The Lift Offering and the Counting of Pentecost
Unfortunately, the English translations of the scriptures concerning the Lift Offering cloud the meaning and intent of God's instructions about how to calculate the Day of Pentecost. Fortunately, however, it is possible to understand God's intended meaning through the original Hebrew language in which these instructions were given.
Most people avoid researching topics in the original language of the Bible and rely on various commentaries and Bible helps as the last word in Bible research. However, this is a very dangerous practice when it comes to difficult biblical concepts, because most Bible commentaries and helps are very biased in their presentations. Admittedly, it is difficult to do Bible research using the original languages; however, the rewards are worth the effort.
The Bible is structured in a very careful and logical manner. The Creator's instructions as to the day on which to give the Lift Offering and how to calculate the Feast of Pentecost were presented in a way that would ensure that there could be no mistake made in the day of its observance.
During Christ's Lifetime
During Jesus' lifetime, there were two primary schools of thought concerning how to calculate the date on which to observe the Feast of Pentecost:
- The Pharisees believed that the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread was the point from which Pentecost should be calculated. Using the Pharisees' method, the feast would always fall on the sixth day of Sivan.
- The Sadducees believed that the first Sabbath after the first festival day of Unleavened Bread was the point from which Pentecost should be calculated. Using the Sadducees' method, the feast would always fall on the first day of the week (Sunday) but not on a fixed date during the month of Sivan.
Although the majority of the Sadducees were of the priesthood and had the responsibility to maintain the integrity of the worship system, they were outnumbered by the Pharisees who had the support of the general population. The opinion of the Pharisees was generally accepted as "truth" by the people, and the temple authorities were obliged to comply with the Pharisees' instructions concerning many rituals.
The biblical record clearly shows that the Sadducees were correct in their method of calculating the Lift Offering and the Feast of Weeks, because they correctly understood the word 'shabbat' in Leviticus 23:11 to mean the weekly Sabbath, not the first festival day of Unleavened Bread.
There were four reasons why the Pharisees were incorrect in their belief that the 16th of Abib/Nisan was the day to observe the Lift Offering:
- Although it is clear from the instruction concerning the first and last days of the Festival of Unleavened Bread that all work of labor is prohibited on these days and that these are commanded festivals, nowhere in the Bible are these two days referred to as a Shabbat or a Shabbat Shabbaton. This omission would seem to indicate that God wanted to clearly establish that the day of the Lift Offering was to be after a weekly Sabbath (shabbat), which was the day from which to begin the count toward the Festival of Pentecost.
- The day of this Lift Offering was the day to begin counting toward Pentecost (Deut.16:9; Lev.23:15-16). The following weekly Sabbath was the seventh day, which made the seventh Sabbath the 49th day and the next day the 50th day. This 50th day always fell on the first day of the week, which was the same day of the week that the counting began.
- If the Pharisees were correct in their method of counting from the 16th of Nisan, the 50th day would always fall on the 6th of Sivan, which would make counting the days unnecessary.
- The biblical record of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ confirms that the Sadducees' method of calculation was correct.
The Festival Instruction Leviticus 23:1-16
"The lord said to Moses, 'Speak to the Israelites and say to them'. These are my appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of the Lord, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies. There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the Lord" (vs.1-3 NIV).
The English word Sabbath is translated from the Hebrew word shabbat, which specifically refers to the seventh day of the week. This is very important to understand, because nowhere in the scriptures is an annual festival ever referred to by the word 'shabbat' by itself, because the weekly Sabbath and the annual festivals are distinctly different types of celebrations.
With the knowledge of the difference in vocabulary between the weekly Sabbath and the annual festivals, there can be no confusion as to which day is being spoken of as the day from which to calculate Pentecost. However, the Pharisees interpreted the word 'shabbat' in Leviticus 23:11 as referring to the first day of Unleavened Bread.
Next we see the annual festivals mentioned:
"These are the feasts of the Lord, even holy convocations to proclaim in their seasons. In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord's Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Seven days you must eat unleavened bread. In the first day you shall have a holy convocation: you shall do no servile work therein" (vs.4-7 KJV).
