The Appointed Times of YHVH—the Festival of Weeks and the Messiah
The work of the blood of the Covenant of YHVH is not truly explained in the Torah. Hence, the Festival of Weeks, Chag Shavuot, is not truly understood in its full context, either.
And why was there any need for blood in the Covenant? What is the Covenant not called “Covenant of salt“?
The answer to this question is coming out from the mouth of Yeshua the Messiah who is telling us that the cup of redemption, which represents the blood of the Passover lambs, represents His own blood that ratified the Covenant YHVH; a covenant made with the fathers at the mount Sinai.
Two festivals both called ‘First-fruits’
There are two appointed times in the Creator’s calendar that are unique among the other appointed times in three respects.
First, these two appointed times are the only days without their own set dates and their celebration is determined by counting from another appointed time. All other convocations in the Torah are explicitly set on certain days of the respective months of the year.
Second, they are the only appointed times that have no historical event explicitly associated in the Torah with their observance; no particular reason is given in the Torah as to why they should be observed.
Third, they are called by the same name, since they are directly associated with agriculture.
As we already studied, these appointed times of YHVH are the days of the First-fruits, Bikkurim: of the barley as found in Lev 23:10-11, Exo 34:25-26, and the Festival of Weeks, Chag Shavuot, of the wheat as found in Lev 23:15-17; these two appointed times are fifty days apart.
Yet, the First-fruits and the Festival of Weeks are closely associated with the Messiah of Israel, as all appointed times of YHVH are indeed about the Messiah.
In this article we will study the connection of the Festival of Weeks (Hebrew Chag Shavuot) and the Messiah.
Although, the Festival of Weeks, Chag Shavuot, is not historically associated with a particular event, in the Rabbinic tradition it is known as the time of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.
But truth of the matter is that the Torah makes no direct connection between the Festival of Weeks and the Sinai revelation, as it does with the Festival of the Unleavened Breads (haMatsot); had it made it, the origin of the Festival of Weeks, Chag Shavuot, would have been made very clear. We read,
Three times in the year you are to celebrate a festival to Me. Guard the Festival of the Unleavened Breads. Seven days you eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month of the Aviv – because in it you came out of Egypt. (Exo 23:14-15)
However, as we said, no historical event is given for the Festival of Weeks, Chag Shavuot. We read,
And perform the Festival Shavuot for yourself, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, (Exo 34:22)
In Exo 23:16 Chag Shavuot is called “Festival of harvest” – the first-fruits of our labor.
In Lev 23:15-22 no name is given for this feast.
In Num 28:26-31 it is called Yom haBikkurim “the day of the first-fruits.”
Deu 16:9-10 calls it Chag Shavuot, “Festival of Weeks” for the simple reason that we are to count seven weeks from the First-fruits of barley until the First-fruits of wheat.
Also, unlike the festivals of Unleavened Bread and Sukkot, the Festival of Weeks, Chag Shavuot, is not mentioned outside the five books of the Torah.
The time the Ten Commandments were revealed
We should also note that the Torah does not mention that the Festival of Weeks, Chag Shavuot, is a celebration of giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, in contrast with the Festival of the Unleavened Breads (Chag haMatzot) and the Festival of the Booths (Chag Sukkot).
The Torah makes no connection with any particular event of the exodus from Egypt, yet as we will see in this study, the Festival of Weeks, Chag Shavuot, is indeed connected to the Torah of YHVH.
As already said, in the Rabbinic tradition the Festival of Weeks, Chag Shavuot, is known as the time of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, but was the Torah really given at the mountain?
Actually, the Torah makes no such a claim whatsoever. Moreover, the giving of the Torah is not presented as a single event at a mountain, but as a process that indeed began at Mount Sinai in the first year of the Exodus and ended forty years later at another mountain: Mount Nebo in the land of Moab (Deu 31:24).
Therefore, what was given at Sinai was not the whole Torah, as we know it today as the first five books of the Tanak, but the Covenant between YHVH and His people. This Covenant is better known today as the Ten Commandments or the Decalogue.
The Covenant was proclaimed or revealed to the nation of Israel at Mount Sinai in one utterance and on one day. That day was the day which later would be known as the Festival of Weeks, Chag Shavuot. We read,
And he was there with Yehovah forty days and forty nights. He did not eat bread and he did not drink water. And He wrote on the tablets the Words of the Covenant, the Ten matters. (Exo 34:28)
And it came to be, at the end of forty days and forty nights, that Yehovah gave me the two tablets of stone, the tablets of the Covenant. (Deu 9:11)
Therefore, as we see from these verses, but also from elsewhere, that the “Ten Commandments” are not just ten commandments out of 613, but the Covenant of YHVH, which He made with His children. Therefore, the proper term for the commandments engraved on the tablets of stone is the Covenant, the Covenant of YHVH.
In Exo 3:12, we read that Elohim told Mosheh: “When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve Elohim on this mountain.” In other words, we understand that the immediate purpose of the Exodus from Egypt laid in serving Elohim at His mountain Sinai.
Between these two events, the Exodus from Egypt and the Revelation at Mount Sinai, came the counting of the seven weeks of omer of barley, hence the name the Festival of Weeks, or Chag Shavuot. These seven weeks can be viewed as the necessary transition from the Exodus from Egypt to the Revelation of the Covenant of YHVH to Israel.
Today, we see the counting of seven complete weeks as our own transition from the starting point of our walk with YHVH to the completion of our redemption from “Egypt” we live in today. As Israel walked with Him, so do we.
For this reason, every year we rehearse our own exodus from Egypt, as we rehearse the festivals of the First-fruits of YHVH.
As we count the forty-nine days from the First-fruits, HaBikkurim, in the spring until the fiftieth day of the Festival of Weeks, Chag Shavuot, we walk in faith and grow in maturity, as the fathers walked their walk from Egypt to the mountain of YHVH. But we should admit that as they walked but also stumbled, so do we in our walk in faith: we also stumble as we do no better than them.
And indeed, this is the whole meaning of the observance in unity of the two festivals that bear the same name: the First-fruits and of the Festival of Weeks. For the Festival of the First-fruits YHVH asks us to wave the first-fruits of the barley harvest; but for the Festival of Weeks: to wave two loaves of wheat bread. As barley is inferior to wheat in term of nutrition, so do we grow in faith from immaturity to maturity by rehearsing these two festivals of YHVH year after year.
The Festival of Weeks and the Festival of Oaths
What took place when the people were gathered at Sinai was that the Sovereign Creator entered into a Marriage Covenant with the children of Israel, and they became the “bride”.
We should recall that before the Exodus, YHVH made seven unconditional promises while Israel was still in Egypt.
These seven unconditional promises represented the preliminary terms of the wedding contract between Him and His people. These preliminary terms, as a statement of what was required as a part of the agreement, were necessary to be set by the Groom before the bride before the marriage had taken place. And those terms had to be set unconditionally before the deliverance from Egypt took place.
Those promises with regards to the deliverance from Egypt were fulfilled by YHVH unconditionally.
But, what was yet to be fulfilled was the promise to bring people to the Promised Land and give it as an inheritance: (1) I brought you out from Egypt, (2) I brought you out of their bondage, (3) I redeemed you, (4) I took you to Me for My people, (5) I am Your Elohim, (6) I will bring you to the Promised Land, and (7) I will give it to you as an inheritance (Exo 6:6-8).
Now, since YHVH reiterated before the Israelites the Covenant made with Avraham (Exo 6:1-8), He took the oath again (see Deu 7:8) to assure His promise just before the Exodus took place.
Throughout the Scripture two important words have been used to describe the legal status of taking promise: neder, vow, and shabah, to swear, oath (hence, Shabbat, oath); and they are two different words.
Neder, vow is a solemn declaration from men to YHVH (see Gen 28:20, Gen 31:13, Jdg 11:30, 2Sa 15:7, Ecc 5:4), while shabah, oath, literally to seven oneself , is from YHVH to men, (see Gen 26:3, Deu 7:8, Psa 105:9, Jer 11:5), and between men (Jos 2:17, Eze 21:23, Neh 6:18).
The meaning of shabah comes from the common practice of making seven declarations when making an oath or covenant, hence, shabah, seven. Thus by making the oath seven times or doing seven things, the declaration shows the sincerity of the one who makes the oath.
A related word to shabah is שָׁבוּעַ shavua, meaning “week,” hence shavuot, “weeks.” “Oath” in Hebrew is שְׁבוּעָה shevuah.
Having said that, this is how “festival of oaths” should be written in Hebrew: השְבועות חג. By comparing the Hebrew words shevuah and shavuah, we see that the plural form of “weeks”, and “oaths” is identical: “shavuot”.
