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The Feasts and the Exodus 

by Michael Bugg

One of the great factors in the growth of the Messianic and Hebrew Roots movements has been a new respect for and desire to celebrate the Biblical Feastdays in much of Christendom.  In particular, Evangelicals are drawn to the Feasts because of an interest in Biblical prophecy and an increasing appreciation for the Feasts' role in eschatology.  This prophetic view of the Feasts has been developed by numerous Christian authors, including such worthies as Clarence Larkin, David Jeremiah, Chuck Missler, and many others. 

However, what is all-too-often missing from a proper understanding of the Feasts is their original context:  That of the Exodus.  Indeed, as this article will show, one can understand the Feasts and their importance in both Comings of our Lord Messiah only by appreciating their origins in Israel's deliverance from Egypt and subsequent testing in the wilderness.

The Feastdays are divided into three groups—the spring feasts, Shavuot (Pentecost), and then the fall feasts—each of which is linked to a distinct stage of the Exodus and Israel’s instruction at Sinai.  In addition, there are at least three minor feasts (that is, those which were not ordained at Sinai) which are also prophetically significant.  The key to understanding the Feasts’ prophetic significance is to understand their historical significance.

First, the Silence

When the Holy One reorganized Israel’s calendar by proclaiming the month of the Pesach (Passover) to be the “beginning of months” (Exo. 12:2).  He was establishing that His plan of salvation begins with the Passover.  However, to truly understand God’s plan, we begin our brief study not with the Passover, but with the six “silent” months which separate the Passover from the previous Sinai-ordained Feastday, Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles.  Within this “silent period” lie two minor Feasts:  Hanukkah, which celebrates the victory of Israel over the forces of Antiochus Epiphanes (which was discussed in brief in interlude 3), and Purim, which celebrates her victory over the forces of Haman some three centuries earlier as is described in the book of Esther.  Hanukkah has an eschatological significance which will be explored in chapter 20, but for now it is enough to note the element these two feasts share in common:  Both celebrate the Holy One’s “hidden” protection of and provision for His people.  Though He did not act with any obvious miracles like fire from the sky or supernatural plagues, nevertheless He brought His people to victory against overwhelming odds:  In Purim by the placement of a Jewish queen, and in Hanukkah by giving the Jews might in battle.

These “silent” months between Sukkot and Pesach correspond to the 430 “silent years” which lead up both to the Passover of the Exodus (Gal. 3:17) and the Passover of the Messiah.  Both periods were characterized by the lack of a true prophet to lead the people, a “a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Holy One” (Amos 8:11).   God had not forgotten His people, but it probably felt to them like He had.


When the Holy One fulfilled His promise to redeem His people from bondage, it was through the Passover.  God’s people were set free from Egypt via the blood of the lamb painted on their doorposts, so that they would not die in God’s wrath.  Likewise, God’s people were set free from sin by the blood of the Lamb painted on their hearts, so that they would not die in God’s wrath. 

Passover is the first Feast established by the Holy One, preceding even Shabbat.  It was also commanded to be a memorial which Israel was to keep for the specific purpose of teaching their children what the Eternal One had done for them (Exo. 12:26f).  In the same way, we in the Messianic community take great joy in keeping the Feast in honor and remembrance of the greater redemption we have in the Passover Lamb, Yeshua (cf. Luke 22:19, 1 Co. 5:7-8 & 11:24-25).  What is almost always missed by Christian commentators is the fact that the specific bread and cup that we are to partake of in remembrance of our Lord is the matzah and wine of the Passover.  While there is certainly no sin in observing the Lord’s Supper (and this is in fact the practice of this author’s own synagogue), the Supper should be regarded as a snack which tides us over until the true Supper of Passover, not a ritual completely divorced of its roots

Indeed, it is fascinating in that regard that every single element of the Pesach Seder points to the ultimate Sacrifice:

·         The Lamb was selected on the 10th of Nisan (Exo. 12:3; John 12:1, 12).

·         The Lamb had to be unblemished (ibid., v. 5)

·         The Lamb was to be sacrificed by the whole community on the 14 th of Nisan (ibid., v. 6).

·         It was to be eaten with matzah, unleavened bread and bitter herbs (ibid., v. 8; Mat. 26:26, 1Co. 5:7-8.).  Judas was marked by being the one who dipped his bread in the bowl with Yeshua (Mark 14:20), and it is likely that the specific bowl being referred to was that containing the maror, or bitter herbs.  It is no coincidence that the bitterness of Judas’ betrayal, in which he sold out Yeshua for the price of a slave, was thus marked.

·         There are four cups traditionally drunk at a Passover dinner, two before and two after the meal, called the cups of Sanctification, Plagues, Redemption, and Praise (also called Acceptance).  It is no accident that Yeshua’s final cup was the cup of plagues and that He refused the cup of Redemption, passing it to His disciples instead (Luke 22:20)—He came not to win redemption for Himself, but for us.

·         Not a bone of the Lamb was to be broken (Exo. 12:46, John 19:36).

·         The blood of the Lamb protects us from God’s judgment and frees us from bondage (Exo. 12:13, Rom. 3:25).

·         A cup is traditionally set out for Elijah.  As shown in When Was Yeshua Born?, Yochanan HaTivlei (John the Immerser) was born at the time of Passover and fulfilled the “near” prophecy that Elijah would come as the forerunner of the Messiah.

·        The practice of the Afikomen is to hide three pieces of matzah in a special linen pouch with three pockets.  The middle piece is brought out and broken in half; one half is wrapped in a linen cloth and hidden in the room for the children to find later, while the other half is eaten with the Cup of Redemption.  The Afikomen provides a picture of the Threefold Godhead and the death, burial, and Resurrection of the Messiah.  The word “afikomen” is generally considered to be derived from a Greek word meanding “desert,” but may actually come from an Aramaic word meaning “He Came.”  

·         The Lamb was traditionally roasted on a spit, with a crosspiece holding open the forelegs to allow the inside to be thoroughly cooked—it was literally cooked in a crucifixion pose!

The reader will note that even the extra-Biblical Jewish traditions of the Pesach Seder point to the Messiah, right down to how they roasted the Lamb!  This is important to understanding the other Feasts, for it sets the precedence of paying attention to these extra traditions which, if not Inspired on the level of Scripture, nevertheless seem to have been guided by the Ruach to point to the Messiah—this despite the rabbis inclination to expunge anything having to do with Yeshua from their theology and practices!

Unleavened Bread

The seven days of the Feast of Matzah, in which all the leaven had to be removed from Israel’s houses and no leaven could be eaten, represents the quick removal of Israel from Egypt (in which there was no time to make leavened bread; Exo. 12:39) and the complete removal (the number seven indicating completeness) of all sin in our lives by the sacrifice of Yeshua.

The traditional way to search out and remove the leaven on the day before Passover (which is often considered to be simply the beginning of this Feast [Mark 14:1, 12; Luke 22:1, 7], though the Torah makes a distinction between them; Lev. 23:6-7) is as follows:  The woman of the house gets rid of most of the leaven, but deliberately leaves a few pieces for her husband and children to seek out.  Then they go through the house with a candle, a feather, and a wooden spoon, using the feather to scoop the leaven onto the wooden spoon.  The leaven is then wrapped in a linen cloth and burned.

What does this strange custom mean?  One Messianic interpretation is that the candle represents the Light of the Scriptures (Psa. 199:105, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path”) the feather represents the Ruach HaKodesh, and the wooden spoon represents the wooden cross.  As Yeshua became sin for us and died in our stead on the cross, so the leaven, represnting sin, is put on the spoon, then wrapped in its “burial shroud” and burned (judged).  Once again, we see that even the extra-Biblical traditional details point directly to our Salvation.


The first day of the Feast of Matzah is a Sabbath-rest, regardless of which day of the week it falls on (Lev. 23:7On the first non-Sabbath day following this, the people of Israel were commanded to bring an offering of the firstfruits of their barley harvest (which ripens before the wheat harvest) before the Holy One (ibid., v. 11) It was not offered on the altar, but waved before the Eternal One’s Temple.  It was on this day that Yeshua, “the firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Co. 15:20), presented Himself before the Father (John 20:17).  Many commentators have been puzzled at Yeshua’s comment to Mary Magdalene, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.It was not, as some have supposed, that in His Resurrected and glorified body He was no longer to be conversed with casually—Mary was not being casual, being in the act of worship, and He later conversed with His disciples at length over “casual” meals, allowing them to handle Him freely.  Rather, He had stopped on His way to complete the requirements of the Torah in presenting Himself as a wave-offering before the Father as a mercy to a beloved disciple, but could not tarry until the Feast was made complete.

The importance of Yeshua’s Resurrection being the Firstfruits cannot be overestimated; in fact, Paul bases his entire doctrine of the Resurrection on that point in 1 Corinthians 15: If we trust that Yeshua was raised bodily and glorified, then we can trust that we will be as well, just as if we trust God with the firstfruits of the barley harvest, we can trust that He will bring in the rest of the harvest of that same “fruit” as well.  One does not offer up barley for the later wheat harvest, or grapes for the barley harvest:  The firstfruits are always the same type as the harvest that they represent. 


In the third month after Israel’s departure from Egypt, they arrived at Mt. Sinai (Exo. 19:1).  Three days later (v. 11).  God descended on the mountain in fire, with the sound of a shofar (vv. 16ff), and called Moses up the mountain to begin giving him the Torah.  The day that this happened was the day of Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, which occurs fifty days after Firstfruits.  Like HaBikkurim, the Feast of Firstfruits for the barley harvest, on which Messiah was raised as the Firstfruits of the dead (1Co. 15:20).  Shavuot is a firstfruits festival for the wheat harvest.  On the first Shavuot, the firstfruits of the nation of Israel began receiving the Torah. 

The significance of this event to the New Covenant is often missed because of a gloss in the translation of Exo. 20:18 that appears in nearly every translation.  The verse reads, in the KJV, “And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.”  However, the usual Hebrew words for “thunderings” and “lightnings” are not used here.  The more literal translation of the first half of the verse would be, “And all the people saw the voices and the torches . . .  The rabbis asked themselves how one could see a voice, and why the passage spoke of voices in the plural.  The answer that they came to was that the people saw God’s voice as sparks of fire which rested on each individual present.  As for why the voice was spoken of in the plural, “wherefore R. Johanan said that God’s voice, as it was uttered, split up into seventy voices, in seventy languages, so that all the nations should understand" (Exo.R. 5:9).  This only makes sense, since it was a mixed company that went up from Egypt (Exo. 12:38) and not everyone there would have understood the Holy One’s commands and covenant had it been spoken in Hebrew only.

Fast-forward 1500 years:  On Shavuot after the death and resurrection of the Messiah, the firstfruits of the Ekklesia began receiving the Torah written on their hearts by the giving of the Spirit of God in the form of fire and with a great sound, and then they went forth to preach the Good News of the New Covenant to the crowd, one comprised of Jews from all over the world many of whom did not speak Hebrew (Jer. 31:33, Ezk. 36:26-27, Acts 2:3ff).

Israel’s Sin

After giving Moses the first commandments, the Holy One called him back up the mountain to receive further instruction, and Moses remained with the Holy One for forty days (Exo. 24:18).  It was during this period that Aaron led the people in the sin of making and worshiping the golden calf.  When Moses descended again from the mountain and saw this, he smashed the stone tablets on which God had written His commandments, signifying that Israel had broken the covenant they had made to follow all of God’s commands, and many in Israel died, both at the hands of the Levites whom Moses commanded to take arms against their kinsmen, and by a plague sent by God.  Moreover, Moses removed the Tent of Meeting outside the camp, signifying that the people’s sin was great enough that God had removed the visible place which was the focal point of Israel’s worship and His Presence.

The parallel is not difficult to understand:  Forty years after Yeshua ascended into Heaven, Israel still had not repented as a body from her “golden calf.”  Just as Israel in the Exodus fell into the sin of worshipping God in the manner of their tradition (in this case, image-based worship), which they learned while in Egypt, instead of worshipping God in the manner in which He had commanded them, Israel in the first century fell into the sin of worshipping God in the manner of their traditions rather than doing so through the Messiah as He had commanded them.  While the details differed, the essential core of the sin was the same.

So was the punishment.  As Israel in the Exodus was punished by the sword and plague, so Israel in 70 AD was punished by the sword and plague.  And as Israel in the Exodus had the Tent of Meeting removed by their prophet, Moses, so Israel in the first century had the Temple removed by the prophet after Moses, Yeshua HaMashiach.  The destruction of both Temples took place on Tishbi b’Av, or the 9th of the month of Av.  While it cannot be proven, the timing of the Golden Calf incident makes it quite possible that Tishbi b’Av is the day on which Moses removed the Tent of Meeting as well.

In the Exodus sin, God’s fury was so great that He said to Moses, “Now therefore let Me alone, that My wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation" (Exo. 32:10).  He was actually planning to destroy the whole nation and start over with Moses and his children!  This is, in fact, what Replacement Theology claims that God did to Israel in the first century: destroyed them, and replaced them with the Messiah’s “children,” the Church. 

Those who believe that God has cast away His chosen nation need to take another look at Exodus.  Moses, who had not joined in the sin of the people, interceded for Israel so that God would not utterly destroy them, though He did punish them.  Are we to think that Yeshua did any less, or that His intercession for Israel would be any less heard?  And notice the basis on which Moses interceded for Israel:  Not on the basis of their obedience or repentance, but on the basis of the Holy One’s Name—that is, His reputation—and His promises (vv. 12-13).  It is on this same basis that the Holy One has already begun returning Israel to her land:  “Thus saith the Lord the Holy One; ‘I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for Mine holy Name's sake . . .’" (Ezk. 36:22).

“Okay,” the amillennialist answers, “clearly not all of the Jews were destroyed, but the Temple was, and since we are now the Temple of God, there will be no other.”  Again, keep reading.  After seeing to the punishment of Israel and removing the Tent of Meeting, Moses was told by God, “And I will send an angel before thee . . . for I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people: lest I consume thee in the way" (Exo. 33:2, 3).  But Moses, not content that a lesser angel go with Israel, which would have meant that they would simply be like all other nations instead of being the Holy One’s special possession, returned up the mountain, and interceded with God for another forty days, going without food or water, until the Holy One relented and agreed to send His Presence with Israel despite their sin.  The form in which His Presence went with Israel was in the pillar of fire and cloud which was intimately connected with the Tabernacle:

The Tabernacle of Israel was known by several names. . .  The name dwelling from Heb. mishkan, from shakan, to “like down,” a “dwelling,” connected itself with the Jewish, though not scriptural, word Shekinah, as describing the dwelling place of the divine glory (Unger’s, “Tabernacle of Israel,” p. 1238).

According to Jewish tradition, the day on which Moses returned with the second set of stone tablets, showing that the Holy One had forgiven Israel and restored fellowship with them, was the day of Yom Kippur, and the forty days that he fasted before God correspond with the forty days of T’shuva (Repentence) that are traditionally observed leading up to the Day of Atonement.  This forty-day period of fasting, incidentally, may be the same forty-day period that Yeshua spent fasting and being tested in the wilderness after His baptism. 

Likewise, the day on which Yeshua will return to restore His fellowship with Israel, and direct them in building a Temple greater than that which they built on their own, just as Moses directed Israel in building a Tabernacle greater than the former Tent of Meeting which was taken away from the camp, will be on Yom Kippur.  We will study the future prophetic fulfillment of Yom Kippur and Sukkot in later chapters, though for now the following will provide a summary:

The Long Gap Between Sukkot and Passover

Exodus:  430 years of silence between the giving of the promise of the Land and the fulfillment

Messiah: 430 years of silence between the last promise of the prophets and the fulfillment

Personal: The long silence before we first hear God speak into our life.

We should note that during this long gap we have two Feasts, Hanukkah and Purim, which both celebrate that even when Heaven is silent, God still cares for and protects His people. 


