The book of Leviticus contains a host of laws covering all sorts of civil issues from homosexuality to child sacrifices. Nestled amongst these various laws so many today consider archaic are the ancient and unchanging truths God is holy (Lev 19:2) and the greatest commandment being that we love one another (Lev 19:18). Chapter 25 gives a series of instructions about a wonderful concept – redemption.
Lev 23:1-2 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of the LORD that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts. This chapter is another such diversion from the litany of laws. Chapter 23 deals with the major feasts of Israel instituted by Moses in the Wilderness. Each has practical as well as prophetic significance. Due to the extensive impact of the feasts of Israel outlined in this chapter, a Good News entry is also included for each individual feast.
The seven feasts are described in Lev 23:
Passover: 14th Nisan (March/April) v4-5
Unleavened Bread: 15-21 Nisan v6-14
Weeks/First Fruits (Penticost): 50 days after Sabbath during Unleavened Bread. (May/June) v15-22
Trumpets: 1 Tishri v23-25 (Sep/Oct)
Atonement: 10 Tishri v26-32
Tabernacles/Booths/Tents: 15-22 Tishri v33-44
Jewish Calendar – a little background info…
To make sense of these it helps to understand the Jewish calendar is very different than the one most of us are used to.
The month always starts on a new moon. Since the there are more than 12 new moons in a year (but less than 13) some years have 12 months and some have 13. They just have the last month twice to make up the difference. The total cycle repeats on a 19 year basis.
The first month is in the Spring, but the new year begins with the start of the 7th month. As bizarre as that sounds, when you consider that the Jewish day begins at dusk and is counted night and day to make a whole day (Gen 1), then you can see the logic in starting the year with the fall and winter (longer darkness) before the spring and summer (longer light) months regardless of the month’s number within a given year.
To make it even more interesting, the ancient Jews reckoned the daylight as 12 hours and the night as 12 hours regardless of season, only stretching the length of an hour to an even division of the available light or dark. The sun and stars were used to keep track of the time of day and night (Gen 1:14).
About Feasts in General
In spite of the technical instructions about the feasts we often dismiss as archaic, the concept of a feast is to get together, eat, be happy and praise God. Most modern Christians don’t keep the Jewish feasts, but instead keep Christmas and Easter. These are times Christians traditionally get together with church family and home family, eat big meals, enjoy the time together, and hopefully remember to praise God for His goodness in making it all possible. While the Christian themes associated with these holidays are good, the feasts of Israel as outlined in Lev 23 are the feasts prescribed by God.