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Webster's Dictionary [1]

(a.) Pertaining to a fest; festive; festal; appropriate to a festival; joyous; mirthful.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [2]

(properly חָג , Chag, Ἑορτή , "feast"), Religious, Of The Israelites (compare Leviticus 23). These were occasions of public religious observances, recurring at certain set and somewhat distant intervals. In a certain sense, indeed, each day was such an occasion, for at the daily service two lambs of the first year were to be offered at the door of the tabernacle; one in the morning, the other in the evening, a continual burnt- offering. With each lamb was to be offered one tenth of an ephah of flour, mingled with one fourth of a hin of fresh oil, for a meat-offering, and one fourth of a hin of wine for a drink-offering. Frankincense was to be placed on the meat-offering, a handful of which, with the frankincense, was to be burnt, and the remainder was to be eaten by the priest in the holy place, without leaven. The priests were to offer daily the tenth of an ephah of fine flour, half in the morning and half in the evening, for themselves. The high- priest was to dress the lamps in the tabernacle every morning, and light them every evening; and at the same time burn incense on the altar of incense. The people provided oil for the lamps which were to burn from evening to morning the ashes were removed by a priest, dressed in his linen garment and his linen drawers, and then carried by him out of the camp in his common dress. Great stress was laid on the regular observance of these requirements ( Numbers 28:1-8;  Exodus 29:38-42;  Leviticus 6:8-23;  Exodus 30:7-9;  Exodus 27:20;  Leviticus 24:1-4;  Numbers 8:2). (See Daily Sacrifice).

So, likewise, there was a weekly, a monthly, and a yearly festival, as will presently appear. At the New-moon festival, in the beginning of the month, in addition to the daily sacrifice, two heifers, one ram, and seven lambs of the first -year were to be offered as burnt-offerings, with three tenths of an ephah of flour, mingled with oil, for each heifer; two tenths of an ephah of flour, mingled with oil, for the ram; and one tenth of an ephah of flour, mingled with oil, for every lamb; and a drink-offering of half of a hin of wine for a heifer, one third of a hin for the rams, and one fourth of a hin for every lamb. One kid of the goats was also to be offered as a sin-offering ( Numbers 10:10;  Numbers 28:11-15). (See New Moon).

I. Pre-Eaxilian Festivals.-The religious times ordained in the law fall under three heads:

1. Those formally connected with the institution of the Sabbath. These em- ere the following:

(1.) The Weekly Sabbath Itself. On this day two lambs of the first year, without blemish, were to be offered for a burnt-offering, morning and evening, with two tenths of an ephah of flour, mingled with oil, for a meat- offering, and one half of a hin of wine for a drink-offering, thus doubling the offering for ordinary days. Twelve cakes of fine flour were to be placed every Sabbath upon the table in the tabernacle, in two piles, and pure frankincense laid on the uppermost of each pile.' These were to be furnished by the people; two were offered to Jehovah, the rest were eaten by the priests in the holy place ( Exodus 31:12;  Leviticus 23:1;  Leviticus 26:2;  Exodus 19:3-25;  Exodus 20:8-11;  Exodus 23:12;  Deuteronomy 5:12-15;  Leviticus 23:3;  Leviticus 24:5-9;  Numbers 15:35;  Numbers 28:9). (See Sabbath).

(2.) The Seventh New Moon, Or Feast Of Trumpets The first day of the seventh month was to be a Sabbath,-a holy convocation, accompanied by the blowing of trumpets. In addition to the daily and monthly sacrifices, one ram and seven lambs were to be offered as burnt-offerings, with their respective meat-offerings, as at the usual New-moon festival ( Numbers 28:11-15;  Numbers 29:1-6;  Leviticus 23:23-25). (See Feast Of Trumpets).

The other septenary festivals were:

(3.) The Sabbatical Year (q.v.), and

(4.) The Year Of Jubilee (q.v.).

