Joshua 11-12: Firstfruits

Joshua 11

2. Conquests in Northern Canaan

1When Jabin, king of Hazor, heard of this, he(A) sent to Jobab king of Madon, and to the king of Shimron, and to the king of Achshaph, 2and to the kings who were in the northern hill country, and in the(B) Arabah south of(C) Chinneroth, and in the lowland, and(D) in Naphoth-dor on the(E) west, 3to the Canaanites in the east and the west, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, and the(F) Jebusites in the hill country, and the(G) Hivites under(H) Hermon in the land of(I) Mizpah. 4And they came out with all their troops, a great horde, in number(J) like the sand that is on the seashore, with very many horses and chariots. 5And all these kings joined their forces and came and encamped together at the waters of Merom to fight against Israel.

6And the LORD said to Joshua,(K) “Do not be afraid of them, for tomorrow at this time I will give over all of them, slain, to Israel. You shall(L) hamstring their horses and burn their(M) chariots with fire.” 7So Joshua and all his warriors came(N) suddenly against them by the waters of Merom and fell upon them. 8And the LORD gave them into the hand of Israel, who struck them and chased them as far as(O) Great Sidon and(P) Misrephoth-maim, and eastward as far as the Valley of(Q) Mizpeh. And they struck them until he left none remaining. 9And Joshua did to them(R) just as the LORD said to him: he hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots with fire.

The string of victories which the previous chapter listed is already enough a firstfruit which Israel has tasted. The names of these kings are ironic – Jabin who is intelligent, one whom God observes; king of Hazor, a city called a ‘castle’ – a fortress against all opposition. The king of Shimron, a city of high heights, of ‘guardianship’; the king of Achshaph, a city of ‘fascination’; Naphoth-dor on the west, “uplifting of the dwelling” – these are but a few of the names which these kings are named; which these cities are known as. Yet this is all empty, pure arrogance. Like the wailing of Isaiah 16:7, these wonderful nations shall wail and mourn for themselves as their human richness is utterly destroyed and revealed for what they really are, compared to the true richness stemming from the Trinity through Israel. These empty names are like the tragedy of the Tower of Babylon in Genesis 11 as those nations sought a ‘name’ for themselves, when they could have called upon the name of the LORD.

V.4 in particular describes in detail how they were a great horde like the sand on the seashore, with very many horses and chariots, joining forces at waters of Merom, a high place, to fight. Eve here the narrator’s irony does not cease – because throughout Scripture, if there is any ‘council’ worth mentioning, it would be the council of saints and sons of God (Job 15:8; Psalm 82:1; 89:7; Jer 23:18; 23:22; 52:25; Ezekiel 13:9; all the angels surrounding Elijah – 2 Kings 6:17). Although Israel is one nation, unlike the ‘great horde like the sand on the seashore’, there is no doubt that the invisible council of the LORD is far greater than even the uncountable sand. Our reliance is not on physical might, but the headship of God. Glen Scrivener comments on this particular aspect of headship in relation to Israel within the relationship between man and wife:

“OT headship has deep military significance.  e.g. “The LORD thunders at the head of His army.” (Joel 2:11)  Our battles are with spiritual powers through prayer.  (Eph 6:10-20).  Therefore headship is being prayer warrior for your wife.  To see a ‘head’ at their most manly is to see him on his knees.”

When we saw Christ crucified, he was the man on his knees; when we saw Christ in the garden of Gethsemane, we saw the man on his knees – and this is a huge contrast to Adam in the garden of Eden, who rose up valiantly against God through taking the fruit from the tree of good and evil, standing tall and was ‘like God’ able to judge good and evil. The symbol of Christian strength therefore is not countable by worldly powers, but is other-worldly where He is made strong when we are made weak and meek. The LORD is the only shepherd of the Israelites (Psalm 23:1).

That is why in v.6 we see the promise which He makes – “You shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire”, a phraseology not unlike the commandments in Exodus which all begin with “you shall”. As eschatological as these commandments are, in indicating what we shall be doing in New Creation, it is an indication that the LORD is paving the path for the Israelites so that to hamstring the enemies’ horses and burn their chariots with fire is not a possibility, but almost a triumphant inevitability. The Hebrew word for ‘hamstring’ (עקר akar) can also mean to pluck up or to root up; and this is very important given the context of v.6 talks about the enemy given to Israel as already slain. Therefore, this verse in entirety is displaying the enemies being rendered as utterly useless, to the point where neither horse nor chariot should be of any use to Israel. This in itself is also a duty of humility which the Israelites need to practice (Deuteronomy 17:16), to not own or displace everything which the enemies had possessed – especially these horses which have been used purely for war and are unclean like David’s hands which are unsuitable for the creation of His temple; ironically also unlike the great Solomon who had horded up plenty of horses against His will.

