The Temple-Its Ministry and Services Alfred Edersheim -2
‘Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.’–1 Corinthians 5:7
The cycle of Temple-festivals appropriately opens with ‘the Passover’ and ‘Feast of Unleavened Bread.’ For, properly speaking, these two are quite distinct (Lev 23:5,6; Num 28:16,17; 2 Chron 30:15,21; Ezra 6:19,22; Mark 14:1), the ‘Passover’ taking place on the 14th of Nisan, and the ‘Feast of Unleavened Bread’ commencing on the 15th, and lasting for seven days, to the 21st of the month (Exo 12:15). But from their close connection they are generally treated as one, both in the Old and in the New Testament (Matt 26:17; Mark 14:12; Luke 22:1); and Josephus, on one occasion, even describes it as ‘a feast for eight days’ (Antiq. ii. 15, 1; but comp. iii. 10, 5; ix. 13, 3).
There are peculiarities about the Passover which mark it as the most important, and, indeed, take it out of the rank of the other festivals. It was the first of the three feasts on which all males in Israel were bound to appear before the Lord in the place which He would choose (the two others being the Feast of Weeks and that of Tabernacles [Exo 23:14; 34:18-23; Lev 23:4-22; Deut 16:16]). All the three great festivals bore a threefold reference. They pointed, first, to the season of the year, or rather to the enjoyment of the fruits of the good land which the Lord had given to His people in possession, but of which He claimed for Himself the real ownership (Lev 25:23; Psa 85:1; Isa 8:8; 14:2; Hosea 9:3). This reference to nature is expressly stated in regard to the Feast of Weeks and that of Tabernacles (Exo 23:14-16; 34:22), but, though not less distinct, it is omitted in connection with the feast of unleavened bread. On the other hand, great prominence is given to the historical bearing of the Passover, while it is not mentioned in the other two festivals, although it could not have been wholly wanting. But the feast of unleavened bread celebrated the one grand event which underlay the whole history of Israel, and marked alike their miraculous deliverance from destruction and from bondage, and the commencement of their existence as a nation. For in the night of the Passover the children of Israel, miraculously preserved and set free, for the first time became a people, and that by the direct interposition of God. The third bearing of all the festivals, but especially of the Passover, is typical. Every reader of the New Testament knows how frequent are such allusions to the Exodus, the Paschal Lamb, the Paschal Supper, and the feast of unleavened bread. And that this meaning was intended from the first, not only in reference to the Passover, but to all the feasts, appears from the whole design of the Old Testament, and from the exact correspondence between the types and the antitypes. Indeed, it is, so to speak, impressed upon the Old Testament by a law of internal necessity. For when God bound up the future of all nations in the history of Abraham and his seed (Gen 12:3), He made that history prophetic; and each event and every rite became, as it were, a bud, destined to open in blossom and ripen into fruit on that tree under the shadow of which all nations were to be gathered.
Special Nature of the Passover
Thus nature, history, and grace combined to give a special meaning to the festivals, but chiefly to the Passover. It was the feast of spring; the spring-time of nature, when, after the death of winter, the scattered seeds were born into a new harvest, and the first ripe sheaf could be presented to the Lord; the spring-time of Israel’s history, too, when each year the people celebrated anew their national birthday; and the spring-time of grace, their grand national deliverance pointing forward to the birth of the true Israel, and the Passover sacrifice to that ‘Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.’ Accordingly, the month of the Passover, Abib, or, as it was called in later times, Nisan, * was to be unto them ‘the beginning of months’–the birth-month of the sacred, and at the same time the seventh in the civil year.
* Abib is the month of ‘sprouting’ or of ‘green ears.’ Esther 3:7; Nehemiah 2:1.
Here we mark again the significance of seven as the sacred or covenant number. On the other hand, the Feast of Tabernacles, which closed the festive cycle, took place on the 15th of the seventh month of the sacred, which was also the first in the civil, year. Nor is it less significant that both the Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles fell upon the 15th day of the month; that is, at full moon, or when the month had, so to speak, attained its full strength.
Origin of the Name
The name of the Passover, in Hebrew Pesach, and in Aramean and Greek Pascha, is derived from a root which means to ‘step over,’ or to ‘overleap,’ and thus points back to the historical origin of the festival (Exo 12). But the circumstances in which the people were placed necessarily rendered its first celebration, in some particulars, different from its later observance, which, so far as possible, was brought into harmony with the general Temple practice. Accordingly, Jewish authorities rightly distinguish between ‘the Egyptian’ and the ‘Permanent Passover.’ On its first institution it was ordained that the head of every house should, on the 10th of Nisan, select either a lamb or a kid of the goats, of the first year, and without blemish. Later Jewish ordinances, dating after the return from Babylon, limit it to a lamb; and it is explained that the four days previous to the slaying of the lamb referred to the four generations that had passed after the children of Israel went down into Egypt. The lamb was to be killed on the eve of the 14th, or rather, as the phrase, is, ‘between the two evenings’ (Exo 12:6; Lev 23:5; Num 9:3,5). According to the Samaritans, the Karaite Jews, and many modern interpreters, this means between actual sunset and complete darkness (or, say, between six and seven p.m.); but from the contemporary testimony of Josephus (Jew. Wars, vi. 9, 3), and from Talmudical authorities, there cannot be a doubt that, at the time of our Lord, it was regarded as the interval between the sun’s commencing to decline and his actual disappearance. This allows a sufficient period for the numerous lambs which had to be killed, and agrees with the traditional account that on the eve of the Passover the daily evening sacrifice was offered an hour, or, if it fell on a Friday, two hours, before the usual time.
Institution of the Passover
In the original institution the blood of the sacrifice was to be sprinkled with hyssop on the lintel and the two doorposts of the house, probably as being the most prominent place of entrance. Then the whole animal, without breaking a bone of it, was to be roasted, and eaten by each family–or, if the number of its members were too small, by two neighbouring families–along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, to symbolise the bitterness of their bondage and the haste of their deliverance, and also to point forward to the manner in which the true Israel were in all time to have fellowship in the Paschal Lamb (1 Cor 5:7,8). All who were circumcised were to partake of this meal, and that arrayed as for a journey; and whatsoever was not consumed was to be burnt on the spot. These ordinances in regard to the Passover were afterwards modified during the journey in the wilderness to the effect, that all males were to appear ‘in the place which the Lord shall choose,’ and there alike to sacrifice and to eat the lamb or kid, bringing at the same time also another offering with them (Exo 34:18-20; Deut 16:2,16,17). Lastly, it was also ordered that if any man were unclean at the time of the regular Passover, or ‘in a journey afar off,’ he should celebrate it a month later (Num 9:9-11).
Directions in the Mishnah
The Mishnah (Pes. ix. 5) contains the following, as the distinctions between the ‘Egyptian’ and the ‘Permanent’ Passover: ‘The Egyptian Passover was selected on the 10th, and the blood was to be sprinkled with a sprig of hyssop on the lintel and the two door-posts, and it was to be eaten in haste in the first night; but the Permanent Passover is observed all the seven days’; i.e. the use of unleavened cakes was, on its first observance, enjoined only for that one night, though, from Israel’s haste, it must, for several days, have been the only available bread; while afterwards its exclusive use was ordered during the whole week. Similarly, also, the journey of the children of Israel commenced on the 15th of Nisan, while in after-times that day as observed as a festival like a Sabbath (Exo 12:16; Lev 23:7; Num 28:18). To these distinctions the following are also added (Tos. Pes. viii): In Egypt the Passover was selected on the 10th, and killed on the 14th, and they did not, on account of the Passover, incur the penalty of ‘cutting off,’ as in later generations; of the Egyptian Passover it was said, ‘Let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it,’ while afterwards the Passover-companies might be indiscriminately chosen; in Egypt it was not ordered to sprinkle the blood and burn the fat on the altar, as afterwards; at the firs Passover it was said, ‘None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning,’ which did not apply to later times; in Egypt it was slain by every one in his own house, while afterwards it was slain by all Israel in one place; lastly, formerly where they ate the Passover, there they lodged, but afterwards they might eat it in one, and lodge in another place.
Scripture Records of the Feast
Scripture records that the Passover was kept the second year after the Exodus (Num 9:1-5), and then not again till the Israelites actually reached the promised land (Josh 5:10); but, as the Jewish commentators rightly observe, this intermission was directed by God Himself (Exo 12:25; 13:5). After that, public celebrations of the Passover are only mentioned once during the reign of Solomon (2 Chron 8:13), again under that of Hezekiah (2 Chron 30:15), at the time of Josiah (2 Kings 23:21), and once more after the return from Babylon under Ezra (Ezra 6:19). On the other hand, a most significant allusion to the typical meaning of the Passover-blood, as securing immunity from destruction, occurs in the prophecies of Ezekiel (Eze 9:4-6), where ‘the man clothed with linen’ is directed to ‘set a mark upon the foreheads’ of the godly (like the first Passover-mark), so that they who were to ‘slay utterly old and young’ might not ‘come near any’ of them. The same symbolic reference and command occur in the Book of Revelation (Rev 7:2,3; 9:4), in regard to those who have been ‘sealed as the servants of our God in their foreheads.’
But the inference that the Passover was only celebrated on the occasions actually mentioned in Scripture seems the less warranted, that in later times it was so punctiliously and universally observed. We can form a sufficiently accurate idea of all the circumstances attending it at the time of our Lord. On the 14th of Nisan every Israelite who was physically able, not in a state of Levitical uncleanness, nor further distant from the city than fifteen miles, was to appear in Jerusalem. Though women were not legally obliged to go up, we know from Scripture (1 Sam 1:3-7; Luke 2:41,42), and from the rules laid down by Jewish authorities (Jos. Wars, vi. 9-3; and Mishnah Pes. ix. 4, for ex.), that such was the common practice. Indeed, it was a joyous time for all Israel. From all parts of the land and from foreign countries the festive pilgrims had come up in bands, singing their pilgrim psalms, and bringing with them burnt- and peace-offerings, according as the Lord had blessed them; for none might appear empty before Him (Exo 23:15; Deut 16:16,17). How large the number of worshippers was, may be gathered from Josephus, who records that, when Cestius requested the high-priest to make a census, in order to convince Nero of the importance of Jerusalem and of the Jewish nation, the number of lambs slain was found to be 256,500, which, at the lowest computation of ten persons to every sacrificial lamb, would give a population of 2,565,000, or, as Josephus himself puts it, 2,700,200 persons, while on an earlier occasion (AD 65) he computes the number present at not fewer than three millions (Jew. Wars, vi. 9, 3; ii. 14, 3). *
* These computations, being derived from official documents, can scarcely have been much exaggerated. Indeed, Josephus expressly guards himself against this charge.
Of course, many of these pilgrims must have camped outside the city walls. *
* It is deeply interesting that the Talmud (Pes. 53) specially mentions Bethphage and Bethany as celebrated for their hospitality towards the festive pilgrims.
Those who lodged within the walls were gratuitously accommodated, and in return left to their hosts the skins of the Passover lambs and the vessels which they had used in their sacred services. In such festive ‘company’ the parents of Jesus went to, and returned from this feast ‘every year,’ taking their ‘holy child’ with them, after He had attained the age of twelve–strictly in accordance with Rabbinical law (Yoma, 82a)–when He remained behind, ‘sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions’ (Luke 2:41-49). We know that the Lord Himself afterwards attended the Paschal feast, and that on the last occasion He was hospitably entertained in Jerusalem, apparently by a disciple (Matt 26:18; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-13), although he seems to have intended spending the night outside the city walls (Matt 26:30,36; Mark 14:26,32: Luke 22:39; John 18:1).
The Preparations for the Passover
But the preparations for the Passover had begun long before the 14th of Nisan. Already a month previously (on the 15th of Adar), bridges and roads had been repaired for the use of the pilgrims. That was also the time for administering the testing draught to women suspected of adultery, for burning the red heifer, and for boring the ears of those who wished to remain in servitude–in short, for making all kinds of preliminary arrangements before the festive season began. One of these is specially interesting as recalling the words of the Saviour. In general, cemeteries were outside the cities; but any dead body found in the field was (according to an ordinance which tradition traces up to Joshua) to be buried on the spot where it had been discovered. Now, as the festive pilgrims might have contracted ‘uncleanness’ by unwitting contact with such graves, it was ordered that all ‘sepulchres’ should be ‘whitened’ a month before the Passover. It was, therefore, evidently in reference to what He actually saw going on around Him at the time He spoke, that Jesus compared the Pharisees ‘unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness’ (Matt 23:27). Then, two weeks before Pesach, and at the corresponding time before the other two great festivals, the flocks and herds were to be tithed, and also the Temple treasury-chests publicly opened and emptied. Lastly, we know that ‘many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves’ (John 11:55). It is this practice which finds its spiritual application in regard to the better Passover, when, in the words of St. Paul (1 Cor 11:27,28), ‘whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.’
The Custom of Modern Days
The modern synagogue designates the Sabbath before the Passover as ‘the Great Sabbath,’ and prescribes particular prayers and special instruction with a view to the coming festival. For, according to Jewish tradition, at the original institution of the Passover (Exo 12:3), the 10th of Nisan, on which the sacrifice was to be selected, had fallen on a Sabbath. But there is no evidence that either the name or the observance of this ‘Great Sabbath’ had been in use at the time of our Lord, although it was enjoined to teach the people in the various synagogues about the Passover during the month which preceded the festival. There is also a significant tradition that some were wont to select their sacrificial lamb four days before the Passover, and to keep it tied in a prominent place within view, so as constantly to remind them of the coming service.
The Three Things
We have already explained that according to the Rabbis (Chag. ii, 1; vi. 2), three things were implied in the festive command to ‘appear before the Lord’–‘Presence,’ the ‘Chagigah,’ and ‘Joyousness.’ As specially applied to the Passover, the first of these terms meant, that every one was to come up to Jerusalem and to offer a burnt-offering, if possible on the first, or else on one of the other six days of the feast. This burnt-offering was to be taken only from ‘Cholin’ (or profane substance), that is, from such as did not otherwise belong to the Lord, either as tithes, firstlings, or things devoted, etc. The Chagigah, which was strictly a peace-offering, might be twofold. This first Chagigah was offered on the 14th of Nisan, the day of the Paschal sacrifice, and formed afterwards part of the Paschal Supper. The second Chagigah was offered on the 15th of Nisan, or the first day of the feast of unleavened bread. It is this second Chagigah which the Jews were afraid they might be unable to eat, if they contracted defilement in the judgment-hall of Pilate (John 18:28). In reference to the first Chagigah, the Mishnah lays down the rule, that it was only to be offered if the Paschal day fell on a week-day, not on a Sabbath, and if the Paschal lamb alone would not have been sufficient to give a satisfying supper to the company which gathered around it (Pes. vi. 4). As in the case of all other peace-offerings, part of this Chagigah might be kept, though not for longer than one night and two days from its sacrifice. Being a voluntary offering, it was lawful to bring it from sacred things (such as tithes of the flock). But the Chagigah for the 15th of Nisan was obligatory, and had therefore to be brought from ‘Cholin.’ The third duty incumbent on those who appeared at the feast was ‘joyousness.’ This expression, as we have seen, simply referred to the fact that, according to their means, all Israel were, during the course of this festival, with joyous heart to offer peace-offerings, which might be chosen from sacred things (Deut 27:7). Thus the sacrifices which every Israelite was to offer at the Passover were, besides his share in the Paschal lamb, a burnt-offering, the Chagigah (one or two), and offerings of joyousness–all as God had blessed each household. As stated in a previous chapter, all the twenty-four courses, into which the priests were arranged, ministered in the temple on this, as on the other great festivals, and they distributed among themselves alike what fell to them of the festive sacrifices and the shewbread. But the course which, in its proper order, was on duty for the week, alone offered all votive, and voluntary, and the public sacrifices for the whole congregation, such as those of the morning and the evening (Succah v. 7).
The special preparations for the Passover commenced on the evening of the 13th of Nisan, with which, according to Jewish reckoning, the 14th began, the day being always computed from evening to evening. *
* The article in Kitto’s Cyc. (3rd edition), vol. iii. p. 425, calls this day, ‘the preparation for the Passover,’ and confounds it with John 19:14. But from the evening of the 14th to that of the 15th is never called in Jewish writings ‘the preparation for,’ but ‘the eve of, the Passover.’ Moreover, the period described in John 19:14 was after, not before, the Passover. Dean Alford’s notes on this passage, and on Matthew 26:17, suggest a number of needless difficulties, and contain inaccuracies, due to a want of sufficient knowledge of Hebrew authorities. In attempting an accurate chronology of these days, it must always be remembered that the Passover was sacrificed between the evenings of the 14th and the 15th of Nisan; that is, before the close of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th. The Paschal Supper, however, took place on the 15th itself (that is, according to Jewish reckoning–the day beginning as the first stars became visible). ‘The preparation’ in John 19:14 means, as in verse 31, the preparation-day for the Sabbath, and the ‘Passover,’ as in 18:39, the whole Paschal week.
Then the head of the house was to search with a lighted candle all places where leaven was usually kept, and to put what of it he found in the house in a safe place, whence no portion could be carried away by any accident. Before doing this, he prayed: ‘Blessed art Thou, Jehovah, our God, King of the Universe, who hast sanctified us by Thy commandments, and commanded us to remove the leaven.’ And after it he said: ‘All the leaven that is in my possession, that which I have seen and that which I have not seen, be it null, be it accounted as the dust of the earth.’ The search itself was to be accomplished in perfect silence and with a lighted candle. To this search the apostle may have referred in the admonition to ‘purge out the old leaven’ (1 Cor 5:7). Jewish tradition sees a reference to this search with candles in Zephaniah 1:12: ‘And it shall come to pass at that time that I will search Jerusalem with candles.’ If the leaven had not been removed on the evening of the 13th, it might still be done on the forenoon of the 14th of Nisan. The question what substances constituted leaven was thus solved. The unleavened cakes, which were to be the only bread used during the feast, might be made of these five kinds of grain–wheat, barley, spelt, oats, and rye–the cakes being prepared before fermentation had begun. Anything prepared of these five kinds of grain–but only of these–would come within range of the term ‘leaven,’ that is, if kneaded with water, but not if made with any other fluid, such as fruit-liquor, etc.
Time of its Commencement
Early on the forenoon of the 14th of Nisan the feast of the Passover may be said to have begun. In Galilee, no work was done all that day; in Judea it was continued till mid-day; the rule, however, being that no new work was to be commenced, though that which was in hand might be carried on. The only exception to this was in the case of tailors, barbers, and those engaged in the laundry. Even earlier than mid-day of the 14th it was no longer lawful to eat leaven. The strictest opinion fixes ten o’clock as the latest hour when leaven might be eaten, the more lax eleven. From that hour to twelve o’clock it was required to abstain from leaven, while at twelve it was to be solemnly destroyed, either by burning, immersing it in water, or scattering it to the winds. To secure strict obedience and uniformity, the exact time for abstaining from and for destroying the leaven was thus made known: ‘They laid two desecrated cakes of a thank-offering on a bench in the porch (of the Temple). So long as they lay there, all the people might eat (leavened); when one of them was removed, they abstained from eating, but they did not burn (the leaven); when both were removed, all the people burnt (the leaven)’ (Pes. i. 5).
Choice of the Lamb
The next care was to select a proper Paschal lamb which, of course, must be free from all blemish, and neither less than eight days, nor more than exactly one year, old. Each Paschal lamb was to serve for a ‘company,’ which was to consist of not less than ten, nor of more than twenty persons. The company at the ‘Lord’s Passover Supper’ consisted of Himself and His disciples. Two of them, Peter and John, the Master had sent early forward to ‘prepare the Passover,’ that is, to see to all that was needful for the due observance of the Paschal Supper, especially the purchase and sacrifice of the Paschal lamb. Probably they may have purchased it in the Holy City, though not, as in the majority of cases, within the Temple-court itself, where a brisk and very profitable traffic in all such offerings was carried on by the priests. For against this the Lord Jesus had inveighed only a few days before, when He ‘cast out all them that sold and bought in the Temple, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers’ (Matt 21:12,13), to the astonishment and indignation of those who would intensely resent His interference with their authority and gains (John 2:13-18).
Slaying of the Lamb
While the Saviour still tarried with the other disciples outside the city, Peter and John were completing their preparations. They followed the motley crowd, all leading their sacrificial lambs up the Temple-mount. Here they were grouped into three divisions. Already the evening sacrifice had been offered. Ordinarily it was slain at 2:30 p.m., and offered at about 3:30. But on the eve of the Passover, as we have seen, it was killed an hour earlier; and if the 14th of Nisan fell on a Friday–or rather from Thursday at eve to Friday at eve–two `63 hours earlier, so as to avoid any needless breach of the Sabbath. On the occasion to which we refer the evening sacrifice had been slain at 1:30, and offered at 2:30. But before the incense was burned or the lamps were trimmed, the Paschal sacrifice had to be offered. *
* According to the Talmud, ‘the daily (evening) sacrifice precedes that of the Paschal lamb; the Paschal lamb the burning of the incense, the incense the trimming of the lamps’ (for the night).
It was done on this wise:–The First of the three festive divisions, with their Paschal lambs, was admitted within the Court of the Priests. Each division must consist of not less than thirty persons (3 x 10, the symbolical number of the Divine and of completeness). Immediately the massive gates were closed behind them. The priests drew a threefold blast from their silver trumpets when the Passover was slain. Altogether the scene was most impressive. All along the Court up to the altar of burnt-offering priests stood in two rows, the one holding golden, the other silver bowls. In these the blood of the Paschal lambs, which each Israelite slew for himself (as representative of his company at the Paschal Supper), was caught up by a priest, who handed it to his colleague, receiving back an empty bowl, and so the bowls with the blood were passed up to the priest at the altar, who jerked it in one jet at the base of the altar. While this was going on, a most solemn ‘hymn’ of praise was raised, the Levites leading in song, and the offerers either repeating after them or merely responding. Every first line of a Psalm was repeated by the people, while to each of the others they responded by a ‘Hallelujah,’ or ‘Praise ye the Lord.’ This service of song consisted of the so-called ‘Hallel,’ which comprised Psalms 113 to 118. Thus–
The Levites began: ‘Hallelu Jah‘ (Praise ye the Lord).
The people repeated: ‘Hallelu Jah.’
The Levites: ‘Praise (Hallelu), O ye servants of Jehovah.’
The people responded: ‘Hallelu Jah.’
The Levites: ‘Praise (Hallelu) the name of Jehovah.’
The people responded: ‘Hallelu Jah.’
Similarly, when Psalm 113 had been finished–Psalm 114:
The Levites: ‘When Israel went out of Egypt.’
The people repeated: ‘When Israel went out of Egypt.
The Levites: ‘The house of Jacob from a people of strange language.’
The people responded: ‘Hallelu Jah.’
And in the same manner, repeating each first line and responding at the rest, till they came to Psalm 118, when, besides the first, these three lines were also repeated by the people (vv 25, 26):
‘Save now, I beseech Thee, Jehovah.’
‘O Jehovah, I beseech Thee, send now prosperity’; and
‘Blessed be He that cometh in the name of Jehovah.’
May it not be that to this solemn and impressive ‘hymn’ corresponds the Alleluia song of the redeemed Church in heaven, as described in Revelation 19:1, 3, 4, 6?
The singing of the ‘Hallel’ at the Passover dates from very remote antiquity. The Talmud dwells on its peculiar suitableness for the purpose, since it not only recorded the goodness of God towards Israel, but especially their deliverance from Egypt, and therefore appropriately opened (Psa 113) with ‘Praise ye Jehovah, ye servants of Jehovah’–and no longer of Pharaoh. Hence also this ‘Hallel’ is called the Egyptian, or ‘the Common,’ to distinguish it from the great ‘Hallel,’ sung on very rare occasions, which comprised Psalms 120 to 136. According to the Talmud, the ‘Hallel’ recorded five things: ‘The coming out of Egypt, the dividing of the sea, the giving of the law, the resurrection of the dead, and the lot of the Messiah.’ The Egyptian ‘Hallel,’ it may here be added, was altogether sung on eighteen days and on one night in the year. These eighteen days were, that of the Passover sacrifice, the Feast of Pentecost, and each of the eight days of the Feasts of Tabernacles and of the Dedication of the Temple. The only night in which it was recited was that of the Paschal Supper, when it was sung by every Paschal company in their houses, in a manner which will hereafter be explained.
Completion of the Sacrifice
If the ‘Hallel’ had been finished before the service of one division was completed, it was repeated a second and, if needful, even a third time. The Mishnah remarks, that as the Great Court was crowded by the first two divisions, it rarely happened that they got further than Psalm 116 before the services of the third division were completed. Next, the sacrifices were hung up on hooks along the Court, or laid on staves which rested on the shoulders of two men (on Sabbaths they were not laid on staves), then flayed, the entrails taken out and cleansed, and the inside fat separated, put in a dish, salted, and placed on the fire of the altar of burnt-offering. This completed the sacrifice. The first division of offerers being dismissed, the second entered, and finally the third, the service being in each case conducted in precisely the same manner. Then the whole service concluded by burning the incense and trimming the lamps for the night.
When all had been finished in the Temple, the priests washed the Great Court, in which so much sacrificial blood had been shed. But this was not done if the Passover had been slain on the Sabbath. In that case, also, the three divisions waited–the first in the Court of the Gentiles, the second on the Chel, and the third in the Great Court–so as not needlessly to carry their burdens on the Sabbath.
But, as a general rule, the religious services of the Passover, like all positive religious injunctions, ‘made void the Sabbath.’ In other respects the Passover, or rather the 15th of Nisan, was to be observed like a Sabbath, no manner of work being allowed. There was, however, one most important exception to this rule. It was permitted to prepare the necessary articles of food on the 15th of Nisan. This explains how the words of Jesus to Judas during the Paschal (not the Lord’s) Supper could be misunderstood by the disciples as implying that Judas, ‘who had the bag,’ was to ‘buy those things’ that they had ‘need of against the feast’ (John 13:29).
Our Lord’s Celebration of the Feast
It was probably as the sun was beginning to decline in the horizon that Jesus and the other ten disciples descended once more over the Mount of Olives into the Holy City. Before them lay Jerusalem in her festive attire. All around pilgrims were hastening towards it. White tents dotted the sward, gay with the bright flowers of early spring, or peered out from the gardens and the darker foliage of the olive plantations. From the gorgeous Temple buildings, dazzling in their snow-white marble and gold, on which the slanting rays of the sun were reflected, rose the smoke of the altar of burnt-offering. These courts were now crowded with eager worshippers, offering for the last time, in the real sense, their Paschal lambs. The streets must have been thronged with strangers, and the flat roofs covered with eager gazers, who either feasted their eyes with a first sight of the Sacred City for which they had so often longed, or else once more rejoiced in view of the well-remembered localities. It was the last day-view which the Lord had of the Holy City–till His resurrection! Only once more in the approaching night of His betrayal was He to look upon it in the pale light of the full moon. He was going forward to ‘accomplish His death’ in Jerusalem; to fulfil type and prophecy, and to offer Himself up as the true Passover Lamb–‘the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.’ They who followed Him were busy with many thoughts. They knew that terrible events awaited them, and they had only a few days before been told that these glorious Temple-buildings, to which, with a national pride not unnatural, they had directed the attention of their Master, were to become desolate, not one stone being left upon the other. Among them, revolving his dark plans, and goaded on by the great Enemy, moved the betrayer. And now they were within the city. Its Temple, its royal bridge, its splendid palaces, its busy marts, its streets filled with festive pilgrims, were well known to them, as they made their way to the house where the guest-chamber had been prepared for them. Meanwhile the crowd came down from the Temple-mount, each bearing on his shoulders the sacrificial lamb, to make ready for the Paschal Supper.
The Paschal Feast and the Lord’s Supper
‘And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake, and gave to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is My Body. And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is My blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.’–Matthew 26:26-28
Jewish Traditions about the Passover
Jewish tradition has this curious conceit: that the most important events in Israel’s history were connected with the Paschal season. Thus it is said to have been on the present Paschal night that, after his sacrifice, the ‘horror of great darkness’ fell upon Abraham when God revealed to him the future of his race (Gen 15). Similarly, it is supposed to have been at Passover time that the patriarch entertained his heavenly guests, that Sodom was destroyed and Lot escaped, and that the walls of Jericho fell before the Lord. More than that–the ‘cake of barley bread’ seen in the dream, which led to the destruction of Midian’s host, had been prepared from the Omer, presented on the second day of the feast of unleavened bread; just as at a later period alike the captains of Sennacherib and the King of Assyria, who tarried at Nob, were overtaken by the hand of God at the Passover season. It was at the Paschal time also that the mysterious handwriting appeared on the wall to declare Babylon’s doom, and again at the Passover that Esther and the Jews fasted, and that wicked Haman perished. And so also in the last days it would be the Paschal night when the final judgments should come upon ‘Edom,’ and the glorious deliverance of Israel take place. Hence to this day, in every Jewish home, at a certain part of the Paschal service–just after the ‘third cup,’ or the ‘cup of blessing,’ has been drunk–the door is opened to admit Elijah the prophet as forerunner of the Messiah, while appropriate passages are at the same time read which foretell the destruction of all heathen nations (Psa 79:6; 69:25; Lam 3:66). It is a remarkable coincidence that, in instituting His own Supper, the Lord Jesus connected the symbol, not of judgment, but of His dying love, with this ‘third cup.’ But, in general, it may be interesting to know that no other service contains within the same space the like ardent aspirations after a return to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Temple, nor so many allusions to the Messianic hope, as the liturgy for the night of the Passover now in use among the Jews.
If we could only believe that the prayers and ceremonies which it embodies were the same as those at the time of our Lord, we should have it in our power to picture in minutest detail all that took place when He instituted his own Supper. We should see the Master as He presided among the festive company of His disciples, know what prayers He uttered, and at what special parts of the service, and be able to reproduce the arrangement of the Paschal table around which they sat.
The Modern Ceremonies
At present and for many centuries back the Paschal Supper has been thus laid out: three large unleavened cakes, wrapped in the folds of a napkin, are placed on a salver, and on them the seven articles necessary for the ‘Passover Supper’ are ranged in this manner:
|A roasted Egg||Roasted Shankbone of a Lamb|
|(Instead of the 14th day Chagigah)||(Instead of the Paschal Lamb)|
|(To represent the mortar of Egypt)||Herbs|
|Salt Water||Chervil and Parsley|
Present Ritual not the Same as the New Testament Times
But, unfortunately, the analogy does not hold good. As the present Passover liturgy contains comparatively very few relics from New Testament times, so also the present arrangement of the Paschal table evidently dates from a time when sacrifices had ceased. On the other hand, however, by far the greater number of the usages observed in our own days are precisely the same as eighteen hundred years ago. A feeling, not of gratified curiosity, but of holy awe, comes over us, as thus we are able to pass back through those many centuries into the upper chamber where the Lord Jesus partook of that Passover which, with the loving desire of a Saviour’s heart, He had desired to eat with His disciples. The leading incidents of the feast are all vividly before us–the handling of ‘the sop dipped in the dish,’ ‘the breaking of bread,’ ‘the giving thanks,’ ‘the distributing of the cup,’ and ‘the concluding hymn.’ Even the exact posture at the Supper is known to us. But the words associated with those sacred memories come with a strange sound when we find in Rabbinical writings the ‘Passover lamb’ * designated as ‘His body,’ or when our special attention is called to the cup known as ‘the cup of blessing, which we bless’; nay, when the very term for the Passover liturgy itself, the ‘Haggadah,’ ** which means ‘showing forth,’ is exactly the same as that used by St. Paul in describing the service of the Lord’s Supper! (1 Cor 11:23-29)
* The words of the Mishnah (Pes. x. 3) are: ‘While the Sanctuary stood, they brought before him his body of (or for) the Passover.’ The term ‘body’ also sometimes means ‘substance.’
** The same root as employed in Exodus 13:8–‘And thou shalt show thy son in that day,’ and from this the term ‘Haggadah’ has unquestionably been derived.