2. The great feasts ( מוֹעֲדַים , set times; in the Talmud, רְגָלַים , Pilgrimage Feasts) are : the Passover; the feast of Pentecost, of Weeks, of Wheat- harvest, or of the First-fruits; the feast of Tabernacles, or of Ingathering. In the arrangement of these festivals likewise a sabbatical order remarkably prevails (compare Midrash Rabba on  Leviticus 23:24), and serves to furnish a strong proof that the whole system of the festivals of the Jewish law was the product of one mind. Pentecost occurs seven weeks after the Passover; the Passover and the feast of Tabernacles last seven days each; the days of Holy Convocation are seven is- the year-two at the Passover, one at Pentecost, one at the feast of Trumpets, one on the Day of Atonement, and two at the feast of Tabernacles; the feast of Tabernacles, as well as the Day of Atonement, falls in the seventh month of the sacred year; and, lastly, the cycle of annual feasts occupies seven months, from Nisan to Tisri. (See Seven).

On each of these occasions every male Israelite was commanded "to appear before the Lord," that is, to attend in the court of the tabernacle or the Temple, and to make his offering with a joyful heart ( Deuteronomy 27:7;  Nehemiah 8:9-12; comp. Josephus, Ant . 11:5, 5). The attendance of women was voluntary but the zealous often went up to the Passover. Thus Mary attended it ( Luke 2:41), and Hannah ( 1 Samuel 1:7;  1 Samuel 2:19). As might be supposed, there was a stricter Obligation regarding the Passover than the other feasts, and hence there was san express provision to enable those who, by unavoidable circumstances or legal impurity, had been prevented from attending at the proper time, to observe the feast on the same day of the succeeding month ( Numbers 9:10-11). None were to come empty-handed, but every one was to give according as Jehovah had blessed him; and there before Jehovah was every one to rejoice with his, family, the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow ( Exodus 33:14-17;  Exodus 34:22-24;  Deuteronomy 16:16-17). On all the days of Holy- Convocation there was to be an entire suspension of ordinary labor of all kinds ( Exodus 12:16;  Leviticus 16:29;  Leviticus 23:21;  Leviticus 23:24-25;  Leviticus 23:35). But on the intervening days of the longer festivals work might be carried on. The lacy always speaks of the days of Holy Convocation as Sabbaths. But the Mishna makes a distinction, and states in de/tail what acts may be performed on the former, which are unlawful as the Sabbath, in the treatise Yom Tob; while in -Mocd Katan it lays down strange and burdensome conditions in reference to the intermediate days. (See Holy Convocation).

Brown has spoken (Antiquities of the Jews, i, 522) of the defenseless state in which the country lay when all the males were gathered together at Jerusalem. What was to prevent an enemy from devastating the land, and slaying women and children? He refers the protection of the country to the express interposition of God, citing "the promise," as found in  Exodus 34:23-24. He adds "During the whole period between Moses and Christ we never read of an enemy invading the land at the time of the three festivals. The first instance on record was thirty-three years after they had withdrawn from themselves the divine protection by imbruing their hands in the Saviour's blood, when Cestius, the Roman general, slew fifty of the people of Lydda, while all the rest had gone up to the Feast of Tabernacles, A.D. 66" (Josephus, War, ii, 19). The objection, however, which this writer thus meets is founded on the assumption that the law was strictly, uniformly, and lastingly obeyed. But the requirement that all males should appear three times a year before Jehovah is not without some practical difficulty. During the sojourn in the wilderness its observance would not only be easy, but highly useful in preventing the dispersion of individuals or numbers from the main body-an influence the more needful, because many persons would doubtless stray from time to time in search of pasture. In subsequent and more settled times it must have been a serious inconvenience for all the males of the nation to leave their families unprotected and their business neglected for so many days every year as would be necessary in going to and from Jerusalem. It is true that the seasons of the festivals were well fixed and distributed for the convenience of an agricultural people, Yet to have to visit Jerusalem thrice in seven months was a serious thing, especially in later times, when Israelites were scattered. far abroad. Even if the expense was, as many think (See Assessment), a small consideration, yet the interruption to domestic life and the pursuits of business must have been very great; nor would it be an exaggeration to say that the observance was an impossibility to the Jews, for instance, who were in Babylon, Egypt, Italy, Macedonia, Asia Minor, etc.: How far the law was rigorously enforced or strictly obeyed at any time after the settlement in Palestine, it would not be easy to say. Palfrey (Lectures on the Jewish Scrip. i, 199) supposes that "a man might well be said to have virtually executed this duty who appeared before the Lord (not in person, but) with his offering, sent by the hand of a friend, as a suitor is said in our common speech to appear in a court of justice when he is represented there by his attorney;" a conjecture which, to our mind, savors too much of modern ideas and usages.

