Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when the Israelites would gather in the fruit of their labors from the field and come before God (Exodus 23:14-16 also 34:22–23; Deuteronomy 16:16) 

The three feasts were:

  1. To be agricultural and historical, linked with the direction of the seasons and also with significant incidents in the life of the nation
  2. To be kept only at one place, where the Sanctuary was placed
  3. To be kept by the whole male population (verse 17; Leviticus 23:2)

Those who come to the feast were to offer a freewill offering to God. An Oriental never came before his Master without a gift. Likewise, an Israelite would not come before His Creator without a gift to express his love, gratitude and thanksgiving.

The Feast of Weeks 

Fifty days were to be numbered from the day of the barley sheaf was offered (Leviticus 23:15–21). The 50th day was called “the feast of weeks,” because seven full weeks separated it from Passover

In New Testament, the feast was named Pentecost, from a Greek word meaning “fiftieth.” This feast was observed late in our month of May or early in June, the time of the spring harvest. To offer gratitude for the grain, two loaves baked with leaven were offered before God (Leviticus 23:17). 

This feast was a happy time. “…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” (Deuteronomy 16:9–11). 

Also, the nature of the offerings, which were basically those of peace and devotion, added a delightful mark upon the day. Even the bread was leavened, showing a new spirit of release and fellowship working through the celebrants as they rejoiced together. Pentecost had much of the nature of a harvest festival. 

Jewish tradition linked the Feast of Weeks with the giving of the law, which took place about 50 days after leaving Egypt (Exodus 19:1–16), and based on that one aim of Pentecost was to remember the giving of the law in Sinai. 

For the Christians of the apostolic era, the feast observed also the giving of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, when the early church reaped the first fruits of the gospel (Acts 2:1-12, 41). Each feature of the old Feast of Weeks offered a symbolic meaning that made it typical of the work that would be accomplished by the apostles. As the Feast of First Fruits, it was fitting that it should be the occasion of the first great gathering from the fields that were “white already to harvest” (Exodus 23:16; John 4:35). 

At the Feast of Weeks, the Israelites, remembering that they had been slaves in Egypt, could rejoice again in the freedom that the Exodus had given them (Deuteronomy 16:9–12), and be free of slavery (Leviticus 23:21). Therefore, it was a fit time for the outpouring of the Spirit of God; and “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17). That Spirit was to lead the church into the truth, which makes all believers free indeed (John 8:32). 

Conclusion

The Feast of Weeks stands as a testament to the intertwining of the spiritual and agricultural aspects of life for the Israelites. It is a celebration of God’s faithfulness in providing sustenance and guidance through the covenant. Through its rituals and symbolism, this feast serves as a bridge between the Old and New Testaments, highlighting the continuity of God’s plan for redemption and the ultimate fulfillment found in the person of Jesus Christ.

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