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Jewish holidays vs. Biblical holidays

Part of our Messianic Bible Study

Jewish holidays - MenorahJewish holidays vs. Biblical holidays: Should Christians keep the Jewish holidays? Are they the same as the Christian holidays? Is either the same as the Biblical holidays? Does it matter?

If you’re reading this teaching then you probably already understand two things:

1. The whole Bible is truth and good and applies to all of God’s people. This means that we should be interested in all of Scripture, not just what the church calls the New Testament.

2. And this means we should be studying and observing the Biblical holidays to the extent possible.

See One law for Jews & another for Gentiles? if you do not yet understand why the whole Bible applies to you.

It is not uncommon for those coming out of institutional Christianity to stop observing the Christian holidays, and instead, immediately start following the Jewish holidays.

 

The goal of this lesson is to understand the differences between the holy days as found in the Bible from those of either Judaism or Christianity. This is the starting point for then deciding which if any of the Jewish or Christian holidays you and your family choose to follow.

 

It doesn’t benefit us to come out of one set of man-made traditions and exchange them for another. And yet it happens all of the time because people automatically assume that the Jewish way must be the Biblical way. But that is definitely not always the case.

There are seven annual holy days found in the Torah—four in the spring and three in the fall. This is in addition to the weekly Sabbath day (Shabbat in Hebrew) that commemorates the seventh day of creation when Yahweh rested from all of His work.

The names of the annual holidays (holy days) in the order that they take place are:

  1. Passover (Pesach in Hebrew)
  2. The Feast of Unleavened Bread (Matzah)
  3. First Fruits (Omer Reshith)
  4. The Feast of  Weeks or Pentecost (Shavuot)
  5. The Day of Trumpets (Yom Teruah, known as Rosh Hashanah or the Jewish New Year in Judaism)
  6. The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)
  7. The Feast of Tabernacles or Booths (Sukkot)

Perhaps the best place to start is with Leviticus 23. Let’s take a look at the whole chapter since it mentions each of the holidays we are to observe. Then we’ll take a look at each one:

 

Then Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, ‘The festivals of Yahweh that you shall proclaim are holy assemblies; these are my appointed times.

“ ‘For six days work is to be done, and on the seventh day shall be a Sabbath of complete rest, a holy assembly; you shall not do any work; it shall be a Sabbath for Yahweh in all your dwellings.

“ ‘These are Yahweh’s appointed times, holy assemblies, which you shall proclaim at their appointed time. In the first month, on the fourteenth of the month at the evening is Yahweh’s Passover. And on the fifteenth day of this month is Yahweh’s Feast of Unleavened Bread; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day there shall be a holy assembly for you; you shall not do any regular work. And you shall present an offering for Yahweh made by fire for seven days; on the seventh day there shall be a holy assembly; you shall not do any regular work.’ ”

Then Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the Israelites, and say to them, ‘When you come to the land that I am about to give to you and you reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruit of your harvest to the priest. And he shall wave the sheaf before Yahweh for your acceptance; the priest shall wave it on the day after the Sabbath. And on the day of your waving the sheaf you shall offer a yearling male lamb without defect as a burnt offering to Yahweh. And its grain offering shall be two-tenths of an ephah of finely milled flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire for Yahweh, an appeasing fragrance; and its libation shall be a fourth of a hin of wine. And you shall not eat bread or roasted grain or ripe grain until this very same day, until you present your God’s offering. This must be a lasting statute for your generations in all your dwellings.

“ ‘And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day of your bringing the wave offering’s sheaf—there shall be seven full Sabbaths (also translated ‘weeks’). Until the day after the seventh Sabbath you shall count fifty days (where we get ‘Pentecost’); then you shall present a new grain offering for Yahweh. You shall bring from your dwellings for a wave offering two loaves of bread made with two-tenths of an ephah of finely milled flour; they must be baked with leaven—the firstfruits belonging to Yahweh. And, in addition to the bread, you shall present seven yearling male lambs without defects and one young bull and two rams—they shall be a burnt offering for Yahweh with their grain offering and their libations, an offering made by fire, an appeasing fragrance for Yahweh. And you shall offer one he-goat as a sin offering and two yearling male lambs as a sacrifice of fellowship offerings.

