THE EIGHT FEASTS OF THE MOSAIC LAW AND WHAT THEY TYPIFY
This is a very complex study and in order to make it a bit easier we will consider the following questions/topics:
I. ARE THERE SEVEN OR EIGHT FEASTS?
11. DO THESE FEASTS TYPIFY SOMETHING?
111. HOW DO WE DETERMINE WHAT THESE FEASTS TYPIFY?
IV. A CONSIDERATION OF EACH OF THE EIGHT FEASTS
V. WHAT CAN THE NEAR CONTEXT TELL US?
I. ARE THERE SEVEN OR EIGHT FEASTS?
THE WEEKLY SABBATH
We read in Lev. 23 of the weekly feast of sabbath and the annual feasts of passover, unleavened bread, firstfruits, feast of weeks, atonement, feast of trumpets and feast of tabernacles. It will become clear as we continue in our study that it is essential to determine if there are seven or eight feasts.
The Hebrew word translated “feast” in Lev. 23:2 is “moohar” also spelled “mower”. “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, ‘Concerning the feasts of the Lord, which ye shall proclaim a holy convocation, even these are My feasts‘”. The next verse goes on to explain how Israel is to honor the sabbath. “Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation: ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings”. We learn from this that the weekly sabbath is a feast, a “moohar” (Lev. 23:3).
In verse 4 we read, “These are the feasts of the Lord, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons”. This is the same Hebrew word as is used in the preceding verses. Then in verses 5-43 we read of the explanation of the annual feasts. At the end of the explanation we read in verse 44, “and Moses declared unto the children of Israel the feasts (same word as above) of the Lord.
So we have in verse two a declaration of the feasts to be explained. In verse three an explanation of how to observe the weekly sabbath. Then in verse four another declaration of the annual feasts to be explained. And from verse five to verse forty-three the explanation of how those feasts are to be observed. It is true that the weekly sabbath is divided off from the annual feasts by another introductory verse. But the fact remains that all the feasts, including the weekly sabbath are spoken of as “feasts“, i.e. “moohar”. That being the case we must, in my opinion, see the weekly sabbath as counted among the feasts of the Mosaic Law. Therefore, there are eight feasts, one feast is to be observed weekly, and the other seven are to be observed annually.
THE FEAST OF FIRSTFRUITS
Some see the feast of firstfruits as the same as the feast of unleavened bread.That is to say that because Christ was raised on the third day of the feast of unleavened bread and the feast of firstfruits is the type of His resurrection, most believe that firstruits is not a separate feast, but part of the feast of unleavened bread. If that were true then there would be seven, not eight feasts. Let us look again at Lev. 23.
The verses that tell us of the feast of firstfruits and when it should be celebrated are Lev. 23:10-11, which read, “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; 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”.
So the sheaf is waved the day after the sabbath. The question is: which sabbath? It is very important in considering which sabbath the sheaf is to be waved to note that the last day of the feast of unleavened bread is a sabbath, as we read in verse 8, “the seventh day is an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein”.
At the heart of the question of whether the feast of firstfruits is the same as the feast of unleavened bread is: after which sabbath is the priest to wave the sheaf? Is it the weekly sabbath, or is it the sabbath of the last day of unleavened bread? (Because the feast of unleavened bread is to be celebrated seven days, it is clear that the weekly sabbath must fall at some point during that seven days.) If the sheaf is to be waved the day after the weekly sabbath then that waving of the sheaf is part of the feast of unleavened bread. If, on the other hand, the sheaf is to be waved the day after the last day of unleavened bread, which is also a sabbath, then the feast of firstfruits is not the same feast as the feast of unleavened bread.
As the reader can see from Lev. 23:10-11 quoted above, it is not clear from those verses which sabbath is meant. We must therefore, determine the sabbath from the context.
