If you ask most Messianic and Hebrew Roots believers how many Feasts there are, they will reply with “seven.” That answer is primarily based on the Appointed Times listed in Leviticus 23. And most will also say that the “Spring Feasts” were fulfilled at the first coming of Messiah Yeshua, while the “Fall Feasts” await their fulfillment at the second coming of Yeshua.
Valerie Moody, author of The Feasts of Adonai, writes:
“Yeshua died on Passover as the Passover lamb. His friends buried Him on Feast of Unleavened Bread to show that His body was unleavened and free of sin. He resurrected on the Feast of Firstfruits as the firstfruits from the dead. Then, the Holy Spirit touched His disciples on the Feast of Weeks, also called Pentecost.”
“On a future Feast of Trumpets, tribulation begins, the Messiah is crowned, and the dead resurrect. On a future Yom Kippur, God announces and executes final judgments on the nations. On a future Feast of Tabernacles, the Messiah will tabernacle with us as He comes to reign on earth.”
Have we become too comfortable with those answers? Are they incomplete? Have we, as we often describe mainstream Christians, been fed the explanations of our popular teachers without really digging into and analyzing them ourselves?
Or is this, in its simplest form, the correct response – knowing, of course, that there is greater depth to the studies that will confirm this analysis?
One of the very first books I read while searching for and eventually coming to this Messianic walk was called The Seven Festivals of the Messiah by Edward Chumney. It was published in 1994 by Destiny Image, a Christian publishing company, and is long out of print. I still have it And if you don’t immediately recognize the name, this is the same Eddie Chumney that has since become a renowned teacher in the Messianic Movement. This was an important book to that first sparked my interest in the Feasts. Later I was privileged to be asked by Batya Wootten, founder of the Messianic Israel Alliance, to proofread and offer suggestions for her book, Israel’s Feasts and Their Fullness.
Like Valerie Moody, Eddie Chumey and Batya Wootten both go into great detail explaining the prophetic significance of each Feast as it relates to Messiah Yeshua. Likewise, Barney Kasdan in God’s Appointed Times has a section in the individual chapters for each Feast titled The Prophetic Fulfillment. Moishe Rosen, founder of Jews for Jesus, authored Christ in the Passover, and David Brickner, executive director of the same organization, wrote companion books Christ in the Feast of Pentecost and Christ in the Feast of Tabernacles. Clearly, every one of these sacred celebrations points in some way to our Messiah Yeshua.
What Are These Seven Festivals?
Let’s list them along with a brief description and a few Scriptures, not including the prophetic significance to which we have already alluded.
“This powerful biblical holiday commemorates the Exodus story – the deliverance of Israel from their slavery in Egypt” (David Wilbur, A Christian Guide to the Biblical Feasts). Passover is not a full-day observance. It is described as being “on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight” or literally “between the evenings” in Hebrew. Passover is at the very end of the fourteenth day of the first month, starting immediately before and spilling over into the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Passover is mentioned numerous times in both the Old and New Testaments. This name is sometimes used to describe the entire Feast of Unleavened Bread. (Exodus 12, Leviticus 23:5, Numbers 28:16-25, Deuteronomy 16:1-7.)
2. Unleavened Bread
The Feast of Unleavened Bread immediately follows the Passover meal and commemorates that the Israelites left Egypt quickly before their bread had time to rise. This Feast begins on the fifteenth day of the first month and goes for seven days, ending on the twenty-first day. It is mentioned frequently in the Old and New Testaments, often in connection with Passover. (Exodus 12, Leviticus 23:6-8, Numbers 28:16-25, Deuteronomy 16:3-8.)
3. First Fruits
First Fruits, or the waving of the Omer of the first of the barley harvest, is explained as “on the day after the Sabbath.” Scripture does not designate which Sabbath, though this is often assumed to be during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This ceremony is mentioned only one time in the entirety of the Old and New Testaments, though it is described in other Jewish literature. (Leviticus 23:9-14.)
Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost does not have a specific date assigned to it in Scripture. It is fifty days, or seven weeks and one day (inclusive) from the first barley harvest, which is the reason for the waving of the First Fruits. Shavuot is also called the Feast of the Harvest of the First Fruits. (Exodus 23:16, Leviticus 23:15-21, Numbers 28:26-31, Deuteronomy 16:9-12.)
The Feast of Trumpets, or Yom Teruah, is on the first day of the seventh month. Outside of Scripture, this day is also called Rosh Hashannah as it coincides with the Jewish civil new year. It is described in Torah as a “memorial of blowing.” This Feasts is mentioned twice in the Torah, but nowhere else in all of the Old or New Testaments. (Leviticus 23:24-25, Numbers 29:1-6.)
The Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur (literally the day of coverings) is not actually a feast. On the tenth day of the seventh month we are commanded to “afflict” ourselves, which traditionally is accomplished by fasting. The only thing actually done on Yom Kippur is by the priests, everyone else is to do no work of any kind. Like Yom Teruah, Yom Kippur is only mentioned in the Torah and is not found anywhere else in the rest of the Old or New Testaments. (Leviticus 16, Leviticus 23:27-32, Numbers 29:7-11.)
Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of Booths, begins on the fifteenth day of the seventh month and lasts for seven days. An additional day, Shemini Atzeret or the Eighth Day Assembly, is celebrated on the twenty-second day of the seventh month. Sukkot commemorates the Israelites dwelling in temporary shelters while enroute to the Promised Land. It is mentioned several times in the Old and New Testaments. (Leviticus 23:34-36,39-43, Numbers 29:12-38, Deuteronomy 16:13-15.)
Many illustrate these using the seven branches of the menorah. Shavuot, between the Spring Feasts and the Fall Feasts, becomes the center branch.
Similar to the Feasts, there are seven annual Sabbath days described in addition to the weekly Sabbath. If these were also illustrated on the Menorah, Trumpets (Yom Teruah, Rosh Hashanah) becomes the center branch. The seven annual Sabbaths described in Leviticus 23 are:
1. The first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread
2. The seventh day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread
3. The Feast of Weeks
4. The Feast of Trumpets
5. The Day of Atonement
6. The first day of the Feast of Tabernacles
7. The Eighth Day Assembly
The Pilgrimage Festivals
Three times a year all your males are to appear before the Lord GOD, the God of Israel.
Three times in a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses, at the Feast of Unleavened Bread and at the Feast of Weeks and at the Feast of Booths, and they shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed.
Then Solomon offered burnt offerings to the LORD on the altar of the LORD which he had built before the porch; and did so according to the daily rule, offering them up according to the commandment of Moses, for the sabbaths, the new moons and the three annual feasts–the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Booths.
(2 Chronicles 8:12-13)
Considering these passages, it appears that there are really just three Feasts. Grouped this way, they are all agriculturally based festivals. That does not in any way diminish the events they commemorate or their prophetic significance, but it does ensure that the things needed for each festival are available.
They are often called “Pilgrimage Festivals” because they require attendance away from home, before “God in the place which He chooses.”
1. The Feast of Unleavened Bread
The Feast of Unleavened Bread encompasses all of the celebrations during this time period. It would include Passover, which begins the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits, which we have assumed falls sometime during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This entire Feast is also sometimes referred to just as Passover. “In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, you shall have the Passover, a feast of seven days; unleavened bread shall be eaten” (Ezekiel 45:21). This Feast is at the time of the barley harvest.
2. The Feast of Weeks (Shavuot)
The Feast of Weeks is a late Spring festival. It is the early harvest of wheat. Its timing is set based on the relationship between the barley harvest and the wheat harvest.
3. The Feast of Booths (or Tabernacles – Sukkot)
The Feast of Booths is the final wheat harvest in the Fall. It occurs before the winter sets in. Scripture calls this “the turn of the year.” This includes the seven days of the Feast of Booths (Sukkot) plus the final Eighth Day Assembly (Shemini Atzeret). There are preparatory events that take place before this third Feast: The Feast of Trumpets, announcing the start of the seventh month, and The Day of Atonement, which is the start of the Jubilee year. Interestingly, as stated previously neither of these two events is ever directly mentioned in Scripture outside of the five books of Moses.
Jewish Tradition and Other Sources
Jewish tradition adds other festival observances, fasts and “new year” celebrations. Some are found in the Bible, like Hanukkah (1 Maccabees 4, John 10) and Purim (Esther 9). Others are not.
The twentieth century discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls includes a fragmented “Temple Scroll” (11Q19-20) that describes festivals for the First Fruits of Wine and the First Fruits of Oil, as well as other annual observances.
When Scripture makes any reference to a quantity of Feasts, it is three. “Three times a year…” (Exodus 34:23), “three times in a year… (Deuteronomy 16:16), and “the three annual feasts” (2 Chronicles 8:13) seem to indicate three primary feast seasons. There are multiple Feast celebrations associated with these seasons. And, of course, they all point us to Messiah Yeshua. These are the Appointed Times – Hebrew moedim (Strongs #H4150) – that our Father has established.
Unless marked otherwise, Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation