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Temple--Its Ministry and Services
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Chapter 13

The Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Day of Pentecost

‘And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.’—Acts 2:1.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread

The ‘Feast of Unleavened Bread,’ which commenced in the Paschal night itself and lasted for seven days, derived its name from the Mazzoth, or unleavened cakes, which were the only bread allowed during that week. This is called in Scripture ‘the bread of affliction’ (Deut 16:3), as is commonly supposed, because its insipid and disagreeable taste symbolised the hardship and affliction of Egypt. But this explanation must be erroneous. It would convert one of the most joyous festivals into an annual season of mourning. The idea intended to be conveyed by the Scriptural term is quite different. For, just as we should ever remember the death of our Saviour in connection with His resurrection, so were Israel always to remember their bondage in connection with their deliverance. Besides, the bread of the Paschal night was not that of affliction because it was unleavened; it was unleavened because it had been that of affliction. For it had been Israel’s ‘affliction,’ and a mark of their bondage and subjection to the Egyptians, to be driven forth in such ‘haste’ (Deut 16:3; Exo 12:33, 39) as not even to have time for leavening their bread. Hence also the prophet, when predicting another and far more glorious deliverance, represents Israel, in contrast to the past, as too holy to seek enrichment by the possessions, and as too secure to be driven forth in haste by the fear of those who had held them captives:

‘Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, —touch no unclean thing;

Go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean that bear the vessels of Jehovah.

For ye shall not go out with haste, —nor go by flight:

For Jehovah will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your reward’ (Isa 52:11, 12).

The Passover, therefore, was not so much the remembrance of Israel’s bondage as of Israel’s deliverance from that bondage, and the bread which had originally been that of affliction, because that of haste, now became, as it were, the bread of a new state of existence. None of Egypt’s leaven was to pervade it; nay, all the old leaven, which served as the symbol of corruption and of death, was to be wholly banished from their homes. They were to be ‘a new lump,’ as they were ‘unleavened’ (1 Cor 5:7). Thus what had originally been the necessity of one day, became the ordinance of a feast, bearing the sacred number of seven days. As the cross has become to us the tree of life; as death hath been abolished by death, and captivity been led captive by the voluntary servitude (Psa 40:6, 7) of the Lord of glory, so to Israel the badge of former affliction became the symbol of a new and joyous life, in which they were to devote themselves and all that they had unto the Lord.

The First Day of the Feast

The same truth is fully symbolised in the sacrifices of this feast, and especially in the presentation of the first ripe sheaf on the second day of the Passover. The first day of ‘unleavened bread,’ or the 15th of Nisan, was a ‘holy convocation,’ when neither servile nor needless work was to be done, that only being allowed which was necessary for the joyous observance of the festival. After the regular morning sacrifice the public offerings were brought. These consisted, on each of the seven days of the festive week, of two young bullocks, one ram, and seven lambs for a burnt-offering, with their appropriate meat-offerings; and of ‘one goat for a sin-offering, to make an atonement for you’ (Num 28:19-24). After these public sacrifices (for the whole congregation), the private offerings of each individual were brought, commonly on the first day of the feast (the 15th of Nisan), but if this had been neglected, on any of the other days. These sacrifices were a burnt-offering, of the value of at least one meah of silver135135In this, as in many other particulars, the teaching of Shammai differed from that of Hillel. We have followed Hillel, whose authority is generally recognised. (= 1/3 denar, or about 2 1/2 d.); then, the 15th day Chagigah (literally, festivity), of the value of at least two meahs of silver (= 5d.); and lastly, the so-called ‘sacrifices of joyousness’ (Deut 27:7), in which every one was left at liberty to offer, according to ‘the blessing which the Lord had given’ to each (Deut 16:17).

Both the Chagigah and the ‘offerings of joyousness’ were ‘peace-offerings.’ They required imposition of hands, sprinkling of blood, burning of the inside fat and kidneys on the altar, and the proper setting aside of what went to the priest, viz. the breast as a wave- and the right shoulder as a heave-offering (Lev 3:1-5; 7:29-34); the difference, as we have seen, being, that the wave-offering belonged originally to Jehovah, who gave His portion to the priests, while the heave-offering came to them directly from the people. The rest was used by the offerers in their festive meals (but only during two days and one night from the time of sacrifice). Tradition allowed the poor, who might have many to share at their board, to spend even less than one meah on their burnt-offerings, if they added what had been saved to their peace-offerings. Things devoted to God, such as tithes, firstlings, etc., might be used for this purpose, and it was even lawful for priests to offer what had come to them as priestly dues (Mishnah, Chag. i. 3, 4). In short, it was not to be a heavy yoke of bondage, but a joyous festival. But on one point the law was quite explicit—the Chagigah might not be offered by any person who had contracted Levitical defilement (Pes. vi. 3). It was on this ground that, when the Jews led ‘Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment,’ they themselves went not into the judgment-hall, lest they should be defiled, but that they might ‘eat the Passover’ (John 18:28). And this brings us once more to the history of the last real Passover.

