The Feast of Weeks – What is it?

The Jewish holiday calendar in the Old Testament included solemn feasts that all Jewish males were required to attend each year in Jerusalem. The Feast of Weeks was the second of these events. It is first mentioned in Exodus 34:22-23 which states, "You shall observe the Feast of Weeks, the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year's end. Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the LORD God, the God of Israel." The Hebrew term for this special time was shavout meaning "weeks."

The Feast of Weeks took place seven full weeks (or the fiftieth day) following the Feast of First Fruits. It was also known as Pentecost, a word meaning fifty. Pentecost was also a day that would later become important to Christians as the birth of the church in Acts 2.

The Feast of Weeks commemorated the first fruits of the wheat harvest, a celebration of God's provision. As one of the harvest feasts, God's people were instructed to present grain offerings to the Lord (Leviticus 23:16). In addition, they were to offer several one-year old lambs without blemish, one young bull, and two rams, in addition to other offerings. Interestingly, the field harvesters were to leave the corners untouched in order for the poor and immigrants to gather food for themselves: "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 23:22).

Because it occurred 50 days following the Feast of First Fruits, the date of the Feast of Weeks varied from late May to early June of each year. Many have used this important aspect of chronology to help determine the year of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Though debate remains, chronologists using the dates regarding the First Fruits and Pentecost often agree on AD 33 as the year of these events, while some remain convinced of the more traditional AD 30 date.

Regardless of which year these events took place, the Pentecost following Christ's resurrection was certainly the most memorable. Acts 2 tells the account of the 120 early followers of Jesus praying in an upper room when the Holy Spirit came upon them, enabling them to speak in languages known by those from 15 different people groups. The Spirit convicted the crowd through their teaching, with 3,000 added to their number that day (Acts 2:41). Overnight, the Christian movement increased from a house church to a megachurch!

Today, Pentecost is remembered by Christians as the start of the church, the community of believers, who seek to learn and live out Christ's teaching in this world. Many continue to discover the gospel of Jesus and accept Him as Savior, resulting in new life and salvation for many.

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