Whose Feasts Are They?
Part 1 of a Scripture Study
Many people today are asking the question, “Should we keep the Jewish feasts days?” My reply would be, “What are the Jewish feast days?” Don’t these days actually belong to someone else? Come now, let us reason together to discover what the Scripture tells us. We are challenged to be Bereans, so please pray for discernment, test the spirits and search the Scriptures preserved and handed down by the church in the wilderness to see if these things are so. May you be richly blessed as you study His Word.
Things to ponder before we begin our study
Revered as an Early Church Father, and one of the four great doctors of the Catholic Church, John Chrysostom voiced in the 4th century “The festivals of the pitiful and miserable Jews are soon to march upon us one after the other and in quick succession: the feast of Trumpets, the feast of Tabernacles, the fasts. There are many in our ranks who say they think as we do. Yet some of these are going to watch the festivals and others will join the Jews in keeping their feasts and observing their fasts. I wish to drive this perverse custom from the Church right now." (“Discourses Against Judaizing Christians”, trans. Paul W. Harkins) Interestingly, the “Christian” church has dedicated several feast days to him.
Earlier in the 4th century, after eradicating Passover in favour of Easter in the First Council of Nicaea, Roman Emperor Constantine stated in a letter, “Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd; for we have received from our Saviour a different way.” (Eusebius, “Life of Constantine”)
Everyone today is a feast keeper whether they realize it or not. People throughout Scripture were keeping the feasts as outlined in Leviticus chapter 23 and other places in the Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy). Some are still keeping those feasts. There are also people today keeping a plethora of other feasts dedicated to saints and occasions of all kinds. Where did we get the idea which feasts we would celebrate? Looking at the following list of the most recognized, which ones do you observe?
Seventh-day Sabbath, Sunday, Easter, Christmas, New Year Celebrations, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day, Lent, Harvest Parties, Passover, Birthdays, Epiphany, Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Spring Equinox, Unleavened Bread, Summer Solstice, Feast of Weeks, Pentecost, Maundy Thursday, Trinity Sunday/Sabbath, Feast of Trumpets, Autumn Equinox, Day of Atonement, All Saints’ Day, All Souls' Day, Carnival, Feast of Tabernacles/Harvest/Ingathering, Marian Feast Days, Christ the King Sunday, Winter Solstice, Advent, and May Day.
When we look at the list of feasts above were any of them instituted by our Heavenly Father? If so, who were they for? Were any in the list then given by God as replacements for what He specified in Scripture, or are some the traditions of men?
According to wikipedia, “The Biblical law regarding Passover and Unleavened Bread is said to be a ‘perpetual ordinance’, but what it means to observe Biblical law in Christianity today is disputed.” Will searching the Scriptures give us an understanding of what it means to observe Biblical law today?
Were the feasts established specifically as a means of holding ceremonies to offer blood sacrifices that were to point to our Saviour and thus only to be observed for a period of time? In the prophecy of Daniel 9:26-27 it states that Jesus would cause the “sacrifice and oblation to cease” by His death on the cross so we know the ceremonial sacrificial system of animal blood sacrifices has ended. Does this negate the Sabbath, days, feasts, assemblies and convocations on which blood sacrifices were offered in the Jewish economy?
Do the feasts point to the plan of salvation in other ways besides the sacrifice of our Saviour on the cross? Will there be future applications related to the second coming of Jesus represented by Passover, Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, Trumpets, Day of Atonement and Tabernacles/Harvest/Ingathering, or have they all been nailed to the cross as many claim today?
Scripture bears record that the weekly seventh day Sabbath feast is a memorial of creation. Looking ahead to the Kingdom where “from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another” (Isaiah 66:23) all will come worship before the Lord, what would the annual feasts be a memorial of? If at that time they will be memorials of something in the past should we observe, celebrate, honour, or keep them now?
If as Christians we proclaim the feasts were done away because they were only for the Jews and nailed to the cross at Jesus’ death, do we have the right and authority to substitute them with holidays, holy days and feasts of our own choosing without a “thus saith the Lord” from Scripture?