The Day of Our Lord’s Betrayal

‘It was early’ on the 15th day of Nisan when the Lord was delivered into the hands of the Gentiles. In the previous night He and His disciples had partaken of the Paschal Supper. The betrayer alone was too busy with his plans to finish the meal. He had, so to speak, separated from the fellowship of Israel before he excommunicated himself from that of Christ. While the Paschal services in the ‘guest-chamber’ were prolonged by the teaching and the intercession of the Master, and when the concluding rites of that night merged in the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Judas was completing, with the chief priests and elders, the betrayal of Jesus, and received the ‘reward of iniquity’ (Acts 1:18). Either the impetuosity of the traitor, or, more probably, the thought that such an opportunity might never come to them again, decided the elders, who, till then, had intended to delay the capture of Jesus till after the Feast, for ‘fear of the multitude.’ It was necessary to put aside, not only considerations of truth and of conscience, but to violate almost every fundamental principle of their own judicial administration. In such a cause, however, the end would sanctify any means.

The Arrest of Our Lord

Some of their number hastily gathered the Temple guard under its captains. A detachment of Roman soldiers under an officer136136We derive our account from all the four Gospels. The language of St. John (18:3, 12) leaves no doubt that a detachment of Roman soldiers accompanied such of the elders and priests as went out with the Temple guard to take Jesus. Thee was no need to apply for Pilate’s permission (as Lange supposes) before securing the aid of the soldiers. would readily be granted from the neighbouring fortress, Antonia, when the avowed object was to secure a dangerous leader of rebellion and to prevent the possibility of a popular tumult in his favour.

A number of trusty fanatics from the populace accompanied ‘the band.’ They were all armed with clubs and swords, ‘as against a murderer’; and though the dazzling light of a full moon shone on the scene, they carried torches and lamps, in case He or His followers should hide in the recesses of the garden or escape observation. But far other than they had expected awaited them in ‘the garden.’ He whom they had come to take prisoner by violent means first overcame, and then willingly surrendered to them, only stipulating for the freedom of His followers. They led Him back into the city, to the Palace of the High Priest, on the slope of Mount Zion, almost opposite to the Temple. What passed there need not be further described, except to say, that, in their treatment of Jesus, the Sanhedrim violated not only the law of God, but grossly outraged every ordinance of their own traditions.137137We cannot here enter on the evidence; the fact is generally admitted even by Jewish writers.

Possibly the consciousness of this, almost as much as political motives, may have influenced them in handing over the matter to Pilate. The mere fact that they possessed not the power of capital punishment would scarcely have restrained them from killing Jesus, as they afterwards stoned Stephen, and would have murdered Paul but for the intervention of the Roman garrison from Fort Antonia. On the other hand, if it was, at the same time, their object to secure a public condemnation and execution, and to awaken the susceptibilities of the civil power against the movement which Christ had initiated, it was necessary to carry the case to Pilate. And so in that grey morning light of the first day of unleavened bread the saddest and strangest scene in Jewish history was enacted. The chief priests and elders, and the most fanatical of the people were gathered in Fort Antonia. From where they stood outside the Praetorium they would, in all probability, have a full view of the Temple buildings, just below the rocky fort; they could see the morning sacrifice offered, and the column of sacrificial smoke and of incense rise from the great altar towards heaven. At any rate, even if they had not seen the multitude that thronged the sacred buildings, they could hear the Levites’ song and the blasts of the priests’ trumpets. and now the ordinary morning service was over, and the festive sacrifices were offered. It only remained to bring the private burnt-offerings, and to sacrifice the Chagigah, 138138The evidence that the expression in John 18:28, ‘They went not into the judgment-hall . . . that they might eat the Passover,’ refers not to the Paschal lamb, but to the Chagigah, is exceedingly strong, in fact, such as to have even convinced an eminent but impartial Jewish writer (Saalschutz, Mos. Recht, p. 414). It does seem strange that it should be either unknown to, or ignored by, ‘Christian’ writers. which they must offer undefiled, if they were to bring it at all, or to share in the festive meal that would afterwards ensue.