That some relaxation took place, at least in "the latter days," appears from  John 7:8, in which more or less of what is voluntary is obviously connected in the mind and practice of our Lord with " the feast," though it must be allowed that the passage is an evidence of the general observance, not to say the universal obligation, in his days, of at least the feast of Tabernacles. If, however, there was in practice some abatement from the strict requirements of the law, yet obviously time enough was saved from labor by the strong hand of religion to secure to the laborer a degree of most desirable and enviable rest. Not, indeed, that all the days set apart were emancipated from labor. At the feast of Tabernacles, for instance, labor is interdicted only on the first and the last day. So, on other occasions, business and pleasure were pursued in connection with religious observances. But if all males appeared before Jehovah even only once a year, they must, in going and returning, as well as in being present at the festival, have spent no small portion of time in abstinence from their ordinary pursuits, and could not have failed to derive singular advantages alike to their bodies and their minds. The rest and recreation would be the more pleasant, salutary, and beneficial, because of the joyous nature of the religious services in which they were, for the greater part, engaged. These solemn festivals were not only commemorations of great national events, but they were occasions for the reunion of friends, for the enjoyment of hospitality, and for the interchange of kindness. The feasts which accompanied the sacrifices opened the heart of the entire family to joy, and gave a welcome which bore a religious sanction even to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow (Michaelis, Mos. Recht, art. 199). On these solemn occasions food came partly from hospitality (a splendid instance of which may be found in  2 Chronicles 35:7-9), partly from the feasts which accompanied the sacrifices in the Temple, and partly also from provision expressly made by the travellers themselves. 'It appears that the pilgrims to Mecca carry with them every kind of food that they need except flesh, which they procure in the city itself. Lodging, too, was afforded by friends, or found in tents erected for the purpose in and around Jerusalem. (See Hospitality).

Besides their religious purpose, the great festivals must have had an important bearing on the maintenance of a feeling of national unity. This - may be traced in the apprehensions of Jeroboam ( 1 Kings 12:26-27), and in the attempt at reformation by Hezekiah ( 2 Chronicles 30:1), as well as in the necessity which, in later times, was felt by the Roman government of mustering a considerable military force at Jerusalem during the festivals (Josephus, Ant. 17: 9, 3; 17:10, 2; compare  Matthew 26:5;  Luke 13:1). Another effect of these festivals Michaelis has found in the furtherance of internal commerce. They would give rise to something resembling our modern fairs. Among the Mohammedans similar festivals have had this effect. In Article 199 the same learned writer treats of the important influence which the festival had on the Calendar, and the correction of its errors. (See Year).

The agricultural significance of the three great festivals is clearly set forth in the account of the Jewish sacred year contained in Leviticus 23. The prominence which, not only in that chapter, but elsewhere, is given to this significance, in the names by which Pentecost and Tabernacles are often called, and also by the offering of "the first-fruits of wheat-harvest" at Pentecost ( Exodus 34:22), and of "the first of the first-fruits" at the Passover ( Exodus 23:19;  Exodus 34:26), might easily suggest that the origin of the feasts was patriarchal (Ewald, Alterthumer, p. 385), and that the historical associations with which Moses endowed them were grafted upon their primitive meaning. It is perhaps, however, a difficulty in the way of this view that we should rather look for the institution of agricultural festivals among an agricultural than a pastoral people, such as the Israelites and their ancestors were before the settlement in the land of promise. The times of the festivals were evidently ordained in wisdom, so as to interfere as little as possible with the industry of the people. The Passover was held just before the work of harvest commenced, Pentecost at the conclusion of the corn-harvest and before the vintage, the feast of Tabernacles after all the fruits of the ground were gathered in. In winter, when travelling was difficult, there were no festivals. (See Seasons).

