The Role of Shavuot in the Ancient Hebrew Wedding Feast:
“Chag HaShavuot” explains the role of Shavuot (Pentecost) in the Ancient Hebrew Wedding Feast.
In this book, we have been talking all about the feasts of the first month. Now we will talk about Shavuot, also called Pentecost, or the Feast of Weeks. And people might say, “Wait a minute, Shavuot is in the third month.” Yes, we understand that Shavuot takes place at the start of the third month. However, we need to understand that the date of Shavuot is effectively set by the date of Yom HaNafat HaOmer, a feast of the first month. So, if we want to understand Shavuot, the first thing we need to do is to take a look at Yom HaNafat HaOmer.
One thing we have seen about Yom HaNafat HaOmer is that it always falls on the first day of the week during the Feast of Unleavened Bread (HaMatzot). Now, if we think about the symbolism of that, it is very powerful. Because HaMatzot is where we are getting rid of any leaven (sin) from our lives, which includes false doctrine. People may be surprised by that. People may ask, “Why would false doctrine be a sin? Does that not seem harsh? We just do not know the right doctrine, that is a sin?”
Yes, false doctrine is a sin. Because what Yeshua wants is for us to help Him build His unified, global ministry, or His unified, global, spiritual kingdom. That is what He wants. And we cannot do that unless we have a single, unified doctrine. Can two walk together unless they be agreed? The answer is no. As we have seen time and again and as we see in many of our studies, in Scripture, a nation is effectively a religious belief set. In other words, when we have more than one religious belief set, we have more than one nation. And the nation divided against itself shall not stand. So, this business of having the correct doctrine is extremely important. And so this is the context in which we need to understand Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks.
On Yom HaNafat HaOmer (the Day of the Wave Sheaf Offering) we are going to be making an offering during this Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the whole purpose of this is to get rid of the sinful parts of ourselves and to be filled with Yeshua. We have spoken before about how the omer of firstfruits symbolizes Yeshua, the first among many to be resurrected. The omer offering also symbolizes Yeshua because when we lift up the omer, we are effectively lifting up Yeshua.
How do we lift up Yeshua and what is all involved in that? Well, there are many parts to it. We can imitate Yeshua and we can learn to walk even as He walked. That means that we need to study and know His doctrine. Not the doctrine of the Pharisees, not the doctrine of the Sadducees, not the doctrine of the Messianic. We need to be careful about what fountains we drink from because it makes a big impact on our spirits. And we realize what Yochanan HaMatbil (the Immerser) said was true. We must decrease so that He might increase. Meaning, we are lifting up Yeshua as an example so we can become more like Him and imitate Him. We want to learn to become less like us and more like Him so that we can manifest Yeshua and manifest His Spirit in our bodies. By literally letting Him lead and guide us in everything that we do and allowing His Spirit to have its way with us in everything. That is how we are lifting Yeshua up, exalting and glorifying Him. Because the world can tell from our witness that we know He is worthy and then that sometimes gets people’s attention.
Now traditionally, Yom HaNafat HaOmer took place just after the exodus. In Exodus chapter twelve, when Israel passed through the Reed Sea (the Red Sea), Yom HaNafat HaOmer was basically a type of immersion. And then, the wave sheaf (omer) also has to do with resurrection. So, Israel was immersed, so to speak, as they passed through the Reed Sea, and then they were born again into a new life with Yahweh Elohim on the far side. The whole theme is symbolic of our renewed life. We leave our old lives in slavery to the world system and now we begin our renewed life with Yeshua and with His Spirit.
So, these are all things to keep in mind for anyone who wants to be considered as part of Yeshua’s bride. The bride is supposed to be refining herself for these fifty days up to Shavuot, trying to learn how to please her husband. And according to tradition, this is what we are supposed to be doing from the time that the wave sheaf is lifted up. We are doing this for seven complete weeks plus one day. That is seven complete periods of time and a perfect number of them, and then we add one day later to bring us back to the first day of the week. And that is when Shavuot takes place. We are going to see the symbolism behind this.
According to tradition, Shavuot is when the Torah was originally given to Israel at Mount Sinai. One of the reasons is that Yahweh took Israel out of Egypt, from the house of slavery and bondage, and then gave her His covenant. And the Torah not only functions as a covenant, but it also functions as what is called a ketubah, or effectively, a wedding contract.
In the ancient Hebrew wedding tradition, the marriage is publicly announced at what is called erusin, which corresponds to Shavuot. Then the marriage becomes lawfully binding at the moment it is publicly announced. We are going to explain this in just a little bit now. But from the time that the deal is made and the agreement is reached, the groom and the bride are then kept completely apart and they are only going to communicate through the groom’s best friend. If we think about the spiritual implications of that, who is Yeshua’s best friend? That would be the Spirit. And that is how He says He communicates with us.
Yochanan (John) 14:16-18
16 “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that She may abide with you forever—
17 the Spirit of truth [Torah], whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Her nor knows Her; but you know Her, for She dwells with you and will be in you.
18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”
That is why, in Yochanan chapter fourteen, Yeshua says that we would receive another helper, that she may abide with us forever. And we say she because in Hebrew and also in Aramaic, Ruach is effeminate. He also promised that He would not leave us orphans, but that He would come to us again. When did He come again? He came on the day of Shavuot, in Acts chapter two. That is when He sent His Spirit to be with us.
Ma’asei (Acts) 2:1-4
1 When the Day of Shavuot had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.
3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.
