Hag (from a root, "to dance") is the Hebrew applied to the Passover, and still more to the feast of tabernacles, as both were celebrated with rejoicings and participation of food (Exodus 12:14; Leviticus 23:39; Numbers 29:12; Deuteronomy 16:39). But moed is the general term for all sacred assemblies convoked on stated anniversaries; God's people by His appointment meeting before Him in brotherly fellowship for worship. Their communion was primarily with God, then with one another. These national feasts tended to join all in one brotherhood. Hence, arose Jeroboam's measures to counteract the effect on his people (1 Kings 12:26-27). Hezekiah made the revival of the national Passover a primary step in his efforts for a reformation (2 Chronicles 30:1). The Roman government felt the feast a time when especial danger of rebellion existed (Matthew 26:5; Luke 13:1).
The "congregations," "calling of assemblies," "solemn meetings" (Isaiah 1:13; Psalm 81:3), both on the convocation days of the three great feasts, passover, Pentecost, and tabernacles, and also on the sabbaths, imply assemblies for worship, the forerunners of the synagogue (compare 2 Kings 4:23). The septenary number prevails in the great feasts. Pentecost was seven weeks (sevens) after Passover; passover and the feast of tabernacles lasted seven days each; the days of holy convocation were seven in the year, two at Passover, one at pentecost, one at the feast of trumpets, one on the day of atonement (the first day or new moon of the seventh month), and two at the feast of tabernacles. The last two solemn days were in the seventh month, and the cycle of feasts is seven months, from Nisan to Tisri. There was also the sabbatical year, and the year of Jubilee.
The continued observance of the three feasts commemorative of the great facts of Israelite history make it incredible that the belief of those facts could have been introduced at any period subsequent to the supposed time of their occurrence if they never took place. The day, the month, and every incident of Israel's deliverance out of Egypt are embalmed in the anniversary passover. On the three great feasts each Israelite was bound to "appear before the Lord," i.e., attend in the court of the tabernacle or temple and make his offering with gladness (Leviticus 23; Deuteronomy 27:7). Pious women often went up to the Passover: as Luke 2:41, Mary; 1 Samuel 1:7; 1 Samuel 2:19, Hannah. Those men who might happen to be unable to attend at the proper time kept the feast the same day in the succeeding month (Numbers 9:10-11). On the days of holy convocation all ordinary work was suspended (Leviticus 23:21-35). The three great feasts had a threefold bearing.
I. They marked the three points of time as to the fruits of the earth.
II. They marked three epochs in Israel's past history.
III. They pointed prophetically to three grand antitypical events of the gospel kingdom.
I. They marked the three points of time as to the fruits of the earth.
(I.) At the Passover in spring, in the month Abib, the first green ears of barley were cut, and were a favorite food, prepared as parched grain, but first of all a handful of green ears was presented to the Lord.
(2) Fifty days (as Pentecost means) after Passover came the feast of weeks, i.e. a week of weeks after Passover. The now ripe wheat, before being cut, was sanctified by its firstfruits, namely two loaves of fine flour, being offered to Jehovah.
(3) At the feast of tabernacles, in the end of the common year and the seventh month of the religious year, there was a feast of ingathering when all the fruits of the field had been gathered in. There was no offering of consecration, for the offerings for sanctifying the whole had been presented long before. It was not a consecration of what was begun, but a joyful thanksgiving for what was completed. See for the spiritual lesson Proverbs 3:9; Psalm 118:15.
II. They marked three epochs in Israel's past history. Each of the three marked a step in the HISTORICAL progress of Israel.
(1) The Passover commemorated the deliverance out of Egypt when Jehovah passed over Israel, protecting them from the destroying angel and sparing them, and so achieving for them the first step of independent national life as God's covenant people.
(2) Pentecost marked the giving of the law on Sinai, the second grand era in the history of the elect nation. God solemnly covenanted, "If ye will obey My voice indeed and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people, and ye shall be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:5).
(3) All the nation now wanted was a home. The feast of tabernacles commemorates the establishment of God's people in the land of promise, their pleasant and peaceful home, after the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, living in shifting tents. They took boughs of palm and willows of the brook, and made temporary huts of branches and sat under the booths. So in their fixed home and land of rest their enjoyment was enhanced by the thankful and holy remembrance of past wanderings without a fixed dwelling. Joshua especially observed this feast after the settlement in Canaan (as incidentally comes out in Nehemiah 8:17).
Solomon (appropriately to his name, which means king of peace) also did so, for his reign was preeminently the period of peaceful possession when every man dwelt under his own vine and figtree (1 Kings 4:25); immediately after that the last relic of wilderness life was abolished by the ark being taken from under curtains and deposited in the magnificent temple of stone in the seventh month (2 Chronicles 5:3), the feast of tabernacles was celebrated on the 15th day, and on the 23rd Solomon sent the great congregation away glad in heart for the goodness that the Lord had showed unto David, Solomon, and Israel His people.
