A critical look at the dating of Shavuot and giving of the Law EDIT
by Robert Randle
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The Day of Pentecost [“Feast of Shavuot”] has significance for Messianic Jews [Netzari/Nazarenes] Hebraic Christians, Reform and Orthodox as well all of Judaism because it is believed that the Law [Torah] issued forth from God descending on Mount Sinai in a fiery manifestation which covered the mountain in a cloud of smoke, and Moses delivered it to the children of Israel. It also commemorates the New Age which was inaugurated with the Spirit of God [Ruach ha Kodesh] descending upon the assembled followers of Jesus [Yeshua Meshiach] at Jerusalem or Mount Zion, in tongues of fire that sat upon each one of them to proclaim the Gospel [“Good News”] that salvation was made available to the Jews that assembled on that day who accepted Jesus as their Messiah through the preaching of Peter and conviction of the Holy Spirit. Though these events are highly significant and important in the history and tradition of both religions, yet, are they simultaneously the same or different occasion’s altogether; and when was the Law [Torah] given? The following citations below seek to provide the answer.
Exodus 19: 1
In the third month [Sivan/May] after the children of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on the same day [15 ‘Abib’/Nisan or March 30-Cp. Exodus 13: 4; Numbers 33: 3] they came to the wilderness of Sinai.
NOTE: Of course, the “Third month” of the same day would make it be 15 Sivan/May 28.
And Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus shall you say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, IF you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, THEN you shall be a special treasure to me above all people; for the earth is Mine. ‘And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” So Moses came [down from the mountain] and called for the elders of the people, and set before them all these words (verses 3-6) which the LORD commanded him. (1) Then all the people answered together and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” So Moses brought back [up the mountain] the words of the people to the LORD.
NOTE: This “Covenant” was conditional.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go [down the mountain] to the people and consecrate them today (“15 Sivan”-May 28), and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes. ‘And let them be ready for the third day. For on the “third” day, the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.
So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and sanctified the people and they washed their clothes. And he said to the people, “Be ready for the “third” day. . .”
19: 20, 25
Then the LORD came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain. And the LORD called Moses (2) to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. So Moses went down to the people and spoke to them.
And God spoke all these words, saying:
The Ten Commandments
NOTE: Moses recounts to the children of Israel how they first received God’s Law [Torah] in Deuteronomy 5: 1-32 [esp. verse 22] which is consistent with the event as recorded in Exodus 19: 16-25; 20: 1-22, but there is no mention of a forty day and night stay on Mount Sinai. The LORD descended on Mount Sinai on 17 Sivan [May 30- the “third day”] and the children of Israel are given the words of the LORD on two stone tablets. Moses receives additional ordinances [judgments] listed in the following:
24: 3-4, 7-8
So Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the judgments.
(2) And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the LORD has said we will do.” And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD. And he rose up early in the morning [the next day], and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars according to the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he sent young men of the children of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins, and half the blood he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. (3) And they said, “All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.”
COMMENTARY: Moses came and told the people all the words and judgments of the LORD (Cp. 24: 3a), all on that one day, consisting of Exodus 20: 1 thru 23: 33. There is no mention at this point in the Book of EXODUS, of Ten Commandments [“ten words”], Moses going up the mountain and remaining forty days and nights. The people receive God’s Oral Law spoken to them by Moses on that day [17 Sivan/May 30]. It is true, however, that what are called the “Ten Commandments” are enumerated just like all the other statutes given by the LORD but they are not singled out from the rest of God’s judgments; although they are mentioned first, which is in itself quite significant. The thing which is stressed from the onset is the repeated prohibition against making graven images into any kind of god (Cp. Exodus 20: 3-5, 23), which the people, including Moses’ brother Aaron, soon forgot (Cp. Exodus 32: 1-8). The next day [18 Sivan/May 31] is when they reaffirm their commitment to serve the LORD by adding that they will be obedient.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the Law [Torah] and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them.”
NOTE: God mentions that He has already written as opposed to He will write. God didn’t mention two tablets or the “Ten Commandments.”
Then Moses went up into the mountain, and a cloud covered the mountain. Now the glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai; and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud.
NOTE: This would have been at least a week later [25 Sivan/June 7].
So Moses went up into the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.
NOTE: This period would be 28 Tammuz [July 10]. It is interesting that this particular month on the Jewish sacred calendar is named after a foreign god (Cp. Ezekiel 8: 14).
And when He [God] had made an end of speaking with him [Moses] on Mount Sinai, He gave Moses two tablets of the Testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.
NOTE: Now the tablets of stone are referred to as “two tablets of the Testimony.”
