Holman Bible Dictionary 
The Sabbath See Leviticus 23:1-3 ). It functioned as a reminder of the Lord's rest at the end of the creation week ( Genesis 2:3 ) and also of the deliverance from slavery in Egypt ( Deuteronomy 5:12-25 ). The sabbath day was observed by strict rest from work from sunset until sunset ( Exodus 20:8-11; Nehemiah 13:15-22 ). Each person was to remain in place and not engage in travel ( Exodus 16:29; Leviticus 23:3 ). Despite such restrictions even as kindling a fire ( Exodus 35:3 ) or any work ( Exodus 31:14; Exodus 35:2 ), the sabbath was a joyful time ( Isaiah 58:13-14 ).
The New Moon This festival was a monthly celebration characterized by special offerings, great in quantity and quality ( Numbers 28:11-15 ), and blowing of trumpets ( Numbers 10:10; Psalm 81:3 ). According to Amos 8:5 , business ceased. The festivals of the new moon and sabbath are often mentioned together in the Old Testament ( Isaiah 1:13; Isaiah 66:23; Ezekiel 45:17; Ezekiel 46:1 ,Ezekiel 46:1, 46:3 ). This festival provided the occasion for King Saul to stage a state banquet and for the family of David to offer a special annual sacrifice (1Samuel 20:5-6,1Samuel 20:24, 1 Samuel 20:29 ). David's arrangements for the Levites included service on the new moon ( 1 Chronicles 23:31 ), and the ministry of the prophets was sometimes connected with this occasion ( 2 Kings 4:23; Isaiah 1:13; Ezekiel 46:1; Haggai 1:1 ). Ezekiel mentioned four times receiving a vision on the first day of the month ( Ezekiel 26:1; Ezekiel 29:17; Ezekiel 31:1; Ezekiel 32:1 ). This day (along with others) is included in prophetic denunciations of abuses of religious observances ( Isaiah 1:13-14 ). The new moon of the seventh month apparently received special attention ( Leviticus 23:24; Numbers 29:1-6; Ezra 3:6; Nehemiah 8:2 ). Although the Exile brought a temporary cessation ( Hosea 2:11 ), the festival was resumed later ( Nehemiah 10:33; Ezra 3:1-6 ). It was on the first day of the seventh month that Ezra read the law before the public assembly ( Nehemiah 7-8:2 ). For Paul, new moon festivals were viewed as only a shadow of better things to come ( Colossians 2:16-17; compare Isaiah 66:23 ).
Annual Festivals required the appearance of all males at the sanctuary ( Exodus 34:23; Deuteronomy 16:16 ). These occasions—called “feasts to the Lord,” ( Exodus 12:14; Leviticus 23:39 ,Leviticus 23:39, 23:41 )—were times when free-will offerings were made ( Deuteronomy 16:16-17 ).
Passover The first of the three annual festivals was the Passover. It commemorated the final plague on Egypt when the firstborn of the Egyptians died and the Israelites were spared because of the blood smeared on their doorposts ( Exodus 12:11 ,Exodus 12:11, 12:21 ,Exodus 12:21, 12:27 ,Exodus 12:27, 12:43 ,Exodus 12:43, 12:48 ). Passover took place on the fourteenth day (at evening) of the first month ( Leviticus 23:5 ). The animal (lamb or kid) to be slain was selected on the tenth day of the month ( Exodus 12:3 ) and slaughtered on the fourteenth day and then eaten ( Deuteronomy 16:7 ). None of the animal was to be left over on the following morning ( Exodus 34:25 ). The uncircumcised and the hired servant were not permitted to eat the sacrifice ( Exodus 12:45-49 ).
