Counting Pentecost
A Study of Sabbaths, Holy Days, and the Date for Pentecost

Jack M. Lane
 

The purpose of this study is to analyze Leviticus 23 with
regard to when the count to Pentecost is to begin. 
 



If there’s one thing that seems certain to afflict many of our religious observances these days, it’s trying to figure out, or re-figure out, when and how to do various things.  As we grow and progress in our religious understanding, many things are “on the table” for discussion and study.  Why?  No sinister motive at all!  All we want to do is find out the best way to live in obedience to God!  It’s really as simple as that.  What does our heavenly Father want us to do?  Let’s do that! 
 
That’s such a noble motive, but when we set about to really study into things, we often find that there have been longstanding debates about how best to obey God in the area we are currently studying.  This is no exception.  When does one schedule Pentecost? 
 
It might have been a simple matter in ancient Israel, when the governing authority (specifically, the Sanhedrin in the time of Christ) set the dates.  After Israel ceased to be a nation, however, setting holy day dates became an issue until Maimonides, in the 10th century A.D., published a standardized Jewish calendar so Jews around the world could observe holy days on the same date. 
 
For those of us who came from holy-day-keeping churches, all we had to do was show up on the day the church told us, and we would be observing the holy day together, in all the congregations of that church around the world.  Setting the dates for holy days became a problem when many of us ceased attending those churches.  That’s when many people found that the church had been using the Jewish calendar, which has been largely rejected by independents because it does not begin its months based on the new moons.  (For a further discussion of this topic, see “The Postponements—Addressing the Issues”.) 
 
This article is looking at some of the ideas involved with setting the date for Pentecost.  Why, you might ask, should we have any questions about when to observe Pentecost?  Let me introduce you to the amazing tale of the mysterious date that defies pinning down! 
 
 
History of the Controversy
 
In Palestine during the early parts of the first century C.E., there were a number of denominations of Judah-ism.  Two of the major sects were the Pharisees and the Sadducees. 
 
The Sadducees were the priestly sect.  They (and others) began the count toward Pentecost (they would have called it Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks) with the day of the Wave Sheaf offering (when the omer of barley from the first stalk was elevated to be accepted for the people).  According to history’s best guess, the priests in the Temple cut the first grain of the harvest at the end of a weekly Sabbath (probably the Sabbath during the days of unleavened bread), prepared it overnight, and observed the omer-elevating ceremony on Sunday morning, which began the harvest.  (See “The Wave Offering—The Forgotten Holy Day?”)   
 
The day of the omer elevating was the first day on the 50-day count to Pentecost.  The scriptures tell us to “count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed.  Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD” (Leviticus 23:15-16, NKJV throughout).  That 50th day is the Feast of Pentecost. 
 
But we don’t have the wave sheaf offering, which is the omer-elevating ceremony.  We don’t have the Levitical priesthood serving at the Temple in Jerusalem today.  Not a problem.  We simply begin our count today from the “day after the Sabbath”—the day after the weekly Sabbath during the days in unleavened bread—the day when the omer would have been elevated—and 50 days later we’re observing a Sunday Pentecost! 
 
That system served us well in our holy-day-observing churches.  But history throws a wrench into the works when we take the time to go back and research.
 
A few years after Christ’s resurrection and ascension to heaven, the Sadducees lost political power and control of the Temple to the Pharisee sect.  The Pharisees were not Levites, so they were not priests.  They were leaders in the synagogues and in the communities who insisted on a pure and righteous relationship with God.  The people tended to favor the more godly approach of the Pharisees and no longer supported the corrupt Sadducees.  So the Pharisees gained power and prestige. 
 
The Pharisees also enforced a count to Pentecost beginning with the day after the first day of unleavened bread.  Rather than using a weekly Sabbath, with the omer-elevating ceremony on the day after the Sabbath (which we call Sunday), the Pharisees set the omer-elevating ceremony to occur on the day after the annual Sabbath, the first day of unleavened bread, which was set as the 15th day of the first month.  Therefore, the omer elevation became associated with the second day of unleavened bread, the 16th day of the first month. 

Current practice among most Jews and many holy-day-observing churches is to observe Pentecost 50 days following the 15th day of the first month.  According to some, the word shabbath in the instruction to “count seven sabbaths” is said to have the same meaning as “week,” and the phrase could just as easily mean “count seven weeks.”  In other words, the instructions are to count seven weeks, whether those weeks begin on the first day of the week, the second day, or whatever day of the week it happens to be. 
 
This is one of the controversies that still swirls around in various religious circles to this day.  A quick search of the internet shows the controversy raging as much as ever.  For example, searching for “Shavuot” or “Shavuot+date” brings forth many Jewish web sites discussing what they know.  Searching for “Pentecost+date” brings up many church web sites and independent ministries with their particular perspectives. 
 
 
Where Does That Leave Us?