In my opinion, it is noteworthy that the dates of each of the annual feasts are very specifically given so that they will be celebrated on the same date every year. The passover is to be celebrated on the “fourteenth day of the first month” (Lev. 23:5). The feast of unleavened bread is to begin “on the fifteenth day of the same month” (Lev. 23:6) Skipping the feast of first fruits we come to the feast of Pentecost, fifty days after the waving of the sheaf (Lev. 23:15). The feast of trumpets is to be celebrated “in the seventh month in the first day of the month” (Lev. 23:24). The day of atonement is be celebrated “on this tenth day of the seventh month” (Lev. 23:27). And the feast of tabernacles is to be celebrated on “the fifteenth day of the seventh month” (Lev. 23:34).
Now we are ready to address the question, after which sabbath is the sheaf to be waved? If we say that the sabbath is the weekly sabbath during the week of the feast of unleavened bread then that day will fall on a different date every year. That means that Pentecost will also come at a different date every year because it is counted from the day the sheaf is waved.
If however, we say that the sabbath after which the sheaf shall be waved is the sabbath of the last day of the feast of unleavened bread, then all the feasts are always celebrated on the same date every year.
But the one verse that, in my opinion, proves that the feast of firstfruits was not to be celebrated during the seven days of the feast of unleavened bread but after it, is verse 14. “And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn… until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God”. The “offering” is that offering explained in the two previous verses as the offering of the feast of firstfruits. Verse 12 reads, “And ye shall offer that day when you wave the sheaf an he lamb….”. In other words the offering is the same day as the waving of the sheaf, i.e. the day of the feast of firstfruits.
In other words, verse 14 tells us that they were not allowed to eat bread until the day of the wave offering, i.e. the day of the feast of firstfruits. But we know that they were allowed to eat unleavened bread during the feast of unleavened bread. We may conclude therefore, that verse 14 concerns leavened bread, i.e. they may not eat leavened bread until the day of the feast of first fruits.
If the feast of firstfruits is the day after the weekly sabbath, as many believe to be the case, then we have a contradiction in the Word of God. That is to say, we know from Lev. 23:6 that Israel may not eat leavened bread during the seven days of the feast of unleavened bread. We know from 23:14 that they may not eat leavened bread until the feast of firstfruits. If the weekly sabbath were to come, for example, on the fourth day of the feast of unleavened bread, and leavened bread may be eaten the day after that weekly sabbath, that means that leavened bread can be eaten on the fifth day of the feast of unleavened bread, which contradicts verse 6 which says that they may not eat leavened bread for seven days.
Because there are no contradiction in the Word of God, the waving of the sheaf must have been after the sabbath of the seventh day of the feast of unleavened bread. That means that the feast of firstfruits, when the sheaf is waved, is the day after the feast of unleavened bread which makes them two different feasts.
11. DO THESE FEASTS TYPIFY SOMETHING?
We run the risk, in our study of God’s Word, of both seeing types when there are none, and not seeing types when they are there. In the case of the feasts, I believe there are two reasons that we may conclude that they are types. Those reasons are: 1) We are told in the New Testament that the “holy days” and “sabbaths” are shadows. 2) We are told in the New Testaments of specific feasts that typified or foreshadowed the realities.
1) We read in Col. 2:16-17, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or the the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come….”.
2) As mentioned above one of the feasts is the feast of passover. We read in I Cor. 5:7, “……for even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us”. As we continue in this paper we shall see that the night before God led Israel out of Egypt the Israelites were told to sacrifice a lamb and spread it’s blood on the door posts. As the angel of death visited each first born Egyptian, the angel passed over each house in which blood had been spread on its door posts. The type of Christ as the “Lamb of God” is not only obvious, we are specifically told in I Cor. 5:7 that Christ is “our Passover”. That is to say, the blood of the lamb of passover typifies the shed blood of Christ on the cross.
Because we read in the New Testament that the feasts were shadows, and because the reality of the shadow of at least one feast is specifically explained in the New Testament, I believe that we may conclude that all the feasts, including the sabbath, are types and shadows.