The Passover was also called the feast of unleavened bread ( Exodus 23:15; Deuteronomy 16:16 ) because only unleavened bread was eaten during the seven days immediately following Passover ( Exodus 12:15-20; Exodus 13:6-8; Deuteronomy 16:3-8 ). Unleavened bread reflected the fact that the people had no time to put leaven in their bread before their hasty departure from Egypt. It was also apparently connected to the barley harvest ( Leviticus 23:4-14 ). Later references in the Bible to the observance of the Passover are found in Joshua 5:10-12 (the plains of Jericho near Gilgal), 2Chronicles 30:1,2Chronicles 30:3,2Chronicles 30:13, 2 Chronicles 30:15 (during the reign of Hezekiah); and 2 Kings 23:21-23 (Josiah's unique Passover).
During New Testament times large crowds gathered in Jerusalem to observe this annual celebration. Jesus was crucified during the Passover event. He and His disciples ate a Passover meal together on the eve of His death. During this meal Jesus said, “This is my body,” and “this cup is the new testament in my blood” ( Luke 22:7 , Luke 22:19-20 ). The New Testament identifies Christ with the Passover sacrifice: “For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” ( 1 Corinthians 5:7 ). See Passover
Feast of Weeks The second of the three annual festivals was Pentecost, also called the feast of weeks ( Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16:10 ,Deuteronomy 16:10, 16:16; 2 Chronicles 8:13 ), the feast of harvest ( Exodus 23:16 ), and the day of firstfruits ( Numbers 28:26; compare Exodus 23:16; Exodus 34:22; Leviticus 23:17 ). It was celebrated seven complete weeks, or fifty days, after Passover ( Leviticus 23:15-16; Deuteronomy 16:9 ); therefore, it was given the name Pentecost.
Essentially a harvest celebration, the term “weeks” was used of the period of grain harvest from the barley harvest to the wheat harvest, a period of about seven weeks. At this time, the Lord was credited as the source of rain and fertility ( Jeremiah 5:24 ). It was called “day of firstfruits” ( Numbers 28:26 ) because it marked the beginning of the time in which people were to bring offerings of firstfruits. It was celebrated as a sabbath with rest from ordinary labors and the calling of a holy convocation ( Leviticus 23:21; Numbers 28:26 ). It was a feast of joy and thanksgiving for the completion of the harvest season. The able-bodied men were to be present at the sanctuary, and a special sacrifice was offered ( Leviticus 23:15-22; Numbers 28:26-31 ). According to Leviticus 23:10-11 ,Leviticus 23:10-11, 23:16-17 , two large loaves were waved before the Lord by the anointed priests. These were made of fine flour from the new wheat and baked with leaven. They were a “wave offering” for the people. They could not be eaten until after this ceremony ( Leviticus 23:14; Joshua 5:10-11 ), and none of this bread was placed on the altar because of the leaven content. Also two lambs were offered. The feast was concluded by the eating of communal meals to which the poor, the stranger, and the Levites were invited.
Later tradition associated the feast of weeks with the giving of the law at Sinai. It had been concluded by some that Exodus 19:1 indicated the law was delivered on the fiftieth day after the Exodus. Some thought that Deuteronomy 16:12 may have connected the Sinai event and the festival, but Scripture does not indicate any definite link between Sinai and Pentecost. In the New Testament the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples at Pentecost ( Acts 2:1-4 ), at the festive time when Jews from different countries were in Jerusalem to celebrate this annual feast. See Pentecost .
The Day of Atonement The third annual festival came on the tenth day of the seventh month (Tishri-Sept./Oct.) and the fifth day before the feast of tabernacles ( Leviticus 16:1-34; Numbers 29:7-11 ). According to Leviticus 23:27-28 , four main elements comprise this most significant feast. First, it was to be a “holy convocation,” drawing the focus of the people to the altar of divine mercy. The holy One of Israel called the people of Israel to gather in His presence and give their undivided attention to Him. Secondly, they were to “humble their souls” (“afflict your souls,” Leviticus 23:27 KJV). This was explained by later tradition to indicate fasting and repentance. Israel understood that this was a day for mourning over their sins. The seriousness of this requirement is reiterated in Leviticus 23:29 , “If there is any person who will not humble himself on this same day, he shall be cut off from his people” ( Leviticus 23:29 NAS). Thirdly, offerings are central to the day of atonement. The Bible devotes an entire chapter ( Leviticus 16:1 ) to them; they are also listed in Numbers 29:7-11 . In addition to these, when the day fell on a sabbath, the regular sabbath offerings were offered. The fourth and final element of the day involved the prohibition of labor. The day of atonement was a “sabbath of rest” ( Leviticus 23:32 ), and the Israelites were forbidden to do any work at all. If they disobeyed, they were liable to capital punishment ( Leviticus 23:30 ).