The “Universal” church proclaims she has the authority to “think to change times and laws” (Daniel 7:25). One of those “times” concerns the feasts. In the “Douay Catechism of 1649”, on page 58, Rev. Henry Tuberville D.D. asked and answered the following questions for the Catholic Church.
“How prove you that the Church hath power to command feasts and holydays?
By the very act of changing the Sabbath into Sunday, which Protestants allow of; and therefore they fondly contradict themselves, by keeping Sunday strictly, and breaking most other feasts commanded by the same Church.
“How prove you that? Because by keeping Sunday, they acknowledge the Church's power to ordain feasts, and to command them under sin; and by not keeping the rest by her commanded, they again deny, in fact, the same power.” (Ibid)
Let us continue our study from Scripture because we truly want to glean what it tells us.
Scripture Word Study
There are three Hebrew words found in the Old Testament relating to the feasts. We will look at these words and integrate the New Testament example of our Saviour and the apostles in companion studies.
Strong’s H2282: chag a festival, therefore: - (solemn) feast (day), solemnity
Strong’s H2287: chagag to observe a festival, - celebrate, (keep, hold) a (solemn) feast (holiday)
Strong’s H4150: mowad, mo’ed, mowadah an appointment, fixed time or season, specifically a festival; conventionally a year; by implication, an assembly (as convened for a definite purpose); technically the congregation; by extension, the place of meeting; also a signal (as appointed beforehand); appointed (sign, time), (place of, solemn) feast, (appointed, due) season, solemn (ity), synagogue, (set) time (appointed).
Abraham and Joseph
Back before there were any children of Israel our Heavenly Father gives a reason for His promise to Isaac- “And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because that Abraham obeyed My voice, and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.” - (Genesis 26:5) Will a blessing come to us in the same way?
The Spirit of Christ through David declares, “Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day. For this was a statute for Israel, and a law of the God of Jacob. This He ordained in Joseph for a testimony, when he went out through the land of Egypt: where I heard a language that I understood not.” - (Psalm 81:3-5)
The Feasts of the Lord
Because of bondage in Egypt most of the children of Israel forgot their Heavenly Father. He delivers His people from slavery and throughout the exodus tells them again who He is and how He wants to be their God and personally dwell among and in them. They are reminded of His commandments, statutes, judgments, precepts, and ordinances because they were no longer written in their hearts.
As part of the statutes Scripture records special occasions, throughout the year, that the Father had personally requested to meet with His people. Besides the sacrifices and offerings that were offered on these days, the convocations were special in the sense that as a congregation the people were likened to a chaste virgin invited to have communion, fellowship and quality time with their future husband. The people of God in all ages are the bride, and the Bridegroom is none other than Jesus Christ, the one and only begotten Son of God.
“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, The feasts of the Lord, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are My feasts.” - (Leviticus 23:1-2)
Weekly every seventh day- “Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work: it is the Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings.” - (Leviticus 23:3) Establishing the weekly cycle at creation of six days work followed by the seventh day Sabbath our Heavenly Father taught His people to count by sevens from that first week forward and it will be so throughout eternity. This is why no specific dates are tied to the observance of the seventh day Sabbath.
Monthly- “He appointed the moon for seasons…” - (Psalm 104:19) The Biblical year begins with the first New Moon after the barley in Israel reaches the stage in its ripeness called Abib. There was a blowing of the trumpet every visible New Moon to announce the beginning of each month, as we read previously in Psalm 81:3. This day is not identified specifically by Scripture as a feast or Sabbath of the Lord. We would not presume to add to the Word and treat it as such. The moon would be part of the timepiece indicating the seasons of the annual feasts, as all but one begin on a specific date in the month. Congregating for worship in some form is also mentioned in Isaiah 66:23 and Ezekiel 46:1, so when one assembled with others for worship they might also share a meal together. King Saul did this in the time of David.
Annually- “These are the feasts of the Lord, holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons.” - (Leviticus 23:4)
Passover- “In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord’s passover.” - (Leviticus 23:5)
“Observe the month of Abib, and keep the passover unto the Lord thy God: for in the month of Abib the Lord thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt by night.” - (Deuteronomy 16:1) See also Exodus 12:42 and Numbers 9:2.