Then in v.7 we see Joshua come against them by the waters of the same high place Merom and fell upon them. LORD gave them into the hand of Israel, who struck them and chased them as far as Great Sidon (“fishering/hunting”) and Misrephoth-maim (“burnings of water”); eastward as far as the Valley of Mizpeh (“watchtower”), the name of each location complementing context of the situation of Joshua hunting the enemies of Israel by the waters where only two verses ago they had encamped to fight Israel. In this situation where the tables have fully reversed on these Canaanites, we see Joshua fulfilling exactly what the LORD had promised (between v.7-9). It is in this joint act of Joshua’s obedience and the LORD’s promise that we see His glory displayed fully; yet even Joshua could have chosen not to hamstring the horses and burn the chariots, such simple commands which the Israelites tend more than often to compromise. Why oh why will Israel die (Ezekiel 18:31) by succumbing themselves to these worldly pleasures more often than Yeshua’s obedience which typifies that of Christ?

10And Joshua turned back at that time and captured(S) Hazor and struck its king with the sword, for Hazor formerly was the head of all those kingdoms. 11And they struck with the sword all who were in it, devoting them to destruction;[a](T) there was none left that breathed. And he burned Hazor with fire. 12And all the cities of those kings, and all their kings, Joshua captured, and struck them with the edge of the sword, devoting them to destruction,(U) just as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded. 13But none of the cities that stood on mounds did Israel burn, except Hazor alone; that Joshua burned. 14And all the spoil of these cities and the livestock, the people of Israel took for their plunder. But every man they struck with the edge of the sword until they had destroyed them, and they did not leave any who breathed. 15(V) Just as the LORD had commanded Moses his servant,(W) so Moses commanded Joshua,(X) and so Joshua did. He left nothing undone of all that the LORD had commanded Moses.

We then move on to v.10 where Jabin, the king of intelligence who was looked on by God, the king of Hazor, who was the head of all those kingdoms is finally slain by Joshua. Nothing stopped Israel. Their debacle at Ai (Joshua 7) was thankfully early on; by His providence, they experienced such discipline prior to the important battle against Jabin. Thus, only Hazor is burned, to symbolically show that if the head of all these kingdoms has lost and his proud nation burned, then all other enemies will fall. To see Satan fall like lightning (Luke 10:18) is but a foretaste of the fall of all enemies especially on the Day of Resurrection. Unlike the horses and the chariots, the spoil of these cities and the livestock are lifeless and untainted by the blood of war (v.12, 14, 15) and thus Israel, like in every other victory so far, could take their plunder while Yeshua took the breath away from Israel’s enemies. This duty resembling Christ who shall take the Spirit away from all men (not the indwelling Spirit, but the Spirit who keeps a man physically ‘alive’ just as everything in the universe is held-together through Christ – c.f. Genesis 6:3; Psalm 3:5; Colossians 1) when only the believers shall be living forever for we are no longer mortal, but the breath of life shall not dwell forever in Israel’s enemies.

Joshua 10:40-42

Joshua 11:16-20

40So Joshua struck the whole land, the hill country and the Negeb and the lowland(FH) and the slopes, and all their kings. He left none remaining,(FI) but devoted to destruction all that breathed, just as the LORD God of Israel commanded. 41And Joshua struck them from(FJ) Kadesh-barnea as far as Gaza, and all the country of(FK) Goshen, as far as Gibeon. 42And Joshua captured all these kings and their land at one time,(FL) because the LORD God of Israel fought for Israel. 43(FM) Then Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to the camp at Gilgal. (compare this Joshua 10:40-42 with Joshua 11:16-20)

16So Joshua took all that land,(Y) the hill country and all the Negeb and(Z) all the land of Goshen(AA) and the lowland(AB) and the Arabah and the hill country of Israel and its lowland 17(AC) from Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir, as far as(AD) Baal-gad in the Valley of Lebanon below(AE) Mount Hermon. And he captured(AF) all their kings and struck them and put them to death. 18Joshua made war(AG) a long time with all those kings. 19There was not a city that made peace with the people of Israel except(AH) the Hivites, the inhabitants of Gibeon. They took them all in battle. 20For it was the LORD’s doing(AI) to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed,(AJ) just as the LORD commanded Moses.

There is much similarity between Joshua 10:40-42 and Joshua 11:16-20, save a few more details and inclusions which are bolded in the column for chapter 11. It is in these summary lines which we see even more of God’s involvement in helping Israel gain these lands. Although the narration in itself seems to indicate the lightning-pace at which Israel is the victor, v.18 is very honest in saying that the war was made for a long time; and it is only from this macro-perspective that we see the LORD’s faithfulness. If the book of Joshua, like the books of Kings or the books of Chronicles were to hone in on every single battle, every sweat and every sorrow, then we would lose sight of what is being taught here. The book of Joshua is a book of victories, a book of harvest, chronicling the victories of Israel as long as they continue to stand firm with Christ. It is not a silent history of war; it is a proactive commentary of first-fruit, first indicated when a spy like Caleb reported faithfully; and now partially fulfilled through the reaping of the enemies’ possessions, awaiting the true and complete fulfillment in New Creation as the night shadows of the Old Testament come to dawn on the cross, and to full Day on His return.

