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Counting to Pentecost
(Note: From the May-June 2007 Beacon Magazine article "Pentecost, Feast of Weeks, Firstfruits.")
As most know, the Holy Spirit was given in the New Testament - at Pentecost. But few understand the Old Testament importance of this day and the great significance it gives to Pentecost in the New Testament.
Yahweh’s annual observances represent a covenant between Him and His people. Perhaps of all commanded memorials none characterizes the covenant relationship better than Pentecost. This observance—also called the Feast of Weeks—is one of three during which we are commanded to assemble. (The two others are the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Tabernacles.)
The covenant between Yahweh and Israel was ratified on Pentecost. At this time the law was given to Moses on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 20) and expounded, chapters 21-23. Israel had agreed to observe it as Yahweh’s chosen, 19:5, 8.
But Israel soon broke the covenant at Sinai and Yahweh promised to make a new covenant with man. About 1500 years later the new covenant was put into effect again at Pentecost, Acts 2:1-4. The New Testament (covenant) assembly of Yahweh’s chosen was born that day, when the Holy Spirit was given. The physical sacrifices and ceremonies surrounding the old covenant law keeping had been abolished by Yahshua and the Holy Spirit was given to enable man to better keep the covenant law.
In Hebrews 10:15-17, Yahweh explains the nature of the law under the new covenant:
Whereof the Holy Spirit also is a witness to us; for after that He has said before, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith Yahweh; I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.”
How do we know when Pentecost occurs? Let’s go back to Leviticus 23 where the holy days are mentioned in detail.
Lev. 23:4 instructs us, “These are the feasts of Yahweh, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons.” It should be noted here first of all that these are Yahweh’s feasts, not Moses’ feasts or Jewish feast days. Verse 11 reads, “And he shall wave the sheaf before Yahweh, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.” Here we find that the morrow after the sabbath is the wave sheaf to be offered to Yahweh, and it is also the day that we begin our count to Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks (Ex. 34:22). Verse 15 instructs, “And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete.”
Which Sabbath Starts The Count?
Now the Jews and some others contend that the sabbath day referred to is the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is Abib 15—the first holy day of the year (Lev. 23:6-7). If this were true, would not Yahweh have given an exact date for Pentecost, as He does for Passover, Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Feast of Tabernacles? If the sabbath is the holy day starting the Feast of Unleavened Bread, your count for Pentecost would always end up on the 6th day of the third month, according to the Jewish calendar. Why give detailed instructions on how to calculate Pentecost when all you need do is to wait until the 3rd month and sixth day?
Verse 16 of Leviticus 23 goes on to say, “even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days.” It is obvious that in having to count fifty days, Pentecost will vary within the third month. By giving us this method of calculating, Yahweh tells us that although the morrow after the weekly Sabbath (within the Days of Unleavened Bread) may be a different date within Abib, we are always to observe Pentecost 50 days from that day.
Even though man does not always understand, Yahweh’s Word has a purpose. Yahweh does not try to complicate or confuse those truly seeking to obey His commandments (1 Cor. 14:33).
It Is As Simple As 1-2-3
Clearly, we count from the day after the weekly Sabbath, or Sunday, seven sabbaths to the day after the seventh sabbath, which would be the first day of the week. When we tell our children to count from l to 10, do they begin with number 1 or do they skip 1 and start with the number 2? Obviously, the number 1 is included. The same is true when we measure someone from head to toe. We measure both the head and the toe to get the correct height of that individual. So the word “from” includes the starting day.
If we were to begin the count the day after the high sabbath, rather than after the weekly sabbath during the feast, the 5Oth day could fall anywhere between the 2nd and the 7th day, and not on the first day of the week or the “morrow after the seventh Sabbath” as Scripture prescribes.
The word translated “morrow” is the Hebrew “mochorath”, No. 4283 in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance Hebrew Dictionary, and is translated in 25 other places as morrow, “day after.” In the 15th verse we read, “and ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete.”
In Hebrew reckoning—or true Scriptural reckoning—a week is complete as the Sabbath ends. The first day of the week, therefore, is the “morrow after the sabbath.” Verse 15 also says that seven weeks or seven sabbaths of weeks shall be complete. Scripturally, the morrow after the weekly sabbath (“sabbath” is No. 7676 in Strong’s which is the weekly sabbath, not No. 7677, shab-bathown, which is a special holiday or holy day) shows that we must count from the beginning of the first day through the seventh day for one full week.
Seven full weeks brings us to the 49th day, the seventh sabbath, and thus we arrive at Pentecost: “even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat [meal] offering unto Yahweh.”
