EXTRA BIBLICAL SOURCESBack to Alphabetical Index | Back to Chapter Index
There are many sources that can be used to support what is said in the Bible about the Passover. All of the following sources corroborate the fact that the Jews have shown unity and consistency in keeping the Passover at the end of the 14th day and the beginning of the 15th day of Nisan.
Jewish Colony at Elephantine (5th century B.C.)
The earliest reference to the Passover outside the Old Testament seems to be a letter that was written in the Persian period. This fragmentary letter does not specifically mention the Passover, but there are several indications that this is the subject.
The essential parts of the letter are as follows (translated from the restored Aramaic text given by B. Porten, Archives from Elephantine p. 311):
"Count fourteen days from Nisan 1 and keep the Passover and from the 15th to the 21st of Nisan, keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And any type of leaven do not eat. Eat unleavened bread from the 14th of Nisan at the going down of the sun until the 21st of Nisan at the going down of the sun."
The exact time of the Passover is not mentioned in these surviving fragments. However, it is clear that only the seven days of unleavened bread were observed. This also shows that this term 'evening' in the Aramaic language was still used to denote the evening at the end of a day.
The Book of Jubilees (2nd century B.C.)
This early Jewish writing describes the Passover in some detail, including a contemporary definition of the phrase 'between the evenings.' The following quotation is from chapter 49 of R.H. Charles' translation in his Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English:
"Remember the commandment which the Lord commanded thee concerning the Passover, that thou should celebrate it in its season on the fourteenth of the first month, that thou should kill it before it is evening, and that they should eat it by night on the evening of the fifteenth from the time of the setting of the sun.
"Let the children of Israel come and observe the Passover on the day of its fixed time, on the fourteenth day of the first month, between the evenings, from the third part of the day to the third part of the night, for two portions of the day are given to the light, and a third part to the evening.
"This is that which the Lord commanded thee that thou should observe it between the evenings. And it is not permissible to slay it during any period of the light, but during the period bordering on the evening, and let them eat it at the time of the evening until the third part of the night, and whatever is left over of all its flesh from the third part of the night and onwards, let them burn it with fire" (Each 'part' was approximately 4 hours long).
This shows that, approximately two centuries before Jesus, some Jews believed that the Passover should be sacrificed in the time from about 2 p.m. to about 6 p.m. and it could be eaten until about 2 a.m. after which any of the sacrifice that remained uneaten must be burned.
Philo (early 1st century A.D.)
Philo wrote from about 20 B.C. to 45 A.D.. He lived most of his life in Alexandria and was a leading figure in the Jewish community there. He visited Jerusalem on at least one occasion and was well-versed in the Law. Therefore, his description of the Passover celebration at the Temple during his day could be accurate. Here is what he states in De Spec. Leg. 2, 145, 149 (translation is F. Colson's in the Loeb edition):
"After the New Moon comes the fourth feast, called the Crossing-feast, which the Hebrews in their native tongue call Pascha. In this festival many myriads of victims from noon till eventide are offered by the whole people. . . The day on which this national festivity occurs may very properly be noted. It is the 14th of the month. . ."
Note that the sacrifice was done at the end of the 14th in the afternoon, not on the 13th/14th. Philo says elsewhere that the Passover could not be offered before 3 p.m. ('the ninth hour;' see his Quaes. Ex.1:9-11).
Josephus (late 1st century A.D.)
Josephus wrote the following toward the end of the 1st century A.D.:
"Accordingly, on the occasion of the feast called Passover, at which they sacrifice from the ninth to the eleventh hour, [3 p.m. to 5 p.m.], and a little fraternity, as it were, gather round each sacrifice, of not fewer than ten persons" (War 22.214.171.1243). [This shows the Passover was slaughtered from 3 to 5 p.m. on Nisan 14.] ". . . we keep for eight days a feast called the feast of unleavened bread" (Antiquities. 126.96.36.1997).
Here, Josephus includes the 14th as part of the festival because of the slaughtering of the lambs and the custom of the Jews to put out leavened products on the 14th day. The latter is indicated by War 188.8.131.52: "when the day of unleavened bread came round on the fourteenth of the month Xanthicus. . ."[Note: Xanthicus = Nisan].
Septuagint (3rd Century B.C.)
The Pentateuch is generally considered by Septuagint scholars to have been translated into Greek about 275 B.C. It is extremely valuable, in that it often shows how the biblical text was understood almost three hundred years before Christ.