This joy is not only shared within the Israelites, but also shared among the Gibeonites as well (v.19) who were spared and brought into battle on Israel’s side as well; just as Ruth was one of the first to welcome God into Canaan, so Gibeon is now fighting to prove her love for Yahweh, and not only feeding or exploiting the bittersweet covenant between the two nations. It is under this context that v.20 is provided – the LORD does not elect people to reprobation against the contemporary adaptation of Calvin’s doctrine of predestination; v.19 already stated that these Gibeonites chose to side with Israel. These Gibeonites are no different from the Canaanites, save that they are elected through Israel, just as the Gentiles are elected through Christ the true Israel. Why then would the LORD harden only the hearts of the other nations, but not Gibeon? This first mentioning of ‘hardening’ occurred back in Exodus when the Pharoah’s heart was hardened, but not until the latter plagues where the Pharoah was given several opportunities to repent. The hardening of their hearts is but a confirmation of the path which these enemies have consistently chosen to walk, whereupon they would be but pigs before the pearls of the gospel, no longer capable of looking on Jesus with opened eyes but condemned to a stone heart and eternal blindness (c.f. Romans 1:18-32 – the LORD giving people over to their sinful passions).

21And Joshua came at that time and cut off(AK) the Anakim from the hill country, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, and from all the hill country of Judah, and from all the hill country of Israel. Joshua devoted them to destruction with their cities. 22There was none of the Anakim left in the land of the people of Israel. Only in Gaza,(AL) in Gath, and in Ashdod did some remain. 23So Joshua took the whole land,(AM) according to all that the LORD had spoken to Moses.(AN) And Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel(AO) according to their tribal allotments. And the land had rest from war.

Who are the Anakim, from the hill country, from Hebron, Debir, Anab, Judah, and Israel? The parallel between Abram and Lot’s story has not ceased even in this chapter; while the Rephaim were also present in Abram’s victorious struggle over the pagan nations, so also the Anakim were scattered everywhere waiting to be conquered by the true giants under Yahweh’s banner. The deliberate mentioning of Anakim at the end is most fitting to this story which can be protracted to an eschatological perspective – as if Jabin was not the real enemy, the greatest antagonist, we have the sons of Anak who had caused Israel to tremble (at Hebron where Abram made an altar to Yahweh – Genesis 13:18; and where the Israelites first met them again in Numbers 13:22). However, Israel is on a victorious streak before the LORD had deemed it so. Matthew Henry puts it in perspective:

The cutting off of the sons of Anak is particularly mentioned because these had been such a terror to the spies forty years before, and their bulk and strength had been thought an insuperable difficulty in the way of the reducing of Canaan, Num_13:28, Num_13:33. Even that opposition which seemed invincible was got over. Never let the sons of Anak be a terror to the Israel of God, for even their day will come to fall. Giants are dwarfs to Omnipotence; yet this struggle with the Anakim was reserved for the latter end of the war, when the Israelites had become more expert in the arts of war, and had had more experience of the power and goodness of God. Note, God sometimes reserves the sharpest trials of his people by affliction and temptation for the latter end of their days. Therefore let not him that girds on the harness boast as he that puts it off. Death, that tremendous son of Anak, is the last enemy that is to be encountered; but it is to be destroyed, 1Co_15:26. Thanks be to God, who will give us the victory. “

Joshua 11

(COURTESY OF ESV STUDY BIBLE)

Finally, the tribal allotments from v.23 onwards (c.f. Deuteronomy 34:1-2 – the prophecy of the fulfillment of these allotments within Moses’ vision prior to his death) is once more an iteration of the golden time to come, that Israel is now the new ruler of their Promised Land. Indeed, the land finally had rest from war!

However, even the language of the sentence seems to purvey a sense of an ‘omen’ – instead of using the Hebrew word for Sabbath, the writer of Joshua uses a different word (שׁקט) which indicates quietness, stillness, idleness. The Sabbath in contrast is a word and a day which means celebration, a time of true rest from labour, a holy day to the LORD. However, the rest of v.23 is not necessarily ‘sanctified to the LORD; it is just an interceding time before more wars, before more trials. Two things can be stated about this:

(1) That Israel has yet to conquer all the lands and enemies until David and Solomon’s time, after which Israel continues to fight and eventually conquered by Assyria and Babylon, which is why there is no true Sabbath rest. Furthermore, the use of שׁקט instead of Sabbath has a subtle implication that the time of the Judges (to come right after Joshua) is not a time of worship, but a time when each shall do as he/she wishes.

(2) The true Sabbath rest does not come until New Creation; our Christian life to this day is a spiritual struggle against the prince of the air, and thus we can only experience temporary stillness, though we are warned against idleness because true Sabbath is not ‘rest’ from godly works (Luke 14:3).

Joshua 12

Joshua 12

(COURTESY OF ESV STUDY BIBLE)

List of Kings Defeated

East Side of the Jordan:

Name of Kings

Location

Allotment (land given to…)

Sihon, king of Amorites/Heshbon (v.2-3)

Heshbon, ruled from Aroer (edge of the Valley of the Arnon), from the middle of the valley as far as river Jabbok (boundary of the Ammonites – half of Gilead) and the Arabah to the Sea of Chinneroth eastward, and in the direction of Beth-jeshimoth, to the Sea of the Arabah (Salt Sea), southward to the foot of the slopes of Pisgah

Reubenites and Gadites and half-tribe of Manasseh

Og, king of Bashan (remnant of the Rephaim) (v.4-6)

Ashtaroth and Edrei, ruled over Mount Hermon and Salecah and all Bashan to the boundary of the Geshurites and the Maacathites, and over half of Gilead to the boundary of Sihon (king of Heshbon).

