corner graphic   Hi,    
ver. 2.0.20.03.30
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to classic.studylight.org/

Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Pentecost

Resource Toolbox
Additional Links

(Πεντηκοστή , scil. ἡμέρα ), the second of the three great annual festivals on which all the males were required to appear before the Lord in the national sanctuary, the other two being the feasts of Passover and Tabernacles. It fell in due course on the sixth day of Sivan, and its rites, according to the Law, were restricted to a single day. The most important passages relating to it are Exodus 23:16; Leviticus 23:15-22; Numbers 28:26-31; Deuteronomy 16:9-12; The following article treats of its observance from a Scriptural as well as Talmudical point of view. (See FESTIVAL).

I. Name and its Signification.

1. This festival is called, חִג הִשָּׁבוּעוֹת ἑορτὴ ἑβδομάδων , solemnitas hebdomadorum, the Festival of Weeks (Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16:10; Deuteronomy 16:16; 2 Chronicles 8:13), because it was celebrated seven complete weeks, or fifty days, after the Passover (Leviticus 23:15-16).

2. For this reason it is also called in the Jewish writings חִג חֲמַשַּׁים יוֹם , the feast of the fifty days (comp. Joseph. War, 2:3, 1), whence ἡμέρα τῆς Πεντηκοστῆς (Joseph. Ant. 3:10, 6; Tobit 2:1; 2 Maccabees 12:32; Acts 2:1; Acts 20:16; 1 Corinthians 16:8), the Latin Pentecoste, and our appellation Pentecost.

3. חִג הִקָּצַיר, the festival of the harvest (Exodus 23:16), because it concluded the harvest of the later grains.

4. יוֹם הִבַּכּוּרַים ἡμέρα τῶν νέων , dies prinitivorum, "the day of first- fruits" (Numbers 28:26), because the first loaves made from the new corn were then offered on the altar (Leviticus 23:17), for which reason Philo (Opp. 2:294) calls it ἑορτὴ πρωτογεννημάτων.

5. It is also denominated in the postcanonical Jewish writings חִג הָעֲצֶרֶת, the festival of conclusion (or assembly), i.e. of the Passover, or simply עֲצֶרֶת (comp. πεντηκοστή, ἣν ῾Εβραῖοι Ἀσαρθά [=עצרתא, Chaldee] καλοῦσι, σημαίνει δὲ τοῦτο πεντηκοστήν, Joseph. Ant. 3:10, 6; Mishna, Bikkurim, 1:3, 7, 10; Rosh Ha-Shana, 1:2; Chagiga, 2:4), because it completed what the Passover commenced; and 6, מִתִּן תּוֹרָתֵנוּ

זְמִן , the time of the giving of our law, because the Jews believe that on this day the revelation of the Decalogue took place.

II. The Time at which this Festival was celebrated. The time fixed for the celebration of Pentecost is the fiftieth day reckoning from "the morrow after the Sabbath" (מַמָּחַרִת הִשִּׁבָּת ) of the Passover (Leviticus 23:11; Leviticus 23:15-16.) The precise meaning, however, of the word שׁבת in this connection, which determines the date for celebrating this festival, has been matter of dispute from time immemorial. The Boethusians (ביתוַסים ) and the Sadducees in the time of the second Temple (Mishna, Menachoth, 10:3), and the Karaites since the 8th century of the Christian era (comp. Jehudah Hedessi, Eshkol Ha-Kopher, Alphab. p. 221-224; ibid. p. 85 b), took תה שׁךנ its literal and ordinary sense as denoting the seventh day of the week, or the Sabbath of creation), and maintained that the omer was offered on the day following that weekly Sabbath which might happen to fall within the seven days of the Passover, so that Pentecost would always be on the first day of the week. But against this it is urged

(a.) that Joshua 5:11, where ממחרת הפסח is used for thממהרת הש , shows that תה שךנ Leviticus 23:11 denotes the first day of Passover, which was to be a day of rest.

(b.) The definite article in תה השךנ Leviticus 23:11 refers to one of the preceding festival days.

(c.) The expression תה שךס also used for the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:32), and the abstract שבתון is applied to the first and eighth days of Tabernacle Leviticus 23:39) and the Feast of Trumpets (Leviticus 23:24), as well as to week (Leviticus 23:15; Leviticus 25:8); hence this use of σάββατον in the N.T. (Mark 16:2; Mark 16:9; Luke 18:12).

(d.) According to Leviticus 23:15 the seventh week, at the end of which Pentecost is to be celebrated, is to be reckoned from this Sabbath. Now, if this Sabbath were not fixed, but could happen on any one of the seven Passover days, possibly on the fifth or sixth day of the festival, the Passover would in,the course of time be displaced from the fundamental position which it occupies in the order of the annual festivals.

(e.) The Sabbatic idea which underlies all the festivals, and which is scrupulously observed in all of them, shows that the reckoning could not have been left to the fifth or sixth day of the festival, but must have fixedly begun on the 16th of Nisan. Thus, each Sabbath comes after six even periods: 1. the Sabbath of days, after six days; 2. the Sabbath of months, after six months; 3. the Sabbath of years, after six years; 4. the Sabbath of Sabbatic years, after six Sabbatic years; 5. the Sabbath of festivals = the Day of Atonement, after six festivals, (See JUBILEE, THE YEAR OF); hence the Sabbath of weeks, i.e. Pentecost, must also be at the end of six common weeks after Passover, which could be obtained only by reckoning from the 16th of Nisan, as this alone yields six common weeks; for the first week during which the counting goes on belongs to the feast of Passover, and is not common.

(f.) The Sept. ( ἐοπαύριον τῆς πρώτης ), Josephus (τῇ δευτέρᾷ τῶν ἀζύμων ἡμέρᾷ, Ant. 3:10, 5, 6), Philo (Opp. 2:294), Onkelos (מבתר יומא טבא ), and the synagogue have understood it in this way, and most Christian commentators espouse the traditional interpretation. (See SABBATH). Still more objectionable is the hypothesis of Hitzig (Ostern und Pfingsten, Heidelberg, 1837), defended by Hupfeld (De primit. et vera festorum ap. Hebraeos ratione, 2:3 sq.), and Knobel (Die Bacher Exodus und Leviticus, Leipsic, 1857, p. 544), that the sacred or festival year of the Hebrews always began on the Sabbath, so that the 7th (i.e. the first day of Passover), the 14th (i.e. the last day of the festival), and the 21st of Nisan, were always Sabbath days; and that the omer was offered on the 22d day of the month, which was "the morrow after the Sabbath" terminating the festival, and from which the fifty days were reckoned (Hitzig, Hupfield), or that the omer was offered on the 8th of the month, which was also "the morrow after the Sabbath," thus preventing it from being post festum (Knobel). It will be seen that this hypothesis, in order to obtain Sabbaths for the 14th and 21st days of the month as the beginning and termination of Passover, is always obliged to make the religious new year begin on a Sabbath day, and hence has to assume a stereotyped form of the Jewish year, which as a rule terminated with an incomplete week. Now this assumption

1. Is utterly at variance with the unsettled state of the Jewish calendar, which was constantly regulated by the appearance of the disk of the new moon, (See NEW MOON, DAY OF THE);

2. It rudely disturbs the weekly division, which is based upon the works of creation, and which the Jews regarded with the utmost sanctity; and

3. It is inconceivable that the Mosaic law, which, as we have seen, regarded the Sabbatic division of time as so peculiarly sacred that it made it the basis of the whole cycle of festivals, would adopt a plan for fixing the time for celebrating the Passover whereby the last week of almost every expiring year is to be cut short, and the hebdomadal cycle, as well as the celebration of the Sabbath, interrupted (comp. Keil, On Leviticus 23:11).

It is therefore argued that the Jews, who during the second Temple kept Pentecost fifty days after the 16th of Nisan, rightly interpreted the injunction contained in Leviticus 23:15-22. The fiftieth day, or the feast of Pentecost, according to the Jewish canons, may fall on the 5th, 6th, or 7th of Sivan (סיון ), the third month of the year from the new moon of May to the new moon of June (Rosh Ha-Shana, 6 b; Sabbath, 87 b). The fifty days formally included the period of grain-harvest, commencing with the offering of the first sheaf of the barley-harvest in the Passover, and ending with that of the first two loaves which were made front the wheat-harvest, at this festival. It was the offering of these two loaves which was the distinguishing rite of the day of Pentecost. (See WAVE-OFFERING).

III. The Manner in which this Festival was Celebrated. Not to confound the practices which obtained in the course of time, and which were called forth by the ever-shifting circumstances of the Jewish nation, we shall divide the description of the manner in which this festival was and still is celebrated into three sections.

1. The Pentateuchal Ordinances. The Mosaic enactments about the manner in which this festival is to be celebrated are as follows: On the day of Pentecost there is to be a holy convocation; no manner of work is to be done on this festival (Leviticus 23:21 : Numbers 28:26); all the able- bodied male members of the congregation, who are not legally precluded from it are to appear in the place of the national sanctuary, as on the Passover and Tabernacles (Exodus 23:14; Exodus 23:17; Exodus 34:23), where "a new meat-offering" (חדשה מנחה ) of the new Palestine crop (Leviticus 23:16; Numbers 28:26; Deuteronomy 16:10), consisting of two unleavened loaves, made respectively of the tenth of an ephah (=about 3.5 quarts) of the finest wheaten flour (Exodus 34:18; Leviticus 23:17), is to be offered before the Lord as firstlings (בכורים, Exodus 34:17), whence this festival derived its name, the day of firstlings (יוֹם בכורים, Numbers 28:26).