In Leviticus 23:5, the Septuagint seems to give a literal translation of the Hebrew word 'beyn ha-arbayim' (Greek: ana meson ton hesperinon), which means 'at or between the evenings.'
However, in Exodus 12:6 and Numbers 9:3, 11, beyn ha-arbayim is translated as 'toward evening' (pros hesperan). This indicated that the Hebrew phrase was taken to mean the evening at the end of the day. (A similar Greek expression to 'deilinon', which means 'in the afternoon' or 'toward evening', is used in Exodus 29:39, 41).
The Mishnah places the slaughter of the Passover lambs between about 3 and 5 p.m. on the 14th, which is in harmony with a number of earlier sources. This indicates an interpretation of "beyn ha-arbayim", which includes much of the afternoon.
The Mekhilta, a midrash on Exodus, states that the time of slaughter is any time after noon (5.113ff on Ex.12:6; Lauterbach edition). The Siphra, a midrash on Leviticus agrees that 'between the two evenings' includes the time after noon (Emor Pereq 11, 100b; Weiss edition).
The Samaritans and Karaites:
The practice of the Samaritans and the Karaite Jews of keeping the Passover on the beginning of the 14th is a practice that did not belong to the mainstream Jewish/Israelite history of the Passover observance. The Samaritans were not associated with the Jerusalem cult.
The Karaite movement did not exist until the eighth century A.D. Therefore, their practices are irrelevant to the subject of this paper.
Summary of Jewish Practice
The usage of various Jewish historical sources in this work does not imply an endorsement of these sources as authoritative. They are used simply as evidence of practices associated with the Passover during and after Jesus' lifetime.
It is obvious from the scriptures that Jesus celebrated the Passover as both a child and an adult. It is also obvious that, as a child Jesus observed the Passover with his parents (Lk.2:40-52) who were Jews and followed the practices of the Priests and Rabbis of the day.
For Jesus to have partaken of these various practices and observances (such as the Passover), each would have had to have been legal and proper according to the law. This is especially important concerning the Passover, because the Passover lamb was the central element of the Passover observance and had to be brought to the Temple and prepared at a specified time (which these sources substantiate) and in a specific manner, according to the law.
In such a context, these sources provide some illumination in certain cases, but they are by no means to be taken as the primary source of information presented in this paper.
We have examined a number of excellent sources that explain how the Jews kept the Passover down through history. Not a single one of these sources ever suggests that the Passover was ever offered at the beginning of the 14th. They are all completely unified in seeing the Passover as belonging to the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th.
An important point is the fact that, even though there were sometimes disagreements as to the correctness of their calendar calculations, they all kept the Passover at the end of the 14th and beginning of the 15th.
J. Jeremias wrote the following:
"Again and again we find dilettantes maintaining that in the time of Jesus the Passover meal was eaten in the evening of Nisan 13/14 . . . In fact, it is absolutely indubitable that from ancient times right down to the present the Jewish Passover meal has never been celebrated at any other time than the night of Nisan 14/15" (The Eucharistic Words of Jesus, p.16, no. 3 and p.38, no.1).
Modern scholars must depend on the same original sources that are available to anyone who wants to diligently search for the exact time of the Passover observance. With the exception of a few who have done only a superficial study of this subject, all agree that when the term 'between the evenings' is used with the Passover, it refers to the slaughter of the Passover lamb being at the end of the 14th day and not at the beginning of the 14th day.
Any attempt to make the phrase 'beyn ha-arbayim' ('between the two evenings') refer to the beginning of the 14th is contrary to all ancient and modern scholarship.
The Passover ceremony that Jesus Christ instituted for the elect children to practice until he returns to establish his Father's kingdom on earth consists of the following three symbolic rituals:
According to the scriptures, the only people who are allowed to come before the Father to participate in the Passover's rituals and partake of its symbols are those who have repented of their sins, been properly baptized, and received the Father's holy spirit.
The Passover ceremony and rituals should be performed in an attitude of humility and respect for Jesus Christ and the awesome sacrifice that he made for humanity. The practice of this ceremony and its rituals is to be a time of remembrance of the Messiah's death, a time for thoughtful introspection, and a time for the renewal of one's commitment to God the Father and Jesus Christ. However, a morose or morbid attitude should be avoided, because this is also a time to be profoundly thankful for all that God the Father and his Son have done for us.
