Seven Main Jewish Festivals

(Instituted by God)

   Passover (Leviticus 23:5; Exodus 12:1-14)

This was one of the two main festivals of the Jewish year (celebrated at the beginning of the Religious Year). It was a memorial of the night when the LORD delivered His people from the power of the Egyptians and protected the first born from death by the blood of a lamb – a picture of our salvation by the blood of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. (Song of Solomon is read on Passover.)

   Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:6-8; Exodus 12:15-20)

This was a week-long feast connected to the celebration of Passover. During it the people were to eat only unleavened bread, which was a reminder of the speed of God’s deliverance of His people. There was no time to wait for the rising of leavened bread.

   First Fruits/Harvest (Leviticus 23:10-14; Exodus 23:16a)

The Festival of First Fruits was celebrated immediately after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the beginning of the grain harvest. The people were to bring the first of the harvest as an offering to the LORD, causing them to put Him first and to trust in Him for all their needs.

   Weeks/Pentecost (Leviticus 23:15-20; Deut. 16:9-12)

This festival was closely connected with First Fruits, and sometimes considered the same festival. It came at the end of the grain harvest and was a feast of thanksgiving to the LORD for providing for His people. It was the celebration of this feast (in the early New Testament) that brought many people to Jerusalem on the day the Holy Spirit was sent upon the disciples of Jesus (Acts 2). (Ruth is read on Pentecost.)

   Trumpets (Leviticus 23:23-25; Numbers 29:1-6)

This was the ringing in of the Jewish civil year, a time for rededication to the LORD for all His blessings.

   Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23: 26-32; Leviticus 16:1-34)

This was the second of the two main festivals of the Jewish year (celebrated at the beginning of the Civil Year). It was on this day that the nation of Israel sought atonement for its sins, a reminder that mankind is unable to atone for our sins. The High Priest would offer one goat as a sin-offering, and another would be sent into the wilderness, symbolizing how a blood sacrifice would bring pardon for sin.

   Tabernacles/Booths (Leviticus 23: 33-43; Deut. 16:13-17)

This festival was a commemoration of the forty years the people of Israel spent wandering in the wilderness. It was a reminder of their disobedience and God’s love in providing for them through those difficult years. (Ecclesiastes is read on this festival.)

Later Jewish Festivals

(Instituted by Men)

   Purim (Leviticus 23:5; Exodus 12:1-14)

This feast was to commemorate God’s miraculous deliverance of His people from annihilation during the time of the Babylonian captivity. (Esther is read on this day.)

   Hanukkah/Lights (Leviticus 23:6-8; Exodus 12:15-20)

This festival was a celebration of the cleansing of the temple after the desecration by Antiochus Epiphanes. It is not an “Old Testament Festival” since it is not mentioned in the Old Testament (It is only mentioned in John 10:22).

   Tishah Be'av (Leviticus 23:10-14; Exodus 23:16a)

This was a day which was set aside by the Jewish people to mourn the destruction of the temple of Solomon by the Babylonians. (Lamentations is read on this day.)

Note: This study was prepared for the Bible Class at Zion Lutheran Church, Lawrenceville, Georgia by Pastor Nathanael Mayhew.

If you would like more information about this study,
please contact Pastor Mayhew