Because there is no temple and no priesthood operating in
Jerusalem in modern times, there is no wave sheaf offering, and modern man is left to try to decide when to begin the count to Pentecost.  Many use the Jewish calendar (often called the Hebrew calendar), which begins the count to Pentecost on the day following the first day of unleavened bread (Abib 15), and which ends the count on a fixed calendar day (Sivan 6).  Others begin the count in various ways, some of which will be detailed in this article.

In modern times, two major camps have arisen in the Hebraic Christian church (that branch of the Christian faith which reveres torah and does not merely follow Catholic traditions) to arrive at a date for Pentecost.  One method of counting begins on the day following the weekly Sabbath during the days of unleavened bread (as the Sadducees apparently did), while the other method begins the count on the day following the first day of unleavened bread (following the example of the Pharisees). 

There are variations within each of these two methods of counting as well.  Not only that, but there are also flaws in the general reasoning of both of these methods of counting. 

However, as it was in the days of the Judges, so we find ourselves today: “In those days there was no king in
Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.  What else would we do—that which was wrong in our own eyes?  No, independents are all trying to do our best.  Those who follow church leaders without question actually do have a king, so they don’t have to go through this mental exercise.  It’s their church leaders’ responsibility, not theirs.  On the other hand, independents understand that they have a culpability, a responsibility, for what they know, and a duty to find God’s will in a matter and try to do the right thing.  It gets exciting at times. 
 
It doesn’t help when we cannot go directly to scripture or history and find clear, unambiguous instructions, either.  That brings us back to the count to Pentecost, and some ambiguities that we find when we go looking. 
 
 
Some Problems in Methods of Counting

The main flaw in the first method of counting to Pentecost mentioned above (that is, beginning the count on the day after the weekly Sabbath during the days of unleavened bread) is that the scriptures do not specifically begin the count during the days of unleavened bread.  This is often news to people who have assumed that the count begins during the days of unleavened bread!  The scriptures simply do not state that!  However, standardizing the count to begin at that time would serve to unite like-minded holy day keepers around the world, since the barley is in an “aviv” state on the first new moon of the year (that is, it is able to be parched, and is approximately two weeks from being ready to harvest).  Many holy day keepers have used this method of beginning the count to Pentecost as their standard. 

In the second method of counting to Pentecost mentioned above, the count begins on the day after the first day of unleavened bread.  The strength of this method is that everyone would have a known starting point for beginning the count to Pentecost, and this would eliminate the awkward position many have found themselves in when the days of unleavened bread run from Sunday through Saturday. 

 
What awkward situation is that?  Put simply, it is this:  When the days of unleavened bread run from a Sunday to the following Saturday, there can be two choices for beginning the count of Pentecost, depending on how you view the instruction to count from “the day after the Sabbath”:
 
1. Do we begin the count from “the Sabbath during the days of unleavened bread”? In this example, the weekly Sabbath is the last day of unleavened bread. If we begin the count here, we would begin the count from the day after the last day of unleavened bread. The count would begin from a day outside the days of unleavened bread. This is a problem for some people.

2. Or, do we count from “the day after” which falls within the days of unleavened bread? In this example, the count would begin on Sunday, the first day of unleavened bread, one week earlier. The day of counting would be within the days of unleavened bread, but the Sabbath that the day would be “the day after” would not be in the days of unleavened bread. This is a problem for some.

This has been a struggle for some holy-day-keeping groups.  This problem simply goes away if Pentecost is 50 days following the first day of unleavened bread.  However, is that reason enough to count this way?  Some think so, others do not. 

In the first method, counting fifty days from a Sunday brings us to a Pentecost falling on Sunday.  (This presupposes using the inclusive method of counting.  Some use an exclusive method of counting, and so end up with Pentecost on a Monday.)  On the other hand, for those using the other method, if the second day of unleavened bread falls on a Wednesday, counting fifty days (inclusively) would put Pentecost on a Wednesday. 

Do I, personally, advocate one of these methods over the other?  I have favored one method over the other during my many years in this faith.  But once again, this issue is “on the table” for discussion and study. 

 
Speaking from a personal standpoint, I have thought that the concept of beginning the count based on the day after the first day of unleavened bread does not fit within the scriptural guidelines.  I believe that it is based largely on the assumption that the phrase “the day after the Sabbath” in Leviticus 23:11 and 15 can refer to the second day of unleavened bread, and also that the reference to counting seven Sabbaths in verses 15 and 16 can readily mean counting seven weeks (beginning on any weekday). 
 
It has been my belief that the count should begin on a Sunday and end on a Sunday, although it is still not altogether clear biblically when the count should begin in the absence of a wave sheaf offering.  In this study I intend to show why it is that I believe the second method of counting (beginning with the day after the first day of unleavened bread) is incorrect by using a simple analysis of the text of Leviticus chapter 23.  Of course, if I am in error, I would be willing to change what I have historically understood. 
 
 
The Way Things Are Described

The whole chapter:  “The feasts [Strong’s #4150] of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations [#4744], these are My feasts [#4150].”  The holy days are referred to mostly as feasts and convocations, as we shall see. 