In the above prescription, the phrase "Out of your habitations," מַמּוֹשְׁבֹתֵיכֶם (Leviticus 23:17), has been explained by the Jewish canons, which obtained during the time of the second Temple, as an ellipsis for מארוֹ מושבותיכם (Numbers 15:2), the land of your habitations, i. e. Palestine (Menachoth, 77 b, with Mishna, Menachoth, 8:1); hence the rendering of Jonathan b. Uzziel's reputed Chaldee paraphrase, מאתר מותבניכין, the Sept. ἀπὸ τῆς κατοικίας ὑμῶν, from your habitation, in the singular referring to Palestine; the remark ofRashi, ממושבתיכם ילא מחוצה לארוֹ, from where your habitations are, but not from any part outside the land, i.e. of Israel; Rashban (ad loc.) and Maimnonides (lad Ha - Chezaka, tilchoth Tamidin U-Mosaphin, 8:2), who rightly distinguish between ממושבתיכם as here used, and בכל מושבתיכם (Exodus 12:20; Exodus 35:3; Leviticus 3:17; Leviticus 7:26; Leviticus 23:3; Leviticus 23:14; Leviticus 23:21; Numbers 35:29), the former referring to injunctions which are binding in the land of Canaan, and the latter to commandments to be observed in every place, or wherever the Jews might reside; comp. Rashban on Leviticus 23:16. The rendering of the Vulgate (ex omnibus habitaculis vestris), therefore which is followed by Luther (aus alien eueren Wohnungen), inserting בכל, is most arbitrary and unjustifiable. Inadmissible, too, is the opinion of Calvin, Osiander, George (Die altenjiud. Feste, p. 130, 273), etc., that two loaves were brought out of every house, or at least out of every town, based upon the plural ממושבתיכם; or the view of Vaihinger (in Herzog's Real-Encyklopdie, s.v. Pfingstfest, p. 479) and Keil (on Leviticus 23:17), that the plural משבתיכם is used in a singular sense, i.e. from one of your habitations (comp. Genesis 8:4; Judges 12:7; Nehemiah 6:2; Ecclesiastes 10:1); and denotes that the two loaves are to be offered from the habitations of the Israelites, and not from those prepared for the sanctuary or from its treasury.

With the two loaves were to be offered as a burnt offering seven lambs of the first year and without blemish, one young bullock, and two lambs, with the usual meat and drink offerings; while a goat is to be offered as a sin- offering, and two lambs of the first year are to be offered as a thanksgiving or peace offering (Leviticus 23:18-20). The peace-offering, consisting of the two lambs with the two firstling loaves, are to be waved before the Lord by the priests. These are to be additions to the two loaves, and must not be confounded with the proper festival sacrifice appointed for Pentecost. which is given in Numbers 28:27, and which is to be a burnt- offering, consisting of two bullocks, one ram, and seven lambs. That these two passages are not contradictory, as is maintained by Knobel (Comment. on Leviticus 23:15-22), Vaihinger (in Herzog's Real-Encyklop. s.v. Pfingstfest, p. 480), and others, but refer to two distinct sacrifices, viz. one to accompany the wave-loaves (על הלחם, Leviticus 23:18), and the other the properly appointed sacrifice for the festival (Numbers 28:27), is evident from the context and design of the enactments in the respective passages, as well as from the practice of the Jews in the Temple, where both prescriptions were obeyed.

Hence Josephus (Ant. 3:10, 6), in summing up the number of animal sacrifices on this festival, says that there were fourteen lambs, three young bullocks, and three goats; the number two, instead of three goats, being manifestly a transcriber's error, as Vaihinger himself admits. When Vaihinger characterizes this statement of Josephus "as one of the many exegetical and historical blunders of the Jewish historian," and maintains that it does not follow from Menachoth, 4:2, we can only say that 1. Josephus simply describes what he himself saw in the Temple, and what every ancient Jewish document on the same subject declares; 2. The third section of the very Mishna (Menachoth, 4:3) which Vaihinger quotes distinctly declares, "The kind of sacrifice prescribed in Numbers 28:27 was offered in the wilderness, and the kind of sacrifice enjoined in Leviticus 23:18 was not offered in the wilderness; but when they [i.e. the Israelites] entered the Promised Land they sacrificed both kinds; "see also the Gemara on this Mishna (Babylon Menachoth, 45 b), where the reasons are given more largely than in the Mishna why the former kind of sacrifice was not offered in the wilderness; and 3. Maimonides, who also summarizes the ancient canons on these two kinds of sacrifices for Pentecost, shows beyond the shadow of a doubt how these enactments were carried out in the second Temple. He says: "On the fiftieth day, counting from the offering of the omer, is the feast of Pentecost and Azereth (צצרת ). Now on this day additional sacrifices are offered, like the additional ones for new moon, (See NEW MOON, THE FEAST OF), consisting of two bullocks, one ram, and seven lambs, ail of them being burnt-offerings, and of a goat as sin-offering. These are sacrifices ordered in Numbers 28:26-27; Numbers 28:30, and they constitute the addition for the day. Besides this addition, however, a new meat-offering of two loaves is also brought, and with the loaves are offered one bullock, two rams, and seven lambs, all burnt-offerings; a goat for a sin-offering, and two lambs for a peace-offering. These are the sacrifices ordered in Leviticus 23:18. Hence the sacrifice on this day exceeds the two daily sacrifices by three bullocks, three rams, fourteen lambs (all these twenty animals being a burnt-offering); two goats for a sin-offering, which are eaten; and two lambs for a peace-offering, which are not eaten" (lad la- Chezaka, Hilchoth Tamidin U-Mosaphin, 8:1).

