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The Israelites celebrated seven main feasts according to their religious calendar: Passover, Unleavened Bread, First-fruits, the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles). After the Babylonian exile, the Jews added more feasts. These feasts were communal events that brought the nation together for worship and helped commemorate their common origin and memorable experiences in relation to God.

Among these seven pre-exile feasts, three were pilgrimage feasts: Passover, Shavuot (Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks), and Sukkot (the Festival of Booths). According to Deuteronomy 16:16-17: “Three times a year, then, all your males shall appear before the LORD, your God, in the place which he will choose: at the feast of Unleavened Bread, at the feast of Weeks, and at the feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed, but each with his own gift, in proportion to the blessing which the LORD, your God, has given to you.”

This law was binding only on adult males who lived within about 23 km of Jerusalem. Since they traveled to Jerusalem for these feasts, they were known as “Pilgrimage Feasts.”

The rich tapestry of Jewish feasts outlined in the Old Testament, particularly in Leviticus 23, holds profound significance for Christians. These celebrations foreshadow and symbolize the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, offering a deeper understanding of God’s intricate plan of salvation.

1. The Passover (Ex 12)

The Passover commemorates the Israelites’ liberation from Egypt. This feast commemorated the marking with the blood of a slaughtered lamb on the doorposts of the houses of Israelites to save them from the angel of death. The blood of the sacrificed lamb protected them from the tenth plague, signifying God’s deliverance. The Passover is described in Leviticus 23:5: “In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening, is the Lord’s Passover.”

In the New Testament, this Passover became the slaughter of Jesus, the true Lamb of God whose blood was shed on the cross for our redemption from the bondage of sin. Christians see Jesus as the ultimate Passover Lamb (1 Cor 5:7). His sacrifice on the cross offers redemption from spiritual death and the bondage of sin (Rom 6:23). During the Last Supper, Jesus instituted the Eucharist, identifying Himself as the Passover Lamb whose body and blood would bring salvation (Lk 22:14-20).

2. The Feast of Unleavened Bread (Ex 12-13)

Immediately after Passover, the Israelites had to leave Egypt in a hurry and could not wait to leaven the bread. So, God asked Israel to celebrate the feast of Unleavened Bread for one week to remember this historical event. Leviticus 23:6 states: “On the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread to the Lord. Seven days you must eat unleavened bread.” Leaven was a symbol of sin. Israelites had to give up all their sinful ways in Egypt and follow the Lord to the promised land.

This week-long celebration following Passover reminds Christians of Christ’s sinless life and our call to live holy lives, transformed by His grace (2 Cor 5:17). Jesus was buried during this feast, signifying the removal of sin and corruption (1 Pet 2:22).

3. The Feast of First Fruits (Lev 23:9-14)

The Israelites celebrated this feast on the day after Sabbath during the one-week feast of Unleavened Bread. Leviticus 23:10-11 explains: “Speak to the children of Israel, and tell them, ‘When you have come into the land which I give to you, and shall reap its harvest, then you shall bring the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest, and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you. On the next day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.’”

This offering was the first ripe barley in the field, and each Israelite presented it as a bundle to the priest who would wave it in front of the altar of the Lord. People harvested barley before wheat and other agricultural products. Along with a sheaf of barley, they offered a one-year-old lamb and a grain offering. This offering acknowledged that God had delivered them from Egypt and had given them the fertile land that He had promised to the forefathers.

The resurrection of Jesus happened on the feast day of the “First Fruits” because that was the first fruit of the salvific activity of God. The day of Easter was the day after the Sabbath (Sunday) during the one-week feast of Unleavened Bread after Passover. Jesus then ascended to heaven, the Holy of Holies, on the 40th day after His resurrection to present His sacrificial offering as the High Priest used to do on the Day of Atonement. The Father, who was well pleased and accepted the offering of the Son, sent the Holy Spirit upon the apostles to constitute the church on the 50th day after the Passover sacrifice of Jesus, coinciding with the 50th day (Pentecost) celebration of the Old Testament.

Celebrated during the barley harvest, this feast foreshadows Christ’s resurrection as the “first fruits” of those who will be raised from the dead (1 Cor 15:20). He is the pioneer, paving the way for our own eternal life. Jesus rose from the dead on the day of First fruits, fulfilling this feast and offering the promise of resurrection to all believers (Mt 28:1-10).

4. The Feast of Weeks / Pentecost (Lev 23:15-22)

Also known as the Feast of Weeks, the Israelites celebrated Pentecost according to the directive of God given in Leviticus 23:15-22: “You shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven Sabbaths shall be completed: even to the next day after the seventh Sabbath you shall count fifty days; and you shall offer a new meal offering to the Lord.”

This offering comprised two loaves of leavened bread representing Israelites and Gentiles, a burnt offering of seven one-year-old lambs, one bull, and two rams, followed by a sin offering of one goat and a fellowship offering of two lambs (Lev 23:18). Though this 50th day observance was a harvest feast of thanksgiving, it was also associated with the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai on the 50th day after the original Passover in Egypt.