Weekly Sabbath:  “the seventh day is a Sabbath [7676] of solemn rest [7677], a holy convocation [4744]. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath [7676] of the LORD ...”  The weekly Sabbath is identified as a Sabbath.  Interestingly, God inspired Moses to use the Hebrew phrase shabbath shabbathown (Strong’s #7676 and 7677), which would be better translated as “a sabbath of sabbath observance.”  It’s a double reference that gives it more strength.  Shabbath is a concrete noun, while shabbathown is an abstract noun.  It’s the difference between something you can point to (“the Sabbath day”) and something intangible (Sabbath observance, Sabbath keeping). 

Unleavened Bread:  “the Feast [chag, a festival – Strong’s #2282] of Unleavened Bread to the LORD ... On the first day you shall have a holy convocation [miqra', a public meeting – #4744]; you shall do no customary work on it. ... The seventh day shall be a holy convocation [miqra' – 4744]; you shall do no customary work on it.’”  There is no specific mention of “sabbath” here, but rather a festival; however, if people are not to do their work on that day, it amounts to the same thing.

Wave Sheaf Offering:  “He shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath [7676] the priest shall wave it.”  Thus far in chapter 23, the only reference to the Sabbath has been the weekly Sabbath, making it difficult to see the possibility that this refers to the first day of unleavened bread, which is a feast day (chag).  Further, it would make no sense to mistranslate this verse as “He shall wave the sheaf ... on the day after the week.”  It seems to be referring to a specific day, and that day is the Sabbath, not the festival day.  It is the seventh day of the week, not any seven-day block of time.  I think context tells us the meaning of the word rather plainly here.  The weekly Sabbath is the antecedent to this passage.  The first day of unleavened bread is not named as a sabbath, and the way language works suggests rather strongly that it is the weekly Sabbath being referred to here.

Counting to Pentecost:  “And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath [7676], from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths [7676] shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath [7676]; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD. ... And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation [4744] to you. You shall do no customary work on it.”  We see that Pentecost is also not referred to specifically as a “sabbath,” and indeed, not even as a festival, but rather as a convocation, or public meeting, but still, people were not to do their work on that day. 

 
In the next few references we will see something rather interesting about the holy days being called sabbaths! 

Trumpets:  “In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest [7677], a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation [4744]. You shall do no customary work on it.”  Trumpets is referred to as a sabbath, or more correctly, as a sabbath observance (the abstract noun), as well as a convocation, or public meeting.  This is the first reference to a feast day as being a sabbath.  Until now, only the weekly Sabbath was called a shabbathown, or Sabbath observance. 

Atonement:  “It shall be a holy convocation [4744] for you; you shall afflict your souls, and ... you shall do no work on that same day ... For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people. And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. You shall do no manner of work ... It shall be to you a sabbath [7676] of solemn rest [7677], and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath [7676].”  The day of atonement joins the weekly Sabbath as a sabbath of sabbath observance, or a day of absolute rest, as evidenced by the repetitions to do no work at all, or else! 

Feast of Tabernacles:  “The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast [2282] of Tabernacles for seven days to the LORD. On the first day there shall be a holy convocation [4744]. You shall do no customary work on it. ... On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation [4744] ... It is a sacred assembly [6116], and you shall do no customary work on it. ... Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast [2282] of the LORD for seven days; on the first day there shall be a sabbath-rest [7677], and on the eighth day a sabbath-rest [7677]. ... You shall keep it as a feast [2282] to the LORD for seven days in the year.”  We finish up the year with a festival which begins and ends with convocations which are also sabbath observances.

Recapping the entire chapter:  “These are the feasts [4150] of the LORD which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations [4744] ... besides [in addition to] the [weekly] Sabbaths [7676] of the LORD ... So Moses declared to the children of
Israel the feasts [4150] of the LORD.”  


Conclusions from Leviticus 23

I thought it was interesting that only the feasts we call “the fall holy days” were referred to specifically as being sabbaths (7676) and sabbath observances (7677).  We tend to think of the latter festivals as having to do (in typology) with the great final harvest of humans during the Great White Throne judgment.  But for the purposes of this discussion, it was also interesting to note that the earlier festivals, which we usually call “the spring holy days,” are not specifically designated as sabbaths at all (even though no work is to be done on those days)! 

 
So what profound significance do I think I have found in all of this?  How does any of this word study pertain to the topic at hand? 
 
I think the significance to this finding is in the fact that the first day of unleavened bread, while it is a festival, is not specifically named as a sabbath.  If the first day of unleavened bread is referred to as chag, rather than shabbath or shabbathown, it could not be the shabbath referred to in the instructions for the wave sheaf or counting the days to Pentecost!  