The center point of this feast involved the high priest entering the holy of holies. Before entering, the high priest first bathed his entire body, going beyond the mere washing of hands and feet as required for other occasions. This washing symbolized his desire for purification. Rather than donning his usual robe and colorful garments (described in Exodus 28:1 and Leviticus 8:1 ), he was commanded to wear special garments of linen. Also, the high priest sacrificed a bullock as a sin offering for himself and for his house ( Leviticus 16:6 ). After filling his censer with live coals from the altar, he entered the holy of holies where he placed incense on the coals. Then he took some of the blood from the slain bullock and sprinkled it on the mercy seat (“atonement cover,” Leviticus 16:13 NIV) and also on the ground in front of the ark, providing atonement for the priesthood ( Leviticus 16:14-15 ). Next he sacrificed a male goat as a sin offering for the people. Some of this blood was then also taken into the holy of holies and sprinkled there on behalf of the people ( Leviticus 16:11-15 ). Then he took another goat, called the “scapegoat” (for “escape goat”), laid his hands on its head, confessed over it the sins of Israel, and then released it into the desert where it symbolically carried away the sins of the people ( Leviticus 16:8 ,Leviticus 16:8, 16:10 ). The remains of the sacrificial bullock and male goat were taken outside the city and burned, and the day was concluded with additional sacrifices.
According to Hebrews 9-10 , this ritual is a symbol of the atoning work of Christ, our great high Priest, who did not need to make any sacrifice for Himself but shed His own blood for our sins. As the high priest of the Old Testament entered the holy of holies with the blood of sacrificial animals, Jesus entered heaven itself to appear on our behalf in front of the Father ( Hebrews 9:11-12 ). Each year the high priest repeated his sin offerings for his own sin and the sins of the people, giving an annual reminder that perfect and permanent atonement had not yet been made; but Jesus, through His own blood, accomplished eternal redemption for His people ( Hebrews 9:12 ). Just as the sacrifice of the day of atonement was burned outside the camp of Israel, Jesus suffered outside the gate of Jerusalem so that He might redeem His people from sin ( Hebrews 13:11-12 ). The modern Jewish day of atonement (Yom Kippur) is devoid of blood sacrifice but does include a ten-day period (called “days of awe”) of penitence, prayer, and fasting in preparation for the most solemn day on the Jewish religious calendar. The feast of Rosh Hashanah (the head of the year) initiates this ten-day period.
Feast of Tabernacles The fourth annual festival was the feast of tabernacles ( 2 Chronicles 8:13; Ezra 3:4; Zechariah 14:16 ), also called the feast of ingathering ( Exodus 23:16; Exodus 34:22 ), the feast to the Lord ( Leviticus 23:39; Judges 21:19 ). Sometimes it was simply called “the feast” ( 1 Kings 8:2; 2 Chronicles 5:3; 2 Chronicles 7:8; Nehemiah 8:14; Isaiah 30:29; Ezekiel 45:23 ,Ezekiel 45:23, 45:25 ) because it was so well known. Its observance combined the ingathering of the labor of the field ( Exodus 23:16 ), the fruit of the earth ( Leviticus 23:39 ), the ingathering of the threshing floor and winepress ( Deuteronomy 16:13 ), and the dwelling in booths (or “tabernacles”), which were to be joyful reminders to Israel ( Leviticus 23:41; Deuteronomy 16:14 ). The “booth” in Scripture is not an image of privation and misery, but of protection, preservation, and shelter from heat and storm ( Psalm 27:5; Psalm 31:20; Isaiah 4:6 ). The rejoicing community included family, servants, widows, orphans, Levites, and sojourners ( Deuteronomy 16:13-15 ).