The following guidelines for the Passover ceremony and symbolic rituals is based on the Passover that Jesus spent with his disciples (apostles) the evening before his crucifixion.
Although there is not a specific example in the New Testament of prayer in connection with opening the Passover ceremony, it is recommended to do so. Simply requesting God the Father to be present in spirit and to bless the proceedings as you observe and commemorate the sacrifice and death of his Son is sufficient.
"And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said to them, With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer: For I say to you, I will not anymore eat hereof, until it be fulfilled in the Kingdom of God."
"For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death until he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthy, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eats and drinks unworthy, eats and drinks damnation [judgment] to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body."
The Washing of Feet
"And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him; Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; he rose from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel and girded himself. After that he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
"Then came he to Simon Peter: and Peter said to him, Lord, do you wash my feet? Jesus answered and said to him, What I do you know not now; but you shall know hereafter. Peter said to him, You shall never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash you not, you have no part with me. Simon Peter said to him Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head! Jesus said to him, he that is washed needs not save to wash his feet, and is clean every whit: and you are clean, but not all. For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, You are not all clean.
"So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said to them, Know you what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord: and say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, The servant is not greater than his Lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If you know these things, happy are you if you do them."
If you are keeping the Passover alone, this portion of the service cannot be performed; however, it would be good to carefully read the above scriptures and meditate on the vital lessons taught by the symbolism of washing feet before proceeding to the next ritual.
Breaking and Eating the Unleavened Bread
"And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body."
The one conducting the ceremony should ask the Father to bless the unleavened bread for its intended purpose as a symbol of the broken and beaten body of Jesus Christ, which is the beginning of the process of the forgiveness of our sins.
Break the unleavened bread into small pieces and serve it to the others present as well as partaking of it yourself. If you are observing the Passover alone, simply partake of the broken unleavened bread yourself.
Drinking the Wine
"And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink you all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom."
"After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do you, often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."
The one conducting the ceremony should ask the Father to bless the wine for its intended purpose as the symbol of Jesus' life blood that was shed for the forgiveness of our personal sins and the sins of humanity. Moreover, the person conducting the ceremony should acknowledge to the Father that those gathered are there to reaffirm their covenant to remain faithful servants to the end. After this the wine should be served to yourself and the others who are present. If you are observing alone, partake of it yourself.
Selected Readings Following Partaking of the Symbols
It is recommended that you read aloud the following scriptures about Jesus Christ's last teachings to his disciples before his arrest and crucifixion.
"Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You shall seek me: and as I sad to the Jews, Whither I go, you cannot come; so now I say to you. A new commandment I give to you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another."
John 14:12-14, 21, 26-27
"Truly, truly, I say to you, he that believes on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to my Father. And whatsoever you shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it" (vs.12-14).
"He that has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves me: and he that loves me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him" (v21).
"But the Comforter, which is the holy spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said to you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you: not as the world gives, give I to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (vs.26-27).
John 15:1-2, 5-7, 12-14
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that bears not fruit he takes away: and every branch that bears fruit, he purges it, that it may bring forth more fruit" (vs.1-2).
"I am the vine, you are the branches: he that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done to you" (vs.5-7).
"This is my commandment, That you love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do whatsoever I command you" (vs.12-14).
"Then came Jesus with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, Sit you here while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then said he to them, my soul is exceeding sorrowful, even to death: tarry you here, and watch with me."
"And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed. Saying, Father, if you be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but yours, be done. And there appeared an angel to him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow. And he said to them, why sleep you? rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation."
John 17:1-3, 14-17, 20-22, 26
"These words spoke Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify your Son, that your Son also may glorify you: As you have given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as you have given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" (vs.1-3).
"I have given them your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through your truth: your word is truth" (vs.14-17).
"Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that you have sent me. And the glory which you gave me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one" (vs.20-22).
"And I have declared to them your name, and will declare it; that the love wherewith you have loved me may be in them, and I in them" (v26).
After the Passover Ceremony
"And when they had sung a hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives" (Matt.26:30).
The scriptural example shows that, after all was said and done and the Passover ceremony and rituals had been instituted and performed by Jesus Christ and his disciples, they sang a hymn before they left to go to the Mount of Olives; therefore, an appropriate hymn or psalm should be sung.
Although it is not mandatory, it is certainly appropriate to offer a prayer of thanksgiving to the Father and Jesus Christ before leaving the place of the Passover observance.
