Remember, leading up to Shavuot people have been counting the Omer. When was the first Shavuot? Exodus chapters 19 and 20 when the Lord gave the Torah. Israel departed Egypt and they went on a journey to Mount Sinai. So, they left on Passover and journeyed to Shavuot. This is a picture of time in the life of a believer. We departed Egypt (the world) and we are on a journey to the Kingdom of Heaven which, like leaven, will fill the whole world. Lev 23.21 says that Shavuot is a “holy convocation” which is “mikrah kodesh” in Hebrew, meaning a “set apart rehearsal.” A rehearsal is done for awhile, but the real thing will be coming and you will be able to see why you had all the rehearsals. No laborious work can be done, which means that you don’t do occupational work but you can do whatever work is necessary in order to keep the festival. Now, what does “keep” mean?” To “keep” or “observe” means to incorporate the Torah in to your life and stay in line with the tavnit (pattern, shadow, blueprint, picture) by doing certain things at certain times at certain places. We can do this by understanding and learning these patterns, and this would apply to all areas in the Torah, not just the festivals.
When talking about Shavuot, Lev 23.22 tells us that when they reap the harvest they were to leave the corners of their fields and the gleanings. This is because Shavuot begins the harvest (Exo 23.16). Shavuot is called the “Feast of the Harvest” and Sukkot is called the “Feast of Ingathering.” Tithes are brought at these two festivals.
The Sheva Minim ceremony is very important to Shavuot. Sheva Minim means “seven species” and those have been listed before, and can be found in Deut 8.8. These are related to the Bikkurim and the beginning of the harvest. In the Mishnah, in tractate Bikkurim 3, it tells us about these things and the ceremony surrounding it in the Temple. We have already brought this aspect out in a previous teaching. At Passover, the big ceremony is the Passover lamb and eating it. At Shavuot, it is the Shtai ha Lechem and the Sheva Minim ceremonies. At Rosh ha Shannah, it is the blowing of the shofarot. At Yom Kippur, it is the two goats called L’YHVH and L’Azazel. At Sukkot is the Beit ha Shoevah (“house of the water-pouring”) and the Simchat Beit ha Shoevah (“rejoicing in the house of the water-pouring”) ceremonies.
How they presented the Bikkurim is discussed in Bikkurim 3.1-12. The baskets of Sheva Minim were placed by the Altar and then stored. After that, another Ma’amad came to the Temple and everything was repeated and so on till everyone had come from all the districts. Those with impurities could not enter the courts. The one with the basket and the family entered into the Court of the Women (Ezrat Nashim), but only the one with the basket would go into the Court of Israel through the Nichanor Gate. He would stop right before the Duchan where the Levites sang.
Now, the Court of Israel was 22 cubits wide (44 feet) and 135 cubits long (270 feet). It was almost as long as a football field, going north to south.
In Exo 19.1-2 we read that Israel came into the wilderness of Sinai in the third month after leaving Egypt (in Nisan, the first month of the religious calendar-Exo 12) on the very same day, meaning the third day. They had come from Rephidim, meaning “lax” where they were attacked by Amalek. The teaching is they were attacked because they were “lax” spiritually by not doing what God had told them to do. They started complaining and griping about everything. Now, it says they “camped” in front of the mountain. When they arrived, they were not a nation but a collection of 12 tribes with the same patriarch (Abraham). But, the word “camped” is singular in Hebrew and that means they were coming together as one nation, and this relates to Acts 2.1 where it says they were gathered to the Temple on Shavuot and they were “all together” as one “in one place.” Now, most in Christianity will say this was the birth of the “church.” We will have more on this later.
They were all camped in one accord in Exo 19.2. All of the people in Acts 2 were “lax” (Rephidim) in their commandments. There was striving, doubt and complaining like in Exodus. Amalek had been attacking. How many times have we been “lax” and began to “slack off” and the enemy came in and hit us? Have we ever tried to “cut a deal” with the Lord that if he ever got us out of a particular situation that you would do such and such? We have all done it. But, there can be a good side to an attack. Hos 5.15 says, “I will go away and return to my place until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face; in their affliction they will earnestly seek me.” Attacks can bring us back to God and we can be “as one” before the mountain.
In Exo 19.6 it says that Israel was to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. The entire nation was set up as a kingdom of priests. Now, only the sons of Aaron are kohanim, yet one can be a priest to their family. He gives them a government, a “constitution” if you will, called the Torah on the Day of the Assembly, or “Yom Kahal.” Another way of saying that is “Yom Ecclessia.”
Deut 18.16-18 says that God will give Israel a prophet like Moses because the people asked that they not hear the voice of God again, and they did not want to see the great fire, lest they die. Deut 9.10 and 10.4 also refer to this day as “Yom Kahal.” The usage of “church” today has nothing to do with the concept of the “Kahal” in Exodus or Deuteronomy. Shavuot has a name called “Yom Kahal” or “Day of the Assembly” as we have shown. The concept of the Kahal is all in the context of Israel and the festivals, not outside of that context like today. To use it outside of that context will destroy its original meaning and intent.
Now, let’s take the meaning of the Shtai he Lechem that is baked in leaven to a deeper level. We have suggested earlier that the two loaves signify the bride and groom and betrothal, Jews and Gentiles, the Messiah and the believer and other things. These are certainly alluded to in the Shtai ha Lechem baked with leaven, but there is another element here. One loaf is the nation of Israel and the other loaf is the Kahal, an “eschatological congregation” that was prophesied to come. Matt 16.13-19 says that Yeshua was gathered with his talmidim and he asked them who people say the Son of Man (Bar Enosh if Dan 7.13) is. Then he asked them who they thought Yeshua was. Peter answered that he was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God (an idiom for “king”). Yeshua says that it is upon this confession (that Yeshua is the Messiah) that “I will build my kahal.” He spoke Hebrew so he would have said “kahal” and not “church” which gives readers a whole different idea when they read this in English. Now, Peter didn’t say “Lord, what is a kahal?” He didn’t ask this because he knew that when the Messiah came, there would be an “eschatological kahal” or “congregation/assembly” coming. The word “church” is a terrible translation and unleashes the idea of Replacement Theology and Anti-Semitism.
The Temple was seen as a miniature Gan Eden (Garden of Eden). This would not be the time to go into it, but the Temple and its concepts were set up to reflect this fact. However, what most people do not realize is that the Temple was also seen as Mount Sinai. Both concepts have common ground because of kedusha. When man sinned he was driven from Gan Eden. The Lord is “holy” and man was “holy” when he was created. When man sinned, he lost his “kedusha” so he could not stay where the kedusha was. When coming up to Mount Sinai, God was there so it had a kedusha upon it. Moses had to take his sandals off because of it (Exo 3.5). Man was coming back to an environment of kedusha, so the ground had a kedusha. Coming to the Temple/Mishkan carried the same idea of kedusha. God could teach us about this concept of kedusha through the Temple and Mishkan. God gave the Mishkan so that when the people moved away from the mountain (which had the original kedusha) the kedusha would move with them and be among them. Eventually, the Temple would be called the “Beit ha Mikdash” which means the “house of Kedusha.” Individuals are not called “holy” in the Scriptures, but, Israel collectively were called a “holy nation” (Exo 19.6). In Gen 2.3 we have the first mention of “holy” or “kedusha” when it is used in conjunction with the Sabbath. The next time we see the word “holy” or “kedusha” in any form is when Moses comes to Mount Sinai and is told to take his sandals off because the ground had a kedusha.
In Part 20 we will pick up here and continue bringing out concepts associated with the Festival of Shavuot at a deeper level.