Old Testament

The Pentateuch

Besides the Day of Atonement, did God command the Israelites to observe any other special days?

Yes. In addition, God gave the Israelites a ritual calendar. The calendar was based on the agricultural year. Determining the correct day to observe some of the special days required them to count off days, weeks, months, and years in various combinations of seven. For example, the Sabbath day was observed on the seventh day of the week. Some of these special days and events are observed still.

Sabbath Day. God gave this directive in Genesis, but he reiterated it many times throughout the Bible, including in Leviticus.

Sabbath Year. God told the Israelites that when they arrived in the Promised Land, they were to work the land for six years, but in the seventh year, they were to let the land rest.

Year of Jubilee. God told the Israelites to count off forty-nine years. The fiftieth year was the Year of Jubilee. In this year, all debts were forgiven and all slaves were freed. If during the previous forty-nine years someone sold land due to financial difficulty, the land was restored to that person.

Passover. God gave this directive in Exodus when the Israelites left Egypt, but he reiterated it in Leviticus to underscore its importance in the life of the Israelites. Passover was also known as the Festival of Unleavened Bread. It commemorated when God passed over the homes of the Israelites and did not kill their firstborn, but did kill the firstborn of the Egyptians. The first fruits of the harvest were offered during this time as well.

The Festival of Weeks (now known as Pentecost). Observed annually, the Festival of Weeks was celebrated seven weeks after Passover. It was a joyous time, and a time for the Israelites to offer thanks for the harvest. The word “pentecost” comes from the Greek for “count fifty.”

Festival of Trumpets (now known as Rosh Hashanah). Observed annually, the Festival of Trumpets marked the new year for the Israelites. It was (and is) marked by the celebratory blowing of trumpets.

The Festival of Booths (also known as the Festival of Tabernacles). Observed annually, this seven-day festival celebrated the harvest. Once the Israelites were established in the Promised Land, the Israelites marked the occasion by living in tents for a week. This reminded them of God’s provision for them while they were in the desert.

Sabbath Month. The Day of Atonement is on the tenth day of this month. Festival of Booths is on the fifteenth day of this month. Israelites lived in booths (tents) for seven days to commemorate their time in the wilderness.



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