Question: Where in the Bible can I learn about the feast days the Israelites celebrated?
Discussion: The books of Exodus and Leviticus give the origins of the rites and reasons for Jewish feast days that began about fifteen centuries before Christ. Originally, the sacred days included Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost, the Feast of Trumpets (later known as Rosh Hashanah or the Jewish New Year), The Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur (the Hebrew word yom means day), and the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths. In addition, biblical accounts of Esther describe the conditions that gave rise to Purim. Then somewhere between one and two hundred years prior to the birth of Jesus, the historical events recorded in Maccabees resulted in Hanukkah, the Feast of Lights celebrated each year around the 25th of December.
Besides those special days, the Sabbath honored God's rest on the seventh day with a Sabbath Year occurring every seventh year. During those twelve months of rest, even the land was to remain fallow, which kept the nutrients in the soil from being depleted. After seven of those Sabbath Years, the next one heralded the Year of Jubilee, which brought God's people an opportunity every half-century to forgive debts, free slaves, and return repossessed lands to their original owners. Similarly, the Church last celebrated the Year of Jubilee in 2000 as a time of spiritual awareness and renewal.
Question: Do we, as Christians, commemorate any of the annual Jewish feast days?
Discussion: Yes, but usually for recharged reasons. For example, the Jewish Passover began when the Angel of Death passed over each home that had been marked with the blood of a lamb. After that night, the Jews had to get out of Egypt faster than yeast bread could rise! So God instructed them to make unleavened bread to take with them. Those events became key to Judaism with annual celebration of Passover and also the Feast of Unleavened Bread helping the people recall how God had saved their lives and freed them from slavery. Then hundreds of years went by until the blood of Christ, sacrificed once for all, became the Blood of the Lamb. Jesus Christ became our Passover, and now, at each celebration of Eucharist, the resurrected Christ becomes our Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Another important example comes in our celebration of Pentecost. Prior to Christianity, God's chosen people gathered fifty days after Passover for a harvest festival known as Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks. This celebration occurred each year, so by Jesus' lifetime, thousands of people would typically crowd into Jerusalem to thank God for the season's crops. Fifty days after Christ's resurrection, however, Pentecost took on new meaning as God spiritually "seeded" those who had gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Weeks. On that day, the ancient harvest celebration became the occasion for both Jews and Gentiles to receive the power of the Holy Spirit, which gave birth to the Church as the Body of Christ on earth.
Regarding other Jewish feasts that have not yet been fulfilled, consider "Looking Into End Times." Lord willing, we'll do just that in an upcoming Bible Talk.