Exodus 19:1, 11, In the third month…the third day.
In Exodus 19:1 we read that the Israelites arrived at Sinai in the third month, and according to Jewish tradition, a very significant event occurred on the third day of third month that was not only pivotal in the history of the Israelite people, but has profoundly influenced YHVH’s people, including you and me, to this very day. It was the giving of the ten commandments on Shavuot or the day of Pentecost. Now let’s connect some dots or put some pieces of the puzzle together to form a prophetic picture of an amazing biblical truth regarding the third day and explore the past, present and future implications of this.
The biblical holy day of Shavuot, when YHVH gave the ten commandments to Israel and the world, was also when YHVH, for the first time in recorded biblical history, sounded the heavenly shofar—known as the first trumpet. Amazingly, this shofar event relates back to Abraham’s willingness to offer up Isaac as an offering to YHVH and to the ram that was caught in the thicket by his horns.
While en route to the place where YHVH had instructed Abraham to offer up his only beloved son, he could see “the place” (Mount Moriah) afar off in three days (Gen 22:4). As we shall see later, this prophetically points to Messiah’s sacrificial death at the same location three millennia later.
As we have just read, the Israelites were to be ready “on the third day” to receive the Written Torah thundered from the lips of the pre-incarnate Yeshua the Messiah (Acts 7:38; 1 Cor 10:4) at Mount Sinai. But the term the “third day” in Exodus chapter 19 also occurs in reference to Abraham and the akeidah or the binding of Isaac (Gen 22:1–18). What is the connection between these two events? Namely this. The near death of Isaac on Mount Moriah (Jerusalem) and YHVH providing Abraham a ram to sacrifice instead of his only beloved son prophetically pointed to the death of the Yeshua the Messiah the Redeemer at the same spot about 2,000 years later. Similarly, the Israelites, on the day of Pentecost when they received the ten commandments, were living out their own prophecy that also pointed to the same time when Messiah would come as the Living Torah culminating on the day of Pentecost or Shavuot, when he would write his Torah-laws on their hearts. Therefore, the “third day” reference for both Abraham and the Israelites had a similar relevance, for both were living in the second millennia B.C. or before the birth of Yeshua the Messiah, who was born near the beginning of the first century A.D. or in the third millennia, or on third day prophetically from both the time of Abraham and the Israelites.
Though a bit tangential to the subject of Shavuot, let’s look at another concept relating to the prophetic implications of the third day. As Yeshua, the Living Torah, came on the third day, so he will return on the third day after his first coming or in the third millennia after his first coming. That is, he came in the first millennium of our common era, and we have just passed into the third millennia of the same era and are now in the twenty-first century. According to biblical prophecy, Messiah will return in this third millennia, or third day as we read in Hosea.
A (Re)New(ed) Covenant Involving YHVH Writing Torah on Our Hearts
Long ago Jeremiah prophesied that YHVH would make a new (or renewed) covenant being with his people Israel, which would involve both houses of Israel (Judah and Ephraim, or, prophetically speaking, the Jews and the Christians), and that he would write his Torah on their hearts.
Behold, the days come, saith YHVH, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith YHVH: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith YHVH, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their Elohim, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know YHVH: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith YHVH: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jer 31:31–34)
Contextually, in the verses surrounding this prophecy, we discover some other important details.
Verse 27, The houses of Judah and Israel were to be mingled throughout the beast (heathen) nations of the world as punishment for breaking their covenant with YHVH that they made with him on Shavuot (the Feast of Pentecost) at Mount Sinai (Exod 19–20, 24).
Verse 28, At some point in the future, YHVH’s punishment of Israel for breaking their covenant and their resulting exile among the gentile nations will come to the end. He will rebuild and restore the nation of Israel.
Verses 29–30, Whereas in times past, Israel was punished as a collective nation for their sins when they disobeyed YHVH and were similarly blessed when they obeyed him, now each person will be cursed or blessed for his own sins. Salvation is more of an individual matter now.
Verses 31–33, YHVH promises to make a renewed covenant with the two houses of Israel at some time in the future (from Jeremiah’s perspective). It will be different from the covenant he made with Israel at Sinai in two major ways:
Though it will be a covenant with Israel collectively (both houses), it also will be made with individuals.
