Shavuot Part 1: The Biblical Foundation

The Lord’s festival of Shavuot (aka Pentecost) is the only holiday celebrated by both Jews and Christians.  Of course, each community has different perspectives, explanations and rituals.

Although they are celebrating different events, both are celebrating an important event in God’s redemptive history. Let’s take a journey down some well travelled and some untraveled paths as we explore:

  • The biblical foundation,
  • Jewish tradition,
  • Israel circa 32 AD,
  • Modern Jewish rituals,
  • Lessons and personal application.


And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord. You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the Lord. And you shall offer with the bread seven lambs of the first year, without blemish, one young bull, and two rams. They shall be as a burnt offering to the Lord, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma to the Lord. Then you shall sacrifice one kid of the goats as a sin offering, and two male lambs of the first year as a sacrifice of a peace offering. 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 proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations. ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God.’”

The holiday is also mentioned in:

  • Exodus 34:22
  • Numbers 28:26
  • Deuteronomy 16:9-10, 16
  • 2 Chronicles 8:13
  • Acts 2

Now, what does the Bible say regarding the rituals of the holiday?:

  • The holiday was to be on Sunday, the first day after the Sabbath of the wave offering (the Sabbath after Passover which most Bible translations calls, “the feast of firstfruits).
  • There were to be 7 Sabbaths between Passover and Shavuot.
  • It was the second pilgrim festival when Jewish men were required to present a firstfruit offering.
  • Two loaves of bread were to be presented as a new grain offering.  The grain offering of Passover was the harvest of the spring (barley). This was to be the firstfruit of the summer harvest (wheat).
  • The corners of the field were not to be harvested to provide for the poor and the stranger.
  • There were multiple offerings[1];
    • Burnt – lambs, bulls, rams[2]
    • Grain & drink – same as above[3]
    • Sin – goat[4]
    • Peace or fellowship- rams.[5]
    • No customary work was allowed.
    • There was to be a holy convocation.

Eventually the holiday became a different celebration.

The One New Man is the unity of Jewish and Gentile followers of Yeshua, with distinctions yet equal.

[1] Barker, Kenneth, ed. The NIV Study Bible, Zondervan Bible Publishers (Grand Rapids, MI 49506) 1985, Pg 150
[2] Burnt: voluntary act of worship, expression of devotion, commitment and complete surrender to God, atonement for unintentional sin in general.
[3] Grain & drink: voluntary act of worship, recognition of God’s goodness and provisions, devotion to God.
[4] Sin: confession and mandatory atonement for specific unintentional sin, forgiveness of sin, cleansing from defilement.
[5] Peace (fellowship): voluntary act of worship, thanksgiving, included a communal meal.

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