And so the strangest contradiction was enacted. They who had not hesitated to break every law of God’s and of their own making, would not enter the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled and prevented from the Chagigah! Surely, the logic of inconsistency could go no further in punctiliously observing the letter and violating the spirit of the law.

The Darkness

That same afternoon of the first Passover day, ‘when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast Thou forsake Me? . . . And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. And the veil of the Temple was rent in twain, from the top to the bottom.’ This, just about the time when the evening sacrifice had been offered, so that the incensing priest standing in the Holy Place must have witnessed the awful sight.139139This would not necessarily disclose a view of the Most Holy Place if, as the Rabbis assert, there were two veils between the Holy and the Most Holy Place.

The Sheaf of Firstfruits

A little later on in the evening of that same day, just as it was growing dark, a noisy throng followed delegates from the Sanhedrim outside the city and across the brook Kedron. It was a very different procession, and for a very different purpose, from the small band of mourners which, just about the same time, carried the body of the dead Saviour from the cross to the rock-hewn tomb wherein no man had yet been laid. While the one turned into ‘the garden’ (John 20:15), perhaps to one side, the other emerged, amidst loud demonstrations, in a field across Kedron, which had been marked out for the purpose. They were to be engaged in a service most important to them. It was probably to this circumstance that Joseph of Arimathea owed their non-interference with his request for the body of Jesus, and Nicodemus and the women, that they could go undisturbed about the last sad offices of loving mourners. The law had it, ‘Ye shall bring a sheaf [literally the omer] of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest; and he shall wave the omer before Jehovah, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it’ (Lev 23:10, 11). This Passover-sheaf, or rather omer, was to be accompanied by a burnt-offering of a ‘he lamb, without blemish, of the first year,’ with its appropriate meat- and drink-offering, and after it had been brought, but not till then, fresh barley might be used and sold in the land. Now, this Passover-sheaf was reaped in public the evening before it was offered, and it was to witness this ceremony that the crowd gathered around ‘the elders,’ who took care that all was done according to traditionary ordinance.

‘The Morrow After the Sabbath’

The expression, ‘the morrow after the Sabbath’ (Lev 23:11), has sometimes been misunderstood as implying that the presentation of the so-called ‘first sheaf’ was to be always made on the day following the weekly Sabbath of the Passover-week. This view, adopted by the ‘Boethusians’ and the Sadducees in the time of Christ, and by the Karaite Jews and certain modern interpreters, rests on a misinterpretation of the word ‘Sabbath’ (Lev 23:24, 32, 39). As in analogous allusions to other feasts in the same chapter, it means not the weekly Sabbath, but the day of the festival. The testimony of Josephus (Antiq. iii. 10, 5, 6), or Philo (Op. ii. 294), and of Jewish tradition, leaves no room to doubt that in this instance we are to understand by the ‘Sabbath’ the 15th of Nisan, on whatever day of the week it might fall. Already, on the 14th of Nisan, the spot whence the first sheaf was to be reaped had been marked out by delegates from the Sanhedrim, by tying together in bundles, while still standing, the barley that was to be cut down. Though, for obvious reasons, it was customary to choose for this purpose the sheltered Ashes-valley across Kedron, there was no restriction on that point, provided the barley had grown in an ordinary field—of course in Palestine itself—and not in garden or orchard land, and that the soil had not been manured nor yet artificially watered (Mishnah, Menach. viii. 1, 2).140140The field was to be ploughed in the autumn, and sowed seventy days before the Passover.

When the time for cutting the sheaf had arrived, that is, on the evening of the 15th of Nisan (even though it were a Sabbath141141There was a controversy on this point between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The article in Kitto’s Cycl. erroneously names the afternoon of the 16th of Nisan as that on which the sheaf was cut. It was really done after sunset on the 15th, which was the beginning of the 16th of Nisan.), just as the sun went down, three men, each with a sickle and basket, formally set to work.