Based on this study, I have not been able to demonstrate to myself that the reference to the Sabbath relative to the wave sheaf or the count to Pentecost can mean the first day of unleavened bread.  Nor can I see that the phrase “the day after the seventh Sabbath” can refer to the day after the completion of seven seven-day periods, be they any 49-day period from a Tuesday to a Monday or from a Friday to a Thursday.  I believe the language and the context demonstrate that shabbath is referring only to the seventh day Sabbath in these verses: 

 
15 'And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath [7676], from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths [7676] shall be completed.
16 Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath [7676]; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD.

The idea that seven Sabbaths shall be completed actually does suggest that seven weeks would be completed, but weeks which fall in their regular pattern, i.e., what we call Sunday through Saturday.  The Hebrew word translated “completed” is tamiym (taw-meem', Strong’s #8549), which means “entire” (literally, figuratively or morally); it also translates as “integrity” or “truth.”  KJV translates it variously as “without blemish,” “complete,” “full,” “perfect,” “sincerely,” “sound,” “without spot,” “undefiled,” “upright,” or “whole.”  As such, I can only envision blocks of regular weeks, running Sunday through Saturday. 


The Feast of Weeks

Although we usually refer to this festival as Pentecost (from the Greek, “count fifty”), it is referred to biblically as the Feast of Weeks.  Exodus 34:22 says, “And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year's end.”

Are there scriptural instructions to count seven “weeks” instead of seven “Sabbaths”?  After all, if there was a scripture that says to count seven weeks, one could possibly begin the count on any day of the week and simply move forward seven seven-day periods of time to arrive at the day before Pentecost. 

As it turns out, there is one passage in the Hebrew scriptures that says we are to count seven weeks.  Here it is: 
 
Deuteronomy 16:9-12:
9 "You shall count seven [7651 - sheba] weeks [7620 – shabua, a week, or a seven] for yourself; begin to count the seven [7651] weeks [7620] from the time you begin to put the sickle to the grain.
10 Then you shall keep the Feast [2282 – chag, festival] of Weeks [7620] to the LORD your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the LORD your God blesses you.
11 You shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your gates, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are among you, at the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide.
12 And you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall be careful to observe these statutes.

The instructions are to count seven weeks—sheba shabua—and keep the Feast of Weeks—chag shabua!  It’s interesting to find here that the instruction does use the word “week” instead of “sabbath.”  It points out something of value in this discussion:  The word shabua is never translated as “sabbath.”  "Seven", yes.  "Week," yes.  But not "Sabbath."  The word simply means “a seven” or “a seven-day period” (i.e., a week).  So here we have the biblical instruction to count seven weeks.  But when we compare this passage to Leviticus 23, we can see some interesting similarities and differences:

1. Like Leviticus 23, the passage in Deuteronomy 16 begins the count based, not on the days of unleavened bread, but on the harvest:

Leviticus 23:9-10: “And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: “When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest.”’”

Deuteronomy 16:9: “You shall count seven weeks for yourself; begin to count the seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the grain.”

There is simply no scriptural authority to begin the count based on the days of unleavened bread.

2. Unlike Leviticus 23, the passage in Deuteronomy does not indicate that the count begins on the day after the firstfruits of the harvest, nor that the Feast of Weeks occurs the day after the 49th day of the count. Therefore, some important information is missing in Deuteronomy 16 (and also in a parallel account in Exodus 34) which leaves the Bible student without sufficient instruction. Deuteronomy 16 must be understood in the light of Leviticus 23.

Here is an interesting note regarding shabua in the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, in the article relating to shabua and its variants: 
 
Shabua. A period of seven, a week, the Feast of Weeks. This term occurs twenty times in the OT, always indicating a period of seven. Indeed, the word obviously comes to us from sheba, ... and could literally be translated always as “seven-period.”

In Deut 16:9, shabua represents a period of seven days (literally “seven seven-periods you-shall-number-to-you”). ...

Shabua is also used as a technical term in Deut 16:10,16 where it denotes the Feast of Weeks (hag shabuot), i.e., the Feast of Seven-Periods. ... today’s Israeli pronunciation is “Shavuot.” It was so named because it was to be celebrated “on the day after” the seventh sabbath after the day of firstfruits (Lev 23:15-16)! Hence it was the feast of the day following the seven seven-periods, or the Feast of Hamishim Yom, fifty days – Pentecost from the Greek. This feast marked the early wheat harvest ...

Christians remember Pentecost as the day when the Holy Spirit was poured out in fullness (Acts 2). As Christ was the “firstfruits” (I Cor 15:20,23), many also see this later Feast of Weeks, shabua, a picture of the coming resurrection of all the redeemed. (p. 899)

The Feast of Weeks could also be called the Festival of Sevens (chag + shabua).  Indeed, the number seven in Hebrew has much significance, not only as prophetic and symbolic markers, but also as a synonym for swearing an oath!  There may be much in the way of symbolism yet to be discovered for this festival day. 