The Ten Plagues

Exodus: God goes to war with the gods of Egypt

Messiah: Yeshua goes to war with the gods of this world, which are the demons, when He casts them out

Personal: Yeshua goes to war with the gods of this world for you personally



Exodus: God redeems us from slavery to Egypt and protects us from His sentence of death by the blood of the lamb

Messiah:  God redeems us from slavery to the world and protects us from His sentence of death by the blood of the Lamb

Personal:  God redeems us from slavery to the world and protects us from His sentence of death by the blood of the Lamb


Matzah/Unleavened Bread

Exodus: We eat unleavened bread because we would have to linger in Egypt after being set free

Messiah: We eat unleavened bread because we are to no longer linger in the ways of the world (sin) after being set free

Personal:  We eat the pure unleavened bread of the Word because we are to no longer linger in the ways of the world (sin) after being set free



The first of three harvest feasts, the Messiah rises from the dead as the firstfruits of those who slept.


Crossing the Red Sea

Exodus: The official point at which Israel, being "immersed into Moses in the cloud and in the sea," crossed the border of Egypt where Pharaoh could no longer recapture them

Personal: Immersion/Baptism is the official point at which we cross out of the world and into the Kingdom, and the Adversary can not recpature us



Exodus: God descends on Mt. Sinai in fire, speaking the terms of the Covenant in all the languages of the world, giving His Torah on tablets of stone

Messiah: God descends on Mt. Zion in tongues of fire, speaking the terms of the Covenant in all the languages of the world through His Spirit, giving His Torah on hearts of flesh

Personal: God descends on your heart in power, sealing the terms of His Covenant by giving His Torah on your heart of flesh


Summer/Tisha b'Av

Exodus: Israel sins by falling back on their tradition of idol worship over the direct command of God. Israel is punished by sword and plague and Moses removes the Tent of Meeting to outside the camp.  Afterwards, Moses intercedes for Israel in the Tent.

Messiah:  Israel sins by falling back on their traditions over the direct command of God. Israel is punished by sword and plague and Yeshua removes the Sanctuary to outside the camp.  Afterwards, Yeshua intercedes for Israel in the hearts and prayers of His Temples.

Personal: We sin by falling back on our old habits and idolatries and suffer the results.  Our fellowship with God is disrupted, but He does not send us back to Egypt.  Yeshua intercedes for us in God's Temple in Heaven (Heb. 8-10).


Rosh Hashannah/Feast of Trumpets

Exodus: No direct correlation due to the date, but may be connected to Moses returning to Mt. Sinai.  Is considered to be a wake-up call and call to repentence.

Messiah: A wake-up call that rouses the dead.  Messiah comes on the clouds of heaven to gather His faithful into Heaven.

Personal: A wake-up call from sin that leads to repentence from dead works.


Yom Kippur/Atonement

Exodus: Moses returns from Mt. Sinai, bearing two new stone tablets as a sign that God has forgiven Israel and restored His full Covenant relationship with them.

Messiah:  Yeshua returns from Heaven, bearing the sign that God has forgiven Israel and restored His full Covenant relationship with them.

Personal: The Spirit "returns" (not in the sense of having really left, but in the sense that we can feel Him and walk in Him again) as a sign that God has forgiven us and restored us to full fellowship.



Exodus: Israel celebrates that even under punishment, God watches over us in the wilderness by beginning construction on the Tabernacle. 

Messiah: The whole world celebrates that even when Israel and the Ekklesia are under punishment, God watches over us in the wilderness through the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

Personal: We celebrate that even when we are under punishment, God watches over us in the wilderness by resuming work on the building up of the Temple of the Spirit.

Now consider the prophetic importance of the spring Feastdays:  If all of the spring feasts were fulfilled both in type and on the very days of their celebration in the Messiah’s First Coming, it should be no surprise to us that the fall feasts will be fulfilled in the same way at His Second. 

We Messianics are often accused of being "too Jewish" or of being "under the law" when we celebrate God's Appointed Times.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Rathers, these times of refreshing are for believers of all nations and for our edification and knowledge of the Eternal One's certain plan to redeem Israel and the whole world.



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