The feast began on the fifteenth day of Tishri (the seventh month), which was five days after the day of atonement. It lasted for seven days ( Leviticus 23:36; Deuteronomy 16:13; Ezekiel 45:25 ). On the first day, booths were constructed of fresh branches of trees. Each participant had to collect twigs of myrtle, willow, and palm in the area of Jerusalem for construction of the booths ( Nehemiah 8:13-18 ). Every Israelite was to live for seven days in these during the festival, in commemoration of when their fathers lived in such booths after their Exodus from Egypt ( Leviticus 23:40; Nehemiah 8:15 ). The dedication of Solomon's Temple took place at the feast ( 1 Kings 8:2 ).
After the return from Exile, Ezra read the law and led the people in acts of penitence during this feast ( Nehemiah 8:13-18 ). Later, Josephus referred to it as the holiest and greatest of the Hebrew feasts. Later additions to the ritual included a libation of water drawn from the pool of Siloam (the probable background for Jesus' comments on “living water,” John 7:37-39 ) and the lighting of huge Menorahs (candelabra) at the Court of the Women (the probable background for Jesus' statement, “I am the light of the world,” John 8:12 ). The water and the “pillar of light” provided during the wilderness wandering (when the people dwelt in tabernacles) was temporary and in contrast to the continuing water and light claimed by Jesus during this feast which commemorated that wandering period.
The eschatological visions which speak of the coming of all nations to worship at Jerusalem refer to the feast of booths on the occasion of their pilgrimage ( Zechariah 14:16-21 ).
Feast of Trumpets Modern Rosh Hashanah is traced back to the so-called “Feast of Trumpets,” the sounding of the trumpets on the first day of the seventh month (Tishri) of the religious calendar year ( Leviticus 23:24; Numbers 29:1 ). The trumpet referred to here was the shofar , a ram's horn. It was distinctive from the silver trumpets blown on the other new moons. Silver trumpets were sounded at the daily burnt offering and at the beginning of each new month ( Numbers 10:10 ), but the shofar specifically was blown on the beginning of the month Tishri. (Probably the silver trumpets were also blown since it was also the new moon.)
This day evolved into the second most holy day on the modern Jewish religious calendar. It begins the “ten days of awe” before the day of atonement. According to Leviticus 23:24-27 the celebration consisted of the blowing of trumpets, a time of rest, and “an offering made by fire.” The text itself says nothing specifically about a New Year's Day, and the term itself ( rosh hashanah ) is found only one time in Scripture ( Ezekiel 40:1 ) where it refers to the tenth day. The postexilic assembly on the first day of the seventh month, when Ezra read the law, was not referred to as a feast day ( Nehemiah 8:2-3 ). The fact that the Old Testament contains two calendars—a civil and a religious one—further complicates our understanding of the origins of this holiday. Until modern times this day did not appear to be a major feast day. See New Year Festival.
Two feasts of postexilic origin are noted in Scripture—Purim and Hanukkah.
Purim Purim commemorating the deliverance of the Jews from genocide through the efforts of Esther ( Esther 9:16-32 ) derives its name from the “lot” (pur) which Haman planned to cast in order to decide when he should carry into effect the decree issued by the king for the extermination of the Jews ( Esther 9:24 ). In the apocryphal book of 2Maccabees ( 2 Maccabees 15:36 ) it is called the day of Mordecai. It was celebrated on the fourteenth day of Adar (March) by those in villages and unwalled towns and on the fifteenth day by those in fortified cities ( Esther 9:18-19 ). No mention of any religious observance is connected with the day; in later periods, the Book of Esther was read in the synagogue on this day. It became a time for rejoicing and distribution of food and presents.