Reubenites and Gadites and half-tribe of Manasseh

West Side of the Jordan

31 Kings – their locations:

Jericho

Tappuah

Ai

Hepher

Jerusalem

Aphek

Hebron

Lasharon

Jarmuth

Madon

Lachish

Hazor

Eglon

Shimron-meron

Gezer

Achshaph

Debir

Taanach

Geder

Megiddo

Hormah

Kedesh

Arad

Jokneam in Carmel

Libnah

Dor in Naphath-dor

Adullam

Goiim in Galilee

Makkedah

Tirzah

Bethel

The image more or less provides a vaster pictorial presentation of Yeshua’s successful and unstoppable conquest. The boundaries are outlined in Numbers 32, and the displacement of the seven nations (Deuteronomy 7:1) hailing from Canaan the son of Ham in Genesis 10 is recorded explicitly in this chapter (save the Girgashites – mentioned in Joshua 3:10 and Joshua 24:11, it is likely that they were assimilated into the six other nations of Canaan since it is implied that they fought with Israel).

Furthermore, the list of kings (from left column to right column) is in the order in which they were conquered, Jericho first until the final northern alliance from Hazor onward. These 31 kings, predicted by Moses in Deuteronomy 29:23 that they were to reject Christ and His gospel:

This shows what a very fruitful country Canaan then was, which could support so many kingdoms, and in which so many kings chose to throng together rather than disperse themselves into other countries, which we may suppose not yet inhabited, but where, though they might find more room, they could not expect such plenty and pleasure: this was the land God spied out for Israel; and yet at this day it is one of the most barren, despicable, and unprofitable countries in the world: such is the effect of the curse it lies under, since its possessors rejected Christ and his gospel, as was foretold by Moses.” (Matthew Henry)

Not only this, but the land was truly as fruitful (Joshua 12:8) as Caleb had reported; as various and as beautiful a land could be. This is something which the Israelites have never tasted, from being a small family before Joseph’s time to being a wondrous mixed multitude during the Exodus, to possessing the land of thirty-one kings against their one King and LORD Whom they serve. Adam Clarke indicates that these kings possess small land and allotments in their time compared to the nations today, however I think Joshua 12 is focusing not on the size of the land but the very fact of victory over thirty-one arrogant leaders and the very euphoria of Israel’s 40 years of wilderness nearing the end day by day. Not only this, but Canaan is a thoroughly pleasing land the moment the Israelites have conquered it; but in present times, as Matthew Henry noted, it is a land riddled with incessant wars, terrorist activities, tainted by all types of heathens and persecutions against Christians by the minute. It is not the true Promised Land but a mere foretaste as Canaan is overshadowed by New Jerusalem.

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Joshua 11-12: Firstfruits

Leviticus 23-24:9: The Progression of, not towards, Christ – in the Jewish Feasts

We’ve considered many new things since the Day of atonement in Leviticus 16, all of which can be under the banner of cleanness to holiness of both the layperson and the priest to enjoy the only true privileges of being part of the church of Israel.  The progression is indeed intentional: and the progression of Christ through the layout of the gospel story so far in the first three books of Moses, rather than the progression towards Christ (as if Christ was not preached nor revealed until the New Testament) is again embodied by the famous Jewish festivities.

Many non-Christian cultures celebrate special days and events – and today, the Gregorian calendar (the calendar we use in the majority of the world today) is filled with all types of random days commemorating significant moments in history; from Jimi Hendrix’ birthday, which is coincidental to mine (November 27th), to the signing of the Treaty of Versailles to remember the end of the First World War on the 11th of November, 1918, to the catastrophic September 11th.

Each day is thus filled with its respective significance and the western calendar used today is therefore a mark of western anthropology; just as the Chinese lunar calendar’s timing of the Mid-Autumn festival is a time of celebrating the Chinese myth of the love story between a damsel on the rock orbiting the earth.  The calendar itself speaks of culture and ideology.  The Chinese calendar marks the myths, superstitions and religions of the Eastern Orient; the Gregorian now speaks of post-modernism, relativism and a global cultural melting pot.

What of the Jewish calendar which the LORD established?  Here, we find one of the most engaging and interesting aspects of Christianity, and how much the Calendar, the dates, and the feasts reveal the progression OF Christ.

Progressive Revelation of, not towards Christ in the Feasts

Just a cautionary note and perhaps a little bit of side-tracking: the title of this post is “The Progression of, not towards, Christ”.  The reason I say this is because of the relatively modern establishment of the concept of ‘progressive revelation’, which speaks of Christ as if the saints only, over time, knew that the God they trusted in was actually the Son of God.  The implications behind this, is that Adam had no idea he believed in the Son of God, and believed (as far as he is concerned) in a mono-theistic God; then David, in Psalm 110, had spiritual foresights and glimpses into the Trinitarian behaviour, but they are merely glimpses; Isaiah, only when he is filled with the Spirit, was literally possessed by the Spirit when he wrote his book – the clarity of the Trinity was not apparent to Him even as he was writing the verses about the future non-acceptance of Christ in Jerusalem (thus the common phrase: “they wrote better than they knew”); and only until the time of the gospel writers, no one had the clearest and most revealed concept of Jesus Christ as Son of God and mediator in the Trinity.