Cleanup After Service
Do not keep any leftover broken unleavened bread or wine. Any leftover unleavened bread or wine should be destroyed. The unleavened bread should be burned and the wine should be poured on the ground. The reason for this is that once the Passover lamb of the exodus had been sacrificed, its body eaten, and its blood used as protection against the destroyer, it could never again be used for this purpose. The same is true for the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Once it has been applied to the sinner for the redemption of his life, Jesus' body and blood can never again be applied for this same purpose. Therefore, the unleavened bread and wine, which are symbolic of the body and blood of Jesus, should be destroyed so they can never be used again.
INTRODUCTION TO THE ANNUAL OBSERVANCES AND FESTIVALSBack to Alphabetical Index | Back to Top | Back to Chapter Index
The annual observances and festivals are not just days that God arbitrarily chose as holidays for the nation of Israel. God had a purpose and plan for humanity before their creation, and this purpose and plan is revealed through the literal, prophetic, and symbolic meaning that God has placed within each of his very special observances.
It is through the observance and study of these annual observances and festivals that one can gain many awesome insights into the minds of God the Father and Jesus Christ and into their plan for the future of humanity.
Each commanded observance is unique in its meaning and purpose; however, all the observances are interrelated in their contribution to God's plan for the salvation of humanity. Moreover, observance has a literal, symbolic, and prophetic meaning concerning the people, places, times, and events in God's plan.
The annual observances that God commanded Israel to observe were times of great rejoicing. These were times when all Israelite males were to present themselves before God to formally worship him and bring him the required tribute and freewill offerings. These observances were to be times of national thanksgiving and rejoicing, which showed appreciation for the great blessings that the Creator God had bestowed upon national Israel.
Later in this study, it will be shown that these days also hold a great importance to those who are called to salvation during the ages prior to and after the return of Jesus Christ as King of kings. Three Festival Seasons
"Three times you shall keep a feast to me in the year. You shall keep the feast of unleavened bread: (you shall eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded you, in the time appointed of the month Abib; for in it you came out from Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty:) And the feast of harvest, the first-fruits of your labors, which you have sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when you have gathered in your labors out of the field. Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord God" (Ex.23:14-17 KJV).
In these verses, the English word 'feast' is a translation from the Hebrew word 'hag', which is used to denote 'keeping a feast' or 'celebrating a holiday', and it is usually used to describe the three pilgrimage feasts of God (i.e., the Passover season, the Feast of Pentecost, and the Feast of Shelters/Ingathering). The noun 'hag' means pilgrim-feast or holiday (i.e., a day or season of religious joy).
Although the nation as a whole was supposed to worship God in the place where he placed his name, learn his ways, and rejoice before him, a specific command was given to every male Israelite to appear before him during these three festival seasons:
"Three times in the year every male of yours shall be seen before the face of the Lord, the God of Israel. For I will expel nations from before your face, and you will make broad your borders; and no one shall covet your land, as you go up to appear before the Lord your God three times in the year" (Ex.34:23-24 Para.).
Because observing these festivals meant that many of the Israelites would leave their property unprotected, God promised that their property would remain safe while they attended the annual observances and festivals.
One of the reasons the males of Israel were to appear before God during the three festival seasons was that they represented the leadership of Israel and bore within their flesh the outward sign (i.e., circumcision) that the nation of Israel was under the terms and conditions of the Abramic Covenant (Gen.17:10-14).
"Three times in a year shall all your males appear before the Lord your God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of shelters" (Deut.16:16 Para.).
The three festival seasons fell within the three main agricultural seasons of Palestine: The spring harvest of barley; the early summer harvest of wheat; and the fall harvest of fruit.
The three festival seasons contained the following commanded observances and festivals:
The Worship of God
From the first chapter of the Book of Genesis to the last chapter of the Book of Revelation, God reveals and gives instructions on how to worship him in order to receive the blessings that he wants to give.
One of the very first things the Israelites were told to do when they entered the promised land was to completely destroy and erase all traces of the pagan worship system that existed there:
Deuteronomy 12:1-4 KJV
"These are the statutes and judgments, which you shall observe to do in the land, which the Lord your God gives you to possess it, all the days that you live upon the earth. You shall utterly destroy all the places, within the nations which you shall possess wherein they served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree: And you shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and you shall cut down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place. You shall not do so to the Lord your God" (vs.1-4).