Notice that, on the first and last days of Unleavened Bread, there are to be holy convocations in which doing one's work is prohibited:
"But you shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation; you shall do no servile work therein" (v8 KJV).
There are two very important things to take note of at this point in our study:
- There are only two days during this festival on which there is to be a holy convocation (apart from the normal observance of the Sabbath).
- The word 'shabbat' is not used in relationship to either of these two days.
The absence of any reference to either of these days being a Sabbath is very important to understanding which day to offer the Lift Offering, and how to calculate the correct day on which to observe Pentecost.
The following verses are very important because the meaning of the Hebrew words used are very clear. God says to wave the sheaf of grain after the weekly Sabbath:
"The Lord said to Moses, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. He is to wave the sheaf before the Lord so that it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath" (vs.9-11 NIV).
"And you shall count from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the Wave Offering, seven Sabbaths shall be complete, even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall you number fifty days and offer a new meat offering to the Lord" (vs.15-16 KJV).
The word 'shabbat' is used in the phrase 'on the morrow after the Sabbath'—'Mi Mahorat ha Shabbat'. Remember that the word 'shabbat' is only used to define the weekly Sabbath.
In the remainder of Leviticus, the rest of the annual festivals are referred to with various instructions as to how they should be observed. Again, none of them are referred to as a 'shabbat' in the original Hebrew language.
With the exception of the first and last day of Unleavened Bread, the sacred assemblies of the annual festivals are referred to using the word 'shabbaton', and the Day of Atonement is described as a 'Shabbat-Shabbaton' because of the prohibition of all work including food preparation. The differences between the weekly Sabbath and a festival day are shown in the following chart:
In Leviticus 23, the careful use of the term 'holy convocation' to refer to the annual festivals is extremely important. Without this careful use of the Hebrew language in chapter 23, it would be very difficult to determine whether it is the first day of Unleavened Bread or the Sabbath day which occurs within the Feast of Unleavened Bread that must be used in calculating the date of Pentecost.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread is the reference point from which to calculate the day on which to observe the Feast of Pentecost. Moreover, neither the first or the last day on which there are to be sacred assemblies are defined as Sabbaths.
The following are the instructions concerning which day to observe the Wave Sheaf Offering and where to begin and end the Pentecost calculations:
"He is to wave the sheaf before the Lord so that it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath" (Lev.23:11 NIV).
The original Hebrew language confirms the NIV Translation of verse 11 using the words 'mi mahorat ha shabbat', which means 'on the day after the shabbat' (i.e., 'on the day after the weekly Sabbath').
God inspired Moses to write the following in order to eliminate any confusion in calculating the exact day on which to observe Pentecost:
"And you shall count from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the Wave Offering, seven Sabbaths shall be complete, even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall you number fifty days and offer a new meat offering to the Lord" (Lev.23:15-16 KJV).
Again, the original language uses the word 'shabbat', which can only refer to the seventh day of the week (the weekly Sabbath) as the day from which to begin to count the days to Pentecost. Notice that seven 'shabbats' (49 days) must be completed, and the day after the 'shabbat' (the first day of the week—Sunday) is the 50th day (Pentecost).
"Count seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain. Then celebrate the feast of weeks . . ." (Deut.16: 9-10 NIV).
The Jubilee Year
The calculation process for the year of Jubilee is a clear example of how God intends a sacred cycle of 50 to be calculated using a sacred cycle of seven. A Jubilee year occurs on the 50th year, which is actually the first year of the next Jubilee cycle of 7, seven-year cycles that equal 49 years. The calculation for the Feast of Weeks follows this same pattern, except it consists of days instead of years to indicate the time of its observance. See Lev.25:1-12.
The historical evidence and the scriptures clearly show that the seven weeks noted in verse 9 refer to God's sacred weekly cycle of seven days, which begins with the first day of the week (Sunday) and ends with the seventh day of the week (Saturday).
If we count 49 days beginning with the first day of one week (Sunday) and ending with the last day of the seventh week (Saturday) and add one day to make 50 days, we arrive at the first day of the eighth week, which is a Sunday—the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost).