With much respect to those who struggle or hold strongly to this view, the progression towards Christ seriously frustrates me on many levels.  Primarily, the arrogance of our assumption that Adam had no faith in Christ.  Let me explain: Adam had faith in the Seed (Genesis 3:15), called his woman Eve (the mother of all living despite being cursed with death in the same chapter!), who in turn called their son Cain the LORD-man (mistakenly and prematurely, which simultaneously reveals their mentality of their faith).  If anything, his faith isn’t in the generic God – his faith is in the Seed considered as LORD-man, manifested through the burnt offerings which he taught his sons Cain and Abel as well (although the former forsook it).  I am not opposed to progression per se, because I am not saying that Adam knew where exactly Christ is born, what exactly Christ’s name is.

What I am proposing however is the progression of Christ, which is an important distinction.  The progression towards Christ, is a progression towards allowing Christ the role he plays – that being the Redeemer and Mediator between us and the Father (and himself, for the matter, for both are our Judges).  This makes the assumption that in the Old Testament, none knew consciously they needed a mediator – their concepts were vague at best, but not explicit.  This simply has no scriptural warrant (Job 19:25).  What progression of Christ means the different manifestations of God’s sacraments towards man; the different expressions of God towards man (be they Noah’s ark; rainbow; circumcision; Passover; manna; Tabernacle; Mosaic Law), they continue to express the same Mediator, the same Truth, the same Redeemer – Christ.  Thus, there is a progression of Christ towards his incarnation, and these expressions, shadows and signs have always pointed towards the fulfillment of the incarnation.

This means that Jesus is clearly known, through these teaching tools.  The people did not only trust in the signs and shadows – they trusted in what the signs and shadows pointed towards, being Christ!  The New Testament is therefore not a book of ‘revelation’ – it is a book of fulfillment of the work of the Anointed One.  It is what the Old Testament had always pointed towards.  These feasts are simply a good way to express what the sacrifices could not – a school teacher if you will, like the rest of the Mosaic law.

What makes the feast stand out is for this reason:  it is tempting to look at the animal sacrifices and literally think they save them.  It is even tempting to think you are saved by your physical circumcision, and your diligence in obeying the law, despite the constant reminder from Moses not to be tempted to think so (c.f. Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6).

But where is such a temptation when you’re looking at the Jewish Calendar?  What can YOU possibly do about these calendar dates?  They are absolutely external to us; these days were established from the LORD alone; and ALL of them pointed towards Christ and his work on the cross.  Like the sacrament of the rainbow, let this calendar speak of the extra nos (outside of ourselves) of Christ’s work.  However, this did not stop people from being self-righteous from the observing of the days and months and seasons and years (Galatians 4:10) – and Paul is exactly making the same point I am making about the spiritual significance of these significant periods.

This is a great opportunity dive into the Jewish calendar which I’ve touched briefly upon in Exodus chapters 23 and 34.

1.  Introduction to the Jewish Calendar

2.  The feasts (Leviticus 23)

3.  Oil and bread (Leviticus 24:1-9)

4.  Progression of Christ and the Three Pilgrimage Festivals

1.  Introduction to the Jewish Calendar

Taken from here:

Hebrew English Number Length Gregorian Equivalent
Nissan (in Hebrew) Nissan 1 30 days March-April
Iyar (in Hebrew) Iyar 2 29 days April-May
Sivan (in Hebrew) Sivan 3 30 days May-June
Tammuz (in Hebrew) Tammuz 4 29 days June-July
Av (in Hebrew) Av 5 30 days July-August
Elul (in Hebrew) Elul 6 29 days August-September
Tishri (in Hebrew) Tishri 7 30 days September-October
Cheshvan (in Hebrew) Cheshvan 8 29 or 30 days October-November
Kislev (in Hebrew) Kislev 9 30 or 29 days November-December
Tevet (in Hebrew) Tevet 10 29 days December-January
Shevat (in Hebrew) Shevat 11 30 days January-February
Adar (in Hebrew) Adar I (leap years only) 12 30 days February-March
Adar II (in Hebrew) Adar (called Adar II in leap years) 12 (13 in leap years) 29 days February-March

Now, we must not look at the Jewish calendar is if it is identical to the Gregorian one which we use.  Although there are parallels to be made in identifying the corresponding Gregorian month to the Jewish month, there are additional months added in leap years (or literally, pregnant years).  The beginning of the month is normally established from observing the first teal of the moon, after the darkened moon – and therefore, each month is approximately 20-30 days, hence the discrepancy in some of the months.  However, the period between Nisan and Tishri are stable and unchanging: which means that the feasts and festivals and days of remembrance remain the same throughout those months.

Secondly, the ‘first’ month may be Nisan on the ecclesiastical year, but the actual first month of the Jewish year starts on the ‘seventh’ month – Tishri/Tishrei.  This is akin to the ‘school year’ of the Gregorian month, which begins often in September; for the Jews, Tishri is the ‘first month’ of the year – it is often referred to as a month of many significant days, from Rosh Hashanah on the 1st and 2nd of Tishrei (marking the beginning of the Jewish civil Year, as opposed to Nisan being the beginning of the Jewish ecclesiastical year), to Yom Kippur on the 10th (Day of Atonement), to the Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) beginning on the 15th.

