A Critique of UCG’s Pentecost 

A Critique of UCG’s Pentecost 

President — Victor Kubik
Chairman — Len Martin

United Church of God
P.O. Box 541027
Cincinnati, OH 45254-1027

Pentecost and Its Observance — A Doctrinal Study Paper (20 pages)
Approved by the Council of Elders September 1997

How to Count Pentecost, Feast of Weeks (Exodus 34:22), Feast of Firstfruits (Numbers 28:26), Festival of Fifty Days, Feast of Heptads, Festival of Seven Heptads, Wave Sheaf, Omer, “the firstfruits of thy labors which thou hast sown in the field (Exodus 23:16).”

This is a Critique of UCG’s Pentecost, the Feast of Weeks, or the Feast of Firstfruits. The counting to Pentecost is an extremely interesting subject and we’ll follow it in every issue discussed. Besides the main issue of when to start counting towards Pentecost is the issue of what the firstfruits mean. What or who do they represent? Are they humans or is it Christ?

Quoted are UCG’s “Pentecost and Its Observance” doctrinal paper, a Study Paper,1997, posted on its website. They are indented, in PINK, and in block form so as to differentiate UCG’s from other narratives or my comments. The Scriptures, in RED, must be our primary focus and guide, and sometimes the Scriptures, which include the Septuagint and the Targum, say things very different from what we think! 

And so with that in mind, we’ll begin:

The expression refers to the fact that Pentecost was the fiftieth day in a specific counting commanded in the Old Testament. The festival is one of the seven annual Holy Days listed in Leviticus 23. 

And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations (Leviticus 23:21).

This same Festival is referred to as “the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labor” (Exodus 23:16). (Pentecost and Its Observance pg 1)

Only one-tenth of an ephah “sheaf” finally accepted

That’s right! The “Feast of Harvest” is “the firstfruits of your labor” or the firstfruits of thy labors which thou hast sown in the field. Question. If this “firstfruits” represents Christ, what labor did we humans contribute to His ressurection? NOTHING!

In studying the observance of Pentecost, it is important to understand the historical context. It was in 1974 that the Worldwide Church of God began observing Pentecost on Sunday (the 50th day after the Sunday during the Days of Unleavened Bread). Mr. Armstrong’s position was that the issue should not be complicated with a number of technicalities. There was no attempt to ignore these technicalities and the subsequent study paper addressed most of them. To arrive at the correct biblical position in this matter, we need to study the relevant passages of scripture. After all, our position must rest on scripture and not necessarily on what has been practiced historically.

Leviticus 23

In dealing with Leviticus 23, we must address the term “Sabbath” and what it means in this context.  There are three references to the word Sabbath (or Sabbaths) in verses 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 seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD.

The English word “Sabbath” or its plural “Sabbaths” is translated from the Hebrew shabbath or its plural form shabbathoth. Although there are some translations that use the word “weeks,” this is not the most common translation.  In fact, in the King James Version (KJV) the word shabbath (or its plural shabbathoth) is only translated Sabbath and is never translated weeks. There is another word in Hebrew which is translated weeks. This can be found in Deuteronomy 16:9  and also in Exodus 34:22. The word used in these verses for weeks is shabuoth. The singular form of this word is shabua. In the King James Version, and the New King James Version this Hebrew word is never translated as Sabbath. In twenty occurrences in the KJV, this word is translated as “week” (or weeks) nineteen times and on one occasion it is translated “seven.” The Englishman’s Hebrew-Chaldee Concordance of the Old Testament makes this point quite clearly. The word shabbath can be found 108 times and in every instance it is translated Sabbath or Sabbaths and never weeks. According to this same source, the Hebrew word shabuoth is never translated as Sabbath, but is in every instance but one translated as weeks. (Pentecost and Its Observance pg 8-9)

It is interesting to note that the writer intends to arrive at the correct biblical position in this matter by seeking the relevant Scriptures, but the evidence is that this stated intent is only lip service. After all, UCG position has always been centered on what had been practiced historically.

The King James Versions say:

Leviticus 23:15 “‘And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, H7676 from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths H7676 shall be complete:16 Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath H7676 shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD.

