We know from Lev 23 that the festivals were “holy rehearsals” so did Acts 2 fulfill the rehearsal for Shavuot? First of all, let’s look at Acts 2 1-4 for similarities with Exo 19. In Acts 2.1 it says they were all together in one place, and this is similar to Exo 19.2. Then we have the rushing wind, fire and other manifestations that we see in Exo 19. It is 50 days after Passover when the Lord will come down (Exo 19.11), just like in Acts 2. And the main manifestation that is similar to the revelation at Sinai is the “tongues” or “languages” of the nations in Acts 2.4-11. In the Hertz Authorized Daily Prayer Book, p. 791, it says, “The revelation at Sinai, it was taught, was given in desert territory which belongs to no one nation exclusively; and it was heard not by Israel alone, but by the inhabitants of all the earth. The Divine Voice divided itself into 70 tongues then spoken on the earth, so that all the children of men might understand its world-embracing and man-redeeming message.”
In the Midrash Exodus Rabbah 5.9 R. Yochanon says when God gave the Torah at Sinai he did wonders. His voice spoke throughout the world and “His voice split into 70 voices or languages (tongues). This teaching is first century because R. Yochanon is referred to and this is Yochanon Ben Zakkai. He was a major “tanna” in the first century and survived the destruction of the Temple. It is believed that he is the “John” mentioned in Acts 4.6 and was a young man at the time. So, he was a contemporary of Yeshua, the Talmidim and Paul. The Jewish belief in the first century that the “thunderings” in Exo 20.18 were the “voices” of God and they “saw” them. The Hebrew word for “thunder” is “kol’ot” which means “voices.”
Heb 12.18-19 was originally written in Hebrew. IT says, “For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind and to the blast of a trumpet (shofar) and the sound of words (plural, literally “voice of voices”) which those who heard begged that no further word should be spoken.” It is believed that the Book of Hebrews was written around the time of Shavuot because of the subject matter, the terms, phrases and concepts.
Deut 4.11-12 says, “And you came near and stood at the foot (Hebrew “tachat” meaning “under”) of the mountain and the mountain burned with fire to the very heart of the heavens:darkness, cloud and thick gloom. Then the Lord spoke to you from the midst of the fire; you heard the sound (Hebrew “kol” meaning “voice”) of words, but you saw no form, only a voice (“kol”).” The people at Sinai saw the voice of God and so what do you think the people in Acts 2 were thinking when they saw the manifestations of the tongues of fire and the languages! Now, if they were not in a Jewish framework they would not have recognized what was going on in the context of Yom Kahal and Mount Sinai. That is why this chapter is misunderstood by churchmen, as well as the rest of the Scriptures.
Shavuot is the fulfillment of the rehearsal of what God did at Mount Sinai. Now, go back and read Lev 23. 9-21 because we are going to get into more detail now.
Nisan 14 is Passover and it is not a “Shabbaton or Yom Tov.” On Nisan 15 through 21 we have the festival of Hag Ha Matzah, or Unleavened Bread. This week is divided into two sections. The 15th and the 21st is a Shabbaton or Yom Tov. The 16th through the 20th are called “Chol ha Moed” or the “intermediate days” of the festival. They have less “kedusha” than the Shabbaton’s of the 15th and the 21st.
The “morrow after the Sabbath” is the first day of the week after the seventh day Sabbath after Nisan 14. The Omer of barley is waved in a tenufa. In the time of Yeshua, this is how the Sadducee’s saw the phrase “morrow after the Sabbath” in Lev 23.11. They controlled the Temple till about 50-55 AD. Then, the Pharisee’s took control of the Sanhedrin and they interpreted Lev 23.11 to mean the morrow after the Shabbaton of Nisan 15. So, they saw it as Nisan 16 no matter what day it was. As it turned out, the Sadducee’s were right, and that Shavuot was always on the first day of the week.
The First Fruits had to be waved before anyone could eat of the harvest. You could eat what was from the previous year, but not new fruits. In Lev 23.17 you will see that it refers to the ceremony of the Shtai ha Lechem (the two loaves) at Shavuot. One of the names of Shavuot is Hag ha Bikkurim (festival of First Fruits) and it is not talking about the barley, but the wheat. This wheat won’t be harvested for about four months. Yeshua alludes to this harvest and makes a spiritual application to it in John 4.34-35, so he said this about the time of Shavuot. The Shtai ha Lechem is “chametz” or leavened. How many Korban Mincha (bread offerings) are there? There are 13 different types. How many of those 13 have leaven in them? Only one, the Shtai ha Lechem.
Now, leaven can mean four different things in the Scriptures, and they are sin, teaching, the Kingdom of God and the Shekinah. Now, in preparing the flour for the Omer, it has to pass through 13 sieves until the barley is very fine. In the Shtai ha Lechem, it passes through 12 sieves for the same reason. It is then baked in the Temple into two loaves which will be offered along with two lambs (Lev 23.20). They are waved in a tenufa before the Lord two times. The first time, when the two lambs are alive. It is done again after they are slaughtered, with the two loaves. Pieces of the lambs and the two loaves are eaten by the kohanim. A tenufa is always a symbol of rejoicing. The Shtai ha Lechem ceremony with the lambs is a Korban Shelem (peace offering). A Korban Shelem is Kodesh Kelim so it has a lower kedusha than other offerings that are Kodshai Kodeshim.
The Shtai ha Lechem is one of two Temple ceremonies associated with Shavuot. The other is called the Sheva Minim (seven species) and these “species” can be found in Deut 8.8. They are: wheat, barley, vines, fig tree’s, pomegranates, olive oil and honey and we have already discussed this ceremony.
Why do we have two loaves of leavened bread on Shavuot? Some possible allusions can be several things. We know that leaven is symbolic of sin, teaching, the Kingdom and the Shekinah. We know that the Shekinah is placed in a believer because it is the indwelling presence of the Lord. This concept is closely associated with the Kingdom and the Ruach ha Kodesh (Holy Spirit). Yeshua is the “bread of Life” that has come down out of heaven, and the word for bread there is leavened bread. We are immersed into one body and the bread is his body (1 Cor 12.13-14, 27). The two loaves can symbolize the bride and groom, the Messiah and the believer, Jews and Gentiles. The bride and groom is a major theme of Shavuot. God betrothed himself to Israel (Jer 2.1-3) and the Book of Ruth took place around Shavuot and so it is read then.
The Torah is a betrothal contract called the Shitre Erusin and it was given at Shavuot. We know the verse “The letter (Torah) kills but the Spirit (Ruach) gives life.” The Torah can only take us to the mountain to meet God, like Moses took the people to Sinai. But, it is the Ruach that gives life. The bread at Shavuot is called the First Fruits (Lev 23.20) and it is a “tavnit” of all mankind that is chosen by the Lord to be in the First Resurrection. The Book of Ruth teaches the concept of the Goel, or “kinsman redeemer.” There are three things that must be fulfilled in order to be a Goel. First, you had to be related to the one being redeemed, so Yeshua had to become a man. Second, he must be willing to redeem and third he must be able to redeem.
In Part 19, we will pick up and continue discussing the ceremonies and concepts associated with the festival of Shavuot.