A very important thing to keep in mind as one studies the Bible is that God wants to be worshiped in a certain way and he will not accept any other method of worship. Any method of worship that God has not sanctioned is considered sin: a pollution and perversion of his law of worship. Any deviation from God's lawful worship system always leads people away from him and his purpose and plan for humanity. Therefore, he told the Israelites to eliminate these objectionable practices and objects of worship from the land they were to inherit. God alone would choose the place, the methods, and the times in which Israel should come before him in formal worship.
"But to the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even to his habitation shall you seek, and there you shall come" (Deut.12:5 Para.).
In this verse, the English word 'seek' is translated from the Hebrew word 'darash', which can mean 'pursuit', 'search', 'seek', 'ask', or 'worship'.
The Israelites were to go to the place were God placed his name and presence. There, they were to commune with God, pay homage to him, reverence him, and do his will. There, they were to seek him through obedience and worship.
Where God placed his name and presence was the only place on earth where these things could be accomplished in a formal way because this was where the presence of God resided.
Rejoice Before God
Deuteronomy 16:11, 13-15 KJV
"And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you, and your son, and your daughter, and your manservant, and your maidservant, and the Levite that is within your gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are among you, in the place which the Lord your God has chosen to place his name there" (v11).
Anyone who was considered a part of national Israel, regardless of their personal status (e.g., child, servant, slave, or proselyte), was to observe the festivals of God by worshiping and rejoicing before him:
"You shall observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that you have gathered in your grain and your wine: And you shall rejoice in your feast, you, and your son, and your daughter, and your manservant, and your maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within your gates. Seven days you shall keep a solemn feast to the Lord your God in the place where he shall choose; because the Lord your God shall bless you in all your increase, and in all the works of your hands; therefore, you shall surely rejoice" (vs.13-15).
The Israelites had a great deal to rejoice about throughout the year as they lived their lives under the guidance and protection of the Creator God. As they came to these very special days, they were to remember that they were the only nation and people on the earth that God claimed as his personal treasure and children. They were the only people on earth that God had personally chosen to represent him on earth. They were the only people on earth whom God had personally promised to bless and care for. The Israelites truly had a great deal about which to rejoice.
A Time of Remembrance
"And you shall remember that you were a bondsman in Egypt: and you shall observe and do these statutes" (Deut.16:12 KJV).
Each annual observance reminded the Israelites of their national captivity and slavery in Egypt and that God had brought them out of this slavery and made them his children.
A Time to Sacrifice and Bring Tribute
"And there you shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the first-born of your herds and of your flocks" (Deut.12:6 Para.).
"You shall truly tithe all the increase of your seed, that the field brings forth year by year" (Deut.14:22 KJV).
"And you shall keep the feast of weeks to the Lord your God with a tribute of a freewill offering of your hand, which you shall give to the Lord your God, according as the Lord your God has blessed you:" (Deut.16:10 KJV).
"And none shall appear before me empty:" (Ex.23:15 KJV). See also Lev.23:37-38.
Tithes and Freewill Offerings
The annual festivals were a time when the Israelites were to bring the tithe of the land and freewill offerings to present to God.
All who worked the land and received an increase from it were to set apart a certain amount of this increase to be used as God directed. The increase of the land was to be divided into three tenths (tithes), which were each intended for a specific purpose.
The First Tenth
"And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service when they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation" (Num.18:21 KJV). See also Deut.14:28-29.
God required the first tenth to be given for the support of the priesthood and the Levites who performed the many services that God required as a part of his system of worship.
The Festival Tenth
The second tenth was to only be used for the purpose of celebrating and enjoying the annual observances and festivals:
"You may not eat within your gates your tenth of your grain, or of your wine, or of your oil" (Deut.12:17; 14:23 Para.).
These annual days of worship were such an important part of God's worship system that he required a full tenth of the increase from the land of Israel to be used by the Israelites to attend and enjoy these festivals.
Deuteronomy 14:23-27 Paraphrased
"And you shall eat before the Lord your God, in the place where he shall choose to place his name, the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and your oil, and the first of your herds and of your flocks; that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always" (v23).
"If the trip is to distant from you, and you are not able to carry it there; or if the place be too far from you, which the Lord your God shall choose to set his name there, when the Lord God has blessed you: Then turn it into money, and bind up the money in your hand, and go to the place where the Lord your God shall choose" (vs.24-25).