But in order clearly to bring out all that was distinctive in the ceremony, they first asked of the bystanders three times each of these questions: ‘Has the sun gone down?’ ‘With this sickle?’ ‘Into this basket?’ ‘On this Sabbath (or first Passover-day)?’—and, lastly, ‘Shall I reap?’ Having each time been answered in the affirmative, they cut down barley to the amount of one ephah, or ten omers, or three seahs, which is equal to about three pecks and three pints of our English measure. The ears were brought into the Court of the Temple, and thrashed out with canes or stalks, so as not to injure the corn; then ‘parched’ on a pan perforated with holes, so that each grain might be touched by the fire, and finally exposed to the wind. The corn thus prepared was ground in a barley-mill, which left the hulls whole. According to some, the flour was always successfully passed through thirteen sieves, each closer than the other. The statement of a rival authority, however, seems more rational—that it was only done till the flour was sufficiently fine (Men. vi. 6, 7), which was ascertained by one of the ‘Gizbarim’ (treasurers) plunging his hands into it, the sifting process being continued so long as any of the flour adhered to the hands (Men. viii. 2). Though one ephah, or ten omers, of barley was cut down, only one omer of flour, or about 5 1 pints of our measure, was offered in the Temple on the second Paschal, or 16th day of Nisan. The rest of the flour might be redeemed, and used for any purpose. The omer of flour was mixed with a ‘log,’ or very nearly three-fourths of a pint of oil, and a handful142142The term is difficult to define. The Mishnah (Men. ii. 2) says, ‘He stretcheth the fingers over the flat of the hand.’ I suppose, bending them inwards. of frankincense put upon it, then waved before the Lord, and a handful taken out and burned on the altar.

The remainder belonged to the priest. This was what is popularly, though not very correctly, called ‘the presentation of the first or wave-sheaf’ on the second day of the Passover-feast, of the 16th of Nisan.

The Last Day of the Passover

Thus far the two first days. The last day of the Passover, as the first, was a ‘holy convocation,’ and observed like a Sabbath. The intervening days were ‘minor festivals,’ or Moed Katon. The Mishnah (Tract. Moed Katon) lays down precise rules as to the kind of work allowed on such days. As a general principle, all that was necessary either for the public interest or to prevent private loss was allowed; but no new work of any kind for private or public purposes might be begun. Thus you might irrigate dry soil, or repair works for irrigation, but not make new ones, nor dig canals, etc. It only remains to add, that any one prevented by Levitical defilement, disability, or distance from keeping the regular Passover, might observe what was called ‘the second,’ or ‘the little Passover,’ exactly a month later (Num 9:9-12). The Mishnah has it (Pes. ix. 3) that the second differed from the first Passover in this—that leaven might be kept in the house along with the unleavened bread, that the Hallel was not sung at the Paschal Supper, and that no Chagigah was offered.

Pentecost

The ‘Feast of Unleavened Bread’ may be said not to have quite passed till fifty-days after its commencement, when it merged in that of Pentecost, or ‘of Weeks.’ According to unanimous Jewish tradition, which was universally received at the time of Christ, the day of Pentecost was the anniversary of the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, which the Feast of Weeks was intended to commemorate. Thus, as the dedication of the harvest, commencing with the presentation of the first omer on the Passover, was completed in the thank-offering of the two wave-loaves at Pentecost, so the memorial of Israel’s deliverance appropriately terminated in that of the giving of the Law—just as, making the highest application of it, the Passover sacrifice of the Lord Jesus may be said to have been completed in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Jewish tradition has it, that on the 2nd of the third month, or Sivan, Moses had ascended the Mount (Exo 19:1-3), that he communicated with the people on the 3rd (Exo 19:7), reascended the Mount on the 4th (Exo 19:8), and that then the people sanctified themselves on the 4th, 5th, and 6th of Sivan, on which latter day the ten commandments were actually given them (Exo 19:10-16).143143Owing to the peculiarity of the Jewish calendar, Pentecost did not always take place exactly on the 6th Sivan. Care was taken that it should not occur on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday. (Reland. p. 430.)

Accordingly the days before Pentecost were always reckoned as the first, second, third, etc., since the presentation of the omer. Thus Maimonides beautifully observes: ‘Just as one who is expecting the most faithful of his friends is wont to count the days and hours to his arrival, so we also count from the omer of the day of our Exodus from Egypt to that of the giving of the law, which was the object of our Exodus, as it is said: “I bare you on eagle’s wings, and brought you unto Myself.” And because this great manifestation did not last more than one day, therefore we annually commemorate it only one day.’