Leviticus 23:15-16 seven sabbaths [h7676 shabbat] according to Strong, this shabbat could be translated as:

(a) sabbath
(b) day of atonement
(c) sabbath year
(d) WEEK
(e) produce (in sabbath year)

According to Strong’s Concordance, this shabbat could be translated as a weekly sabbath or an annual sabbath like the Day of Atonement. It is also the same word for the seventh year where the land needs a rest. But the most important point in Strong’s Concordance is that it could also mean week, or a block of seven days. The JPS 1917 and the New JPS 1988 translate Leviticus 23:15-16 as follows:

Leviticus 23:15 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the day of rest (footnote: Sabbath), from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the waving; seven weeks shall there be complete; 16 even unto the morrow after the seventh week shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall present a new meal-offering unto the LORD. (JPS 1917)

Leviticus 23:15 And from the day on which you bring the sheaf of elevation offeringthe day after the sabbathyou shall count off seven weeks. They must be complete; 16 you must count until the day after the seventh weekfifty days; then you shall bring an offering of new grain to the LORD. (New JPS 1988)

Note: the word sabbath [h7676 shabbat] could be translated as week. To restrict the word to only the weekly sabbath is misguided. The above extracts is as if Moses had written the Original Scriptures in the English James King Version. The King James translation is generally good, but at times, could be ridiculous, as translated in Numbers 25:4 

KJV: And the Lord said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the Lord against the sun, that the fierce anger of the Lord may be turned away from Israel. — this includes all men, women and children; all are to be hung! Genocide!

Compared to:

Amplified Bible: The Lord said to Moses, “Take all the leaders of the people [who have committed sin with the Moabites], and execute them in broad daylight before the Lord, so that the fierce anger of the Lord may turn away from Israel.”

Septuagint: And the Lord said to Moses, Take all the princes of the people, and make them examples of judgment for the Lord in the face of the sun, and the anger of the Lord shall be turned away from Israel.

Look at the official UCG logo and it tells a story. The church has the mistaken notion that the center of this Universe is the British Isles instead of Jerusalem, whereas God’s main interest is centered in Jerusalem. Here are the evidence:

II Kings 21:4 . . . the Lord said, “In Jerusalem will I put My name.”
II Kings 21:7 . . . the Lord said to David and to Solomon his son, “In this house and in
Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all tribes of Israel, will I put My name for ever.
II Chronicles 6:6 . . . but I have chosen
Jerusalem, that My name might be there.
II Chronicles 33:4 . . . the Lord had said, “In
Jerusalem shall My name be for ever.”
Ezra 7:19 The vessels also that are given thee for the service of the house of thy God, those deliver thou before the God of
Jerusalem.
Ezra 8:30 So the priests and the Levites took the weight of the silver and the gold and the vessels, to bring them to
Jerusalem unto the house of our God.
Psalm 116:19 in the courts of the Lord’s house, in the midst of thee, O
Jerusalem. Praise ye the Lord!
Psalm 125:2 As the mountains are round about
Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people from henceforth, even for ever.
Psalm 135:21 Blessed be the Lord out of Zion, who dwelleth in
Jerusalem! Praise ye the Lord!
Psalm 147:12 Praise the Lord, O
Jerusalem! Praise thy God, O Zion!
Isaiah 2:3 And many people shall go and say, “Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from
Jerusalem.
Isaiah 28:14 Therefore hear the word of the Lord, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in
Jerusalem.
Jeremiah 3:17 At that time they shall call
Jerusalem the Throne of the Lord, and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem.
Ezekiel 5:5 “Thus saith the Lord God: This is
Jerusalem. I have set it in the midst of the nations and countries that are round about her.
Micah 4:2 And many nations shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob. And He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths.” For the law shall go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from
Jerusalem.
Zechariah 8:3 “Thus saith the Lord: ‘I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of
Jerusalem; and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts, the Holy Mountain.’
Zechariah 14:8 And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from
Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and half of them toward the hinder sea; in summer and in winter shall it be.

UCG’s Self-Absorbing Logo

The focus of UCG is not in Jerusalem, but on the British Isles. It may seem innocuous and insignificant, but God says He is a jealous God. Their focus are on themselves, their elitist Anglo-Saxonisn — an indication of where members of the Council of Elders came from — their minds unfocused on the themes of God, but all about their self-centered hubris. 

“History Doesn’t Repeat Itself, But It Rhymes.” 

“Ephraim compasseth me about lies, and the house of Israel with deceit” (Hosea 11:12).

The house of Judah operates with hypocrisy but the house of Ephraim operates with lies and deceits! 

And here  are some examples:

In an August 2002 speech that kicked off the Bush White House administration’s campaign for war against Iraq, Cheney asserted, “Simply stated, there’s no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.”

In October 2002, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claimed he had “bullet-proof” evidence that Saddam was tied to Osama bin Laden. And a National Intelligence Estimate said Iraq had “continued its weapons of mass destruction program.”