Besides the two loaves with their accompanying sacrifices, and the special festival sacrifices which were offered for the whole nation, each individual who came to the sanctuary was expected to bring, on this festival, as on Passover and the feast of Tabernacles, a free-will offering according to his circumstances (Deuteronomy 16:10-12), a portion of which was given to the priests and Levites, and the rest was eaten by the respective families, who invited the poor and strangers to share it. It would seem that the character of this festival partook of a more free and hospitable liberality than that of the Passover, which was rather of the kind that belongs to the mere family gathering. In this respect it resembled the feast of Tabernacles. The Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow were to be brought within its influence (Deuteronomy 16:11; Deuteronomy 16:14). The mention of the gleanings to be left in the fields at harvest for " the poor and the stranger," in connection with Pentecost, may perhaps have a bearing on the liberality which belonged to the festival (Leviticus 23:22). At Pentecost (as at the Passover) the people were to be reminded of their bondage in Egypt, and they were especially admonished of their obligation to keep the divine law (Deuteronomy 16:12).

2. The Post-exilian Observance of this Festival. More minute is the information in the non-canonical documents about the preparation of the sacrifices and the observance of this festival in and before the time of Christ. The pilgrims went up to Jerusalem the day previous to the commencement of the festival, when they prepared everything necessary for its solemn observance; and the approach of the holy convocation was proclaimed in the evening by blasts of the trumpets. The altar of the burnt- sacrifice was cleansed in the first night-watch of the preparation-day, and the gates of the Temple, as well as those of the inner court, were opened immediately after midnight for the convenience of the priests, who resided in the city, and for the people, who filled the court before the cock crew, to have their burnt-sacrifices and thanksgiving offerings duly examined by the priests. When the time of sacrifice arrived, the daily morning sacrifice was first offered, then the festival sacrifices prescribed in Numbers 28:26-27; Numbers 28:30, while the Levites were chanting the Great Hallel (q.v.), in which the people joined; whereupon the congregation solemnly and heartily thanked God for the successful harvest, and the loaves of the new corn, with the accompanying sacrifices prescribed in Leviticus 23:18, were offered to the Lord. The two loaves for the wave-offering were prepared in the following manner: "Three seahs of new wheat were brought into the court of the Temple; they were beaten and trodden like all meat-offerings, and ground into flour, two omers of which were sifted through twelve sieves, and the remainder was redeemed and eaten by any one.

The two omers of flour, of which the two loaves were made, were respectively obtained from a seah and a half... kneaded separately and baked separately. Like all meat-offerings, they were kneaded and prepared outside, but baked inside the Temple, and did not set aside the festival, much less the Sabbath, so that they were baked on the day preceding the festival. Hence, if the preparation-day (ערב יום טוב ) happened to be on a Sabbath, the loaves were baked on Friday (שבה ערב ), and eaten on the third day after they were baked, which was the feast day." They were leavened loaves according to the declaration of the law, and made as follows: "The leaven was fetched from some other place, put into the omer, the omer filled with flour, which was leavened with the said leaven. The length of each loaf was seven hand-breadths; the breadth, four hand-breadths; and the height, four fingers" (Maimonides, lad Ha-Chezaka, Hilchoth Tamidin U-Mosaphin, 8:3-10, with Mishna, Menachoth, 6:6, 7; 11:2; 4:9). The two loaves thus prepared were then offered as wave-offerings, with two lambs, constituting the peace-offering, in the following manner: "The two lambs were brought into the Temple and waved together by the priest while yet alive, as it is written, And he shall wave them... a wave-offering' (Leviticus 23:20); but if he waved each one separately, it was also valid, whereupon they were slain and flayed. The priest then took the breast and the shoulder of each one (comp. Leviticus 7:30; Leviticus 7:32), laid them down by the side of the two loaves, put both his hands under them, and waved them all together as if they were one, towards the east side the place of all wave offering doing it forwards and backwards, up and down; but it was also valid if he waved each separately. Hereupon he burned the fat of the two lambs, and the remainder of the flesh was eaten by the priests. As to the two loaves, the high-priest took one of them, and the second was divided among all the officiating priests (המשמרות ), and both of them were eaten up within the same day and half the following night, just as the flesh of the most holy things" (Maimonides, lad Ita-Chezaka, Hilchoth Tamidin U-Mosaphin, 8:11. See Mishna, Menachoth, v. 6; Joseph. Ant. 3:10, 6; War, 6:5, 3). After the prescribed daily sacrifice, the festival and the harvest sacrifice were offered for the whole nation. Each individual brought the free-will offering, which formed the cheerful and hospitable meal of the family, and to which the Levite, the widow, the orphan, the poor, and the stranger were invited. The festival in a minor degree continued for a whole week, during which time those who did not offer on the first day repaired their defects or negligence (Rosh Ha-Shana, 4 b). The offering of the first fruits also began at this time (Mishna, Bikkurim, 1:7, 10); and it was for this reason, as well as for the joyous semi-festival days which followed the day of Holy Convocation, that we find so large a concourse of Jews attending Pentecost (Acts 2; Joseph. Ant. 14:13, 14; 17:10, 2; far, 2:3, 1).