The Roasting of the Lamb
Before proceeding further we may state that, according to Jewish ordinance, the Paschal lamb was roasted on a spit made of pomegranate wood, the spit passing right through from mouth to vent. Special care was to be taken that in roasting the lamb did not touch the oven, otherwise the part touched had to be cut away. This can scarcely be regarded as an instance of Rabbinical punctiliousness. It was intended to carry out the idea that the lamb was to be undefiled by any contact with foreign matter, which might otherwise have adhered to it. For everything here was significant, and the slightest deviation would mar the harmony of the whole. If it had been said, that not a bone of the Paschal lamb was to be broken, that it was not to be ‘sodden at all with water, but roast with fire–his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof,’ and that none of it was to ‘remain until the morning,’ all that had not been eaten being burnt with fire (Exo 12:8-10)–such ordinances had each a typical object. Of all other sacrifices, even the most holy (Lev 6:21), it alone was not to be ‘sodden,’ because the flesh must remain pure, without the admixture even of water. Then, no bone of the lamb was to be broken: it was to be served up entire–none of it was to be left over; and those who gathered around it were to form one family. All this was intended to express that it was to be a complete and unbroken sacrifice, on the ground of which there was complete and unbroken fellowship with the God who had passed by the blood-sprinkled doors, and with those who together formed but one family and one body. ‘The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, being many, are one bread and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread’ (1 Cor 10:16,17).
Distinct From All Levitical Sacrifices
Such views and feelings, which, no doubt, all truly spiritual Israelites shared, gave its meaning to the Paschal feast at which Jesus sat down with His disciples, and which He transformed into the Lord’s Supper by linking it to His Person and Work. Every sacrifice, indeed, had prefigured His Work; but none other could so suitably commemorate His death, nor yet the great deliverance connected with it, and the great union and fellowship flowing from it. For other reasons also it was specially suited to be typical of Christ. It was a sacrifice, and yet quite out of the order of all Levitical sacrifices. For it had been instituted and observed before Levitical sacrifices existed; before the Law was given; nay, before the Covenant was ratified by blood (Exo 24). In a sense, it may be said to have been the cause of all the later sacrifices of the Law, and of the Covenant itself. Lastly, it belonged neither to one nor to another class of sacrifices; it was neither exactly a sin-offering nor a peace-offering, but combined them both. And yet in many respects it quite differed from them. In short, just as the priesthood of Christ was a real Old Testament priesthood, yet not after the order of Aaron, but after the earlier, prophetic, and royal order of Melchisedek, so the sacrifice also of Christ was a real Old Testament sacrifice, yet not after the order of Levitical sacrifices, but after that of the earlier prophetic Passover sacrifice, by which Israel had become a royal nation.
Guests of the Paschal Table
As the guests * gathered around the Paschal table, they came no longer, as at the first celebration, with their ‘loins girded,’ with shoes on their feet, and a staff in their hand–that is, as travellers waiting to take their departure.
* The Karaites are alone in not admitting women to the Paschal Supper.
On the contrary, they were arrayed in their best festive garments, joyous and at rest, as became the children of a king. To express this idea the Rabbis also insisted that the Paschal Supper–or at least part of it–must be eaten in that recumbent position with which we are familiar from the New Testament. ‘For,’ say they, ‘they use this leaning posture, as free men do, in memorial of their freedom.’ And, again, ‘Because it is the manner of slaves to eat standing, therefore now they eat sitting and leaning, in order to show that they have been delivered from bondage into freedom.’ And, finally: ‘No, not the poorest in Israel may eat till he has sat down, leaning.’ But, though it was deemed desirable to ‘sit leaning’ during the whole Paschal Supper, it was only absolutely enjoined while partaking of the bread and the wine. This recumbent posture so far resembled that still common in the East, that the body rested on the feet. Hence, also, the penitent woman at the feast given by Simon is said to have ‘stood at His feet, behind,’ ‘weeping’ (Luke 7:38). At the same time, the left elbow was placed on the table, and the head rested on the hand, sufficient room being of course left between each guest for the free movements of the right hand. This explains in what sense John ‘was leaning on Jesus’ bosom,’ and afterwards ‘lying on Jesus’ breast,’ when he bent back to speak to Him (John 13:23,25).
The Use of Wine
The use of wine in the Paschal Supper, * though not mentioned in the Law, was strictly enjoined by tradition.
* Every reader of the Bible knows how symbolically significant alike the vine and its fruit are throughout Scripture. Over the entrance to the Sanctuary a golden vine of immense proportions was suspended.
According to the Jerusalem Talmud, it was intended to express Israel’s joy on the Paschal night, and even the poorest must have ‘at least four cups, though he were to receive the money for it from the poor’s box’ (Pes. x. 1). If he cannot otherwise obtain it, the Talmud adds, ‘he must sell or pawn his coat, or hire himself out for these four cups of wine.’ The same authority variously accounts for the number four as either corresponding to the four words used about Israel’s redemption (bringing out, delivering, redeeming, taking), or to the fourfold mention of the cup in connection with the chief butler’s dream (Gen 40:9-15), or to the four cups of vengeance which God would in the future give the nations to drink (Jer 25:15; 51:7; Psa 75:8; 11:6), while four cups of consolation would be handed to Israel, as it is written: ‘The Lord is the portion of my cup’ (Psa 16:5); ‘My cup runneth over’ (Psa 23:5); ‘I will take the cup of salvation’ (Psa 116:13), ‘which,’ it is added, ‘was two’–perhaps from a second allusion to it in verse 17. In connection with this the following parabolic story from the Talmud may possess some interest: ‘The holy and blessed God will make a feast for the righteous in the day that His mercy shall be shown to the seed of Israel. After they have eaten and drunk, they give the cup of blessing to Abraham our father. But he saith: I cannot bless it, because Ishmael came from me. Then he gives it to Isaac. But he saith: I cannot bless it, because Esau came from me. Then he hands it to Jacob. But he saith: I cannot take it, because I married two sisters, which is forbidden in the Law. He saith to Moses: Take it and bless it. But he replies: I cannot, because I was not counted worthy to come into the land of Israel, either alive or dead. He saith to Joshua: Take it and bless it. But he answers: I cannot, because I have no son. He saith to David: Take it and bless it. And he replies: I will bless it, and it is fit for me so to do, as it is written, „I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.”‘
The Mishnah Account
As detailed in the earliest Jewish record of ordinances–the Mishnah–the service of the Paschal Supper was exceedingly simple. Indeed, the impression left on the mind is, that, while all the observances were fixed, the prayers, with some exceptions preserved to us, were free. Rabbi Gamaliel, the teacher of St. Paul, said (Pes. x. 15): ‘Whoever does not explain three things in the Passover has not fulfilled the duty incumbent on him. These three things are: the Passover lamb, the unleavened bread, and the bitter herbs. The Passover lamb means that God passed over the blood-sprinkled place on the houses of our fathers in Egypt; the unleavened bread means that our fathers were delivered out of Egypt (in haste); and the bitter herbs mean that the Egyptians made bitter the lives of our fathers in Egypt.’ A few additional particulars are necessary to enable the reader to understand all the arrangements of the Paschal Supper. From the time of the evening-sacrifice nothing was to be eaten till the Paschal Supper, so that all might come to it with relish (Pes, x. 1). It is a moot point, whether at the time of our Lord two, or, as at present, three, large cakes of unleavened bread were used in the service. The Mishnah mentions (Pes. ii. 6) these five kinds as falling within the designation of ‘bitter herbs,’ viz. lettuce, endive, succory (garden endive?), what is called ‘Charchavina’ (urtica, beets?), and horehound (bitter coriander?). The ‘bitter herbs’ seem to have been twice partaken of during the service, once dipped in salt water or vinegar, and a second time with Charoseth, a compound of dates, raisins, etc., and vinegar, though the Mishnah expressly declares (Pes. x. 3) that Charoseth was not obligatory. Red wine alone was to be used at the Paschal Supper, and always mixed with water. *
* Of this there cannot be the slightest doubt. Indeed, the following quotation from the Mishnah (Pes. vii. 13) might even induce one to believe that warm water was mixed with the wine: ‘If two companies eat (the Passover) in the same house, the one turns its face to one side, the other to the other, and the kettle (warming kettle) stands between them.’
Each of the four cups must contain at least the fourth of a quarter of an hin (the hin = one gallon two pints). Lastly, it was a principle that, after the Paschal meal, they had no Aphikomen (after-dish), an expression which may perhaps best be rendered by ‘dessert.’
The ‘Giving Thanks’
The Paschal Supper itself commenced by the head of ‘the company’ taking the first cup of wine in his hand, and ‘giving thanks’ over it in these words: ‘Blessed art Thou, Jehovah our God, who has created the fruit of the vine! Blessed art Thou, Jehovah our God King of the Universe, who hast chosen us from among all people, and exalted us from among all languages, and sanctified us with Thy commandments! And Thou hast give us, O Jehovah our God, in love, the solemn days for joy, and the festivals and appointed seasons for gladness; and this the day of the feast of unleavened bread, the season of our freedom, a holy convocation, the memorial of our departure from Egypt. For us hast Thou chosen; and us hast Thou sanctified from among all nations, and Thy holy festivals with joy and with gladness hast Thou caused us to inherit. Blessed art Thou, O Jehovah, who sanctifiest Israel and the appointed seasons! Blessed art Thou, Jehovah, King of the Universe, who hast preserved us alive and sustained us and brought us to this season!’ *
* Such, according to the best criticism, were the words of this prayer at the time of Christ. But I must repeat that in regard to many of these prayers I cannot help suspecting that they rather indicate the spirit and direction of a prayer than embody the ipsissima verba.
The First Cup
The first cup of wine was then drunk, and each washed his hands. *
* The modern practice of the Jews slightly differs form the ancient here, and in some other little matters of detail.
It was evidently at this time that the Saviour in His self-humiliation proceeded also to wash the disciples’ feet (John 13:5). Our Authorised Version wrongly translates verse 2 by, ‘and supper being ended,’ instead of ‘and when supper had come,’ or ‘was begun.’ Similarly, it was, in all probability, in reference to the first cup that Luke gives the following account (Luke 22:17): ‘And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves’–the ‘cup of blessing,’ which was the third, and formed part of the new institution of the Lord’s Supper, being afterwards mentioned in verse 20. In washing their hands this customary prayer was repeated: ‘Blessed art Thou, Jehovah our God, who hast sanctified us with Thy commandments, and hast enjoined us concerning the washing of our hands.’ Two different kinds of ‘washing’ were prescribed by tradition–‘dipping’ and ‘pouring.’ At the Paschal Supper the hands were to be ‘dipped’ in water. *
* The distinction is also interesting as explaining Mark 7:3. For when water was poured on the hands, they had to be lifted, yet so that the water should neither run up above the wrist, nor back again upon the hand; best, therefore, by doubling the fingers into a fist. Hence (as Lightfoot rightly remarks) Mark 7:3, which should be translated: ‘For the Pharisees…except they wash their hands with the fist, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.’ The rendering of our Authorised Version, ‘except they wash oft,’ has evidently no meaning.
These preliminaries ended, the Paschal table was brought forward. The president of the feast first took some of the herbs, dipped them in salt water, ate of them, and gave to the others. Immediately after it, all the dishes were removed from the table (as it was thought so strange a proceeding would tend to excite the more curiosity), and then the second cup was filled. A very interesting ceremony now took place, It had been enjoined in the law that at each Paschal Supper the father was to show his son the import of this festival. By way of carrying out this duty, the son (or else the youngest) was directed at this particular part of the service to make inquiry; and, if the child were too young or incapable, the father would do it for him.
The Son’s Question
The son asks: ‘Why is this night distinguished from all other nights? For on all other nights we eat leavened or unleavened bread, but on this night only unleavened bread? On all other nights we eat any kind of herbs, but on this night only bitter herbs? On all other nights we eat meat roasted, stewed, or boiled, but on this night only roasted? On all other nights we dip (the herbs) only once, but on this night twice?’ Thus far according to the earliest and most trustworthy tradition. It is added (Mishnah, Pes. x. 4): ‘Then the father instructs his child according to the capacity of his knowledge, beginning with our disgrace and ending with our glory, and expounding to him from, „A Syrian, ready to perish, was my father,” till he has explained all through, to the end of the whole section’ (Deut 26:5-11). In other words, the head of the house was to relate the whole national history, commencing with Terah, Abraham’s father, and telling of his idolatry, and continuing, in due order, the story of Israel up to their deliverance from Egypt and the giving of the Law; and the more fully he explained it all, the better.
This done, the Paschal dishes were brought back on the table. The president now took up in succession the dish with the Passover lamb, that with the bitter herbs, and that with the unleavened bread, and briefly explained the import of each; for, according to Rabbi Gamaliel: ‘From generation to generation every man is bound to look upon himself not otherwise than if he had himself come forth out of Egypt. For so it is written (Exo 13:8), „And thou shalt show thy son in that day, saying, This is done because of that which Jehovah did unto me when I cam forth out of Egypt.” Therefore,’ continues the Mishnah, giving the very words of the prayer used, ‘we are bound to thank, praise, laud, glorify, extol, honour, bless, exalt, and reverence Him, because He hath wrought for our fathers, and for us all these miracles. He brought us forth from bondage into freedom, from sorrow into joy, from mourning to a festival, from darkness to a great light, and from slavery to redemption. Therefore let us sing before Him: Hallelujah!’ Then the first part of the ‘Hallel’ was sung, comprising Psalms 113 and 114, with this brief thanksgiving at the close: ‘Blessed art Thou, Jehovah our God, King of the Universe, who hast redeemed us and redeemed our fathers from Egypt.’ Upon this the second cup was drunk. Hands were now washed a second time, with the same prayer as before, and one of the two unleavened cakes broken and ‘thanks given.’
The Breaking of the Bread
Rabbinical authorities distinctly state that this thanksgiving was to follow not to precede, the breaking of the bread, because it was the bread of poverty, ‘and the poor have not whole cakes, but broken pieces.’ The distinction is important, as proving that since the Lord in instituting His Supper, according to the uniform testimony of the three Gospels and of St. Paul (Matt 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24), first gave thanks and then brake the bread (‘having given thanks, He brake it’), it must have been at a later period of the service.
Pieces of the broken cake with ‘bitter herbs’ between them, and ‘dipped’ in the Charoseth, were next handed to each in the company. This, in all probability, was ‘the sop’ which, in answer to John’s inquiry about the betrayer, the Lord ‘gave’ to Judas (John 13:25, etc.; compare Matt 26:21, etc.; Mark 14:18, etc.). The unleavened bread with bitter herbs constituted, in reality, the beginning of the Paschal Supper, to which the first part of the service had only served as a kind of introduction. But as Judas, after ‘having received the sop, went immediately out,’ he could not even have partaken of the Paschal lamb, far less of the Lord’s Supper. The solemn discourses of the Lord recorded by St. John (John 13:31; 16) may therefore be regarded as His last ‘table-talk,’ and the intercessory prayer that followed (John 17) as His ‘grace after meat.’
The Three Elements of the Feast
The Paschal Supper itself consisted of the unleavened bread with bitter herbs, of the so-called Chagigah, or festive offering (when brought), and, lastly, of the Paschal lamb itself. After that nothing more was to be eaten, so that the flesh of the Paschal Sacrifice might be the last meat partaken of. But since the cessation of the Paschal Sacrifice the Jews conclude the Supper with a piece of unleavened cake, which they call the Aphikomen, or after-dish. Then, having again washed hands, the third cup is filled, and grace after meat said. Now, it is very remarkable that our Lord seems so far to have anticipated the present Jewish practice that He brake the bread ‘when He had given thanks,’ instead of adhering to the old injunction of not eating anything after the Passover lamb. And yet in so doing He only carried out the spirit of the Paschal feast. For, as we have already explained, it was commemorative and typical. It commemorated an event which pointed to and merged in another event–even the offering of the better Lamb, and the better freedom connected with that sacrifice. Hence, after the night of His betrayal, the Paschal lamb could have no further meaning, and it was right that the commemorative Aphikomen should take its place. The symbolical cord, if the figure may be allowed, had stretched to its goal–the offering up of the Lamb of God; and though again continued from that point onwards till His second coming, yet it was, in a sense, as from a new beginning.
The Third Cup
Immediately afterwards the third cup was drunk, a special blessing having been spoken over it. There cannot be any reasonable doubt that this was the cup which our Lord connected with His own Supper. It is called in Jewish writings, just as by St. Paul (1 Cor 10:16), ‘the cup of blessing,’ partly because it and the first cup required a special ‘blessing,’ and partly because it followed on the ‘grace after meat.’ Indeed, such importance attached to it, that the Talmud (Berac. 51, 1) notes ten peculiarities, too minute indeed for our present consideration, but sufficient to show the special value set upon it. *
* It is a curious circumstance that the Mishnah seems to contemplate the same painful case of drunkenness at the Paschal Supper, which, as we know, actually occurred in the church at Corinth, that so closely imitated the Jewish practice. The Mishnah does not, indeed, speak in so many words of drunkenness, but it lays down this rule: ‘Does any one sleep at the Passover meal and wake again, he may not eat again after he is awaked.’
The service concluded with the fourth cup, over which the second portion of the ‘Hallel’ was sung, consisting of Psalms 115, 116, 117, and 118, the whole ending with the so-called ‘blessing of the song,’ which comprised these two brief prayers: ‘All Thy works shall praise Thee, Jehovah our God. And Thy saints, the righteous, who do Thy good pleasure, and all Thy people, the house of Israel, with joyous song let them praise, and bless, and magnify, and glorify, and exalt, and reverence, and sanctify, and ascribe the kingdom to Thy name, O our King! For it is good to praise Thee, and pleasure to sing praises unto Thy name, for from everlasting to everlasting Thou art God.’
‘The breath of all that lives shall praise Thy name, Jehovah our God. And the spirit of all flesh shall continually glorify and exalt Thy memorial, O our King! For from everlasting to everlasting Thou art God, and besides Thee we have no King, Redeemer, or Saviour,’ etc. *
* Exceptionally a fifth cup was drunk, and over it ‘the great Hallel’ was said, comprising Psalms 120-137.
The Supper in Our Lord’s Time
In this manner was the Paschal Supper celebrated by the Jews at the time when our Lord for the last time sat down to it with His disciples. So important is it to have a clear understanding of all that passed on that occasion, that, at the risk of some repetition, we shall now attempt to piece together the notices in the various Gospels, adding to them again those explanations which have just been given in detail. At the outset we may dismiss, as unworthy of serious discussion, the theory, either that our Lord had observed the Paschal Supper at another than the regular time for it, or that St. John meant to intimate that He had partaken of it on the 13th instead of the 14th of Nisan. To such violent hypotheses, which are wholly uncalled for, there is this one conclusive answer, that, except on the evening of the 14th of Nisan, no Paschal lamb could have been offered in the Temple, and therefore no Paschal Supper celebrated in Jerusalem. But abiding by the simple text of Scripture, we have the following narrative of events:–Early on the forenoon of the 14th of Nisan, the Lord Jesus having sent Peter and John before Him ‘to prepare the Passover,’ ‘in the evening He cometh with the twelve’ (Mark 14:17) to the ‘guest-chamber,’ the ‘large upper room furnished’ (Luke 22:11,12) for the Supper, although He seems to have intended ‘after Supper’ to spend the night outside the city. Hence Judas and the band from the chief priests do not seek for Him where He had eaten the Passover, but go at once to ‘the garden into which He had entered, and His disciples’; for Judas ‘knew the place,’ (John 18:1,2) and it was one to which ‘Jesus ofttimes resorted with His disciples.’ ‘When the hour was come’ for the commencement of the Paschal Supper, Jesus ‘sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him,’ all, as usual at the feast, ‘leaning’ (John 13:23), John on ‘Jesus’ bosom,’ being placed next before Him, and Judas apparently next behind, while Simon Peter faced John, and was thus able to ‘beckon unto him’ when he wished inquiry to be made of the Lord. The disciples being thus ranged, the Lord Jesus ‘took the cup and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves’ (Luke 22:17). This was the first cup, over which the first prayer in the service was spoken. Next, as in duty bound, all washed their hands, only that the Lord here also gave meaning to the observance, when, expanding the service into Christian fellowship over His broken body, He ‘riseth from Supper,’ ‘and began to wash the disciples’ feet’ (John 13:4,5). It is thus we explain how this ministry, though calling forth Peter’s resistance to the position which the Master took, did not evoke any question as to its singularity. As the service proceeded, the Lord mingled teaching for the present with the customary lessons of the past (John 13:12-20); for, as we have seen considerable freedom was allowed, provided the instruction proper at the feast were given. The first part of the ‘Hallel’ had been sung, and in due order He had taken the ‘bread of poverty’ and the ‘bitter herbs,’ commemorative of the sorrow and the bitterness of Egypt, when ‘He was troubled in spirit’ about ‘the root of bitterness’ about to spring up among, and to ‘trouble’ them, by which ‘many would be defiled.’ The general concern of the disciples as to which of their number should betray Him, found expression in the gesture of Peter. His friend John understood its meaning, and ‘lying back on Jesus’ breast,’ he put the whispered question, to which the Lord replied by giving ‘the sop’ of unleavened bread with bitter herbs, ‘when He had dipped’ it, to Judas Iscariot.
‘And after the sop Satan entered into him,’ and he ‘went out immediately.’ It was an unusual time to leave the Paschal table, for with ‘the sop dipped’ into the ‘Charoseth’ the Paschal Supper itself had only just begun. But then ‘some of them thought’–perhaps without fully considering it in their excitement–that Judas, who ‘had the bag,’ and on whom, therefore, the care of such things devolved, had only gone to see after ‘those things that they had need of against the feast,’ or to ‘give something to the poor’–applying some of the common stock of money in helping to provide ‘peace-offerings’ for the poor. This would have been quite in accordance with the spirit of the ordinance, while neither supposition necessarily involved a breach of the law, since it was permitted to prepare all needful provision for the feast, and of course also for the Sabbath, which in this instance followed it. For, as we have seen, the festive observance of the 15th of Nisan differed in this from the ordinary Sabbath-law, although there is evidence that even the latter was at that time by no means so strict as later Jewish tradition has made it. And then it was, after the regular Paschal meal, that the Lord instituted His own Supper, for the first time using the Aphikomen ‘when He had given thanks’ (after meat), to symbolise His body, and the third cup, or ‘cup of blessing which we bless’ (1 Cor 10:16)–being ‘the cup after supper’ (Luke 22:20)–to symbolise His blood. ‘And when they had sung an hymn’ (Psa 115-118) ‘they went out into the mount of Olives’ (Matt 26:30).
Our Lord’s Agony
Then it was that the Lord’s great heaviness and loneliness came upon Him; when all around seemed to give way, as if crushed under the terrible burden about to be lifted; when His disciples could not watch with Him even one hour; when in the agony of His soul ‘His sweat was as it were great drops of blood, falling down to the ground’; and when He ‘prayed, saying: O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt.’ But ‘the cup which the Father’ had given Him, He drank to the bitter dregs; and ‘when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared; though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered; and being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him’ (Heb 5:7-9).
Thus the ‘Lamb without blemish and without spot, who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world’ (1 Peter 1:20)–and, indeed, ‘slain from the foundation of the world’ (Rev 13:8)–was selected, ready, willing, and waiting. It only remained, that it should be actually offered up as ‘the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the whole world’ (1 John 2:2).
The Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Day of Pentecost
‘And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.’–Acts 2:1
The Feast of Unleavened Bread
The ‘Feast of Unleavened Bread,’ which commenced in the Paschal night itself and lasted for seven days, derived its name from the Mazzoth, or unleavened cakes, which were the only bread allowed during that week. This is called in Scripture ‘the bread of affliction’ (Deut 16:3), as is commonly supposed, because its insipid and disagreeable taste symbolised the hardship and affliction of Egypt. But this explanation must be erroneous. It would convert one of the most joyous festivals into an annual season of mourning. The idea intended to be conveyed by the Scriptural term is quite different. For, just as we should ever remember the death of our Saviour in connection with His resurrection, so were Israel always to remember their bondage in connection with their deliverance. Besides, the bread of the Paschal night was not that of affliction because it was unleavened; it was unleavened because it had been that of affliction. For it had been Israel’s ‘affliction,’ and a mark of their bondage and subjection to the Egyptians, to be driven forth in such ‘haste’ (Deut 16:3; Exo 12:33,39) as not even to have time for leavening their bread. Hence also the prophet, when predicting another and far more glorious deliverance, represents Israel, in contrast to the past, as too holy to seek enrichment by the possessions, and as too secure to be driven forth in haste by the fear of those who had held them captives:
‘Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence,–touch no unclean thing;
Go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean that bear the vessels of Jehovah.
For ye shall not go out with hast,–nor go by flight:
For Jehovah will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your reward’ (Isa 52:11,12).
The Passover, therefore, was not so much the remembrance of Israel’s bondage as of Israel’s deliverance from that bondage, and the bread which had originally been that of affliction, because that of haste, now became, as it were, the bread of a new state of existence. None of Egypt’s leaven was to pervade it; nay, all the old leaven, which served as the symbol of corruption and of death, was to be wholly banished from their homes. They were to be ‘a new lump,’ as they were ‘unleavened’ (1 Cor 5:7). Thus what had originally been the necessity of one day, became the ordinance of a feast, bearing the sacred number of seven days. As the cross has become to us the tree of life; as death hath been abolished by death, and captivity been led captive by the voluntary servitude (Psa 40:6,7) of the Lord of glory, so to Israel the badge of former affliction became the symbol of a new and joyous life, in which they were to devote themselves and all that they had unto the Lord.
The First Day of the Feast
The same truth is fully symbolised in the sacrifices of this feast, and especially in the presentation of the first ripe sheaf on the second day of the Passover. The first day of ‘unleavened bread,’ or the 15th of Nisan, was a ‘holy convocation,’ when neither servile nor needless work was to be done, that only being allowed which was necessary for the joyous observance of the festival. After the regular morning sacrifice the public offerings were brought. These consisted, on each of the seven days of the festive week, of two young bullocks, one ram, and seven lambs for a burnt-offering, with their appropriate meat-offerings; and of ‘one goat for a sin-offering, to make an atonement for you’ (Num 28:19-24). After these public sacrifices (for the whole congregation), the private offerings of each individual were brought, commonly on the first day of the feast (the 15th of Nisan), but if this had been neglected, on any of the other days. These sacrifices were a burnt-offering, of the value of at least one meah of silver * (= 1/3 denar, or about 2 1/2 d.); then, the 15th day Chagigah (literally, festivity), of the value of at least two meahs of silver (= 5d.); and lastly, the so-called ‘sacrifices of joyousness’ (Deut 27:7), in which every one was left at liberty to offer, according to ‘the blessing which the Lord had given’ to each (Deut 16:17).
* In this, as in many other particulars, the teaching of Shammai differed from that of Hillel. We have followed Hillel, whose authority is generally recognised.
Both the Chagigah and the ‘offerings of joyousness’ were ‘peace-offerings.’ They required imposition of hands, sprinkling of blood, burning of the inside fat and kidneys on the altar, and the proper setting aside of what went to the priest, viz. the breast as a wave- and the right shoulder as a heave-offering (Lev 3:1-5; 7:29-34); the difference, as we have seen, being, that the wave-offering belonged originally to Jehovah, who gave His portion to the priests, while the heave-offering came to them directly from the people. The rest was used by the offerers in their festive meals (but only during two days and one night from the time of sacrifice). Tradition allowed the poor, who might have many to share at their board, to spend even less than one meah on their burnt-offerings, if they added what had been saved to their peace-offerings. Things devoted to God, such as tithes, firstlings, etc., might be used for this purpose, and it was even lawful for priests to offer what had come to them as priestly dues (Mishnah, Chag. i. 3, 4). In short, it was not to be a heavy yoke of bondage, but a joyous festival. But on one point the law was quite explicit–the Chagigah might not be offered by any person who had contracted Levitical defilement (Pes. vi. 3). It was on this ground that, when the Jews led ‘Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment,’ they themselves went not into the judgment-hall, lest they should be defiled, but that they might ‘eat the Passover’ (John 18:28). And this brings us once more to the history of the last real Passover.
The Day of Our Lord’s Betrayal
‘It was early’ on the 15th day of Nisan when the Lord was delivered into the hands of the Gentiles. In the previous night He and His disciples had partaken of the Paschal Supper. The betrayer alone was too busy with his plans to finish the meal. He had, so to speak, separated from the fellowship of Israel before he excommunicated himself from that of Christ. While the Paschal services in the ‘guest-chamber’ were prolonged by the teaching and the intercession of the Master, and when the concluding rites of that night merged in the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Judas was completing, with the chief priests and elders, the betrayal of Jesus, and received the ‘reward of iniquity’ (Acts 1:18). Either the impetuosity of the traitor, or, more probably, the thought that such an opportunity might never come to them again, decided the elders, who, till then, had intended to delay the capture of Jesus till after the Feast, for ‘fear of the multitude.’ It was necessary to put aside, not only considerations of truth and of conscience, but to violate almost every fundamental principle of their own judicial administration. In such a cause, however, the end would sanctify any means.
The Arrest of Our Lord
Some of their number hastily gathered the Temple guard under its captains. A detachment of Roman soldiers under an officer * would readily be granted from the neighbouring fortress, Antonia, when the avowed object was to secure a dangerous leader of rebellion and to prevent the possibility of a popular tumult in his favour.
* We derive our account from all the four Gospels. The language of St. John (18:3,12) leaves no doubt that a detachment of Roman soldiers accompanied such of the elders and priests as went out with the Temple guard to take Jesus. Thee was no need to apply for Pilate’s permission (as Lange supposes) before securing the aid of the soldiers.
A number of trusty fanatics from the populace accompanied ‘the band.’ They were all armed with clubs and swords, ‘as against a murderer’; and though the dazzling light of a full moon shone on the scene, they carried torches and lamps, in case He or His followers should hide in the recesses of the garden or escape observation. But far other than they had expected awaited them in ‘the garden.’ He whom they had come to take prisoner by violent means first overcame, and then willingly surrendered to them, only stipulating for the freedom of His followers. They led Him back into the city, to the Palace of the High Priest, on the slope of Mount Zion, almost opposite to the Temple. What passed there need not be further described, except to say, that, in their treatment of Jesus, the Sanhedrim violated not only the law of God, but grossly outraged every ordinance of their own traditions. *
* We cannot here enter on the evidence; the fact is generally admitted even by Jewish writers.
Possibly the consciousness of this, almost as much as political motives, may have influenced them in handing over the matter to Pilate. The mere fact that they possessed not the power of capital punishment would scarcely have restrained them from killing Jesus, as they afterwards stoned Stephen, and would have murdered Paul but for the intervention of the Roman garrison from Fort Antonia. On the other hand, if it was, at the same time, their object to secure a public condemnation and execution, and to awaken the susceptibilities of the civil power against the movement which Christ had initiated, it was necessary to carry the case to Pilate. And so in that grey morning light of the first day of unleavened bread the saddest and strangest scene in Jewish history was enacted. The chief priests and elders, and the most fanatical of the people were gathered in Fort Antonia. From where they stood outside the Praetorium they would, in all probability, have a full view of the Temple buildings, just below the rocky fort; they could see the morning sacrifice offered, and the column of sacrificial smoke and of incense rise from the great altar towards heaven. At any rate, even if they had not seen the multitude that thronged the sacred buildings, they could hear the Levites’ song and the blasts of the priests’ trumpets. and now the ordinary morning service was over, and the festive sacrifices were offered. It only remained to bring the private burnt-offerings, and to sacrifice the Chagigah, * which they must offer undefiled, if they were to bring it at all, or to share in the festive meal that would afterwards ensue.
* The evidence that the expression in John 18:28, ‘They went not into the judgment-hall…that they might eat the Passover,’ refers not to the Paschal lamb, but to the Chagigah, is exceedingly strong, in fact, such as to have even convinced an eminent but impartial Jewish writer (Saalschutz, Mos. Recht, p. 414). It does seem strange that it should be either unknown to, or ignored by, ‘Christian’ writers.
And so the strangest contradiction was enacted. They who had not hesitated to break every law of God’s and of their own making, would not enter the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled and prevented from the Chagigah! Surely, the logic of inconsistency could go no further in punctiliously observing the letter and violating the spirit of the law.