Full seven weeks after the Paschal day, counting from the presentation of the omer on the 16th of Nisan, or exactly on the fiftieth day (Lev 23:15, 16), was the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost, ‘a holy convocation,’ in which ‘no servile work’ was to be done (Lev 23:21; Num 28:26), when ‘all males’ were to ‘appear before Jehovah’ in His sanctuary (Exo 23:14-17), and the appointed sacrifices and offerings to be brought. The names, ‘Feast of Weeks’ (Exo 34:22; Deut 16:10, 16; 2 Chron 8:13) and ‘Feast of the Fiftieth Day,’ or ‘Day of Pentecost’ (Jos. Jew. Wars, ii. e, 1; Acts 2:1; 20:16; 1 Cor 16:8), bear reference to this interval from the Passover. Its character is expressed by the terms ‘feast of harvest’ (Exo 23:16) and ‘day of firstfruits’ (Num 28:26), while Jewish tradition designates it as ‘Chag ha Azereth,’ or simply ‘Azereth’ (the ‘feast of the conclusion,’ or simply ‘conclusion’), and the ‘Season of the giving our our Law.’

The festive sacrifices for the day of Pentecost were, according to Numbers 28:26-31, ‘two young bullocks, one ram, and seven lambs of the first year’ for a burnt-offering, along with their appropriate meat-offerings; and ‘one kid of the goats’ for a sin-offering—all these, of course, irrespective of the usual morning sacrifice. But what gave to the feast its distinctive peculiarity was the presentation of the two loaves, and the sacrifices which accompanied them. Though the attendance of worshippers at the Temple may not have been so large as at the Passover, yet tens of thousands crowded to it (Jos. Antiq. xiv. 13, 4; xvii. 10, 2). From the narrative in Acts 2 we also infer that perhaps, more than at any of the other great festivals, Jews from distant countries came to Jerusalem, possibly from the greater facilities for travelling which the season afforded. On the day before Pentecost the pilgrim bands entered the Holy City, which just then lay in the full glory of early summer. Most of the harvest all over the country had already been reaped, 144144The completion of the wheat harvest throughout the land is computed by the Rabbis at about a month later. See Relandus, Antiq. p. 428. and a period of rest and enjoyment seemed before them.

As the stars shone out in the deep blue sky with the brilliancy peculiar to an Eastern clime, the blasts of the priests’ trumpets, announcing the commencement of the feast, sounded from the Temple mount through the delicious stillness of the summer night. Already in the first watch the great altar was cleansed, and immediately after midnight the Temple gates were thrown open. For before the morning sacrifice all burnt- and peace-offerings which the people proposed to bring at the feast had to be examined by the officiating priesthood. Great as their number was, it must have been a busy time, till the announcement that the morning glow extended to Hebron put an end to all such preparations, by giving the signal for the regular morning sacrifice. After that the festive offerings prescribed in Numbers 28:26-30 were brought—first, the sin-offering, with proper imposition of hands, confession of sin, and sprinkling of blood; and similarly the burnt-offerings, with their meat-offerings. The Levites were now chanting the ‘Hallel’ to the accompanying music of a single flute, which began and ended the song, so as to give it a sort of soft sweetness. The round, ringing treble of selected voices from the children of Levites, who stood below their fathers, gave richness and melody to the hymn, while the people either repeated or responded, as on the evening of the Passover sacrifice.

The Two Wave-loaves

Then came the peculiar offering of the day—that of the two wave-loaves, with their accompanying sacrifices. These consisted of seven lambs of the first year, without blemish, one young bullock, and two rams for a burnt-offering, with their appropriate meat-offerings; and then ‘one kid of the goats for a sin-offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace-offerings’ (Lev 23:19).145145This offering, accompanying the wave-loaves, has by some been confounded with the festive sacrifices of the day, as enumerated in Numbers 28:27. But the two are manifestly quite distinct.

As the omer for the 16th of Nisan was of barley, being the first ripe corn in the land, so the ‘two wave-loaves’ were prepared from wheat grown in the best district of the country—under conditions similar to those already noticed about the Passover-sheaf. Similarly, three seahs, or about three pecks and three pints of wheat, were cut down, brought to the Temple, thrashed like other meat-offerings, ground, and passed through twelve sieves.146146In the case of the first omer it had been thirteen sieves; but both specifications may be regarded as Rabbinical fancifulness.