No occasional offering of first-fruits could be made in the Temple before Pentecost (Bikkurim, 1:3, 6). Hence probably the two loaves were designated "the first of the first-fruits" (Exodus 23:19), although the offering of the omer had preceded them. The proper time for offering first- fruits was the interval between Pentecost and Tabernacles (Bikk. 1:6, 10; comp. Exodus 23:16). (See FIRST-FRUITS).

The connection between the omer and the two loaves of Pentecost appears never to have been lost sight of. The former was called by Philo, προεότριος ἑτέρας ἑορτῆς μείζονος (De Sept. § 21, v. 25; comp. De Decem Orac. 4:302, ed. Tauch.). He elsewhere mentions the festival of Pentecost with the same marked respect. He speaks of a peculiar feast kept by the Therapeutse as προεόρτιος μεγίστης ἑορτῆς sc. Πεντηκοστῆς (De Vit. Contemp. v. 334). The interval between the Passover and Pentecost was evidently regarded as a religious season. The custom has probably been handed down from ancient times, which is observed by the modern Jews, of keeping a regular computation of the fifty days by a formal observance, beginning with a short prayer on the evening of the day of the omer, and continued on each succeeding day by a solemn declaration of its number in the succession, at evening prayer, while the members of the family are standing with respectful attention (Buxtorf, Syn. Judges 1:20, p. 440). According to the most generally received interpretation of the word δευτερόπρωτος (Luke 6:1), the period was marked by a regularly designated succession of Sabbaths, similar to the several successions of Sundays in our own calendar. It is assumed that the day of the omer was called δεύτερα (in the Sept., Leviticus 23:11, ἐπαύριον τῆς πρώτης ). The Sabbath which came next after it was termed δευτερόπρωτον; the second, δευτεροδεύτερον ; the third, δευτεροτριτον; and so onwards till Pentecost. This explanation was first proposed by Scaliger (De Emend. Temp. lib. 6, p. 527), and has been adopted by Frischmuth, Petavius, Casaubon, Lightfoot, Godwyn, Carpzov, and many others.

3. The Observance of this Festival to the Present Day. This festival, like all the feasts and fasts ordained or sanctioned in the Old Test., is annually and sacredly kept by the Jews to the present day on the 6th and 7th of Sivan, i.e. between the second half of May and the first half of June. Thus, although, according to the law, the observance of Pentecost lasted but a single day, the Jews in foreign countries, since the Captivity, have prolonged it to two days. They have treated the feast of Trumpets in the same way. The alteration appears to have been made to meet the possibility of an error in calculating the true day (Lightfoot, Exercit. Heb. Acts 2:1; Reland, Antig. 4:4, 5; Selden, De Ann. Civ. c. vii). It is said by Bartenora and Maimonides that, while the Temple was standing, though the religious rites were confined to the day, the festivities and the bringing in of gifts continued through seven days (Notes to Chagiga, 2:4). As above noted, in accordance with the injunction in Leviticus 23:15-16, the Jews regularly count every evening the fifty days from the second day of Passover until Pentecost, and they recite a prayer over it, which is given in the article PASSOVER (See PASSOVER) . As the counting (ספירה ) of these fifty days, on the first of which the sickle was brought out for cutting the corn, and on the last of which it was laid up again because the harvest was entirely finished, is not only a connecting link between Passover and Pentecost, but may be regarded as preparatory for the feast of Pentecost, we must notice the events and practices connected therewith. Owing to a fearful plague which broke out on the second day of Passover or the first of Omer, and which, after raging thirty-two days, and carrying off between Gabath and Antiparos no less than 24,000 disciples of the celebrated R. Akiba, suddenly ceased on the 18th of Jiar, the second month, i.e. the thirty-third of Omer (Babylon Jebamoth, 62 b; Midrash Bereshith Rabba, Seder חיי שרה, sec. 61, p. 134, ed. Stettin, 1863), it was ordained that, in memory of this calamity, three days are to be kept as a time of mourning, during which no marriage is to take place, no enjoyments and pleasures are to be indulged in, nor even is the beard to be removed (Orach Chajim, Hilchoth Pesach, sec. 493); and that the thirty-third of Omer, on which the epidemic disappeared, is to be kept as a holiday, especially among the students, for which reason it is called the scholars' feast. The reason which R. Jochanan ben-Nori assigns for regarding this period as a time of mourning i.e. that the wicked are punished in hell in these days, and that judgment is passed on the produce of the land is simply a modern cabalistic form given to an ancient usage.