And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before Yahweh; in addition to the two male lambs, they shall be holy for Yahweh for the priest. And you shall make a proclamation on this very same day; it shall be a holy assembly for you; you shall not do any regular work; this is a lasting statute in all your dwellings throughout your generations. And when you reap the harvest of your land, you must not finish the edge of your field at your reaping, and you must not glean the remnants of your harvest—you shall leave them behind for the needy and for the alien; I am Yahweh your God.’ ”

Then Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the Israelites, saying, ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you must have a rest period, a remembrance of the trumpet blast, a holy assembly. You must not do any regular work, and you shall present an offering made by fire to Yahweh.’ ”

Then Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, “Surely the Day of Atonement is on the tenth day of the seventh month; it shall be a holy assembly for you, and you shall deny yourselves, and you shall present an offering made by fire to Yahweh.

And you must not do any regular work on this very same day, because it is the Day of Atonement to make atonement for you before Yahweh your God. If there is any person who does not deny himself on this very same day, then he shall be cut off from his people. As for any person who does any work on this very same day, I will exterminate that person from the midst of his people. You must not do any work; it is a lasting statute throughout your generations in all your dwellings.

It is a Sabbath of complete rest for you, and you shall deny yourselves on the ninth day of the month in the evening—from evening to evening you must observe your extraordinary Sabbath.”

Then Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the Israelites, saying, ‘On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, this shall be the Feast of Booths for seven days for Yahweh. On the first day there shall be a holy assembly; you must not do any regular work. For seven days you must present an offering made by fire to Yahweh. On the eighth day it shall be a holy assembly for you, and you shall present an offering made by fire to Yahweh; it is a celebration; you must not do any regular work.

“ ‘These are Yahweh’s festivals, which you must proclaim, holy assemblies to present an offering made by fire to Yahweh—burnt offering and grain offering, sacrifice and libations, each on its proper day— besides Yahweh’s Sabbaths and besides your gifts and besides your vows and besides all your freewill offerings that you give to Yahweh.
“ ‘Surely on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, at your gathering the land’s produce, you shall hold Yahweh’s festival for seven days; on the first day there shall be a rest period and on the eighth day a rest period. And on the first day you shall take for yourselves the first fruit of majestic trees, branches of palm trees and branches of a leafy tree and of a brook’s poplar trees, and you shall rejoice before Yahweh your God for seven days.

And you must hold it as a festival for Yahweh for seven days in the year; it shall be a lasting statute throughout your generations; in the seventh month you must hold it. You must live in the booths for seven days; all the natives in Israel must live in the booths, so that your generations shall know that I made the Israelites live in booths when I brought them from the land of Egypt; I am Yahweh your God.’ ”
Thus Moses announced to the Israelites Yahweh’s appointed times. Leviticus (Vayikra) 23

 

First—and this is important—note that these are Yahweh’s holy days. They were not made up by Moses or the Israelites (including Judah a.k.a. the Jews) or by the Christian church. So anyone who tells you that these are Jewish holidays should read Leviticus. He makes it clear—they are the “festivals of Yahweh” and “ these are My appointed times.”

Second, the words ‘festivals’ and ‘appointed times’ in this translation of verse 2 are the same Hebrew word—moed (pronounced moe-aid). All of the holy days listed in Leviticus 23 are appointed times by Yahweh that we are supposed to meet with Him. Verse 2 also tells us that these special days are holy assemblies. Other translations say that they are holy convocations or sacred or holy assemblies.

The Hebrew word translated assemblies or convocations is miqra (pronounced mik-rah). It appears 23 times in the old testament (the Tanakh). It comes from the root word qara (pronounced k’rah) that means to call, to shout; to name, appoint, summon, proclaim, announce; to recite, read.