“However, there is no doubt at all that the development of weapons of mass destruction by Saddam Hussein poses a severe threat not just to the region, but to the wider world.” – Tony Blair, House of Commons, 10 April 2002.

Prime Minister Tony Blair defended himself in 2005: “I have never told a lie. No. I don’t intend to go telling lies to people. I did not lie over Iraq.”

But these are only following their first lie by King Jeroboam, an Ephraimite:

“It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem,” says King Jeroboam. “Behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt!” (I King 12:28).

So he (King Jeroboam) offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart, and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel; and he offered upon the altar and burned incense (I King 12:33).

Jeroboam was of the house of Ephraim; he was not supposed to offer sacrifices, which were reserved only for the Aaronic Priesthood of the house of Judah. Further let’s take a closer look into this prophecy regarding Manasseh rallying with Ephraim against Judah:

Manasseh, Ephraim; and Ephraim, Manasseh; and they together shall be against Judah. For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still (Isaiah 9:21).

Manasseh and Ephraim are united against Judah; their quarrels, contentions, and wars among themselves, whereby they bit, devoured, and consumed each other, though they were brethren; which explains and confirms what is before said, of no man sparing his brother, and everyone eating the flesh of his own arm. 

Clifford's Tower, York, England - Travel Darkly
Massacre of Jews in Clifford’s Tower 1189-1190

In 1190 THE MASSACRE OF THE JEWS at Clifford’s Tower the British expelled all Jews from his kingdom and only some four hundred years were they allowed to return in the 17th century.

Furthermore, the pogroms of 1189 and 1190 is just the tip of an iceberg, here in Wikipedia it documents more than two hundred years (1066–1290) of persecutions.

The Targum bore testimony the words in Isaiah 9:21:

“they of the house of “Manasseh” with those of the house of “Ephraim”, and they of the house of “Ephraim”, with those of the house of “Manasseh”, shall be joined together as one, to come against them of the house of Judah.”

Rashi: “Manasseh” shall be joined with “Ephraim”, and “Ephraim” shall be joined with “Manasseh”, and they together shall be joined against Judah;’

Gill: for all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand [is] stretched out still;

that is, the anger of God, that was not turned away; he had not yet stirred up all his wrath, he had not done with them, he had still other judgments to bring upon them; and his hand continued to be stretched out to inflict them, seeing they were not brought to repentance by what was already done unto them; so the Targum,

“for all this they do not return from their sins, that he may turn away his anger from them, but still retain their sins; and yet his stroke will be to take vengeance on them.”

The anger of God will soon hit Ephraim and Manasseh. Blind and deceitful Guides! Ephraim compasseth the world with lies! Such parallels are astonishing! Why have they ignored the warning of the Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and especially Ezra? Even other English versions have translated “seven weeks” correctly in Leviticus 23:15,16. Blind Guides! Why have UCG blushed off these other translations? These are:

The Companion Bible (Bullinger)
Common English Bible (CEB)
Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
Contemporary English Version (CEV)
Christian Standard Bible (CSB)
Darby Translation (DARBY)
Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)
English Standard Version (ESV)
Expanded Bible (EXB)
GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)
Good News Translation (GNT)
Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
International Children’s Bible (ICB)
International Standard Version (ISV)
Lexham English Bible (LEB)
The Message (MSG)
Modern English Version (MEV)
Names of God Bible (NOG)
New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)
New Century Version (NCV)
New English Translation (NET Bible)
New International Version (NIV)
New Life Version (NLV)
New Living Translation (NLT)
Revised Standard Version (RSV)
The Voice (VOICE)
Wycliffe Bible (WYC)

Also, if Leviticus 23:11,15-16 are restricted to a weekly Sabbath, there is no proof as to which one, since there are over 50 weekly sabbaths during the year. Another problem arises when the fourteenth of Nisan falls on a weekly Sabbath. And so there are different interpretations among the different CoG Communities adding confusion to confusion. Why choose one instead of another especially where there is no solid evidence to be found?

Council of Elders
UCG’s Council of Elders – a display of a self-serving Anglo-Saxonisn elitist Church

Further in Deuteronomy 16:9 it says:

Deuteronomy 16:9 Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: begin to number the seven weeks from such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn.

Putting the Scriptures in Leviticus 23 and Deuteronomy 16 together, they may appear to say different things. Surely they don’t, but how do we reconcile them? 