Numbers 28:26 reads, “Also in the day of the firstfruits, when ye bring a new meal offering unto Yahweh, after your weeks be out, ye shall have an holy convocation; ye shall do no servile work.” The word “out” means “on the eve of your weeks,” which is another way of saying sunset, as the Sabbath ends and the first day of the week begins. Compare Deuteronomy 16:9. In this manner of counting to Pentecost, one could not have arrived at any other day to offer the wave sheaf except on the first day of the week.
The Pharisees contended that the Sabbath mentioned here is the 15th or the first day of Unleavened Bread. Others, including the Karaites and the Sadducees, contended that it is the weekly Sabbath and that the rabbis changed the count.
We find that the Jews are in error in the day that they observe the Feast of Weeks even though they do use the Scriptural method of counting days. The Encyclopaedia Britannica (1911 edition), under “Pentecost,” page 123, reads in part: “Hebrews numeration always included the day which is the terminus a quo [starting point] as well as that which is the terminus ad quem [ending point].”
The Jewish calendar has Passover on the wrong day (though the Seder service is on the fourteenth) in addition to not keeping Pentecost on the correct day. By missing them, the Jews do not receive the blessings and benefit of these days. They have rejected the Messiah as the Redeemer of Israel. Neither do they receive the spiritual enlightenment of Pentecost. Therefore, they are not aware of the spiritual intent and meaning of Yahweh’s plan of salvation embodied in His feast days.
The Sadducees were priests and before they were supplanted by the Pharisees they were the priestly house. Because the offices were inherited, the Sadducees represent an older, more biblical heritage. The Jewish Encyclopedia article on the Sadducees reads: “They [Sadducees] contend that the seven weeks from the barley sheaf offering to Pentecost should, according to Lev. 23:15-16, be counted from the day after the sabbath, and consequently that Pentecost should always be celebrated on the first day of the week.” In this they obviously followed the old biblical view.
New Testament and Pentecost
What does the New Testament say about the counting of Pentecost? It is possible to prove from the New Testament that the counting begins with the day after the weekly Sabbath.
In John 20 Yahshua was speaking to Mary Magdalene after He rose from the grave. Take special note of verse 17, “Yahshua saith unto her, ‘Touch Me not, but go to My brethren, before I ascend to My Father: and say unto them, I shall ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My El, and your El.'"
From John 20:1 we see that it was dark and it was the first day of the week. The count toward Pentecost had begun. It was what we call Saturday night. Now notice that Yahshua had told Mary not to touch Him because He had not yet ascended to His Father.
As we move to the 28th chapter of Matthew, harmonizing the Evangel accounts, verse one tells us that it was still the Sabbath as Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the sepulchre. Beginning with verse 5 we learn that the Savior has risen, and that He would see them in Galilee. Verse 9 relates that they hurried to the disciples and were met by the Savior Himself. They took hold of His feet and worshipped Him.
In John’s account, Mary is told not to touch Him. Yet Matthew reveals that later the same night (our Saturday night) they were allowed to touch Him. Obviously, the Savior had ascended to the Father on the beginning of the first day of the week to be accepted by Him. He was the Firstfruits, the wave offering.
Notice the following Scripture: “But now is Messiah risen from the dead, and become the FIRST-FRUITS of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Messiah shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: MESSIAH THE FIRST-FRUITS; afterward they that are Messiah’s at His coming” (1 Cor. 15:20 23). “ . . . that He might be the FIRSTBORN among many brethren” (Romans 8:29). “And He is the Head of the body, the Assembly: Who is the beginning, THE FIRSTBORN from the dead” (Colossians 1:18). His sacrifice fulfilled the symbolism of the wave sheaf.
Yahshua the First of the Firstfruits
Following His resurrection, Yahshua had to appear before the Heavenly Father to be accepted. In the same way the Old Testament high priest had to wave the sheaf of barley to be accepted of Yahweh before the Spring harvest could commence.
As the wave sheaf of grain was offered on the first day of the week, so was Messiah, our Wave Sheaf, offered to Yahweh on the first day of the week. After His ascension the disciples were permitted to touch Him:
Then saith He to Thomas, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand and thrust it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing,” John 20:27.
As the Firstfruit, Yahshua portrays the first one ever to be born into the Elohim family of Yahweh by a resurrection from the dead.
Old Testament a Foreshadow
Leviticus 23:10-12 tells of the wave sheaf offered to Yahweh to be accepted for us. Yahshua ascended to be accepted by the Father and was right in His Holy presence, typified by the High Priest going into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement with the offering for himself. Upon His acceptance on the first day of the week, the Savior then could return to earth to be seen and touched by many people, 1 Cor. 15:5-7.
Now He is in the heavens interceding for us: But every man in his own order; the Messiah the firstfruits; afterwards they that are the Messiah’s at His coming, 1 Corinthians 15:23.
