The Seven Sabbath Feasts

The Sabbath Festivals

By Cynthia Brewer

The word sabbath did not only mean to sabbath (rest) on the seventh day of each week. The term was also used whenever God sanctified particular days as holy, therefore requiring a Sabbath. Over Jewish history, from the time of creation until Christ’s coming, God established many such Sabbaths, in fact seven of them.

These Sabbaths were fasts from certain activities and associations. Some also began a slight increase of liturgical observance. There was the feast of Passover or Unleavened Bread; the feast of Weeks or Pentecost; New Years Day; the Day of Atonement; the feast of Booths/Tabernacles or the Ingathering; the Sabbath Year; and the last feast was the culmination of seven Sabbath years, or the Jubilee Year.

  1. The Passover – the Passover was the first of three pilgrim feasts. It was to be celebrated as a memorial feast commemorating God’s saving power in rescuing the Israelites from slavery to the Egyptians. Although the Passover festival is not tied to the seventh day and can occur on any day of the week, the festival is celebrated in increments of seven: lamb slaughtered on fourteenth day and the feast lasting seven days (Ex. 12:14-18; Lev. 23:4-8).
  2. The feast of Weeks/Pentecost – Pentecost is the second pilgrim feast, and on it the first fruits of the grain harvest are offered to the Lord. It is also known as the “Feast of the Harvest”, “Day of First Fruits”, and “Feast of Weeks”. It is celebrated the day after seven full weeks or 50 days after Passover and is to be held with great joy.
  3. New Year’s Day – The New Year was celebrated with trumpet blasts and is also known as the Feast of Trumpets. It was declared a holy day, no heavy work was allowed, and an oblation was offered to the LORD. It was celebrated on the seventh new moon and is therefore celebrated like a Sabbath of months. (Lev. 23:23-25)
  4. The Day of Atonement – Leviticus 16 details the Day of Atonement which was instituted following the death of the two sons of Aaron after they had encroached on the LORD’s presence. The tenth day of this seventh month was declared a holy day in which the people humbled themselves and offered an oblation to the LORD. It was a Sabbath of complete rest in which no work could be done and anyone caught working would be removed from the “midst of the people” (Lev. 23: 26-32).
  5. The feast of Booths/Tabernacles or Ingathering was the third pilgrim feast – It was celebrated after the produce from the threshing floor and wine press had been gathered. It was celebrated on the fifteenth day of the seventh month for seven days. (Dt. 16:13-15; Lev. 23:33-36).
  6. The Sabbath Year – the seventh year of working a parcel of land was to be a sabbath for the land, a period allowing the land to lie untilled and fallow. This year also was a period of remission of Israelites’ debts to one another. The sixth year’s crop was to be so bountiful that it would provide for the following Sabbath year. (Ex. 23:10-11; Dt. 15:4-6).
  7. The Jubilee Year – a period of seven weeks of years (seven times seven years) equaled 49; the following year (the fiftieth) was celebrated as the Jubilee Year. It was considered sacred just like the Sabbath day. In it indentured Israelites were allowed to return to their own households, and land that had been sold is returned to its original owner. In purchasing slaves or property, the amount of time before the next Jubilee Year was considered in the price of the slave or property. (Lev. 25:13-17)

The ritual law of keeping the Sabbath holy as having come to Moses through God is found throughout all the books of the Torah: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The Sabbaths were a gift to humankind. They were to be days of rest from hard work, days of joy with family and friends.