First we must realize that the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers were mainly the words of God to His subjects — from Adam to Abraham, on to Moses — but in the book of Deuteronomy it was Moses speaking to the Israelites. Deuteronomy 1:1 says “These are the words which Moses spoke unto all Israel on this side of the Jordan . . . 3 And it came to pass in the fortieth year . . .  that Moses spoke unto the children of Israel according unto all that the Lord had given him.”

In a language meant to be more easily understood, Moses uses the word šāḇûa [h7620] in Deuteronomy:

Deuteronomy 16:9 Seven weeksH7620 shalt thou number unto thee: begin to number the seven weeksH7620 from such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn.

Deuteronomy 16:9 Seven weeks [h7620 shabua] Strong translates shabua as seven, period of seven (days or years), heptad, week

A. period of seven days, a week
Feast of Weeks
B. heptad, seven (of years)

UCG points out that shabua is never translated as a sabbath. That is true, but UCG fails to explain that shabua is generally described as a block of seven days, or heptad. So what is a block of sevens?  It is a group or series of seven — it could be days or years.

In all, the Bible has used “šāḇûa H7620twenty times. We should study each of them in detail. Here are all their uses, all 20 of them, in 17 verses:

Gen 29:27 Fulfil her week, H7620 and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years. — this is a block of seven years

Gen 29:28 And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: H7620 and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also. — again, this is a block of seven years

Exo 34:22 And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, H7620 of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year’s end. — This is the Feast of Weeks, which could also be called the Feast of Firstfruits, the firstfruits of thy labors which thou hast sown in the field

Lev 12:5 But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean for two weeks, H7620 as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days. — this is a block of two weeks

See the source image

Num 28:26 Also in the day of the firstfruits, when ye bring a new meat offering unto the LORD, after your weeks H7620 be out, ye shall have an holy convocation; ye shall do no servile work — this is the Feast of Firstfruits, which could also be called the Feast of Firstfruits, the firstfruits of thy labors which thou hast sown in the field

Deu 16:9 Seven weeks H7620 shalt thou number unto thee: begin to number the seven weeks H7620 from such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn. — this is the Feast of Weeks, and is NEVER called the Feast of Sabbaths. The difference is that the count starts immediately; no need to wait until the weekly Sabbath has arrived

Deu 16:10 And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks H7620 unto the LORD thy God with a tribute of a freewill offering of thine hand, which thou shalt give unto the LORD thy God, according as the LORD thy God hath blessed thee: — this is the Feast of Weeks, NEVER the Feast of Sabbaths

Deu 16:16 Three times a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, H7620 and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty: — again, this is the Feast of Weeks or the Feast of Firstfruits, the firstfruits of thy labors which thou hast sown in the field

II Ch 8:13 Even after a certain rate every day, offering according to the commandment of Moses, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts, three times in the year, even in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, H7620 and in the feast of tabernacles. — this is the Feast of Weeks or the Feast of Heptads

Jer 5:24 Neither say they in their heart, Let us now fear the LORD our God, that giveth rain, both the former and the latter, in his season: he reserveth unto us the appointed weeks H7620 of the harvest. — this is a block of weeks

Eze 45:21 In the first month, in the fourteenth day of the month, ye shall have the passover, a feast of seven H7620 days; unleavened bread shall be eaten. — a block of seven days: this is the most obvious illustration that shabua is NOT connected to the weekly sabbath. It starts IMMEDIATELY after Passover! And NO NEED to wait until the weekly Sabbath to start! The blind couldn’t see this because they are blind

Dan 9:24 Seventy weeks H7620 are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. — a block of seventy weeks

Dan 9:25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, H7620 and threescore and two weeks: H7620 the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. — a block of sixty-nine weeks

Dan 9:26 And after threescore and two weeks H7620 shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. — a one week block; the seventieth week

Dan 9:27 And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: H7620 and in the midst of the week H7620 he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate. — a one week block; the seventieth week

Dan 10:2 In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks. H7620 — a block of three weeks

Dan 10:3 I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks H7620 were fulfilled. — a block of three weeks

All their uses show heptad is a block of seven — days or years — but NEVER is it used as a weekly Sabbath, nor does it have to align with the weekly Sabbath. It is a BLOCK of seven, and it can start on any day. 

The term was first used when Jacob had to serve seven years marriage to Leah, and another seven to marry Rachael. The seven years period began immediately when Jacob and Laban concluded their agreement.