Each of the festivals is date stamped except for the wave sheaf offering (often called the Day of Firstfruits) and Pentecost (also called the Feast of Firstfruits).  The weekly Sabbath is every seventh day of the week, while the date for Passover is 1/14, Unleavened Bread runs from 1/15 through 1/21, Trumpets is on 7/1, Atonement is on 7/10, Tabernacles runs from 7/15 through 7/21, and the eighth day is on 7/22.  (In this case, “1” refers to the first month, Abib or Nisan, while “7” refers to the seventh month.)

However, two of these festivals are not date stamped:  the wave sheaf and Pentecost.  These two festivals are based (in the scriptural instructions) on the beginning of the harvest of the first month, as noted previously. 
 
 
The Example of Joshua 5  

Joshua chapter five is often quoted in reference to the first time the Passover was observed in the Promised Land. As a quick review, the Israelites crossed over the Jordan River and “came up from the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they camped in Gilgal on the east border of Jericho” (Joshua 4:19). The tenth day of the first month was the day the Passover lamb was to be selected and set apart (Exodus 12:1-3.)  However, the Israelites had not been observing Passover up until that time. They were wanderers and sojourners, so setting lambs aside for Passover would not have been an easy thing to do!  

In Joshua 5:2-9, God commands that the Israelites be circumcised as one of their first duties in the new land, since that generation had been born during the wilderness wanderings and had not been circumcised. In verse 10, the Israelites observed Passover on the appropriate date. Then, “they ate of the produce of the land on the day after the Passover, unleavened bread and parched grain, on the very same day. Then the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten the produce of the land; and the children of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate the food of the land of Canaan that year” (Joshua 5:11-12).


Many have used these verses to show that the wave sheaf offering is tied to the days of unleavened bread. People have envisioned the wave sheaf offering taking place before the Israelites ate the local produce.  The reasoning goes like this:  They would not have eaten the produce unless they had the wave offering first. The wave offering takes place on the morning after the Sabbath, which means that this particular Passover occurred on the Sabbath. Why? Because the wave offering was done Sunday morning, and they would need to have waved the offering before they ate the local produce. Therefore, the Passover was on Sabbath, the wave offering and the eating of the local produce was on Sunday, and the manna stopped on Monday. In fact, we can go back to the tenth day of the month and know that the Israelites crossed the
Jordan River on a Tuesday. So goes the reasoning process. 

In fact, the wave offering is not mentioned in this passage. All these verses state is that the Israelites ate the local produce on the day after the Passover, which, by the way, would have been the first day of unleavened bread. The scriptures are rather clear that the Passover date is the 14th day of the first month. The day after the Passover, then, would be the 15th day of the first month, which is the first day of unleavened bread. That’s when they ate the local produce.


Incidentally, this passage of scripture doesn’t support the idea that the wave sheaf was offered on the second day of unleavened bread, and then the Israelites ate the local harvest. No, the scriptures rather plainly say that they ate the local grain the day after Passover, which would have been the first day of unleavened bread. Using this passage in this way backs up the idea of a Sunday morning wave offering.


However, there is simply no mention of a wave sheaf offering. To read that into the account is to practice eisegesis, adding something into scriptures, rather than exegesis, which is to read only what the scriptures say.


Now, that’s not to say that those events did not take place. Things may have unfolded just as people say. The point here is to be aware when we read things into scriptures that are not there. We need to make a mental note that we have added in an understanding which was not plainly revealed in the text. We may be correct, but we need to keep in mind that it is our understanding, our interpretation, rather than what was plainly revealed. This simple practice can save us from any number of exegetical problems as we study scripture.


However, we should spend another moment looking at both sides of this possibility. Here are the scriptures which argue for the possibility that these things happened in this way:
 
Leviticus 23:9-11,14:
9 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
10 "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest.
11 He shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. ...
14 You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your God.
 
Israel did come into the land. There’s no doubt about it. So it seems natural to assume that this scriptural command would be carried out immediately. However, it’s an assumption. It may be true, but the verses don’t specifically say so.

Not only is there no mention of a wave offering, there is no mention of harvesting! When it says “they ate of the produce of the land on the day after the Passover, unleavened bread and parched grain” (Joshua
5:11), we might assume that they harvested the local crops. However, the account doesn’t say so.

We’re looking at the idea that
Israel ate local produce. The local people had food in storage. The local people also high-tailed it out of harm’s way when they saw Israel coming. Joshua 5:1 says, “So it was, when all the kings of the Amorites who were on the west side of the Jordan, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard that the LORD had dried up the waters of the Jordan from before the children of Israel until we had crossed over, that their heart melted; and there was no spirit in them any longer because of the children of Israel.”

Even though
Israel came into the land at harvest time, they were side-lined while they healed over from their circumcision. Immediately after that they observed the Passover. Then, in chapter six, they set about to take Jericho. While some of the local grain was probably harvested and prepared on an individual basis, there is no mention of an organized harvest taking place right then, because of the invasion taking place.