Exodus 34: 1-2, 4
And the LORD said to Moses, “Cut two tablets like the first ones, and I will write on these tablets the words that were on the first ones which you broke. “So be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself to Me on the top of the mountain. So he cut two tablets of stone like the first ones. Then Moses rose up early in the morning and went up Mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him; and he took in his hand the two tablets of stone.
NOTE: The tablets of stone were small enough where Moses could carry both of them in just one hand.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write these words for according to the terror of these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And He [God] wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments. Now it was when Moses came down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the testimony were in Moses’ hand when he came down the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him.
NOTE: The second pair of tablets were to contain the words of the first set (Cp. Exodus 34: 1), but the words of Exodus 34: 10-27 are not the same as mentioned in Exodus 20: 2-17; Deuteronomy 5: 1-32 [esp. verse 22]; Exodus 25: 1 – 31: 17. Also, this is the first time that the Ten Commandments are mentioned in Scripture [TANAKH], and even from here to the end of the Book of EXODUS in chapter 40, the Ten Commandments aren’t even listed. It is not possible to know with certainty, after another forty day and night stay by Moses on Mount Sinai, exactly when this last and more permanent set of stone tablets which is also called “The Testimony” [Cp. Exodus 40: 20] was shown to the people, and from that point on kept inside the Ark of the Covenant (Cp. Deuteronomy 10: 1-5),. According to 1 Kings 8: 9, the two tablets of stone remained there from the time of Moses until the dedication of the First Temple by King Solomon.
Now, it is time to determine when the Feast of Weeks [“Shavuot”] or Pentecost should be celebrated. The first thing to keep in mind is that this Day is associated with the Feast of First fruits, as it says in Leviticus 23: 9-12a, And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘WHEN you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, THEN you shall bring a sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. And you shall offer on that day, when you wave the sheaf. . .’"
Leviticus 23: 15-16
And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seven Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD.
Joshua 4: 19, 10-12a
Now the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month [10 Abib/Nisan-March 25], and they camped in Gilgal, on the east border of Jericho. Now the children of Israel camped in Gilgal, and kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight [Cp. Exodus 12: 1, 6-8, 11b; 14 Abib/Nisan-March 29]. And they ate of the [first] produce of the land on the day after the Passover, unleavened bread and parched grain, on the very same day. Then the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten the produce of the land.
Leviticus 23: 14
You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your God; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
So what does all of this have to do with the Day of Pentecost or Shavuot celebrated by Messianic Jews, Hebraic Christians, and Jews all over the world, well everything; especially when either one of two days are set aside to celebrate this day. The Day of Pentecost [“Shavuot”] is either commemorated on 6 Sivan/May 19 or on 10 Sivan/May 23, and according to some, this is determined by counting of the ‘omer’ starting from the day after Passover on 15 Nisan/March 30, seven Sabbaths [weeks], the fiftieth day is “Pentecost/Shavuot.” Taking into account that the children of Israel under Joshua’s leadership ate of the first fruits of the land, and then the Feast of Shavuot/Pentecost would fall on Sivan 6/May 19.
There is no connection whatsoever with Shavuot/Pentecost and the giving of the Law [Torah] on Mount Sinai. However, there is something special about the descent of the Holy Spirit [Ruach ha Kodesh] on the first Pentecost Day after the resurrection of Jesus [Yeshua] to those Jews from many nations who accepted the Moshiach as LORD and Savior during Shavuot in Jerusalem at the Temple, as Peter and the Eleven stood and proclaimed the Gospel with tongues like as of fire. The LORD chose the convenience of the Day of Pentecost/Shavuot to inaugurate His Law [Torah] for the “New Dispensation” and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. In some respects, it is quite similar to the Law given through Moses at Mount Sinai. The significance of this momentous event for Jews and Christians is captured below:
Exodus 19: 18a, 20a
Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Then the LORD came down on Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain.
Isaiah 2: 2, 3b
Now it shall come to pass in the “Latter Days” that the mountain of the LORD’S house (Cp. Mark 11: 15-17; Isaiah 56: 6-8) shall be established on the top of the mountain, and it shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow to it (Cp. Acts 2: 5-11). For out of Zion shall go forth the law and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
Acts 2: 1-4
When the day of Pentecost [“Shavuot”] had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind [“ruach”], and it filled the whole house where they were sitting, then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit [Ruach ha Kodesh] and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
If anyone wants to commemorate the Day of Pentecost [“Shavuot], then it appears it should be on 6 Sivan/May 19; and conversely, if one wants to set aside a special day to the LORD by reciting the Ten Commandments [“ten words”], then 17 Sivan/May 30 would be the most likely date. So, in essence, it is not so much in the exactitude of honoring the 'correct’ day, but rather, if one obeys God and receives His Spirit (Cp. Acts 5: 32b; 2 Corinthians 5: 5b; Ephesians 1: 13-14; 4: 30).
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