When Moses wrote or spoke in Deuteronomy 16, he uses this word shabua that was different from that expressed in Leviticus, to clarify that the start of the count to Pentecost need not start at the beginning of a week, but that it can start “on the morrow after the Sabbath,” and that Sabbath is an annual Sabbath, the First Day of Unleavened Bread, followed by seven blocks of days. 

As the wordings in Deuteronomy16 show, Moses would clarify seemingly unclear issues in Leviticus 23, or to elucidate complex subjects. And when Ezra returned from Exile, he, too, used expressions which appeared different from what God or Moses used. We can see those expressions in the Targum.

The Targum makes it extremely clear:

Leviticus 23:15 And number to you after the first feast day of Pascha, from the day when you brought the sheaf for the elevation, seven weeks; complete they shall be.

The reference is from the day “after the first feast day of Pascha.” Since Passover also means Unleavened Bread, this is the day after the first Day of Unleavened Bread. And this is confirmed in Septuagint 23:11 and he shall lift up the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you. On the morrow of the first day the priest shall lift it up. “The first day,” of course, refers to the first Day of Unleavened Bread; and to the morrow after is the sixteenth of Nisan. 

The Targum is an important source of our Scriptures. Blind Guides! Why would we ignore such an important witness? Naked Preachers! 

Let’s go and check into what the Targum is and what it says:

The Targum known in Hebrew: תרגום, plural: the targumim play an important role in translating many of our modern editions. The range of its origin was from 530 BC to 500 AD. When the Israelites returned from their exile in Babylon in the 6th century BC, most of them could no longer speak Hebrew; they spoke Aramaic. Nevertheless, the Scriptures have always been read in Hebrew even if no one in the greater community could speak it.

Golds World of Judaica - Targum Onkelos
The Targum, the ignored Cornerstone of Scriptural Understanding

Something had to be done so that the people would understand God and His Word. The sages, starting with Ezra, found an answer. After hearing a priest read a few verses of the Torah scroll in Hebrew, they then heard a translation in Aramaic called a Targum, which simply means translation. Hence the Targum is an Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) that was written or compiled in Palestine or in Babylonia from the Second Temple period until the early Middle Ages (late first millennium). 

One might think that God would have given the Levites privileged land as their inheritance to match their privileged position, but God actually gave them no land inheritance at all. Instead, they received agricultural and monetary tithes from the people as their inheritance. In this capacity, the Levites and priests had the opportunity to minister to the people through the instruction of the Torah. 

Back in Jerusalem, for instance, after returning from Babylonian exile, Ezra, a Levite and high priest, read and translated the Torah in Hebrew into the common Aramaic language, and he, or other Levites, explained the Torah so the people could understand. 

“The Levites … instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read” (Nehemiah 8:7–8).

Another way of saying: The Law was read by Ezra, verse by verse, and each verse was followed by a recitation by the Levites of the Aramaic version. Hence, we have to assume that the action of Ezra narrated in Nehemiah 8:8 implied not only the reading of the Law, but also the interpretation of its language — its translation in fact from Hebrew to Aramaic, and that, further, this practice was long followed in all the synagogues among the returning Exiles in Judea.

The Targum is like a mirror: when placed against the end-time CoG Communities, it reflects their nakedness. And the Targum stated clearly that the counting is the morrow after the first festal day of Pascha. Leviticus 23:11-13 And he shall uplift the sheaf before the Lord to be accepted for you. AFTER THE FIRST FESTAL DAY OF PASCHA (OR, THE DAY AFTER THE FEAST‑DAY OF PASCHA) on the day on which you elevate the sheaf, you shall make the sacrifice of a lamb of the year, unblemished a burnt offering unto the Name of the Lord . . . 15 AND NUMBER TO YOU AFTER THE FIRST FEAST DAY OF PASCHA, from the day when you brought the sheaf for the elevation, seven weeks; complete they shall be.

A Partial Week?

Are the weeks (shabuoth) referenced in Deuteronomy 16 truly full weeks, each ending with a Sabbath?  Can there be partial weeks in this count?  A partial week will result when a day other than the first day of the week is used as day one.  If the count were intended to start on any other day of the week, say, a Wednesday, seven weekly cycles would be completed on a Tuesday. In this case we would have a partial week, Wednesday to Sabbath, six complete weeks from Sunday to Sabbath, and another partial week from Sunday to Tuesday.  Notice how this would look if you began your count on a Wednesday:

Wednesday to Sabbath = one partial week, 4 days 6 full weeks (Sunday to Sabbath) = 42 days Sunday to Tuesday = one partial week, 3 days Total of 49 days, followed by the 50th day on Wednesday (morrow after the 49th day)