He will deal with the heart of each individual Israelite when he writes his Torah on their hearts.
Verse 34, This renewed covenant will involve mercy and forgiveness (grace). It will involve a personal relationship between each person and YHVH (“they shall all know me…”).
Verses 35 and 37, As the sun, moon, stars, the sea, and expanse of the heavens and the earth exist, so YHVH will renew his Torah covenant with Israel. The words of Yeshua in Matthew 5:18 are reminiscent of the this prophecy. Not one jot or tittle (Heb. yud or tag, which are the smallest elements of the Hebrew alphabet) of YHVH’s Torah will pass as long heaven and earth still exist.
Verse 36, The very survival of the nation and people of Israel (and hence the fulfillment of the covenants YHVH made with Abraham), is dependent on YHVH regathering and restoring Israel. If YHVH doesn’t bring this to pass, then YHVH is a liar and his Word is a lie and there is no hope for the world! This cannot be!
This was fulfilled during the time of the writing of the Testimony of Yeshua (New Testament). The author of Hebrews talks about this in Hebrews 8.
But now, Yeshua the Messiah has attained a more excellent public service, since He is the Mediator of a more excellent covenant, one that was legislated with better promises than the former. (Heb 8:6)
The “better promises” is everything that Yeshua taught about salvation and eternal life as a person puts their trust in him. These better promises he taught during his life and ministry, and formalized this at his last supper through the communion elements. It is all these glorious promises to which the whole Levitical and sacrificial system pointed, which, as the author of Hebrews makes clear, was fulfilled in Yeshua.
If the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need to look for a second one. Finding fault with THEM He said, “Look, the days are coming, says Yehovah, when I’ll enact a New Covenant with the descendants of Israel, and with the descendants of Judah. It wont be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors during the time when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt, because they didnt remain loyal to My covenant, and I rejected them, declared Yehovah. But this is the covenant that I’ll enter into with the descendants of Israel after that time, says Yehovah; I’ll put My Torah in their minds—inscribing it on their innermost thoughts. I’ll be their Aloha, and they’ll be My people. No one will teach doctrine to their fellow citizens [evangelize], or a friend, or ask: “Do you know Yehovah” [witness to anyone], because they’ll all know Me, from the youngest of them to the oldest. I’ll be merciful regarding their wrongful behavior; and I’ll no longer remember their sins.” When He [Yeshua] mentioned, a New Covenant, He was saying that the first one was old and about to be repealed; and what was then old and failing, was about to disappear. (Heb 8:7–13, GV)
Other Scriptures Relating to the Renewed Covenant and the Heart of Man
The Tanakh is full of scriptures that speak of the renewed covenant where YHVH will write his Torah on the hearts of men. For example, in Jeremiah 32:40, YHVH reiterates his promise to make an everlasting promise with Israel. This new covenant will involve his putting his fear in their hearts. As a result, they will no longer depart from him.
And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.
The following is a list of other scriptures that talk about the Torah being written on men’s hearts.
Deut 30:6, And YHVH thy Elohim will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love YHVH thy Elohim with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.
Ps 37:31, The law of his Elohim is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.
Ps 40:8, I delight to do thy will, O my Elohim: yea, thy law is within my heart.
Isa 51:7 Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings.
Ezek 11:19, And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:
Ezek 36:25, Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.
Eze 36:26* A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
Ezek 36:27, And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
Jer 31:1, At the same time, saith YHVH, will I be the Elohim of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people.
Jer 24:7, And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am YHVH: and they shall be my people, and I will be their Elohim: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart.
Jer 30:22, And ye shall be my people, and I will be your Elohim.
Jer 32:38, And they shall be my people, and I will be their Elohim:
Ezek 11:20, That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their Elohim.
Ezek 37:27, My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their Elohim, and they shall be my people.
The Testimony of Yeshua Speaks of YHVH’s Torah-Law Being Written on Men’s Hearts Also
Rom 7:22, For I delight in the law of Elohim after the inward man.
Rom 8:2–8, For the law of the Spirit of life in Messiah Yeshua hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, Elohim sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against Elohim: for it is not subject to the law of Elohim, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please Elohim.
2 Cor 3:3, Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Messiah ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living Elohim; not in tables of stone, but Messiah in fleshy tables of the heart.
