So instead of just getting a nice calendar with all the important dates pre-printed that he could distribute like my cousin does, God decides to just write it all out instead. I have to say, it’s nowhere near as visually appealing. Couldn’t he just put a little calendar in the back of every Bible and cut these chapters out?

We’ve already covered everything in this chapter a few times and, I fear, will do so a few more. I’m sorry. I didn’t write this stuff!

1. Sabbath

Every seventh day is the Sabbath, and no one is allowed to work.

The importance of the Sabbath is emphasized, argues Victor Matthews, because it was “unparalleled by any other [religious activity] in the ancient Near East” (Manners & Customs of the Bible, p. 158). Once again, we see that being separate, being different, is valued. I believe this makes Jews the original hipsters.

2. Passover

Remember the Sabbath Day by Phillip Ratner

Remember the Sabbath Day by Phillip Ratner

I don’t think it really needs to be repeated that celebrating the massacre of children is a little problematic, even if those children were all parented by slave owners (which is by no means either explicitly stated nor implied by the text).

Some will surely argue that the celebration of Passover is that the Jewish homes were spared, but that doesn’t change what they were spared from, and who caused the massacre to begin with.

Best case scenario, the celebration is of the subsequent escape from Egypt. But the celebration is called “Passover,” not “Passthroughthewilderness.” And, of course, the Exodus text is very clear that the only reason that the freedom didn’t happen much sooner and at far less of a cost in human and animal life is that God kept actively hardening the Pharaoh’s heart.

3. The Feast of the Unleavened Bread

The day after Passover is the Feast of the Unleavened Bread. For the next seven days (I can’t read that without doing Samara’s voice from The Ring), you can’t eat bread made with yeast.

The first day, like the Sabbath, is a day when no one is allowed to work. During the seven days, food offerings must be made and, then, on the seventh day, there’s no work and the people have to have a “sacred assembly.”

4. The First Fruits

When the Israelites first enter the Promised Land, they have to give in sacrifice a sheaf from their first harvest, and it has to be waved around in front of God on the day after the Sabbath. While the sheaf is being waved around, they must also sacrifice a year old lamb “without defect” (v.12) – because we all know how much God hates defects (that he created in the first place) – flour mixed with olive oil, and some wine.

“This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live” (v.14). Or, you know, just for a finite period of time and then it’s not required any more. Either way.

5. The Feast of Weeks

This one is another requirement to offer a sacrifice of grain, though in this case it has to be offered in loaves that have been baked with yeast (every deity needs a little variety), along with seven male year old lambs (again without blemish), a young bull, and two rams. Once these are all sacrificed, a sin offering of one male goat and a fellowship offering of two year-old lambs.

The implication is that every individual (or, I supposed, household) must make all these sacrifices every year, but that seems really onerous, particularly for the poor. And, unlike other sacrificial menus we’ve read, no easier option is offered for the poor.

But at least we get a repetition of the command not to reap the harvest right up to the edges of the field or to father the gleanings, allowing the poor to have these bits instead. So that’s something, I guess.

The Feast culminates in a sacred assembly and a day when people are forbidden from doing any work. Once again, “this is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live” (V. 21).

6. Feast of Trumpets

For this one, there’s a sabbath, a sacred assembly, and trumpet blasts, combined with the requirement that a “food offering” (blessedly free of specifics) be made to God.

This sounds like a… blast.


7. The Day of Atonement

Another sabbath, sacred assembly, and food offering. Anyone who doesn’t “deny themselves” (which I assume means some kind of fast) must be cut off from their people, and anyone who does any work will be “destroyed” by God. Once again, “this is to be a lasting ordinance” (v. 31).

8. Feast of Tabernacles

This one’s another crazy party, lasting for a full eight days. On the first day, there’s a sabbath and a sacred assembly. Over the next week, food offerings must be presented to God and, on the eighth day, there’s another sabbath, sacred assembly, and food offering.

This feast also requires taking the branches from “luxuriant trees” (v.40) and “rejoice before the Lord.” What you’re supposed to do with these luxuriant branches isn’t specified, but I guess you could probably just wave them around a bit, since that seemed so successful with the grain offerings.

Also, during this week-long feast, the people have to live in temporary shelters – or booths – to represent the shelters that the followers of Moses would have lived in during their travels.

Now, quite a few of these require “sacred assemblies” which seem to be mandatory. That would probably work out fine for a nomadic group travelling together anyway, but how onerous would it be for a sedentary people spread out across a whole country? It would mean abandoning home and field, leaving both vulnerable to pillagers, overcrowding in the location where the assembly is held… It just doesn’t seem practical if conducted at the scale indicated here. Perhaps someone could correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m willing to go out on a limb and assume that these rules were never followed to the letter by a majority of Israelites.