We could also count seven Sabbaths, and not have 49 days. In the hypothetical example above we count the seven Sabbaths, and then we still have to count the remaining days of Sunday through Tuesday to complete the seven weekly cycles.  It should be noted here that the NRSV (New Revised Standard Version), Moffat, NIV, and the JPS (Jewish Publication Society) all translate Leviticus 23: 15 “seven Sabbaths shall be complete” as “seven weeks” or “seven full weeks.”  The King James Version and the New King James Version are both faithful to the original Hebrew text where the word shabbath is used.  If weeks were the intended meaning in these verses, then a different Hebrew word should have been used– shabuoth.

It is certainly true that seven full weeks could be satisfied by seven weekly cycles, independent of when the weekly cycle started.  Thus, it would be permissible to have two fragments of a week and six complete weeks (from the first day through the seventh day or Sabbath) according to this explanation.  But is this what is intended by the scriptures?

An argument could be made here that God starts the week on the first day and ends it on the seventh day, the creation week being an example (Genesis 1).  This argument, however is not necessary in the determination of how to count to the day of Pentecost.  It is to be noted here that Deuteronomy was written after Leviticus.  The instructions from Leviticus have to be taken into account, as Deuteronomy supplements Leviticus.  There is no contradiction between the two. (Pentecost pg 12-13)

This is correct, that the “seven full weeks could be satisfied by seven weekly cycles, independent of when the weekly cycle started.” Pentecost is NEVER called the Feast of Sabbaths, it’s the Feast of Weeks, or Feast of Heptads (blocks of sevens). The Feast of Weeks could start at any day of the week. The best illustration is Ezekiel 45:21 where it testifies the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread could start at any time of the week.

Look at Ezekiel 45:21 again:

In the first month, in the fourteenth day of the month, ye shall have the passover, a Feast of Haptads (a block of seven) H7620 days; unleavened bread shall be eaten.

Note carefully, the seven days Feast of Unleavened Bread starts IMMEDIATELY after Passover, so it could be a Monday, or any day after Passover, but the most important characteristic is that it starts IMMEDIATELY to begin the block of seven weeks! There is no waiting even for a single day. That’s why Pentecost is called the Feast of Weeks but never the Feast of Sabbaths.

The Pharisees and Sadducees were both sects of the Jews in the first century. The two groups had numerous differences, one of them being the method of counting Pentecost.  It is acknowledged that during the first century C.E. and up until the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E., the Sadducees controlled worship at the temple. . . . 

It is only after the destruction of the Temple that the Pharisees gain control and the Sadducees, for the most part, disappear:

Except under Salome Alexandra the Pharisees have the role of a minority up to A.D. 70.  Their great period comes only with the fall of the hierocracy.  When the capture of Jerusalem shatters the Sadducean ideal, Pharisaism provides the direction needed for reconstruction. Politically independent, it nurtures community life in the synagogue.  The failure of the Zealots clears the way for more moderate leaders such as Jochanan ben Zakkai. Jabneh with its chakamim [sages], which plays no part in the revolt, forms a center for reorganization. (Pentecost pg 16)

On first appearance, the Sadducees seemed to have control over the worship at the temple, but it wasn’t the case. Josephus, an eye witness living during the first century, wrote in his Antiquities of the Jews, saying that the Pharisees were the dominant religious party during the time of Christ, and that they controlled the worship services. 

Now, for the Pharisees, they live meanly, and despise delicacies in diet; and they follow the conduct of reason; and what that prescribes to them as good for them they do; and they think they ought earnestly to strive to observe reason’s dictates for practice. They also pay a respect to such as are in years . . .  on account of which doctrines they are able greatly to persuade the body of the people; and whatsoever they do about Divine worship, prayers, and sacrifices, they perform them according to their direction (Antiquities 18.1.3).

The bulk of the common people followed the Pharisees. And although the Sadducees were occupying the upper stratum of the Jewish aristocracy, they were few in numbers, hence they were unable and unwilling to carry out their own beliefs in the Temple service, “because the multitude would not otherwise bear them” but to carry “the notions [directions] of the Pharisees”:

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But the doctrine of the Sadducees is this: That souls die with the bodies; nor do they regard the observation of any thing besides what the law enjoins them; for they think it an instance of virtue to dispute with those teachers of philosophy whom they frequent: but this doctrine is received but by a few, yet by those still of the greatest dignity. But they are able to do almost nothing of themselves; for when they become magistrates, as they are unwillingly and by force sometimes obliged to be, they addict themselves to the notions of the Pharisees, because the multitude would not otherwise bear them. (Antiquities 18.1.4).