2 Cor 3:7–8, But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?
Heb 8:10, 16, For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith YHVH; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a Elohim, and they shall be to me a people…This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith YHVH, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them.
Yeshua Is Mediator of the Renewed Covenant
On Passover, Yeshua initiated the renewed covenant.
Matt 26:28, For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
Mark 14:24, And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.
Luke 22:20, Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.
1 Cor 11:25, 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 ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
Heb 12:24, And to Yeshua the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.
Heb 7:22, By so much was Yeshua made a surety of a better testament.
Heb 8:6, But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.
Heb 8:8, For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith YHVH, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:
1 Tim 2:5, For there is one Elohim, and one mediator between Elohim and men, the man Messiah Yeshua;
Heb 13:20, Now the Elohim of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Yeshua, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,
Heb 9:15, And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
On Pentecost in Acts chapter two, Yeshua sealed his covenant on the hearts of his disciples by giving them his Holy or Set-Apart Spirit.
As YHVH made a marriage covenant with our fathers at Mount Sinai some 3500 years ago, so he promised to make a new covenant with the houses of Israel in the future.
I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah … I will put my Torah in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts and will be their Elohim and they shall be my people. (Jer 31:31 and 33)
Yeshua initiated this covenant with the descendants of the children of Israel during his last supper when he said to his disciples, “Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the renewed covenant in my blood, which is shed for you.…for the remission of sins.” (Luke 22:20 and Matt 26:28). It was the mission of Yeshua’s disciples to bring as many people into that renewed covenant—a spiritual marriage covenant—as possible. We enter into this renewed covenant with Yeshua who is the Living Torah and our Heavenly Bridegroom, when we do as the Paul says in Romans 10:9 and 10 and confess with our mouths the Master Yeshua and believe in our heart that Elohim has raised him the dead.
Romans 10:13 goes on to say, “Whoever shall call upon the name of the Master shall be saved.” Yeshua also said, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt 10:32).
Yeshua then sealed that renewed covenant when he sent his Spirit on the day of Pentecost to write his Torah on the hearts of his people. Likewise, when a new believer confesses Yeshua as his Lord and Savior and subsequently receives the Holy Spirit, this person is sealed spiritually as Ephesians 1:13–14 says,
And you were also included in Messiah when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is the deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are Elohim’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
The Counting of the Omer: Antitype and Type
In the roughly 49 days between Passover (Pesach) and the Feast of Pentecost (Chag haShavuot), a momentous spiritual dynamic occurs. This period of time is comprised of forty-nine days or seven days of seven weeks (i.e. the counting of the omer), which is seven times seven—the biblical number for complete or full perfection. After the counting of the omer, Scripture then commands us to add one day, which brings us to Shavuot or Pentecost (Lev 23:15–16). Fifty is the biblical number for the jubilee picturing redemption from the enslavement to this world.
Historically, the children of Israel were redeemed from their sins by the blood of the lamb on the first Passover in Egypt. At this time, YHVH betrothed himself to Israel (Exod 6:7). YHVH then led them out of Egypt into the wilderness, and on Shavuot he married them at Sinai (Exod 24 cp. Ezek 16:8; Jer 2:2; 31:32). At the same time, YHVH gave them his Torah, which was their ketubah or marriage vows.
Shavuot is a picture of the bride of Yeshua the Messiah coming into full maturity spiritually and coming to marriageable age. She has gone from being a spiritual child and slave in Egypt to becoming the fully mature spiritual bride and queen of the King of the universe.
At the time of Yeshua, he betrothed himself to both houses of Israel on Passover. On Pentecost, he then sent his Spirit, the Comforter, as a seal of this covenant. He hasn’t married this bride (that’s you and me) yet—something which occurs at his second coming. Rather, he betrothed himself to her (his disciples) at the last supper and then subsequently to each new believer when they come into spiritual relationship with him. In the mean time, he has placed his betrothed bride in a 2000 years-long wilderness exile outside the land of Israel where she is getting ready for him (Rev 19:7–9); she is learning to fall in love with him by keeping his Torah commands (John 14:15) and by receiving his Torah (instructions in righteousness) into her heart, so that she will become the sinless bride with whom he wants to spend eternity in the New Jerusalem.