Thus, the identical spelling of “festival of oaths” and Festival of Weeks in Hebrew reflects the covenantal aspect of the Festival of Weeks, Chag Shavuot.
Therefore, we may say with some degree of certainty that when YHVH set His appointed time the Festival of Weeks, Chag Shavuot, He might have set it also as the Festival of Oaths, since He had made seven oaths before the actual exodus of Israel from Egypt took place.
And as we count for ourselves seven complete weeks (as commanded in Lev 23:15 and Deu 16:9) from the Day of the First-fruits, Yom Bikkurim until the Festival of Weeks, Chag Shavuot, we do not just count forty-nine days or seven weeks, but as it is in a Hebraic mind, we count the seven oaths or promises which YHVH gave to our fathers in Egypt, namely that He would bring them into the Promised Land.
In other words, as we count the seven weeks and observe the festival of YHVH, as it has been given to us in its full and true context, we reenact and live out, the whole Exodus story of the forefathers in the wilderness.
What do we rehearse on the Festival of Weeks?
Since all appointed times of YHVH in Leviticus 23 are also called rehearsals, by observing them, we rehearse what is to come. And when we rehearse what is to come, we know that the real event is coming.
And this is the whole purpose of doing the appointed times: to be found prepared, when the real event comes.
For this sole purpose to find us prepared for His arrival, Yeshua has given us the parable of the ten maidens in Matthew 25, whose moral is: some will be found prepared, but some unprepared.
Therefore, we see that for the sake of this inward connection between YHVH’s appointed times, the laws concerning the wave-sheaf on the Day of the First-fruits in the spring and wave-loaves on the Festival of Weeks, Chag Shavuot, in summer, both days of the First-fruits of YHVH, are bound together into one whole concept of an internal unity of these two appointed times, but also an internal unity of the nation of Israel with YHVH.
We will see further in this study how this unity holds in place and we will also see who indeed holds them in place.
The Last Supper of Yeshua
At the last supper before His death, Yeshua took bread, and having blessed, He broke it and gave it to His disciples and said,
‘Take, eat, this is My body.’
And taking the cup, and giving thanks, He gave it to them, saying,
‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood, that of the renewed covenant, which is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins. But I say to you, I shall certainly not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on till that day when I drink it anew with you in the reign of My Father.’ (Mat 26:26-29)
We should note that the words of Yeshua the Messiah are the reminiscence of the words of another great prophet, Mosheh, when he took half the blood of the sacrifice and put it in basins, and half the blood he sprinkled on the slaughter-place.
And then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that Yehovah has spoken we shall do, and obey.” And Mosheh took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said,
See, the blood of the Covenant which Yehovah has made with you concerning all these Words. (Exo 24:6-8)
The meaning of the blood in this ritual is never truly explained in the Torah, hence we do not fully understand the Festival of Weeks, Chag Shavuot, without the Messiah.
Nahum M. Sarna writes: (The JPS Torah Commentary: Exodus, Nahum M. Sarna, Jewish Publication Society, Pg. 152)
The significance of the sprinkling of the blood is never explained. However, the prevailing notion in Israel was that the blood, the vital bodily fluid, constituted the life force. As such, like life itself, it belonged to Elohim alone. For that reason, its consumption by humans is strictly forbidden, and the blood of sacrifices is dashed on the altar. The use of blood in a covenant is found nowhere else in the Bible. The ordination of Aaron as High Priest, as related in Leviticus 8, involved daubing the blood of the sacrificial lamb of ordination on parts of his body and on the altar. It is likely that in both these ceremonies—covenant and ordination—the blood functions mysteriously to cement the bond between the involved parties. Through Elohim’s sharing, as it were, of the vital fluid with Israel or with Aaron, the life of the recipient is thought to take on a new dimension and to be elevated to a higher level of intimate relationship with the Deity.
And indeed, Nahum M. Sarna is absolutely right. Although the work of the blood of the Covenant between YHVH and His people was not explained in the Torah, the answer to this enigma is found in the mouth of Yeshua the Messiah.
Yeshua is telling us that the “cup of redemption” which represents the blood of the Pesach (the Passover lamb), represents His own blood which is the ratifying blood of the Covenant YHVH made with the fathers at the mountain on the day that will later be known as the Festival of Weeks, Chag Shavuot.
Now, we may ask the question as to why the Messiah had to ratify the Covenant of YHVH with His own blood.
The sin of Israel in Egypt
In the Torah, Israel was commanded to bring a sin offering and a peace offering to YHVH on this particular day of the year along with the first-fruits of the harvest.
Why is this sin offering commanded, because, it is very unusual to see an offering for sin during a festival? Why was the need for sin and peace offerings on this solemn day in the history of Israel, the Festival of Weeks, when the people gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the giving of the Torah to Israel?
The Torah never truly explains the life of Israel in Egypt. We know nothing about Israel from the death of Yoseph (Joseph) and his brothers until the birth of Mosheh (Moses).
In the previous article, we studied what YHVH said through Ezekiel (Eze 20:5-8) concerning the sin Israel committed against Him in Egypt, namely that their sin required a sin offering. Here we will recall it briefly.
While in Egypt the children of Israel forgot the Elohim of the fore-fathers and mingled into the paganism of Egypt. The Elohim of Israel resolved to pour out His wrath on them to complete His displeasure in the midst of the land of Egypt.
And if that was not bad enough, not all Israel wanted to leave Egypt. Those of Israel who did not put the blood of the Pesach (the Passover lamb) on the door posts that night of Passover lost their first-born and were left behind in Egypt, because they chose not to enter into the Covenant YHVH made with Avraham—to give his descendants the Land of Promise. And if that was not bad enough, even some of those who indeed left Egypt wanted to return to the land of slavery.
The blood of the sacrificed innocent Passover lambs on the doorposts covered those Israelites in Egypt who were willing to leave the idolatry and paganism in the foreign land and take possession of the Promised Land. They were saved from the wrath of the Highest that night in Egypt.
Therefore, the main purpose of the sin-offering on the day of Shavuot was to evoke the consciousness of sin on the part of Israel.
It was not sufficient on this day to bring the first-fruits at the Temple, as if nothing had happened in Egypt. But through the sin offering of the Festival of Weeks, the children of Israel were reminded not to forget the rebellion of the fathers in Egypt.
Unfortunately, today this true meaning of Shavuot has been lost for us: in the Rabbinic Judaism, it is a mere celebration of the giving of Torah, and in Christianity is completely unknown.
However, the sin-offering is not completely sufficient without another offering: that of peace-offering.
While the sin-offering is to evoke the consciousness of sin in us, through the peace-offering we are called to enter into peace with YHVH, for He is a loving and forgiving Elohim.
But before forgiveness is given, we know that repentance is required. (Read more in this article whether there is forgiveness without repentance)
Another blood was also required, this time on the doorposts of the hearts to cover for the sins of those who are willing to leave the idolatry and paganism in the Egypts they live in.
And indeed, the blood of the innocent Lamb of YHVH, the Pesach of YHVH, who suffered and died for us, was needed to pay the penalty for sin, which otherwise would be on us …
Surely our diseases he did bear, and our pains he carried; whereas we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded because of our transgressions, he was crushed because of our iniquities: the chastisement of our welfare was upon him, and with his stripes we were healed. All we like sheep did go astray, we turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath made to light on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, though he humbled himself and opened not his mouth; as a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep that before her shearers is dumb; yea, he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away, and with his generation who did reason? for he was cut off out of the land of the living, for the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due. (Isa 53:4-8 JPS)
… and He was raised from the dead in three days and three nights as the First-fruit of the resurrection on the day of Bikkurim, in order to ratify the Covenant with His own blood.
Because YHVH loved us, He kept the oath which He swore to our fathers in Egypt to bring us out with a mighty hand and redeem us out of bondage.
Thus said Yehovah,
I remember you, the loving-commitment of your youth, the love of your bridehood, when you went after Me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. Israel was set-apart to Yehovah, the firstfruits of His increase. (Jer 2:2-3)
For the sake of this inward connection, the rebellion of the fathers in Egypt, the laws of the wave-sheaf on the Day of the First-fruits and wave-loaves on the Festival of Weeks, are bound together into one whole concept of an internal unity of these appointed times, but also an internal unity of the nation of Israel with YHVH.
This article is a part of series of articles dedicated to the Appointed Times of YHVH and how His Messiah Yeshua has fulfilled them. For the rest of the set-apart days of the Creator, please, visit The Appointed Times of YHVH.
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.