Leviticus 23 – The Feasts of the LORD
A. Listing of the Feasts.
1. (1-3) The Sabbath.
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘The feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts. ‘Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings.
a. The feasts of the LORD: This chapter introduces us to the seven annual feasts Israel celebrated. These feasts are rich with symbolic and prophetic significance.
b. The seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest: The Sabbath was not properly a feast, but like the feast days, it was a day set apart unto the LORD, and so a reminder regarding the Sabbath is here.
2. (4-5) The feast of Passover.
‘These are the feasts of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times. On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the LORD’s Passover.
a. On the fourteenth day of the first month: On the Jewish ceremonial calendar, the first month was known as Nisan; Passover was held on the fourteenth of Nisan each year.
b. The LORD’s Passover: Passover was meant to commemorate Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, and with the sacrifice of the lamb for each family, show how the blood of the lamb averted the judgment of God for each Israelite family.
3. (6-8) The feast of Unleavened Bread.
And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; seven days you must eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it. But you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD for seven days. The seventh day shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it.’”
a. The Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD: The feast of unleavened bread was a week-long celebration the week immediately following Passover (from Nisan 15 to Nisan 21). This feast showed the purity Israel was to walk in (illustrated by eating only bread without leaven, a type of sin) after the blood-deliverance of Passover.
4. (9-14) The feast of firstfruits.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
a. Then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest: The day following Passover’s Sabbath was a time to give the firstfruits of the harvest to God. The idea was to dedicate the first ripened stalks of grain to God, in anticipation of a greater harvest to come.
i. “The firstfruits at Passover would be barley, which ripens in the warmer areas as early as March.” (Harris)
5. (15-21) The Feast of Pentecost (also called the Feast of Weeks).
‘And you shall 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.
a. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD: Fifty days after the feast of firstfruits, at the completion of the wheat harvest, Israel was to celebrate the feast of Pentecost by bringing a new grain offering to the LORD; and by waving two loaves of leavened bread unto the LORD.
6. (22) Generosity to the poor and stranger.
‘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.’”
a. You shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap: This repeats the command of Leviticus 19:9-10; this was a law to provide a means for the poor and the stranger to eat by working for themselves and gleaning what was left behind. This was an appropriate reminder right after the law concerning the harvest feast of Pentecost.
7. (23-25) The Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah).
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD.’”
a. A memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation: On the first day of the month Tishri on the Jewish ceremonial calendar, the feast of trumpets was held; trumpets were blown to gather together God’s people for a holy convocation.
8. (26-32) The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. 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. 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 a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath.”
a. Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement: On the tenth of Tishri, the people gathered again for a holy convocation; but this was not a celebration feast, but a day to afflict your souls in humble recognition of one’s sin and need for atonement.
b. And you shall afflict your souls: The specific priestly procedures for the Day of Atonement were described in Leviticus 16. This passage records the command for the people of Israel to set that day aside as a solemn day of reflection.
9. (33-44) The Feast of Tabernacles (Succoth).
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the LORD. On the first day there shall be a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it. For seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. It is a sacred assembly, and you shall do no customary work on it. These are the feasts of the LORD which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, 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; besides the Sabbaths of the LORD, besides your gifts, besides all your vows, and besides all your freewill offerings which you give to the LORD. Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the LORD for seven days; on the first day there shall be a sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a sabbath-rest. 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. You shall keep it as a feast 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. You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, 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.’” So Moses declared to the children of Israel the feasts of the LORD.
a. The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles: On the fifteenth day of the Jewish month Tishri (on the Jewish ceremonial calendar); the Feast of Tabernacles was a time to rejoice in God’s deliverance and provision for Israel during the time of wilderness wandering; a time when having come into the promised land, looking back with gratitude on all God had done to deliver and provide in the tough times of the wilderness.
b. On the first day there shall be a sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a sabbath rest: The Feast of Tabernacles began and ended in rest; it was all about celebration and rest and refreshment.
i. We see here also the great social good God intended in the Sabbath and in the Feasts; in other ancient cultures, there was no day off, and there were no holidays. Here, God commands both holidays and “vacation days” – all centered on Him!
B. The prophetic significance of the feasts of Leviticus 23.
1. Structurally, the first four feasts are linked together, and the last three feasts are also linked – and there is a separation of time between these two groups of feasts.
2. The group of the first four feasts relate to the work of Jesus in His first coming, of His earthly ministry.
a. The feast of Passover clearly presents Jesus as our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7), the Lamb of God who was sacrificed, and whose blood was received and applied, so the wrath of God would pass us over.
b. The feast of Unleavened Bread relates time of Jesus’ burial, after His perfect, sinless sacrifice on the cross, during which He was received by God the Father as holy and complete (the Holy One who would not see corruption, Acts 2:27), perfectly accomplishing our salvation.
i. We may regard the burial (or actually, entombment) of Jesus as a small thing in God’s redemptive plan; but it was an essential part of Paul’s gospel: For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
c. The feast of Firstfruits relates to the resurrection of Jesus, who was the first human to receive resurrection; He is the firstborn from the dead (Colossians 1:18) and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep… Christ the firstfruits, afterwards those who are Christ’s at His coming. (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23)
d. The feast of Pentecost obviously is connected with the birth of the Church and the “harvest” resulting (Acts 2); significantly, in the ceremony at the feast of Pentecost, two unleavened loaves of bread are waved as a holy offering to God, speaking of the bringing of “unleavened” Gentiles into the church.
3. Between the first set of four feasts and the second set of three feasts, there is a significant time gap – almost four months, which, significantly, was a time of harvest in Israel; even as our current age is a time of harvest for the church, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. (Romans 11:25)
4. The second group of the last three feasts relate to events connected with the second coming of Jesus.
a. The feast of Trumpets speaks of the ultimate assembly of God’s people at the sound of a trumpet – the rapture of the Church (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17), and of the gathering of Israel for the special purpose God has for them in the last days.
b. The Day of Atonement not only speaks of the ultimate, perfect atonement Jesus offered on our behalf, but also of the affliction – and salvation – Israel will see during the Great Tribulation.
i. It will truly be a time when the soul of Israel is afflicted, but for their ultimate salvation; as Jeremiah 30:7 says regarding that period: Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it, and it is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.
c. The feast of Tabernacles speaks of the millennial rest of comfort of God for Israel and all of God’s people; it is all about peace and rest, from beginning to end.
i. Tabernacles is specifically said to be celebrated during the millennium (Zechariah 14:16-19).
5. Significantly, there is good evidence that each of the four feasts relevant to the first coming of Jesus saw their prophetic fulfillment on the exact day of the feast.
a. Jesus was actually crucified on the Passover (John 19:14). His body would have been buried, and His holy and pure sacrifice acknowledged by God the Father during the Feast of Unleavened Bread following, and He would have risen from the dead on Firstfruits, the day after Passover’s Sabbath. Additionally, the church was founded on the actual day of Pentecost.
b. For this reason, many speculate it would be consistent for God to gather His people to Himself at the rapture on the day of the feast of trumpets – on the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. This can certainly be regarded as a possibility.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission