Ancient Calendars, Feast Days, & Daniel 12:11 – Part 2

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Ancient Calendars, Feast Days, & Daniel 12:11 – Part 2
By Randy Nettles

Moses, who wrote the first five books of the Bible, was trained in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. “And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds” (Acts 7:22). He was familiar with the different calendars of the Egyptians and possibly even the Sumerians. During the time of the plagues of Egypt (from the Lord), God informed Moses to change the Hebrew Calendar so the first day of the new year would be observed in the spring rather than the fall season. New Year’s Day would now be celebrated on the first day of Abib (later known as Nisan) after the first sighting of the crescent moon of spring.

The month of Abib was formally the 7th month of the year in the past, but now would be the 1st month in the Hebrew civil calendar. The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, “This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you” (Exodus 12:1-2).

The changing of the first month was due to the importance of the upcoming ‘passover’ plague and subsequent exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt by God’s mighty power. The Feast of the Passover was to be an annual holiday in honor of the night when the Lord “passed over” the homes of the Israelites. The Hebrews followed God’s instructions by placing the blood of an innocent lamb on the doorposts of their homes. The lamb had to be without blemish and a male of the first year. It was to be selected on the 10th day of the new first month and kept until the evening of the Passover, which occurred on the 14th day of the first month (Abib).

“The blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where you are: and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:12).

The lamb was to be killed and eaten on that night with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. The people were to eat the meal with their loins girded, shoes on their feet, and staff in hand because they were to leave Egypt in haste afterwards.

“And it came to pass, that at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle” (Exodus 12:29).

“And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We are all dead men. And the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading troughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders. And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: and the Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians” (Exodus 12:33-36).


God had confirmed his land covenant with Abraham when he entered the land of Canaan 430 years earlier to the day (Nisan 14 – 1876 B.C.) from when the Hebrews made their exodus from Egypt.

“And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this lad, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates” (Genesis 15:17-18).

“The Lord confirmed His covenant with Abraham during that first unofficial ‘passover’. God instructed Abraham to bring a heifer, a goat, a ram, a dove, and a young pigeon and cut them in half (except the birds). After Abraham obeyed God, he fell into a deep sleep. Due to the spiritual death that results from sin, a physical death and the shedding of blood was necessary for this covenant to be ratified and made effective.” (4)

“Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. It is a night to be much observed unto the Lord for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of the Lord to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations” (Exodus 12:40-42).

Moses brought the children of Israel out of Egypt 430 years to the day that God confirmed the covenant with Abraham in the land of Canaan. The Exodus occurred on Nisan 14 in the year 1446 B.C.

It is interesting to note that during the entire journey of the Israelites in the wilderness, God manifested Himself to them in form similar to Abraham’s encounter with Him at the first unofficial ‘passover’. Abraham’s vision included a “smoking furnace” and a “burning lamp” that passed between the parts of the animals. Here is what Exodus 14:21-22 describes during the 40 years of wandering through the wilderness by Moses and the Hebrew people:

“And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: he took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.”

Moses told the people to remember this day, in which they came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the Lord had brought them out of Egypt.

“This day came you out in the month Abib. And it shall be when the Lord shall bring you into the land of the Danaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he swore unto your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, that you shall keep this service in this month. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and in the seventh day shall be a feast to the Lord. Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days; and there shall no leavened bread be seen with you, either shall there be leaven seen with you in all your quarters.”

“And you shall show your son in that day, saying, This is done because of that which the Lord did unto me when I came forth out of Egypt. And it shall be for a sign unto you upon your hand, and for a memorial between your eyes, that the Lord’s law may be in your mouth: for with a strong hand has the Lord brought you out of Egypt. You shall therefore keep this ordinance in his season from year to year” (Exodus 13: 4-10).


God told Moses and the children of Israel that they were to celebrate the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread in the first month of Abib, in the spring season. Moses and the Hebrews did not use the Egyptian calendar, 360-day prophetic calendar, or the 40-year calendar, but instead observed a mostly lunar calendar.

However, they kept it in alignment with the solar calendar by adding an extra month of 30 days every 2 to 3 years. Thus it was a lunar/solar combination calendar, known as the Hebrew Calendar. Similar calendars were used by ancient near-east civilizations throughout history. The Jews followed the moon’s monthly cycle of 29 or 30 days per month for a total of 354/355 days per year in a normal year. When the extra 13th month was added, the year’s duration would be for 383 or 384 days.

On Rosh Hodesh, the first day of each month of the Hebrew calendar, the appearance of even a tiny sliver of the new moon in the night sky signaled the beginning of the month. The first new moon of spring would normally begin the first day of the first month of the ‘new year’. However, if the early barley crop was not ripe enough for harvesting later in the month, the New Year would be delayed by 30 more days. That is when an extra 13th month was added to the yearly calendar, and the following month would then become the first month of the New Year.

This was done so the lunar calendar would stay in alignment with the solar calendar and the seasons would stay in sync for the feast days which celebrated the harvesting of crops.

In giving the laws for His people, God set several appointed “Feasts of the Lord” for Israel to observe at specific times during the Year (Leviticus 23). These feasts were holy convocations or assembly meetings for the Hebrew people. They were to be celebrated from that time in the wilderness when God first gave the Law, and would carry on into the future to commemorate what God did for them when He delivered them from centuries of slavery in Egypt. They were first observed when Joshua and the Israelites entered the Promised Land in 1406 B.C. (Joshua 5:10-12).

The 7 seasonal feasts of the Lord are: Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Pentecost, Trumpets, Atonement and Tabernacles. The weekly Sabbath is also considered a feast of the Lord; but it is not seasonal, rather it is to be observed weekly. The reason God wanted Moses and the children of Israel to observe the mostly lunar calendar was for these seasonal feast days. The New Year starts with the first new moon of spring (when barley is mostly ripe). Passover is always to occur on the first full moon of spring. The Feast of Trumpets is observed during the new moon of autumn.

Most Bible scholars believe these feasts have a dual fulfillment. One was fulfilled by Israel in the past, and the other has and will be fulfilled by the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus fulfilled the first four feasts during his First Coming and will fulfill the last three at His Second Coming. His is the ultimate fulfillment…that is why they are called the feasts of the Lord and not the feasts of Israel.

Passover took place when the last and most terrible of the ten plagues against Egypt occurred. God sent a plague (probably an angel of death) to kill every firstborn human and cattle in Egypt. The firstborn children and cattle of Israel were not targeted as long as the Jewish people applied the blood of a lamb without blemish to the doorposts of their houses. When the angel saw the blood, he passed over that home to continue his execution of the firstborn of the Egyptians. This last plague resulted in the release and freedom of Moses’ people during the evening hours of Passover on Nisan 14 in the year 1446 B.C.

Passover, or Pesach to the Jews, was ultimately fulfilled by Jesus when He died on the cross for the sins of mankind. This occurred on Thursday, Nisan 14 in the year A.D. 33. Four days earlier, on Nisan 10, Jesus had fulfilled prophecy by riding into Jerusalem on a donkey as the king of Israel.

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).

Unfortunately the ruling Jewish elite and the majority of the people did not recognize him as such. He was “cut off” from his immediate kingship of Israel on that day.

On the 1st Passover for Moses and the children of Israel, the blood of the lamb foreshadowed the blood of Christ, the Lamb of God. When we accept His sacrifice, we are no longer judged and sentenced to eternal death because of our sins. Passover is always observed on Nisan 14 of the Jewish calendar. It occurs on different days of the week.

During the night of the Exodus Passover, the Jews prepared to leave Egypt in great haste. The food they carried with them was unleavened bread – matzo, since they didn’t have time for leavened bread to rise. The feast of Unleavened Bread is the 2nd feast of the Lord and lasts for seven days, from Nisan 15 to 21, whereas no bread is to be eaten with leaven. Leven or yeast represents sin in the Bible.

The prophetic fulfillment of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is understood in the fact that for 7 days the Jews could not eat yeast, nor even have it in their houses. It had to be taken completely away. 7 is the number that represents Divine completion, so having no leaven for 7 days symbolizes completely taking away our sins.

When Jesus died on the cross, He took away all of our sins and cancelled the Law’s indictments against us. Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life, was buried in a tomb on the day of his crucifixion and was in the earth for 3 days and 3 nights. He purged out our sins and ultimately fulfilled the 2nd feast known as the feast of Unleavened Bread.

The 3rd feast of the Lord is celebrated on the 1st day after the Sabbath/Saturday that follows Passover, and is known as the feast of Firstfruits. This feast is not a date-specific one like Passover and Unleavened Bread but is a day-of-the-week specific one, as it always occurs on a Sunday. The feast of Firstfruits was the time for the harvesting of the early crops of spring. Concerning this feast, the Lord told Moses,

“Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When you come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then you 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” (Leviticus 23:9-11).

Throughout the 40 years that Israel wandered in the desert, God provided supernatural food, manna, to feed the growing nation.

The Bible records that after 40 years in the wilderness, Joshua and the Hebrew people crossed over the Jordan River and ate the Passover Supper on the 14th of Nisan. The next day, on the 15th of Nisan, the Jews ate of the old corn of the land. The next day, the 16th day of Nisan, was the last day in which God provided the supernatural manna as food. The day following was the 17th day of Nisan, the feast of Firstfruits, and with no more manna available, the people began to eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year – the firstfruits of the Promised Land. The feast celebrated Israel’s acknowledgement that not only the firstfruits were owed to God, but that all they had was from God, a daily gift from His gracious hand.