Here are some verses from Leviticus 23 which might argue against the idea of a wave offering the day after the Passover in that year:
 
10 "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, ...
14 ... it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
22 'When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the LORD your God.' "

  These verses are part of the torah given to Israel for when they inherited their land. These were annual occurrences, and the rules given were to be carried out every year, as a memorial and as a religious and economic practice.

The Israelites did not sprinkle blood on their doorposts every year at Passover; they did so only on the first Passover in
Egypt. Passover was an annual memorial to that event, but the sprinkling of the blood was not done every year.

The Israelites performed strenuous physical activity when they left
Egypt on the first day of unleavened bread. They were not criticized or condemned for working so hard; rather, the holy day was a memorial of that event.

The Israelites came into the region of
Jericho on the 10th day of the first month, then were circumcised and spent several days resting in the camp, then celebrated Passover on the 14th, then ate local produce on the 15th, then began to take Jericho. Under these circumstances, it’s difficult to see where any harvesting of crops would take place. Now, once Jericho had been taken, and the land was theirs, the Israelites could have turned their attention to harvesting. At that time, it would be appropriate to have the ceremony thanking God for the harvest.

But again, all of this is speculation, and the verses we’re looking at don’t say any of this. We can learn from this that when we use eisegesis in our Bible study, we need to remember that it is merely speculation, and our own ideas, even if they are good ideas, and even if we are correct in our assumptions. We must resist the temptation to establish doctrine or use “proof texts” based on what we can read into a passage of scripture. The best practice is to err on the side of caution and realize that what we think may be going on there may not, in actual fact, be what happened. 



My Conclusions

Based on these things, I continue to hold to my earlier concept that Pentecost is properly observed on a Sunday, based on counting from the day after a particular weekly Sabbath.  That would bring us to a Sunday every time.  However, if the days of unleavened bread are not part of the calculation, the question remains:  Which Sunday? 
 
Then, what do we do about the fact that scripture does not tie the wave sheaf or the count to Pentecost to the days of unleavened bread, but to the harvest?  What harvest?  Where?  Without a king, we each need to do what we consider right in our own hearts.  But we need more information to make an informed decision.  It seems historically documented that the wave sheaf offerings were held annually during the days of unleavened bread during the Temple periods. 
 
For that reason, it still seems supported biblically, historically, and traditionally to begin the count to Pentecost based on the weekly Sabbath during the days of unleavened bread.  Is that a compromise?  Possibly.  It’s my best guess based on the information I currently have. 

So it seems I have gone all the way around the block and arrived at the same starting point. After I have examined the evidence at hand, I find no reason to change my understanding that Pentecost falls on a Sunday, and that particular Sunday is computed from the day of the wave sheaf offering, which I still believe took place following a weekly Sabbath (if the scriptural instructions were observed). 

We look to the return of a particular party from heaven, who will sit us down and tell us just how things are to be done.  I’m not planning on arguing with him, either.  He may have come to different conclusions than I have, but that’s just fine!  I’ll do whatever he says.
 
I just wish he’d hurry a little bit and get here to straighten us out in all of the areas where we don’t have a clear picture, where we disagree and separate, where we can’t find it in our hearts to get along.  We need that. 
 
In the meantime, we need to work on our attitudes and our behavior toward others.  We need to accept that others may look at the same scriptures we look at and come to different conclusions.  Does that make them wrong, or stupid?  Certainly not.  We’re all doing the best we can.  In these days there is no king in Israel; everyone does what is right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25). 
 
That will have to do for now.
 
 
 
 
 
Appendix 1:
 
Leviticus 23 (NKJV), with Strong’s numbers for certain words:
 
23:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
2 "Speak to the children of
Israel, and say to them: 'The feasts [4150] of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations [4744], these are My feasts [4150].
 
3 'Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath [7676] of solemn rest [7677], a holy convocation [4744]. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath [7676] of the LORD in all your dwellings.
 
4 'These are the feasts [4150] of the LORD, holy convocations [4744] which you shall proclaim at their appointed times [4150].
 
5 On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the LORD's Passover.
6 And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast [2282] of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; seven days you must eat unleavened bread.
7 On the first day you shall have a holy convocation [4744]; you shall do no customary work on it.
8 But you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD for seven days. The seventh day shall be a holy convocation [4744]; you shall do no customary work on it.' "
 
9 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
10 "Speak to the children of
Israel, and say to them: 'When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest.
11 He shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath [7676] the priest shall wave it.
12 And you shall offer on that day, when you wave the sheaf, a male lamb of the first year, without blemish, as a burnt offering to the LORD.
13 Its grain offering shall be two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire to the LORD, for a sweet aroma; and its drink offering shall be of wine, one-fourth of a hin.
14 You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your God; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
 
15 'And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath [7676], from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths [7676] shall be completed.
16 Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath [7676]; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD.
17 You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the LORD.
18 And you shall offer with the bread seven lambs of the first year, without blemish, one young bull, and two rams. They shall be as a burnt offering to the LORD, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma to the LORD.
19 Then you shall sacrifice one kid of the goats as a sin offering, and two male lambs of the first year as a sacrifice of a peace offering.
20 The priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the LORD for the priest.
21 And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation [4744] to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.
 