In the end times, his bride (comprised of some from both the Christian and the Jewish people) have to one degree or another left YHVH spiritually and gone off into the world. In the end times at Yeshua’s second coming, he’s going to bring his bride out of the wilderness of Babylon the Great (called the Second Exodus), which is a worldwide antichrist system, and they will repent of their Torahless ways and return to him. We are now getting ready for this day.
Understanding the prophecies of the Bible that speak of these end-time events, and understanding who the principal players are (the two houses of Israel or the Jews and the Christians) is the key to insuring that we will be ready for our Messiah when he returns for us—that we’ll be wise and not foolish virgins, who have our lamps full of oil (the Torah and Spirit of Elohim, see Matt 25:1–13).
The Feast of Weeks or Pentecost (Shavuot), along with Passover (Pesach) and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Chag HaMatzot) and the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) are three times each year when YHVH commands his people, his bride-to-be, to gather together before him to rehearse their upcoming wedding and vows renewal and otherwise to celebrate their relationship with their Heavenly Bridegroom and commune with him (Exod 23:14–17).
When is the Feast of Weeks (Heb. Chag Shavuot) or Pentecost? This has been a subject of debate among the Jews going back for two thousand years to the first century, and still is today among well meaning people who love Elohim and desire to follow his word. This is the question I will address in this study.
Since Shavuot is the only biblical holiday that involves counting days and weeks (hence its name, the Feast of Weeks), there are different opinions about when to start the count leading up to Shavuot. The Torah tells us to count from the Sabbath associated with the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
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. (Lev 23:15–16, NKJV)
This sounds simple enough. Or is it?
The question and the subject of the debate is which Sabbath do you start counting from? The day after the weekly Sabbath occurring during the Feast of Unleavened Bread or the day after the high holy day Sabbath of the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which occurs on the fifteenth day of the first month of the biblical year?
In the first century in the time of Yeshua and the apostles, there were two main opinions among the leading Jews on when to start counting the weeks (called “the counting of the omer”) leading up to Shavuot. The religious sect of the Pharisees whose spiritual descendants are the modern rabbinic Jews started the counting of the omer from the day after first high holy day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is a high holy day Sabbath (John 19:31). On the other hand, the Sadducees, the other main Jewish sects of the first century (along with the Boethusians, which was likely a sub-sect of the Sadducees; see A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, second division, vol 2, p. 37, by Emil Schurer; Commentary on the NT from the Talmud and Hebraica, vol. 4, p. 23 [commentary on Acts 2:1], by John Lightfoot) counted the omer from the day after the weekly Sabbath that falls within the week of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Some modern Messianics follow the rabbinic method, while others follow the Sadducean method.
It is generally understood by historical scholars that the Jewish sect of the Pharisees interpreted the written Torah in light of Jewish oral tradition, while the Sadducees rejected oral tradition and adhered strictly to the written Torah (Schurer, pp. 37–38). According to Schurer,
In this rejection of the legal tradition of the Pharisees, the Sadducees represented the older standpoint. They stopped at the written law. For them, the whole subsequent development was without binding power” (ibid. p. 38). To the scribes and Pharisees, in contrast to the Sadducees, oral tradition took precedence over the Written Torah-law. It was intolerable to them that people should “interpret Scripture in opposition to tradition. The traditional interpretation and the traditional law are thus declared absolutely binding. And it is consequently but consistent when deviation from these is declared even more culpable than deviation from the Written Torah. It is more culpable to teach contrary to the precepts of the scribes, than contrary to the Torah itself [according to the B. Talmud, Sanhedrin ix.3]. (ibid. p. 12)
The first century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (37 BC to 100 BC) confirms this. He writes,
[T]he Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances by succession from their fathers, which are not written in the law of Moses; and for that reason it is that the Sadducees reject them, and say that we are to esteem those observances to be obligatory which are in the written word, but are not to observe what are derived from the tradition of our forefathers. (Ant. XIII.10.6)
Commenting on Josephus’ statement, Louis Finkelstein, a noted the twentieth century rabbinic scholar writes,
This prolix statement simply confirms the talmudic record that the Sadducees rejected the Oral Law, which the Pharisees held equally authoritative with the Written Law. (The Pharisees, p. 261).
Yeshua himself castigated the scribes and Pharisees of his day for giving precedence to their Oral Law or the tradition of the elders over Elohim’s Written Torah in Mark 7:9, 13.