Moses wrote: “The first of the firstfruits of thy land you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God” (Exodus 23:19).

Jesus was resurrected on the third day after Passover, on Sunday, the 17th day of Nisan, in the year A.D. 33. This monumental event is referred to as Resurrection Sunday.

“But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Corinthians 15:20).

Jesus also resurrected others from death during this time. “The graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many” (Matthew 27:52-53).

“By resurrecting many of the Old Testament saints on this feast of Firstfruits, Christ proved that His power over death was not limited to Himself alone. Many ancient Christian writers refer to this miraculous resurrection of the dead. This event which, together with more than five hundred eyewitnesses to the risen Christ, assisted in the rapid spread of the Christian faith…as per 1 Corinthians 15:4-6.” (5)

Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of the feast of Firstfruits.

The 4th feast of the Lord is celebrated 50 days after the Feast of Firstfruits in early summer. Pentecost (Feast of Weeks), or Shavuot to the Jews, celebrated the end of the barley harvest and the beginning of the wheat harvest. The name Pentecost comes from the word “penta” meaning 50.

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

Since the Feast of Firstfruits always occurs on a Sunday, so must Pentecost. It is another day-specific feast and can occur on different dates of the Hebrew calendar.

Originally, Pentecost was celebrated because it was the beginning of the summer harvest. But in A.D. 135, after the final defeat of the Jewish nation (under the leadership of Simon ben Kosiba, popularly known as Bar Kokhba) by Roman legions, the Sanhedrin changed the focus of Shavuot from the summer harvest to the giving of the 10 Commandments and the Law of Moses. They did this because Shavuot was one of the 3 feasts in which all male Jews were required to observe and gather together (the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Tabernacles were the other two according to Exodus 23:14-17), and the defeated and dispersed nation of Israel would no longer have any national harvests to celebrate.

From that time on, the Jewish leaders decided that Pentecost would occur 50 days after the feast of Unleavened Bread (instead of the feast of Firstfruits). So now, in their eyes, Shavuot can come any day of the week and always takes place on the 6th day of the 3rd Hebrew month of Sivan. This dating method for Pentecost is not biblically correct.

The 10 Commandments couldn’t have been given to Moses on the 6th day of Sivan because of the following verses in Exodus: “In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai” (Exodus19:1).

The children of Israel left Egypt on Nisan 15 and came to Mount Sinai on Sivan 15. “And the Lord said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes, and be ready against the third day: for the third day the Lord will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai” (Exodus 19:10-11).

The Lord gave Moses the 10 commandments on Sivan 18 – 1446 B.C., approximately 62 days after the Exodus.

Pentecost should always fall on Sunday and can come on different dates other than Sivan 6. Pentecost should always come 50 days after the feast of Firstfruits and not the feast of Unleavened Bread. ‘7’, God’s special number, is in focus as 7 Sabbaths must transpire between these two feasts of the Lord. The starting point is the 1st Sabbath (Saturday) after Passover. The next day, Sunday, is the 1st day. The 7th Saturday is the 49th day. The next day, Sunday, is the 50th day…from Sunday to Sunday.

The feast of Pentecost is very significant to Christians as well as to Jews. Pentecost, or Shavuot to the Jews, celebrated the end of the grain harvest, the summer harvest. But of course, what it is most remembered for is the giving of the Holy Spirit to Jesus’ disciples. Precisely 50 days after the feast of Firstfruits, the day the Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead, 120 of His disciples gathered together in one place to await the promise of Christ. He prophesied that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

“But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and you shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

On the 7th day of Sivan on the Hebrew calendar, in A.D.33, the Holy Spirit manifested Himself and “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (verse 4).

“Those ordinary people, His disciples, were transformed on that day into men of extraordinary spiritual power who would challenge their world of abject paganism with a dynamic Christian movement that not even the might of Rome could stop. Within a few days, over three thousand Jews became believers. Reliable reports suggest that despite horrible persecutions, tortures, and massive executions, within 70 years over 10 million believers had joined the underground Christian Church throughout the Roman Empire. Jesus fulfilled his prophecy to his disciples, and God baptized them with his Holy Spirit. The feast of Pentecost began the Dispensation of Grace, and the Church was born. It consisted of Jewish and Gentile believers in Jesus as the Son of God and the Savior of mankind.” (6)

These first 4 Feasts of the Lord were major historical events for the nation of Israel, but the ultimate fulfillment was in the life and First Coming of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Most Bible scholars believe that Jesus will fulfill the last 3 feasts by His Second Coming in the near future.

Randy Nettles

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