4 And they were all filled with the Set-apart Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
There are some interesting things we need to see about this speaking in tongues. We talk about this in more detail in our study, “About Speaking in Tongues” in Nazarene Scripture Studies, Volume One. In that study, you can find out there are actually several different kinds of tongues and also learn which kinds are legitimate and which kinds are not. I thought we would include that because we always get asked.
Let us recap and take a look at the order from the bride’s perspective. How do things happen?
First, according to the ancient Hebrew wedding ceremony, we have what is called shiddukhin (the match), which takes place at Pesach. You have the parents of the groom and bride, and they are going to make an agreement. Once they have an agreement, they are going to have a celebratory meal to confirm that, yes, they agree to this deal. But they are not going to announce it yet. They are going to wait and be certain, they are going to let things settle, they are going to ‘sleep on it’ and take their time. But the match is official. For example, in Scripture, we see the Pesach which was the match between Elohim and Israel.
So, they do not announce it immediately. They are going to have a confirmation celebratory meal, but then they are going to wait until after the Sabbath. Then, on the first day of the week the following week, they are going to begin a fifty-day count up to the erusin, corresponding to Shavuot. And that is when they are going to make the public announcement of the wedding. And again, in Hebrew thought, the wedding becomes lawfully binding when it is announced. Legally means man’s laws, lawfully means Yahweh’s laws. So you take seven perfect periods of seven (a perfect number), equaling forty-nine weeks, and add one, just to be sure. Because when you announce that you are married it is your word in Scripture. The words are very important in Scripture. The parties to the marriage are considered legally binding, even though the consummation and the wedding week do not come until later.
Now, in real life, the wedding week comes after the summer growing season. And then the harvest is typically when they have it. And feast-wise, that corresponds to Sukkot (The Feast of Tabernacles).
So, we had a firstfruits offering of the barley at Yom HaNafat HaOmer. That began the omer count. And now there is a 50-day count up to Shavuot when there is going to be a second firstfruits offering. But it is not going to be firstfruits of barley this time, it is going to be firstfruits of the ancient Black Wild Heirloom Emmer wheat which grows wild in the land of Israel. At Yom HaNafat HaOmer we just brought a sheaf, but at Shavuot, we are going to bring two leavened loaves. So, the way we present the firstfruits is different.
Vayiqra (Leviticus) 23:15-16
15 “And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the [weekly] Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the [barley] wave offering [omer]: seven Sabbaths shall be completed.
16 Count fifty days, to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering [of the wild black heirloom Emmer wheat] to Yahweh.”
For Shavuot, it is the firstfruits of wheat. And the ancient Emmer Heirloom wheat is what is coming ripe at that time. So, what does this mean in terms of us? How can we use this information to help us understand the feasts even better? Well, for this we need to take a look at the ancient Hebrew wedding model.
You have phase one, again, called shiddukhin (or shiddukh, the match). And from the bride’s point of view, the match was made at Pesach. Then there was a private celebratory meal between both families, confirming their covenant. They do not make the announcement right away, but they wait until the Sabbath immediately following the Passover. And then wait till the very next day, on the first day of the week. That is when, according to the model, Yeshua is lifted up and the fifty-day count of the erusin begins.
What happens when you reach fifty? According to the ancient Hebrew wedding model, we now enter into the phase called erusin, when the public announcement of the wedding is made and the marriage becomes official and lawfully binding. Because the marriage is official once it is announced at erusin, even though the consummation may not take place for several more months. And in this model, the consummation would take place at the end of summer, typically when the Feast of Sukkot comes. To find out how erusin turns into nissuin, please see our study on The Feasts of the Seventh Month.
Ancient Hebrew Wedding Process
1. The families make their match and share their celebratory meal (Pesach).
2. Start the 50-day count to the announcement on the first day of the week (Yom HaNafat).
3. Count 50-days (omer) to the public announcement of the marriage (waiting seven sets of seven, plus one).
4. Announce the wedding at the start of a fresh new week (erusin, they are married).
For those who are interested for themselves, if you are going to do erusin and the families make their public announcements, ideally the bridegroom is going to give his bride a ketubah, a written wedding contract. And that is going to explain what the promises, roles, duties, and responsibilities are of both the bridegroom and the bride. It is also going to spell out any punishments for breaking the contract. It is a perfect picture of the Torah of Mount Sinai. It is very clear once we understand what the pattern is. This was absolutely Yahweh’s ketubah with Israel. Because He gives us the promises and He tells us what will happen if we do not want to obey. And we were given an option. Yahweh sprung us from prison and from bondage, brought us to the foot of Mount Sinai, and gave us a choice. And we gave our “I do’s” at the foot of Mount Sinai.
Shemote (Exodus) 19:8
8 Then all the people answered together and said, “All that Yahweh has spoken we will do.” So Moshe brought back the words of the people to Yahweh.
So, we are now responsible to do everything of the Torah that we can do, even though we are presently in the dispersion. We talk about that in our other series about the Melchizedekian Torah. If you want to know more, there are a lot more good details in a chapter called “The Wave Sheaf and the Pentecost”, in The Torah Calendar. If you want all the technical details or if you are trying to understand what is wrong with the rabbinic count, the Messianic and Karaite counts, and these kinds of things, The Torah Calendar is going to give you that good global overview. You can put all the pieces in place.
For the rest of us, praise be to Yahweh. We are called to the Feast of Weeks at its appointed time, fifty days after Yom HaNafat HaOmer. Let us remember to keep the count and let us remember to keep purifying and refining ourselves. So that we decrease in our own eyes and He is elevated in our eyes.