The 1 Tishri is very significant.  It marks the same day where Adam and Eve were created; the sending of the dove after its return with the olive branch on Noah’s ark; the binding of Isaac in Genesis 22.  With such a small taster of the significance of the day, each day bears its own significance in preaching the truth of Jesus.

With this background knowledge, we can turn to the feasts.

2.  The feasts (Leviticus 23)

The progression of the festivals/feasts is as follows:

Feast/Festival

Hebrew Name

Dates

Christological sign

Passover

פֶּסַח, Pesach

14th of Nisan

Blood and death of Christ

Unleavened Bread

מצּה, Matstsah

15th– 21st of Nisan

The need for redemption, and that we are in the world but not of it

Firstfruits/Weeks

שבועות, Shavuot

6th of Sivan

Resurrection of Christ

Pentecost

Πεντηκοστή (the word ‘Pentecost’ is actually from the Greek, not Hebrew), and seen as a continuation of the harvest – Shavuot

50 days after 6th of Sivan

Giving of the Holy Spirit

Trumpets

זִכְרוֹן תְּרוּעָה, zichron teruah; ראש השנה Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Yr)

1st of Tishri

The return of Christ and the victory revealed

Day of Atonement

וֹם כִּפּוּר, Yom Kippur

10th of Tishri

Renewal of the entire creation

Tabernacles/Booths

סוכות, Sukkot

15th – 21st of Tishri

Waiting for this new creation

Sabbath (23:3)

“Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings.”

Before the festivals and the feasts, we begin with the remembrance of the first creation of 6 days (Exodus 20:11), ending with the seventh day of Sabbath, reminding Israel of the initial rest which the LORD took, before undertaking the work of new creation from the 8th day (John 5:17) onwards.  A new week, a new start. Deuteronomy 5:15 explains that this model of 6 days, then the seventh, is a model of our salvation as symbolised through the Exodus of Israel from Egypt.

The Sabbath is therefore a symbol of looking forward to the peace, the resting, of New Creation.  Do you take your Sabbath seriously?  Do you over-spiritualise it, and work every day without remembering that the LORD is in complete control and that our work is temporary on earth, for what-ever work we undertake is of two natures: the curse of Genesis 3 (the toil); or the Godly work of bringing people to the House of the Redeemed?  The former is temporary, and the latter is merely something we partake – for it is His work entirely, and not ours.  If even He rests on the Sabbath, what right do we have to work on the Sabbath?

Passover (23:4-5)

Lev 23:4-5  “These are the appointed feasts of the LORD, the holy convocations, which you shall proclaim at the time appointed for them.  (5)  In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight, is the LORD’s Passover.

So the first month of the ecclesiastical year begins with the Passover – but remember that the Jewish year begins with Tishri, not with Nisan – month number 7 is the ‘first month’ of a new year, not month number 1. This is the day that Christ went to the cross and died, and significantly so.  I have already considered the importance of the Passover in my exposition of Exodus 12.

Feast of Unleavened Bread (23:6-8 )

Lev 23:6-8  And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread.  (7)  On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.  (8 )  But you shall present a food offering to the LORD for seven days. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.”

I’ve already looked at the importance of the feast of the unleavened bread, where one’s waiting of leaven is the symbolism of one’s attachment to the world (during the Exodus of Israel – Exodus 12:39).  This is a period of the onlooking hope of full-redemption by arriving at the spiritual Canaan (1 Corinthians 5:8 ).

Firstfruits (23:9-14)

Lev 23:9-14  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (10)  “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest,  (11)  and he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.  (12)  And on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb a year old without blemish as a burnt offering to the LORD.  (13)  And the grain offering with it shall be two tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, a food offering to the LORD with a pleasing aroma, and the drink offering with it shall be of wine, a fourth of a hin.  (14)  And you shall eat neither bread nor grain parched or fresh until this same day, until you have brought the offering of your God: it is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.

This is a time of harvest; and the very first of the harvest is offered to the LORD as they waited for the full harvest to be gathered later on.  This is a reminder of birth of the new life through the seed; the day of the seed, the third day (and also Day 3 of creation – Genesis 1:11-13), on which Jesus rose again is a perfect example of new life (John 12:23-24).  Jesus is the Seed which gives life to the firstfruits (2 Thess 2:13).

Feast of Pentecost (23:15-22)

Lev 23:15-22  “You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering.  (16)  You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the LORD.  (17)  You shall bring from your dwelling places two loaves of bread to be waved, made of two tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour, and they shall be baked with leaven, as firstfruits to the LORD.  (18 )  And you shall present with the bread seven lambs a year old without blemish, and one bull from the herd and two rams. They shall be a burnt offering to the LORD, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.  (19)  And you shall offer one male goat for a sin offering, and two male lambs a year old as a sacrifice of peace offerings.  (20)  And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the LORD for the priest.  (21)  And you shall make proclamation on the same day. You shall hold a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a statute forever in all your dwelling places throughout your generations.  (22)  “And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.”