(1.) The first of these three great festivals, that of Unleavened Bread, called also the Passover, was kept in the month Abib, in commemoration of the rescue of the Israelites by Jehovah out of Egypt, which took place in that month. The ceremonies that were connected with it will be detailed under the head PASSOVER. Every one who was ritually clean, and not on a journey, and yet omitted to keep the Passover, was to be cut off from the people. Any one who was disabled for the observance, either by uncleanness of being on a journey, was to keep the Passover on the fourteenth day of the next month. In order to make the season more remarkable, it was ordained that henceforward the month in which it took place should be reckoned the first of the national religious year ( Exodus 12:2). From this time, accordingly, the year began in the month Abib, or Nisan (March-April), while the civil year continued to be reckoned from Tisri (September-October) ( Exodus 12:3;  Exodus 12:14;  Exodus 12:27;  Exodus 12:43-49;  Leviticus 23:5;  Numbers 28:16;  Deuteronomy 16:1-7). The Passover lasted one week, including two Sabbaths (De Wette, Archiolog. p. 214). The first day and the last were holy, that is, devoted to the observances in the public temple, and to rest from all labor ( Exodus 12:16;  Leviticus 23:6;  Numbers 28:18;  Deuteronomy 16:8). The modern Jews observe the 15th and 16th, and the 20th and 21st days of Nisan, as holy days in connection with this festival. (See Nisan).

On the day after the Sabbath, on the feast of Passover, a sheaf of the first- fruits of the barley harvest was to be brought to the priest to be waved before Jehovah, accompanied by a burnt-offering. Till this sheaf was presented, neither bread nor parched coin, nor full ripe ears of the harvest, could be eaten ( Exodus 12:15-20;  Exodus 13:6-10;  Leviticus 23:6-8; Deuteronomy 16:28;  Numbers 28:17-25). (See Harvest).

(2.) The feast of Pentecost or of Weeks was kept to Jehovah at the end of seven weeks from that day of the festival of Unleavened Bread, on which the sheaf was presented. On the morrow after the seventh complete week, or on the fiftieth day, two wave loaves were presented as first-fruits of the wheat-harvest, together with a burnt-offering, a sin-offering, and a peace- offering, etc. The day was a holy convocation, in which no servile work was done. The festival lasted but one day. The Jews of the present day, however, hold it during two successive days. It is said to have been designed to commemorate the giving of the law on Mount Sinai ( Deuteronomy 16:9-11;  Leviticus 13:15-21;  Numbers 28:26-31;  Numbers 15:17-21). (See Pentecost).

(3.) The feast of Ingathering or of Tabernacles began on the fifteenth day of- the seventh month, and continued eight days, the first and last being Sabbaths. During the feast all native Israelites dwelt in booths made of the shoots of beautiful trees, palm branches, boughs of thick-leaved trees, and of the willows of the brook, when they rejoiced with their families, with the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, before Jehovah. Various offerings were made. At the end of every seven years, in the year of release, at the feast of Tabernacles, the law was required to be read by the priests in the hearing of all the Israelites ( Deuteronomy 16:13-15;  Deuteronomy 31:10-13;  Leviticus 23:39-43;  Leviticus 23:33-36;  Numbers 29:12-38;  Numbers 29:40). The feast of Tabernacles was appointed partly to be an occasion of annual thanksgiving after the ingathering of the harvest ( Exodus 34:22;  Leviticus 23:39;  Deuteronomy 16:13), and partly to remind the Israelites that their fathers had lived in tents in the wilderness ( Leviticus 23:40-43). This feast took place in the end of the year, September or October. The modern Jews observe it for seven successive days, the first two and the last two of which are holy days. (See Feast Of Tabernacles).