The Unger’s Bible Dictionary tells us further political-religious amalgamation called the Sadducees:

“Their political supremacy was, however, of no long duration. Greatly as the spiritual power of the Pharisees had increased, the Sadducean aristocracy was able to keep at the helm in politics. The price at which the Sadducees had to secure themselves power at this later period was indeed a high one, for they were IN THEIR OFFICIAL ACTIONS TO ACCOMMODATE THEMSELVES TO PHARISAIC VIEWS. With the fall of the Jewish state the Sadducees altogether disappear from history. (“Sadducees,” Pg 954).

The strength of the Sadducees was mainly in politics and living luxurious lives. “What servant would work all day without obtaining his due reward in the evening?” they asked themselves, and so they broke away from the Law and lived in great luxury, using silver and gold vessels at banquets; and they established schools which declared the enjoyment of this life to be the goal of man, at the same time pitying the Pharisees for their bitter privation in this world with no hope of another world to compensate them. These schools were called, after their founders, Sadducees after their apparent founder, Zadok; and Boethusians, after Boethus the high priest brought over by King Herod the Great from Alexandria.

In the book Faith in the Future, we find a chapter which discusses this subject in some detail.  The chapter is entitled “Shavuot/Pentecost, Israel’s Wedding” and the book was written by Jonathan Sacks, who is currently Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth:

In Judaism, mysteries have a habit of becoming controversies, none more so than in the case of Shavuot, otherwise known as Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks.  Shavuot generated one of the great arguments in Jewish history. . . The argument became acute in the days of the second Temple when Jews were divided into several groups, most notably the Sadducees and Pharisees.  We know all too little about this period, but we can say this.  Of the two groups, the Sadducees were the more affluent and influential.  They were closely connected to the Temple hierarchy and to the political elite.  They were as near as Jewry came to a governing class. . . The Torah had specified that the counting of seven weeks should begin on the “day after the Sabbath.”  The Sadducees took this literally.  The counting should begin on Sunday, so that Shavuot would always fall on Sunday seven weeks later.  The Pharisees invoked tradition and argued instead that in this case “sabbath” meant “festival,” specifically the first day of Pesach.” 

From the above quotes, it may be deduced that the Pharisees were unable to convince the Sadducees that the Feast of Weeks always falls on a fixed date of Sivan 6.  The two groups were clearly divided over this issue. (Pentecost pg 17)

There was a Talmudic report of a Sadducean high priest, R Abbahu, who suffered badly by following the Sadducaic interpretation. It was reported that coming out of the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement, he was hit from behind between his shoulders. He fell forward and hit the floor on his face. It was believed that an angel kicked him, a type of sound was even heard in the Temple courtyard, whose sole of a foot had the mark of a calf-hoof, (Ezekiel 1:7). 

A mark of a calf’s hoof appeared right at the center of Abbahu’s forehead and his nose started to discharge worms. And he died a terrible death a few days later. (Yoma 19b)

The significance of the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD should not be understated. It came forty years after John the Baptist had given a stern warning about another consuming fire recorded in Luke 3:16. The number 40 generally symbolizes a period of testing, trial or probation. During Moses’ life he lived forty years in Egypt and forty years in the desert before God selected him to lead his people out of slavery.

Because of their perversion, God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah during Abraham’s time. The Blind have ignored John’s warning about another consuming fire recorded in Luke 3:16. John said unto them:

“I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I cometh, the straps of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose. He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with FIRE. 17 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor and will gather the wheat into His garner; but the chaff He will burn with FIRE unquenchable.” (Luke 3:16)

The word “FIRE” is highlighted above, with a hope that the Blind could see finally. When we look back, one cannot avoid concluding that God had deemed that the Sadducees and the Boethusians were worthy of extinction during the 70 AD INFIRNO. Everything about the Sadducees and the Boethusians were destroyed — they “disappeared.” A large portion of the Shammai Pharisees also followed suit; only the Hillel branch of Pharisees limped off to Yavne and survived. 

Now, just as the victims of Sodom and Gomorrah have revived today, so were those of the Sadducees and Boethusians! They, too, have revived as a “Reform Movement.”

So says the United Hebrew Congregations on its website:

We are a Reform congregation with a traditional mind-set and a progressive heart. As a congregation affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism, we strive to attain the high ideals of the movement. We make informed, meaningful choices from Jewish tradition to guide our observance, take an open-minded approach to Jewish religious belief and practice, and provide a home where members can cultivate, explore, and expand their spirituality.