That same afternoon of the first Passover day, ‘when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast Thou forsake Me?…And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. And the veil of the Temple was rent in twain, from the top to the bottom.’ This, just about the time when the evening sacrifice had been offered, so that the incensing priest standing in the Holy Place must have witnessed the awful sight. *
* This would not necessarily disclose a view of the Most Holy Place if, as the Rabbis assert, there were two veils between the Holy and the Most Holy Place.
The Sheaf of Firstfruits
A little later on in the evening of that same day, just as it was growing dark, a noisy throng followed delegates from the Sanhedrim outside the city and across the brook Kedron. It was a very different procession, and for a very different purpose, from the small band of mourners which, just about the same time, carried the body of the dead Saviour from the cross to the rock-hewn tomb wherein no man had yet been laid. While the one turned into ‘the garden’ (John 20:15), perhaps to one side, the other emerged, amidst loud demonstrations, in a field across Kedron, which had been marked out for the purpose. They were to be engaged in a service most important to them. It was probably to this circumstance that Joseph of Arimathea owed their non-interference with his request for the body of Jesus, and Nicodemus and the women, that they could go undisturbed about the last sad offices of loving mourners. The law had it, ‘Ye shall bring a sheaf [literally the omer] of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest; and he shall wave the omer before Jehovah, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it’ (Lev 23:10,11). This Passover-sheaf, or rather omer, was to be accompanied by a burnt-offering of a ‘he lamb, without blemish, of the first year,’ with its appropriate meat- and drink-offering, and after it had been brought, but not till then, fresh barley might be used and sold in the land. Now, this Passover-sheaf was reaped in public the evening before it was offered, and it was to witness this ceremony that the crowd gathered around ‘the elders,’ who took care that all was done according to traditionary ordinance.
‘The Morrow After the Sabbath’
The expression, ‘the morrow after the Sabbath’ (Lev 23:11), has sometimes been misunderstood as implying that the presentation of the so-called ‘first sheaf’ was to be always made on the day following the weekly Sabbath of the Passover-week. This view, adopted by the ‘Boethusians’ and the Sadducees in the time of Christ, and by the Karaite Jews and certain modern interpreters, rests on a misinterpretation of the word ‘Sabbath’ (Lev 23:24,32,39). As in analogous allusions to other feasts in the same chapter, it means not the weekly Sabbath, but the day of the festival. The testimony of Josephus (Antiq. iii. 10, 5, 6), or Philo (Op. ii. 294), and of Jewish tradition, leaves no room to doubt that in this instance we are to understand by the ‘Sabbath’ the 15th of Nisan, on whatever day of the week it might fall. Already, on the 14th of Nisan, the spot whence the first sheaf was to be reaped had been marked out by delegates from the Sanhedrim, by tying together in bundles, while still standing, the barley that was to be cut down. Though, for obvious reasons, it was customary to choose for this purpose the sheltered Ashes-valley across Kedron, there was no restriction on that point, provided the barley had grown in an ordinary field–of course in Palestine itself–and not in garden or orchard land, and that the soil had not been manured nor yet artificially watered (Mishnah, Menach. viii. 1, 2). *
* The field was to be ploughed in the autumn, and sowed seventy days before the Passover.
When the time for cutting the sheaf had arrived, that is, on the evening of the 15th of Nisan (even though it were a Sabbath *), just as the sun went down, three men, each with a sickle and basket, formally set to work.
* There was a controversy on this point between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The article in Kitto’s Cycl. erroneously names the afternoon of the 16th of Nisan as that on which the sheaf was cut. It was really done after sunset on the 15th, which was the beginning of the 16th of Nisan.
But in order clearly to bring out all that was distinctive in the ceremony, they first asked of the bystanders three times each of these questions: ‘Has the sun gone down?’ ‘With this sickle?’ ‘Into this basket?’ ‘On this Sabbath (or first Passover-day)?’–and, lastly, ‘Shall I reap?’ Having each time been answered in the affirmative, they cut down barley to the amount of one ephah, or ten omers, or three seahs, which is equal to about three pecks and three pints of our English measure. The ears were brought into the Court of the Temple, and thrashed out with canes or stalks, so as not to injure the corn; then ‘parched’ on a pan perforated with holes, so that each grain might be touched by the fire, and finally exposed to the wind. The corn thus prepared was ground in a barley-mill, which left the hulls whole. According to some, the flour was always successfully passed through thirteen sieves, each closer than the other. The statement of a rival authority, however, seems more rational–that it was only done till the flour was sufficiently fine (Men. vi. 6, 7), which was ascertained by one of the ‘Gizbarim’ (treasurers) plunging his hands into it, the sifting process being continued so long as any of the flour adhered to the hands (Men. viii. 2). Though one ephah, or ten omers, of barley was cut down, only one omer of flour, or about 5 1 pints of our measure, was offered in the Temple on the second Paschal, or 16th day of Nisan. The rest of the flour might be redeemed, and used for any purpose. The omer of flour was mixed with a ‘log,’ or very nearly three-fourths of a pint of oil, and a handful * of frankincense put upon it, then waved before the Lord, and a handful taken out and burned on the altar.
* The term is difficult to define. The Mishnah (Men. ii. 2) says, ‘He stretcheth the fingers over the flat of the hand.’ I suppose, bending them inwards.
The remainder belonged to the priest. This was what is popularly, though not very correctly, called ‘the presentation of the first or wave-sheaf’ on the second day of the Passover-feast, of the 16th of Nisan.
The Last Day of the Passover
Thus far the two first days. The last day of the Passover, as the first, was a ‘holy convocation,’ and observed like a Sabbath. The intervening days were ‘minor festivals,’ or Moed Katon. The Mishnah (Tract. Moed Katon) lays down precise rules as to the kind of work allowed on such days. As a general principle, all that was necessary either for the public interest or to prevent private loss was allowed; but no new work of any kind for private or public purposes might be begun. Thus you might irrigate dry soil, or repair works for irrigation, but not make new ones, nor dig canals, etc. It only remains to add, that any one prevented by Levitical defilement, disability, or distance from keeping the regular Passover, might observe what was called ‘the second,’ or ‘the little Passover,’ exactly a month later (Num 9:9-12). The Mishnah has it (Pes. ix. 3) that the second differed from the first Passover in this–that leaven might be kept in the house along with the unleavened bread, that the Hallel was not sung at the Paschal Supper, and that no Chagigah was offered.
The ‘Feast of Unleavened Bread’ may be said not to have quite passed till fifty-days after its commencement, when it merged in that of Pentecost, or ‘of Weeks.’ According to unanimous Jewish tradition, which was universally received at the time of Christ, the day of Pentecost was the anniversary of the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, which the Feast of Weeks was intended to commemorate. Thus, as the dedication of the harvest, commencing with the presentation of the first omer on the Passover, was completed in the thank-offering of the two wave-loaves at Pentecost, so the memorial of Israel’s deliverance appropriately terminated in that of the giving of the Law–just as, making the highest application of it, the Passover sacrifice of the Lord Jesus may be said to have been completed in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Jewish tradition has it, that on the 2nd of the third month, or Sivan, Moses had ascended the Mount (Exo 19:1-3), that he communicated with the people on the 3rd (Exo 19:7), reascended the Mount on the 4th (Exo 19:8), and that then the people sanctified themselves on the 4th, 5th, and 6th of Sivan, on which latter day the ten commandments were actually given them (Exo 19:10-16). *
* Owing to the peculiarity of the Jewish calendar, Pentecost did not always take place exactly on the 6th Sivan. Care was taken that it should not occur on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday. (Reland. p. 430.)
Accordingly the days before Pentecost were always reckoned as the first, second, third, etc., since the presentation of the omer. Thus Maimonides beautifully observes: ‘Just as one who is expecting the most faithful of his friends is wont to count the days and hours to his arrival, so we also count from the omer of the day of our Exodus from Egypt to that of the giving of the law, which was the object of our Exodus, as it is said: „I bare you on eagle’s wings, and brought you unto Myself.” And because this great manifestation did not last more than one day, therefore we annually commemorate it only one day.’
Full seven weeks after the Paschal day, counting from the presentation of the omer on the 16th of Nisan, or exactly on the fiftieth day (Lev 23:15,16), was the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost, ‘a holy convocation,’ in which ‘no servile work’ was to be done (Lev 23:21; Num 28:26), when ‘all males’ were to ‘appear before Jehovah’ in His sanctuary (Exo 23:14-17), and the appointed sacrifices and offerings to be brought. The names, ‘Feast of Weeks’ (Exo 34:22; Deut 16:10,16; 2 Chron 8:13) and ‘Feast of the Fiftieth Day,’ or ‘Day of Pentecost’ (Jos. Jew. Wars, ii. e, 1; Acts 2:1; 20:16; 1 Cor 16:8), bear reference to this interval from the Passover. Its character is expressed by the terms ‘feast of harvest’ (Exo 23:16) and ‘day of firstfruits’ (Num 28:26), while Jewish tradition designates it as ‘Chag ha Azereth,’ or simply ‘Azereth’ (the ‘feast of the conclusion,’ or simply ‘conclusion’), and the ‘Season of the giving our our Law.’
The festive sacrifices for the day of Pentecost were, according to Numbers 28:26-31, ‘two young bullocks, one ram, and seven lambs of the first year’ for a burnt-offering, along with their appropriate meat-offerings; and ‘one kid of the goats’ for a sin-offering–all these, of course, irrespective of the usual morning sacrifice. But what gave to the feast its distinctive peculiarity was the presentation of the two loaves, and the sacrifices which accompanied them. Though the attendance of worshippers at the Temple may not have been so large as at the Passover, yet tens of thousands crowded to it (Jos. Antiq. xiv. 13, 4; xvii. 10, 2). From the narrative in Acts 2 we also infer that perhaps, more than at any of the other great festivals, Jews from distant countries came to Jerusalem, possibly from the greater facilities for travelling which the season afforded. On the day before Pentecost the pilgrim bands entered the Holy City, which just then lay in the full glory of early summer. Most of the harvest all over the country had already been reaped, * and a period of rest and enjoyment seemed before them.
* The completion of the wheat harvest throughout the land is computed by the Rabbis at about a month later. See Relandus, Antiq. p. 428.
As the stars shone out in the deep blue sky with the brilliancy peculiar to an Eastern clime, the blasts of the priests’ trumpets, announcing the commencement of the feast, sounded from the Temple mount through the delicious stillness of the summer night. Already in the first watch the great altar was cleansed, and immediately after midnight the Temple gates were thrown open. For before the morning sacrifice all burnt- and peace-offerings which the people proposed to bring at the feast had to be examined by the officiating priesthood. Great as their number was, it must have been a busy time, till the announcement that the morning glow extended to Hebron put an end to all such preparations, by giving the signal for the regular morning sacrifice. After that the festive offerings prescribed in Numbers 28:26-30 were brought–first, the sin-offering, with proper imposition of hands, confession of sin, and sprinkling of blood; and similarly the burnt-offerings, with their meat-offerings. The Levites were now chanting the ‘Hallel’ to the accompanying music of a single flute, which began and ended the song, so as to give it a sort of soft sweetness. The round, ringing treble of selected voices from the children of Levites, who stood below their fathers, gave richness and melody to the hymn, while the people either repeated or responded, as on the evening of the Passover sacrifice.
The Two Wave-loaves
Then came the peculiar offering of the day–that of the two wave-loaves, with their accompanying sacrifices. These consisted of seven lambs of the first year, without blemish, one young bullock, and two rams for a burnt-offering, with their appropriate meat-offerings; and then ‘one kid of the goats for a sin-offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace-offerings’ (Lev 23:19). *
* This offering, accompanying the wave-loaves, has by some been confounded with the festive sacrifices of the day, as enumerated in Numbers 28:27. But the two are manifestly quite distinct.
As the omer for the 16th of Nisan was of barley, being the first ripe corn in the land, so the ‘two wave-loaves’ were prepared from wheat grown in the best district of the country–under conditions similar to those already noticed about the Passover-sheaf. Similarly, three seahs, or about three pecks and three pints of wheat, were cut down, brought to the Temple, thrashed like other meat-offerings, ground, and passed through twelve sieves. *
* In the case of the first omer it had been thirteen sieves; but both specifications may be regarded as Rabbinical fancifulness.
From the flour thus obtained two omers (or double the quantity of that at the Passover) were used for ‘the two loaves’; the rest might be redeemed and used for any purpose. Care was taken that the flour for each loaf should be taken separately from one and a half seah, that it should be separately kneaded with lukewarm water (like all thank-offerings), and separately baked–the latter in the Temple itself. The loaves were made the evening preceding the festival; or, if that fell on the Sabbath, two evenings before. In shape they were long and flat, and turned up, either at the edges or at the corners. According to the Mishnah, each loaf was four handbreadths wide, seven long, and four fingers high, and as it contained one omer of flour (5 1 pints, or rather less than four pounds’ weight), the dough would weigh about five pounds and three-quarters, yielding, say, five pounds and a quarter of bread, or ten and a half for the two ‘wave-loaves.’ *
* These numbers are sufficiently accurate for general computation. By actual experiment I find that a pint of flour weighs about three-quarters of a pound and two ounces, and that 3 3/4 lbs. of flour, with half a teacup of barm and an ounce of salt, yield 5 3/4 pounds of dough and 5 1/4 lbs. of bread.
The Wave-loaves Were Leavened
Contrary to the common rule of the Sanctuary, these loaves were leavened, which, as the Mishnah, informs us (Men. v. 1), was the case in all thank-offerings. The common explanation–that the wave-loaves were leavened because they represented the ordinary food of the people–only partially accounts for this. No doubt these wave-loaves expressed the Old Testament acknowledgment of the truth which our Lord embodied in the prayer, ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ But this is not all. Let it be remembered that these two loaves, with the two lambs that formed part of the same wave-offering, were the only public peace- and thank-offerings of Israel; that they were accompanied by burnt- and sin-offerings; and that, unlike ordinary peace-offerings, they were considered as ‘most holy.’ Hence they were leavened, because Israel’s public thank-offerings, even the most holy, are leavened by imperfectness and sin, and they need a sin-offering. This idea of a public thank-offering was further borne out by all the services of the day. First, the two lambs were ‘waved’ while yet alive; that is, before being made ready for use. Then, after their sacrifice, the breast and shoulder, or principal parts of each, were laid beside the two loaves, and ‘waved’ (generally towards the east) forwards and back wards, and up and down. *
* The Rabbinical statement is, that the whole offering was to be waved together by a priest; but that if each loaf, with one breast and shoulder of lamb, was waved separately, it was valid. From the weight of the mass, this must have been the common practice.
After burning the fat, the flesh belonged, not to the offerers, but to the priests. As in the case of the most holy sacrifices, the sacrificial meal was to take place within the Temple itself, nor was any part of it to be kept beyond midnight. One of the wave-loaves and of the lambs went to the high-priest; the other belonged to all the officiating priesthood. Lastly, after the ceremony of the wave-loaves, the people brought their own freewill-offerings, each as the Lord had prospered him–the afternoon and evening being spent in the festive meal, to which the stranger, the poor, and the Levite were bidden as the Lord’s welcome guests. On account of the number of such sacrifices, the Feast of Weeks was generally protracted for the greater part of a week; and this the more readily that the offering of firstfruits also began at this time. Lastly, as the bringing of the omer at the Passover marked the period when new corn might be used in the land, so the presentation of the wave-loaves that when new flour might be brought for meat-offerings in the Sanctuary.
The Later Significance of Pentecost
If Jewish tradition connected the ‘Feast of Firstfruits’ with the ‘Mount that might be touched,’ and the ‘voice of words which they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more,’ we have in this respect also ‘come unto Mount Zion,’ and to the better things of the New Covenant. To us the Day of Pentecost is, indeed, the ‘feast of firstfruits,’ and that of the giving of the better law, ‘written not in tables of stone, but on the fleshy tables of the heart,’ ‘with the Spirit of the living God.’ For, as the worshippers were in the Temple, probably just as they were offering the wave-lambs and the wave-bread, the multitude heard that ‘sound from heaven, as of a mighty rushing wind,’ which drew them to the house where the apostles were gathered, there to hear ‘every man in his own language’ ‘the wonderful works of God.’ And on that Pentecost day, from the harvest of firstfruits, not less than three thousand souls added to the Church were presented as a wave-offering to the Lord. The cloven tongues of fire and the apostolic gifts of that day of firstfruits have, indeed, long since disappeared. But the mighty rushing sound of the Presence and Power of the Holy Ghost has gone forth into all the world.
The Feast of Tabernacles
‘In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.’–John 7:37
The Feast of Tabernacles
The most joyous of all festive seasons in Israel was that of the ‘Feast of Tabernacles.’ It fell on a time of year when the hearts of the people would naturally be full of thankfulness, gladness, and expectancy. All the crops had been long stored; and now all fruits were also gathered, the vintage past, and the land only awaited the softening and refreshment of the ‘latter rain,’ to prepare it for a new crop. It was appropriate that, when the commencement of the harvest had been consecrated by offering the first ripe sheaf of barley, and the full ingathering of the corn by the two wave-loaves, there should now be a harvest feast of thankfulness and of gladness unto the Lord. But that was not all. As they looked around on the goodly land, the fruits of which had just enriched them, they must have remembered that by miraculous interposition the Lord their God had brought them to this land and given it them, and that He ever claimed it as peculiarly His own. For the land was strictly connected with the history of the people; and both the land and the history were linked with the mission of Israel. If the beginning of the harvest had pointed back to the birth of Israel in their Exodus from Egypt, and forward to the true Passover-sacrifice in the future; if the corn-harvest was connected with the giving of the law on Mount Sinai in the past, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost; the harvest-thanksgiving of the Feast of Tabernacles reminded Israel, on the one hand, of their dwelling in booths in the wilderness, while, on the other hand, it pointed to the final harvest when Israel’s mission should be completed, and all nations gathered unto the Lord. Thus the first of the three great annual feasts spoke, in the presentation of the first sheaf, of the founding of the Church; the second of its harvesting, when the Church in its present state should be presented as two leavened wave-loaves; while the third pointed forward to the full harvest in the end, when ‘in this mountain shall the Lord of Hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things…And He will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of His people (Israel) shall He take away from all the earth’ (Isa 25:6-8; comp.. Rev 21:4, etc.)
The Names of the Feast
That these are not ideal comparisons, but the very design of the Feast of Tabernacles, appears not only from the language of the prophets and the peculiar services of the feast, but also from its position in the Calendar, and even from the names by which it is designated in Scripture. Thus in its reference to the harvest it is called ‘the feast of ingathering’ (Exo 23:16; 34:22); in that to the history of Israel in the past, ‘the Feast of Tabernacles’ (Lev 23:34; and specially v 43; Deut 16:13,16; 31:10; 2 Chron 8:13; Ezra 3:4); while its symbolical bearing on the future is brought out in its designation as emphatically ‘the feast’ (1 Kings 8:2; 2 Chron 5:3; 7:8,9); and ‘the Feast of Jehovah’ (Lev 23:39). In this sense also Josephus, Philo, and the Rabbis (in many passages of the Mishnah) single it out from all the other feasts. And quite decisive on the point is the description of the ‘latter-day’ glory at the close of the prophecies of Zechariah, where the conversion of all nations is distinctly connected with the ‘Feast of Tabernacles’ (Zech 14:16-21). That this reference is by no means isolated will appear in the sequel.
The Time of the Feast
The Feast of Tabernacles was the third of the great annual festivals, at which every male in Israel was to appear before the Lord in the place which He should choose. It fell on the 15th of the seventh month, or Tishri (corresponding to September or the beginning of October), as the Passover had fallen on the 15th of the first month. The significance of these numbers in themselves and relatively will not escape attention, the more so that this feast closed the original festive calendar; for Purim and ‘the feast of the dedication of the Temple,’ which both occurred later in the season, were of post-Mosaic origin. The Feast of Tabernacles, or, rather (as it should be called), of ‘booths,’ lasted for seven days–from the 15th to the 21st Tishri–and was followed by an Octave on the 22nd Tishri. But this eighth day, though closely connected with the Feast of Tabernacles, formed no part of that feast, as clearly shown by the difference in the sacrifices and the ritual, and by the circumstance that the people no longer lived in ‘booths.’ The first day of the feast, and also its Octave, or Azereth (clausura, conclusio), were to be days of ‘holy convocation’ (Lev 23:35,36), and each ‘a Sabbath’ (Lev 23:39), not in the sense of the weekly Sabbath, but of festive rest in the Lord (Lev 23:25,32), when no servile work of any kind might be done.
It Followed Close Upon the Day of Atonement
There is yet another important point to be noticed. The ‘Feast of Tabernacles’ followed closely on the Day of Atonement. Both took place in the seventh month; the one on the 10th, the other on the 15th of Tishri. What the seventh day, or Sabbath, was in reference to the week, the seventh month seems to have been in reference to the year. It closed not only the sacred cycle, but also the agricultural or working year. It also marked the change of seasons, the approach of rain and of the winter equinox, and determined alike the commencement and the close of a sabbatical year (Deut 31:10). Coming on the 15th of this seventh month–that is, at full moon, when the ‘sacred’ month had, so to speak, attained its full strength–the Feast of Tabernacles appropriately followed five days after the Day of Atonement, in which the sin of Israel had been removed, and its covenant relation to God restored. Thus a sanctified nation could keep a holy feast of harvest joy unto the Lord, just as in the truest sense it will be ‘in that day’ (Zech 14:20) when the meaning of the Feast of Tabernacles shall be really fulfilled. *
* Quite another picture is drawn in Hosea 9, which seems also to refer to the Feast of Tabernacles (see specially verse 5). Indeed, it is remarkable how many allusions to this feast occur in the writings of the prophets, as if its types were the goal of all their desires.
The Three Chief Features of the Feast
Three things specially marked the Feast of Tabernacles: its joyous festivities, the dwelling in ‘booths,’ and the peculiar sacrifices and rites of the week. The first of these was simply characteristic of a ‘feast of ingathering’: ‘Because the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands, therefore thou shalt surely rejoice–thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within thy gates.’ Nor were any in Israel to ‘appear before the Lord empty: every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord thy God which He hath given thee’ (Deut 16:13-17). Votive, freewill, and peace-offerings would mark their gratitude to God, and at the meal which ensued the poor, the stranger, the Levite, and the homeless would be welcome guests, for the Lord’s sake. Moreover, when the people saw the treasury chests opened and emptied at this feast for the last time in the year, they would remember their brethren at a distance, in whose name, as well as their own, the daily and festive sacrifices were offered. Thus their liberality would not only be stimulated, but all Israel, however widely dispersed, would feel itself anew one before the Lord their God and in the courts of His House. There was, besides, something about this feast which would peculiarly remind them, if not of their dispersion, yet of their being ‘strangers and pilgrims in the earth.’ For its second characteristic was, that during the seven days of its continuance ‘all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths; that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt’ (Lev 23:42,43).
As usual, we are met at the outset by a controversy between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The law had it (Lev 23:40): ‘Ye shall take you on the first day the fruit (so correctly in the margin) of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook,’ which the Sadducees understood (as do the modern Karaite Jews) to refer to the materials whence the booths were to be constructed, while the Pharisees applied it to what the worshippers were to carry in their hands. The latter interpretation is, in all likelihood, the correct one; it seems borne out by the account of the festival at the time of Nehemiah (Neh 8:15,18), when the booths were constructed of branches of other trees than those mentioned in Leviticus 23; and it was universally adopted in practice at the time of Christ. The Mishnah gives most minute details as to the height and construction of these ‘booths,’ the main object being to prevent any invasion of the law. Thus it must be a real booth, and constructed of boughs of living trees, and solely for the purposes of this festival. Hence it must be high enough, yet not too high–at least ten handbreadths, but not more than thirty feet; three of its walls must be of boughs; it must be fairly covered with boughs, yet not so shaded as not to admit sunshine, nor yet so open as to have not sufficient shade, the object in each case being neither sunshine nor shade, but that it should be a real booth of boughs of trees. It is needless to enter into further details, except to say that these booths, and not their houses, were to be the regular dwelling of all in Israel during the week, and that, except in very heavy rain, they were to eat, sleep, pray, study–in short, entirely to live in them. The only exceptions were in favour of those absent on some pious duty, the sick, and their attendants, women, slaves, and infants who were still depending on their mothers. Finally, the rule was that, ‘whatever might contract Levitical defilement (such as boards, cloth, etc.), or whatever did not grow out of the earth, might not be used’ in constructing the ‘booths.’
The Fruit and Palm Branches
It has already been noticed that, according to the view universally prevalent at the time of Christ, the direction on the first day of the feast to ‘take the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook,’ was applied to what the worshippers were to carry in their hands. The Rabbis ruled, that ‘the fruit of the goodly trees’ meant the aethrog, or citron, and ‘the boughs of thick trees’ the myrtle, provided it had ‘not more berries than leaves.’ The aethrogs must be without blemish or deficiency of any kind; the palm branches at least three handbreadths high, and fit to be shaken; and each branch fresh, entire, unpolluted, and not taken from any idolatrous grove. Every worshipper carried the aethrog in his left hand, and in his right the lulav, or palm, with myrtle and willow branch on either side of it, tied together on the outside with its own kind, though in the inside it might be fastened even with gold thread. There can be no doubt that the lulav was intended to remind Israel of the different stages of their wilderness journey, as represented by the different vegetation–the palm branches recalling the valleys and plains, the ‘boughs of thick trees,’ the bushes on the mountain heights, and the willows those brooks from which God had given His people drink; while the aethrog was to remind them of the fruits of the good land which the Lord had given them. The lulav was used in the Temple on each of the seven festive days, even children, if they were able to shake it, being bound to carry one. If the first day of the feast fell on a Sabbath, the people brought their lulavs on the previous day into the synagogue on the Temple Mount, and fetched them in the morning, so as not needlessly to break the Sabbath rest.
The third characteristic of the Feast of Tabernacles was its offerings. These were altogether peculiar. The sin-offering for each of the seven days was ‘one kid of the goats.’ The burnt-offerings consisted of bullocks, rams, and lambs, with their appropriate meat- and drink-offerings. But, whereas the number of the rams and lambs remained the same on each day of the festival, that of the bullocks decreased every day by one–from thirteen on the first to seven bullocks on the last day, ‘that great day of the feast.’ As no special injunctions are given about the drink-offering, we infer that it was, as usually (Num 15:1-10), 1/4 of a hin of wine for each lamb, 1/3 for each ram, and 1/2 for each bullock (the hin = 1 gallon 2 pints). The ‘meat-offering’ is expressly fixed (Num 19:12, etc.) at 1/10 of an ephah of flour, mixed with 1/4 of a hin of oil, for each lamb; 2/10 of an ephah with 1/3 hin of oil, for each ram; and 3/10 of an ephah, with 1/2 hin of oil, for each bullock. Three things are remarkable about these burnt-offerings. First, they are evidently the characteristic sacrifice of the Feast of Tabernacles. As compared with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the number of the rams and lambs is double, while that of the bullocks is fivefold (14 during the Passover week, 5 x 14 during that of Tabernacles). Secondly, the number of the burnt-sacrifices, whether taking each kind by itself or all of them together, is always divisible by the sacred number seven. We have for the week 70 bullocks, 14 rams, and 98 lambs, or altogether 182 sacrifices (26 x 7), to which must be added 336 (48 x 7) tenths of ephahs of flour for the meat-offering. We will not pursue the tempting subject of this symbolism of numbers further than to point out that, whereas the sacred number 7 appeared at the Feast of Unleavened Bread only in the number of its days, and at Pentecost in the period of its observance (7 x 7 days after Passover), the Feast of Tabernacles lasted seven days, took place when the seventh month was at its full height, and had the number 7 impressed on its characteristic sacrifices. It is not so easy to account for the third peculiarity of these sacrifices–that of the daily diminution in the number of bullocks offered. The common explanation, that it was intended to indicate the decreasing sanctity of each successive day of the feast, while the sacred number 7 was still to be reserved for the last day, is not more satisfactory than the view propounded in the Talmud, that these sacrifices were offered, not for Israel, but for the nations of the world: ‘There were seventy bullocks, to correspond to the number of the seventy nations in the world.’ But did the Rabbis understand the prophetic character of this feast? An attentive consideration of its peculiar ceremonial will convince that it must have been exceedingly difficult to ignore it entirely.
On the day before the Feast of Tabernacles–the 14th Tishri–the festive pilgrims had all arrived in Jerusalem. The ‘booths’ on the roofs, in the courtyards, in streets and squares, as well as roads and gardens, within a Sabbath day’s journey, must have given the city and neighbourhood an unusually picturesque appearance. The preparation of all that was needed for the festival–purification, the care of the offerings that each would bring, and friendly communications between those who were to be invited to the sacrificial meal–no doubt sufficiently occupied their time. When the early autumn evening set in, the blasts of the priests’ trumpets on the Temple Mount announced to Israel the advent of the feast.
Special Service at the Temple
As at the Passover and at Pentecost, the altar of burnt-offering was cleansed during the first night-watch, and the gates of the Temple were thrown open immediately after midnight. The time till the beginning of the ordinary morning sacrifice was occupied in examining the various sacrifices and offerings that were to be brought during the day. While the morning sacrifice was being prepared, a priest, accompanied by a joyous procession with music, went down to the Pool of Siloam, whence he drew water into a golden pitcher, capable of holding three log (rather more than two pints). But on the Sabbaths they fetched the water from a golden vessel in the Temple itself, into which it had been carried from Siloam on the preceding day. At the same time that the procession started for Siloam, another went to a place in the Kedron valley, close by, called Motza, whence they brought willow branches, which, amidst the blasts of the priests’ trumpets, they stuck on either side of the altar of burnt-offering, bending them over towards it, so as to form a kind of leafy canopy. Then the ordinary sacrifice proceeded, the priest who had gone to Siloam so timing it, that he returned just as his brethren carried up the pieces of the sacrifice to lay them on the altar. As he entered by the ‘Water-gate,’ which obtained its name from this ceremony, he was received by a threefold blast from the priests’ trumpets. The priest then went up the rise of the altar and turned to the left, where there were two silver basins with narrow holes–the eastern a little wider for the wine, and the western somewhat narrower for the water. Into these the wine of the drink-offering was poured, and at the same time the water from Siloam, the people shouting to the priest, ‘Raise thy hand,’ to show that he really poured the water into the basin which led to the base of the altar. For, sharing the objections of the Sadducees, Alexander Jannaeus, the Maccabean king-priest (about 95 BC), had shown his contempt for the Pharisees by pouring the water at this feast upon the ground, on which the people pelted him with their aethrogs, and would have murdered him, if his foreign body-guard had not interfered, on which occasion no less than six thousand Jews were killed in the Temple.
The Music of the Feast
As soon as the wine and the water were being poured out, the Temple music began, and the ‘Hallel’ (Psa 113-118) was sung in the manner previously prescribed, and to the accompaniment of flutes, except on the Sabbath and on the first day of the feast, when flute-playing was not allowed, on account of the sanctity of the days. When the choir came to these words (Psa 118:1), ‘O give thanks to the Lord,’ and again when they sang (Psa 118:25), ‘O work then now salvation, Jehovah’; and once more at the close (Psa 118:29), ‘O give thanks unto the Lord,’ all the worshippers shook their lulavs towards the altar. When, therefore, the multitudes from Jerusalem, on meeting Jesus, ‘cut down branches from the trees, and strewed them in the way, and…cried, saying, O then, work now salvation to the Son of David’! (Matt 21:8,9; John 12:12,13) they applied, in reference to Christ, what was regarded as one of the chief ceremonies of the Feast of Tabernacles, praying that God would now from ‘the highest’ heavens manifest and send that salvation in connection with the Son of David, which was symbolised by the pouring out of water. For though that ceremony was considered by the Rabbis as bearing a subordinate reference to the dispensation of the rain, the annual fall of which they imagined was determined by God at that feast, its main and real application was to the future outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as predicted–probably in allusion to this very rite–by Isaiah the prophet (Isa 12:3). *
* Of course, one or other of these two views is open, either, that the words of Isaiah were based on the ceremony of water-pouring, or that this ceremony was derived from the words of Isaiah. In either case, however, our inference from it holds good. It is only fair to add, that by some the expression ‘water’ in Isaiah 12:3 is applied to the ‘law.’ But this in no way vitiates our conclusion, as the Jews expected the general conversion of the Gentiles to be a conversion to Judaism.
Thus the Talmud says distinctly: ‘Why is the name of it called, The drawing out of water? Because of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, according to what is said: „With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.”‘ Hence, also, the feast and the peculiar joyousness of it are alike designated as those of ‘the drawing out of water’; for, according to the same Rabbinical authorities, the Holy Spirit dwells in many only through joy.
The Daily Circuit of the Altar
A similar symbolism was expressed by another ceremony which took place at the close, not of the daily, but of the festive sacrifices. On every one of the seven days the priests formed in procession, and made the circuit of the altar, singing: ‘O then, now work salvation, Jehovah! O Jehovah, give prosperity’! (Psa 118:25). But on the seventh, ‘that great day of the feast,’ they made the circuit of the altar seven times, remembering how the walls of Jericho had fallen in similar circumstances, and anticipating how, by the direct interposition of God, the walls of heathenism would fall before Jehovah, and the land lie open for His people to go in and possess it.
The References in John 7:37
We can now in some measure realise the event recorded in John 7:37. The festivities of the Week of Tabernacles were drawing to a close. ‘It was the last day, that great day of the feast.’ It obtained this name, although it was not one of ‘holy convocation,’ partly because it closed the feast, and partly from the circumstances which procured it in Rabbinical writings the designations of ‘Day of the Great Hosannah,’ on account of the sevenfold circuit of the altar with ‘Hosannah’; and ‘Day of Willows,’ and ‘Day of Beating the Branches,’ because all the leaves were shaken off the willow boughs, and the palm branches beaten in pieces by the side of the altar. It was on that day, after the priest had returned from Siloam with his golden pitcher, and for the last time poured its contents to the base of the altar; after the ‘Hallel’ had been sung to the sound of the flute, the people responding and worshipping as the priests three times drew the threefold blasts from their silver trumpets–just when the interest of the people had been raised to its highest pitch, that, from amidst the mass of worshippers, who were waving towards the altar quite a forest of leafy branches as the last words of Psalm 118 were chanted–a voice was raised which resounded through the temple, startled the multitude, and carried fear and hatred to the hearts of their leaders. It was Jesus, who ‘stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.’ Then by faith in Him should each one truly become like the Pool of Siloam, and from his inmost being ‘rivers of living waters flow’ (John 7:38). ‘This spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive.’ Thus the significance of the rite, in which they had just taken part, was not only fully explained, but the mode of its fulfilment pointed out. The effect was instantaneous. It could not but be, that in that vast assembly, so suddenly roused by being brought face to face with Him in whom every type and prophecy is fulfilled, there would be many who, ‘when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet. Others said, This is the Christ.’ Even the Temple-guard, whose duty it would have been in such circumstances to arrest one who had so interrupted the services of the day, and presented himself to the people in such a light, owned the spell of His words, and dared not to lay hands on Him. ‘Never man spake like this man,’ was the only account they could give of their unusual weakness, in answer to the reproaches of the chief priests and Pharisees. The rebuke of the Jewish authorities, which followed, is too characteristic to require comment. One only of their number had been deeply moved by the scene just witnessed in the Temple. Yet, timid as usually, Nicodemus only laid hold of this one point, that the Pharisees had traced the popular confession of Jesus to their ignorance of the law, to which he replied, in the genuine Rabbinical manner of arguing, without meeting one’s opponent face to face: ‘Doth our law judge any man before it hear him, and know what he doeth?’
The Man Born Blind
But matters were not to end with the wrangling of priests and Pharisees. The proof which Nicodemus had invited them to seek from the teaching and the miracles of Christ was about to be displayed both before the people and their rulers in the healing of the blind man. Here also it was in allusion to the ceremonial of the Feast of Tabernacles that Jesus, when He saw the ‘man blind from his birth,’ said (John 9:5): ‘As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world’; having ‘anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,’ just as He told him, ‘Go, wash in the Pool of Siloam (which is, by interpretation, Sent).’ For the words, ‘I am the light of the world,’ are the same which He had just spoken in the Temple (John 8:12), and they had in all probability been intended to point to another very peculiar ceremony which took place at the Feast of Tabernacles. In the words of the Mishnah (Succah v. 2, 3, 4), the order of the services for the feast was as follows: ‘They went first to offer the daily sacrifice in the morning, then the additional sacrifices; after that the votive and freewill-offerings; from thence to the festive meal; from thence to the study of the law; and after that to offer the evening sacrifice; and from thence they went to the joy of the pouring out of the water.’ It is this ‘joy of the pouring out of the water’ which we are about to describe.
The Ceremonies in the Court of the Women
At the close of the first day of the feast the worshippers descended to the Court of the Women, where great preparations had been made. Four golden candelabras were there, each with four golden bowls, and against them rested four ladders; and four youths of priestly descent held, each a pitcher of oil, capable of holding one hundred and twenty log, from which they filled each bowl. The old, worn breeches and girdles of the priests served for wicks to these lamps. There was not a court in Jerusalem that was not lit up by the light of ‘the house of water-pouring.’ The ‘Chassidim’ and ‘the men of Deed’ danced before the people with flaming torches in their hands, and sang before them hymns and songs of praise; and the Levites, with harps, and lutes, and cymbals, and trumpets, and instruments of music without number, stood upon the fifteen steps which led down from the Court of Israel to that of the Women, according to the number of the fifteen Songs of Degrees in the Book of Psalms. They stood with their instruments of music, and sang hymns. Two priests, with trumpets in their hands, were at the upper gate (that of Nicanor), which led from the Court of Israel to that of the Women. At cock-crowing they drew a threefold blast. As they reached the tenth step, they drew another threefold blast; as they entered the court itself, they drew yet another threefold blast; and so they blew as they advanced, till they reached the gate which opens upon the east (the Beautiful Gate). As they came to the eastern gate, they turned round towards the west (to face the Holy Place), and said: ‘Our fathers who were in this place, they turned their back upon the Sanctuary of Jehovah, and their faces toward the east, and they worshipped towards the rising sun; but as for us, our eyes are towards the Lord.’
A fragment of one of the hymns sung that night has been preserved. It was sung by the ‘Chassidim’ and ‘men of Deed,’ and by those who did penance in their old age for the sins of their youth:
The Chassidim and Men of Deed.
‘Oh joy, that our youth, devoted, sage,
Doth bring no shame upon our old age!’
‘Oh joy, we can in our old age
Repair the sins of youth not sage!’
Both in unison.
‘Yes, happy he on whom no early guilt doth rest,
And he who, having sinned, is now with pardon blest.
Significance of the Illumination
It seems clear that this illumination of the Temple was regarded as forming part of, and having the same symbolical meaning as, ‘the pouring out of water.’ The light shining out of the Temple into the darkness around, and lighting up every court in Jerusalem, must have been intended as a symbol not only of the Shechinah which once filled the Temple, but of that ‘great light’ which ‘the people that walked in darkness’ were to see, and which was to shine ‘upon them that dwell in the land of the shadow of death’ (Isa 9:2). May it not be, that such prophecies as Isaiah 9 and 60 were connected with this symbolism? At any rate, it seems most probable that Jesus had referred to this ceremony in the words spoken by Him in the Temple at that very Feast of Tabernacles: ‘I am the light of the world; he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life’ (John 8:12).
The Six Minor Days
Only the first of the seven days of this feast was ‘a holy convocation’; the other six were ‘minor festivals.’ On each day, besides the ordinary morning and evening sacrifices, the festive offerings prescribed in Numbers 29:12-38 were brought. The Psalms sung at the drink-offering after the festive sacrifices (or Musaph, as they are called), were, for the first day of the feast, Psalm 105; for the second, Psalm 29; for the third, Psalm 50, from verse 16; for the fourth, Psalm 94, from verse 16; for the fifth, Psalm 94, from verse 8; for the sixth, Psalm 81, from verse 6; for the last day of the feast, Psalm 82, from verse 5. As the people retired from the altar at the close of each day’s service, they exclaimed, ‘How beautiful art thou, O altar!’–or, according to a later version, ‘We give thanks to Jehovah and to thee, O altar!’ All the four-and-twenty orders of the priesthood were engaged in the festive offerings, which were apportioned among them according to definite rules, which also fixed how the priestly dues were to be divided among them. Lastly, in every sabbatical year the Law was to be publicly read on the first day of the feast (Deut 31:10-13). *
* In later times only certain portions were read, the law as a whole being sufficiently known from the weekly prelections in the synagogues.
On the afternoon of the seventh day of the feast the people began to remove from the ‘booths.’ For at the Octave, on the 22nd of Tishri, they lived no longer in booths, nor did they use the lulav. But it was observed as ‘a holy convocation’; and the festive sacrifices prescribed in Numbers 29:36-38 were offered, although no more by all the twenty-four courses of priests, and finally the ‘Hallel’ sung at the drink-offering.
The Pouring and Lighting Post-Mosaic
It will have been observed that the two most important ceremonies of the Feast of Tabernacles–the pouring out of water and the illumination of the Temple–were of post-Mosaic origin. According to Jewish tradition, the pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night had first appeared to Israel on the 15th of Tishri, the first day of the feast. On that day also Moses was said to have come down from the Mount, and accounted to the people that the Tabernacle of God was to be reared among them. We know that the dedication of Solomon’s Temple and the descent of the Shechinah took place at this feast (1 Kings 8; 2 Chron 7). Nor can we greatly err in finding an allusion to it in this description of heavenly things: ‘After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God, which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb’ (Rev 7:9,10).
Whether or not our suggestions be adopted as to the typical meaning of the two great ceremonies of the ‘pouring out of the water’ and the Temple illumination, the fact remains, that the Feast of Tabernacles is the one only type in the Old Testament which has not yet been fulfilled.
The New Moons: The Feast of the Seventh New Moon, or of Trumpets, or New Year’s Day
‘Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.’–Colossians 2:16, 17
The New Moons
Scarcely any other festive season could have left so continuous an impress on the religious life of Israel as the ‘New Moons.’ Recurring at the beginning of every month, and marking it, the solemn proclamation of the day, by–‘It is sanctified,’ was intended to give a hallowed character to each month, while the blowing of the priests’ trumpets and the special sacrifices brought, would summon, as it were, the Lord’s host to offer their tribute unto their exalted King, and thus bring themselves into ‘remembrance’ before Him. Besides, it was also a popular feast, when families, like that of David, might celebrate their special annual sacrifice (1 Sam 20:6,29); when the king gave a state-banquet (1 Sam 20:5,24); and those who sought for instruction and edification resorted to religious meetings, such as Elisha seems to have held (2 Kings 4:23). And so we trace its observance onwards through the history of Israel; marking in Scripture a special Psalm for the New Moon (in Tishri) (Psa 81:3); noting how from month to month the day was kept as an outward ordinance, even in the decay of religious life (Isa 1:13; Hosea 2:11), apparently all the more rigidly, with abstinence from work, not enjoined in the law, that its spirit was no longer understood (Amos 8:5); and finally learning from the prophecies of Isaiah and Ezekiel that it also had a higher meaning, and was destined to find a better fulfilment in another dispensation, when the New Moon trumpet should summon ‘all flesh to worship before Jehovah’ (Isa 66:23), and the closed eastern gate to the inner court of the new Temple be opened once more to believing Israel (Eze 46:1). And in New Testament times we still find the ‘New Moon’ kept as an outward observance by Jews and Judaising Christians, yet expressly characterised as ‘a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ’ (Col 2:16,17).
The Determination of the New Moon
We have already shown of what importance the right determination of the new moon was in fixing the various festivals of the year, and with what care and anxiety its appearance was ascertained from witnesses who had actually seen it; also how the tidings were afterwards communicated to those at a distance. For the new moon was reckoned by actual personal observation, not by astronomical calculation, with which, however, as we know, many of the Rabbis must have been familiar, since we read of astronomical pictures, by which they were wont to test the veracity of witnesses. So important was it deemed to have faithful witnesses, that they were even allowed, in order to reach Jerusalem in time, to travel on the Sabbath, and, if necessary, to make use of horse or mule (Mish. Rosh ha Sh. i. 9; iii. 2). While strict rules determined who were not to be admitted as witnesses, every encouragement was given to trustworthy persons, and the Sanhedrim provided for them a banquet in a large building specially destined for that purpose, and known as the Beth Yaazek.
The Blowing of Trumpets
In the law of God only these two things are enjoined in the observance of the ‘New Moon’–the ‘blowing of trumpets’ (Num 10:10) and special festive sacrifices (Num 28:11-15). Of old the ‘blowing of trumpets’ had been the signal for Israel’s host on their march through the wilderness, as it afterwards summoned them to warfare, and proclaimed or marked days of public rejoicing, and feasts, as well as the ‘beginning of their months’ (Num 10:1-10). The object of it is expressly stated to have been ‘for a memorial,’ that they might ‘be remembered before Jehovah,’ it being specially added: ‘I am Jehovah your God.’ It was, so to speak, the host of God assembled, waiting for their Leader; the people of God united to proclaim their King. At the blast of the priests’ trumpets they ranged themselves, as it were, under His banner and before His throne, and this symbolical confession and proclamation of Him as ‘Jehovah their God,’ brought them before Him to be ‘remembered’ and ‘saved.’ And so every season of ‘blowing the trumpets,’ whether at New Moons, at the Feast of Trumpets or New Year’s Day, at other festivals, in the Sabbatical and Year of Jubilee, or in the time of war, was a public acknowledgment of Jehovah as King. Accordingly we find the same symbols adopted in the figurative language of the New Testament. As of old the sound of the trumpet summoned the congregation before the Lord at the door of the Tabernacle, so ‘His elect’ shall be summoned by the sound of the trumpet in the day of Christ’s coming (Matt 24:31), and not only the living, but those also who had ‘slept’ (1 Cor 15:52)–‘the dead in Christ’ (1 Thess 4:16). Similarly, the heavenly hosts are marshalled to the war of successive judgments (Rev 8:2; 10:7), till, as ‘the seventh angel sounded,’ Christ is proclaimed King Universal: ‘The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever’ (Rev 11:15).
The Sacrifices of the New Moon
Besides the ‘blowing of trumpets,’ certain festive sacrifices were ordered to be offered on the New Moon (Num 28:11-15). These most appropriately mark ‘the beginnings of months’ (Num 28:11). For it is a universal principle in the Old Testament, that ‘the first’ always stands for the whole–the firstfruits for the whole harvest, the firstborn and the firstlings for all the rest; and that ‘if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy.’ And so the burnt-offerings and the sin-offerings at ‘the beginning’ of each month consecrated the whole. These festive sacrifices consisted of two young bullocks, one ram, and seven lambs of the first year for a burnt-offering, with their appropriate meat- and drink-offerings, and also of ‘one kid of the goats for a sin-offering unto Jehovah.’ *
* There is a curious and somewhat blasphemous Haggadah, or story, in the Talmud on this subject. It appears that at first the sun and moon had been created of equal size, but that when the moon wished to be sole ‘ruler’ to the exclusion of the sun, her jealousy was punished by diminution. In reply to her arguments and importunity, God had then tried to comfort the moon, that the three righteous men, Jacob, Samuel, and David, were likewise to be small–and when even thus the moon had the better of the reasoning, God had directed that a ‘sin-offering’ should be brought on the new moon, because He had made the moon smaller and less important than the sun!
When we pass from these simple Scriptural directions to what tradition records of the actual observance of ‘New Moons’ in the Temple, our difficulties increase. For this and New Year’s Day are just such feasts, in connection with which superstition would most readily grow up, from the notions which the Rabbis had, that at changes of seasons Divine judgments were initiated, modified, or finally fixed.
Necessity for Distinguishing the Temple and Synagogue Use
Modern critics have not been sufficiently careful in distinguishing what had been done in the Temple from what was introduced into the synagogue, gradually and at much later periods. Thus, prayers which date long after the destruction of Jerusalem have been represented as offered in the Temple, and the custom of chanting the ‘Hallel’ (Psa 113-118) on New Moons in the synagogue has been erroneously traced to Biblical times. So far as we can gather, the following was the order of service on New Moon’s Day. The Council sat from early morning to just before the evening sacrifice, to determine the appearance of the new moon. The proclamation of the Council–‘It is sanctified!’–and not the actual appearance of the new moon, determined the commencement of the feast. Immediately afterwards, the priests blew the trumpets which marked the feast. After the ordinary morning sacrifice, the prescribed festive offerings were brought, the blood of the burnt-offerings being thrown round the base of the altar below the red line, and the rest poured out into the channel at the south side of the altar; while the blood of the sin-offering was sprinkled or dropped from the finger on the horns of the altar of burnt-offering, beginning from the east, the rest being poured out, as that of the burnt-offerings. The two bullocks of the burnt-offerings were hung up and flayed on the uppermost of the three rows of hooks in the court, the rams on the middle, and the lambs on the lowest hooks. In all no less than 107 priests officiated at this burnt-offering–20 with every bullock, 11 with every ram, and 8 with every lamb, including, of course, those who carried the appropriate meat- and drink-offerings. At the offering of these sacrifices the trumpets were again blown. All of them were slain at the north side of the altar, while the peace- and freewill-offerings, which private Israelites were wont at such seasons to bring, were sacrificed at the south side. The flesh of the sin-offering and what of the meat-offering came to them, was eaten by the priests in the Temple itself; their portion of the private thank-offerings might be taken by them to their homes in Jerusalem, and there eaten with their households.
A Prayer of the Third Century, AD
If any special prayers were said in the Temple on New Moons’ Days, tradition has not preserved them, the only formula dating from that period being that used on first seeing the moon–‘Blessed be He who reneweth the months.’ To this the synagogue, towards the close of the third century, added the following: ‘Blessed be He by whose word the heavens were created, and by the breath of whose mouth all the hosts thereof were formed! He appointed them a law and time, that they should not overstep their course. They rejoice and are glad to perform the will of their Creator, Author of truth; their operations are truth! He spoke to the moon, Be thou renewed, and be the beautiful diadem (i.e. the hope) of man (i.e. Israel), who shall one day be quickened again like the moon (i.e. at the coming of Messiah), and praise their Creator for His glorious kingdom. Blessed be He who reneweth the moons.’ At a yet much later period, a very superstitious prayer was next inserted, its repetition being accompanied by leaping towards the moon! New Moon’s Day, though apparently observed in the time of Amos as a day of rest (Amos 8:5), is not so kept by the Jews in our days, nor, indeed, was abstinence from work enjoined in the Divine Law. *
* The Talmud has this curious story in explanation of the custom that women abstain from work on New Moons–that the women had refused to give their earrings for the golden calf, while the men gave theirs, whereas, on the other hand, the Jewish females contributed their ornaments for the Tabernacle.
The Moon of the Seventh Month
Quite distinct from the other new moons, and more sacred than they, was that of the seventh month, or Tishri, partly on account of the symbolical meaning of the seventh or sabbatical month, in which the great feasts of the Day of Atonement and of Tabernacles occurred, and partly, perhaps, because it also marked the commencement of the civil year, always supposing that, as Josephus and most Jewish writers maintain, the distinction between the sacred and civil year dates from the time of Moses. *
* In another place we have adopted the common, modern view, that this distinction only dates from the return from Babylon. But it must be admitted that the weight of authority is all on the other side. The Jews hold that the world was created in the month Tishri.
In Scripture this feast is designated as the ‘memorial blowing’ (Lev 23:24), or ‘the day of blowing’ (Num 29:1), because on that day the trumpets, or rather, as we shall see, the horns were blown all day long in Jerusalem. It was to be observed as ‘a Sabbath,’ and ‘a holy convocation,’ in which ‘no servile work’ might be done. The prescribed offerings for the day consisted, besides the ordinary morning and evening sacrifices, first, of the burnt-offerings, but not the sin-offering, of ordinary new moons, with their meat- and drink-offerings, and after that, of another festive burnt-offering of one young bullock, one ram, and seven lambs, with their appropriate meat- and drink-offerings, together with ‘one kid of the goats for a sin-offering, to make an atonement for you.’ While the drink-offering of the festive sacrifice was poured out, the priests and Levites chanted Psalm 81, and if the feast fell on a Thursday, for which that Psalm was, at any rate, prescribed, it was sung twice, beginning the second time at verse 7 in the Hebrew text, or verse 6 of our Authorised Version. At the evening sacrifice Psalm 29 was sung. For reasons previously explained (chiefly to prevent possible mistakes), it became early common to observe the New Year’s Feast on two successive days, and the practice may have been introduced in Temple times.
The Mishnah on New Year’s Day
The Mishnah, which devotes a special tractate to this feast, remarks that a year may be arranged according to four different periods; the first, beginning with the 1st of Nisan, being for ‘kings’ (to compute taxation) and for computing the feasts; the second, on the 1st of Elul (the sixth month), for tithing flocks and herds, any animal born after that not being reckoned within the previous year; the third, on the 1st of Tishri (the seventh month), for the Civil, the Sabbatical, and the Jubilee year, also for trees and herbs; and lastly, that on the 1st of Shebat (the eleventh month), for all fruits of trees. Similarly, continues the Mishnah, there are four seasons when judgment is pronounced upon the world: at the Passover, in regard to the harvest; at Pentecost, in regard to the fruits of trees; on the Feast of Tabernacles, in regard to the dispensation of rain; while on ‘New Year’s Day all the children of men pass before Him like lambs (when they are counted for the tithing), as it is written (Psa 33:15), „He fashioneth their hearts alike; He considereth all their works.”‘
The Talmud on the New Year
To this we may add, as a comment of the Talmud, that on New Year’s Day three books were opened–that of life, for those whose works had been good; another of death, for those who had been thoroughly evil; and a third, intermediate, for those whose case was to be decided on the Day of Atonement (ten days after New Year), the delay being granted for repentance, or otherwise, after which their names would be finally entered, either in the book of life, or in that of death. By these terms, however, eternal life or death are not necessarily meant; rather earthly well-being, and, perhaps, temporal life, or the opposite. It is not necessary to explain at length on what Scriptural passages this curious view about the three books is supposed to rest. *
* The two principal passages are Psalm 69:28, and Exodus 32:32; the former is thus explained: ‘Let them be blotted out of the book,’ which means the book of the wicked, while the expression ‘of the living’ refers to that of the righteous, so that the next clause, ‘and not be written with the righteous,’ is supposed to indicate the existence of a third or intermediate book!
But so deep and earnest are the feelings of the Rabbis on this matter, that by universal consent the ten days intervening between New Year and the Day of Atonement are regarded as ‘days of repentance.’ Indeed, from a misunderstanding of a passage in the Mishnah (Sheb. i. 4, 5), a similar superstition attaches to every new moon, the day preceding it being kept by rigid Jews as one of fasting and repentance, and called the ‘Lesser Day of Atonement.’ In accordance with this, the Rabbis hold that the blowing of the trumpets is intended, first, to bring Israel, or rather the merits of the patriarchs and God’s covenant with them, in remembrance before the Lord; secondly, to be a means of confounding Satan, who appears on that day specially to accuse Israel; and, lastly, as a call to repentance–as it were, a blast to wake men from their sleep of sin (Maimonides, Moreh Nev. iii. 43). *
* In opposition to this, Luther annotates as follows: ‘They were to blow with the horn in order to call God and His wondrous works to remembrance; how He had redeemed them–as it were to preach about it, and to thank Him for it, just as among us Christ and His redemption is remembered and preached by the Gospel’; to which the Weimar Glossary adds: ‘Instead of the horn and trumpets we have bells.’ See Lundius, Jud. Heiligth. p. 1024, col. ii. Buxtorf applies Amos 3:16 to the blowing of the horn.
New Year’s Day in Jerusalem
During the whole of New Year’s Day, trumpets and horns were blown in Jerusalem from morning to evening. In the Temple it was done, even on a Sabbath, but not outside its walls. Since the destruction of Jerusalem this restriction has been removed, and the horn is blown in every synagogue, even though the feast fall upon a Sabbath. It has already been hinted that the instruments used were not the ordinary priests’ trumpets, but horns. The Mishnah holds that any kind of horns may be blown except those of oxen or calves, in order not to remind God of the sin of the golden calf! The Mishnah, however, specially mentions the straight horn of the antelope and the bent horn of the ram; the latter with special allusion to the sacrifice in substitution of Isaac, it being a tradition that New Year’s Day was that in which Abraham, despite Satan’s wiles to prevent or retard him, had offered up his son Isaac on Mount Moriah. The mouthpiece of the horns for New Year’s Day were fitted with gold–those used on fast days with silver. Another distinction was this–on New Year’s Day those who blew the horn were placed between others who blew the trumpets, and the sound of the horn was prolonged beyond that of the trumpets; but on fast days those who sounded the trumpets stood in the middle, and their blast was prolonged beyond that of the horn. For the proper observance of these solemn seasons, it was deemed necessary not only to hear but to listen to the sound of the horns, since, as the Mishnah adds, everything depends on the intent of the heart, not on the mere outward deed, just as it was not Moses lifting up his hands that gave Israel the victory, nor yet the lifting up of the brazen serpent which healed, but the upturning of the heart of Israel to ‘their Father who is in heaven’–or faith (Rosh ha Sh. iii. 8). We quote the remark, not only as one of the comparatively few passages in the Mishnah which turn on the essence of religion, but as giving an insight into the most ancient views of the Rabbis on these types, and as reminding us of the memorable teaching of our Lord to one of those very Rabbis (John 3:14,15).
The New Year’s Blessings
The Mishnah (Rosh ha Sh. iv. 5, etc.) mentions various ‘Berachoth’ or ‘benedictions’ as having been repeated on New Year’s Day. These, with many others of later date, still form part of the liturgy in the synagogue for that day. But there is internal evidence that the prayers, at any rate in their present form, could not have been used, at least, in the Temple. *
* From the text of Rosh ha Sh. iv. 7, it distinctly appears that they were intended to be used in the synagogues. Of course, this leaves the question open, whether or not something like them was also said in the Temple. The Mishnah mentions altogether nine of these ‘benedictions.’
Besides, the Rabbis themselves differ as to their exact amount and contents, and finally satisfy themselves by indicating that the titles of these benedictions are rather intended as headings, to show their contents, and what special direction their prayers had taken. One set of them bore on ‘the kingdom’ of God, and is accordingly called Malchiyoth; another, the Sichronoth, referred to the various kinds of ‘remembrance’ on the part of God; while a third, called Shopharoth, consisted of benedictions, connected with the ‘blowing of the horn.’ It is said that any one who simply repeated ten passages from Scripture–according to another authority, three–bearing on ‘the kingdom of God,’ ‘the remembrance of God,’ and ‘the blowing of horns,’ had fulfilled his duty in regard to these ‘benedictions.’
The First Day of the Seventh Month
From Scripture we know with what solemnity the first day of the seventh month as observed at the time of Ezra, and how deeply moved the people were by the public reading and explanation of the law, which to so many of them came like a strange sound, all the more solemn, that after so long a period they heard it again on that soil which, as it were, bore witness to its truth (Neh 8:1-12). In the New Testament there is no reference to our Lord having ever attended this feast in Jerusalem. Nor was this necessary, as it was equally celebrated in all the synagogues of Israel. *
* But in the synagogues out of Jerusalem, the horn, not trumpets, was blown on New Year’s Day.
Yet there seems some allusion to the blowing of the horn in the writings of St. Paul. We have already stated that, according to Maimonides (Moreh Nev. iii. c. 43), one of its main purposes was to rouse men to repentance. In fact, the commentator of Maimonides makes use of the following words to denote the meaning of the blowing of trumpets: ‘Rouse ye, rouse ye from your slumber; awake, awake from your sleep, you who mind vanity, for slumber most heavy has fallen upon you. Take it to heart, before Whom you are to give an account in the judgment.’ May not some such formula also have been anciently used in the synagogue; and may not the remembrance of it have been present to the mind of the apostle, when he wrote (Eph 5:14): ‘Wherefore it is said, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light’! If so, we may possibly find an allusion to the appearance of the new moon, specially to that of the seventh month, in these words of one of the preceding verses (Eph 5:8): ‘For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light’!
The Day of Atonement
‘But into the second (tabernacle) went the high-priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people…But Christ being come an high-priest of good things to come…by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.’–Hebrews 9:7, 11, 12
Weakness of the Law
It may sound strange, and yet it is true, that the clearest testimony to ‘the weakness and unprofitableness’ ‘of the commandment’ is that given by ‘the commandment’ itself. The Levitical arrangements for the removal of sin bear on their forefront, as it were, this inscription: ‘The law made nothing perfect’–having neither a perfect mediatorship in the priesthood, nor a perfect ‘atonement’ in the sacrifices, nor yet a perfect forgiveness as the result of both. ‘For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect’ (Heb 10:1). And this appears, first, from the continual recurrence and the multiplicity of these sacrifices, which are intended the one to supplement the other, and yet always leave something to be still supplemented; and, secondly, from the broad fact that, in general, ‘it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins’ (Heb 10:4). It is therefore evident that the Levitical dispensation, being stamped with imperfectness alike in the means which it employed for the ‘taking away’ of sin, and in the results which it obtained by these means, declared itself, like John the Baptist, only a ‘forerunner,’ the breaker up and preparer of the way–not the satisfying, but, on the contrary, the calling forth and ‘the bringing in of a better hope’ (Heb 7:19; see marginal rendering).
The Day of Atonement
As might have been expected, this ‘weakness and unprofitableness of the commandment’ became most apparent in the services of the day in which the Old Testament provision for pardon and acceptance attained, so to speak, its climax. On the Day of Atonement, not ordinary priests, but the high-priest alone officiated, and that not in his ordinary dress, nor yet in that of the ordinary priesthood, but in one peculiar to the day, and peculiarly expressive of purity. The worshippers also appeared in circumstances different from those on any other occasion, since they were to fast and to ‘afflict their souls’; the day itself was to be ‘a Sabbath of Sabbatism’ (rendered ‘Sabbath of rest’ in Authorised Version), while its central services consisted of a series of grand expiatory sacrifices, unique in their character, purpose, and results, as described in these words: ‘He shall make an atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make an atonement for the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the altar, and he shall make an atonement for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation’ (Lev 16:33). But even the need of such a Day of Atonement, after the daily offerings, the various festive sacrifices, and the private and public sin-offerings all the year round, showed the insufficiency of all such sacrifices, while the very offerings of the Day of Atonement proclaimed themselves to be only temporary and provisional, ‘imposed until the time of reformation.’ We specially allude here to the mysterious appearance of the so-called ‘scape-goat,’ of which we shall, in the sequel, have to give an account differing from that of previous writers.
The names ‘Day of Atonement,’ or in the Talmud, which devotes to it a special tractate, simply ‘the day’ (perhaps also in Hebrews 7:27 *), and in the Book of Acts ‘the fast’ (Acts 27:9), sufficiently designate its general object.
* In that case we should translate Hebrews 7:27, ‘Who needeth not on each day (viz. of atonement), as those high-priests, to offer up his sacrifices,’ etc.
It took place on the tenth day of the seventh month (Tishri), that is, symbolically, when the sacred or Sabbath of months had just attained its completeness. Nor must we overlook the position of that day relatively to the other festivals. The seventh or sabbatical month closed the festive cycle, the Feast of Tabernacles on the 15th of that month being the last in the year. But, as already stated, before that grand festival of harvesting and thanksgiving Israel must, as a nation, be reconciled unto God, for only a people at peace with God might rejoice before Him in the blessing with which He had crowned the year. And the import of the Day of Atonement, as preceding the Feast of Tabernacles, becomes only more striking, when we remember how that feast of harvesting prefigured the final ingathering of all nations. In connection with this point it may also be well to remember that the Jubilee Year was always proclaimed on the Day of Atonement (Lev 25:9). *
* According to the Jewish view, it was also the day on which Adam had both sinned and repented; that on which Abraham was circumcised; and that on which Moses returned from the mount and made atonement for the sin of the golden calf.
The Teaching of Scripture about the Day
In briefly reviewing the Divine ordinances about this day (Lev 16; 23:26-32; Num 29:11), we find that only on that one day in every year the high-priest was allowed to go into the Most Holy Place, and then arrayed in a peculiar white dress, which differed from that of the ordinary priests, in that its girdle also was white, and not of the Temple colours, while ‘the bonnet’ was of the same shape, though not the same material as ‘the mitre,’ which the high-priest ordinarily wore. The simple white of his array, in distinction to the ‘golden garments’ which he otherwise wore, pointed to the fact that on that day the high-priest appeared, not ‘as the bridegroom of Jehovah,’ but as bearing in his official capacity the emblem of that perfect purity which was sought by the expiations of that day. Thus in the prophecies of Zechariah the removal of Joshua’s ‘filthy garments’ and the clothing him with ‘change of raiment,’ symbolically denoted–‘I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee’ (Zech 3:3,4). Similarly those who stand nearest to God are always described as arrayed ‘in white’ (see Eze 9:2, etc.; Dan 10:5; 12:6). And because these were emphatically ‘the holy garments,’ ‘therefore’ the high-priest had to ‘wash his flesh in water, and so put them on’ (Lev 16:4), that is, he was not merely to wash his hands and feet, as before ordinary ministrations, but to bathe his whole body.
From Numbers 29:7-11 it appears that the offerings on the Day of Atonement were really of a threefold kind–‘the continual burnt-offering,’ that is, the daily morning and evening sacrifices, with their meat- and drink-offerings; the festive sacrifices of the day, consisting for the high-priest and the priesthood, of ‘a ram for a burnt-offering’ (Lev 16:3), and for the people of one young bullock, one ram, and seven lambs of the first year (with their meat-offerings) for a burnt-sacrifice, and one kid of the goats for a sin-offering; and, thirdly, and chiefly, the peculiar expiatory sacrifices of the day, which were a young bullock as a sin-offering for the high-priest, his house, and the sons of Aaron, and another sin-offering for the people, consisting of two goats, one of which was to be killed and its blood sprinkled, as directed, while the other was to be sent away into the wilderness, bearing ‘all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins’ which had been confessed ‘over him,’ and laid upon him by the high-priest. Before proceeding further, we note the following as the order of these sacrifices–first, the ordinary morning sacrifice; next the expiatory sacrifices for the high-priest, the priesthood, and the people (one bullock, and one of the two goats, the other being the so-called scape-goat); then the festive burnt-offerings of the priests and the people (Num 29:7-11), and with them another sin-offering; and, lastly, the ordinary evening sacrifice, being, as Maimonides observes, in all fifteen sacrificial animals. According to Jewish tradition, the whole of the services of that day were performed by the high-priest himself, of course with the assistance of others, for which purpose more than 500 priests were said to have been employed. Of course, if the Day of Atonement fell on a Sabbath, besides all these, the ordinary Sabbath sacrifices were also offered. On a principle previously explained, the high-priest purchased from his own funds the sacrifices brought for himself and his house, the priesthood, however, contributing, in order to make them sharers in the offering, while the public sacrifices for the whole people were paid for from the Temple treasury. Only while officiating in the distinctly expiatory services of the day did the high-priest wear his ‘linen garments’; in all the others he was arrayed in his ‘golden vestments.’ This necessitated a frequent change of dress, and before each he bathed his whole body. All this will be best understood by a more detailed account of the order of service, as given in the Scriptures and by tradition.
The Duties of the High-priest
Seven days before the Day of Atonement the high-priest left his own house in Jerusalem, and took up his abode in his chambers in the Temple. A substitute was appointed for him, in case he should die or become Levitically unfit for his duties. Rabbinical punctiliousness went so far as to have him twice sprinkled with the ashes of the red heifer–on the 3rd and the 7th day of his week of separation–in case he had unwittingly to himself, been defiled by a dead body (Num 19:13). *
* May not the ‘sprinkling of the ashes of an heifer’ in Hebrews 9:13 refer to this? The whole section bears on the Day of Atonement.
During the whole of that week, also, he had to practise the various priestly rites, such as sprinkling the blood, burning the incense, lighting the lamp, offering the daily sacrifice, etc. For, as already stated, every part of that day’s services devolved on the high-priest, and he must not commit any mistake. Some of the elders of the Sanhedrim were appointed to see to it, that the high-priest fully understood, and knew the meaning of the service, otherwise they were to instruct him in it. On the eve of the Day of Atonement the various sacrifices were brought before him, that there might be nothing strange about the services of the morrow. Finally, they bound him by a solemn oath not to change anything in the rites of the day. This was chiefly for fear of the Sadducean notion, that the incense should be lighted before the high-priest actually entered into the Most Holy Place; while the Pharisees held that this was to be done only within the Most Holy Place itself. *
* The only interesting point here is the Scriptural argument on which the Sadducees based their view. They appealed to Leviticus 16:2, and explained the expression, ‘I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy-seat,’ in a rationalistic sense as applying to the cloud of incense, not to that of the Divine Presence, while the Pharisees appealed to verse 13.
The evening meal of the high-priest before the great day was to be scanty. All night long he was to be hearing and expounding the Holy Scriptures, or otherwise kept employed, so that he might not fall asleep (for special Levitical reasons). At midnight the lot was cast for removing the ashes and preparing the altar; and to distinguish the Day of Atonement from all others, four, instead of the usual three, fires were arranged on the great altar of burnt-offering.
The Morning Service
The services of the day began with the first streak of morning light. Already the people had been admitted into the sanctuary. So jealous were they of any innovation or alteration, that only a linen cloth excluded the high-priest from public view, when, each time before changing his garments, he bathed–not in the ordinary place of the priests, but in one specially set apart for his use. Altogether he changed his raiments and washed his whole body five times on that day, * and his hands and feet ten times. **
* In case of age or infirmity, the bath was allowed to be heated, either by adding warm water, or by putting hot irons into it.
** The high-priest did not on that day wash in the ordinary laver, but in a golden vessel specially provided for the purpose.
When the first dawn of morning was announced in the usual manner, the high-priest put off his ordinary (layman’s) dress, bathed, put on his golden vestments, washed his hands and feet, and proceeded to perform all the principal parts of the ordinary morning service. Tradition has it, that immediately after that, he offered certain parts of the burnt-sacrifices for the day, viz. the bullock and the seven lambs, reserving his own ram and that of the people, as well as the sin-offering of a kid of the goats (Num 29:8-11), till after the special expiatory sacrifices of the day had been brought. But the text of Leviticus 16:24 is entirely against this view, and shows that the whole of the burnt-offerings and the festive sin-offering were brought after the expiatory services. Considering the relation between these services and sacrifices, this might, at any rate, have been expected, since a burnt-offering could only be acceptable after, not before, expiation.
The morning service finished, the high-priest washed his hands and feet, put off his golden vestments, bathed, put on his ‘linen garments,’ again washed his hands and feet, and proceeded to the peculiar part of the day’s services. The bullock for his sin-offering stood between the Temple-porch and the altar. It was placed towards the south, but the high-priest, who stood facing the east (that is, the worshippers), turned the head of the sacrifice towards the west (that is, to face the sanctuary). He then laid both his hands upon the head of the bullock, and confessed as follows:–‘Ah, JEHOVAH! I have committed iniquity; I have transgressed; I have sinned–I and my house. Oh, then, JEHOVAH, I entreat Thee, cover over (atone for, let there be atonement for) the iniquities, the transgressions, and the sins which I have committed, transgressed, and sinned before Thee, I and my house–even as it is written in the law of Moses, Thy servant: „For, on that day will He cover over (atone) for you to make you clean; from all your transgressions before JEHOVAH ye shall be cleansed.”‘ It will be noticed that in this solemn confession the name JEHOVAH occurred three times. Other three times was it pronounced in the confession which the high-priest made over the same bullock for the priesthood; a seventh time was it uttered when he cast the lot as to which of the two goats was to be ‘for JEHOVAH’; and once again he spoke it three times in the confession over the so-called ‘scape-goat’ which bore the sins of the people. All these ten times the high-priest pronounced the very name of JEHOVAH, and, as he spoke it, those who stood near cast themselves with their faces on the ground, while the multitude responded: ‘Blessed be the Name; the glory of His kingdom is for ever and ever’ (in support of this benediction, reference is made to Deut 32:3). Formerly it had been the practice to pronounce the so-called ‘Ineffable Name’ distinctly, but afterwards, when some attempted to make use of it for magical purposes, it was spoken with bated breath, and, as one relates (Rabbi Tryphon in the Jerus. Talm.) * who had stood among the priests in the Temple and listened with rapt attention to catch the mysterious name, it was lost amidst the sound of the priests’ instruments, as they accompanied the benediction of the people.
* Possibly some readers may not know that the Jews never pronounce the word Jehovah, but always substitute for it ‘Lord’ (printed in capitals in the Authorised Version). Indeed, the right pronunciation of the word has been lost, and is matter of dispute, all that we have in the Hebrew being the letters I. H. V. H.–forming the so-called tetragrammaton, or ‘four-lettered word.’
Choosing the Scape-goat
The first part of the expiatory service–that for the priesthood–had taken place close to the Holy Place, between the porch and the altar. The next was performed close to the worshipping people. In the eastern part of the Court of Priests, that is, close to the worshippers, and on the north side of it, stood an urn, called Calpi, in which were two lots of the same shape, size, and material–in the second Temple they were of gold; the one bearing the inscription ‘la-JEHOVAH,’ for Jehovah, the other ‘la-Azazel,’ for Azazel, leaving the expression (Lev 16:8,10,26) (rendered ‘scape-goat’ in the Authorised Version) for the present untranslated. These two goats had been placed with their backs to the people and their faces towards the sanctuary (westwards). The high-priest now faced the people, as, standing between his substitute (at his right hand) and the head of the course on ministry (on his left hand), he shook the urn, thrust his two hands into it, and at the same time drew the two lots, laying one on the head of each goat. Popularly it was deemed of good augury if the right-hand lot had fallen ‘for Jehovah.’ The two goats, however, must be altogether alike in look, size, and value; indeed, so earnestly was it sought to carry out the idea that these two formed parts of one and the same sacrifice, that it was arranged they should, if possible, even be purchased at the same time. The importance of this view will afterwards be explained.
The Goat Shown to the People
The lot having designated each of the two goats, the high-priest tied a tongue-shaped piece of scarlet cloth to the horn of the goat for Azazel–the so-called ‘scape-goat’–and another round the throat of the goat for Jehovah, which was to be slain. The goat that was to be sent forth was now turned round towards the people, and stood facing them, waiting, as it were, till their sins should be laid on him, and he would carry them forth into ‘a land not inhabited.’ Assuredly a more marked type of Christ could not be conceived, as He was brought forth by Pilate and stood before the people, just as He was about to be led forth, bearing the iniquity of the people. And, as if to add to the significance of the rite, tradition has it that when the sacrifice was fully accepted the scarlet mark which the scape-goat had borne became white, to symbolise the gracious promise in Isaiah 1:18; but it adds that this miracle did not take place for forty years before the destruction of the Temple!
The Confession of Sin and the Sacrifice
With this presentation of the scape-goat before the people commenced the third and most solemn part of the expiatory services of the day. The high-priest now once more returned towards the sanctuary, and a second time laid his two hands on the bullock, which still stood between the porch and the altar, to confess over him, not only as before, his own and his household’s sins, but also those of the priesthood. The formula used was precisely the same as before, with the addition of the words, ‘the seed of Aaron, Thy holy people,’ both in the confession and in the petition for atonement. Then the high-priest killed the bullock, caught up his blood in a vessel, and gave it to an attendant to keep it stirring, lest it should coagulate. Advancing to the altar of burnt-offering, he next filled the censer with burning coals, and then ranged a handful of frankincense in the dish destined to hold it. Ordinarily, everything brought in actual ministry unto God must be carried in the right hand–hence the incense in the right and the censer in the left. But on this occasion, as the censer for the Day of Atonement was larger and heavier than usual, the high-priest was allowed to reverse the common order. Every eye was strained towards the sanctuary as, slowly bearing the censer and the incense, the figure of the white-robed high-priest was seen to disappear within the Holy Place. After that nothing further could be seen of his movements.
The curtain of the Most Holy Place was folded back, and the high-priest stood alone and separated from all the people in the awful gloom of the Holiest of All, only lit up by the red glow of the coals in the priest’s censer. In the first Temple the ark of God had stood there with the ‘mercy-seat’ over-shadowing it; above it, the visible presence of Jehovah in the cloud of the Shechinah, and on either side the outspread wings of the cherubim; and the high-priest had placed the censer between the staves of the ark. But in the Temple of Herod there was neither Shechinah nor ark–all was empty; and the high-priest rested his censer on a large stone, called the ‘foundation-stone.’ He now most carefully emptied the incense into his hand, and threw it on the coals of the censer, as far from himself as possible, and so waited till the smoke had filled the Most Holy Place. Then, retreating backwards, he prayed outside the veil as follows: * ‘May it please Thee, O Lord our God, and the God of our fathers, that neither this day nor during this year any captivity come upon us. Yet, if captivity befall us this day or this year, let it be to a place where the law is cultivated. May it please Thee, O Lord our God, and the God of our fathers, that want come not upon us, either this day or this year. But if want visit us this day or this year, let it be due to the liberality of our charitable deeds. May it please Thee, O Lord our God, and the God of our fathers, that this year may be a year of cheapness, of fulness, of intercourse and trade; a year with abundance of rain, of sunshine, and of dew; one in which Thy people Israel shall not require assistance one from another. And listen not to the prayers of those who are about to set out on a journey. ** And as to Thy people Israel, may no enemy exalt himself against them. May it please Thee, O Lord our God, and the God of our fathers, that the houses of the men of Saron may not become their graves.’ *** The high-priest was not to prolong this prayer, lest his protracted absence might fill the people with fears for his safety.
* We give the prayer in its simplest form from the Talmud. But we cannot help feeling that its form savours of later than Temple-times. Probably only its substance dates from those days, and each high-priest may have been at liberty to formulate it according to his own views.
** Who might pray against the fall of rain. It must be remembered that the autumn rains, on which the fruitfulness of the land depended, were just due.
*** This on account of the situation of that valley, which was threatened either by sudden floods or by dangerous landslips.
The Sprinkling of the Blood
While the incense was offering in the Most Holy Place the people withdrew from proximity to it, and worshipped in silence. At last the people saw the high-priest emerging from the sanctuary, and they knew that the service had been accepted. Rapidly he took from the attendant, who had kept it stirring, the blood of the bullock. Once more he entered into the Most Holy Place, and sprinkled with his finger once upwards, towards where the mercy-seat had been, and seven times downwards, counting as he did so : ‘Once’ (upwards), ‘once and once’ (downwards), ‘once and twice’ and so on to ‘once and seven times,’ always repeating the word ‘once,’ which referred to the upwards sprinkling, so as to prevent any mistake. Coming out from the Most Holy Place, the high-priest now deposited the bowl with the blood before the veil. Then he killed the goat set apart for Jehovah, and, entering the Most Holy Place a third time, sprinkled as before, once upwards and seven times downwards, and again deposited the bowl with the blood of the goat on a second golden stand before the veil. Taking up the bowl with the bullock’s blood, he next sprinkled once upwards and seven times downwards towards the veil, outside the Most Holy Place, and then did the same with the blood of the goat. Finally, pouring the blood of the bullock into the bowl which contained that of the goat, and again the mixture of the two into that which had held the blood of the bullock, so as thoroughly to commingle the two, he sprinkled each of the horns of the altar of incense, and then, making a clear place on the altar, seven times the top of the altar of incense. Thus he had sprinkled forty-three times with the expiatory blood, taking care that his own dress should never be spotted with the sin-laden blood. What was left of the blood the high-priest poured out on the west side of the base of the altar of burnt-offering.
The Cleansing Completed
By these expiatory sprinklings the high-priest had cleansed the sanctuary in all its parts from the defilement of the priesthood and the worshippers. The Most Holy Place, the veil, the Holy Place, the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt-offering were now clean alike, so far as the priesthood and as the people were concerned; and in their relationship to the sanctuary both priests and worshippers were atoned for. So far as the law could give it, there was now again free access for all; or, to put it otherwise, the continuance of typical sacrificial communion with God was once more restored and secured. Had it not been for these services, it would have become impossible for priests and people to offer sacrifices, and so to obtain the forgiveness of sins, or to have fellowship with God. But the consciences were not yet free from a sense of personal guilt and sin. That remained to be done through the ‘scape-goat.’ All this seems clearly implied in the distinctions made in Leviticus 16:33: ‘And he shall make an atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make an atonement for the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the altar, and he shall make an atonement for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation.’
Most solemn as the services had hitherto been, the worshippers would chiefly think with awe of the high-priest going into the immediate presence of God, coming out thence alive, and securing for them by the blood the continuance of the Old Testament privileges of sacrifices and of access unto God through them. What now took place concerned them, if possible, even more nearly. Their own personal guilt and sins were now to be removed from them, and that in a symbolical rite, at one and the same time the most mysterious and the most significant of all. All this while the ‘scape-goat,’ with the ‘scarlet-tongue,’ telling of the guilt it was to bear, had stood looking eastwards, confronting the people, and waiting for the terrible load which it was to carry away ‘unto a land not inhabited.’ Laying both his hands on the head of this goat, the high-priest now confessed and pleaded: ‘Ah, JEHOVAH! they have committed iniquity; they have transgressed; they have sinned–Thy people, the house of Israel. Oh, then, JEHOVAH! cover over (atone for), I entreat Thee, upon their iniquities, their transgressions, and their sins, which they have wickedly committed, transgressed, and sinned before Thee–Thy people, the house of Israel. As it is written in the law of Moses, Thy servant, saying: „For on that day shall it be covered over (atoned) for you, to make you clean from all your sins before JEHOVAH ye shall be cleansed.”‘ And while the prostrate multitude worshipped at the name of Jehovah, the high-priest turned his face towards them as he uttered the last words, ‘Ye shall be cleansed!’ as if to declare to them the absolution and remission of their sins.
The Goat Sent into the Wilderness
Then a strange scene would be witnessed. The priests led the sin-burdened goat out through ‘Solomon’s Porch,’ and, as tradition has it, through the eastern gate, which opened upon the Mount of Olives. *
* The Talmud has it, that the foreign Jews present used to burst into words and deeds of impatience, that the ‘sin-bearer’ might be gone.
Here an arched bridge spanned the intervening valley, and over it they brought the goat to the Mount of Olives, where one, specially appointed for the purpose, took him in charge. Tradition enjoins that he should be a stranger, a non-Israelite, as if to make still more striking the type of Him who was delivered over by Israel unto the Gentiles! Scripture tells us no more of the destiny of the goat that bore upon him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, than that they ‘shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness,’ and that ‘he shall let go the goat in the wilderness’ (Lev 16:22). But tradition supplements this information. The distance between Jerusalem and the beginning of ‘the wilderness’ is computed at ninety stadia, making precisely ten intervals, each half a Sabbath-day’s journey from the other. At the end of each of these intervals there was a station, occupied by one or more persons, detailed for the purpose, who offered refreshment to the man leading the goat, and then accompanied him to the next station. By this arrangement two results were secured: some trusted persons accompanied the goat all along his journey, and yet none of them walked more than a Sabbath-day’s journey–that is, half a journey going and the other half returning. At last they reached the edge of the wilderness. Here they halted, viewing afar off, while the man led forward the goat, tore off half the ‘scarlet-tongue,’ and stuck it on a projecting cliff; then, leading the animal backwards, he pushed it over the projecting ledge of rock. There was a moment’s pause, and the man, now defiled by contact with the sin-bearer, retraced his steps to the last of the ten stations, where he spent the rest of the day and the night. But the arrival of the goat in the wilderness was immediately telegraphed, by the waving of flags, from station to station, till, a few minutes after its occurrence, it was known in the Temple, and whispered from ear to ear, that ‘the goat had borne upon him all their iniquities into a land not inhabited.’
The Meaning of the Rite
What then was the meaning of a rite on which such momentous issue depended? Everything about it seems strange and mysterious–the lot that designated it, and that ‘to Azazel’; the fact, that though the highest of all sin-offerings, it was neither sacrificed nor its blood sprinkled in the Temple; and the circumstance that it really was only part of a sacrifice–the two goats together forming one sacrifice, one of them being killed, and the other ‘let go,’ there being no other analogous case of the kind except at the purification of a leper, when one bird was killed and the other dipped in its blood, and let go free. Thus these two sacrifices–one in the removal of what symbolically represented indwelling sin, the other contracted guilt–agreed in requiring two animals, of whom one was killed, the other ‘let go.’ This is not the place to discuss the various views entertained of the import of the scape-goat. But it is destructive of one and all of the received interpretations, that the sins of the people were confessed not on the goat which was killed, but on that which was ‘let go in the wilderness,’ and that it was this goat–not the other–which ‘bore upon him all the iniquities’ of the people. So far as the conscience was concerned, this goat was the real and the only sin-offering ‘for all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins,’ for upon it the high-priest laid the sins of the people, after he had by the blood of the bullock and of the other goat ‘made an end of reconciling the Holy Place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar’ (Lev 16:20). The blood sprinkled had effected this; but it had done no more, and it could do no more, for it ‘could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience’ (Heb 9:9). The symbolical representation of this perfecting was by the live goat, which, laden with the confessed sins of the people, carried them away into ‘the wilderness’ to ‘a land not inhabited.’ The only meaning of which this seems really capable, is that though confessed guilt was removed from the people to the head of the goat, as the symbolical substitute, yet as the goat was not killed, only sent far away, into ‘a land not inhabited,’ so, under the Old Covenant, sin was not really blotted out, only put away from the people, and put aside till Christ came, not only to take upon Himself the burden of transgression, but to blot it out and to purge it away. *
* May there be here also a reference to the doctrine of Christ’s descent into Hades?
The Teaching of Scripture
Thus viewed, not only the text of Leviticus 16, but the language of Hebrews 9 and 10, which chiefly refer to the Day of Atonement, becomes plain. The ‘blood,’ both of the bullock and of the goat which the high-priest carried ‘once a year’ within ‘the sacred veil,’ was ‘offered for himself (including the priesthood) and for the errors (or rather ignorances) of the people.’ In the language of Leviticus 16:20, it reconciled ‘the Holy Place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar,’ that is, as already explained, it rendered on the part of priests and people the continuance of sacrificial worship possible. But this live scape-goat ‘let go’ in the wilderness, over which, in the exhaustive language of Leviticus 16:21, the high-priest had confessed and on which he had laid ‘all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins,’ meant something quite different. It meant the inherent ‘weakness and unprofitableness of the commandment’; it meant, that ‘the law made nothing perfect, but was the bringing in of a better hope’; that in the covenant mercy of God guilt and sin were indeed removed from the people, that they were ‘covered up,’ and in that sense atoned for, or rather that they were both ‘covered up’ and removed, but that they were not really taken away and destroyed till Christ came; that they were only taken into a land not inhabited, till He should blot it out by His own blood; that the provision which the Old Testament made was only preparatory and temporary, until the ‘time of the reformation’; and that hence real and true forgiveness of sins, and with it the spirit of adoption, could only be finally obtained after the death and resurrection of ‘the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.’ Thus in the fullest sense it was true of the ‘fathers,’ that ‘these all…received not the promise: God having provided some better things for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.’ For ‘the law having a shadow of the good things to come,’ could not ‘make the comers thereunto perfect’; nor yet was it possible ‘that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.’ The live goat ‘let go’ was every year a remover of sins which yet were never really removed in the sense of being blotted out–only deposited, as it were, and reserved till He came ‘whom God hath set forth as a propitiation…because of the passing over of the former sins, in the forbearance of God’ (Rom 3:25). *
* We have generally adopted the rendering of Dean Alford, where the reader will perceive any divergence from the Authorised Version.
‘And for this cause He is the mediatory of a new covenant, in order that, death having taken place for the propitiation of the transgressions under the first covenant, they which have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance’ (Heb 9:15).
This is not the place for following the argument further. Once understood, many passages will recur which manifest how the Old Testament removal of sin was shown in the law itself to have been complete indeed, so far as the individual was concerned, but not really and in reference to God, till He came to Whom as the reality these types pointed, and Who ‘now once at the end of the world hath been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself’ (Heb 9:26). And thus did the types themselves prove their own inadequacy and insufficiency, showing that they had only ‘a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things themselves’ (Heb 10:1). With this also agree the terms by which in the Old Testament atonement is designated as a ‘covering up’ by a substitute, and the mercy-seat as ‘the place of covering over.’
The Term ‘la-Azazel’
After this it is comparatively of secondary importance to discuss, so far as we can in these pages, the question of the meaning of the term ‘la-Azazel’ (Lev 16:8,10,26). Both the interpretation which makes it a designation of the goat itself (as ‘scape-goat’ in our Authorised Version), and that which would refer it to a certain locality in the wilderness, being, on many grounds, wholly untenable, two other views remain, one of which regards Azazel as a person, and denoting Satan; while the other would render the term by ‘complete removal.’ The insurmountable difficulties connected with the first of these notions lie on the surface. In reference to the second, it may be said that it not only does violence to Hebrew grammar, but implies that the goat which was to be for ‘complete removal’ was not even to be sacrificed, but actually ‘let go!’ Besides, what in that case could be the object of the first goat which was killed, and whose blood was sprinkled in the Most Holy Place? We may here at once state, that the later Jewish practice of pushing the goat over a rocky precipice was undoubtedly on innovation, in no wise sanctioned by the law of Moses, and not even introduced at the time the Septuagint translation was made, as its rendering of Leviticus 16:26 shows. The law simply ordained that the goat, once arrived in ‘the land not inhabited,’ was to be ‘let go’ free, and the Jewish ordinance of having it pushed over the rocks is signally characteristic of the Rabbinical perversion of its spiritual type. The word Azazel, which only occurs in Leviticus 16, is by universal consent derived from a root which means ‘wholly to put aside,’ or, ‘wholly to go away.’ Whether, therefore, we render ‘la-Azazel’ by ‘for him who is wholly put aside,’ that is, the sin-bearing Christ, or ‘for being wholly separated,’ or ‘put wholly aside or away,’ the truth is still the same, as pointing through the temporary and provisional removal of sin by the goat ‘let go’ in ‘the land not inhabited,’ to the final, real, and complete removal of sin by the Lord Jesus Christ, as we read it in Isaiah 53:6: ‘Jehovah hath made the iniquities of us all to meet on Him.’
The Carcasses Burnt ‘Outside the City’
While the scape-goat was being led into the wilderness, the high-priest proceeded to cut up the bullock and the goat with whose blood he had previously ‘made atonement,’ put the ‘inwards’ in a vessel which he committed to an attendant, and sent the carcasses to be burnt ‘outside the city,’ in the place where the Temple ashes were usually deposited. Then, according to tradition, the high-priest, still wearing the linen garments, * went into the ‘Court of the Women,’ and read the passages of Scripture bearing on the Day of Atonement, viz. Leviticus 16; 23:27-32; also repeating by heart Numbers 29:7-11.
* But this was not strictly necessary; he might in this part of the service have even officiated in his ordinary layman’s dress.
A series of prayers accompanied this reading of the Scriptures. The most interesting of these supplications may be thus summed up:–Confession of sin with prayer for forgiveness, closing with the words, ‘Praise be to Thee, O Lord, Who in Thy mercy forgivest the sins of Thy people Israel‘; prayer for the permanence of the Temple, and that the Divine Majesty might shine in it, closing with–‘Praise be to Thee, O Lord, Who inhabitest Zion‘; prayer for the establishment and safety of Israel, and the continuance of a king among them, closing–‘Thanks be to Thee, O Lord, Who hast chosen Israel‘; prayer for the priesthood, that all their doings, but especially their sacred services, might be acceptable unto God, and He be gracious unto them, closing with–‘Thanks be to Thee, O Lord, Who hast sanctified the priesthood‘; and, finally (in the language of Maimonides), prayers, entreaties, hymns, and petitions of the high-priest’s own, closing with the words: ‘Give help, O Lord, to Thy people Israel, for Thy people needeth help; thanks be unto Thee, O Lord, Who hearest prayer.’
The High-priest in Golden Garments
These prayers ended, the high-priest washed his hands and feet, put off his ‘linen,’ and put on his ‘golden vestments,’ and once more washed hands and feet before proceeding to the next ministry. He now appeared again before the people as the Lord’s anointed in the golden garments of the bride-chamber. Before he offered the festive burnt-offerings of the day, he sacrificed ‘one kid of the goats for a sin-offering’ (Num 29:16), probably with special reference to these festive services, which, like everything else, required atoning blood for their acceptance. The flesh of this sin-offering was eaten at night by the priests within the sanctuary. Next, he sacrificed the burnt-offerings for the people and that for himself (one ram, Lev 16:3), and finally burned the ‘inwards’ of the expiatory offerings, whose blood had formerly been sprinkled in the Most Holy Place. This, properly speaking, finished the services of the day. But the high-priest had yet to offer the ordinary evening sacrifice, after which he washed his hands and his feet, once more put off his ‘golden’ and put on his ‘linen garments,’ and again washed his hands and feet. This before entering the Most Holy Place a fourth time on that day, * to fetch from it the censer and incense-dish which he had left there.
* Hebrews 9:7 states that the high-priest went ‘once in every year,’ that is, on one day in every year, not on one occasion during that day.
On his return he washed once more hands and feet, put off his linen garments, which were never to be used again, put on his golden vestments, washed hands and feet, burnt the evening incense on the golden altar, lit the lamps on the candlestick for the night, washed his hands and feet, put on his ordinary layman’s dress, and was escorted by the people in procession to his own house in Jerusalem. The evening closed with a feast.
If this ending of the Day of Atonement seems incongruous, the Mishnah records (Taan. iv. 8) something yet more strange in connection with the day itself. It is said that on the afternoon of the 15th of Ab, when the collection of wood for the sanctuary was completed, and on that of the Day of Atonement, the maidens of Jerusalem went in white garments, specially lent them for the purpose, so that rich and poor might be on an equality, into the vineyards close to the city, where they danced and sung. The following fragment of one of their songs has been preserved: *
‘Around in circle gay, the Hebrew maidens see;
From them our happy youths their partners choose.
Remember! Beauty soon its charm must lose–
And seek to win a maid of fair degree.
When fading grace and beauty low are laid,
Then praise shall her who fears the Lord await;
God does bless her handiwork–and, in the gate,
„Her works do follow her,” it shall be said.’
* The Talmud repeatedly states the fact and gives the song. Nevertheless we have some doubt on the subject, though the reporter in the Mishnah is said to be none other than Rabbi Simeon, the son of Gamaliel, Paul’s teacher.
The Day of Atonement in the Modern Synagogue
We will not here undertake the melancholy task of describing what the modern synagogue has made the Day of Atonement, nor how it observes the occasion–chiefly in view of their gloomy thoughts, that on that day man’s fate for the year, if not his life or death, is finally fixed. But even the Mishnah already contains similar perverted notions of how the day should be kept, and what may be expected from its right observance (Mish. Yoma, viii). Rigorous rest and rigorous fasting are enjoined from sundown of one day to the appearance of the first stars on the next. Neither food nor drink of any kind may be tasted; a man may not even wash, nor anoint himself, nor put on his sandals. *
* Only woollen socks are to be used–the only exception is, where there is fear of serpents or scorpions.
The sole exception made is in favour of the sick and of children, who are only bound to the full fast–girls at the age of twelve years and one day, and boys at that of thirteen years and one day, though it is recommended to train them earlier to it. *
* Kings and brides within thirty days of their wedding are allowed to wash their faces; the use of a towel which has been dipped the previous day in water is also conceded.
In return for all this ‘affliction’ Israel may expect that death along with the Day of Atonement will finally blot out all sins! That is all–the Day of Atonement and our own death! Such are Israel’s highest hopes of expiation! It is unspeakably saddening to follow this subject further through the minutiae of rabbinical ingenuity–how much exactly the Day of Atonement will do for a man; what proportion of his sins it will remit, and what merely suspend; how much is left over for after-chastisements, and how much for final extinction at death. The law knows nothing of such miserable petty misrepresentations of the free pardon of God. In the expiatory sacrifices of the Day of Atonement every kind * of transgression, trespass, and sin is to be removed from the people of God.
* For high-handed, purposed sins, the law provided no sacrifice (Heb 10:26), and it is even doubtful whether they are included in the declaration Leviticus 16:21, wide as it is. Thank God, we know that ‘the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth from all sin,’ without exception.