This is not the same word usually translated as assembly (qhal—pronounced k’haul). It is this Hebrew word for assembly—qhal—that is often translated as ekklesia in the Greek translation of the old testament called the Septuagint (see Did the Church really begin at Pentecost?). Ekklesia is the Greek word translated as church in the new testament. The qhal/assembly/church is to have a holy convocation (miqra) on Yahweh’s appointed times.

Miqra seems to carry with it the idea of a public reading of the Scriptures. This makes sense since very few people in Biblical times had a personal copy of the Scriptures. It had to be read aloud during these special times in order for it to be learned. The goal was to memorize as much as possible and then pass it along to your children (Deuteronomy 6).

Tom Bradford of TorahClass.com argues in Lesson 11 of his Nehemiah teaching that miqra does not mean or refer to a required assembling of the body, but simply a public reading of the Scriptures wherever you may be. His point is that the Sabbath is not the day of worship—every day is a day of worship, even in Orthodox Judaism today. Believers do not have to assemble (qhal, ekklesia) themselves together every Shabbat, only on the three feast days (chag in Hebrew, pronounced chahg). These three days—three of the seven annual holy days—are the feast of Unleavened Bread (matzah), Pentecost (shavuot), and Tabernacles (sukkot).

The other annual holidays—Passover, First Fruits, Trumpets, and the Day of Atonement—are indeed holy days, but they are not the three feast days that require all adult men to travel to Jerusalem. Since Unleavened Bread is the day after Passover, it’s a practical impossibility for most Israelites to keep Passover in their hometown and then be at Unleavened Bread the next day. But since Tabernacles is two weeks after the Day of Trumpets and five days after the Day of Atonement, it would be possible to keep those days in your hometown and then travel to Jerusalem for the feast.

And obviously you wouldn’t travel to Jerusalem every single week in order to assemble together with other believers for Shabbat. This is Tom’s point as best we can tell. You do not have to gather together every single week for the Sabbath in order to be obedient to Yahweh; you can meet in your home with your family and read from the Torah and rest.

This might be indicated by the word translated as dwellings in verse 3:

“ ‘For six days work is to be done, and on the seventh day shall be a Sabbath of complete rest, a holy assembly; you shall not do any work; it shall be a Sabbath for Yahweh in all your dwellings.

 

Other English translations translated it as dwelling places, settlements, or the places where you live, or wherever you live. It is not the usual Hebrew word for house though.

His point as we understand it was that Israelites and Jews—both in Bible times and today—met every day at the Temple or in the synagogue to pray, and so Shabbat was not given for that particular reason.

To be honest, this is a new and different way of looking at Shabbat for us. Although, for us, it is also a practical reality in that we do not currently assemble with other believers every single Shabbat. We truly enjoy resting and relaxing on the Sabbath and spending most of the day in our pajamas and studying the Scriptures. We typically gather with other believers once or twice a month. However, we are always seeking the truth of His word and are open to instruction. If we determined that Yahweh commands us to assemble together every single week, we would certainly do so to the extent that it were in our power to do so.

Part 2 of the Biblical Holy Days coming soon.

 

Next Teaching:

Is the Jewish calendar Biblical?

 

3 Responses to "Jewish holidays vs. Biblical holidays"

  1. Kalev Posted on April 22, 2015 at 7:41 am

    Unfortunately the “Jewish” calendar doesn’t always line up with Yah’s calendar.

  2. Cathie Posted on June 18, 2016 at 4:32 am

    Shalom. I’ve found out the reasons Christians do not accept the feasts is they don’t know them and so would not be able to recognize even the likes of Paul keeping them. Acts 20:7, 16 KJV
    And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight. [16] For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost. In the Torah we know that the sheaf was waved on the morrow after the Shabbat and so was the day of the festival of Shabuoth. This is why Yahoshua as the first fruit fulfilled being waved on the morrow after Shabbat and why Paul had a gathering to break bread on the way enroute to the festival of Shabuoth at Yerushalayim. They already observed this since the Torah but kept the Shabbat too.
    Acts 18:21 KJV But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem: but I will return again unto you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus.
    Acts 27:9 KJV
    Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the FAST(Yom Kippur ) was now already past, Paul admonished them ,

    Shalom

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