22 'When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the LORD your God.'"
 
23 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
24 "Speak to the children of
Israel, saying: 'In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest [7677], a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation [4744].
25 You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD.' "
 
26 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
27 "Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation [4744] for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the LORD.
28 And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God.
29 For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people.
30 And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people.
31 You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
32 It shall be to you a sabbath [7676] of solemn rest [7677], and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath [7676]."
 
33 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
34 "Speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast [2282] of Tabernacles for seven days to the LORD.
35 On the first day there shall be a holy convocation [4744]. You shall do no customary work on it.
36 For seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation [4744], and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. It is a sacred assembly [6116], and you shall do no customary work on it.
37 These are the feasts [4150] of the LORD which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations [4744], to offer an offering made by fire to the LORD, a burnt offering and a grain offering, a sacrifice and drink offerings, everything on its day –
38 besides the Sabbaths [7676] of the LORD, besides your gifts, besides all your vows, and besides all your freewill offerings which you give to the LORD.
 
39 'Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast [2282] of the LORD for seven days; on the first day there shall be a sabbath-rest [7677], and on the eighth day a sabbath-rest [7677].
40 And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.
41 You shall keep it as a feast [2282] to the LORD for seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations. You shall celebrate it in the seventh month.
42 You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths,
43 that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.' "
44 So Moses declared to the children of
Israel the feasts [4150] of the LORD.
 
 


 
Appendix 2:
 
Hebrew origins of important words from Leviticus 23:
 

Feast
OT:4150
mowed` (mo-ade'); or moed` (mo-ade'); or (feminine) mow` adah (2 Chron 8:13) (mo-aw-daw'); from OT:3259; properly, an appointment, i.e. a 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):
KJV - appointed (sign, time), (place of, solemn) assembly, congregation, (set, solemn) feast, (appointed, due) season, solemn (-ity), synogogue, (set) time (appointed).
(Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)
 
 
Sabbath
OT:7676
shabbath (shab-bawth'); intensive from OT:7673; intermission, i.e (specifically) the Sabbath:
KJV - (+every) sabbath.
(Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)
 
***
 
“this noun means intermission, the Sabbath, the day of rest, the holy seventh day; a week (Lev.
23:15 [cf. Deut. 16:9; Matt. 28:1]), the sacred seventh year, a sabbatical year....”
(The Complete Word Study Old Testament. Copyright (c) 1994, AMG Publishers)
 
 
Sabbath-rest
OT:7677
shabbathown (shab-baw-thone'); from OT:7676; a sabbatism or special holiday:
KJV - rest, sabbath.
(Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)
 
***
 
“this masc. noun is a deriv. of shabbath (7676).  It means a sacred time of rest, a great or solemn Sabbath (Ex.
16:23; 31:15; 35:2).  The term applies to the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:31; 23:32), the Feast of Trumpets (Lev. 23:24), and the first and eighth days of tabernacles (Lev. 23:39).  The ending indicates that it is an abstract noun.”
(The Complete Word Study Old Testament. Copyright (c) 1994, AMG Publishers)
 
***
 
“Sabbath observance.  In addition to designating the Sabbath (Ex.
16:23), this word may apply to the day of atonement (Lev. 16:31; 23:32); the feast of trumpets (Lev. 23:24); and the first and eighth days of tabernacles (Lev. 23:39).  The ending -on is characteristic of abstract nouns in Hebrew such as zikkaron ‘remembrance.’”
(Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Volume 2.  Copyright (c) 1980, Moody Press.)
 

Convocation
OT:4744
miqra' (mik-raw'); from OT:7121; something called out, i.e., a public meeting (the act, the persons, or the place); also a rehearsal:
KJV - assembly, calling, convocation, reading.
(Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)
 
 
Assembly
OT:6116
`atsarah (ats-aw-raw'); or `atsereth (ats-eh'-reth); from OT:6113; an assembly, especially on a festival or holiday:
KJV - (solemn) assembly (meeting).
(Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)
 
 
Feast
OT:2282
chag (khag); or chag (khawg); from OT:2287; a festival, or a victim therefor:
KJV - (solemn) feast (day), sacrifice, solemnity.
(Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)
 
 
 

 
 
Appendix 3: 

Excerpts from an article by John J. Parsons about the Feast of Weeks, taken from the web site Hebrew4Christians.com:


The Omer Controversy and the Date of Shavu’ot

There was some controversy as to exactly when Shavu’ot should be celebrated, based on uncertainty about when the first day of the counting of the omer should begin. The controversy was not a small matter, since Shavu'ot is one of the three mo'edim (appointed times) in which all males are commanded to appear before [the] LORD in Jerusalem (Exodus 23:14-17). Since the date of Shavu'ot depends on the first day of the omer, starting the count on the wrong day would imply that festival would be observed at the wrong time.