From the flour thus obtained two omers (or double the quantity of that at the Passover) were used for ‘the two loaves’; the rest might be redeemed and used for any purpose. Care was taken that the flour for each loaf should be taken separately from one and a half seah, that it should be separately kneaded with lukewarm water (like all thank-offerings), and separately baked—the latter in the Temple itself. The loaves were made the evening preceding the festival; or, if that fell on the Sabbath, two evenings before. In shape they were long and flat, and turned up, either at the edges or at the corners. According to the Mishnah, each loaf was four handbreadths wide, seven long, and four fingers high, and as it contained one omer of flour (5 1 pints, or rather less than four pounds’ weight), the dough would weigh about five pounds and three-quarters, yielding, say, five pounds and a quarter of bread, or ten and a half for the two ‘wave-loaves.’147147These numbers are sufficiently accurate for general computation. By actual experiment I find that a pint of flour weighs about three-quarters of a pound and two ounces, and that 3 3/4 lbs. of flour, with half a teacup of barm and an ounce of salt, yield 5 3/4 pounds of dough and 5 1/4 lbs. of bread.

The Wave-loaves Were Leavened

Contrary to the common rule of the Sanctuary, these loaves were leavened, which, as the Mishnah, informs us (Men. v. 1), was the case in all thank-offerings. The common explanation—that the wave-loaves were leavened because they represented the ordinary food of the people—only partially accounts for this. No doubt these wave-loaves expressed the Old Testament acknowledgment of the truth which our Lord embodied in the prayer, ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ But this is not all. Let it be remembered that these two loaves, with the two lambs that formed part of the same wave-offering, were the only public peace- and thank-offerings of Israel; that they were accompanied by burnt- and sin-offerings; and that, unlike ordinary peace-offerings, they were considered as ‘most holy.’ Hence they were leavened, because Israel’s public thank-offerings, even the most holy, are leavened by imperfectness and sin, and they need a sin-offering. This idea of a public thank-offering was further borne out by all the services of the day. First, the two lambs were ‘waved’ while yet alive; that is, before being made ready for use. Then, after their sacrifice, the breast and shoulder, or principal parts of each, were laid beside the two loaves, and ‘waved’ (generally towards the east) forwards and back wards, and up and down.148148The Rabbinical statement is, that the whole offering was to be waved together by a priest; but that if each loaf, with one breast and shoulder of lamb, was waved separately, it was valid. From the weight of the mass, this must have been the common practice.

After burning the fat, the flesh belonged, not to the offerers, but to the priests. As in the case of the most holy sacrifices, the sacrificial meal was to take place within the Temple itself, nor was any part of it to be kept beyond midnight. One of the wave-loaves and of the lambs went to the high-priest; the other belonged to all the officiating priesthood. Lastly, after the ceremony of the wave-loaves, the people brought their own freewill-offerings, each as the Lord had prospered him—the afternoon and evening being spent in the festive meal, to which the stranger, the poor, and the Levite were bidden as the Lord’s welcome guests. On account of the number of such sacrifices, the Feast of Weeks was generally protracted for the greater part of a week; and this the more readily that the offering of firstfruits also began at this time. Lastly, as the bringing of the omer at the Passover marked the period when new corn might be used in the land, so the presentation of the wave-loaves that when new flour might be brought for meat-offerings in the Sanctuary.

The Later Significance of Pentecost

If Jewish tradition connected the ‘Feast of Firstfruits’ with the ‘Mount that might be touched,’ and the ‘voice of words which they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more,’ we have in this respect also ‘come unto Mount Zion,’ and to the better things of the New Covenant. To us the Day of Pentecost is, indeed, the ‘feast of firstfruits,’ and that of the giving of the better law, ‘written not in tables of stone, but on the fleshy tables of the heart,’ ‘with the Spirit of the living God.’ For, as the worshippers were in the Temple, probably just as they were offering the wave-lambs and the wave-bread, the multitude heard that ‘sound from heaven, as of a mighty rushing wind,’ which drew them to the house where the apostles were gathered, there to hear ‘every man in his own language’ ‘the wonderful works of God.’ And on that Pentecost day, from the harvest of firstfruits, not less than three thousand souls added to the Church were presented as a wave-offering to the Lord. The cloven tongues of fire and the apostolic gifts of that day of firstfruits have, indeed, long since disappeared. But the mighty rushing sound of the Presence and Power of the Holy Ghost has gone forth into all the world.


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