Yet annually anew, and each time confessedly only provisionally, not really and finally, till the gracious promise (Jer 31:34) should be fulfilled: ‘I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.’ Accordingly it is very marked, how in the prophetic, or it may be symbolical, description of Ezekiel’s Temple (Eze 40-46) all mention of the Day of Atonement is omitted; for Christ has come ‘an high-priest of good things to come,’ and ‘entered in once into the Holy Place,’ ‘to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself’ (Heb 9:11,12,26).
‘And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the Temple in Solomon’s Porch.’–John 10:22, 23
Besides the festivals mentioned in the Law of Moses, other festive seasons were also observed at the time of our Lord, to perpetuate the memory either of great national deliverances or of great national calamities. The former were popular feasts, the latter public fasts. Though most, if not all of them, are alluded to in the Canonical Scriptures, it is extremely difficult to form a clear idea of how they were kept in the Temple. Many of the practices connected with them, as described in Jewish writings, or customary at present, are of much later date than Temple times, or else apply rather to the festive observances in the various synagogues of the land than to those in the central sanctuary. And the reason of this is evident. Though those who were at leisure might like to go to Jerusalem for every feast, yet the vast majority of the people would, except on the great festivals, naturally gather in the synagogues of their towns and villages. Moreover, these feasts and fasts were rather national than typical–they commemorated a past event instead of pointing forward to a great and world-important fact yet to be realised. Lastly, being of later, and indeed, of human, not Divine institution, the authorities at Jerusalem did not venture to prescribe for them special rites and sacrifices, which, as we have seen, constituted the essence of Temple worship.
Arranging these various feasts and fasts in the order of their institution and importance, we have:–
The Feast of Purim
1. The Feast of Purim, that is ‘of lots,’ or the Feast of Esther, also called in 2 Maccabees xv. 36 ‘the day of Mordecai,’ which was observed in memory of the preservation of the Jewish nation at the time of Esther. The name ‘Purim‘ is derived from ‘the lot’ which Haman cast in connection with his wicked desire (Esth 3:7; 9:24). It was proposed by Mordecai to perpetuate the anniversary of this great deliverance on the 14th and the 15th of Adar (about the beginning of March), and universally agreed to by the Jews of his time (Esth 9:17-24). Nevertheless, according to the Jerusalem Talmud, its general introduction after the return from Babylon formed a subject of grave doubt and deliberation among the ‘eighty-five elders’–a number which, according to tradition, included upwards of thirty prophets (Jer. Megillah, 70 b). *
* The learned Jost (Gesch. d. Judenth., i. 42, note 1) suggests that these ’85 elders’ were really the commencement of ‘the great synagogue,’ to which so many of the Jewish ordinances were traced in later times. The number was afterwards, as Jost thinks, arbitrarily increased to 120, which is that assigned by tradition to ‘the great synagogue.’ ‘The great synagogue’ may be regarded as the ‘constituent’ Jewish authority on all questions of ritual after the return from Babylon. Lastly, Jost suggests that the original 85 were the signatories to ‘the covenant,’ named in Nehemiah 10:1-27.
Even this shows that Purim was never more than a popular festival. As such it was kept with great merriment and rejoicing, when friends and relations were wont to send presents to each other. There seems little doubt that this was the ‘feast of the Jews,’ to which the Saviour ‘went up to Jerusalem’ (John 5:1), when He healed the ‘impotent man’ at the Pool of Bethesda. For no other feast could have intervened between December (John 4:35) and the Passover (John 6:4), except that of the ‘Dedication of the Temple,’ and that is specially designated as such (John 10:22), and not simply as ‘a feast of the Jews.’
Ceremonies of the Feast
So far as we can gather, the religious observances of Purim commenced with a fast–‘the Fast of Esther’–on the 13th of Adar. But if Purim fell on a Sabbath or a Friday, the fast was relegated to the previous Thursday, as it was not lawful to fast either on a Sabbath or the day preceding it. But even so, there were afterwards disputes between the Jews in Palestine and the much larger and more influential community that still resided in Babylon as to this fast, which seem to throw doubt on its very early observance. On the evening of the 13th of Adar, or rather on the beginning of the 14th, the Book of Esther, or the Megillah (‘the roll,’ as it is called par excellence), was publicly read, as also on the forenoon of the 14th day, except in ancient walled cities, where it was read on the 15th. In Jerusalem, therefore, it would be read on the evening of the 13th, and on the 15th–always provided the day fell not on a Sabbath, on which the Megillah was not allowed to be read. In the later Jewish calendar arrangements care was taken that the first day of Purim should fall on the first, the third, the fifth, or the sixth day of the week. Country people, who went into their market towns every week on the Monday and Thursday, were not required to come up again specially for Purim, and in such synagogues the Megillah, or at least the principal portions of it, was read on the previous Thursday. It was also allowed to read the Book of Esther in any language other than the Hebrew, if spoken by the Jews resident in the district, and any person, except he were deaf, an idiot or a minor, might perform this service. The prayers for the occasion now used in the synagogue, as also the practice of springing rattles and other noisy demonstrations of anger, contempt, and scorn, with which the name of Haman, where it occurs in the Megillah, is always greeted by young and old, are, of course, of much later date. Indeed, so far from prescribing any fixed form of prayer, the Mishnah (Megill. iv. 1) expressly leaves it an open question, to be determined according to the usage of a place, whether or not to accompany the reading of the Megillah with prayer. According to the testimony of Josephus (Antiq. xi. 6, 13), in his time ‘all the Jews that are in the habitable earth’ kept ‘these days festivals,’ and sent ‘portions to one another.’ In our own days, though the synagogue has prescribed for them special prayers and portions of Scripture, they are chiefly marked by boisterous and uproarious merrymaking, even beyond the limits of propriety.
The Feast of the Dedication of the Temple
2. The Feast of the Dedication of the Temple, Chanuchah (‘the dedication’), called in 1 Maccabees iv. 52-59 ‘the dedication of the altar,’ and by Josephus (Antiq. xii. 7, 7) ‘the Feast of Lights,’ was another popular and joyous festival. It was instituted by Judas Maccabeus in 164 BC, when, after the recovery of Jewish independence from the Syro-Grecian domination, the Temple of Jerusalem was solemnly purified, the old polluted altar removed, its stones put in a separate place on the Temple-mount, and the worship of the Lord restored. The feast commenced on the 25th of Chislev (December), and lasted for eight days. On each of them the ‘Hallel’ was sung, the people appeared carrying palm and other branches, and there was a grand illumination of the Temple and of all private houses. These three observances bear so striking a resemblance to what we know about the Feast of Tabernacles, that it is difficult to resist the impression of some intended connection between the two, in consequence of which the daily singing of the ‘Hallel,’ and the carrying of palm branches was adopted during the Feast of the Dedication, while the practice of Temple-illumination was similarly introduced into the Feast of Tabernacles. *
* In point of fact, the three are so compared in 2 Maccabees x. 6, and even the same name applied to them, i. 9, 18.
All this becomes the more interesting, when we remember, on the one hand, the typical meaning of the Feast of Tabernacles, and on the other that the date of the Feast of the Dedication–the 25th of Chislev–seems to have been adopted by the ancient Church as that of the birth of our blessed Lord–Christmas–the Dedication of the true Temple, which was the body of Jesus (John 2:19).
The Origin of this Festival
From the hesitating language of Josephus (Antiq. xii. 7, 7), we infer that even in his time the real origin of the practice of illuminating the Temple was unknown. Tradition, indeed, has it that when in the restored Temple the sacred candlestick * was to be lit, only one flagon of oil, sealed with the signet of the high-priest, was found to feed the lamps.
* According to tradition, the first candlestick in that Temple was of iron, tinned over; the second of silver, and then only a golden one was procured.
This, then, was pure oil, but the supply was barely sufficient for one day–when, lo, by a miracle, the oil increased, and the flagon remained filled for eight days, in memory of which it was ordered to illuminate for the same space of time the Temple and private houses. A learned Jewish writer, Dr. Herzfeld, suggests, that to commemorate the descent of fire from heaven upon the altar in the Temple of Solomon (2 Chron 7:1), ‘the feast of lights’ was instituted when the sacred fire was relit on the purified altar of the second Temple. But even so the practice varied in its details. Either the head of a house might light one candle for all the members of his family, or else a candle for each inmate, or if very religious he would increase the number of candles for each individual every evening, so that if a family of ten had begun the first evening with ten candles they would increase them the next evening to twenty, and so on, till on the eighth night eighty candles were lit. But here also there was a difference between the schools of Hillel and Shammai–the former observing the practice as just described, the latter burning the largest number of candles the first evening, and so on decreasingly to the last day of the feast. On the Feast of the Dedication, as at Purim and New Moons, no public fast was to be kept, though private mourning was allowed.
The forms of prayer at present in use by the Jews are of comparatively late date, and indeed the Karaites, who in many respects represent the more ancient traditions of Israel, do not observe the festival at all. But there cannot be a doubt that our blessed Lord Himself attended this festival at Jerusalem (John 10:22), on which occasion He told them plainly: ‘I and My Father are one.’ This gives it a far deeper significance than the rekindling of the fire on the altar, or even the connection of this feast with that of Tabernacles.
The Feast of Wood-offering
3. The Feast of Wood-offering took place on the 15th Ab (August), being the last of the nine occasions on which offerings of wood were brought for the use of the Temple. For the other eight occasions the Talmud names certain families as specially possessing this privilege, which they had probably originally received ‘by lot’ at the time of Nehemiah (Neh 10:34; 13:31). At any rate, the names mentioned in the Mishnah are exactly the same as those in the Book of Ezra (Ezra 2). But on the 15th of Ab, along with certain families, all the people–even proselytes, slaves, Nethinim, and bastards, but notably the priests and Levites, were allowed to bring up wood, whence also the day is called ‘the time of wood for the priests.’ The other eight seasons were the 20th of Elul (September), the 1st of Tebeth (January), the 1st of Nisan (end of March or April), the 20th of Thammus (save, ‘for the family of David’), the 5th, the 7th, the 10th, and the 20th of Ab. It will be observed that five of these seasons fall in the month of Ab, probably because the wood was then thought to be in best condition. The Rabbinical explanations of this are confused and contradictory, and do not account for the 15th of Ab being called, as it was, ‘the day on which the axe is broken,’ unless it were that after that date till spring no wood might be felled for the altar, although what had been previously cut might be brought up. The 15th of the month was fixed for the feast, probably because at full moon the month was regarded as at its maturity. Tradition, of course, had its own story to account for it. According to one version it was Jeroboam, the wicked King of Israel, to whom so much evil is always traced; according to another, a Syro-Grecian monarch–Antiochus Epiphanes; and according to yet a third, some unnamed monarch who had prohibited the carrying of wood and of the firstfruits to Jerusalem, when certain devoted families braved the danger, and on that day secretly introduced wood into the Temple, in acknowledgment whereof the privilege was for ever afterwards conceded to their descendants.
The Wood used in the Festivals
The wood was first deposited in an outer chamber, where that which was worm-eaten or otherwise unfit for the altar was picked out by priests who were disqualified from other ministry. The rest was handed over to the priests who were Levitically qualified for their service, and by them stored in ‘the wood chamber.’ The 15th of Ab was observed as a popular and joyous festival. On this occasion (as on the Day of Atonement) the maidens went dressed in white, to dance and sing in the vineyards around Jerusalem, when an opportunity was offered to young men to select their companions for life. We may venture on a suggestion to account for this curious practice. According to the Talmud, the 15th of Ab was the day on which the prohibition was removed which prevented heiresses from marrying out of their own tribes. If there is any historical foundation for this, it would be very significant, that when all Israel, without any distinction of tribes or families, appeared to make their offerings at Jerusalem, they should be at liberty similarly to select their partners in life without the usual restrictions.
Fasts/The Four Great Fasts
4. Fasts–These may be arranged into public and private, the latter on occasions of personal calamity or felt need. The former alone can here claim our attention. Properly speaking, there was only one Divinely-ordained public fast, that of the Day of Atonement. But it was quite in accordance with the will of God, and the spirit of the Old Testament dispensation, that when great national calamities had overtaken Israel, or great national wants arose, or great national sins were to be confessed, a day of public fasting and humiliation should be proclaimed (see for example, Judg 20:26; 1 Sam 7:6; 1 Kings 21:27; 2 Chron 20:3). To these the Jews added, during the Babylonish captivity, what may be called memorial-fasts, on the anniversaries of great national calamities. Evidently this was an unhealthy religious movement. What were idly bewailed as national calamities were really Divine judgments, caused by national sins, and should have been acknowledged as righteous, the people turning from their sins in true repentance unto God. This, if we rightly understand it, was the meaning of Zechariah’s reply (Zech 7; 8) to those who inquired whether the fasts of the fourth, the fifth, the seventh, and the tenth months, were to be continued after the return of the exiles from Babylon. At the same time, the inquiry shows, that the four great Jewish fasts, which, besides the Day of Atonement and the Fast of Esther, are still kept, were observed so early as the Babylonish captivity (Zech 8:19). ‘The fast of the fourth month’ took place on the 17th Thammus (about June or July), in memory of the taking of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar and the interruption of the daily sacrifice. To this tradition adds, that it was also the anniversary of making the golden calf, and of Moses breaking the Tables of the Law. ‘The fast of the fifth month,’ on the 9th of Ab, was kept on account of the destruction of the first (and afterwards of the second) Temple. It is significant that the second Temple (that of Herod) was destroyed on the first day of the week. Tradition has it, that on that day God had pronounced judgment that the carcasses of all who had come out of Egypt should fall in the wilderness, and also, that again it was fated much later to witness the fulfilment of Jeremiah 26:18-23, when a Roman centurion had the ploughshare drawn over the site of Zion and of the Temple. ‘The fast of the seventh month,’ on the 2nd of Tishri, is said by tradition to be in memory of the slaughter of Gedaliah and his associates at Mizpah (Jer 41:1). ‘The fast of the tenth month’ was on the 10th of Tebeth, when the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar commenced.
Besides these four, the Day of Atonement, and the Fast of Esther, the Jewish calendar at present contains other twenty-two fast-days. But that is not all. It was customary to fast twice a week (Luke 18:12), between the Paschal week and Pentecost, and between the Feast of Tabernacles and that of the Dedication of the Temple. The days appointed for this purpose were the Monday and Thursday of every week–because, according to tradition, Moses went up Mount Sinai the second time to receive the Tables of the Law on a Thursday, and came down again on a Monday. On public fasts, the practice was to bring the ark which contained the rolls of the law from the synagogue into the streets, and to strew ashes upon it. The people all appeared covered with sackcloth and ashes. Ashes were publicly strewn on the heads of the elders and judges. Then one more venerable than the rest would address the people, his sermon being based on such admonition as this: ‘My brethren, it is not said of the men of Nineveh, that God had respect to their sackcloth or their fasting, but that „God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way” (Jonah 3:10). Similarly, it is written in the „traditions” (of the prophets): „rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto Jehovah your God”‘ (Joel 2:13). An aged man, whose heart and home ‘God had emptied,’ that he might give himself wholly to prayer, was chosen to lead the devotions. Confession of sin and prayer mingled with the penitential Psalms (Psa 102; 120; 121; 130). *
* Our account is based on the Mishnah (Taan. ii). But we have not given the Psalms in the order there mentioned, nor yet reproduced the prayers and ‘benedictions,’ because they seem mostly, if not entirely, to be of later date. In general, each of the latter bases the hope of being heard on some Scriptural example of deliverance in answer to prayer, such as that of Abraham on Mount Moriah, of Israel when passing through the Red Sea, of Joshua at Gilgal, of Samuel at Mizpah, of Elijah on Mount Carmel, of Jonah in the whale’s belly, and of David and Solomon in Jerusalem. Certain relaxations of the fast were allowed to the priests when actually on their ministry.
In Jerusalem they gathered at the eastern gate, and seven times * as the voice of prayer ceased, they bade the priests ‘blow!’ and they blew with horns and their priests’ trumpets.
* See the very interesting description of details in Taan. ii. 5.
In other towns, they only blew horns. After prayer, the people retired to the cemeteries to mourn and weep. In order to be a proper fast, it must be continued from one sundown till after the next, when the stars appeared, and for about twenty-six hours the most rigid abstinence from all food and drink was enjoined. Most solemn as some of these ordinances sound, the reader of the New Testament knows how sadly all degenerated into mere formalism (Matt 9:14; Mark 2:18; Luke 5:33); how frequent fasting became mere work- and self-righteousness, instead of being the expression of true humiliation (Luke 18:12); and how the very appearance of the penitent, unwashed and with ashes on his head, was even made matter of boasting and religious show (Matt 6:16). So true is it that all attempts at penitence, amendment, and religion, without the Holy Spirit of God and a change of heart, only tend to entangle man in the snare of self-deception, to fill him with spiritual pride, and still further to increase his real alienation from God. *
* Of the three sects or schools the Pharisees were here the strictest, being in this also at the opposite pole from the Sadducees. The fasts of the Essenes were indeed even more stringent, and almost constant, but they were intended not to procure merit, but to set the soul free from the bondage of the body, which was regarded as the seat of all sin. Besides the above-mentioned fast, and one of all the firstborn on the eve of every Passover, such of the ‘men of the station’ as went not up to Jerusalem with their company fasted on the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, in their respective synagogues, and prayed for a blessing on their brethren and on the people. They connected their fasts and prayers with the section in Genesis 1, which they read on those days–praying on the Monday (Gen 1:9) for those at sea; on the Tuesday (v 11,12) for all on a journey; on the Wednesday (v 14) on account of the supposed dangerous influence of sun and moon, against diseases of children; and on the Thursday (v 20) for women labouring with child and for infants.
Further particulars would lead us from a description of the Temple-services to those of the synagogue. But it is interesting to note how closely the Roman Church has adopted the practices of the synagogue. In imitation of the four Jewish fasts mentioned in Zechariah 8:19, the year was divided into four seasons–Quatember–each marked by a fast–three of these being traced by tradition to Bishop Callistus (223), and the fourth to Pope Leo I (44). In 1095, Urban II fixed these four fasts on the Wednesdays after Ash-Wednesday, Whit-Sunday, the Exaltation of the Cross, and the Feast of S. Lucia (13th December). The early Church substituted for the two weekly Jewish fast-days–Monday and Thursday–the so-called ‘dies stationum,’ ‘guard or watch-days’ of the Christian soldier, or Christian fast-days–Wednesday and Friday, on which the Saviour had been respectively betrayed and crucified.
The Burning of the Red Heifer
The Cleansing of the Healed Leper
The Trial of the Woman Suspected of Adultery
‘And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, show thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.’–Matthew 8:4
Festive seasons were not the only occasions which brought worshippers to Jerusalem. Every trespass and sin, every special vow and offering, and every defilement called them to the Temple. All the rites then enjoined are full of deep meaning. Selecting from them those on which the practice of the Jews at the time of Christ casts a special light, our attention is first called to a service, distinguished from the rest by its unique character.
The Red Heifer
1. The purification from the defilement of death by the ashes of the red heifer (Num 19). In the worship of the Old Testament, where everything was symbolical, that is, where spiritual realities were conveyed through outwards signs, every physical defilement would point to, and carry with it, as it were, a spiritual counterpart. But especially was this the case with reference to birth and death, which were so closely connected with sin and the second death, with redemption and the second birth. Hence, all connected with the origin of life and with death, implied defilement, and required Levitical purification. But here there was considerable difference. Passing over the minor defilements attaching to what is connected with the origin of life, the woman who had given birth to a child was Levitically unclean for forty or for eighty days, according as she had become the mother of a son or a daughter (Lev 12). After that she was to offer for her purification a lamb for a burnt-, and a turtle-dove, or young pigeon, for a sin-offering; in case of poverty, altogether only two turtle-doves or two young pigeons. We remember that the mother of Jesus availed herself of that provision for the poor, when at the same time she presented in the Temple the Royal Babe, her firstborn son (Luke 2:22).
The Offering for the First-born
On bringing her offering, she would enter the Temple through ‘the gate of the first-born,’ and stand in waiting at the Gate of Nicanor, from the time that the incense was kindled on the golden altar. Behind her, in the Court of the Women, was the crowd of worshippers, while she herself, at the top of the Levites’ steps, which led up to the great court, would witness all that passed in the sanctuary. At last one of the officiating priests would come to her at the gate of Nicanor, and take from her hand the ‘poor’s offering’ (so it is literally called in the Talmud), which she had brought. The morning sacrifice was needed; and but few would linger behind while the offering for her purification was actually made. She who brought it mingled prayer and thanksgiving with the service. And now the priest once more approached her, and, sprinkling her with the sacrificial blood, declared her cleansed. Her ‘first-born’ was next redeemed at the hand of the priest, with five shekels of silver; * two benedictions being at the same time pronounced, one for the happy event which had enriched the family with a first-born, the other for the law of redemption.
* According to the Mishnah (Beehor. viii. 7) ‘of Tyrian weight’ = 10 to 12 shillings of our money. The Rabbis lay it down that redemption-money was only paid for a son who was the first-born of his mother, and who was ‘suitable for the priesthood,’ that is, had no disqualifying bodily blemishes.
And when, with grateful heart, and solemnised in spirit, she descended those fifteen steps where the Levites were wont to sing the ‘Hallel,’ a sudden light of heavenly joy filled the heart of one who had long been in waiting ‘for the consolation of Israel.’ If the Holy Spirit had revealed it to just and devout Simeon, that he ‘should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ,’ who should vanquish death, it was the same Spirit, who had led him up into the Temple ‘when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for Him after the custom of the law.’ Then the aged believer took the Divine Babe from His mother’s into his own arms. He felt that the faithful Lord had truly fulfilled His word. Content now to depart in peace, he blessed God from the fulness of a grateful heart, for his eyes had seen His salvation–‘a light to lighten the Gentiles,’ and the ‘glory of His people Israel.’ But Joseph and Mary listened, wondering, to the words which fell from Simeon’s lips.
Purification for the Dead
Such was the service of purification connected with the origin of life. Yet it was not nearly so solemn or important as that for the removal of defilement from contact with death. A stain attached indeed to the spring of life; but death, which cast its icy shadow from the gates of Paradise to those of Hades, pointed to the second death, under whose ban every one lay, and which, if unremoved, would exercise eternal sway. Hence defilement by the dead was symbolically treated as the greatest of all. It lasted seven days; it required a special kind of purification; and it extended not only to those who had touched the dead, but even to the house or tent where the body had lain, and all open vessels therein. More than that, to enter such a house; to come into contact with the smallest bone, or with a grave; * even to partake of a feast for the dead (Hosea 9:4), rendered ceremonially unclean for seven days (Num 19:11-16,18; 31:19).
* According to Jewish tradition, a dead body, however deeply buried, communicated defilement all the way up to the surface, unless indeed it were vaulted in, or vaulted over, to cut off contact with the earth above.
Nay, he who was thus defiled in turn rendered everything unclean which he touched (Num 19:22; comp. Hagg 2:13). For priests and Nazarites the law was even more stringent (Lev 21, etc; comp. Eze 44:25, etc.; Num 6:7, etc.). The former were not to defile themselves by touching any dead body, except those of their nearest kin; the high-priest was not to approach even those of his own parents.
The Six Degrees of Defilement
In general, Jewish writers distinguish six degrees, which they respectively term, according to their intensity, the ‘fathers of fathers,’ the ‘fathers,’ and the ‘first,’ ‘second,’ ‘third,’ and ‘fourth children of defilement.’ They enumerate in all twenty-nine ‘fathers of defilement,’ arising from various causes, and of these no less than eleven arise from some contact with a dead body. Hence also the law made here exceptional provision for purification. ‘A red heifer without spot,’ that is, without any white or black hair on its hide, without ‘blemish, and on which never yoke came,’ was to be sacrificed as a sin-offering (Num 19:9,17), and that outside the camp, not in the sanctuary, and by the son of, or by the presumptive successor to the high-priest. The blood of this sacrifice was to be sprinkled seven times with the finger, not on the altar, but towards the sanctuary; then the whole animal–skin, flesh, blood, and dung–burned, the priest casting into the midst of the burning ‘cedarwood, and hyssop, and scarlet.’ The ashes of this sacrifice were to be gathered by ‘a man that is clean,’ and laid up ‘without the camp in a clean place.’ But the priest, he that burned the red heifer, and who gathered her ashes, were to be ‘unclean until the even,’ to wash their clothes, and the two former also to ‘bathe,’ their ‘flesh in water’ (Num 19:7,8). When required for purification, a clean person was to take of those ashes, put them in a vessel, pour upon them ‘living water,’ then dip hyssop in it, and on the third and seventh days sprinkle him who was to be purified; after which he had to wash his clothes and bathe his flesh, when he became ‘clean’ on the evening of the seventh day. The tent or house, and all the vessels in it, were to be similarly purified. Lastly, he that touched ‘the water of separation,’ ‘of avoidance,’ or ‘of uncleanness,’ was to be unclean until even, and he that sprinkled it to wash his clothes (Num 19:21).
Death the Greatest Defilement
From all these provisions it is evident that as death carried with it the greatest defilement, so the sin-offering for its purification was in itself and in its consequences the most marked. And its application must have been so frequently necessary in every family and circle of acquaintances that the great truths connected with it were constantly kept in view of the people. In general, it may here be stated, that the laws in regard to defilement were primarily intended as symbols of spiritual truths, and not for social, nor yet sanitary purposes, though such results would also flow from them. Sin had rendered fellowship with God impossible; sin was death, and had wrought death, and the dead body as well as the spiritually dead soul were the evidence of its sway.
Levitical Defilement Traceable to Death
It has been well pointed out (by Sommers, in his Bibl. Abh. vol. i. p. 201, etc.), that all classes of Levitical defilement can ultimately be traced back to death, with its two great outward symptoms, the corruption which appears in the skin on the surface of the body, and to which leprosy may be regarded as akin, and the fluxes from the dead body, which have their counterpart in the morbid fluxes of the living body. As the direct manifestation of sin which separates man from God, defilement by the dead required a sin-offering, and the ashes of the red heifer are expressly so designated in the words: ‘It is a sin-offering‘ (Num 9:17). *
* The Authorised Version translates, without any reason: ‘It is a purification for sin.’
But it differs from all other sin-offerings. The sacrifice was to be of pure red colour; one ‘upon which never came yoke’; * and a female, all other sin-offerings for the congregation being males (Lev 4:14).
* The only other instance in which this is enjoined is Deuteronomy 21:3, though we read of it again in 1 Samuel 6:7.
These particulars symbolically point to life in its freshness, fulness, and fruitfulness–that is, the fullest life and the spring of life. But what distinguished it even more from all others was, that it was a sacrifice offered once for all (at least so long as its ashes lasted); that its blood was sprinkled, not on the altar, but outside the camp towards the sanctuary; and that it was wholly burnt, along with cedarwood, as the symbol of imperishable existence, hyssop, as that of purification from corruption, and ‘scarlet,’ which from its colour was the emblem of life. Thus the sacrifice of highest life, brought as a sin-offering, and, so far as possible, once for all, was in its turn accompanied by the symbols of imperishable existence, freedom from corruption, and fulness of life, so as yet more to intensify its significance. But even this is not all. The gathered ashes with running water were sprinkled on the third and seventh days on that which was to be purified. Assuredly, if death meant ‘the wages of sin,’ this purification pointed, in all its details, to ‘the gift of God,’ which is ‘eternal life,’ through the sacrifice of Him in whom is the fulness of life.
The Scape-goat, the Red Heifer, and the Living Bird Dipped in Blood
And here there is a remarkable analogy between three sacrifices, which, indeed, form a separate group. The scape-goat, which was to remove the personal guilt of the Israelites–not their theocratic alienation from the sanctuary; the red heifer, which was to take away the defilement of death, as that which stood between God and man; and the ‘living bird,’ dipped in ‘the water and the blood,’ and then ‘let loose in the field’ at the purification from leprosy, which symbolised the living death of personal sinfulness, were all, either wholly offered, or in their essentials completed outside the sanctuary. In other words, the Old Testament dispensation had confessedly within its sanctuary no real provision for the spiritual wants to which they symbolically pointed; their removal lay outside its sanctuary and beyond its symbols. Spiritual death, as the consequence of the fall, personal sinfulness, and personal guilt lay beyond the reach of the Temple-provision, and pointed directly to Him who was to come. Every death, every case of leprosy, every Day of Atonement, was a call for His advent, as the eye, enlightened by faith, would follow the goat into the wilderness, or watch the living bird as, bearing the mingled blood and water, he winged his flight into liberty, or read in the ashes sprung from the burning of the red heifer the emblem of purification from spiritual death. Hence, also, the manifest internal connection between these rites. In the sacrifices of the Day of Atonement and of the purified leper, the offering was twofold, one being slain, the other sent away alive, while the purification from leprosy and from death had also many traits in common.
These Sacrifices Defiled Those Who Took Part In Them
Lastly, all these sacrifices equally defiled those who took part in their offering, * except in the case of leprosy, where the application would necessarily only be personal.
* Hence the high-priest was prohibited from offering the red heifer.
Thus, also, we understand why the red heifer as, so to speak, the most intense of sin-offerings, was wholly burnt outside the camp, and other sin-offerings only partially so (Lev 4:11,12,20, etc.) For this burning signified that ‘in the theocracy there was no one, who by his own holiness, could bear or take away the sin imputed to these sin-offerings, so that it was needful, as the wages of sin, to burn the sacrifice which had been made sin’ (Keil, Bibl. Archaeol. vol. i. p. 283). The ashes of this sin-offering, mixed with living water and sprinkled with hyssop, symbolised purification from that death which separates between God and man. This parallelism between the blood of Christ and the ashes of an heifer, on the one hand, and on the other between the purification of the flesh by these means, and that of the conscience from dead works, is thus expressed in Hebrews 9:13, 14: ‘If the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the defiled, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?’ And that this spiritual meaning of the types was clearly apprehended under the Old Testament appears, for example, from the reference to it in this prayer of David (Psa 51:7): ‘Purge me from sin * (purify me) with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow’; which is again further applied in what the prophet Isaiah says about the forgiveness of sin (Isa 1:18).
* The Hebrew (Piel) form for ‘purge from sin’ has no English equivalent, unless we were to coin the word ‘unsin’ or ‘unguilt’ me–remove my sin.
Significance of the Red Heifer
This is not the place more fully to vindicate the views here propounded. Without some deeper symbolical meaning attaching to them, the peculiarities of the sin-offering of the red heifer would indeed be well-nigh unintelligible. This must be substantially the purport of a Jewish tradition to the effect that King Solomon, who knew the meaning of all God’s ordinances, was unable to understand that of the red heifer. A ‘Haggadah’ maintains that the wisest of men had in Ecclesiastes 7:23 thus described his experience in this respect: ‘All this have I proved by wisdom,’ that is, all other matters; ‘I said, I will be wise,’ that is, in reference to the meaning of the red heifer; ‘but it was far from me.’ But if Jewish traditionalism was thus conscious of its spiritual ignorance in regard to this type, it was none the less zealous in prescribing, with even more than usual precision, its ceremonial. The first object was to obtain a proper ‘red heifer’ for the sacrifice. The Mishnah (Parah, i. ii.) states the needful age of such a red heifer as from two to four, and even five years; the colour of its hide, two white or black hairs springing from the same follicle disqualifying it; and how, if she have been put to any use, though only a cloth had been laid on her, she would no longer answer the requirement that upon her ‘never came yoke.’
The Sacrifice of the Red Heifer
Even more particular are the Rabbis to secure that the sacrifice be properly offered (Parah, iii. iv.). Seven days before, the priest destined for the service was separated and kept in the Temple–in ‘the House of Stoves’–where he was daily sprinkled with the ashes–as the Rabbis fable–of all the red heifers ever offered. When bringing the sacrifice, he was to wear his white priestly raiments. According to their tradition, there was an arched roadway leading from the east gate of the Temple out upon the Mount of Olives–double arched, that is, arched also over the supporting pillars, for fear of any possible pollution through the ground upwards. Over this the procession passed. On the Mount of Olives the elders of Israel were already in waiting. First, the priest immersed his whole body, then he approached the pile of cedar-, pine-, and fig-wood which was heaped like a pyramid, but having an opening in the middle, looking towards the west. Into this the red heifer was thrust, and bound, with its head towards the south and its face looking to the west, the priest standing east of the sacrifice, his face, of course, also turned westwards. Slaying the sacrifice with his right hand, he caught up the blood in his left. Seven times he dipped his finger in it, sprinkling it towards the Most Holy Place, which he was supposed to have in full view over the Porch of Solomon or through the eastern gate. Then, immediately descending, he kindled the fire. As soon as the flames burst forth, the priest, standing outside the pit in which the pile was built up, took cedarwood, hyssop, and ‘scarlet’ wool, asking three times as he held up each: ‘Is this cedarwood? Is this hyssop? Is this scarlet?’ so as to call to the memory of every one the Divine ordinance. Then tying them together with the scarlet wool, he threw the bundle upon the burning heifer. The burnt remains were beaten into ashes by sticks or stone mallets and passed through coarse sieves; then divided into three parts–one of which was kept in the Temple-terrace (the Chel), the other on the Mount of Olives, and the third distributed among the priesthood throughout the land.
Children Used in the Offering
The next care was to find one to whom no suspicion of possible defilement could attach, who might administer purification to such as needed it. For this purpose a priest was not required; but any one–even a child–was fit for the service. In point of fact, according to Jewish tradition, children were exclusively employed in this ministry. If we are to believe the Mishnah (Parah, iii. 2-5), there were at Jerusalem certain dwellings built upon rocks, that were hollowed beneath, so as to render impossible pollution from unknown graves beneath. Here the children destined for this ministry were to be born, and here they were reared and kept till fit for their service. Peculiar precautions were adopted in leading them out to their work. The child was to ride on a bullock, and to mount and descend it by boards. He was first to proceed to the Pool of Siloam, * and to fill a stone cup with its water, and thence to ride to the Temple Mount, which, with all its courts, was also supposed to be free from possible pollutions by being hollowed beneath.
* Or Gihon. According to Jewish tradition, the kings were always anointed at Siloam (1 Kings 1:33,38).
Dismounting, he would approach the ‘Beautiful Gate,’ where the vessel with the ashes of the red heifer was kept. Next a goat would be brought out, and a rope, with a stick attached to it, tied between its horns. The stick was put into the vessel with the ashes, the goat driven backwards, and of the ashes thereby spilt the child would take for use in the sacred service so much as to be visible upon the water. It is only fair to add, that one of the Mishnic sages, deprecating a statement which might be turned into ridicule by the Sadducees, declares that any clean person might take with his hand from the vessel so much of the ashes as was required for the service. The purification was made by sprinkling with hyssop. According to the Rabbis (Parah, xi. 9), three separate stalks, each with a blossom on it, were tied together, and the tip of these blossoms dipped into the water of separation, the hyssop itself being grasped while sprinkling the unclean. The same authorities make the most incredible assertion that altogether, from the time of Moses to the final destruction of the Temple, only seven, or else nine, such red heifers had been offered: the first by Moses, the second by Ezra, and the other five, or else seven, between the time of Ezra and that of the taking of Jerusalem by the Romans. We only add that the cost of this sacrifice, which was always great, since a pure red heifer was very rare, * was defrayed from the Temple treasury, as being offered for the whole people. **
* It might be purchased even from non-Israelites, and the Talmud relates a curious story, showing at the same time the reward of filial piety, and the fabulous amount which it is supposed such a red heifer might fetch.
** Philo erroneously states that the high-priest was sprinkled with it each time before ministering at the altar. The truth is, he was only so sprinkled in preparation for the Day of Atonement, in case he might have been unwittingly defiled. Is the Romish use of ‘holy water’ derived from Jewish purifications, or from the Greek heathen practice of sprinkling on entering a temple?
Those who lived in the country would, for purification from defilement by the dead, come up to Jerusalem seven days before the great festivals, and, as part of the ashes were distributed among the priesthood, there could never be any difficulty in purifying houses or vessels.
Purification of the Leper
2. After what has already been explained, it is not necessary to enter into details about the purification of the leper, for which this, indeed, is not the place. Leprosy was not merely the emblem of sin, but of death, to which, so to speak, it stood related, as does our actual sinfulness to our state of sin and death before God. Even a Rabbinical saying ranks lepers with those who may be regarded as dead. *
* The other three classes are the blind, the poor, and those who have no children.
They were excluded from ‘the camp of Israel,’ by which, in later times, the Talmudists understood all cities walled since the days of Joshua, who was supposed to have sanctified them. Lepers were not allowed to go beyond their proper bounds, on pain of forty stripes. For every place which a leper entered was supposed to be defiled. They were, however, admitted to the synagogues, where a place was railed off for them, ten handbreadths high and four cubits wide, on condition of their entering the house of worship before the rest of the congregation, and leaving it after them (Negaim, xiii. 12). It was but natural that they should consort together. This is borne out by such passages as Luke 17:12, which at the same time show how even this living death vanished at the word or the touch of the Saviour.
Examination of the Leper
The Mishnic tractate, Negaim, enters into most wearisome details on the subject of leprosy, as affecting persons or things. It closes by describing the ceremonial at its purification. The actual judgment as to the existence of leprosy always belonged to the priest, though he might consult any one who had knowledge of the matter. Care was to be taken that no part of the examination fell on the Sabbath, nor was any on whom the taint appeared to be disturbed either during his marriage week, or on feast days. Great precautions were taken to render the examination thorough. It was not to be proceeded with early in the morning, nor ‘between the evenings,’ nor inside the house, nor on a cloudy day, nor yet during the glare of midday, but from 9 a.m. to 12 o’clock noon, and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.; according to Rabbi Jehudah, only at 10 or 11 o’clock a.m., and at 2 and 3 o’clock p.m. The examining priest must neither be blind of an eye, nor impaired in sight, nor might he pronounce as to the leprosy of his own kindred. For further caution, judgment was not to be pronounced at the same time about two suspicious spots, whether on the same or on different persons.
Right Meaning of Leviticus 13:12, 13
A very curious mistake by writers on typology here requires passing notice. It is commonly supposed * that Leviticus 13:12, 13 refers to cases of true leprosy, so that if a person had presented himself covered with leprosy over ‘all his flesh,’ ‘from his head even to his foot, wheresoever the priest looketh,’ the priest was to pronounce: ‘He is clean.’
* All popular writers on typology have fallen into this error. Even the learned Lightfoot has committed it. It is also adopted by Mr. Poole in Smith’s Dict. of the Bible (ii. p. 94), and curiously accounted for by the altogether unfounded hypothesis that the law ‘imposed segregation’ only ‘while the disease manifested activity’!
If this interpretation were correct, the priest would have had to declare what was simply untrue! And, mark, it is not a question about cleansing one who had been a leper, but about declaring such an one clean, that is, not a leper at all, while yet the malady covered his whole body from head to foot! Nor does even the doctrinal analogy, for the sake of which this strange view must have been adopted, hold good. For to confess oneself, or even to present oneself as wholly covered by the leprosy of sin, is not yet to be cleansed–that requires purification by the blood of Christ. Moreover, the Old Testament type speaks of being clean, not of cleansing; of being non-leprous, not of being purified from leprosy! The correct interpretation of Leviticus 13:12, 13 evidently is, that an eruption having the symptoms there described is not that of true leprosy at all. *
* Even the modified view of Keil, which is substantially adopted in Kitto’s Encycl. (3rd edit.), p. 812, that the state described in Leviticus 13:12, 13, ‘was regarded as indicative of the crisis, as the whole evil matter thus brought to the surface formed itself into a scale, which dried and peeled off,’ does not meet the requirements of the text.
But where, in the Divine mercy, one really leprous had been restored, the law (Lev 14) defined what was to be done for his ‘purification.’ The rites are, in fact, twofold–the first (Lev 14:1-9), to restore him to fellowship with the congregation; the other to introduce him anew to communion with God (Lev 14:10-20). In both respects he had been dead, and was alive again; and the new life, so consecrated, was one higher than the old could ever have been.
This will appear from an attentive study of the ceremonial of purification, as described in the Mishnah (Negaim, xiii.). The priest having pronounced the former leper clean, a quarter of a log (the log rather less than a pint) of ‘living water’ was poured into an earthenware dish. Then two ‘clean birds’ were taken–the Rabbis say two sparrows * –of whom one was killed over ‘the living water,’ so that the blood might drop into it, after which the carcass was buried.
* May not our Saviour refer to this when He speaks of ‘sparrows’ as of marketable value: ‘Are not two sparrows sold for one farthing’ (Matt 10:29)?
Next, cedar-wood, hyssop, and scarlet wool were taken and tied together (as at the burning of the red heifer), and dipped, along with the living bird, which was seized by the tips of his wings and of his tail, into the blood-stained water, when the person to be purified was sprinkled seven times on the back of his hand, or, according to others, on his forehead. Upon this the living bird was set free, neither towards the sea, nor towards the city, nor towards the wilderness, but towards the fields. Finally, the leper had all the hair on his body shorn with a razor, after which he washed his clothes, and bathed, when he was clean, though still interdicted his house * for seven days.
* The Mishnah and all commentators apply this to conjugal intercourse.
The Second Stage
The first stage of purification had now been completed, and the seven days’ seclusion served as preparation for the second stage. The former might take place anywhere, but the latter required the attendance of the purified leper in the sanctuary. It began on the seventh day itself, when the purified leper had again all his hair shorn, as at the first, washed his clothes, and bathed. The Mishnah remarks (Negaim, xiv. 4) that three classes required this legal tonsure of all hair–lepers, Nazarites, and the Levites at their consecration–a parallel this between the purified lepers and the Levites, which appears even more clearly in their being anointed on the head with oil (Lev 14:29), and which was intended to mark that their new life was higher than the old, and that, like Levi, they were to be specially dedicated to God. *
* The significance of anointing the head with oil is sufficiently known.
Though not of any special importance, we may add that, according to the Mishnah, as in the analogous case of the two goats for the Day of Atonement, the two birds for the leper were to be of precisely the same colour, size, and value, and, if possible, bought on the same day–to mark that the two formed integral parts of one and the same service; the cedar-wood was to be one cubit long and ‘the quarter of a bedpost’ thick; the hyssop of the common kind, that is, not such as had any other bye-name, as Grecian, Roman, ornamental, or wild; while the scarlet wool was to be a shekel’s weight. The rest of the ceremonial we give in the words of the Mishnah itself (Negaim, xiv. 7, etc.):–‘On the eighth day the leper brings three sacrifices–a sin-, a trespass-, and a burnt-offering, and the poor brings a sin- and a burnt-offering of a bird. He stands before the trespass-offering, lays his hands upon it, and kills it. Two priests catch up the blood–one in a vessel, the other in his hand. He who catches it up in the vessel goes and throws it on the side of the altar, and he who catches it in his hand goes and stands before the leper. And the leper, who had previously bathed in the court of the lepers, goes and stands in the gate of Nicanor. Rabbi Jehudah says:–He needs not to bathe. He thrusts in his head (viz. into the great court which he may not yet enter), and the priest puts of the blood upon the tip of his ear; he thrusts in his hand, and he puts it upon the thumb of his hand; he thrusts in his foot, and he puts it upon the great toe of his foot. Rabbi Jehudah says:–He thrusts in the three at the same time. If he have lost his thumb, great toe, or right ear, he cannot ever be cleansed. Rabbi Eliezer says:–The priest puts in on the spot where it had been. Rabbi Simeon says:–If it be applied on the corresponding left side of the leper’s body, it sufficeth. The priest now takes from the log of oil and pours it into the palm of his colleague–though if he poured it into his own it were valid. He dips his finger and sprinkles seven times towards the Holy of Holies, dipping each time he sprinkles. He goes before the leper; and on the spot where he had put the blood he puts the oil, as it is written, „upon the blood of the trespass-offering.” And the remnant of the oil that is in the priest’s hand, he pours on the head of him that is to be cleansed, for an atonement; if he so puts it, he is atoned for, but if not, he is not atoned for. So Rabbi Akiba. Rabbi Jochanan, the son of Nuri, saith:–This is only the remnant of the ordinance–whether it is done or not, the atonement is made; but they impute it to him (the priest?) as if he had not made atonement.’
Purification from Suspicion of Adultery
3. It still remains to describe the peculiar ceremonial connected with the purification of a wife from the suspicion of adultery. Strictly speaking, there was no real offering connected with this. The rites (Num 5:11-31) consisted of two parts, in the first of which the woman in her wave-offering solemnly commended her ways to the Holy Lord God of Israel, thus professing innocence: while in the second, she intimated her readiness to abide the consequences of her profession and appeal to God. Both acts were symbolical, nor did either of them imply anything like an ordeal. The meat-offering which she brought in her hand symbolised her works, the fruit of her life. But owing to the fact that her life was open to suspicion, it was brought, not of wheat, as on other occasions, but of barley-flour, which constituted the poorest fare, while, for the same reason, the customary addition of oil and frankincense was omitted. Before this offering was waved and part of it burned on the altar, the priest had to warn the woman of the terrible consequences of a false profession before the Lord, and to exhibit what he spoke in a symbolical act. He wrote the words of the curse upon a roll; then, taking water out of the laver, in which the daily impurities of the priests were, so to speak, symbolically cleansed, and putting into it dust of the sanctuary, he washed in this mixture the writing of the curses, which were denounced upon the special sin of which she was suspected. And the woman, having by a repeated Amen testified that she had quite apprehended the meaning of the whole, and that she made her solemn appeal to God, was then in a symbolical act to do two things. First, she presented in her meat-offering, which the priest waved, her life to the heart-searching God, and then, prepared for the consequences of her appeal, she drank the bitter mixture of the threatened curses, assured that it could do no harm to her who was innocent, whereas, if guilty, she had appealed to God, judgment would certainly at some time overtake her, and that in a manner corresponding to the sin which she had committed.
Regulations as Given in the Mishnah
According to the Mishnah, which devotes to this subject a special tractate (Sotah), a wife could not be brought to this solemn trial unless her husband have previously warned her, in presence of two witnesses, against intercourse with one whom he suspected, and also two witnesses had reported that she had contravened his injunction. The Rabbis, moreover, insist that the command must have been express, that it only applied to intercourse out of reach of public view, and that the husband’s charge to his wife before witnesses should be preceded by private and loving admonition. *
* The tractate Sotah enters into every possible detail, with prurient casuistry–the tendency, as always in Jewish criminal law, being in favour of the accused.
But if, after all this, she had left such warning unheeded, her husband had first to bring her before the Sanhedrim of his own place, who would dispatch two of their scholars with the couple to Jerusalem, where they were to appear before the Great Sanhedrim. The first endeavour of that tribunal was to bring the accused by any means to make confession. If she did so, she only lost what her husband had settled upon her, but retaind her own portion. *
* According to Rabbinical law adulteresses only suffered death if they persisted in the actual crime after having been warned of the consequences by two witnesses. It is evident that this canon must have rendered the infliction of the death penalty the rarest exception–indeed, almost inconceivable.
If she persisted in her innocence, she was brought through the eastern gate of the Temple, and placed at the gate of Nicanor, where the priest tore off her dress to her bosom, and dishevelled her hair. If she wore a white dress, she was covered with black; if she had ornaments, they were taken from her, and a rope put round her neck. Thus she stood, exposed to the gaze of all, except her own parents. all this to symbolise the Scriptural warning (Isa 65:7): ‘Therefore I will measure their former work into their bosom’; for in what had been her pride and her temptation she was now exposed to shame. The priest was to write, in ink, Numbers 5:19-22, of course leaving out the introductory clauses in verses 19 and 21, and the concluding ‘Amen.’ The woman’s double response of Amen bore reference first to her innocence, and secondly to the threatened curse.
The waving of the woman’s offering was done in the usual manner, but opinions differ whether she had to drink ‘the bitter water’ before or after part of her offering had been burned on the altar. If before the writing was washed into the water she refused to take the test, her offering was scattered among the ashes; similarly, if she confessed herself guilty. But if she insisted on her innocence after the writing was washed, she was forced to drink the water. The Divine judgment was supposed to overtake the guilty sooner or later, as some thought, according to their other works. The wave-offering belonged to the priest, except where the suspected woman was the wife of a priest, in which case the offering was burned. If a husband were deaf or insane, or in prison, the magistrates of the place would act in his stead in insisting on a woman clearing herself of just suspicion. An adulteress was prohibited from living with her seducer. It is beside our purpose further to enter into the various legal determinations of the Mishnah. But it is stated that, with the decline of morals in Palestine, the trial by the ‘water of jealousy’ gradually ceased (in accordance with what we read in Hosea 4:14), till it was finally abolished by Rabbi Jochanan, the son of Zacchai, some time after the death of our Lord. While recording this fact the Mishnah (Sotah, ix. 9-15) traces, in bitter language, the decay and loss of what had been good and precious to Israel in their worship, Temple, wisdom, and virtues, pointing forward to the yet greater sorrow of ‘the last day,’ ‘shortly before the coming of Messiah,’ when all authority, obedience, and fear of God would decline in the earth, and ‘our only hope and trust’ could spring from looking up to our Heavenly Father. Yet beyond it stands out, in the closing words of this tractate in the Mishnah, the final hope of a revival, of the gift of the Holy Spirit, and of the blessed resurrection, all connected with the long-expected ministry of Elijah!
The Nazarite’s Vow
The Offering of Firstfruits in the Temple
‘But now is Christ risen from the dead, the firstfruits of them that sleep.’…’These were purchased from among men–the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.’–1 Corinthians 15:20; Revelation 14:4
‘If a man vow a vow unto Jehovah, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond, he shall not profane his word; he shall do according to all that hath proceeded out of his mouth’ (Num 30:2). These words establish the lawfulness of vows, define their character, and declare their inviolableness. At the outset a distinction is here made between a positive and a negative vow, an undertaking and a renunciation, a Neder and an Issar. In the former ‘a man vowed a vow unto Jehovah’–that is, he consecrated unto Him some one or more persons or things, which he expressly designated; in the latter he ‘swore an oath to bind his soul with a bond’–that is, he renounced the use of certain things binding himself to abstinence from them. The renunciation of the fruit of the vine would seem to place the Nazarite’s vow in the class termed Issar. But, on the other hand, there was, as in the case of Samson and Samuel, also such positive dedication to the Lord, and such other provisions as seem to make the Nazarite’s the vows of vows–that is, the full carrying out of the idea of a vow, alike in its positive and negative aspects–being, in fact, a voluntary and entire surrender unto Jehovah, such as, in its more general bearing, the Aaronic priesthood had been intended to express.
Man Can Only Vow His Own Things
It lies on the surface, that all vows were limited by higher obligations. A man could not have vowed anything that was not fairly his own; hence, according to the Mishnah, neither what of his fortune he owed to others, nor his widow’s portion, nor yet what already of right belonged unto the Lord (Num 30:26-28); nor might he profane the temple by bringing to the altar the reward of sin or of unnatural crime (this is undoubtedly the meaning of the expression ‘price of a dog’ in Deut 23:18). Similarly, the Rabbinical law declared any vow of abstinence ipso facto invalid, if it interfered with the preservation of life or similar obligations, and it allowed divorce to a woman if her husband’s vow curtailed her liberty or her rights. On this ground it was that Christ showed the profaneness of the traditional law, which virtually sanctioned transgression of the command to honour father and mother, by pronouncing over that by which they might have been profited the magic word Corban, which dedicated it to the Temple (Mark 7:11-13). In general, the Rabbinical ordinances convey the impression, on the one hand, of a desire to limit the obligation of vows, and, on the other, of extreme strictness where a vow had really been made. Thus a vow required to have been expressly spoken; yet if the words used had been even intentionally so chosen as afterwards to open a way of escape, or were such as connected themselves with the common form of a vow, they conveyed its obligations. In all such cases goods might be distrained to secure the performance of the vow; the law, however, providing that the recusant was to be allowed to retain food for a month, a year’s clothing, his beds and bedding, and, if an artisan, his necessary tools. In the case of women, a father or husband had the right to annul a vow, provided he did so immediately on hearing it (Num 30:3-8). All persons vowed unto the Lord had to be redeemed according to a certain scale; which, in the case of the poor, was to be so lowered as to bring it within reach of their means (Lev 27:2-8). *
* The Mishnah declares that this scale was only applicable, if express reference had been made to it in the vow; otherwise the price of redemption was, what the person would have fetched if sold in the market as a slave.
Such ‘beasts’ ‘whereof men bring an offering,’ went to the altar; all others, as well as any other thing dedicated, were to be valued by the priest, and might be redeemed on payment of the price, together with one-fifth additional, or else were sold for behoof of the Temple treasury (Lev 27:11-27). How carefully the law guarded against all profanity, or from the attempt to make merit out of what should have been the free outgoing of believing hearts, appears from Deuteronomy 23:22-24, Leviticus 27:9, 10, and such statements as Proverbs 20:25. As Scriptural instances of vows, we may mention that of Jacob (Gen 28:20), the rash vow of Jephthah (Judg 11:30,31), the vow of Hannah (1 Sam 1:11), the pretended vow of Absalom (2 Sam 15:7,8), and the vows of the sailors who cast Jonah overboard (Jonah 1:16). On the other hand, it will be understood how readily, in times of religious declension, vows might be turned from their proper object to purposes contrary to the Divine mind. *
* In general the later legislation of the Rabbis was intended to discourage vows, on account of their frequent abuse (Nedar, i., iii., ix.). It was declared that only evil-doers bound themselves in this manner, while the pious gave of their own free-will. Where a vow affected the interests of others, every endeavour was to be made, to get him who had made it to seek absolution from its obligations, which might be had from one ‘sage,’ or from three persons, in the presence of him who had been affected by the vow. Further particulars are beyond our present scope.
Carelessness in Later Times
In the latter times of the Temple such vows, made either thoughtlessly, or from Pharisaical motives, became painfully frequent, and called forth protests on the part of those who viewed them in a more reverent and earnest spirit. Thus it is said, that the high-priest, Simeon the Just–to whom tradition ascribes so much that is good and noble–declared that he had uniformly refused, except in one instance, to partake of the trespass-offering of Nazarites, since such vows were so often made rashly, and the sacrifice was afterwards offered reluctantly, not with pious intent. A fair youth, with beautiful hair, had presented himself for such a vow, with whom the high-priest had expostulated: ‘My son, what could have induced thee to destroy such splendid hair?’ To which the youth replied: ‘I fed my father’s flock, and as I was about to draw water for it from a brook, I saw my wraith, and the evil spirit seized and would have destroyed me (probably by vanity). Then I exclaimed: Miserable fool, why boastest thou in a possession which does not belong to thee, who art so soon to be the portion of maggots and worms? By the Temple! I cut off my hair, to devote it to God.’ ‘Upon this,’ said Simeon, ‘I rose and kissed him on the forehead, saying, Oh that many in Israel were like thee! Thou hast truly, and in the spirit of the Law, made this vow according to the will of God.’
That great abuses crept in appears even from the large numbers who took them. Thus the Talmud records that, in the days of King Jannai no fewer than 300 Nazarites presented themselves before Simeon, the son of Shetach. Moreover, a sort of traffic in good works, like that in the Romish Church before the Reformation, was carried on. It was considered meritorious to ‘be at charges’ for poor Nazarites, and to defray the expenses of their sacrifices. King Agrippa, on arriving at Jerusalem, seems to have done this to conciliate popular favour (Jos. Antiq. xix. 6. 1). A far holier motive than this influenced St. Paul (Acts 21:23, etc.), when, to remove the prejudices of Jewish Christians, he was ‘at charges’ for four poor Christian Nazarites, and joined them, as it were, in their vow by taking upon himself some of its obligations, as, indeed, he was allowed to do by the traditional law.
The Nazarite Vow
1. The law concerning the Nazarite vow (Num 6) seems to imply, that it had been an institution already existing at the time of Moses, which was only further defined and regulated by him. The name, as well as its special obligations, indicate its higher bearing. For the term Nasir is evidently derived from nazar, to separate, and ‘the vow of a Nazarite’ was to separate himself unto Jehovah (Num 6:2). Hence the Nazarite was ‘holy unto Jehovah’ (Num 6:8). In the sense of separation the term Nasir was applied to Joseph (Gen 44:26; comp. Deut 32:16), and so the root is frequently used. But, besides separation and holiness, we have also here the idea of royal priesthood, since the word Nezer is applied to ‘the holy crown upon the mitre’ of the high-priest (Exo 29:6; 34:30; Lev 8:9), and ‘the crown of the anointing oil’ (Lev 21:12), as also, in a secondary sense, to the royal crown (2 Sam 1:10; 2 Kings 11:12; Zech 9:16). *
* The learned writer of the article ‘Nazarite’ in Kitto’s Encycl. regards the meaning ‘diadem’ as the fundamental one, following in this the somewhat unsafe critical guidance of Saalschutz, Mos. Recht. p. 158. In proof, he appeals to the circumstance that the ‘undressed vine’ of the Sabbatical and the Jubilee year is designated by the term ‘Nazir’ in Leviticus 25:5, 11. But evidently the uncut, untrimmed vine of those years derived its designation from the Nazarite with his untrimmed hair, and not vice versa. Some of the Rabbis have imagined that the vine had grown in Paradise, and that somehow the Nazarite’s abstinence from its fruit was connected with the paradisiacal state, and with our fall.
We have, therefore, in the Nazarite, the three ideas of separation, holiness, and the crown of the royal priesthood, all closely connected. With this agree the threefold obligations incumbent on a Nazarite. He was to be not only a priest, but one in a higher and more intense sense, since he became such by personal consecration instead of by mere bodily descent. If the priest was to abstain from wine during his actual ministration in the sanctuary, the Nazarite must during the whole period of his vow refrain from all that belongs to the fruit of the vine, ‘from the kernels even to the husk’ (Num 6:3,4). a priest was to avoid all defilement from the dead, except in the case of his nearest relatives, but the Nazarite, like the high-priest (Lev 21:11), was to ignore in that respect even father and mother, brother and sister (Num 6:7). Nay more, if unwittingly he had become so defiled, the time of his vow which had already elapsed was to count for nothing; after the usual seven days purification (Num 19:11,12), he was to cut off his hair, which, in that case, was buried, not burnt, and on the eighth day to bring two turtle-doves, or two young pigeons, the one for a sin-, the other for a burnt-offering, with a lamb of the first year for a trespass-offering; after which he had to commence his Nazarite vow anew. Lastly, if the high-priest wore ‘the holy Nezer upon the mitre,’ the Nazarite was not to cut his hair, which was ‘the Nezer of his God upon his head’ (Num 6:7). And this use of the word Nezer, as applied to the high-priest’s crown, as well as to the separation unto holiness of the Nazarite, casts additional light alike upon the object of the priesthood and the character of the Nazarite vow.
The Mishnah Regulations
According to the Mishnah (tractate Nazir), all epithets of, or allusions to, the Nazarite vow, carried its obligation. Thus if one said, ‘I will be it! or, I will be a beautiful one!’–with reference to the long hair–or made any similar allusion, he had legally taken upon him the vow. If taken for an indefinite period, or without express declaration of the time, the vow lasted for thirty days, which was the shortest possible time for a Nazarite. There were, however, ‘perpetual Nazarites,’ the Mishnah distinguishing between an ordinary ‘perpetual Nazarite’ and a ‘Samson-Nazarite.’ Both were ‘for life,’ but the former was allowed occasionally to shorten his hair, after which he brought the three sacrifices. He could also be defiled by the dead, in which case he had to undergo the prescribed purification. But as Samson had not been allowed under any circumstances to poll his hair, and as he evidently had come into contact with death without afterwards undergoing any ceremonial (Judg 14:8, 15:15), so the Samson-Nazarite might neither shorten his hair, nor could he be defiled by the dead. However, practically such a question probably never arose, and the distinction was no doubt merely made to meet an exegetical necessity to the Jews,–that of vindicating the conduct of Samson! As already stated, another might undertake part or the whole of the charges of a Nazarite, and thus share in his vow. A father, but not a mother, might make a Nazarite vow for a son, while he was under the legal age of thirteen. The Mishnah (Naz. vi.) discusses at great length the three things interdicted to a Nazarite: ‘defilement, cutting the hair, and whatever proceedeth from the vine.’ Any wilful trespass in these respects, provided the Nazarite had been expressly warned, carried the punishment of stripes, and that for every individual act of which he had been so warned.
To prevent even the accidental removal of hair, the Rabbis forbade the use of a comb (Naz. vi. 3). According to the Law, defilement from death annulled the previous time of the vow, and necessitated certain offerings. To this the Mishnah adds, that if anyhow the hair were cut, it annulled the previous time of a vow up to thirty days (the period of an indefinite vow), while it is curiously determined that the use of anything coming from the vine did not interrupt the vow. Another Rabbinical contravention of the spirit of the law was to allow Nazarites the use of all intoxicating liquors other than what came from the vine (such as palm-wine, etc.). Lastly, the Mishnah determines that a master could not annul the Nazarite vow of his slave; and that, if he prevented him from observing it, the slave was bound to renew it on attaining his liberty. The offerings of a Nazarite on the completion of his vow are explicitly described in Numbers 6:13-21. Along with the ‘ram without blemish for peace-offerings,’ he had to bring ‘a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mingled with oil, and wafers of unleavened bread anointed with oil,’ as well as the ordinary ‘meat-offering and their drink offerings’ (Num 6:14,15). The Rabbis explain, that the ‘unleavened bread,’ to accompany ‘the peace-offerings,’ was to be made of six-tenth deals and two-thirds of a tenth deal of flour, which were to be baked into ten unleavened cakes and ten unleavened wafers, all anointed with the fourth part of a log of oil; and that all this ‘bread’ was to be offered in one vessel, or ‘basket.’ The sin-offering was first brought, then the burnt-, and last of all the peace-offering. In the Court of the Women there was a special Nazarite’s chamber. After the various sacrifices had been offered by the priest, the Nazarite retired to this chamber, where he boiled the flesh of his peace-offerings, cut off his hair, and threw it in the fire under the caldron. If he had already cut off his hair before coming to Jerusalem, he must still bring it with him, and cast it in the fire under the caldron; so that whether or not we understand Acts 18:18 as stating that Paul himself had taken a vow, he might have cut off his hair at Cenchrea (Acts 18:18), and brought it with him to Jerusalem. After that the priest waved the offering, as detailed in Numbers 6:19, 20, * and the fat was salted, and burned upon the altar.
* This part of the service was the same as at the consecration of the priests (Lev 8:26).
The breast, the fore-leg, the boiled shoulder, and the waved cake and wafer, belonged to the priests–the remaining bread and meat were eaten by the Nazarite. Lastly, the expression, ‘besides that that his hand shall get,’ after mention of the other offerings (Num 6:21), seems to imply that the Nazarites were also wont to bring free-will offerings.
Scripture mentions three Nazarites for life: Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist, to which Christian tradition adds the name of James the Just, ‘the brother of the Lord,’ who presided over the Church at Jerusalem when Paul joined in the Nazarite-offering (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. ii. 23. 3). In this respect it is noteworthy that, among those who urged upon Paul to ‘be at charges’ with the four Christian Nazarites, James himself is not specially mentioned (Acts 21:20-25).
Offering the Firstfruits
2. Properly speaking, the offering of the firstfruits belonged to the class of religious and charitable contributions, and falls within our present scope only in so far as certain of them had to be presented in the Temple at Jerusalem. Two of these firstfruit offerings were public and national; viz. the first omer, on the second day of the Passover, and the wave-loaves at Pentecost. The other two kinds of ‘firstfruits’–or Reshith, ‘the first, the beginning’–were offered on the part of each family and of every individual who had possession in Israel, according to the Divine directions in Exodus 22:29; 23:19; 34:26; Numbers 15:20, 21; 18:12, 13; Deuteronomy 18:4; and Deuteronomy 26:2-11, where the ceremonial to be observed in the Sanctuary is also described. Authorities distinguish between the Biccurim (primitiva), or firstfruits offered in their natural state, and the Terumoth (primitiae), brought not as raw products, but in a prepared state,–as flour, oil, wine, etc. *
* In our Authorised Version ‘Terumah’ is generally rendered by ‘heave-offering,’ as in Exodus 29:27; Leviticus 7:14, 32, 34; Numbers 15:19; 18:8, 11; 31:41; and sometimes simply by ‘offering,’ as in Exodus 25:2; 30:13; 35:5; 36:3, 6: Leviticus 22:12; Numbers 5:9.