(4.) The festival of New Year'S Day (Rosh Hash-Shanah in the Talmud) is held by modern Jews for two days at the beginning of Tisri. (See Feast Of Trumpets).

3. The tenth day of the seventh month was the Day Of Atonement- a day of abstinence, a day of holy convocation, in which all were to afflict themselves. Special offerings were made ( Leviticus 23:26-32;  Leviticus 16:1;  Leviticus 16:34;  Numbers 29:7-11;  Exodus 30:10). (See Day Of Atonement).

II. Additional Post-Exilian Festivals.

1. The term "the Festival Of The Basket" ( Ἑορτὴ Καρτάλλου ) is applied by Philo (Opp. v, 51) to the offering of the first-fruits described in  Deuteronomy 26:1-11, and occurring on the 16th of the first month (Nisan). (See First-Fruits).

2. The Festival Of Acra, which was instituted by Simon Maccabaeus, B.C. 141, to be celebrated on the 23d of the Second month (Ijar), in commemoration of the capture and purifying of Acra (q.v.), and the expulsion of the Hellenists from Jerusalem ( 1 Maccabees 13:50-52). (See Maccabees).

3. The Festival Of Wood-Carryinq, as it was called ( Ἑορτὴ Τῶν Ξυλοφορίων ), is mentioned by Josephus (War, ii, 17, 6) and the Mishna (Taanith, 4: 5). What appears to have been its origin is found in  Nehemiah 10:34. It was celebrated on the 15th (21st) of the fifth month (Ab). (See Xylophoria).

4. The Festival Of Water-Drawing ( הִשּׁוֹאֲבָה שַׁמְחֵת בֵּית ), which was held on the 22d of the seventh month (Tisri), the last day of the feast of Tabernacles (comp.  John 7:37; Mishna, Succa, 4: 9; v, 1-3; see Frey, De Aquae Libatione In Festo Tabernaculorum, Altorf, 1744). (See Siloam).

5. The Festival Of Dedication was appointed by Judas Maccabaeus on occasion of the purification of the Temple and reconstruction of the altar after they had been polluted by Antiochus Epiphanes. The hatred of this monarch towards the Jews had been manifested in various ways: he forbade their children to be circumcised, restrained them in the exercise of their -religion, killed many who disobeyed his mandates, burnt the books of the law, set up idolatry, carried off the altar of incense, the shew-bread table, and the golden candlestick, with the other vessels and treasures of the Temple, and went to such extremes as to sacrifice a sow upon the altar of burnt-offerings, build a heathen altar on the top of that sacred pile, and with broth of swine's flesh to sprinkle the courts and the Temple (1 Macc. i; 2 Macc. v; Prideaux, sub A.C. 167-8, 170). The new dedication took place on the 25th day of the ninth month, called Kisleu, in the year before Christ 170. This would be in December. The day was chosen as being that on which Antiochus, three years before, had polluted the altar by heathen sacrifices. The joy of the Israelites must have been great on the occasion, and well may they have prolonged the observance of it for eight days.. A general illumination formed a part of the festival, whence it obtained the name of the feast of Lights. In  John 10:22 this festival is alluded to when our Lord is said to have been present at the feast of Dedication. The historian marks the time by stating "it was winter." (Compare  1 Maccabees 4:52-59; Mishna, Taanith, ii, 10; Moed Katon, iii, 9; Josephus, Ant. 12:7, 7; Ap. ii, 39.) (See Feast Of Dedication).