Occurring fifty days after the Feast of First fruits, Pentecost marks the giving of the Holy Spirit to the early church (Acts 2). This outpouring empowered believers to spread the Gospel message. Jesus promised the Holy Spirit as a helper and guide, and the fulfillment of this promise on Pentecost signifies the birth of the Church and the beginning of its mission (Jh 14:16-17).

5. Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) (Lev 23:23-25)

This trumpet blast ushers in the Jewish New Year and is a time of reflection and repentance. Some Christians see it as a possible foreshadowing of Christ’s second coming (1 Thes 4:16). Jesus taught about the final trumpet and His return, encouraging believers to stay vigilant and prepared (Mt 24:31).

6. Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) (Lev 23:26-32)

Considered the holiest day in Judaism, Yom Kippur focuses on atonement for sins. Christians believe Christ’s sacrifice offers complete forgiveness (Heb 9:24-28). Jesus’ death on the cross serves as the ultimate atonement, reconciling humanity to God and fulfilling the need for repeated sacrifices (Rom 3:25).

7. Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) (Lev 23:33-43)

The Feast of the Tabernacles was a pilgrim feast also known as the Feast of Booths and Sukkot. Though it lasted seven days, an eighth day was added later as the “greatest day.” The feast started on the 15th day of the seventh month, Tishri of the Hebrew calendar (late September to mid-October). It began and ended with a special Sabbath day of rest and worship, thus constituting eight days. During the seven days of the feast, all Israelites left their homes and lived in temporary tents or booths made of branches of trees outside to remind them how their ancestors lived in tabernacles for 40 years in the wilderness after God delivered them out of the “land of Egypt” (Lev 23:39-43). It was also a feast of Messianic expectation, where the Israelites prayed to God for the new Joshua (Jesus) to come and lead them to the Kingdom of God.

The Israelites had completed the fall harvest by the month of Tishri, and hence they joyfully celebrated and thanked God for the continued provision of rain and crops for them.

Biblical events associated with the feast of Tabernacles include the dedication of Solomon’s Temple (1 Kgs 8:2) and the revival of the feast during the time of Nehemiah after the Babylonian exile (Neh 8). Some Bible scholars claim that the birth of Jesus (“the Word made his dwelling among us” John 1:14) and his second coming to establish the earthly kingdom are associated with the Feast of Tabernacles.

The ritual of the feast included a solemn procession with music every morning from the Temple under the leadership of a priest to the pool of Siloam. The priest would fill a golden vase with water and carry it back to the Temple in procession amid the joyful songs of the people. On the western side of the altar, the priest poured the water, while another priest poured wine as a drink offering on the eastern side. The pilgrims moved around the altar singing Psalms of Hallel (Ps 113-118). They repeated this seven times on the seventh day, remembering the procession made around the wall of Jericho, which led to its fall and the conquest of the city.

During the feast, four large golden menorahs, each having seven torches, illuminated the temple courtyard. These twenty-eight big torches shed light on a wide area and were visible from all around the city as a “pillar of fire.” People sang and danced with musical instruments throughout the night until daybreak, when they started the procession to the Pool of Siloam. Jesus used this ritual to teach people that he was the light of the world.

A joyous harvest celebration, Sukkot represents God dwelling with His people in temporary shelters. It can be seen as a foreshadowing of the future millennial reign of Christ when He will dwell eternally with His followers (Rev 21:3). Jesus participated in this feast, teaching about the living water of the Holy Spirit, which He would provide to believers (John 7:37-39).


Jesus observed Jewish practices and gave them a new spiritual dimension. Through that, he renewed the past with new faith and religious practices. He replaced Israel with His church, circumcision with the dedication of heart, and animal sacrifices and the old Passover with the Holy Eucharist. Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I didn’t come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Mt 5:17). As Christians, Jesus calls us to renew everything in Him and make our human life perfect with Christian virtues.

As followers of Christ, we are called to live out the fulfillment of these ancient feasts in our daily lives. The Passover reminds us of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice, urging us to live in gratitude for His redemptive work. The Feast of Unleavened Bread calls us to a life free from sin, continually seeking purification and holiness. The Feast of First Fruits challenges us to offer our best to God, acknowledging His provision and sovereignty in our lives. The Feast of Pentecost empowers us to live by the Spirit, spreading the Gospel and growing in faith. Finally, the Feast of Tabernacles encourages us to dwell in God’s presence, anticipating the ultimate fulfillment of His promises.

While Christians are not obligated to observe these feasts (Col 2:16-17), studying them enriches our faith journey. They serve as powerful reminders of God’s faithfulness, the completeness of Christ’s work, and the hope we have in His return. May these appointed times deepen our love for God, ignite our gratitude, and fuel our anticipation for the glorious culmination of His redemptive plan.

As we delve into the meaning behind the Jewish feasts, let us be reminded of the intricate and beautiful way God has woven His story of redemption throughout history. Each feast is a testament to His unwavering love and plan for our salvation. By understanding these celebrations, we can appreciate more fully the sacrifice of Jesus and the hope of His return. Let these reflections draw us closer to God, deepen our faith, and inspire us to live lives that honor Him. As we await Christ’s return, may our hearts be filled with gratitude and our lives reflect the joy of His everlasting presence.

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