“And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.” “And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the Lord’s law may be in thy mouth: for with a strong hand hath the Lord brought thee out of Egypt. Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in his season from year to year.” - (Exodus 12:14 & 13:9-10)
“And it shall be for a token upon thine hand, and for frontlets between thine eyes: for by strength of hand the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt.” - (Exodus 13:16)
Unleavened Bread- “The feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep. Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, as I commanded thee, in the time of the month Abib: for in the month Abib thou camest out from Egypt.” - (Exodus 34:18)
“And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the Lord: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread. In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.” - (Leviticus 23:6-8)
Feast of Weeks- “And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year's end.” - (Exodus 34:22)
“And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks unto the Lord thy God with a tribute of a freewill offering of thine hand, which thou shalt give unto the Lord thy God, according as the Lord thy God hath blessed thee:” - (Deuteronomy 16:10)
“And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation unto you: ye shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.” - (Leviticus 23:21)
Feast of Trumpets- “Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation. Ye shall do no servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord.” - (Leviticus 23:24-25)
Day of Atonement- “Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord. And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the Lord your God… It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath.” - (Leviticus 23:27-28, 32)
Feast of Tabernacles / Harvest / Ingathering- “Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the Lord seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath… And ye shall keep it a feast unto the Lord seven days in the year. It shall be a statute for ever in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month.” - (Leviticus 23:39, 41) See also Numbers 29:12 and 35.
“Seven days shalt thou keep a solemn feast unto the Lord thy God in the place which the Lord shall choose: because the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands, therefore thou shalt surely rejoice.” - (Deuteronomy 16:15)
“This day the Lord thy God hath commanded thee to do these statutes and judgments: thou shalt therefore keep and do them with all thine heart, and with all thy soul. Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God, and to walk in His ways, and to keep His statutes, and His commandments, and His judgments, and to hearken unto His voice: and the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be His peculiar people, as He hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all His commandments; and to make thee High above all nations which He hath made, in praise, and in name, and in honour; and that thou mayest be an holy people unto the Lord thy God, as He hath spoken.” -(Deuteronomy 26:16-19)
As a reminder, the law with the commandments, statutes, judgments, precepts and ordinances was written in a book and placed in the side of the Ark of the Covenant.
“Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.” - (Deuteronomy 31:26)
“And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live… And the Lord thy God will make thee plenteous in every work of thine hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, for good: for the Lord will again rejoice over thee for good, as He rejoiced over thy fathers: if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul. For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.” - (Deuteronomy 30:6, 9-14)
The Ten Words, or main points of the law, were written by the finger of God on tables of stone. These commandments were then placed inside the Ark of the Covenant. God also instructed Moses to write the same Ten Commandments in a book along with the statutes and judgments that magnified the law, so that the people would always have access to them.
“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” - (Joshua 1:8)
“For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto Himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.” - (Deuteronomy 7:6)
“And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and unto all the elders of Israel. And Moses commanded them, saying, At the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles, when all Israel is come to appear before the Lord thy God in the place which He shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the Lord your God, and observe to do all the words of this law: and that their children, which have not known any thing, may hear, and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as ye live in the land whither ye go over Jordan to possess it.” - (Deuteronomy 31:9-13)
“And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord, that He did for Israel.” - (Judges 2:7)
A New Generation
“[A]nd there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which He had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim: and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger. And they forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth.” “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” - (Judges 2:10-13 & 17:6)
King Jeroboam is one of many examples of doing that which was right in his own eyes thereby leading the people astray. He sets up his own counterfeit feast of Tabernacles in defiance to what our Heavenly Father established.
“And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David: … Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan. And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan. And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi. And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made. So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense.” - (1 Kings 12:26, 28-33)
“And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the Lord unto Bethel: and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. And he cried against the altar in the word of the Lord, and said, O altar, altar, thus saith the Lord; Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men's bones shall be burnt upon thee. And he gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the sign which the Lord hath spoken; Behold, the altar shall be rent, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out.” - (1 Kings 13:1-3)
Prophecy given to Jeroboam about Josiah is fulfilled 300 years later.
“Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem one and thirty years. And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of David his father, and declined neither to the right hand, nor to the left. For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father: and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images.”- (2 Chronicles 34:1-3)
“Moreover the altar that was at Bethel, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he brake down, and burned the high place, and stamped it small to powder, and burned the grove. And as Josiah turned himself, he spied the sepulchres that were there in the mount, and sent, and took the bones out of the sepulchres, and burned them upon the altar, and polluted it, according to the word of the Lord which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words.” - (2 Kings 23:15-16)
What event brought this strong reaction from Josiah?
Read 2nd Kings 22-23 and 2nd Chronicles 34-35 for the complete account.
“Now in the eighteenth year of his reign, when he had purged the land, and the house, he sent Shaphan, …Maaseiah…and Joah…to repair the house of the Lord his God.” “And when they brought out the money that was brought into the house of the Lord, Hilkiah the priest found a book of the law of the Lord given by Moses… Then Shaphan the scribe told the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath given me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king. And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the law, that he rent his clothes.” - (2 Chronicles 34:8, 14, 18-19)
“And the king commanded Hilkiah…saying, Go, enquire of the Lord for me, and for them that are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that is found: for great is the wrath of the Lord that is poured out upon us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord, to do after all that is written in this book.” - (2 Chronicles 34:20-21)
When Josiah rent his clothes after hearing the book of the law of the Lord he realized it was now a witness against him and the people because of their transgression.
“And Hilkiah…went to Huldah the prophetess…and…spake to her... And she answered…, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Tell ye the man that sent you to me, Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the curses that are written in the book which they have read before the king of Judah: … And as for the king of Judah, who sent you to enquire of the Lord, so shall ye say unto him, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel concerning the words which thou hast heard; because thine heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before God, when thou heardest His words against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, and humbledst thyself before Me, and didst rend thy clothes, and weep before Me; I have even heard thee also, saith the Lord. Behold, I will gather thee to thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered to thy grave in peace, neither shall thine eyes see all the evil that I will bring upon this place, and upon the inhabitants of the same…” - (2 Chronicles 34:22-24, 26-28)
“Then the king sent and gathered together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. And the king went up into the house of the Lord, and all the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the priests, and the Levites, and all the people, great and small: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant that was found in the house of the Lord. And the king stood in his place, and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep His commandments, and His testimonies, and His statutes, with all his heart, and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are written in this book.” - (2 Chronicles 34:29-31)
Did you just read something that sounds familiar? “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.” - (Matthew 22:37-38)
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. - (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
What did Josiah do to keep the first and great commandment? “And Josiah took away all the abominations out of all the countries that pertained to the children of Israel, and made all that were present in Israel to serve, even to serve the Lord their God. And all his days they departed not from following the Lord, the God of their fathers.” “And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him. - (2 Chronicles 34:33; 2 Kings 23:25)
When our Heavenly Father created in Josiah a clean heart and filled him with His Spirit he become a feast keeper, among other things.
“Moreover Josiah kept a passover unto the Lord in Jerusalem … And the children of Israel that were present kept the passover at that time, and the feast of unleavened bread seven days. And there was no passover like to that kept in Israel from the days of Samuel the prophet; neither did all the kings of Israel keep such a passover as Josiah kept, and the priests, and the Levites, and all Judah and Israel that were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” - (2 Chronicles 35:1, 17-18)
In this story Scripture records an interesting note about the pagan priests who had turned the hearts of the children away from their true Father.
“Nevertheless the priests of the high places came not up to the altar of the Lord in Jerusalem, but they did eat of the unleavened bread among their brethren.” - (2 Kings 23:9)
See how defiant those leaders of the apostate “church” were in refusing to go up to the altar at Jerusalem with those who had re-dedicated their lives to following the true God? What will we do when we discover the Book of the Law? Is it our intention to be contrary and do what seems right in our own eyes, or do we want to be like Josiah?
“The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” - (Deuteronomy 29:29)
Pray that Jesus, the Bridegroom, will dwell within you now by His Spirit. The Saviour will teach you how to love His law, the marriage covenant, and when He comes to take the church, His bride, home you will go in to the marriage and the feast.
In part two of our study we will take part in another revival and reformation, meet some feast scorners and mockers, find our Heavenly Father abhorring all His appointed times, and learn what it means to “kiss the Son” or “kiss the calves.”