6. The Festival Of Nicanor to commemorate the defeat by Judas Maccabaeus of the Greeks when the Jews "smote off Nicanor's head and his right hand which he stretched out So proudly," caused "the people to rejoice greatly, and they kept that day a day of great gladness; moreover, they ordained to keep yearly this day, being the thirteenth day of Adar" the twelfth month ( 1 Maccabees 7:47; Josephus, Ant. 12: 10, 5; Taanith, xii; Talm. Jerus. Taanith, ii, 13; Josippon ben Gorion, iii, 22, p. 244, ed. Breith.). (See Nicanor).

7. The Festival Of Purim or of Lots originated in the gratitude of the Jews in escaping the plot of Haman designed for their destruction. It took its name from the lots which were cast before Haman by the astrologers, who knew his hatred against Mordecai and his wish to destroy his family and nation ( Esther 3:7;  Esther 9:2;  Esther 9:5). The feast was suggested by Esther and Mordecai, and was celebrated on the 13th, 14th, and 15th days of the twelfth month (Adar). The 13th was a fast, being the day on which: the Jews were to have been destroyed; and the 14th and 15th were a feast held in commemoration of their deliverance (see  2 Maccabees 15:36). The fast is called the Fast of Esther, and the feast still holds the name of Purim. Prideaux (Connex.) styles it the bacchanalia of the Jews. (See Purim).

The slaughter of Holofernes by the hand of Judith, the consequent defeat- of the Assyrians, and the liberation of the Jews, were commemorated by the institution of a festival (Judith 14, 15). (See Holofernes). Some other minor festivals may be found noticed in Brown's Antiquities, i, 586, and in Simon's Dictionnaire De La-Bible, art. "Fetes." (See Jewish Calendar).

Literature. Josephus, Ant. ii-iii, xiii-xvii; War, ii, 3, 1, and many other places; Philo, De Septenario et Festis diebus ( Περὶ Τῆς ῾Εβδόμης , O. vl, . vol. p. 21, edit. Tauch.); the Mishna, Tracts respecting the Festivals, or סדר מועד ); especially the Talmudical tract Chagiga (Mishna, ii, 12), Sive De Trib. Festis Solemn. C. Vers. Et Bartenorae Comment. (edit. Ludovici, Lips. 1696, 1712); also Hottinger, De Trina Comparitione Israel. Coram Domino (Marb. 1707); Otho, Lex Rabb. p. 288; Johnston, De Festis Hebraeor. Et Graecor. (Vratisl. 1660; Jen. 1670); Meyer, De Tempor. Et Festis Dieb. Hebraeor. (Amst. 1724; als in Ugolini Thesaur- i); Credner, Joel, p. 213 sq.; Baur, in the Tubing. Zeitschr. 1832, iii, 125 sq.; George, Die Alte Jud. Feste (Berlin, 1835); Fairbairn, Typology, ii, 403 sq.; Meusel, Biblioth. Histor. I, ii , 168 sq.; Hospimanus, De Fest. Diebus Judaeor. Graecor. Etc. (Zur. 1592); Pfriem, De Festiv. Hebraqeor. (Bamb. 1765); Seligmann, Das Jud. Ceremoniell Bei Festen (Hamburg, 1722); Spencer, De Legibus Hebraeorum Ritualibus Et Earum Rationibus (Cantabrigiae, 1727); Bahr, Symbolik des Mosaischen Cultus (Heidelberg, 18,39), ii, 525 sq.; Ewald, Die Alterthumer des Volkes Israel (Gottingen, 1854), p. 379 sq.; De Feriarum Hebraearum origine ac ratione (Gottingae, 1841); Creuzer, Symbol. ii, 597; Saalschutz, Archiologie der Hebraer (Konigsb. 1855), p. 207 sq.; Herzfeld, Geschichte des Volkes Israel (Nordhausen, 1857), ii, 106 sq.-; Jost, Geschicht.cades Juddenthums (Leipzig, 1857), i, 158 sq.; Raphall, Festivals of the Lord (Lond. 1839); Hupfeld, De festis Heb. ex legibus Mosaicis (Hal. 1865). (See Sacrifice).