Pentecost (Shavuot), Purpose & Observance

Pentecost (Shavuot), Purpose & Observance

As this next Spring feast approaches, some of us may be asking the question, "What is Shavout and how can we observe it?" This article will explain all about this feast and how it is typically celebrated.

This feast of Shavuot is named after the word "week", which in Hebrew is shavua.  Something interesting that you may not know is just how many different names there are for this Biblical holiday. If you call it any of these names, people will know that you are speaking about this feast:

  1. Feast of Weeks (Ex. 34:22)
  2. Feast of Harvest (Ex. 23:16)
  3. Latter Firstfruits  (Lev. 23:15)
  4. Pentecost (Greek name change, found in the New Covenant Acts 2:1)

Having a good understanding of the true meaning of this Biblical feast day will grow our faith and give us a deeper understanding and love for our Messiah.  

It is a traditional remembrance of the Giving of the Torah (Law) to Moses on Mt. Sinai.  Although the Giving of the Torah is not specifically connected to Shavuot/Feast of Weeks it is implied that when Israel had reached Mt. Sinai, the Torah was given.

Exodus 19:1
In the third month, on the same day of the month that the Israelites had left the land of Egypt, they came to the Wilderness of Sinai

This feast is one of the major biblical holidays and has more than one significance. There is a historical aspect as well as an agricultural significance along with the traditional view just mentioned.

It has a multilayered
significance along with the feasts of Passover and Tabernacles. The observance of this feast lasts between one or two days depending on which group is observing it.

The agricultural significance of the Feast of Weeks is the end of the barley harvest and begins the harvest of the wheat. When you count the days from the second day of Passover, this is called "Counting the Omer".  (We will go more in depth in our next blog.)

The cutting of the barley is how they mark the beginning of the counting period because at the end of the count is the feast of weeks.

The Harvest feast is considered the closing festival of the whole season of Passover. This is found in Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

Exodus 34: 22
Observe the festival of Shavu‘ot with the first-gathered produce of the wheat harvest, and the festival of ingathering at the turn of the year.

Leviticus 23:15
From the day after the day of rest — that is, from the day you bring the sheaf for waving — you are to count seven full weeks..."

Deut. 16:9-10
You are to count seven weeks; you are to begin counting seven weeks from the time you first put your sickle to the standing grain. You are to observe the festival of Pentecost (Shavu‘ot) [weeks] for Adonai your God with a voluntary offering, which you are to give in accordance with the degree to which Adonai your God has prospered you.

Additionally, as we mentioned before, this day is known as the "latter first fruits". Historically, the "early first fruits" of barley was waved before the Lord while it was the the Feast of Firstfruits and the "latter firstfruits" which was the wheat were then offered to the Lord when it was the Feast of Weeks.

Another name for this feast is known as the "Day of Congregation" and this can be found in Deut. 18:16.

An interesting fact about this feast is that it is the only feast where the actual date of the feast is not named in the Bible because we are expected to count the seven weeks.
It's explained here in Lev. 23:15:  From the day after the day of rest — that is, from the day you bring the sheaf for waving — you are to count seven full weeks...

The holiday often occurs during the months of May or June on the Western calendars.

The celebration is again, two-fold; thanking the Creator for the successful wheat growing season and it also happens to
be traditionally known as the anniversary of the giving of the Torah on the Mountain Sinai.

Passover is to celebrate the freedom we have, first for the physical descendants of those in bondage and secondly for those of us that have been spiritually freed from the bondage of sin and all that encompasses that yoke.

The giving of the Torah on (Pentecost) Shavuot is also the reminder of that spiritual redemption.

During the time of the second Temple, they would gather in their respective home towns and they would sleep in the town street. The reason they did this was to prevent being exposed to impurities in the home because this was one of the three times during the year when all young men were to present themselves before the Lord.

In the morning, the overseer of the Feast would then walk through the streets and tell everyone to wake up. "Let's go to the House of Zion, to the House of Adonai our Elohim", they would announce.

There are several songs of ascent in Psalms to be sung when they ascended to the Holy mountain.

Once there, they would present and wave two loaves of bread with leaven. The bread, seven male lambs, a young bull, and two rams were brought as burnt offerings. The sin offering was a male goat.

In addition, those that were in Jerusalem would join all of the others in the procession (which is similar to what we will all be doing in the millennial reign) and they would bring all sorts of the best of their first fruits.

This would include dates, pomegranates, grapes, figs and raisins. They only gave the very best that they had. They also tied a scarlet thread to mark them as offering. The scarlet color is a type and shadow of what our Messiah would pass though on behalf of us all.

The waving of the bread was thanksgiving for the bread that comes forth from the earth to nourish our bodies.

The link between Passover and Pentecost (Shavuot) is the counting of the days of the Omer. Since this feast is only one day, many people believe the purpose was so that people could get back to their harvest.

This can still hold significance to us today.
No matter how busy our lives can get, time should always be taken to thank our Heavenly Father for all that He provides for us. This feast of Harvest is also a beautiful reminder of this.

Now let's go over how this feast is celebrated today. This feast is not with all of the fanfare of other holidays and perhaps it shouldn't be. Our gratitude for all that He does for us in giving our daily bread should come from within. It should radiate from our hearts. 

One of the main customs is to stay up all night and study the Bible. This is usually done from dusk to dawn. They read the 10 Commandments and the book of Ruth. During the night, they study and pray to anticipate the coming dawn of the Revelation of the Torah. Another custom is to decorate their homes and places of worship with flowers and greenery.

Two loaves of bread made from wheat that are named the "Shtei HaLechem" are served. They will often wear colorful costumes, liturgical poems are recited, folk dancing, and special foods like dairy are eaten.

Strangers and guests are invited to celebrate, "You are to rejoice in the presence of Adonai your God — you, your sons and daughters, your male and female slaves, the Levite living in your towns, and the foreigners, orphans and widows living among you — in the place where Adonai your God will choose to have his name live." (Deut. 16:11)

Let's all take the time to consider how our Father gives us everything including all of our wonderful food He created for us.

Whether you are new to this beautiful holiday or not, we hope you truly enjoy this celebration and take the time to reflect on the significance of this day.  

Please check out some items we have thoughtfully chosen to help you commemorate this holiday. You can view them here:


Happy Shavuot from your friends at Holyland Marketplace! 

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