The Torah (Leviticus 23:15) states that the first day of the 49 day countdown to Shavu’ot begins “on the day after the Sabbath,” but it is unclear if the word “Sabbath” here refers to the weekly Sabbath or to the High Sabbath (shabbaton) of Passover [that is, the first day of unleavened bread], on Nisan 15. Three main viewpoints developed regarding the meaning of the phrase “after the Sabbath”:

* The Tzaddukim (Sadducees) believed that the word “Sabbath” was used in its regular sense, as the seventh day of the week, and therefore began the countdown on the first Sunday after Passover (Talmud: Menachot 65). Now since Shavu’ot occurs 7 weeks later to the day, this implies that it also fell on a Sunday. Moreover, since the date for the weekly Sabbath varies over the year, the date of Shavu’ot would likewise vary.

* The Perushim (Pharisees), on the other hand, believed that "the day after the Shabbat" referred to not the weekly Sabbath but to the first day of Passover (which is a shabbaton or day of work restrictions), and therefore began counting the following day, that is, the day after Passover (which is also the second day of Unleavened Bread). This is supported in Joshua 5:11-12 when
Israel first entered the land and ate of its firstfruits. Now since Passover always occurs on Nisan 15, this established a fixed date for Shavu’ot 49 days later on Sivan 6. ... [A third viewpoint has been omitted from this excerpt.]
Historically, the Pharisee’s position prevailed in the Jewish tradition, and the modern Rabbinical calendar marks Shavu’ot on the fixed date of Sivan 6 (in May/June), exactly 49 days after the second day of Unleavened Bread (Nisan 16). This accords with the testimony of first century historians Josephus and Philo, who both state that the “day after the Sabbath” meant the day after the holiday Sabbath. ...
 
The Anniversary of the Birth of the Church

Originally an agricultural festival, traditional Judaism views Shavu’ot primarily as Mattan Torah, a time that commemorates the giving of the Torah at
Mount Sinai. Historically, as one of the three pilgrimage festivals, Jews from all over the world would come to Jerusalem to celebrate and reaffirm their commitment to the covenant of Moses.

And such was the custom when God delivered the Substance of which the festival of Shavu’ot was merely a “type and a shadow.” For the Brit Chadashah [the New Testament] reveals that Shavu’ot is the climax of God’s plan for our deliverance through Yeshua, the true Lamb of God (Seh Elohim). The countdown to Shavu’ot represents the giving of the anticipated New Covenant to mankind, since it was on this very day that the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) was given to form the
Church of God.

With a touch of divine irony, on the very day that Jews from around the world gathered in Jerusalem to reaffirm their commitment to the covenant of Moses, the Holy Spirit descended upon Israel to offer the promise of the New Covenant to all who will believe (see Acts 2:1-42). This new covenant makes Torah a matter of the heart, written by the God’s Spirit, and yielding a life fruitful in the praise of God.


Just as the resurrection of Yeshua represents the Firstfruits of those who have died (1 Cor 15:20) and fulfills the prophetic ritual of the waving of the omer on the festival of First Fruits, so the giving of the Holy Spirit to the church fulfills the wave offering of the wheat loaves on the day of Shavu’ot.


Shavu’ot marks the day when God entered into relationship with His original covenant people, the Jews. During the first Shavu’ot at Sinai, God instituted the Mosaic covenant and gave the Torah in written form, but during the Shavu’ot after the resurrection of Yeshua, God established the New Covenant when He wrote the Torah on the hearts of Yeshua’s followers.

* Shavuot at Mt. Sinai is sometimes considered the day on which Judaism was born. Shavu’ot in Jerusalem (Mount Zion) is the day on which the church was born when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the followers of the Mashiach.

* At
Mount Sinai the Ten Commandments were written on tablets of stone by the "finger of God" (Exodus 31:18), but at Mount Zion, the Torah is written on tables of the heart by the Spirit of God (2 Cor 3:3; Hebrews 8:10).

* Just as the Israelites were affirmed as God's chosen people on Shavu'ot with the giving of the Torah, so the Church was affirmed as God's chosen people at Shavu'ot after the Mashiach’s ascension into heaven as the Mediator of a Better Covenant, based on better promises (Hebrews 8:6). The 3,000 that were added to the church that day were firstfruits of the redeemed people of God.


* In the Jewish tradition, Shavu’ot is compared to a wedding, for it was on Shavuot that the covenant between God and the Jewish People was sealed at Mount Sinai. The church is called Kallat Mashiach—the Bride of Messiah (Rev 21:2,9), and we eagerly await the marriage supper to come (Rev 19:9).

Source: http://hebrew4christians.com/Holidays/Spring_Holidays/Shavuot/shavuot.html


Hebrew for Christians
Copyright © John J. Parsons - All rights reserved.
Used by permission.



 
 
 
 
 
Home