The origins of Reform Judaism started in 19th-century Germany, where its early principles were formulated by Rabbi Abraham Geiger (1810-1874). Since the 1970s, the Movement adopted a policy of inclusiveness and acceptance, inviting as many as possible to partake in its communities, rather than “strict theoretical clarity,” and away from the “Bondage of Judaism.”

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Abraham Geiger (1810-1874)

Reform Judaism initially developed as lay Jews simply lost interest in the strict observances required of Orthodoxy, with many seeking shorter services, more frequent sermons, and organ music, modeled after Protestant churches. Thus Reform Judaism’s own mandate is “a process of constant evolution” and it “rejects any fixed, permanent set of beliefs, laws or practices.” In an attempt to alter the appearance and ritual of Judaism and to mimic German Protestantism, they stated that the old mechanisms of religious interpretation were obsolete and a new one had to be found. 

Hence Geiger sought a more coherent ideological framework to justify innovations in the liturgy and religious practice. Discrimination and persecution against Jews were rampant for the next hundred years in Germany. Works were hard to come by and such new interpretation made sense in a community struggling to survive. 

One characteristic of their progressive revelation was the institution of a “Second Sabbath” on Sunday, modeled on the Second Passover, as most people desecrated the day of rest. “If you cannot keep the Sabbath on its appointed time, you keep it on the next available day,” and so the Sabbath was shifted from Saturday to Sunday. “God would accept it,” they justify themselves and encourage each other.

America was opening up to immigrants and in a new Land of the Free, the five-day workweek soon made the Sunday Sabbath redundant. But nevertheless, the Movement had already had its momentum and today the Reform Movement’s largest center is in North America. 

Reform Judaism encourages adherents to seek their own means of engaging a new Judaism, enhancing “individualism.” Tolerance for LGBT and ordination of LGBT rabbis were also pioneered by the Movement. It started slowly then gathered speed. Intercourse between consenting adults was declared as legitimate by the Central Conference of American Rabbis in 1977, and openly gay clergy were admitted by the end of the 1980s. Same-sex marriage were sanctioned by the end of the following decade. In 2015 the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) adopted a Resolution on the Rights of Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People, urging clergy and synagogue attendants to actively promote tolerance and inclusion of such individuals.

If the 70 AD inferno was only a microcosm, a foretaste, how would the Reform Movement and its CoG Communities, who have similar deceptive beliefs as the original Sadducees and Boethusians, escape John’s warning during the Last Days? Isn’t this a return to the days of Sodom and Gomorrah? And also to share its fate? And why is it so coincidental that the end-time lackadaisical churches described as “wretched” and “blind” and “naked”? It’s an unpleasant descripture, but that’s what the Scriptures say.

How did the Sadducees just “disappeared” in 70 AD?

These Blind Guides may have grand aspirations but they are misguided! The Targum ireflects their nakedness. When placed against the end-time CoG Communities, it reflects their wretchedness. Woe unto the shepherds of Israel (the shepherds of the United States, Britain and related countries), says the Lord, for they feed themselves but not the sheep!

Although Ezekiel’s message was to both the “house of Israel” and the “house of Judah” its main message after chapter 24 was to the “house of Israel.” Captivities were the end results historically for both kingdoms, but today, the main focus in Ezekiel chapter 34 is on the Northern Kingdom with dire warning, especially its shepherds: 

Ezekiel 34:1 And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say unto them, ‘Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds: Woe to the shepherds of Israel that feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? 3 Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe yourselves with the wool, ye kill the ones that are fed; but ye feed not the flock. 4 The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. 5 And they were scattered because there is no shepherd, and they became meat to all the beasts of the field when they were scattered. 6 My sheep wandered through all the mountains and upon every high hill; yea, My flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them. — Adam Clarke: The prophet is commanded to declare the dreadful judgments of God against the covetous shepherds of Israel, who feed themselves, and not their flocks; . . . the using these tithes and offerings, not to enable them the better to fulfill the work of the ministry, but to pamper their own bodies, and support them in an idle voluptuous life . . . and maintain their own luxury and idolatrous prodigality . . . The fat sheep point out the rich to whom these pastors often disguised the truth, by a cruel condescension and complaisance . . . And the consequence was, grievous wolves, false and worldly interested teachers, seized on and made a prey of them.

~~~~~

~ by Joel Huan on May 6, 2021.

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