He said to them, “All too well you reject the [Torah] commandment of Elohim, that you may keep your tradition.…[Thus] making the word of Elohim of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
So we are still left with the following question: Which method of counting the omer toward Shavuot is correct? Do we follow the Written Torah or the Oral Tradition of the rabbinic Jews, which purports to follow the Written Torah but often doesn’t? That is the question I want to answer below.
To start, we need to first understand the meaning of some Hebrew words. Let’s look again at Leviticus 23:15–16.
And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath [haShabbat], from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths [Shabbatot] shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath [haShabbat]; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD. (emphasis added, NKJV)
The word for weeks in this passage is the Hebrew word shabbatot. Does this word mean “weeks” as in “from the first day of the week (our Sunday) to the seventh day (our Saturday),” or does it mean “weeks of seven days” irrespective of which day in the week the count starts? I will attempt to answer this question later. Also it must be noted that the Torah here uses the phrase “seven complete Sabbaths” (Heb. shabbatot). This is important to note as we will see below.
The Hebrew word for Sabbath is shabbat. The plural form of this word is shabbatot, from which the English word Sabbaths derives, and is found later in the same verse (Lev 23:15). This verse instructs us to count sabbaths, not seven weeks. Elsewhere the Bible clearly states that the sabbath is the seventh day of the week.
What do the Jewish rabbinical experts say about the meaning of Leviticus 23:15–16 and how to count the days toward Shavuot? After all, many Messianics view the Jews as the legal biblical experts that we are to follow in this regard.
To start with, the authoritative The ArtScroll Tanach Series Vayikra/Leviticus commentary is silent on the meaning of the Hebrew word shabbatot in Exodos 23:15. The commentators offer no explanations as to why they chose to ignore the meaning of the word Shabbatot when counting the days toward Shavuot. They simply assume that the word shabbatot means “weeks” (shavuot) and not “sabbaths” without giving any explanation.
The nineteenth century orthodox rabbinic Torah scholar S. R. Hirsch in his commentary on this verse attempts to explain that the word shabbatot/sabbaths in Leviticus 23:15 when combined with the Hebrew word t’mimot (translated in English as complete or perfect) means “weeks of Sabbaths” or “weeks containing Sabbaths.” To justify this explanation, he cites, not Scripture, but a prior rabbinic Jewish tradition (i.e. The Babylon Talmud, Nedarim 60a). Thus, in his translation of the Torah, Hirsch says that the word shabbatot or sabbaths means “weeks of sabbaths.” Then in Leviticus 23:16, which reads, “the seventh Sabbath,” he translates the word shabbat as “sabbath-week,” even though this is never what the word shabbat means when used throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.
The Gutnick Edition Chumash takes a libertine approach and interestingly translates the Hebrew word shabbat in Leviticus 23:15–16 as “From the day following the (first) rest day (of Pesach) — the day you bring the Omer as a wave-offering — you should count yourselves seven weeks. (When you count them) they should be perfect. You should count until (but not including) fifty days, (i.e.) the day following the seventh week…” (emphasis added, parenthetical sentences are in the original). Here, bowing to rabbinic tradition and ignoring the meaning of the word shabbat, this translator translates shabbat/shabbatot respectively as “rest day,” “weeks,” and “week.” Other than that, this rabbinic commentator gives no explanation how he justifies translating the word shabbat as he does. He focuses on the command to count, but totally ignores discussing which day to begin counting from.
Similarly, The ArtScroll Stone Edition Chumash in its translation of Leviticus 23:15–16 also ignores the meaning of the word shabbat and changes the word shabbat to “rest day,” “weeks,” and “week” respectively. In its commentary section, this Chumash totally omits any discussion on the subject of counting from the sabbath, or which sabbath to count from. Similarly, Rashi, the pre-eminent medieval Torah scholar, in his commentary on this verse also presumes shabbat to mean “weeks” and cites earlier Jewish sources (i.e. Targum Onkelos) as his justification, but gives no Scripture to back up his claims.
The counting of the omer from the day after the high holy day Sabbath (and not the weekly Sabbath) was normative among the dominant Jews of the first century as attested to by Josephus who makes no mention of any alternative methods than that of the Pharisees for determining the beginning of the count of the omer (Ant. III.10.5).
