Church of God, Carmichael, CA

Shadows of Good Things

Or the Gospel in Type

Russell R. Byrum, 1922

[Original Page Numbers]


CHAPTER VI

THE SACRED SEASONS

(Leviticus 23; Numbers 28, 29)

  The term "feast" where used in our common English Bible to designate the set sacred seasons or stated solemnities of the Israelites is somewhat misleading because of the sense in which feast is often understood by many today. These seasons were not all times of banqueting or of elaborate meals, for one called a feast was really a fast. They were principally times of religious rejoicing. Probably a better name for these holy festivals is "sacred seasons." This designation includes the great annual "set feasts," other holy days, and the various holy years.

  These sacred seasons are referred to many times in the Pentateuch, but are more formally described in Leviticus 23 and Numbers 28, 29. One weekly and six annual feasts are described in Leviticus 23. T h e y a r e: (1) Sabbath, (2) Passover (including Unleavened Bread), (3) First fruits, (4) Pentecost, (5) Trumpets, (6) Atonement, (7) Tabernacles. To these must be added the Sabbatic Year, which occurred each seventh year, and the Jubilee Year, each fiftieth year. Besides these the new moon was a time for special observance by offering special sacrifices.

  Every day, in fact, was sanctified in a sense by the daily burnt offering, or the morning and evening sacrifice. This consisted in offering a lamb each morning and another each evening as a continual burnt offering. This was a national offering for general acceptance and worship and was offered after the manner of the ordinary b u r n t offering. With it was offered a common meat offering of one tenth ephah of fine flour and one fourth part of an hin of oil, also a drink offering of wine equal [100] in quantity to the oil. Each Sabbath this daily sacrifice was doubled in number of animals and in quantity of other materials.

  On each new moon besides the regular burnt offering nine other animals were offered for burnt offerings, with meat offerings for each, besides a sin offering. On every day the great annual feasts several animals were offered in addition to the regular offering, amounting to no fewer than thirty two on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles.

  The Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles were the three great feasts. At these each of the male Israelites was required to gather at the national sanctuary. "Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord God" (Exod. 23 :17; Deut. 16 :16). The first and last days of the Unleavened Bread and Tabernacles, also Pentecost, Trumpets, and Atonement, were to be observed as "holy convocations," or solemn assemblies. No work was to be done in them. They were special sabbaths in addition to the weekly Sabbaths. These assemblies were not necessarily at the tabernacle, but, except in the great feasts, in the communities where the people lived.

  Though these were religious occasions, yet they had great value socially, politically, and commercially. These national gatherings were a wise provision of God for the general good of Israel, so far reaching in their effects were they that it is difficult to believe they could have been so well thought out in their various aspects by any other than the infinite mind. They were observed at the seasons of the year when travel was easiest and when most convenient for an agricultural people to be absent from their work.

  At the house of God in a season of rejoicing, a place and time most favorable to the development of friendship, Israel met three times each year. The males only were required to attend, but often women such as Hannah the devout mother of Samuel went. Also families, like that holy family of Nazareth, "went to Jerusalem every [101] year at the Feast of the Passover." (Luke 2:41). There old friendships were renewed. There under the benign influence of the worship of the Lord new and wider circles of friendships were formed. There those of near kin, like Mary and Elizabeth, living at widely separated points could greet each other and converse of things of mutual interest. And men who had fought the Lord's battles under Joshua or David met again and talked of the events of long ago.

  These gatherings could not fail to have great educational value. They required those living in remote places to get out of their own little corner and to see somewhat of the world. In a day when newspapers were unknown and means of communication and travel were most primitive, these feasts could not fail to be a place for general exchange of news. Those coming from distant Beersheba in the south not only would tell of their events, but would doubtless bring somewhat of the doings and culture of the Egyptians, their near neighbors. Worshipers from distant Dan would have the latest news from Damascus and the east. Others from the northwest and southwest would tell of the discoveries or newly planted colonies of the Phoeniceans or the conquests of the Philistines. And especially would there be an exchange of intertribal news.

  Politically these gatherings did much to mold the nation in one. Thrice yearly tribal jealousies must be laid aside for a national meeting. They developed the spirit of nationalism by this reminder that all who gathered were one nation of a common ancestry, with a common history, a common religion, and different from all the surrounding nations.

  The internal commerce of the people could not fail to be built up by these gatherings at the feasts. They opened the ways for trade and business between the different parts of the country. Commercially these feasts had a value not very different from that of modern fairs. Such religious festivals have always had much value commercially. Mecca, because of the annual pilgrimage of [102] the Mohammedans there, has become one of the greatest markets in the Eastern world. Doubtless this simple requirements of all males attending the feasts at Jerusalem three times each year had a tremendous influence in developing the nation of Israel commercially, socially, intellectually, politically, and especially religiously. He who can attribute this and other equally wise laws to the semi-barbarous people which lived under them certainly possesses a credulity far exceeding that necessary to believe they were divinely given.

  The religious influence of these feasts was very great. The very fact that they furnished set times for worship was of importance in making it easier for a man to break away from his daily routine. Similar set times are equally important now. Then the association with others in worship could not help but fan one's zeal for God and warm the heart. Inspiration to worship would naturally be the result of many worshipping together. Men more easily move with the mass than singly. Also there the isolated Israelite would be impressed with the holiness of Jehovah as he gazed from a distance upon His holy house. He would be impressed with the reality of the unseen God as he saw His representative the high priest performing his solemn duties there. The sinfulness of sin and that most glorious truth of pardon through vicarious suffering would grip him as he beheld the bleeding sacrifices at the altar of God. He would hear the priests and Levites teaching God's holy law and go home with a renewed zeal for his most holy faith.

  Times of the Feasts.—To know the time of those ancient Jewish feasts it is necessary to do more than name the month and date. They all varied several days each year, as our modern observance of Easter varies according to the common solar calendar. The Jews used the lunar calendar, counting the month by the moon and twelve moons to the year. This meant an average of 291/2 days to the month and 354 days to the year. This falling short of the full year by eleven days meant that about every three years, or, to be exact, seven times every nineteen years, an extra moon must be added. [103]

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Justification, Sanctification, Unity
Carmichael, California USA

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