The three days preceding the festival, on which, as we shall see hereafter, the Jews commemorate the giving of the law on Sinai, are called (ימי הגבלה שלשת 8) the three days of separation and sanctification, because the Lord commanded Moses to set bounds around the mountain, and that the people should sanctify themselves three days prior to the giving of the law (Exodus 19:12; Exodus 19:14; Exodus 19:23). On the preparation day (ערב שברעות ) the synagogues and the private houses are adorned with flowers and odoriferous herbs; the male members of the community purify themselves by immersion and confession of sins, put on their festive garments, and resort to the synagogue, where, after the evening prayer (מעריב ), the hallowed nature of the festival is proclaimed by the cantor in the blessing pronounced over a cup of wine (קידוש ), which is also done by every head of the family at home before the evening repast. After supper both the learned and the illiterate are either to go again into the synagogue or to congregate in private houses and read all night:

(a) The first three and the last three verses of every book in the Hebrew Scriptures, but some portions have to be read entire;

(b) the first and last Mishna of every tractate in the Talmud;

(c) the beginning and end of the book Jezirah;

(d) passages from the Sohar;

(e) the 613 commandments into which the Mosaic law is divided, (See SCHOOL); and

(f) the Song of Songs.

The whole must be recited in thirteen divisions, so that the prayer Kadish (קדיש ) might be said between each division, and the letters of the word אחד (the unity in the Deity) = 4+8+1 -13, be obtained (comp. Magen Abraham, Orach Chajim, sec. 494). The reason for this watching all night, given by R. Abraham, the author of the Magen Abraham, is as follows: When God was about to reveal his law to Israel, he had to wake them up from their sleep. Hence, to remove the sin of that sleep, the Jews are now to wake all night (comp. Brick, Rabbinische Ceremonial gebrduche [Breslau, 1837], p. 8-22, and the ritual for this night, entitled שבועות תיקון ליל ). In the general festival service of the morning special prayers are inserted for this day, which set forth the glory of the Lawgiver and Israel, the glory of the Lord in creating the universe, etc., and in which the Decalogue is interwoven, the great Hallel is recited, Exodus 19:1; Exodus 20:26 is read as the lesson from the law, Numbers 18:26-31 as Maphtir, and Ezekiel 1:1-28; Ezekiel 3:12, as the lesson from the prophets, (See HAPHTARAH); whereupon the Musajh is offered, and the priests, after having their hands washed by the Levites, pronounce chantingly the benediction (Numbers 6:23-27) on the congregation, who receive it with their heads covered by the fringed wrapper. (See FRINGE). On the second evening they again resort to the synagogue, use the ritual for the festivals, in which are again inserted special prayers for this occasion, being chiefly on the greatness of God and the giving of the law and the Decalogue; the sanctification of the festival (קידוש ) is again pronounced, both by the praelector in the synagogue and the heads of families at home; and prayers different from those of the first day, also celebrating the giving of the law, are intermingled with the ordinary festival prayers; the Hallel is recited, as well as the book of Ruth; Deuteronomy 15:19 to Deuteronomy 16:17, with Numbers 28:26-31 is read as the lesson from the law; Habbakuk 2:20- 3:19, as the lesson from the prophets; the prayer is offered for depaited relatives; the Musaph Ritual is recited; the priests pronounce the benediction as on the former day; and the festival concludes after the afternoon service, as soon as the stars appear or darkness sets in. It must be remarked that milk and honey form an essential part of the meals during this festival, which is of a particularly joyous character, to symbolize "the honey and milk which are under the tongue" of the spouse (Song of Solomon 4:11), by virtue of the law which the bridegroom gave her.

The less educated of the modern Jews regard the fifty days with strange superstition, and, it would seem, are always impatient for them to come to an end. During their continuance they have a dread of sudden death, of the effect of malaria, and of the influence of evil spirits over children. They relate with gross exaggeration the above-mentioned case of a great mortality which, during the first twenty-three days of the period, befell the pupils of Akiba, the great Mishnical doctor of the second century, at Jaffa. They do not ride, or drive, or go on the water, unless they are impelled by absolute necessity. They are careful not to whistle in the evening, lest it should bring ill-luck. They scrupulously put off marriages till Pentecost (Stauben, La Vie Juive en Alsace [Paris, 1860], p. 124; Mills, British Jews, p. 207).