111. HOW DO WE DETERMINE WHAT THESE FEASTS TYPIFY?
One of the things I did as I studied this topic was to search to see what others have given as the fulfillment of the type of the feasts. I discovered that there were many, many different thoughts, and each thought had “Scriptural evidence”. What each had in common however, was that they did not go from the near context to the farther context. Let me give an example to clarify that statement. One person suggested the following about the feast of weeks. “This feast is a reminder, a guarantee of Yahweh’s power to produce spiritual truth in the field of human salvation. The literal first fruits of the soil are merely the physical types or expressions of the first fruits of the Holy Spirit.( I Cor. 15:20 and 23, James 1:18, Rev. 14:4)”. All of these references mention “first fruits”, so what is there to disagree with about this suggestion? To begin with, the feast of weeks is not the same as the feast of first fruits. But what is more germane to our present topic, which is the importance of going from the near context first, is that this suggestion does not do that. It does not tell us what points to James 1:18 and Rev. 14:4. That is to say, did a particular scripture point to those verses, or was the type just picked out of thin air and then the “proof texts” found? All the writings I read had the same fallacy in common. They did not go from the near context first to point to the farther context.
As one reads Lev. 23 or any other passage that tells of the eight feasts of the Mosaic Law, one must conclude that the near context does not seem to tell us much in terms of what each feast may typify. That is to say, the passages themselves give no hint as to what the feasts might typify. But let’s do first things first and look at what is said about each feast.
IV. A CONSIDERATION OF EACH OF THE EIGHT FEASTS
1) The first feast mentioned in Lev. 23 is the weekly sabbath (verse 3). “Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest…..”. In Exodus 20:11 we read also of the weekly sabbath, “In six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it”. And in Ex. 31:17 we read that the sabbath observance “is a sign between Me and the children of Israel for ever; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth and on the seventh day He rested, and was refreshed”. I believe that we may conclude that the sabbath was a day of rest to commemorate God’s rest after the six day creation.
2) The second feast mentioned in Lev. 23 is in verse 5, and tells of the feast of passover. “And on the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord’s passover”. We read of the first passover in Ex. 12:13, “And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt”. Ex. 12:23 is also helpful. “For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you”. I believe that we may conclude that the feast of passover commemorates the fact that Israel escaped the plague of the death of the first born of each house by virtue of the blood on the side posts..
3) Lev. 23:6-8 tells of the third feast, i.e. the feast of unleavened bread. I will not quote that passage again, but the reader is encouraged to read it. Ex. 12:17 tells us exactly why Israel was to commemorate the feast of unleavened bread. “And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt.….”. In other words, the feast of unleavened bread was to commemorate the day that God brought Israel out of Egypt. Please note that the reason for that commemoration is quite different than the reason that the feast of passover is to be commemorated.
4) Lev. 23:9-14 tells of the fourth feast, i.e. the feast of first fruits. “….When ye 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”.
5) Lev. 23:15:22 explains the feast of weeks, the fifth feast, called in the New Testament, “Pentecost”. There are two things of significance to note in the explanation of this feast. 1) The feast of weeks is the only feast that is counted off from the previous feast day (see verse 15). . In my opinion that connects the feast of weeks to the preceding feast, i.e. the feast of first fruits.2) the two wave loaves were to be baked with leaven (verse 17). This is very significant because leaven represents sin and it is one of the very few offerings to the Lord that were to be baked with leaven.
6) Lev. 23:24-25 tells of the sixth feast, i.e. the feast of trumpets. The Hebrew word translated “trumpets” is “troogah” and does not really mean “trumpets”. It really means “shout” or “blowing”. Ps. 150:5 translates the word as “high sounding”,”upon the high sounding cymbals”. The reason for the shouting is taken from the context of each occurrence of the word.
7) In Lev. 23:27-32 we read of the feast of atonement, i.e. the seventh feast. The Hebrew word translated “atonement” is related to the Hebrew “kaphar”. This word is explained beautifully in the Companion Bible note on the word as it appears in Ex. 29:33. “The Heb. kaphar, to cover, gives the essential meaning, as shown in its first occurrence, Gen. 6:14, where it is rendered “pitch'”. “Atonement” then means to cover. Lev. 4:20 speaks of the offering of atonement and we read, that the “priest shall make an atonement and it shall be forgiven them“. In other words, the blood spilled covers the sins of the people and they are forgiven their sins.