Hanukkah The other postexilic holiday was Hanukkah , a festival which began on the twenty-fifth day of Kislev (Dec.) and lasted eight days. Josephus referred to it as the Feast of Lights because a candle was lighted each successive day until a total of eight was reached. The festival commemorates the victories of Judas Maccabeus in 167 B.C. At that time, when Temple worship was reinstituted, after an interruption of three years, a celebration of eight days took place. The modern celebration does not greatly affect the routine duties of everyday life. This feast is referred to in John 10:22 , where it is called the feast of dedication.
Two festivals occurred less often than once a year; the sabbath year and the year of jubilee.
Sabbatic year Each seventh year Israel celebrated a sabbath year for its fields. This involved a rest for the land from all cultivation ( Exodus 23:10-11; Leviticus 25:2-7; Deuteronomy 15:1-11; Deuteronomy 31:10-13 ). Other names for this festival were sabbath of rest ( Leviticus 25:4 ), year of rest ( Leviticus 25:5 ), year of release ( Deuteronomy 15:9 ), and the seventh year ( Deuteronomy 15:9 ). The sabbatic year, like the year of jubilee, began on the first day of the month Tishri. This observance is attested by 1 Maccabees 6:49 , 1 Maccabees 6:53 and Josephus. Laws governing this year of rest included the following: 1) the soil, vineyards, and olive orchards were to enjoy complete rest ( Exodus 23:10 ,Exodus 23:10, 23:11 : Leviticus 25:4-5 ); 2 ) The spontaneous growth of the fields or trees ( Isaiah 37:30 ) was for the free use of the hireling, stranger, servants, and cattle ( Exodus 23:10-11; Leviticus 25:6-7 ). A fruitful harvest was promised for the sixth year ( Leviticus 25:20-22 ). 3 ) Debts were released for all persons, with the exception of foreigners ( Deuteronomy 15:1-4 ). Probably this law did not forbid voluntary payment of debts. Also no one was to oppress a poor man.4) Finally, at the feast of tabernacles during this year, the law was to be read to the people in solemn assembly ( Deuteronomy 31:10-13 ).
Jewish tradition interpreted 2 Chronicles 36:21 to mean that the seventy years' captivity was intended to make up for not observing sabbatic years. After the captivity this sabbatic year was carefully observed.
Year of Jubilee This was also called the year of liberty ( Ezekiel 46:17 ). Its relation to the sabbatic year and the general directions for its observance are found in Leviticus 25:8-16 ,Leviticus 25:8-16, 25:23-55 . Its bearing on lands dedicated to the Lord is given in Leviticus 27:16-25 .
After the span of seven sabbaths of years, or seven times seven years (49 years), the trumpet was to sound throughout the land; and the year of jubilee was to be announced ( Leviticus 25:8-9 ). Although Scripture does not record any instance of the public celebration of this year, Hebrew tradition refers to it.
The law states three respects in which the jubilee year was to be observed: 1) rest for the soil—no sowing, reaping, or gathering from the vine ( Leviticus 25:11 ); 2 ) reversion of landed property ( Leviticus 25:10-34; Leviticus 27:16-24 )—all property in fields and houses located in villages or unwalled towns, which the owner had been forced to sell through poverty and which had not been redeemed, was to revert without payment to its original owner or his lawful heirs. (Exceptions to this are noted in Leviticus 25:29-30; Leviticus 27:17-21 .) 3 ) redemption of slaves—every Israelite, who through poverty had sold himself to another Israelite or to a foreigner settled in the land, if he had not been able to redeem himself or had not been redeemed by a kinsman, was to go free with his children ( Leviticus 25:39-41 ).