Out of the ecclesiastical year, this is the first feast which is so fulsome –

(a) a grain offering (v.16)

(b) two loaves of bread to be waved, baked with leaven as firstfruit (v.17)

(c) seven lambs a year old without blemish, and one bullock and two rams (as burnt offering v.18 )

(d) male goat for sin offering, two male lambs a year old as sacrifice as peace offering (v.19)

So this feast is one representative of the arrival at the Promised Land – for now, there is time to use yeast!

The Firstfruits marked the beginning of the harvest, as Pentecost marks the end of it; the firstfruits looked at salvation of those from the beginning of the world until Christ’s second advent – and every Christian in this period is seen as ‘firstfruits’.  However, the Pentecost looks at the fulness of this redemption – the revealing of all the sons of God in new creation (Romans 8:19).

However, how are we made the firstfruits?  By the power of the Spirit – which, unsurprisingly, is the day on  which the Spirit was given to Gentile and Jew alike in Acts 2.  Now, and not later, do we have the intimacy and fellowship with God in Christ.  We may not ‘feel’ it, or ‘experience’ it daily, but we taste the firstfruits of it.  The true intimacy we will experience with our new bodies in New Creation, but now we already know God because he knew us first (John 17:3); we already love God because he loved us first (1 John 4:19).

Out of all the feasts, this is the only one that required fellowship/peace offering.  Let’s work through the progression: first burnt offering, then sin offering, then peace offering – it is tracing the work of salvation.  Christ’s propitiatory work on the cross as burnt offering, his blood as our sin offering, and then the Spirit given as peace and fellowship offering.  Only by the power of the Spirit do we now that true communion with God, and this fellowship consists in the form of eating with God (hence the feast of Pentecost).  That is why we are a son of God, through the Sonship of Christ.

This does not end the analogy, for the latter parts of Acts 2 displays a sharing of the property of the believers.  “Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need”.  This is a parallel to v.21 – 22.  Do not do any work, as a mark of rest; and you shall not reap to the edge of the land as a form of provision to the poor and the sojourner.

Day of Trumpets (23:23-25)

Lev 23:23-25  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (24)  “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation.  (25)  You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall present a food offering to the LORD.”

This marks the coming of Christ, as the trumpet blast has signified so often throughout both OT and NT.  The ram’s horn was sounded in Exodus 19; then again in Joshua 6:13, v. 16, v. 20; Isaiah 18:3, 27:13; Ezekiel 33:5; 1 Thess 4:16; Revelation 11:15.

Note in the references above that the trumpet is a two-fold sign: a sign of rejoicing for those in Christ, but a sign of dread and punishment for those without Christ – rightly so; are we going to be under God’s wrath, or hiding in the cleft of the Rock?

Day of Atonement (23:26-32)

Lev 23:26-32  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (27)  “Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves and present a food offering to the LORD.  (28 )  And you shall not do any work on that very day, for it is a Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God.  (29)  For whoever is not afflicted on that very day shall be cut off from his people.  (30)  And whoever does any work on that very day, that person I will destroy from among his people.  (31)  You shall not do any work. It is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwelling places.  (32)  It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict yourselves. On the ninth day of the month beginning at evening, from evening to evening shall you keep your Sabbath.”

Some observations about this day –

(a)  No work (v.28 )

(b)  Who does not deny himself will be cut off (v.29)

(c)  Who works on that day will be destroyed (v.30-32) as a Sabbath.

It is quite clear that the Day of Atonement is a day of rest, combined with the significance of the Day of Atonement as a symbol of the death, resurrection and primarily the ascension of Christ, as well as the second advent of Christ (the High Priest’s return from the Holy of Holies).  This is a hope of new creation, with no regular work – it is a celebration of Sabbath rest for the whole of creation – this theme is repeated consistently between v.26-32.

Feast of Tabernacles (23:33-44)

Lev 23:33-44  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (34)  “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the Feast of Booths to the LORD.  (35)  On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.  (36)  For seven days you shall present food offerings to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the LORD. It is a solemn assembly; you shall not do any ordinary work.  (37)  “These are the appointed feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim as times of holy convocation, for presenting to the LORD food offerings, burnt offerings and grain offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings, each on its proper day,  (38 )  besides the LORD’s Sabbaths and besides your gifts and besides all your vow offerings and besides all your freewill offerings, which you give to the LORD.  (39)  “On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the LORD seven days. On the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest.  (40)  And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.  (41)  You shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month.  (42)  You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths,  (43)  that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”  (44)  Thus Moses declared to the people of Israel the appointed feasts of the LORD.

v.37-38 acts as summary verses for chapter 23, and now we move on to the Feast of Tabernacles.

On the eighth day they hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the LORD – it is a solemn assembly without ordinary work.

In many ways, this feast of tabernacles focuses on the lifestyle of the church on earth as we await the fulfillment of the Day of Atonement, which prophesies the truth of the life of the True High Priest. Starting on the 1st day with solemn rest, and 8th day with solemn rest (therefore beginning both weeks with rest).  Additionally, one should take the fruit of splendid trees, with branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook and rejoice before the LORD for seven days (v.40).  Then, they will dwell in the tents (v.42) for those seven days – and all native Israelites shall dwell in booths to remind the surrounding nations that the sign of the booth is significant.