These are the only explanations, or lack thereof, that some of the top rabbinic experts over the past 2000 years have to offer us on this subject. This is not much to go on in order to make an informed decision about when to celebrate one of YHVH’s biblical feasts!
Contrary to what the above-quoted Jewish sages teach, The Theological Word Book of the Old Testament and Brown Drivers Briggs Lexicon, inform us that the word weeks[shavuot] is not one of the definitions of the word sabbaths[shabbatot], although BDB suggests that sabbaths or shabbatot could possibly mean “weeks of sabbaths.” Gesenius in his Hebrew lexicon suggests the same thing from the comparison of Leviticus 23:15 and Deuteronomy 16:9. The evidence supporting the meaning of “weeks of sabbaths” behind the Hebrew word shabbat is tenuous at best and should not, therefore, in all honesty, be used to build an argument on how to determine the time count leading to Shavuot.
Now let’s look at the Torah text itself, since the rabbinic scholars offer us little if any help in determining how to count the omer toward Shavuot or the Feast of Weeks.
If one were to view the day after the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread — assuming it doesn’t fall on a weekly Sabbath — as the first day of the count of the omer as the rabbinic Jews do, then how do you count seven sabbaths subsequently? For example, if the fourth day of the week (i.e. Wednesday) happens to be the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and hence a sabbath (a high holy day Sabbath, but not a weekly Sabbath), then are all the remaining Wednesdays leading up to the Feast of Weeks also sabbaths, so that the command in Leviticus 23:15 to count seven sabbaths is fulfilled? The command to count seven Sabbaths only makes sense if one is counting seven actual weekly Sabbaths with the first weekly Sabbath being the seventh day of the counting of the omer and each subsequent Sabbath as the fourteenth day, the twenty-first day and so on until one arrives at the seventh Sabbath on the forty-ninth day of the counting of the omer.
At this point, someone may ask about Deuteronomy 16:9–10, which seems to lend credence to the rabbinic Jewish tradition that the Hebrew word shabbatot (sabbaths) means “weeks.”
You shall count seven weeks for yourself; begin to count the seven weeks [Heb. shavuot] from the time you begin to put the sickle to the grain. Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the LORD your God blesses you. (NKJV)
In this passage, we are instructed to count weeks, not sabbaths. Therefore, can we simply ignore the Leviticus 23 passage that clearly instructs us to begin our count toward Shavuot on the day after the weekly sabbath in favor of beginning the count on any day of the week, and to count seven weeks (i.e. Sunday to Saturday) instead of seven weeks of sabbaths as the rabbinic do? Not at all, for the instructions on counting to Shavuot is first mentioned in Leviticus 23:15–16 and therefore (in light of the biblical interpretive “law of first mentions”) forms the foundation or basis for all subsequent biblical discussion on the subject. Therefore, Deuteronomy 16:9 must be understood or interpreted in the light of the Leviticus 23 passage and not the other way around, even as the New Testament must be interpreted in the light of the Tanakh (Old Testament), since it came first and forms the basis for all subsequent truth. Therefore, Deuteronomy 16:9 must be understood to mean “weeks of sabbaths” beginning from the first day of the week till the seventh day. Only in this way can Leviticus 23:16 be understood when it speaks of seven complete sabbaths being fulfilled upon arriving at Shavuot. This understanding reconciles these two passages in light of the biblical meaning and usage of the words shabbat (sabbath) and shavuot (weeks).
The closest analogous concept to weeks of sabbaths that we find in the Scriptures is the year-long land sabbath along with the seven sabbatical years leading up to the jubilee year. But in the biblical concept of seven land sabbaths, the pivotal point is still a definite sabbatical year when YHVH commanded the Israelites to let their land rest. The seven years is still tied to the year-long sabbath rest of the land, and the fiftieth jubilee year is calculated therefrom. The same is true from the day after the Sabbath, which is the first day of the week, when one starts counting toward Shavuot. After all, the Bible calls this holiday, the Feasts of Weeks. In Genesis chapter one, the Bible defines a week as being from the first day to the seventh day, which is the Sabbath (see also Exod 20:8–9). Unless otherwise stated, a week in the Bible means a week of seven days starting with the first day (Sunday) and ending on the seventh day or the Sabbath.
