The Sabbath More Fully Lesson 8: Timing and Calculating the Holy Days
Calculating the Timing of First Fruits and Pentecost


Determining when First Fruits falls within the Week of Unleavened Bread might seem a minor issue at first, but it is actually quite important. This is because Pentecost is calculated from First Fruits. In Leviticus 23:10-11 the Bible tells us which day is First Fruits in the Festival of Unleavened Bread. It is simply the day after the Sabbath. “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.”

So, case closed - First Fruits is the day after the Sabbath which falls during the Week of Unleavened Bread. But, actually there is a bit of controversy about which day is First Fruits. This is because people are unsure whether Leviticus 23:11 refers to the day after the Seventh-day Sabbath, or the day after the first festival Sabbath of Unleavened Bread. Thus, again, we have two differing viewpoints. For clarity, they are:

  • Viewpoint #1 - First Fruits follows the Seventh-day Sabbath during Unleavened Bread. Thus, First Fruits is the Sunday that falls within this festival week.
  • Viewpoint #2 - First Fruits follows the first day of Unleavened Bread (which is a Sabbath). Since the first Biblical month is Abib, in this scenario First Fruits would always be Abib 16, or the 16th day of the first Biblical month.

The above illustration shows the two possible days for First Fruits during the month of May, 2007.

At first, these two differing viewpoints seem utterly confusing. How can anyone know for certain whether First Fruits follows an annual Sabbath or the weekly Sabbath? And, if you cannot determine for certain when First Fruits falls, how can you be expected to keep Pentecost 50 days later? Actually, it is possible to pinpoint the correct day for First Fruits beyond question. By simply taking all of the Biblical requirements for First Fruits we will demonstrate in this study that there is only one day on which First Fruits could fall and still fulfill all the Biblical criterion.

There are two ways to prove which Sabbath during the week of Unleavened Bread First Fruits follows. The first is by examining the meaning of the Hebrew word "Sabbath" in Leviticus 23:11. The second way is by doing the math from both proposed days of First Fruits and seeing which one allows both 7 Sabbaths and 50 days to Pentecost. Only one of these two proposed days for First Fruits can fit all the requirements.

Let us begin with an in-depth look at the word "Sabbath." In Leviticus 23, we a told that the day of First Fruits falls on “...the morrow after the Sabbath (Leviticus 23:11). An annual Sabbath is still called a Sabbath in English. And a Seventh-day Sabbath is called a Sabbath. In English, there is no difference in the word. But, in Hebrew, there is a difference in the word "Sabbath" referring to the Seventh-day versus the word for "Sabbath" that refers to a festival Sabbath.

The Hebrew word for a Seventh-day Sabbath is shabbath. This is the word used in Exodus 20:8, where it says, “Remember the Sabbath (shabbath, Strong's Concordance #7676) day to keep it holy...”. Looking shabbath up in the Strong's Concordance reveals that it means, simply, an “intermission” specifically “the Sabbath."

Now, let us examine a festival or annual Sabbath in Hebrew. We know that Feast of Trumpets is a festival Sabbath. So, let us use that a source for finding the Hebrew word for Sabbath which refers to the annual holy days. “...In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a Sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation” Leviticus 23:24.

The annual Sabbath word is translated from the Hebrew word shabbathown Strong's Concordance #7677) Strong's Concordance defines shabbathown as “a sabbatism, special holiday, rest, sabbath." Having clearly differentiated between the words for the annual and Seventh-day Sabbaths in Hebrew, we need only see which Hebrew term is used in Leviticus 23:11 to be certain which kind of Sabbath the day of First Fruits follows. The word “Sabbath” in Leviticus 23:11, where it reads “...on the morrow after the Sabbath” is the Seventh-day Sabbath word (shabbath), not the annual Sabbath word (shabbathown).

This is certainly compelling evidence to demonstrate that First Fruits always follows the Seventh-day Sabbath, which falls during the Week of Unleavened Bread. But, it is not enough on its own to make one certain beyond all shadow of doubt. This level of certainty may be reached when we add in the mathematical calculations needed to reach Pentecost.

Leviticus 23:15-16 - “And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD.”

To be completely clear, the following details are given in the Leviticus 23:15-16:

  • Pentecost is determined by counting from the day when the wave sheaf is offered - this is First Fruits
  • From First Fruits, count 50 days to reach Pentecost
  • You must have exactly 7 Seventh-day Sabbaths in that 50 day count

The question, then is: which way of calculating First Fruits gets us to 7 Sabbaths and 50 days for Pentecost? Let us experiment, using a calendar from May-June, 2007 to determine whether 7 Sabbaths and 50 days is reached by going from the Sunday that fell in the Week of Unleavened Bread. We will also explore whether 7 Sabbaths and 50 days can be met by going from the second day of the Unleavened Bread week.

   

In the above calendar scenario, we start counting from Sunday, the day following the Seventh-day Sabbath. With the first day of the week as the day of First Fruits we begin counting to 50 days. Counting to 50 days is easy. The trick is getting the 50 day period to neither exceed 7 Sabbaths or undershoot this requirement. As you will see on this calendar demonstration, Both 50 days and 7 Sabbaths are achieved by making First Fruits fall on the day after the Seventh-day Sabbath in the Week of Unleavened Bread. But, this does not work by making First Fruits be the day after the first annual Sabbath of Unleavened Bread. Consider the following calendars.

   

In this calendar scenario, in order to get 50 days, you end up with 8 Sabbaths. Clearly the math does not work when you put First Fruits on Abib 16 or following the first anual Sabbath of Unleavened Bread. Both Biblically and mathematically, then there is only one day that makes the cut, fulfilling all the Biblical requirements for First Fruits.

In summary, First Fruits is the the day after the Seventh-day Sabbath which falls during the Week of Unleavened Bread. From this day, you are to count 50 days and 7 Sabbaths. The day you arrive at (also a first day of the week), will be Pentecost.

Perhaps one may wonder whether Pentecost is supposed to always be a Sunday (pagan name - originally it was just called the first day of the week, or the morrow after the Sabbath). To answer this, consider Leviticus 23:16:

"Even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD," Leviticus 23:16. When is the "morrow after the seventh Sabbath"? The word "morrow" means "the day after." So the day after the seventh Sabbath in our count of fifty days can only be a Sunday. Thus, Pentecost consistently falls on the first day of the week. This is the only way to meet all three Biblical requirements for calculating Pentecost.

The Three Biblical Requirements for Calculating Pentecost

  • It must be the Fiftieth day counting from First Fruits (as day 1 of 50).
  • There must only be seven Sabbaths in the fifty day count.
  • It must be the day after the seventh Sabbath (the first day of the week, commonly called "Sunday.")

Studies on Calculating the Biblical Holy Days:

Calculating the Weekly Sabbath: Lunar or Seventh-week day
Calculating the Beginning of the Biblical Year
When are Passover and Unleavened Bread?
When are Firstfruits and Pentecost?
When is the Feast of Trumpets
When is the Day of Atonement?
When is the Feast of Tabernacles?


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