- The original language of verse 11 clearly defines the day of the Wave Sheaf offering as the day after the weekly Sabbath.
- The original language is very specific and clearly defines the day which is to be used to begin the counting process as the weekly Sabbath.
- If God had intended to refer to the first day of Unleavened Bread in any of the above scriptures, he would not have used the word 'shabbat', which can only refer to the weekly Sabbath; he would have used the word 'shabbaton'.
- Nowhere in scripture are the first or the last day of Unleavened Bread called a 'shabbat' or a 'shabbaton'; they are always referred to as feast days or sacred assemblies (holy convocations).
Because there is never a reference to the first or last days of Unleavened Bread being a Sabbath in any way, shape, or form, the only logical conclusion that can be made when one makes an analysis of the original language contained in these scriptures is that the word 'shabbat' refers to the first weekly Sabbath that occurs within the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
If Pentecost was to be observed on a fixed date of the month, there would be no reason for the instruction to count 50 days. The only logical reason to count is that Pentecost will occur on a different date on the sacred calendar from year to year, but it will always be on the same day of the week—Sunday.
If the Pharisees' method of calculation was correct, why would God give such seemingly ridiculous instructions to count toward a day that always fell on the same calendar date? Obviously the Pharisees were wrong, and the counting should start on the day after the weekly Sabbath during the Festival of Unleavened Bread.
In order for Jesus to fulfill the prophetic symbolism of the Passover and the Lift Offering in exact detail, both events had to occur in a sequence that would allow for Jesus' death, resurrection, and ascension to God the Father within a three day period.
Just as surely as Jesus rose from the dead on the third day according to the scriptures (1.Cor.15:3), Christ's acceptance as the first fruits of humanity (1.Cor.15:20,22) was the fulfillment of the prophetic meaning of the Lift Offering.
Because it was the Pharisees' opinion that made Temple policy and practice during Christ's lifetime, the Pharisees' mistake in counting created a problem for the fulfillment of prophecy because the Pharisees caused the Lift Offering to be held on the wrong day.
How did God resolve this error in order to allow Jesus to fulfill the prophetic symbolism of the Passover and the lift offering with exact detail and in chronological order?
Any serious student of Bible history knows that the Bible is full of dates on which certain events have occurred and will occur, and that history records that many of these prophetic events occurred exactly as scheduled. It is beyond comprehension that God the Father would allow the most important prophetic event of all time to occur on the wrong day.
The logical solution to this problem is for Jesus' crucifixion to happen on the sixth day of the week (Friday), which indicates that the 15th of Abib/Nisan must have been a weekly Sabbath. This would also mean that the Sabbath was on the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, which was noted by the apostle John (Jn.19:31). Therefore, the day after the weekly Sabbath was the 16th of Abib/Nisan. In this way, the Pharisees and the Sadducees would be in agreement and would be observing the Lift Offering at the same time.
LIFT OFFERING SEQUENCE
From the beginning of Jesus Christ's ministry to this present day, there have been very few times when the Passover, the first day of Unleavened Bread, and the Lift Offering have fallen on days that would fulfill all of the prophetic requirements of the two methods of determining the Lift Offering and Pentecost.
One of these rare times in history occurred in 30 A.D., when the Calendar Court sanctioned two consecutive Passover observances because of some confusion as to the day of the new moon, which began the month of Abib/Nisan. During that year, the second Passover meal was just after sunset on Friday and in the evening of the weekly Sabbath, which was also the first day of Unleavened Bread. See Deut.16:1-4.
Both the Pharisees and the Sadducees were counting from the Sabbath that was within the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which made the day of the Lift Offering the first day of the week (Sunday). Thus, the requirements of God overcame the error of the Pharisees and the lifting up of his Son occurred at the same time as the lifting up of the grain of the first-fruits of the barley harvest in the Temple.
The witness of these events is without question and happened on days and dates which would satisfy the prophetic symbolism of the Lift Offering. Moreover, both the Pharisees' and Sadducees' beliefs concerning the date of the Lift Offering and the calculation of the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) were in agreement.
By B. L. Cocherell b5w56