Festivals of Israel

Source: The Complete Library of Christian Worship, Robert E. Webber, General Editor

The following eight entries reveal how the observance of the sacred seasons and Jewish religious festivals constituted a significant aspect of the Hebrew religion. These holy days and sacred seasons were decreed by God as his gifts to Israel. God purposed to preserve by them a remembrance of such sacred events as their divine election and deliverance (the Passover celebration), their sojourn in the wilderness (Feast of Tabernacles), their constant dependence on him for all temporal blessings...

Sabbath and Sabbatical Seasons

The word sabbath means a time of rest. In Israelite and Jewish religion, times of rest are the weekly Sabbath, the monthly new moon, the sabbatical year, the Year of Jubilee, and special festal Sabbaths. Sabbaths were times of release from the economic bondage of heavy work or constant indebtedness; they were declarations that the needs of the people were supplied not by their labor but by the Lord.

Feast of Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread

The Feast of Passover commemorated the Lord's deliverance of Israel in Exodus. The Feast of Unleavened Bread, which followed it, kept alive the memory of the affliction of the Israelites and their haste in departing from the land of bondage.

Feast of Pentecost

Pentecost, which means "fifty," is celebrated fifty days after Passover. It is the only one of the three pilgrimage feasts which did not commemorate a specific event in Israel's history. Eventually it came to be associated with the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai.

Feast of Tabernacles

The Feast of Tabernacles came at the end of the harvest and was the outstanding feast of rejoicing in the year. During its seven days the people lived in booths to recall the time Israel spent in the wilderness.

Rosh Hashanah and the Feast of Trumpets

Ro'sh Hashshanah (literally,"head of the year") the Hebrew new year, ushered in the Feast of Trumpets with the blowing of the ram's horn. It was the first of the high holy feast days and looked forward to the solemn Day of Atonement which occurred ten days later.

Day of Atonement

The Day of Atonement was a time for fasting and cleansing from sin. Traditionally, the high priest made atonement on this day for the sins of the priests, the people, and the sanctuary.

Postexilic Festivals

With the exception of Purim, postexilic feasts are not presented in the Old Testament. For the most part, they developed in the intertestamental period and are mentioned primarily in the books of the Old Testament Apocrypha.

Solemn Assembly

In ancient Israel, the solemn assembly was a special occasion solemnizing the completion of a feast, or a penitential assembly of the people under threat of national disaster. It was marked by cessation from work and fasting or prayer.