The third celebration especially recorded was after the Babylonian captivity, when the Jews were re-established in their home under Ezra and Nehemiah, and all gathered themselves together as one man on the first day of the seventh month, the feast of trumpets. Then followed the reading of the law and renewal of the covenant. Then finding in the law directions as to the feast of tabernacles, they brought branches of olive, pine, myrtle, and palm, and thick trees, and made booths on their roofs and in their courts, and in the courts of God's house, and sat under them with "great gladness" (Nehemiah 8).
III. They pointed prophetically to three grand antitypical events of the gospel kingdom. Prophetically and typically.
(1) The Passover points to the Lord Jesus, the true paschal Lamb sacrificed for us, whose sacrifice brings to us a perpetual feast (1 Corinthians 5:7).
(2) Pentecost points to our Whitsuntide (Acts 2) when the Holy Spirit descending on Christ's disciples confirms Christ's covenant of grace in the heart more effectually than the law of Sinai written on stone (2 Corinthians 3:3-18).
(3) Two great steps have already been taken toward establishing the kingdom of God. Christ has risen from death as "the firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Corinthians 15:20), even as the green ears of barley were offered as firstfruits at Passover. Secondly, the Holy Spirit has not merely once descended but still abides in the church as His temple, giving us a perpetual Whitsun feast, One step more is needed; we have received redemption, also the Holy Spirit; we wait still for our inheritance and abiding home. The feast of tabernacles points on to the antitypical Canaan, the everlasting inheritance, of which the Holy Spirit is the "earnest" (Ephesians 1:13-14; Hebrews 4:8-9). The antitypical feast of tabernacles shall be under the antitypical Joshua, Jesus the Captain of our salvation, the antitypical Solomon, the Prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6; Revelation 7:9-17).
The zest of the heavenly joy of the palmbearing multitude (antitypical to the palmbearers at the feast of tabernacles), redeemed out of all nations, shall be the remembrance of their tribulations in this wilderness world forever past; for repose is sweetest after toil, and difficulties surmounted add to the delight of triumph. Salvation was the prominent topic at the feast. In later times they used to draw water from the pool of Siloam, repeating from Isaiah 12 "with joy shall ye draw water from the wells of salvation," referred to by Jesus (John 7:2-37; John 7:39). So Christ shall appear the "second time without sin unto salvation" (Hebrews 9:28). The palm-bearing multitude accompanying Jesus at His triumphant entry into His royal capital cried "Hosanna," i.e. Save us we beseech Thee. So the prophetical Psalm 118:25-26, implies that Israel shall say when in penitent faith she shall turn to her returning Lord (Matthew 23:39).
So the thanksgiving song of eternity shall be, "Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb." Meanwhile on earth Israel, long finding no ease or rest for the sole of the foot, but having "trembling of heart, failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind" (Deuteronomy 28:65), shall at length rest in her own land under Messiah reigning at Jerusalem as His holy capital and over the whole earth, and "everyone that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles" (Zechariah 14:9; Zechariah 14:16; Revelation 7). That feast shall remind Israel of hardships now past, and of salvation and peace now realized on earth, so that "the voice of rejoicing and salvation shall be in the tabernacles of the righteous" (Psalm 118:15).
There was in the Three Feasts a clear prefigurement of the Three Persons; the Father, in the work of creation, especially adored in the feast of tabernacles; the Son in the Passover sacrifice; the Spirit in the Pentecostal feast. The times of the feasts were those least interfering with the people's industry; the Passover just before harvest; Pentecost at its conclusion and before the vintage; tabernacles after all fruits were gathered in. The feast of PURIM commemorated the baffling of Haman's plot for the Jews' destruction; the feast of Dedication the purification of the temple by the Maccabees, after its defilement by Antiochus Epiphanes. (See ESTHER; DEDICATION, FEAST OF.)
In the New Testament Jude (Judges 1:12, "feasts of charity"; also 2 Peter 2:13, mentions the Christian lovefeasts which often preceded the Lord's supper (1 Corinthians 11 end) just as the Passover preceded it in Christ's institution. frontLORD'S SUPPER.) They ate and; drank together earthly, then heavenly food, in token of unity for time and eternity. The fervent love and fellowship which characterized the first disciples originated these feasts (Acts 2:45-46; Acts 4:35; Acts 6:1). Each brought his portion, as to a club feast; and the rich brought extra portions for the poor.
From it the bread and wine were taken for the Eucharist. In it the excesses took place which Paul censures, and which made a true and reverent celebration of the Lord's supper during or after it impossible. Hence the lovefeasts were afterward separated from the Lord's supper, and in the fourth century forbidden by the Council of Laodicea A.D. 320, and that of Carthage A.D. 391, as excesses crept in, the rulers of the church receiving double portions (Tertullian, De Jejun., 17), and the rich courting the praise of liberality. Pliny, in his famous letter to Trajan, says the Christians met and exchanged sacramental pledges against all immorality, then separated, and met again to partake of an entertainment.