It appears that the year of jubilee was a time of such complete remission of all debts that it became a season of celebration of freedom and grace. In this year oppression was to cease, and every member of the covenant family was to find joy and satisfaction in the Lord of the covenant. God had redeemed His people from bondage in Egypt ( Leviticus 25:42 ), and none of them was again to be reduced to the status of a perennial slave. God's child was not to be oppressed ( Leviticus 25:43 ,Leviticus 25:43, 25:46 ); and poverty could not, even at its worst, reduce an Israelite to a status less than that of a hired servant, a wage earner, and then only until the year of jubilee ( Leviticus 25:40 ).
After the institution of the year of jubilee laws ( Leviticus 25:8-34 ), the year is mentioned again in Numbers 36:4 . No reference to the celebration of this festival is found in Scripture apart from the idealistic anticipation of Ezekiel 46:17 , but the influence of such laws illuminate such passages as the conduct of Naboth and Ahab in 1 Kings 21:3-29; and the prophetic rebukes found in Isaiah 5:8 and Micah 2:2 .
Smith's Bible Dictionary 
Festivals. I. The religious times ordained in the law fall under three heads:
i. Those formally connected with the institution of the Sabbath ;
ii. This historical or great festivals;
iii. The Day of Atonement .
1. Immediately connected with the institution of the Sabbath are -
a. The weekly Sabbath itself.
b. The seventh new moon, or Feast of Trumpets .
c. The Sabbatical Year .
d. The Year of Jubilee .
2. The great feasts are -
a. The Passover .
b. The Feast of Pentecost , the Feast of Weeks , the Feast of Wheat-Harvest or the Feast of the First-Fruits .
c. The Feast of Tabernacles or the Feast of Ingathering .
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. The attendance of women was voluntary, but the zealous often went up to the Passover . 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 agricultural significance of the three great festivals is clearly set forth in the account of the Jewish sacred year contained in Leviticus 23:1. 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 value of these great religious festivals was threefold.
(1) Religious Effects. - They preserved the religious faith of the nation and religious unity among the people. They constantly reminded the people of the divinely-wrought deliverances of the past; promoted gratitude and trust; and testified the reverence of the people for the Temple and its sacred contents. Besides this was the influence of well-conducted Temple services upon the synagogues through the land.
(2) Political Effects. - The unity of the nation would be insured by this fusion of the tribes; otherwise, they would be likely to constitute separate tribal states. They would carry back to the provinces glowing accounts of the wealth, power and resources of the country.
(3) Social Effects. - They promoted friendly intercourse between travelling companions; distributed information through the country at a time when the transmission of news was slow and imperfect; and imported into remote provincial districts a practical knowledge of all improvements in arts and sciences.
3. For the Day of Atonement , see that article.
II. After the captivity, the Feast of Purim , Esther 9:20, seq., and the Feast of the Dedication , 1 Maccabees 4:56, were instituted.
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary 
See Feasts .
Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature 
The Hebrew festivals were occasions of public religious observances, recurring at certain set and somewhat distant intervals. In general they may be divided into two kinds:—1. Those of divine institution; 2. Those of human origin. Those which owe their existence to the authority of God are, the seventh day of the week, or the Sabbath; the Passover; Pentecost; the Feast of Trumpets; the Day of Atonement; the Feast of Tabernacles; the New Moon. Festivals which arose under purely human influences are, the Feast of Lots or Purim; the death of Holofernes; the Dedication; the Sacred Fire; the death of Nicanor.
Reserving details for separate articles on such of these as shall seem to require and justify a distinct treatment, we confine ourselves here to a general outline, with some remarks on the origin and tendency of the chief festivals.
We have inserted the Sabbath for the sake of completeness, and, with the same view, we proceed to set down a few brief particulars respecting the daily service, so that we may at once present a general outline of the temple worship.
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 (;;;;;; ).
Labor was to last not longer than six days. The seventh was a Sabbath, a day of rest, of holy convocation, on which no one, not even strangers or cattle, was allowed to do any servile work. The offender was liable to stoning.
