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Israel's Three Great Feasts

Exodus 23:14-17

Redemption is a theme that runs from Genesis through Revelation. For Christians, the story is about redemption from sin, while for Jews the story is about redemption from slavery in Egypt. Christians have one key celebration to memorialize their redemption: communion, or the Lord's Table (1 Corinthians 11:17-34). Jews had (and have) three annual celebrations that memorialize their redemption from slavery in Egypt to a life of freedom and abundance in the Promised Land. The obligation to observe these three annual feasts is summarized in Exodus 23:14-17.

  1. Passover (also called the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Firstfruits): This was the first feast in the Jewish calendar year as God directed (Exodus 12:1-2), so Passover was the first feast of the year. Actually two feasts—Passover, followed by the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread—its specific purpose was to remember, for all time, God's redemption of Israel from slavery in Egypt.
  2. Feast of Weeks (also called Pentecost or Harvest Feast): This was to be a celebratory feast 50 days ("penta" = 50) after Passover celebrating the first fruits of the wheat harvest in the spring of the year (Leviticus 23:15-21; Deuteronomy 16:9-12).
  3. Feast of Tabernacles (also called Feast of Booths and Feast of Ingathering): This feast, in the fall of the year, commemorated two events—the pilgrimage from Egypt to the Promised Land in Canaan and the fruitfulness of the Promised Land (Leviticus 23:33-43; Deuteronomy 16:13-15). Celebrants lived in rough booths during the week to remember the sparse living conditions in the 40-year journey through the wilderness.

All ceremonially clean and able-bodied males were required to journey to Jerusalem each year for all three feasts (note the many Jews in Jerusalem from all over the Mediterranean region for Pentecost in Acts 2:5-11). Spaced from early spring through the fall, the three feasts were a continual reminder to Jews of God's redemption from slavery into a life of abundance.

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