IV. Origin and Import of this Festival. There is no clear notice in the Scriptures of any historical significance belonging to Pentecost. Yet, looking simply at the text of the Bible, there can be little doubt that Pentecost owes its origin entirely and exclusively to the harvest which terminated at this time. It is to be expected that, in common with other nations of antiquity who celebrated the ingathering of the corn by offering to the Deity, among other firstling offerings, the fine flour of wheat as θαλύσιος ἄρτος (Eustath. Ad Iliad. 9:530; Athen. 3:80; Theocrit. 7:3), the Jews, as an agricultural people, would thankfully acknowledge the goodness of God in giving them the fruits of the earth, by offering to the Bountiful Giver of all good things the first-fruits of their harvest. That this was primarily the origin and import of Pentecost is most unquestionably indicated by its very names, e.g. the festival of (הקציר ) the cut-off corn, i.e. end of the harvest (Exodus 23:16), which commenced on the morrow of the Passover, when the sickle was first brought into the field (Deuteronomy 16:9); and so intimately connected are the beginning of the harvest at Passover with the termination of it at this festival, that Pentecost was actually denominated, during the time of the second Temple, and is called in the Jewish literature to the present day, עצרת, the conclusion, or, עצרת של פסח, the termination of Passover. To the same effect is the name חג השבועות, the festival of weeks, which, as Bahr rightly remarks, would be a very strange and enigmatical designation of a festival, simply because of the intervening time between it and a preceding festival, if it did not stand in a fixed and essential relationship to this intervening time, and if in its nature it did not belong thereto, since the weeks themselves have nothing which could be the subject of a religious festival, except the harvest that took place in these weeks (Symbolik, 2:647). Being the culmination of Passover, and agrarian in its character, the pre-Mosaic celebration of this festival among the Jews will hardly be questioned; for it will not be supposed that the patriarchs, who in common with other nations were devoted to agriculture, would yet be behind these nations in not celebrating the harvest festival, to acknowledge the goodness of God in giving them the fruits of the earth, which obtained among the heathen nations to the remotest times. Indeed, the Book of Jubilees, as will be seen in the sequel, actually ascribes a pre-Mosaic existence to it. In incorporating this festival into the cycle of the canonical feasts, the Mosaic legislation, as usual, divested it of all idolatrous rites, consecrated it in an especial manner to him who filleth us with the finest of wheat (Psalms 147:14), by enjoining the Hebrews to impart liberally to the needy from that which they have been permitted to reap, and to remember that they themselves were once needy and oppressed in Egypt, and were now in the possession of liberty and of the bounties of Providence (Deuteronomy 16:11-12). The Mosaic code, moreover, constituted it a member of the Hebrew family of festivals, by putting Pentecost on the sacred basis of seven, which, as we have seen, underlies the whole organism of the feasts.

But though the canonical Scriptures speak of Pentecost as simply a harvest festival, yet the non-canonical documents show, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the Jews, at least as early as the days of Christ, connected with it, and commemorated on the 6th of Sivan, the third month, the giving of the Decalogue. It is made out from Exodus 19 that the law was delivered on the fiftieth day after the deliverance from Egypt (Selden, De Jur. Nat. et Gent. 3:11). It has been conjectured that a connection between the event and the festival may possibly be hinted at in the reference to the observance of the law in Deuteronomy 16:12. But neither Philo nor Josephus has a word on the subject. Philo expressly states that it was at the feast of Trumpets that the giving of the law was commemorated (De Sept. c. 22). (See TRUMPETS, FEAST OF).

There is, however, a tradition of a custom which Schottgen supposes to be at least as ancient as the apostolic times, that the night before Pentecost was a time especially appropriated for thanking God for the gift of the law (Hor. Hebr. ad Acts 2:1). The Talmud declares that "the rabbins propounded that the Decalogue was given to Israel on the 6th of Sivan" (Sabbath, 86 b), and this is deduced from Exodus 19, for, according to tradition, Moses ascended the mountain on the 2d of Sivan, the third month (Exodus 19:1-3); received the answer of the people on the Exodus 19:7); reascended the mountain on the Exodus 19:8); commanded the people to sanctify themselves three days, which were the 4th, 5th, and 6th (Exodus 19:12; Exodus 19:14; Exodus 19:23); and on the third of these three days of sanctification, which was the sixth day of the month, delivered the Decalogue to them (Exodus 19:10-11; Exodus 19:15-16). This is the unanimous voice of Jewish tradition. It is given in the Mechilta on Exodus 19 (p. 83-90, ed. Wilna, 1844, (See MIDRASH) ); in the Chaldee paraphrase of Jonathan ben-Uzziel, which renders ויהי ביום השלישי (Exodus 19:16) by בירחא והוה ביומא תליתאה בשיתא, and it came to pass on the third day, on the sixth of the month, i.e. Sivan; by Rashi (Comment. on Exodus 19:1-16); and by Maimonides, who remarks: "Pentecost is the day on which the law was given, and in order to magnify this day, the days are counted from the first festival (i.e. Passover) to it, just as one who is expecting the most faithful of his friends is accustomed to count the days and hours of his arrival; for this is the reason of counting the omer from the day of our Exodus from Egypt to the day of the giving of the law, which was the ultimate object of the exodus, as it is said, I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself.' And because this great manifestation did not last more than one day, therefore we annually commemorate it only one day" (More Nebochim, 3:43). To this effect is R. Jehudah (born circa 1086), in his celebrated work Cusari, 3:10; Nachmanides (born about 1195), in his commentary on the Pentateuch (Exodus 19:1-25; Leviticus 23:17), and all the Jewish commentators, as well as the ritual for this festival. Even Abrabanel, who denies that the primary object in the institution of this festival was to celebrate the gift of the law, most emphatically declares that the Decalogue was given on Mount Sinai on Pentecost, as may be seen from the following remark: "The law was not given with a design to this festival, so that it should commemorate the gift of the law, since the festival was not instituted to commemorate the giving of the law; as our divine law and the prophecy are their own witnesses, and did not require a day to be sanctified to commemorate them; but the design of the feast of weeks was to commence the wheat harvest. For just as the feast of Tabernacles was intended to finish the ingathering of the produce, so the festival of weeks was intended to begin the harvest, as it was the will of the Lord that at the commencement of the ingathering of the fruits which are the food of man, the first of which is the wheat, and which began to be cut on the feast of weeks, a festival should be celebrated to render praise to him who giveth food to all flesh; and that another festival should be celebrated at the end of the ingathering of the fruits. Still, there is no doubt that the law was given on the day of the feast of weeks, although this festival was not instituted to commemorate it" (Commentary on the Pentateuch, Parshath אמור, p. 211 a, ed. Hanau, 1710).

