The Feast of Weeks (Pentecost)
February 24, 2022
“And 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. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD. You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the LORD. And you shall offer with the bread seven lambs of the first year, without blemish, one young bull, and two rams. They shall be as a burnt offering to the LORD, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma to the LORD. Then you shall sacrifice one kid of the goats as a sin offering, and two male lambs of the first year as a sacrifice of a peace offering. The priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the LORD for the priest. And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations. When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the LORD your God'” (Leviticus 23:15-22).
The Feast of Weeks is celebrated seven full weeks after the wave offering of the Firstfruits at Passover (Leviticus 23:15; Deuteronomy 16:9). It recognized the end of the grain harvest. Because of the fifty-day (inclusive) interval, it is also known as ‘Pentecost’. Like Firstfruits, it took place on the day after the Sabbath. Exodus 23:14-19 refers to the Feast of Weeks when it links the ‘Feast of the Harvest’ to the Feast of Unleavened Bread and to the Feast of Ingathering (Booths) as the three major agricultural festivals of Israel (Deuteronomy 16:16 ; 2 Chronicles 8:13).
Leviticus 23:17-20; Numbers 28:27-30 give a detailed lists of what the priests were to offer on behalf of the nation, including burnt offerings of seven male lambs, one bull, and two rams, followed by a sin offering of one goat and a fellowship offering of two lambs. It was a day of sacred assembly in which no work was allowed. The primary focus of the festival was gratitude to God for the end of the harvest.
For Christians, Pentecost is of the highest significance. It is the day on which the promised Holy Spirit was poured out on the church. But why was the Spirit given to the church on an agricultural thanksgiving holiday? Joel 1:7-12 describes a terrible locust plague that left Israel destitute. Every type of crop, including grapes, olives, wheat, barley, figs, pomegranates, and apples had been ravaged; the cattle were left without pasture (1:18), and the severity of the catastrophe was compounded by a drought (1:19-20). Joel said healing of the land would come if the people came together in a sacred assembly and repented of sin (2:12-17). He linked the agricultural and economic restoration to spiritual restoration. Peter said the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost was the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy (Acts 2:16-21). The multitudes that were saved that day constitute the beginning of the great harvest of souls that would eventually come into the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. Amen.