Shavuot: A Time of Seven (WEEKS)

WEEKS: Shavuot. Masculine Noun. (Strong’s 7620).

Root: שבע

Sounds like: Sha-voo-owt

Shavuot begins tonight at sundown. It is a Jewish/Messianic festival that commemorates the first fruits of the harvest and it is traditionally celebrated by eating cheesecake… among other dairy and sweet treats. I love cheesecake!… and any chance to celebrate with a slice sounds fantastic to me! But what exactly is Shavuot? And why cheesecake?

The Feast of Sevens

Shavuot is the Feast of Weeks and it was to occur after seven weeks (49 days) following Passover. After the completion of 49 days (seven weeks), on the fiftieth day the celebration of Shavuot was to begin. In Christian circles, this day of celebration is known as Pentecost (from the Greek word meaning fiftieth).

Shavuot came out of the Hebrew word for seven, sheva (Strong’s 7651), and it denoted a period of time, whether days (see Birth Laws in Leviticus 12), weeks (see Prophecies of Daniel in Daniel 9:24-27 & Daniel 10:1-9) or years (see Jacob’s time of servitude to Laban, Genesis 29:21-30).

The Festival of Shavuot is technically the Feast of Sevens because it occurred after seven weeks of seven days (seven sevens).nThe call to celebrate the Feast of Weeks came from the following passage in the Tanakh:

Deuteronomy 16:9-12, 16-17

“[After Passover…] You shall count seven weeks [shiv’a shavuot] for yourself; you shall begin to count seven weeks [shiv’a shavuot] from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain. Then you shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks [khag shavuot] to YHWH your God with a voluntary offering of your hand in a proportional amount, which you shall give just as YHWH your God blesses you; and you shall rejoice before YHWH your God, you, your son and your daughter, and your male and female slaves, and the Levite who is in your town, and the stranger, the orphan, and the widow who are in your midst, at the place where YHWH your God chooses to establish His name. You shall also remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall be careful and comply with these statutes…

…Three times a year all your males shall appear before YHWH your God at the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks [u-v-khag ha-shavuot], and at the Feast of Booths; and they are not to appear before YHWH empty-handed. Everyone shall give as he is able, in accordance with the blessing of YHWH your God which He has given you.”

As noted above, there were three pilgrimage festivals which required people to travel Jerusalem (see 2 Chronicles 8:12-13):

  • The Feast of Unleavened Bread (which immediately follows Passover) (see also Ezekiel 45:21)
  • The Feast of Weeks
  • The Feast of Booths (see also Leviticus 23:34)

The Feast of Weeks was the kickoff event of the harvest… the first gathering of the season’s wheat:

Exodus 34:21-22

You shall work six days, but on the seventh (day) [sh’viyi] you shall rest; even during plowing time and harvest you shall rest. And you shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks [w-Khag Shavuot], that is, the first fruits of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year.”

At the Feast each family was to present the first gathering of the new grain and they were to do no work:

Numbers 28:26

“Also on the day of the first fruits, when you present a new grain offering to YHWH in your Feast of Weeks [b-shavuotekem], you shall have a holy assembly; you shall do no laborious work.”

The Jewish feasts were of utmost importance! They were to be observed as permanent statutes throughout all generations and all dwelling places, and that included Shavuot:

Leviticus 23:15-16, 21-22  (see also Leviticus 23:14, 21, 31, 41)

You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete Sabbaths [sheva Shabbatot]. You shall count fifty days [ha-mishim yom] to the day after the seventh Sabbath [ha-Shabbat ha-sheviyit]; then you shall present a new grain offering to YHWH

…On this very day you shall make a proclamation as well; you are to have a holy convocation. You shall do no laborious work. It is to be a permanent statute in all your dwelling places throughout your generations.

When you reap the harvest of your land, moreover, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field nor gather the gleaning of your harvest; you are to leave them for the needy and the stranger. I am YHWH your God.”

There were rules to follow: count the days, give something back to YHWH that He gave to you, share your gifts with the needy, and do this forever.

 Greedy & Deceitful: Rejecting Shavuot

When the people disobeyed the simple rules and dismissed the Feasts, it led to nothing good. Jeremiah, the prophet who shared the hard truth in a time of great deceit, spoke the words of YHWH:

Jeremiah 5:20-29

“Declare this in the house of Jacob and proclaim it in Judah, saying, ‘Now hear this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear. Do you not fear Me?’ declares YHWH. ‘Do you not tremble in My presence? For I have placed the sand as a boundary for the sea, an eternal limit, and it will not cross over it. Though the waves toss, they cannot prevail; though they roar, they will not cross over it.

But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; they have turned aside and departed. They do not say in their heart, “Let us now fear YHWH our God, Who gives rain in its season, both the autumn rain and the spring rain, Who keeps for us the appointed weeks [sh’vuot] of the harvest.”

Your wrongdoings have turned these away, and your sins have kept good away from you. For wicked people are found among My people, they watch like fowlers lying in wait; they set a trap, they catch people.

Like a cage full of birds, so their houses are full of deceit; therefore they have become great and rich. They are fat, they are sleek, they also excel in deeds of wickedness; they do not plead the cause, the cause of the orphan, so that they may be successful; and they do not defend the rights of the poor.

Shall I not punish them for these things?’ declares YHWH, ‘Or shall I not avenge Myself on a nation such as this?’

YHWH kept the appointed weeks for them. How could they not bow down to their Creator who gave to them the rain when they needed it and remained true to the appointed weeks of the harvest? YHWH has always given us exactly what we needed to flourish and grow on this planet. 

The artistry of this planet has been beautifully ordered and exquisitely designed by YHWH. It started at the beginning… at the Creation of the world, and YHWH stopped on the seventh day to rest and admire all that had been accomplished. The weeks of existence have been woven together by a God who cherishes life and growth and maturity. Designating a set of weeks to stop work and give thanks is the very least we can do to show our appreciation to a God who created us, loves us and provides for us.

Image by Sebastian Coman Photography (Unsplash.com)

Shavuot: The Fulfillment of Yeshua’s Promise

In the New Testament Shavuot is represented by it’s Greek equivalent, Pentecost. Pentecost literally means “fiftieth” and it points to the 50th day after the seven weeks (seven sevens, 49 days) outlined in Leviticus 23. Pentecost, the fiftieth day, is the beginning of the Feast of Weeks, and the bringing of the first fruits to YHWH. 

Yeshua (Jesus) died during the Festival week of Passover & Unleavened Bread. But he conquered the grave, rose again, and visited His disciples. He ministered to them during the seven weeks, before the fifty days were up, and gave them the full understanding of the Good News of God:

Luke 24:44-49

Now He [the resurrected Jesus] said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all the things that are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 

Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “So it is written, that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

And what was the promise of the Father? It was a promise Yeshua made earlier in His ministry:

John 14:16-18

[Jesus:] I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, so that He may be with you forever; the Helper is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him; but you know Him because He remains with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you.”

Yeshua would dwell within us through the Spirit/Advocate/Helper. And He would send the Spirit on the perfect day: the beginning of the Feast of Weeks… the celebration of the first harvest. 

Not long after Yeshua ascended into Heaven, the people gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate Shavuot (Pentecost):

Acts 2:1-4

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a noise like a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And tongues that looked like fire appeared to them, distributing themselves, and a tongue rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with different tongues, as the Spirit was giving them the ability to speak out.

This was a new time period; the beginning of something new. Now would be the time of the believers, lead by the Spirit, to reflect YHWH on the planet. We’re not orphans, we’re sisters and brothers working together to plant the seeds and reap the harvest. Yeshua believed that with the Spirit of Truth working within us we had all we needed to live beautifully in this word, sharing the Gospel.

By Hebrew understanding, the number seven represents completeness… YWHW created the earth and all that is in it in a time of sevens. Similarily, Yeshua fulfilled His ministry in a time of sevens! Seven weeks and seven days after his death and resurrection He completed His ministry by issuing forth the Holy Spirit to dwell in all believers. The Helper/Advocate, (the Spirit of Truth that Yeshua promised), came during that first Shavuot celebration after His death. When YHWH makes a promise, He delivers it beautifully!

Paul and Pentecost

From that moment on, Shavuot would have been extraordinarily significant for all the believers who attended the first Pentecost, post Yeshua. The experience would have been incredibly personal. Although Paul was not there to celebrate the first Pentecost after Yeshua’s death (his conversion came afterwards), he still attached tremendous importance to the Festival. The Feast of Weeks was a reminder of God with us, living in us, and our bodies as temples housing the Spirit of YHWH on this planet. Paul always tried to get back to Jerusalem to celebrate Shavuot. When describing their travels, Luke wrote:

Acts 20:16

For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus so that he would not have to lose time in Asia; for he was hurrying, if it might be possible for him to be in Jerusalem the day of Pentecost.

In another year Paul was in Ephesus and stayed only until Pentecost, when he would have headed to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast. In his letter to the Corinthians he wrote:

1 Corinthians 16:5-9

But I will remain in Ephesus until Pentecost; for a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

Paul was committed to stay in Ephesus because the mission was ripe, but he still would only stay until the time of Pentecost. He made every effort to celebrate YHWH’s Feasts in Jerusalem. Although he wasn’t part of that first Pentecost day after Yeshua died, he tried his very best never to miss another one!

Cheesecake, a Yummy Tradition

Now we know about what Shavuot stands for, but why cheesecake during the Festival? Well, for Jewish people Shavuot represents the Feast of the first fruits of the harvest, but it also celebrates the time when YHWH gave Moses the Torah. Shavuot is a time to reflect on the awesome gifts of God… including the Torah and the Promised Land of Israel… a land of milk and honey (Deuteronomy 6:3). Put dairy (milk) and sweet (honey) together and you get cheesecake. Nowhere in the Bible does it say, “Thou shall eat cheesecake”… it is merely a tradition, established over many years… but any excuse to eat cheesecake is alright by me! (Click here for a more detailed understanding of the connection between Shavuot and the cheesecake tradition).

I say grab a slice, if you’re able, and remember all the gifts that God provides: the milk, the honey, the harvest, the Word… and the Spirit of YHWH who lives within all active believers! Shalom!

Next week: Revisiting SPIRIT (Ruakh)

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