"And you shall use that money for whatever your soul seeks after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatever your soul desires: and you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you, and your household, And don't forget the Levite that is within your gates; for he has no part nor inheritance with you" (vs.26-27).
The Tenth for the Poor
Every third year, a tenth of the increase was to be brought and given for the support of widows, orphans, and strangers in need:
"And at the end of three years you shall bring forth all the tenth of your increase the same year, and shall lay it up within your gates: And the Levite, (because he has no part nor inheritance with you), and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within your gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do" (Deut.14:28-29 Para.). See also Deut.ch.12 & 14.
The Freewill Offerings
"Three times in a year shall all your males appear before the Lord your God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of shelters; and they shall not appear before the Lord empty: but each with a gift in his hand, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which he has given you" (Deut.16:16-17 Para.). See also Ex.23:15.
In addition to the tenth of their increase, the festival tenth, and the tenth for the poor, God required all Israelite males to come before him to present him with a freewill offering to show their appreciation for his blessings.
Blessings for Obedience
If the Israelites were faithful in their observance of the annual festivals and in bringing the required tithes and offerings to God at the place where he placed his name and presence, he promised to give them unimaginable physical blessings:
"Bring you all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and prove me now, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, says the Lord of hosts" (Mal.3:10-11 Para.).
Learn to Worship the Lord
"And you shall eat before the Lord your God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks; that you may learn to fear [revere/respect] the Lord your God always" (Deut.14:23 KJV).
In order to be at peace with God and to perform his will in their lives, the Israelites had to learn to love, revere, and respect God. A major part of this learning process concerned contact with God through the formal worship system at the place he chose to place his name and presence. There, the people would fulfill their obligations for tithes, tribute, offerings, and freewill gifts to God. And they were to remember, speak of, and meditate on the great things that God had done and was doing for them individually and as a nation.
Through the repetition of the annual observances and festivals and practicing God's law and way of life, the Israelites were constantly reminded of God's greatness and his love and concern for them.
UNDER THE NEW AGREEMENT
With the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the new agreement between God and his people, many of the literal, symbolic, and prophetic meanings of the annual festivals were fulfilled. However, there are still many that have not yet been fulfilled, and there is still much to be learned and understood about the plan of God as pictured by these annual observances and festivals. Under the new agreement, these festivals must be observed in light of their present meaning and purpose as we wait for the return of Jesus Christ as King of kings at the end of this age.
The Place of Worship
While the temple in Jerusalem existed and was attended by the priesthood, anyone who wanted to perform certain acts of worship could do so at Jerusalem. However, after the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., there was no place for the priesthood to officiate or perform sacrifices.
Today, the Father's name rests upon his children, and his presence dwells within their flesh through the power of his holy spirit. Anyone who has the name and presence of the Father dwelling within them is a temple of God on earth. See 1.Cor.3:16-17; 6:19-20; Eph.2:19-22.
Within this temple of flesh, the law of God is written in the hearts of his children (Jer.31:31-34; Heb.8:7-11). As long as they live within this temple of flesh, they have the authority to communicate, serve, and worship the Father wherever they are and receive daily spiritual nourishment to sustain them as they journey through life.
Within the children of God is the most holy place on earth; it is where the spirit of God resides and where God the Father and Jesus Christ meet with those who are called to salvation.
A worshiper of God no longer has to go to a physical temple to offer sacrifices or to keep the annual observances: all annual observances can now be observed anywhere a child of God is or wherever one desires to fellowship with other children of God and worship God the Father.
Although assembling together is not a requirement for salvation, it should be a highly desirable and profitable part of one's spiritual growth process. The writer to the Hebrews exhorts those who are called to salvation and are serious about their calling and spiritual growth to meet together:
"Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke to love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching" (Heb.10:23-25 KJV).
There is no doubt that the commanded observances and festivals must be observed by the elect of God, and that an understanding and proper observance of these special days is an important part of one's spiritual growth process and walk with God. The following is a list of the major things that can be learned through the observance and study of these special days:
The Father wants his children to be happy. He is not the stern harsh God that he has so often been pictured to be. One of the ways that he has provided for our happiness and our spiritual growth and development in righteous character is through his special observances. These observances and festivals are specifically set apart for our physical and spiritual rejuvenation as we live our lives in anticipation of the rewards that he has promised for faithful obedience to his law and way of life.
Hopefully, the following study into each of the annual festivals will give you a greater understanding and appreciation for God's plan for your personal salvation and the salvation of humanity.