In conclusion, the verse that clinches the argument in my mind to help us to understand when to start the counting of the omer is Leviticus 23:16,
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 [Heb. shabbatot] shall be completed.
Here, the Torah clearly states that the day before the Feast of Weeks is the weekly Sabbath. This is the plain meaning of the text and is what the Hebrew word shabbat means. By biblical definition based on how this word is used, the word shabbat can only refer to three things: the weekly shabbat, the Day of Atonement or the land sabbath. In the context of Leviticus 23:16, shabbat can only refer to the weekly Sabbath. Only rarely (about once in seven years) when using the rabbinical method to count the omer to Shavuot does the seventh Sabbath fall on the weekly sabbath. When one begins the counting of the omer from the day after the weekly Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Shavuot always follows the weekly Sabbath. With the rabbinic counting method, their Shavuot usually falls on the morrow or day after the seventh Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and so on, and only once in seven years on the morrow or day after the Sabbath. Therefore, their method of counting doesn’t meet the criteria as outlined in Leviticus 23:16, and which states that the day before Shavuout must be a weekly Sabbath.
I believe that this explanation gives us a fuller understanding into the phrase found in the Torah, “seven Sabbaths [Shabbatot]shall be completed” (Lev 23:15), or to a similar phrase found in the Book of Acts, “When the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1). What is a complete [weeks of ] Sabbaths? It seems to indicate a complete or whole week from the first day (Sunday) to the seventh day (Saturday/Sabbath) with not a day lacking. Seven of these must be fully completed to arrive at Pentecost. It is interesting to note that Acts states, “When the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1).
Moreover, it seems that the counting of the omer, which is seven seven-day weeks for a total of 49 days (7 times 7) symbolically points to “a complete completeness” representing the spiritual growth and development of the saint as they mature into perfect unity with YHVH and with their fellow saint, so that they will be spiritually prepared to receive the inner Torah of the heart, the gifts of the Spirit, and come to a place of being together and in one accord within the body of Yeshua to be able then to do the great commission and to reap the wheat harvest of lost sheep of Israel necessary to establish YHVH’s kingdom as per Acts 1:6–8 as pictured by the Feast of Pentecost.
What’s more, the weekly seventh day Sabbath is a prophetic spiritual picture of the one-thousand year-long millennial reign of King Yeshua’s on this earth, while a first day (Sunday) Shavuot is a picture of seven days plus one (or the eighth day) that prophetically points to “the spiritual upper room” of the New Jerusalem as outlined in Revelation chapters 21 and 22, when the glorified saints will dwell together and in one accord and in one place with YHVH Yeshua forever.
Perhaps the most important argument in favor of counting the omer from the day after weekly Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread is that this perfectly points to the resurrection and ascension of Yeshua the Messiah. The Gospels’ account is clear that he rose from the grave at the end of the weekly Sabbath and at the beginning of the first day of the week, and that he most likely ascended to heaven on the first day of the week when the wave sheaf offering was being made on Wave Sheaf Day (Lev 23:9–14). Yeshua’s resurrection and ascension during this time frame perfectly fulfills all the prophetic types and shadows in the Torah that pointed forward to him. (For a full explanation of this, please see my article, “The Resurrection of Yeshua from a Hebrew Perspective Prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures,” at https://www.hoshanarabbah.org/pdfs/firstfruits.pdf.)
It is my contention that to count the 49 days of the omer leading to the Feast of Weeks in the rabbinic Jewish way takes away from the glorious spiritual, prophetic picture of Yeshua and his spiritual bride to be and is therefore not the model to follow when counting the omer toward the Feast of Weeks.
My curiosity got the best of me when I saw the title of a recent podcast by American talk show radio icon, Michael Savage, so I listened to it. All I can say is: amazing, insightful; he cuts to the root of the West’s moral and spiritual sickness by explaining the central role the Torah and the ten commandments has played in Western societies.
In this podcast, Michael Savage, who is of Jewish ancestry, explains the importance of the ten commandments as a foundation for Western society, and how the ideology of the political left is anti-ten commandments all the way. Savage analyzes each commandment and discusses its importance and relevance to current social issues. He then explains the meaning of the Torah, Shavuot (to the Jews) and Pentecost (to the Christians) explaining the importance of each festival.
