“You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the LORD.”[Leviticus 23:15-16]
Numbers are both symbolic and significant in the Biblical narrative. The LORD often uses numbers in patterns for emphasis and contrast.
The Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost, is no exception.
The LORD commanded the Israelites to determine the appointed Feast of Weeks by counting seven weeks, or seven “sevens,” from the day after the Sabbath of Firstfruits. After counting these seven weeks, or 49 days, the next day — or 50th day — was to be the holy convocation of Pentecost. Interestingly, this means that both the Feast of Firstfruits and the Feast of Pentecost will always fall on the day after the Sabbath, or the first day of the week, which is Sunday.
The Feast of Weeks is also known as the Feast of the Harvest of the Firstfruits (Exodus 23:16), and the First Fruits of the Wheat Harvest (Exodus 34:22) and is called in Hebrew, Shavuot.
Eventually this feast became known as Pentecost because it was observed on the 50th day — from the Greek “penta,” or fifty. It is the second of the three great feasts of Israel, where all the eligible males were to present themselves before the LORD in Jerusalem. It also was a one-day celebration that commemorated the conclusion of the barley harvest and the continuation of the wheat harvest in the land.
As we will see, however, there is another significant event in Israel’s history that may be directly associated with Pentecost.
The Covenant of Sinai
The LORD redeemed Israel out of Egypt with wonders and an outstretched arm, showing His supremacy over Pharaoh and the gods of Egypt. The Israelites were saved from the angel of death by the blood of the Passover lamb and then made haste out of Egypt with unleavened bread in hand.
As Moses led the Israelites on their journey to the Promised Land, the LORD purposely turned them toward the Gulf of Aqaba (Red Sea) opposite of Arabia, and it was here on the shores of the sea that the LORD would bring His final act of judgment upon Pharaoh
The LORD parted the sea so that His people would cross on dry land, and then He brought the waters crashing down upon Pharaoh’s army. As the Israelites stood safely on the other side and saw the bodies of Pharaoh’s army washing up in the sea, they realized that for the first time in over 400 years — they were free!
The Israelites had been redeemed by God and had become a nation reborn — a people of God’s own possession. After witnessing firsthand God’s deliverance, Moses and the people broke out in joyous song.
“Who is like You among the gods, O LORD? Who is like You—majestic in holiness, revered with praises, performing wonders? You stretched out Your right hand, and the earth swallowed them up. With loving devotion You will lead the people You have redeemed; with Your strength You will guide them to Your holy dwelling.”[Exodus 15:11-13]
After meandering through the rugged terrain of the Arabian mountains, the LORD led Israel to the base of a holy mountain — Sinai. It was here at Sinai that the LORD entered into covenant with the people He had redeemed. It was on this mountain that the LORD manifested His power and glory in perhaps the greatest theophany in human history. It was on Sinai that Israel would receive God’s law and agree to keep it.
Later Jewish tradition says that the LORD gave the law to Moses precisely on the day of Pentecost, although there is no real Biblical or historical evidence for this. Exodus 19:1 says that it was in the third month, on the 15th day, that Israel camped at the base of the mountain.
The most conservative calculations using this date would place the giving of the law around 59 days after Firstfruits, which obviously would be beyond the 50th day of Pentecost, yet some scholars have gone to great lengths to reconcile the two.
Either way, it is worth noting that there are obvious parallels and typological connections between the Sinai covenant and the sealing of the New Covenant on Pentecost in Acts 2, which I will explore in my next post.
Once again, the Feast of Weeks has been fulfilled through the coming of Yeshua and the subsequent sending of the Holy Spirit to dwell within His people.