Firstly, the importance of the solemn rest is again a concurrent theme throughout the festivals and feasts: but then the offering is one of fruit, branches, boughs, willows.  They are all related to the trees. Numbers 33:6/1 Kings 6:32/John 12:13/Revelation 7:9 indicate that palm trees are associated with life and victory; leafy trees is also a sign towards new life (Ezekiel 20:28 ).

What of the significance of living in tents/booths for seven days?  Hebrews 11:8-10 explains it away:

Heb 11:8-10  By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.  (9)  By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.  (10)  For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

3.  Oil and Bread (Leviticus 24:1-9)

Lev 24:1-9  The LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (2)  “Command the people of Israel to bring you pure oil from beaten olives for the lamp, that a light may be kept burning regularly.  (3)  Outside the veil of the testimony, in the tent of meeting, Aaron shall arrange it from evening to morning before the LORD regularly. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations.  (4)  He shall arrange the lamps on the lampstand of pure gold before the LORD regularly.  (5)  “You shall take fine flour and bake twelve loaves from it; two tenths of an ephah shall be in each loaf.  (6)  And you shall set them in two piles, six in a pile, on the table of pure gold before the LORD.  (7)  And you shall put pure frankincense on each pile, that it may go with the bread as a memorial portion as a food offering to the LORD.  (8 )  Every Sabbath day Aaron shall arrange it before the LORD regularly; it is from the people of Israel as a covenant forever.  (9)  And it shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place, since it is for him a most holy portion out of the LORD’s food offerings, a perpetual due.”

The oil of the lamp is that of the Spirit, who burns regularly.  The twelve loaves of bread, representing the 12 tribes and the 12 apostles.  The frankinsence and gold (Isaiah 60:6), an indication of the coming King!  If this is a food offering to the LORD, then the gifts given to Christ in Matthew 2:11 is an indication of an offering to Christ as LORD, as God.  This, following on from the Feast of Tabernacles, is a forward looking prophecy of the coming of Christ in his office as High Priest, and the sustenance of the Holy Spirit as our deposit throughout the end of the ages.

4.  The Progression of Christ and the Three Pilgrimage Festivals

I wrote in my post on Exodus 22-24 that out of these festivals, there are three where the all males are required to attend, namely the progression of Passover/Pesach, to Pentecost/Shavuot, to Sukkot/Tabernacles/Booths. I also mentioned in that post that the Passover represented the Son.  The Pentecost the Spirit.  The Sukkot, the Father – for it is a reminder that we may have both the Son and the Spirit, but the Father remains unseen except through the Son.  We are still in necessity of a Mediator Christ, and of his power the Spirit.  The Sukkot, therefore, reminds us that we are not yet in new creation, and are looking forward to it.

Let’s look at all these festivals in their progression – the ecclesiastical year therefore begins with the Passover, the death of Christ.  Our trust in the Passover leads us to be on our spiritual Exodus from this world to the new creation (Hebrews 13:13) signified by the Unleavened Bread, looking towards the fulfillment of Christ’s resurrection displayed through the Firstfruits.  The Pentecost, the giving of the Spirit, is the progression of Christ’s death on the cross on Passover, then resurrection on the 8th day of the week (New Creation), third day since he was dead (day of the creation of seeds), and became the firstfruit of creation as we are in him, by the power of the Spirit which he gave 50 days after Firstfruits.

All Christians of all ages therefore looks forward to the sounding of the trumpet, announcing the destruction of the reprobate and the salvation of the faithful, where the Day of Atonement, akin to the Day of Resurrection, will see the full renewal of our bodies and entire creation.

This is where the sign and blueprint of God’s plan throughout the OT to the NT is displayed – and this is the progression of Christ, not towards Christ.  For if we are speaking of towards Christ, then these ‘signs’ and calendars make no sense.  They are but extremely vague shadows, and cannot be given the Christological significance Christ tells us they deserve (John 5:39).

Which is why, AFTER the establishment of these signs, God however brings us back to our current state and establishes the feast of tabernacles after telling us of these important annual dates.  He reminds us essentially to wait for the fulfillment of these signs.  Wait for the progression of Christ from these signs to the future fulfillment.  This, therefore, should be a source of hope for the Christians in the Old Testament.

But remember the Jewish civil calendar as opposed to the ecclesiastical calendar.  The year essentially began in Tishri – and Tishri is the month starting with Trumpets and Yom Kippur.  Thus, the Jewish year begins on a joyous note of VICTORY!  Just as the new week starting on the 8th day is the day that Christ rose, so the new year represented new creation!  And the end of the Jewish year also ends joyously with the Pentecost, looking forward to the day when we eat bread with leaven in New Jerusalem, established by the trumpet blast.  The Tabernacles, Passover and Unleavened Bread are almost insignificantly sandwiched between – but it is Christ who has always been the alpha and the omega (Revelation 1:8 ) – even displayed through the Jewish Year!

Leviticus 23-24:9: The Progression of, not towards, Christ – in the Jewish Feasts