I encourage you to listen to this insightful podcast for a different and refreshingly new perspective on the upcoming biblical Feast of Shavuot/Pentecost. (This podcast is available at https://michaelsavage.com/podcast/.)
There are 49 days between First Fruits Day, which occurs during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the Feast of Weeks (or Pentecost). Why does YHVH in the Torah command us to count the seven weeks or 49 days between these two events, with Pentecost occurring on the fiftieth day? The short answer is that Yeshua doesn’t want to marry a spiritual baby. For the long answer, keep reading…
From the Depths of Slavery to a Kingdom of Priests
Every detail in Scripture is for our learning and edification. All the examples of the past are for our learning upon whom the ends of the world are come (1 Cor 10:11; Rom 15:4). Everyday, YHVH is uncovering the prophetic mysteries hidden in the Scriptures that are being revealed to those who diligently seek him by diligently studying to show themselves approved as a workman rightly dividing YHVH’s Word (2 Tim 2:15).
YHVH’s command for us to count the omer as a countdown to the Feast of Weeks (Heb. Shavuot; Gr. Pentecoste, Lev 23:15–16) memorializes the Israelites’ journey from spiritual babyhood to adulthood. During this 49-day count, Israel ascended from out of the depths of slavery and suffering in Egypt, was baptized in the Red Sea, and then arrived at Mount Sinai—a place of a spiritual standing before YHVH as a kingdom of priests (Exod 19:6). It was there that YHVH gave them his instructions in righteousness—the Torah on Shavuot. This period represents Israel’s passage from slavery to freedom. They came out of slavery permeated with the leaven—the sins, values, and pagan concepts—of Egypt leaving it all behind as pictured by the Feast of Unleavened Bread. YHVH gave Israel 49 days to overcome and to get rid of the impurities of Egypt, and to become the nation of Israel—a holy priesthood and the bride of YHVH. There, at the foot of Mount Sinai, YHVH wanted them to become his ambassadors to this world of the truths of his heavenly kingdom.
The counting of the omer is the story of our lives also. It pictures our going from bondage to the world, the flesh and the devil and coming to a place of spiritual standing before YHVH, so that we can be used of him to advance his kingdom.
It’s a process ordained of YHVH and it’s his pattern that we must follow. There is no escape from this process if we are to be groomed and prepared for use in YHVH’s service.
Why Fifty Days Between the Wave Sheaf Offering and Shavuot?
Fifty is the biblical number signifying complete redemption or liberty. In ancient Israel, all debts were forgiven every seven years. This was called the seven-year cycle. Every seven years, one had to let their land rest; no Continue reading →
What’s should be the higher purpose of religion? It should answer the deeper questions of life.
What’s the meaning and purpose of life?
Who am I?
Where did I come from?
Who made me?
Why am I here?
Whoever made me, what do they expect of me?
Where am I going? What’s my ultimate destiny? Is there life after death?
Let’s narrow the picture down.
Why are we here today?
So why are we here celebrating Shavuot today?
To fulfill the requirements of religious ritualism?
To get your religious fix?
Out of human pride—to do your religious thing so that you feel better than the poor religious slobs still celebrate Christmas and Easter who don’t keep YHVH’s biblical feasts?
To hear some exciting exotic, arcane, ear tickling message that leaves your head bursting with something new and exciting? Not! That does nothing to bring you to repentance, change your life and bring you closer to Yeshua.
Out of obedience to and worship of Yeshua you Lord and Master?
Or because you love Yeshua with all your heart and want to obey him by keeping his commandments not because you’re expecting anything out of it personally but because he is worthy of worship and obedience? Period?!
Or to be spiritually transformed, so that you can be about your Father’s business to help transform society around you for the kingdom of Elohim?
Some of these reasons are good, and some of them are not so good.
For those keeping Shavuot out of obedience, which is a good thing, remember that obeying Elohim’s Torah laws is not an end in itself, but a means to an end.
For Christ is the end [end result, goal or aim] of the Torah-law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
Torah obedience is merely a vehicle to bring you something higher. Too many people make obedience including keeping the feasts the goal and not the process to achieve the goal.
When you get in a car to go somewhere, you believe that you’ve arrived at your destination just because you’re sitting in your car. Same with Torah Continue reading →