Those early fathers who were best acquainted with the Jewish tradition testify to the same thing, that the law was given on Pentecost, and that the Jews commemorate the event on this festival. It was therefore on this day, when the apostles, in common with their Jewish brethren, were assembled to commemorate the anniversary of the giving of the law from Sinai, and were engaged in the study of Holy Writ, in accordance with the custom of the day, that the Holy Spirit descended upon them, and sent them forth to proclaim "the wonderful works of God," as revealed in the Gospel (Acts 2). Thus, St. Jerome tells us, "Supputemus numerum, et inveniemus quinquagesimo die egressionis Israel ex AEgypto in vertice montis Sinay legem datam. Unde et Pentecostes celebratur solemnitas, et postea evangelii sacramentum in Spiritus Sancti descensione completur" (Epist. ad Fabiolam, 12; in Opp. 1:1074, ed. Par. 1609). Similarly St. Augustine, "Pentecosten etiaim, id est, a passione et resurrectione Domini, quinquagesimum diem celebramus, quo nobis Sanctum Spiritum Paracletum quem promiserat misit; quod futurum etiam per Judaeorum pascha significatum est, cum quinquagesimo die post celebrationem ovis occisee, Moyses digito Dei scriptam legem accepit in monte" (Contra Faustzum, lib. 33, c. 12). Comp. also De Lyra, Comment. on Leviticus 23; Bishop Patrick on Erod. 19. It is very curious that the apocryphal Book of Jubilees, which was written in the first century before Christ, (See JUBILEES, BOOK OF), should connect this festival, which was celebrated on the third month, with the third month of Noah's leaving the ark, and maintain that it was ordained to be celebrated in this month, to renew annually the covenant which God made with this patriarch not to destroy the world again by a flood (ch. 6:57 sq.). Such an opinion would hardly have been hazarded by a Jew if it had not. been believed by many of his co-religionists that this festival had a pre-Mosaic existence. Since the destruction of Jerusalem, and the impossibility of giving prominence to that part of the festival which bears on the Palestinian harvest, the Jews have almost entirely made Pentecost to commemorate the giving of the law, and the only references they make in the ritual to the harvest, which was the primary object of its institution, is in the reading of the book of Ruth, wherein the harvest is described.

If the feast of Pentecost stood without an organic connection with any other rites, we should have no certain warrant in the Old Testament for regarding it as more than the divinely appointed solemn thanksgiving for the yearly supply of the most useful sort of food. Every reference to its meaning seems to bear immediately upon the completion of the grain harvest. It might have been a Gentile festival, having no proper reference to the election of the chosen race. It might have taken a place in the religion of any people who merely felt that it is God who gives rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, and who fills our hearts with food and gladness (Acts 14:17). But it was, as we have seen, essentially linked to the Passover that festival which, above all others, expressed the fact of a race chosen and separated from other nations. It was not an insulated day. It stood as the culminating point of the Pentecostal season. If the offering of the omer was a supplication for the divine blessing on the harvest which was just commencing, and the offering of the two loaves was a thanksgiving for its completion, each rite was brought into a higher significance in consequence of the omer forming an integral part of the Passover. It was thus set forth that He who had delivered his people from Egypt, who had raised them from the condition of slaves to that of free men in immediate covenant with himself, was the same that was sustaining them with bread from year to year. The inspired teacher declared to God's chosen one, "He maketh peace in thy borders, he filleth thee with the finest of the wheat" (Psalms 147:14). If we thus regard the day of Pentecost as the solemn termination of the consecrated period, intended, as the seasons came round, to teach this lesson to the people, we may see the fitness of the name by which the Jews have mostly called it, עֲצֶרֶת


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Pentecost'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/p/pentecost.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, March 30th, 2020
the Fifth Week of Lent
There are 13 days til Easter!
ADVERTISEMENT
Search for…
Enter query in the box:
 or 
Choose a letter to browse:
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M 
N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  Y  Z 

 
ADVERTISEMENT
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology