“You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Leviticus 23:15 ESV
The Counting of the Omer
Pentecost is the last of the Spring feasts. Another name for Pentecost is the “feast of weeks”, which stems from how it is to be calculated – seven weeks after the waving of the omer (firstfruits sheaf of barley offering) on the feast of Firstfruits. This is kind of confusing, so here’s a diagram:
In Deuteronomy, the Israelites are told to “count the seven weeks from the time the sickle is first put to the standing grain” (Deuteronomy 16:9 ESV). Pentecost came exactly 7 weeks after the first harvest of barley. Hebrew4Christians states “The 49 day countdown to the holiday is called the “Sefirat Omer” – Counting of the Omer. Every day of the countdown a special blessing was recited naming exactly how many more days were left before the climactic 50th day – a Jubilee of days!”
I found that statement interesting in light of all the Jubilee talk going on in the watching community. I personally believe that the Jubilee will be prophetically fulfilled at the Second Coming, not at the rapture. However, Pentecost seems to be a type of shadow fulfillment of the Jubilee cycle every year with its’ 50 day count.
Since the Feast of Firstfruits can vary by several days on the Hebrew calendar, Pentecost can also vary by several days. Firstfruits is determined by “the day after the Sabbath following Passover”. Seven full weeks later is Pentecost. Thus, the day of Pentecost is not easily determined until after Firstfruits has been established for that year. As we will see below, there is some variation in how the word “Sabbath” is applied in these day counts.
Passover Calculation Controversy – The Day and Hour Unknown?
Interestingly, the Sadducees, Pharisees, and Karaites all had different methods of calculating the date on which Pentecost was to fall. If you have been following the discussions about whether or not the “Barley Was Abib” (or “aviv”), then you have already been introduced to the Karaite version.
Hebrew4Christians nicely details the controversy surrounding how the date of Pentecost is to be established. It seems we may not clearly be able to know the Day of Passover, and thus Pentecost, unless you can determine which view is correct!
“Later on, after the Israelites had settled into the Promised Land, Shavuot began to take on other significance. Unlike the other mo’edim given in the Torah, however, Shavuot has no explicit date but must be inferred from Leviticus 23:11 and 23:15: “And from the day on which you bring the omer offering – the day after the Sabbath – you shall count off seven weeks”. The key phrase is “the day after the Sabbath”. Does this phrase refer to Sunday or perhaps to the Sabbath of Passover?
This controversy is not insignificant, since Shavuot is one of the three mo’edim (appointed times) in which all males are directly commanded to appear before the LORD in Jerusalem (Exodus 23:14-17). Since the date of Shavuot depends on the first day of the omer, starting the count on the wrong day would imply that festival would be observed at the wrong time. Eventually three main viewpoints developed regarding the meaning of the phrase “after the Sabbath”:
The Tzaddukim (Sadducees) believed that the word “Sabbath” was used in its regular sense, as the seventh day of the week, and therefore began the countdown on the first Sunday after Passover (Talmud: Menachot 65). Now since Shavuot occurs 7 weeks later to this day, this implies that it also fell on a Sunday. Moreover, since the day of the week for Passover varies over the year, the date of Shavuot would likewise vary.
The Perushim (Pharisees), on the other hand, believed that “the day after the Shabbat” referred to not the weekly Sabbath but to the first day of Passover (which is a shabbaton or day of work restrictions), and therefore began counting the following day, that is, the day after Passover (which is also the second day of Unleavened Bread). This is supported in Joshua 5:11-12 when Israel first entered the land and ate of its firstfruits. Now since Passover always occurs on Nisan 15, this established a fixed date for Shavuot 49 days later on Sivan 6.
The Karaites rejected both these methods but instead relied upon the sighting of the new moon (Rosh Chodesh) and the appearance of the first sheaves of barley to determine the month of Aviv and the festival of Firstfruits, respectively. After these observations, the wave offering of the firstfruits would then be presented at the temple on the day after the weekly Sabbath, and only then would the 49 day countdown to Shavuot begin. Therefore, since the appearance of the first barley sheaves is not constant, the date Shavuot could not be foreknown with any certainty.
Historically, the Pharisee’s position prevailed in the Jewish tradition, and the modern Rabbinical calendar marks Shavuot on the fixed date of Sivan 6 (in May/June), exactly 49 days after the second day of Passover (Nisan 16). This accords with the testimony of first century historians Josephus and Philo, who both state that the “day after the Sabbath” meant the day after the holiday Sabbath.”
I was able to find information on a fourth group of Jews, the Essenes:
The Essenes who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls began the 50-day count to Shavuot on a different Sabbath from the Pharisees. In their reckoning, the Omer offering was to be brought on the morrow of the weekly Sabbath, in modern terms: “Sunday.” The Essenes began their count on the Sunday after the seven-days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. As a result, they always began their count on the 26th day of the First Hebrew Month. The Essenes had a 364-day solar calendar, which began every year on a Wednesday and had fixed lengths for each month. Based on the Essene calendar, Shavuot always fell out on the 15th day of the Third Hebrew Month. The Essenes are presumed to have been wiped out when the Romans invaded Judea in 66-74 CE and only their documents survive today.
The site Nehemia’s Wall does not list the Karaite method of determining Firstfruits and Pentecost above. However, they would seem to argue against the method of the Pharisees, which is the most commonly used today in the Hebrew calendars.
An important verse that confirms the timing of Shavuot appears in the Book of Joshua:
“And they ate of the produce of the land on the morrow of the Passover, unleavened and parched grain on this very day. And the Manna ceased on the morrow when they ate of the produce of the land…” -Joshua 5:11
This verse describes the events surrounding the cessation of the Manna, shortly after the Children of Israel entered the Land of Canaan. To understand this the significance of this verse, we must go back to the Book of the Leviticus, where the Israelites were forbidden to eat of the new crops of the Land of Israel until the day of the Omer offering:
“And bread and parched grain and ripe grain you shall not eat until this very day, until you bring the sacrifice of your God; it shall be an eternal statute for your generations in all your habitations.” Leviticus 23:14
When Joshua 5:11 describes the eating of “unleavened bread and parched grain… on this very day” it is using almost the precise wording of Leviticus 23:14 “and bread and parched grain… you will not eat until this very day.” The new produce of the land was forbidden until the Omer offering was brought. Joshua 5:11 is saying that when the Israelites entered the Land for the first time, they observed this commandment and waited until the terms of Leviticus 23:14 were fulfilled. In other words, they waited for the Omer offering before eating the grain of Israel. This has been widely recognized by Jewish Bible commentators throughout history, such as the 11th Century rabbi Rashi who explains on Joshua 5:11, “morrow of the Passover is the day of the waving of the omer.”
Joshua 5:11 is saying that the first Omer offering in the Land of Israel was brought on the “morrow of the Passover.” Immediately after this, the Children of Israel were permitted to eat of the new crops of the Land. For the first time, the Israelites pulled out their sickles and ate of the good bounty of their new homeland.
To understand the phrase “morrow of the Passover” we need to define two terms: “morrow” and “Passover.” The Hebrew word for “morrow” is mi-mocharat which refers to “the morning after.” In the phrase “morrow of the Sabbath” it describes Sunday morning, the morning after the 24-hour Sabbath.
Thus, it seems that Pentecost is also a contender, along with the Feast of Trumpets, for the “Feast of Unknown Day/Hour”.
In part 2 of our study, we examined the Dispensation Changes associated with Pentecost. Let’s go to a similar study next, that of God’s Covenants:
Main Pentecost Study Menu: Everything You Need to Know About Pentecost, the Feast that Ties It All Together For The Church
Are you CERTAIN of your Salvation, beyond a shadow of a doubt? Do you KNOW that no matter when the rapture occurs, you will be counted worthy to escape? If not, please read What Must I do to Be Saved.
What Are the 7 Dispensations? (GraceThruFaith)
What are the 7 Dispensations? (Gotquestions)
Does Scripture Support a Pentecost Rapture? (PDF – T.W. Tramm)
The Feast of Pentecost (GraceThruFaith)
Shavuot – Revelation and the Fruit of the Spirit (Hebrew4Christians)
The Mystery of Pentecost (Prophecy Watchers)
The Bible is infallible. I am not. I am merely challenging traditional models and testing them against Scripture. I believe that traditional pretribulation teachings provide a solid backbone upon which to lay the musculature of details, some of which I think might need to be adjusted slightly. I encourage you to consider my thoughts as you also examine the scriptures to see if these things are so!
Passages Describing the Feast of Pentecost
When studying Biblical teaching, I believe it is always important to read the source for yourself. Not just a verse or two, but the entire relevant passage. This will sharpen your discernment skills, as you examine the scriptures for yourself to see if these things are so. Much of the fall ruckus over the Jubilee and Yom Kippur could have been avoided if everyone had just read Leviticus chapter 23. So with no further delay, here are the relevant passages describing the celebration of the Feast of Pentecost (Weeks):
On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai.
Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine;6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”7 So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. 8 All the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.”
the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments 11 and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. 13 No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.” 14 So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people; and they washed their garments. 15 And he said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman.”
16 On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. 19 And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. 20 The Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.
[10 Commandments Given]
18 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” 21 The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.
[Additional commandments Given – the Law]
3 Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the Lordhas spoken we will do.” 6 And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” 8 And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
15 Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain.16 The glory of the Lord dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17 Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. 18 Moses entered the cloud and went up on the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.
Exodus 19:1, 5-8, 10-20; 20:18-21; 24:3, 6-8, 15-17
“You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the Lord. You shall bring from your dwelling places two loaves of bread to be waved, made of two tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour, and they shall be baked with leaven, as firstfruits to the Lord. And you shall present with the bread seven lambs a year old without blemish, and one bull from the herd and two rams. They shall be a burnt offering to the Lord, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord. And you shall offer one male goat for a sin offering, and two male lambs a year old as a sacrifice of peace offerings. And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the Lord for the priest. And you shall make a proclamation on the same day. You shall hold a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a statute forever in all your dwelling places throughout your generations. “And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 23:15-22 ESV
26 “On the day of the firstfruits, when you offer a grain offering of new grain to the Lord at your Feast of Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work, 27 but offer a burnt offering, with a pleasing aroma to the Lord: two bulls from the herd, one ram, seven male lambs a year old; 28 also their grain offering of fine flour mixed with oil, three tenths of an ephah for each bull, two tenths for one ram, 29 a tenth for each of the seven lambs; 30 with one male goat, to make atonement for you. 31 Besides the regular burnt offering and its grain offering, you shall offer them and their drink offering. See that they are without blemish. Numbers 28:26-31 ESV
“You shall count seven weeks. Begin to count the seven weeks from the time the sickle is first put to the standing grain. 10 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. 11 And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your towns, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are among you, at the place that the Lord your God will choose, to make his name dwell there. 12 You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt; and you shall be careful to observe these statutes. Deuteronomy 16:9-12 ESV