The Fall Feasts

Last week was about the Spring Feasts. This week, we will cover the cover the Fall feasts. These feasts are still unfulfilled. We will only summarize the feasts at this time. The last half of this post will be about the pilgrimage feasts.

In Leviticus 23, there are seven holidays called “the feasts of the LORD.” These holidays are God’s holidays–they belong to Him.

Leviticus 23:1–2 (PEB)
1The Always-Present One said to Moses, 2“Tell the people of Israel: ‘You will announce the Always-Present One’s appointed feasts (festivals) as holy gatherings. These {are} My special feasts.’”

Fall Feasts Overview

Feasts of Trumpets

Rosh Hashanah (meaning Head or Beginning of the Year) is also known by three other names.

Alternate Rosh Hashanah names:

  1. The Day of Judgment.
  2. The Day of the Sounding of the Shofar (ram’s horn).
  3. The Day of Remembrance.

This is according to Jewish tradition: Although not taught in Scripture, it is believed that on Rosh Hashanah God sits in judgment of the whole universe.

This is according to Jewish tradition: The judgment on Rosh Hashanah does not decide a person’s eternal destiny. Rosh Hashanah is for judgment concerning earthly matters. The judgment handed down on that day, with its subsequent recording in the Book of Life, decides a person’s fate in this life for the coming year.

The verdict is settled by opening three books:

  1. One listing the righteous.
  2. One listing the wicked.
  3. One listing the those somewhere in between.

Those in the first book are immediately inscribed for life; those in the second book for death; and those in the third book are given ten days to repent and perform enough good deeds to outweigh their bad deeds. These ten days are known as Day of Awe. From Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur inclusively, the Ten Days of Penitence, a person is admonished to sincerely repent. On Rosh Hashanah the greeting is, May you be inscribed in the “Book of Life,” while on Yom Kippur the greeting is, “May you be sealed in the Book of Life.”

As the Judge of the Universe reviews mankind’s deeds of the past year, He inscribes the name of every individual in one of these books. Judgment against the wicked is final and irrevocable: they will have life cut short in the coming year. Those recorded in the book of the righteous will be mercifully granted another year of life and prosperity by the Lord. For the remainder (those not written in either of these books), the sealing of their fate is deferred and hangs in the balance until Yom Kippur. If they sincerely repent during the Day of Awe, tradition holds that God will grant them life until the following Yom Kippur.

This judgment-book tradition, although greatly embellished, finds its origin in Scripture. King David penned the words, “Let them be blotter out of the book of the living, And not be written with the righteous” (Psalms 69:28). The prophet Moses pleaded: “‘Now, if You will forgive their sin–but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.’ And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book’” (Exodus 32:32–33).

Because the “Days of Awe” are such a solemn time of self-examination, joyful activities are usually forbidden. Weddings and other festive occasions are postponed until after Yom Kippur.

The week before Rosh Hashanah is usually marked by the recitation of penitential prayers called Selihot (“forgiveness”). These heart-rending prayers for forgiveness are in preparation for the Day of Awe and customarily begin at midnight the Saturday night before Rosh Hashanah.

Day of Atonement

It is the day the high priest makes atonement for sin and is the most solemn holy day for the Jewish people. Atonement means the reconciliation of God and man. In biblical times, the high priest sacrificed an animal for his sins and the sins of the people.

When the high priest was finished with the atonement sacrifice, a goat was released into the wilderness. This “scapegoat” carried Israel’s sins away (Leviticus 16:8–10,20–22,29–34). Some say the goat was carried far away and pushed over a cliff so it couldn’t accidentally return to the camp.

Only on Yom Kippur was the only day the high priest was permitted to enter the Holy of Holies.

Our atonement occurred on the cross. We can celebrate with Jesus every second of the day!

Feast of Tabernacles:

The Feast of Tabernacles is the last in a series of God-ordained festivals given to Israel (Leviticus 23:33–43). It was to begin on the 15th day of the seventh month. Tishri (September-October), and last for seven days. The eighth day was a solemn assembly called Shemini Atzeret. No labor was permitted on the first or eighth days of the festival.

A joyful holiday filled with celebration, Sukkot also known in Scripture as the Feast of Ingathering because it was held at the end of the harvest season, when God’s bounty and provision were so clearly in view. (Exodus 23:16). The Feast had a commemorative purpose as well. It looked back to the time when the children of Israel dwelt in temporary shelters, or booths as God led them through the wilderness and provided for their every need.

There were three requirements:

  1. The building of a temporary shelter or booth
  2. The taking of four species of foliage
  3. Rejoicing during all seven days

The building of the temporary shelter or booth is called a sukkah. It must be at least 4 feet long, 4 feet wide, no more than 30 feet high, and have at least three sides. Its roof is often covered with enough leaves and straw to provide shade without blocking out the view of the stars at night. The booth is decorated as attractively as possible.