8) We read of the eighth feast, i.e. feast of tabernacles in Lev: 23:34-36 and 39-43. Verse 43 tells us what the feast of tabernacles (Heb. sukkoth) commemorates. “That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths (Heb.”sukkoth”)),when I brought you out of the the land of Egypt….”. As we look at a few other scriptures that use the same Hebrew word, we will see that these booths are meant to be very temporary. For example, in the very first occurrence of the word found in Gen. 33:17 we read, “….and Jacob built his house and made booths (sukkoth) for his cattle”.
The feast of unleavened bread was also to commemorate God’s bringing Israel out of Egypt. But the feast of tabernacles points further to the temporary quality of their living in the booths in the desert.
V. WHAT CAN THE NEAR CONTEXT TELL US?
As we have considered each of the eight feasts in the section above, I believe it is clear that there does not seem to be any clues in the near context to direct us to what reality these feasts foreshadow. And yet, as mentioned above, we may not just assume a type and then find the scriptures that “prove” our assumption. In other words, we must use the near context, (the context from the descriptions of the feasts in the Old Testament) to direct us to the far context (the New Testament scriptures which may be fulfilled by the Old Testament types).
I believe as we look at the structure of Lev. 23 we will discover our near context that will help in determining the type that each feast foreshadows. Let me use an example to clarify that statement.
The first feast of Lev. 23 is the weekly sabbath. As we learned in the section above, it commemorates God’s rest from the six day creation. The last feast mentioned in Lev. 23 is the feast of tabernacles which uses the temporary booths to remind Israel of when they came out of Egypt. As we know, Israel did not enter the land because of their sin. Instead they wandered in the desert for forty years. So the first feast commemorates God’s rest, and the last feast commemorates Israel’s failure to enter into that rest.
The connection of the first feast, i.e. the weekly sabbath, to the last feast, i.e. the feast of tabernacles, is the subject of Heb. 3:9-11, “… your fathers tempted Me, proved Me, and saw My works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, they do alway err in their hearts; and they have not known My ways. So I sware in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter into My rest“. This same theme is repeated in Heb. 4:3-5 where we read, “For we which have believed do enter into rest, as He said, ‘As I have sworn in My wrath, if they shall enter into My rest’……For He spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, ‘And God did rest the seventh day from all His works’ And in this place again, ‘If they shall enter into My rest“.
We have in Hebrews chapters three and four the connection between God’s rest from creation and Israel‘s failure to enter into God’s rest. Israel dwelt in temporary booths because they were not to enter into God’s rest. To reiterate: Heb. 3-4 connects the first feast of Lev. 23, i.e. the sabbath, with the last feast of Lev. 23, i.e. the feast of tabernacles.
I am suggesting that because Hebrews confirms the connection illustrated in the structure of Lev. 23 ( given below), we may proceed with confidence that the structure (the comparison of each corresponding feast, i.e. second with seventh, third with sixth etc.) will provide us with the near context so that we may use Scripture (the corresponding feast) to lead us to the correct Scriptural evidence of what it foreshadows. The weekly sabbath then typifies the believers rest and the feast of tabernacles typifies the failure to enter into God’s rest.
Let us continue with a comparison of the second feast, i.e. the feast of passover, with the seventh feast, i.e. the feast of atonement.
Both the feast of passover and the feast of atonement speak of the blood of sacrifices. In the feast of passover the blood was spread on the posts so that death would not enter into the houses of Israel. In the feast of atonement the blood was to cover the sins of the people so that those sins would be forgiven. In I Cor. 5:7 we read, “….For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us”. Because both the second and seventh feasts center on sacrifices, and Christ is said to be our passover, I think we may conclude that the feast of atonement and the feast of passover are types of the sacrifice of Christ. The passover sacrifice protects us from death (eternal death), and the sacrifice of atonement covers sins so that they are forgiven. Together, these two feasts offer a most beautiful foreshadowing of what was accomplished by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, i.e. forgiveness of sins and redemption from death.
Let us go on now with the comparison of the third feast, i.e. the feast of unleavened bread, with the sixth feast, i.e. the feast of trumpets. May I remind the reader that we read in the section above that the reason Israel was to observe the feast of unleavened bread was given in Ex. 12:17, “for in this self same day I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt, therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever”. So the feast of unleavened bread was observed to commemorate the day that God led Israel out of Egypt, the day they were freed from slavery. We read in Rom. 6:6-7, “Knowing this that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin: for he that is dead is freed from sin“. So the feast of unleavened bread typifies the believers freedom from sin. That gives us a clearer idea of why there is no leaven in the bread that is eaten during the feast of unleavened bread. That is to say, leaven often typifies sin in the Bible, and the feast of unleavened bread typifies the freedom from sin.
But what about the feast of trumpets? We read of any number of reasons for Israel shouting. For example, we read in Lev. 25:9 that they should blow the trumpets to announce the jubilee”. But by using our structure, we are not left to our own imaginations as to what the feast of trumpets typifies. We may again use the near context (the corresponding feast of the structure) to explain what the feast of trumpets typifies. We read in Zeph. 1:14-16, “The great day of the Lord is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of thick darkness, a day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers”. The Hebrew word translated “trumpet” is the same word that is used of the feast of trumpets in Lev. 23. Is there a comparison of the feast of unleavened bread and the feast of trumpets?. I believe there is.
The feast of unleavened bread typifies the believers freedom from, i.e. his escape from sin, and the feast of trumpets typifies the believers escape from the day of God’s wrath in the day of the Lord by the rapture. I Thess. 4:16-17 confirms the fact that the rapture is associated with the trumpet of the end times. “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; Then we which are alive, and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air……”. We didn’t jump to this verse out of thin air. We used the structure and found a point of commonality between the third and sixth feasts. That point of commonality is escape. In the feast of unleavened bread it is the escape from sin, in the feast of trumpets it is the escape of believers from the wrath of God.
Let us continue with a comparison of the fourth feast, i.e. the feast of firstfruits, and the fifth feast, i.e. the feast of weeks, or Pentecost. To be sure there are many interpretations of what Pentecost typifies. But they do not go from the near context to the farther context. I hope the reader will agree that by using the structure of Lev. 23 we have been able to do just that.
In the comparison of the feast of firstfruits with the feast of weeks (Pentecost) I believe that the description of the feast of weeks in Lev. 23 will be more helpful in determining what these two feasts typify. We learned in the section above that there are two elements of this feast that distinguish it from every other feast. 1) It is counted off from the feast preceding it. I believe that this connects these two feasts. 2) There was to be the very unusual offering of bread with leaven, a sign of sin. I believe that the leaven in this case represents man.
By contrast then, the feast of firstfruits points to the resurrection of Christ. We read in I Cor. 15:20, “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that sleep”. I believe that by remaining true to our structure of Lev. 23 by comparing the feast of firstfruits with the feast of weeks, we may conclude that the feast of firstfruits typifies the resurrection of Christ, and the feast of weeks typifies the resurrection of man. Again, we did not come to I Cor. 15 out of thin air. We compared the two corresponding feasts and found the commonality between them.
Let us consider the feasts in the form of the structure.
1a) The weekly feast of the sabbath typifies the rest of believers.
2a) The feast of passover typifies the sacrifice of Christ so that the believer may not suffer eternal death.
3a) The feast of unleavened bread typifies being free (escape) from sin.
4a) The feast of firstfruits typifies the resurrection of Christ.
4b) The feast of weeks typifies the resurrection of man.
3b) The feast of trumpets typifies the escape from the day of wrath by the rapture.
2b) The feast of atonement typifies the sacrifice of Christ so that our sins may be covered.
1b) The feast of tabernacles typifies failure to enter into God’s rest.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to comment please send your e-mail to: email@example.com