The distinction is convenient, but not strictly correct, since the Terumoth also included vegetables and garden produce (Ter. ii. 5; iii. 1; x. 5). Still less accurate is the statement of modern writers that the Greek term Protogennemata corresponds to Biccurim, and Aparchai to Terumoth, an assertion not even supported by the use of those words in the version of the Septuagint, which is so deeply tinged with traditionalism.
The Biccurim and Terumoth
Adopting, however, the distinction of the terms, for convenience sake, we find that the Biccurim (primitiva) were only to be brought while there was a national Sanctuary (Exo 23:19; Deut 26:2; Neh 10:35). Similarly, they must be the produce of the Holy Land itself, in which, according to tradition, were included the ancient territories of Og and Sihon, as well as that part of Syria which David had subjugated. On the other hand, both the tithes * and the Terumoth were also obligatory on Jews in Egypt, Babylon, Ammon, and Moab.
* The Mishnah (Bicc. i. 10) expressly mentions ‘the olive-trees beyond Jordan,’ although R. Joses declared that Biccurim were not brought from east of Jordan, since it was not a land flowing with milk and honey (Deut 26:15)!
The Biccurim were only presented in the Temple, and belonged to the priesthood there officiating at the time, while the Terumoth might be given to any priest in any part of the land. The Mishnah holds that, as according to Deuteronomy 8:8 only the following seven were to be regarded as the produce of the Holy Land, from them alone Biccurim were due: viz. wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates. *
* The expression ‘honey’ in Deuteronomy 8:8 must refer to the produce of the date-palm.
If the distance of the offerer from Jerusalem was too great, the figs and grapes might be brought in a dried state.
The amount of the Biccurim was not fixed in the Divine Law, any more than of the wheat which was to be left in the corners of the fields in order to be gleaned by the poor. *
* The Mishnah enumerates five things of which the amount is not fixed in the Law (Peah, i. 1): the corners of the field for the poor; the Biccurim; the sacrifices on coming up to the feasts; pious works, on which, however, not more than one-fifth of one’s property was to be spent; and the study of the Law (Josh 1:8). Similarly, ‘these are the things of which a man eats the fruit in this world, but their possession passes into the next world (literally, „the capital continueth for the next,” as in this world we only enjoy the interest): to honour father and mother, pious works, peacemaking between a man and his neighbour, and the study of the Law, which is equivalent to them all.’ In Shab. 127, a, six such things are mentioned.
But according to the Rabbis in both these cases one-sixtieth was to be considered as the minimum. From Exodus 23:16 and Leviticus 23:16, 17, it was argued that the Biccurim were not to be brought to Jerusalem before Pentecost; nor yet were they to be offered later than the Feast of the Dedication of the Temple. If given at any other time than between Pentecost and the 25th Kislev, the regular service was not gone through at their presentation. Before describing this, we add a few particulars about the Terumoth. In regard to them it was said that ‘a fine eye’ (a liberal man) ‘gives one-fortieth,’ ‘an evil eye’ (a covetous person) ‘one-sixtieth,’ while the average rate of contribution–‘a middling eye’–was to give one-fiftieth, or two per cent. The same proportion we may probably also set down as that of the Biccurim. Indeed, the Rabbis have derived from this the word Terumah, as it were Terei Mimeah, ‘two out of a hundred.’
In the class Terumoth we may also include the Reshith or ‘first of the fleece’ (Deut 18:11); which, according to the Mishnah (Chol. xi. 1, 2), had to be given by every one who possessed at least five sheep, and amounted, without dust or dirt, as a minimum, to five Judean, or ten Galilean, shekel weight of pure wool (one Judean, or sacred shekel = to under two hundred and seventy-four Parisian grains); and, further, the Reshith Challah, or ‘first of the dough’ (Num 15:18-21), * which, if the dough was used for private consumption, was fixed by the Rabbis at one-twenty-fourth, if for sale at one-forty-eighth, while if it were made for non-Israelites, it was not taxed at all. The Rabbis have it that the ‘first of the dough’ was only due from wheat, barley, casmin, oats, and rye, but not if the dough has been made of other esculents, such as rice, etc.
* The Mishnah lays down varying rules as to the amount of the Challah in different places outside Palestine (Chal. iv. 8).
Of course, neither tithes, nor Biccurim, nor Terumoth, were to be given of what already belonged to the Lord, nor of what was not fairly the property of a person. Thus if only the trees, but not the land in which they grew, belonged to a man, he would not give firstfruits. If proselytes, stewards, women, or slaves brought firstfruits, the regular service was not gone through, since such could not have truthfully said either one or other of these verses (Deut 26:3,10): ‘I am come to the country which the Lord sware to our fathers to give us’; or, ‘I have brought the firstfruits of the land which Thou, O Lord, hast given me.’ According to Leviticus 19:23-25, for three years the fruits of a newly-planted tree were to remain unused, while in the fourth year they were, according to the Rabbis, to be eaten in Jerusalem.
Biccurim, Terumoth, and what was to be left in the ‘corners’ of the fields for the poor were always set apart before the tithing was made. If the offering of ‘firstfruits’ had been neglected, one-fifth was to be added when they were brought. Thus the prescribed religious contributions of every Jewish layman at the time of the second Temple were as follows: Biccurim and Terumoth, say two percent; from the ‘first of the fleece,’ at least five shekels’ weight; from the ‘first of the dough,’ say four per cent; ‘corners of the fields’ for the poor, say two per cent; the first, or Levitical tithe, ten per cent; the second, or festival tithe, to be used at the feasts in Jerusalem, and in the third and sixth years to be the ‘poor’s tithe,’ ten per cent; the firstling of all animals, either in kind or money-value; five shekels for every first-born son, provided he were the first child of his mother, and free of blemish; and the half-shekel of the Temple-tribute. Together, these amounted to certainly more than the fourth of the return which an agricultural population would have. And it is remarkable, that the Law seems to regard Israel as intended to be only an agricultural people–no contribution being provided for from trade or merchandise. Besides these prescribed, there were, of course, all manner of voluntary offerings, pious works, and, above all, the various sacrifices which each, according to his circumstances or piety, would bring in the Temple at Jerusalem.
Biccurim in the Temple
Having thus explained the nature of the various religious contributions, it only remains to describe the mode in which the Biccurim or ‘firstfruits,’ were ordinarily set apart, and the ceremonial with which they were brought to Jerusalem, and offered in the Temple. Strictly speaking, the presentation of the firstfruits was an act of family religion. As in the first omer at the Passover, and by the Pentecostal loaves, Israel as a nation owned their God and King, so each family, and every individual separately acknowledged, by the yearly presentation of the firstfruits, a living relationship between them and God, in virtue of which they gratefully received at His hands all they had or enjoyed, and solemnly dedicated both it and themselves to the Lord. They owned Him as the Giver and real Lord of all, and themselves as the recipients of His bounty, the dependents on His blessing, and the stewards of His property. Their daily bread they would seek and receive only at His hand, use it with thanksgiving, and employ it in His service; and this, their dependence upon God, was their joyous freedom, in which Israel declared itself the redeemed people of the Lord.
As a family feast the presentation of the firstfruits would enter more than any other rite into family religion and family life. Not a child in Israel–at least of those who inhabited the Holy Land–could have been ignorant of all connected with this service, and that even though it had never been taken to the beautiful ‘city of the Great King,’ nor gazed with marvel and awe at the Temple of Jehovah. For scarcely had a brief Eastern spring merged into early summer, when with the first appearance of ripening fruit, whether on the ground or on trees, each household would prepare for this service. The head of the family–if we may follow the sketch in the harvest-picture of the household of the Shunammite–accompanied by his child, would go into his field and mark off certain portions from among the most promising of the crop. For only the best might be presented to the Lord, and it was set apart before it was yet ripe, the solemn dedication being, however, afterwards renewed, when it was actually cut. Thus, each time any one would go into the field, he would be reminded of the ownership of Jehovah, till the reapers cut down the golden harvest. So, also, the head of the house would go into his vineyards, his groves of broad-leaved fig-trees, of splendid pomegranates, rich olives and stately palms, and, stopping short at each best tree, carefully select what seemed the most promising fruit, tie a rush round the stem, and say: ‘Lo, these are the firstfruits.’ Thus he renewed his covenant-relationship to God each year as ‘the winter was past, the rain over and gone, the flowers appeared on the earth, the time of the singing of birds was come, and the voice of the turtle was heard in the land, the fig-tree put forth his green figs, and the vines with the tender grapes gave a good smell.’ And as these fruits gradually ripened, the ceremonies connected first with setting them apart, and then with actually offering them, must have continued in every Israelitish household during the greater portion of the year, from early spring till winter, when the latest presentation might be made in the Temple on the 25th Kislev (corresponding to our December).
Songs of Ascent
Of course every family could not always have sent its representatives to Jerusalem. But this difficulty was provided for. It will be remembered that as the priests and the Levites, so all Israel, were divided into twenty-four courses, who were represented in the Sanctuary by the so-called ‘standing men,’ or ‘men of the station.’ This implied a corresponding division of the land into twenty-four districts or circuits. In the capital of each district assembled those who were to go up with the firstfruits to the Temple. Though all Israel were brethren, and especially at such times would have been welcomed with the warmest hospitality each home could offer, yet none might at that season avail himself of it. For they must camp at night in the open air, and not spend it in any house, lest some accidental defilement from the dead, or otherwise, might render them unfit for service, or their oblation unclean. The journey was always to be made slowly, for the pilgrimage was to be a joy and a privilege, not a toil or weariness. In the morning, as the golden sunlight tipped the mountains of Moab, the stationary man of the district, who was the leader, summoned the ranks of the procession in the words of Jeremiah 31:6: ‘Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion, and unto Jehovah our God.’ To which the people replied, as they formed and moved onwards, in the appropriate language of Psalm 122: ‘I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of Jehovah.’ First went one who played the pipe; then followed a sacrificial bullock, destined for a peace-offering, his horns gilt and garlanded with olive-branches; next came the multitude, some carrying the baskets with the firstfruits, others singing the Psalms, which many writers suppose to have been specially destined for that service, and hence to have been called ‘the Songs of Ascent’; in our Authorised Version ‘the Psalms of Degrees.’ The poorer brought their gifts in wicker baskets, which afterwards belonged to the officiating priests; the richer theirs in baskets of silver or of gold, which were given to the Temple treasury. In each basket was arranged, with vine-leaves between them, first the barley, then the wheat, then the olives; next the dates, then the pomegranates, then the figs; while above them all clustered, in luscious beauty, the rich swelling grapes.
And so they passed through the length and breadth of the land, everywhere wakening the echoes of praise. As they entered the city, they sang Psalm 122:2: ‘Our feet stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.’ A messenger had preceded them to announce their approach, and a deputation from the Temple, consisting of priests, Levites, and treasurers, varying in numbers according to the importance of the place from which the procession came, had gone out to receive them. In the streets of Jerusalem each one came out to welcome them, with shouts of, ‘Brethren of such a place’ (naming it), ‘ye come to peace; welcome! Ye come in peace, ye bring peace, and peace be unto you!’
As they reached the Temple Mount, each one, whatever his rank or condition, took one of the baskets on his shoulder, and they ascended, singing that appropriate hymn (Psa 150), ‘Praise ye Jehovah! praise God in His sanctuary: praise Him in the firmament of His power,’ etc. As they entered the courts of the Temple itself, the Levites intoned Psalm 30: ‘I will extol Thee, O Jehovah; for Thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me,’ etc. Then the young pigeons and turtle-doves which hung from the baskets were presented for burnt-offerings. After that, each one, as he presented his gifts, repeated this solemn confession (Deut 26:3): ‘I profess this day unto Jehovah thy God, that I am come unto the country that Jehovah sware unto our fathers for to give us.’ At these words, he took the basket from his shoulder, and the priest put his hands under it and waved it, the offerer continuing: ‘A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation–great, mighty, and populous.’ Then reciting in the words of inspiration the narrative of the Lord’s marvellous dealings, he closed with the dedicatory language of verse 10: ‘And now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land which Thou, O Jehovah, hast given me.’ So saying, he placed the basket at the side of the altar, cast himself on his face to worship, and departed. The contents of the baskets belonged to the officiating priests, and the offerers themselves were to spend the night at Jerusalem.
The Word ‘Firstfruits’ in the New Testament
Turning from this to what may be called its higher application, under the Christian dispensation, we find that the word rendered ‘firstfruits’ occurs just seven times in the New Testament. These seven passages are: Romans 8:13; Romans 11:16; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 15:20-23; 1 Corinthians 16:15; James 1:18; Revelation 14:4. If we group these texts appropriately, one sentence of explanation may suffice in each case. First, we have (1 Cor 15:20,23), as the commencement of the new harvest, the Lord Jesus Himself, risen from the dead, the ‘firstfruits’–the first sheaf waved before the Lord on the second Paschal day, just as Christ actually burst the bonds of death at that very time. Then, in fulfilment of the Pentecostal type of the first loaves, we read of the primal outpouring of the Holy Spirit, dispensed on the day of Pentecost. The presentation of the firstfruits is explained by its application to such instances as Romans 16:5, and 1 Corinthians 16:15 (in the former of which passages the reading should be Asia, and not Achaia), while the character of these firstfruits is shown in James 1:18. The allusion in Romans 11:16 is undoubtedly to the ‘first of the dough,’ and so explains an otherwise difficult passage. The apostle argues, that if God chose and set apart the fathers–if He took the first of the dough, then the whole lump (the whole people) is in reality sanctified to Him; and therefore God cannot, and ‘hath not cast away His people which He foreknew.’ Finally, in Revelation 14:4, the scene is transferred to heaven, where we see the full application of this symbol to the Church of the first-born. But to us all, in our labour, in our faith, and in our hope, there remain these words, pointing beyond time and the present dispensation: ‘Ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body’ (Rom 8:23).
‘Glory to God on account of all things.’–St. Chrysostom
Did The Lord Institute His ‘Supper’ On The Paschal Night?
The question, whether or not the Savior instituted His Supper during the meal of the Paschal night, although not strictly belonging to the subject treated in this volume, is too important, and too nearly connected with it, to be cursorily passed over. The balance of learned opinion, especially in England, has of late inclined against this view. The point has been so often and so learnedly discussed that I do not presume proposing to myself more than the task of explaining my reasons for the belief that the Lord instituted His ‘Supper’ on the very night of the Paschal Feast, and that consequently His crucifixion took place on the first day of Unleavened Bread, the 15th of Nisan.
From the writers on the other side, it may here be convenient to select Dr. Farrar, as alike the latest and one of the ablest expositors of the contrary position. His arguments are stated in a special Excursus appended to his Life of Christ. At the outset it is admitted on both sides, ‘that our Lord was crucified on Friday and rose on Sunday;’ and, further, that our Lord could not have held a sort of anticipatory Paschal Supper in advance of all the other Jews, a Paschal Supper being only possible on the evening of the 14th Nisan, with which, according to Jewish reckoning, the 15th Nisan began. Hence it follows that the Last Supper which Christ celebrated with His disciples must have either been the Paschal:Feast, or an ordinary supper, at which He afterwards instituted His own special ordinance. Now, the conclusions at which Dr. Farrar arrives are thus summed up by him’ ‘That Jesus ate His last supper with the disciples on the evening of Thursday, Nisan 13, i.e. at the time when, according to Jewish reckoning, the 14th of Nisan began; that this supper was not, and was not intended to be, the actual Paschal meal, which neither was nor could be legally eaten till the following evening; but by a perfectly natural identification, and one which would have been regarded as unimportant, the Last Supper, which was a quasi-Passover, a new and Christian Passover, and one in which, as in its antitype, memories of joy and sorrow were strangely blended, got to be identified, even in the memory of the Synoptists, with the Jewish Passover, and that St. john silently but deliberately corrected this
erroneous impression, which, even in his time, had come to be generally prevalent.’ Before entering into the discussion, I must confess myself unable to agree with the a priori reasoning by which Dr. Farrar accounts for the supposed mistake of the Synoptists. Passing over the expression, that ‘the Last Supper was a quasi-Passover,’ which does not convey to me a sufficiently definite meaning, I should rather have expected that, in order to realize the obvious ‘antitype,’ the tendency of the Synoptists would have been to place the death of Christ on the evening of the 14th Nisan, when the Paschal lamb was actually slain, rather than on the 15th Nisan, twenty-four hours after that sacrifice had taken place. In other words, the typical predilections of the Synoptists would, I imagine, have led them to identify the death of Christ with the slaying of the lamb; and it seems, a priori, difficult to believe that, if Christ really died at that time, and His last supper was on the previous evening — -that of the 13th Nisan, — they
should have fallen into the mistake of identifying that supper, not with His death, but with the Paschal meal. I repeat: a priori, if error there was, I should have rather expected it in the opposite direction. Indeed, the main dogmatic strength of the argument on the other side lies in the consideration that the anti-type (Christ) should have died at the same time as the type (the Paschal lamb). Dr. Farrar himself feels the force of this, and one of his strongest arguments against the view that the Last Supper took place at the Paschal meal is: ‘The sense of inherent and symbolical fitness in the dispensation which ordained that Christ should be slain on the day and at the hour appointed for the sacrifice of the Paschal lamb.’ Of all persons, would not the Synoptists have been alive: to this consideration? And, if so, is it likely that they would have fallen into the mistake with which they are charged? Would not all their tendencies have lain in the opposite direction?
But to pass to the argument itself. For the sake of clearness it will here be convenient to treat the question under three aspects: — How does the supposition that the Last Supper did not take place on the Paschal night agree with the general bearing of the whole history? What, fairly speaking, is the inference from the Synoptical Gospels? Lastly, does the account of St. John, in this matter, contradict those of the Synoptists, or is it harmonious indeed with theirs, but incomplete?
How Does The Supposition That The Last Supper Did Not Take Place On The Paschal Night Agree With The General Bearing Of The Whole History?
1. The language of the first three Evangelists, taken in its natural sense, seems dearly irreconcilable with this view. Even Dr. Farrar admits: ‘If we construe the language for the Evangelists in its plain, straightforward, simple sense, and without reference to any preconceived theories, or supposed necessities for harmonizing the different narratives, we should be led to conclude from the Synoptists that the Last Supper was the ordinary Paschal meal.’ On this point further remarks will be made in the sequel.
2. The account of the meal as given, not only by the Synoptists but also by St. John, so far as he describes it, seems to me utterly inconsistent with the idea of an ordinary supper. It is not merely one trait or another which here influences us, but the general impression produced by the whole. The preparations for the meal; the allusions to it; in short, so to speak, the whole raise mise, en scene is not that of a common supper. Only the necessities of a preconceived theory would lead one to such a conclusion. On the other hand, all is just what might have been expected, if the Evangelists had meant to describe the Paschal meal.
3. Though I do not regard such considerations as decisive, there are, to my mind, difficulties in the way of adopting the view that Jesus died while the Paschal lamb was being slain, far greater than those which can attach to the other theory. On the supposition of Dr. Farrar, the crucifixion took place on the 14th Nisan, ‘between the evenings’ of which the Paschal lamb was slain. Being a Friday, the ordinary evening service would have commenced at 1:30 P.M., and the evening sacrifice offered, say, at 1:30, after which the services connected with the Paschal lamb would immediately begin. Now it seems to me almost inconceivable, that under such circumstances, and on so busy an afternoon, there should have been, at the time when they must have been most engaged, around the cross that multitude of reviling Jews, ‘likewise also the chief priests, mocking Him, with the scribes,’ which all the four Evangelists record. (Matthew 27:39, 41; Mark 15:29, 31; Luke 23:35; John 21:20) Even more difficult does it seem to me to believe, that after the Paschal lamb had been slain, and while the preparations for the Paschal Supper were going on, as St. John reports, (John 20:39-39) an ‘honorable councillor,’ like Joseph of Arimathaea, and a Sanhedrist, like Nicodemus, should have gone to beg of Pilate the body of Jesus, or been able to busy themselves with His burial. I proceed now to the second question:
What, Fairly Speaking, Is The Inference From The Synoptical Gospels?
1.To this, I should say, there can be only one reply: — The Synoptical Gospels, undoubtedly, place the Last Supper in the Paschal night. A bare quotation of their statements will establish this: ‘Ye know that after two days is the Passover’; (Matthew 26:19) ‘Now the first day of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto Him, Where wilt Thou that we prepare for Thee to eat the Passover?” (Matthew 26:17) “I will keep the Passover at thy house” (Matthew 26:18). ‘They made ready the Passover. (Matthew 26:19) Similarly, in the Gospel by St. Mark (Mark 14:12-17) ‘And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the Passover, the disciples said unto Him, Where wilt Thou that we go and prepare, that Thou mayest eat the Passover?’ ‘The Master saith, Where is the guest-chamber, where I shall eat the Passover with my disciples? ‘There make ready for us.’ ‘And they made ready the Passover. And in the evening He cometh with the twelve. And as they sat and did eat. . .’ And in the Gospel by St. Luke (Luke 22:7-15) Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the Passover must be killed;’ ‘Go and prepare us the Passover, that we may eat;’ ‘Where is the guest-chamber where I shall eat the Passover with my disciples?’ ‘There make ready;’ ‘And they made ready the Passover.’ ‘And when the hour was come He sat down;’ ‘With desire have I desired to eat this Passover with you BEFORE I SUFFER.’ It is not easy to understand how even a ‘preconceived theory’ could weaken the obvious import of such expressions, especially when taken in connection with the description of the meal that follows.
2. Assuming, then, the testimony of the Synoptical Gospels to be unequivocally in our favor, it appears to me extremely improbable that, in such a matter, they should have been mistaken, or that such an ‘erroneous impression’ could — and this even ‘in the time of St. John’ have ‘come to be generally prevalent.’ On the contrary, I have shown that if mistake there was, it would most likely have been rather in the opposite: direction.
3. We have now to consider what Dr. Farrar calls ‘the incidental notices preserved in the Synoptists,’ which seem to militate against their general statement. Selecting those which are of greatest force, we have: — (a) The fact’ that the disciples (John 13:22) suppose Judas to have left the room in order to buy what things they had need of against the feast.’ But the disciples only suppose this; and in the confusion and excitement of the scene such a mistake was not unintelligible. Besides, though servile work was forbidden on the first Paschal day, the preparation of all needful provision for the feast was allowed, and must have been the more necessary, as, on our supposition, it was followed by a Sabbath. Indeed, the Talmudical law distinctly allowed the continuance of such preparation of provisions as had been commenced on the ‘preparation day’ (Arnheim, Gebeth. d. Isr., p. 500, note 69, a). In general, we here refer to our remarks at p. 247, only adding, that even now Rabbinical ingenuity can find many a way of evading the rigor of the Sabbath-law.
(b) As for the meeting of the Sanhedrim, and the violent arrest of Christ on such a night of peculiar solemnity, the fanatical hatred of the chief priests, and the supposed necessities of the case, would sufficiently account for them. On any supposition we have to admit the operation of these causes, since the Sanhedrim confessedly violated, in the trial of Jesus, every principle and form of their own criminal jurisprudence.
Lastly, We Have To Inquire: Does The Account Of St. John Contradict Those Of The Synoptists, Or Is It Harmonious, Indeed, With Them, But Incomplete?
1. Probably few would commit themselves to the statement, that the account of St. John necessarily contradicts those of the Synoptists. But the following are the principal reasons urged by Dr. Farrar for the inference that, according to St. John, the Last Supper took place the evening before the Paschal night: — (a) Judas goes, as is supposed, to buy the things that they have need of against the feast. This has already been explained. (b) The Pharisees ‘went not into the judgment-hall, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover.’ And in answer to the common explanation that ‘the Passover’ here means the 15th day, Chaigigah, he adds, in a footnote, that ‘there was nothing specifically Paschal’ about this Chaigigah. Dr. Farrar should have paused before committing himself to such a statement. One of the most learned Jewish writers, Dr. Saalschutz, is not of his opinion. He writes as follows’: The whole feast and all its festive meals were designated as the Passover. See Deuteronomy 16:2, comp. 2 Chronicles 30:24, and 35:8, 9; Sebach. 99, b, Rosh ha Sh. 5, a, where it is expressly said “What is the meaning of the term Passover?” (Answer) “The peace-offerings of the Passover.”’ Illustrative Rabbinical passages are also quoted by Lightfoot:and by Schottgen. As a rule the Chagigah was always brought on the 15th Nisan, and it required Levitical purity. Lastly, Dr. Farrar himself admits that the statement of St. John (John 18:28) must not be too closely pressed, ‘for that some Jews must have even gone into the judgment-hall without noticing “the defilement” is clear.’ (c) According to St. John, (John 19:31) the following Sabbath was
‘a high day,’ or ‘a great day;’ on which Dr. Farrar comments: ‘Evidently because it was at once; a Sabbath, and the first day of the Paschal Feast.’ Why not the second day of the feast, when the first omer was presented in the Temple? To these may be added the following among the other arguments advanced by Dr. Farrar: — (d) The various engagements recorded in the Gospels on the day of Christ’s crucifixion are incompatible with a festive day of rest, such as the 15th Nisan. The reference to ‘Simon the Cyrenian coming out of the country’ seems to me scarcely to deserve special notice. But then Joseph of Arimathaea bought on that day the ‘line linen’ (Mark 15:46) for Christ’s burial, and the women ‘prepared spices and ointments.’ (Luke 23:56) Here, however, it should be remembered, that the rigor of the festive was not like that of the Sabbatic rest; that there were means of really buying such a cloth without doing it in express terms (an evasion known to Rabbinical law). Lastly, the Jerusalem Talmud (Ber. 5, b) expressly declares it lawful on Sabbaths and feast-days to bring a coffin, graveclothes, and even mourning flutes — in short, to attend to the offices for the dead — just as on ordinary days. This passage, though, as far as I know, never before quoted in this controversy, is of the greatest importance. (e) Dr. Farrar attaches importance to the fact that Jewish tradition fixes the death of Christ on the 14th Nisan. But these Jewish traditions, to which an appeal is made, are not only of a late date, but wholly unhistorical and valueless. Indeed, as Dr. Farrar himself shows, they are full of the grossest absurdities. I cannot here do better than simply quote the words of the great Jewish historian, Dr. Jost: ‘Whatever attempts may be made to plead in favor of these Talmudic stories, and to try and discover some historical basis in them, the Rabbis of the third and fourth centuries are quite at sea about the early Christians, and deal in legends for which there is no foundation of any kind.’ (f) Dr. Farrar’s objection that ‘after supper’ Jesus and His disciples went out, which seems to him inconsistent with the injunction of Exodus 12:22, and that in the account of the meal there is an absence of that hurry which, according to the law, should have characterized the supper, arises from not distinguishing the ordinances of the so-called ‘Egyptian’ from those of ‘the permanent Passover.’ On this and kindred points the reader is referred to Chapters 11., 12. (g) The only other argument requiring notice is that in their accounts the three Synoptists ‘give not the remotest hint which could show that a lamb formed the most remarkable portion of the feast.’ Now, this is an objection which answers itself. For, according to Dr. Farrar, these Synoptists had, in writing their accounts, been under the mistaken impression that they were describing the Paschal Supper. As for their silence on the subject, it seems to me ,capable of an interpretation the opposite of that which Dr. Farrar has put upon it. Considering the purpose of all which they had in view — the fulfillment of the type of the Paschal Supper, and the substitution for it of the Lord’s Supper — their silence seems not only natural, but what might have been expected. For their object was to describe the Paschal Supper only in so far as it bore upon the institution of the Lord’s Supper. Lastly, it is a curious coincidence that throughout the whole Mishnic account of the Paschal Supper there is only one isolated reference to the lamb — a circumstance so striking, that, for example, Caspari has argued from it that ordinarily this meal was what he calls ‘a meal of unleavened bread,’ and that in the majority of cases there was no Passover lamb at all! I state the inference drawn by Dr. Caspari, but there can scarcely be any occasion for replying to it.
On the other hand, I have now to add two arguments taken from the masterly disquisition of the whole question by Wieseler, to show that St. John, like the Synoptists, places the date of the crucifixion on the 15th Nisan, and hence that of the Last Supper on the evening of the 14th (a) Not only the Synoptists, but St. John (John 18:39) refers to the custom of releasing a prisoner at ‘the feast,’ or, as St. John expressly calls it, ‘at the Passover.’ Hence the release of Barabbas, and with it the crucifixion of Jesus, could not have taken place (as Dr. Farrar supposes) on the 14th of Nisan, the morning of which could not have been designated as ‘the feast,’ and still less as ‘the Passover.’ (b) When St. John mentions (John 18:28) that the accusers of Jesus went not into Pilate’s judgment-hall ‘lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the Passover,’ he could not have referred to their eating the Paschal Supper. For the defilement thus incurred would only have lasted to the evening of that day, whereas the Paschal Supper was eaten after the evening had commenced, so that the defilement of Pilate’s judgement-hall in the morning would in no way have interfered with their eating the Paschal Lamb. But it would have interfered with their either offering or partaking of the Chagigah on the 15th Nisan.
2. Hitherto I have chiefly endeavored to show that the account of St. John is harmonious with that of the Synoptists in reference to the time of the Last Supper. But, on the other hand, I am free to confess that, if it had stood alone, I should not have been able to draw the same clear inference from it as from the narratives of the first three Gospels. My difficulty here arises, not from what St. John says, but from what he does not say. His words, indeed, are quite consistent with those of the Synoptists, but, taken alone, they would not have been sufficient to convey, at least to my mind, the same clear impression. And here I have to observe that St. John’s account must in this respect seem equally incomplete, whichever theory of the time of the Last Supper be adopted. If the Gospel of St. John stood alone, it would, I think, be equally difficult for Dr. Farrar to prove from it his, as for me to establish my view. He might reason from certain expressions, and so might I; but there are no such clear, unmistakable statements as those in which the Synoptists describe the Passover night as that of the Last Supper. And yet we should have expected most fullness and distinctness from St. John! Is not the inference suggested that the account in the Gospel of St. John, in the form in which we at present possess it, may be incomplete? I do not here venture to construct a hypothesis, far less to offer a matured explanation, but rather to make a suggestion of what possibly may have been, and to put it as a question to scholars. But once admit the idea, and there are, if not many, yet weighty reasons, to confirm it.
It would account for all the difficulties felt by those who have adopted the same view as Dr. Farrar, and explain, not, indeed, the supposed difference — for such I deny — but the incompleteness of St. John’s narrative, as compared with those of the Synoptists.
It explains what otherwise seems almost unaccountable. I agree with Dr. Farrar that St. John’s ‘accounts of the Last Supper are incomparably more full than those of the other Evangelists,’ and that he ‘was more immediately and completely identified with every act ill those last trying scenes than any one of the apostles.’ And yet, strange to say, on this important point St. John’s information is not only more scanty than that of the Synoptists, but so indefinite that, of alone, no certain inference could be drawn from it. The circumstance is all the more inexplicable if, as on Dr. Farrar’s theory, ‘the error’ of the Synoptists was at the time ‘generally prevalent,’ and St. John silently but deliberately,’ had set himself to correct it.
Strangest of all, the Gospel of St. John is the only one which does not contain any account of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, and yet, if anywhere; we would have expected to find it here. 4. The account in John 13, begins with a circumstantially which leads us to expect great fulness of detail. And yet, while maintaining throughout that characteristic, so far as the teaching of Jesus in that night is concerned, it almost suddenly and abruptly breaks off (about ver. 31) in the account of what He and they who sat with Him did at the Supper.
Of such a possible hiatus there seems, on closer examination, some internal confirmation, of which I shall here only adduce this one instance — that chapter 14: concludes by, ‘Arise, let us go hence;’ which, however, is followed by other three chapters of precious teaching and intercessory prayer, when the narrative is abruptly resumed, by a strange repetition, as compared with 14:31, in these words (18:1): ‘When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the brook Cedron.’ Further discussion would lead beyond the necessary limits of the present Excursus. Those who know how bitterly the Quartodeciman controversy raged in the early Church, and what strong things were put forth by the so-called ‘disciples of John’ in defense of their view, that the Last Supper did not take place on the Paschal night, may see grounds to account for such a hiatus. In conclusion, I would only say that, to my mind, the suggestion above made would in no way be inconsistent with the doctrine of the plenary inspiration of Holy Scripture.