On the Sabbath 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 (;;;;;;;;;;; ).
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 a hin of wine for a heifer, one-third of a hin for the ram, and one-fourth of a hin for every lamb. One kid of the goats was also to be offered as a sin-offering.
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 (;; ).
Three times in the year—at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, in the month Abib; at the Feast of Harvest, or of Weeks; and at the Feast of Ingathering, or of Tabernacles—all the males were to appear before Jehovah, at the place which he should choose. None were to come empty-handed, but everyone was to give according as Jehovah had blessed him; and there before Jehovah was everyone to rejoice with his family, the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow (;; ).
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 also connected with it will be detailed under the head Passover. 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 . From this time, accordingly, the year began in the month Abib, or Nisan (March—April), while the civil year continued to be reckoned from Tishri (September—October) (;;;;;; ). The Passover lasted one week, including two Sabbaths. The first day and the last were holy, that is, devoted to the observances in the public temple, and to rest from all labor .
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 corn, nor full ripe ears of the harvest, could be eaten (;;;; ).
The Feast of Pentecost or of Weeks was kept to Jehovah at the end of seven weeks from the 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. It is said to have been designed to commemorate the giving of the law on Mount Sinai .
The Feast of In-gathering 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 (;;;;; ).
The Feast of Tabernacles was appointed partly to be an occasion of annual thanksgiving after the in-gathering of the harvest (;; ), and partly to remind the Israelites that their fathers had lived in tents in the wilderness . This feast took place in the end of the year, September or October.
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 [ATONEMENT] (;;;; ).
Brown, in his Antiquities (vol. 1, p. 520), remarks that the time of the year in which the three great festivals were observed was during the dry season of Judea. The latter rains fell before the Passover, the former rains after the Feast of Tabernacles; so that the country was in the best state for traveling at the time of these festivals.
On these solemn occasions food came partly from hospitality (a splendid instance of which may be found in ), partly from the feasts which accompanied the sacrifices in the temple, and partly also from provision expressly made by the travelers themselves. Lodging too, was afforded by friends, or found in tents erected for the purpose in and around Jerusalem.
The three great festivals have corresponding events (but of far greater importance) in the new dispensation. The Feast of Tabernacles was the time when our Savior was born; he was crucified at the Passover; while at Pentecost the effusion of the Holy Spirit took place.
The rest and recreation enjoyed during these festivals 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.
How much, too, would these gatherings tend to foster and sustain a spirit of nationality! By intercourse the feelings of tribe and clan would be worn away; men from different parts became acquainted with and attached to each other; partial interests were found to be more imaginary than real; while the predominant idea of a common faith and a common rallying-place at Jerusalem could not fail to fuse into one strong and overpowering emotion of national and brotherly love, all the higher, nay, even the lower feelings, of each Hebrew heart.
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 Muhammadans similar festivals have had this effect.
These festivals, in their origin, had an obvious connection with agriculture. Passover saw the harvest upon the soil; at Pentecost it was ripe; and Tabernacles was the festival of gratitude for the fruitage and vintage (Michaelis, art. 197). The first was a natural pause after the labors of the field were completed; the second, after the first-fruits were gathered; and the third, a time of rejoicing in the feeling that the Divine bounty had crowned the year with its goodness. Spring, summer, and autumn, which have moved all nations of men with peculiar and characteristic emotions, had each its natural language and symbols in the great Israelitish festivals, a regard to which may well be supposed to have had an influence in the mind of the legislator, as well as in the consuetudinary practices of the people.
The Feast 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 (;; ). 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. The fast is called the Fast of Esther, and the feast still holds the name of Purim.
The new dedication took place on the 25th day of the ninth month, called Chisleu, 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 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.'
The festival 'of the Fire' was instituted by Nehemiah to commemorate the miraculous rekindling of the altar-fire. The circumstances are narrated in .
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'—February or March .