The other prominent custom of the feast is the four species of foliage.

The four species of foliage:

  1. Etrog (citrus fruit)
  2. Myrtle branch
  3. Willow branch
  4. Palm branch called the lulav

The term lulav is also applied collectively to all three leafy branches. The myrtle, willow, and palm branches are bound together and held in the right hand, while the etrog is held in the left hand to be waved at the appropriate time.

The pilgrimage Feasts

Now we are going to do a basic study on the three pilgrimage feasts.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread (Nisan 15–21)

The Tanakh or Old Testament calls this feast Hag Hamatzot. Matzah and the plural Matzot are the Hebrew words for “Unleavened bread.”

It is a reminder of God’s miraculous deliverance from Egyptian bondage when they fled with no time for the bread dough to rise. So the LORD commanded, “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it, that is, the bread of affliction (for you came out of Egypt in haste), that you may remember the day in which you came out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life” (Deuteronomy 16:3; Exodus 12:39)

Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread are the only ones instituted prior to the Exodus from Egypt.

There are only three instructions:

  1. Special sacrifices were to be offered in the Temple each day of the feast (Leviticus 23:8; Numbers 28:19–24).
  2. The first and seventh days of the feasts were (High) Sabbaths with the prohibitions on all work (Exodus 12:16; Leviticus 23:7–8; Numbers 28:25; Deuteronomy 16:8).
  3. Leaven was strictly forbidden (Exodus 12:14–20; 13:6–8; 23:15; 34:18; Leviticus 23:6) In Hebrew, leaven is known as Hametz which literally means “sour.”

Nugget: Unleavened Bread speaks of sanctification. Jesus was set apart and His body would not decay in the grave.

The Messiah journeyed to Jerusalem at age twelve for the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Luke 2:42–43,46–47) He utterly amazed Israel’s finest Torah scholars. His understanding and comprehension of scriptures were staggering. Never before had they met one like Jesus, the true unleavened Bread.

Feasts of Weeks:

Feasts of Weeks, Shavuot, is 50 days after Firstfruits. The Hebrew people are giving thanks, gathering in and storing the harvest.

Some special meanings:

  1. According to the Bible, it was forbidden to eat of the new barley crop until the barley firstfruits were offered on the Feast of Firstfruits. The same principle was applied to the wheat crop. Wheat makes the best flour. Barley is considered the poor man’s flour.
  2. The offering for Shavuot was unique. It consisted of two long, flat, leavened loaves of wheat as commanded by the LORD. Leviticus 23:17 (KJV) states, “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.” The loaves were not burned because the LORD had forbidden leaven on the altar (Leviticus 2:11). The priest waved the two loaves before the altar forwards and backwards, then up and down. Nugget: The priest was forming a picture of the cross.

It is also a Shavuot custom to read the Book of Ruth in the synagogue.

It is also called Feast of Pentecost as in after the 50 days, the fire of the Holy Spirit fell upon the praying group of believers.

The Feast of Tabernacles (Tishri 15–21):

Tishri is now a fall month but before the exodus it was the first month of the Hebrew calendar. More info will be given when we do the Hebrew calendar.

The Feast of Tabernacles is referred to as Sukkot, or “Tabernacles.” The English word “tabernacle” is from the Latin tabernaculum meaning “booth” or “hut”. This feast was celebrated with great joy.

The joy was twofold, for it commemorated:

  1. God’s past goodness and provision during their wilderness journey.
  2. They are giving thanks for this year goodness and provision. It is a special time for prayer, including prayer for the coming rain.

Three portions of scriptures outline the biblical observance of the Feasts of Tabernacle:

  1. The people were to live in booths or huts and rejoice before the LORD with branches (Leviticus 23:33–43).
  2. There were to be many daily, sacrificed offerings (Numbers 29:12–39).
  3. In a sabbatical year, the law was to be publicly read during Tabernacle (Deuteronomy 31:10–13).

The Feast of Tabernacles was the most joyful of all the feasts. The best way to describe Tabernacles is to think of it as a Renaissance Festival.

Tabernacles/Sukkot points to the future day when the Messiah sets up the messianic Kingdom and tabernacles (lives) among men.

There are so many important details, facts, and pictures in Tabernacles that we will take several blog entries to fully appreciate them. This will come at a later time.

In conclusion, notice that for some of these feasts the first and last days are High Sabbath days? Also, notice the week-long feasts could easily have a Saturday Sabbath during the week? This makes a lot of sense. After traveling a long way, it is a good to rest the first day or at least the first part of the day. It is also good to rest one day during the week. And finally, rest before going back home. How many times have you said on the first day of work after a vacation, “I’m back to rest!” We try to pack so much in a week or even in day that we don’t give ourselves time to rest and unwind.

Next time, we will begin going into detail about the feasts starting with Passover.

Until then,
שָׁלוֹם (Shalom!)