The offering of the wave sheaf was to begin the count toward Pentecost and was waved “on the morrow after the Sabbath,” Leviticus 23:11. Yahshua fulfilled this prophecy and ascended the day (morrow) atter the weekly Sabbath. He could not have ascended to the Father the day after the high sabbath (which is the first day of Unleavened Bread) because He was in the tomb that day.
He had to be in the tomb three full days and three full nights, Matthew 12:40. The Hebrew idiom of day meaning any part of a day does not apply when the number of nights is included. When evening and morning, or day and night, are used together, a 24 hour period is denoted. (Companion Bible appendix 144).
Counting from the first day of the week (which is the morrow after the only Sabbath Yahshua could have fulfilled—the weekly Sabbath) brings us to another first day of the week 50 days later. Pentecost (or Firstfruits) always falls on the first day of the week, Sunday.
It should be clear that the harmony of the Scriptures teach that the morrow after the weekly Sabbath is the day to begin our count. To claim that Pentecost should not fall on the first day of the week because of pagan worship ties to that day should not affect our observance of this day in keeping with True Worship. After all, Sunday is no worse than Monday or any other. Yahweh set all the sabbath days according to His plan, not man’s. If we allow this to keep us trom True Worship, we cannot be an effective witness against false worship.
The sabbath mentioned in Leviticus 23 is the weekly Sabbath. Yahshua, having risen at the end of the Sabbath, would not let anyone touch Him until He had ascended to Yahweh. Later Saturday night, on the first day of the week, He allowed His followers to touch Him. Following the Jews’ teachings is erroneous because they rejected the Messiah and His example.
Some commentaries note that the Pharisees made the sabbath fall on Abib 15 so that they could partake of the new harvest earlier instead of waiting a few more days until the weekly Sabbath to present the wave sheaf. Lev. 23:14 says,
And you shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears. until the selfsame day that you have brought an offering unto your Elohim: it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
The mention of bread, parched corn, and green ears refers to the fact that they were not to eat of any of the new grain harvest until after they had made the offering to Yahweh. They would, of course, have bread of the old harvest to use for Passover and the first high day because we are commanded to eat unleavened bread beginning with Abib 15. To say it has to be the sabbath of Abib 15 so that there could be bread for the first day of Unleavened Bread is incorrect. If you wait until the new harvest, you will have nothing for the first high day and will break the command to eat unleavened bread seven days. They had to use their old grain at least until “the morrow alter the sabbath.”
Count Can’t Begin Abib 16
Joshua 5:10-11 has been a problem to some who would like to force an interpretation that Abib 16 was the day to begin the count toward the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost),
And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal, and kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month at even in the plains of Jericho. And they did eat of the old corn of the land on the morrow after the Passover, unleavened cakes, and parched corn in the selfsame day.
Because the Israelites ate of the old corn of the land on the morrow after Passover, some teach that this was the day of the wave sheaf offering commanded in Leviticus 23: 10-12. Supposedly, the Israelites could not eat of the new crop until the wave sheaf was offered. This wave sheaf was to be offered “on the morrow after the Sabbath.”
Closer scrutiny of these verses in Joshua reveals that they ate of the old corn. It does not say the Israelites ate of the NEW produce of the land. Obviously, they were able to obtain the old grain that was stored by the Canaanites and abandoned when the Israelites invaded the land. It is apparent Israel’s crossing over of the dry Jordan terrorized the Canaanites, for instead of being on guard after invading enemy territory, Joshua circumcised the people—who obviously required time for recovery, Joshua 5:8.
Joshua 5:10 relates that Israel kept the Passover on the 14th day of the month. Verse eleven says they ate of the “old corn” on the morrow AFTER the Passover. That is, they ate of the produce of the land on the 15th, which is a high Sabbath: the first of the Days of Unleavened Bread.
If we try to say that it was necessary to have a wave offering before the old corn could be eaten, then they could not have partaken of the produce of the land on the High Sabbath, because the wave sheaf was offered AFTER the Sabbath. Proponents who begin the count toward the Feast of Weeks with the 16th of Abib will have to admit this impossibility.
The manna ceased once they had eaten of the old grain of Canaan. They were no longer in the wilderness. They were now in the land promised to them, the land “flowing with milk and honey.” There is nothing that says Israel was to enjoy the Days of Unleavened Bread with the new harvest. They had to use the old grain to make the unleavened bread for the 15th of Abib, because in the wilderness there was no apparent sowing and reaping of crops.
We are told in John 5:39 to search the Scriptures and in I Thessalonians 5:21 to prove all things; hold fast that which is good. We cannot follow the calendar and dates established in contradiction to Yahweh’s laws.
-Elder Donald R. Mansager
© 2007 Yahweh’s Assembly in Yahshua
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