James F. McBride: To the modern Christian ear - accustomed to Christmas, Easter etc - the Biblical festivals have a strange ring. Yet the ancient celebrations follow a simple and logical pattern, and contain truths that have application to this day.
The divinely-inspired `feasts of the Lord' (not Moses! See Leviticus 23:1) follow a regular pattern of sevens, beginning with the seven-day week - which is based on the Biblical week of creation (Genesis 1, Exodus 20:10-11).
The Bible calendar is `lunar-solar' using both moon and sun for its calculation, the first month - sensibly - beginning in spring. (Did you ever wonder why September, which means "seventh month", is our ninth month? That's because our calendar used to begin in March!)
The first seven months of the Bible calendar contain all the festival `high days' of which there are seven.
Sevens Within Sevens
The first of festival is called Unleavened Bread - a seven-day festival in the first month of Abib (= green ears). This month is also call Nisan (=marching). The first and seventh day of Unleavened Bread are the first two annual high days.
Beginning with the weekly Sabbath nearest to the initial ripening of the grain harvest (the Wave-sheaf) in spring, a period of seven weeks are marked off leading to the annual Feast of Firstfruits ('Pentecost'). It occurs fifty days after the Wavesheaf - seven times seven days plus one day (to Sunday) - and marks the closing of the spring festivals. [Pentecost = fiftieth]
On the first day of each month a trumpet was blown. At the start of the seventh month, Ethanim or Tishri, is a special Feast of Trumpets. This is observed by Jews as the start of their civil year, Rosh Hashana. On the tenth day of the seventh month is the Day of Atonement - Yom Kippur (a day of fasting). later in the month is the seven-day Festival of Tabernacles and a final closing festival, "The Last Great Day".
Notice there's a further pattern in this: the seven-day spring festival plus one day - Pentecost - at the beginning of the year. Then in the autumn a seven-day festival - Tabernacles - plus one day.
But that isn't the end of the sevens!
Every seven years there's a 'year of release' which is a Sabbath of the land (Leviticus 25:1-7). And we see the pattern repeat yet again, for after seven release years (7x7) there's another 'plus one' - the fiftieth year being a Jubilee year (vv. 8-13).
To this we can add the grand sweep of prophetic history. God has allocated man a symbolic prophetic week - each day a 'thousand years' long (2 Peter 3:8). Mankind has six 'days' to 'work out his own salvation'. It will be followed by a seventh thousand years of divine rule over human affairs, the Millennium - to restore the original divine plan (Rev. 20:6).
Each of these inspired times is of exciting significance, and embrace all the high points of the Biblical Christian year.
To comment on this article or request more information, please contact James McBride by e-mail at the comment form below.
For PDF or mailed copy, see CGOM. Excerpt from New Horizons Volume 4 Issue 3, May/June 2000. Edited by James McBride of the Churches of God, United Kingdom.
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