A Historical Look at Pentecost

I know most people think that the whole point to Pentecost was so the believers could speak in tongues, proving that the Holy Spirit had baptized them, thus setting them apart as being God’s holy people. Pentecost is looked at as a New Testament teaching. However, Pentecost is a festival celebrated by Jews long before the Holy Spirit gave cloven tongues to people.

We will look at the historical reference of Pentecost and work our way up to Pentecost in the book of Acts. This will take at least one more article to explain the true purpose of Pentecost.

Historically Speaking

Pentecost means the fiftieth day. The Greek Lexicon tells us it is “the second of the three great Jewish feasts, celebrated at Jerusalem yearly, the seventh week after the Passover, in grateful recognition of the completed harvest.”1

This second Jewish feast is called Pentecost in Greek. In Hebrew it is called Shavuot. Shavuot is the Jewish festival that historically marks the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai from Yahweh Elohim to his people, Israel. It marks the day Yahweh Elohim gave his people his teachings, rules, and regulations to live by. It is the day they entered into a covenant for all generations.

Shavuot is the festival between Passover and Sukkot. Passover celebrates the day Yahweh delivered his people from Pharaoh, King of Egypt. Sukkot celebrates the fact that Yahweh took care of and protected his people while journeying through the desert for 40 years. They had to live in temporary dwellings without any walled cities. Yet, Yahweh made sure they were safe, fed, and clothed.

What Shavuot Represents

Unlike the Passover and Sukkot, Shavuot doesn’t have any symbols to identify with. The focus of Shavuot is the Torah – God’s way of life for his people. The scriptures he told us to meditate on day and night so that we can live right before him, which will cause us to live an abundant life.

“Passover freed us physically from bondage, but the giving of the Torah on Shavuot redeemed us spiritually from our bondage to idolatry and immorality.”2

Shavuot also represents unity because on this day, the entire population of Israel stood at the foot of Mount Sinai and pledged their lives and obedience to the God of the universe. This is the day they entered into a covenant with Yahweh Elohim. It is also the day Yahweh spoke to his people so everyone could hear him.

Shavuot is another festival God commands us to keep for all generations. All generations include those before, during, and after Yeshua came and left this earth.

Other Names Given for Shavuot

Shavuot is called by several names in the scriptures. Exodus 34:22 and Deuteronomy 16:10 call it the Festival of Weeks because it marks the seven weeks of journeying from Egypt. Also, Shavuot’s Hebrew meaning is “week.”

Exodus 23:16 calls it the Festival of Harvest. This was the time to gather in the first fruits of the grain harvest. This invoked a celebration of joy in the presence of Yahweh.

Numbers 28:26 calls it the Day of First Fruits. On this day a new grain offering was to be brought to Yahweh. No one could do any work and a holy convocation was to take place.

When is Shavuot (Pentecost)?

According to the Jewish calendar this year’s Shavuot occurs June 7-8, 2011. It begins and ends at sundown. In Israel it only occurs on one day, but outside of Israel it happens on two days. The Jewish calendar follows the cycle of the moon. A new moon meant a new month. However, if you were not in Israel when this new moon was cited, you weren’t sure when the new month started. Therefore, the Israelites who were away from Jerusalem celebrated an extra day for festivals to cover their bases. They would rather celebrate an extra day than offend their God.

How to Celebrate Shavuot

These are biblically and Jewish customs together.

  • Do not work.
  • Be joyful.
  • Stay up the entire first night of Shavuot and study Torah.
  • Pray as early as possible in the morning.
  • Read the book of Ruth.
  • Eat dairy products.
  • Attend services.
  • Decorate your house with greenery.


A Crash Course in Shavuot

This video is short and sums up the festival of Shavuot. It’s great for visual learners.

Ancient Shavuot Celebration is a Foreshadow

Knowing the ancient way of how Shavuot was celebrated gives us a glimpse into why Yeshua told his disciples to wait for the appointed time to receive the Holy Spirit. Understanding the ancient Shavuot celebration gives us a deeper understanding of the book of Acts and what most people today know as the day of Pentecost. I’ll go more into this topic next time.

Prayer Time

Our Heavenly Father, who is in heaven,
         Teach us your Torah so we can understand the magnitude of what you truly did for us.
In Yeshua the Messiah’s name, Amen.

Scripture Reference

“And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: Even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD. Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the first fruits unto the LORD. And ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto the LORD, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savour unto the LORD. Then ye shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings. And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the first fruits for a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the LORD for the priest. And ye shall proclaim on the self same day, that it may be an holy convocation unto you: ye shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.” (Leviticus 23:15-21 KJV)

“You are to count seven weeks; you are to begin counting seven weeks from the time you first put your sickle to the standing grain. You are to observe the festival of Shavu’ot [weeks] for ADONAI your God with a voluntary offering, which you are to give in accordance with the degree to which ADONAI your God has prospered you. You are to rejoice in the presence of ADONAI your God – you, your sons and daughters, your male and female slaves, the L’vi’im living in your towns, and the foreigners, orphans and widows living among you – in the place where ADONAI your God will choose to have his name live. Remember that you were a slave in Egypt; then you will keep and obey these laws.” (Deuteronomy 16:9-12 CJB)

“Observe the festival of Shavu’ot with the first-gathered produce of the wheat harvest, and the festival of ingathering at the turn of the year.” (Exodus 34:22 CJB)

“Next, the festival of harvest, the firstfruits of your efforts sowing in the field; and last, the festival of ingathering, at the end of the year, when you gather in from the fields the results of your efforts.” (Exodus 23:16 CJB)

“Also in the day of the firstfruits, when ye bring a new meat offering unto the LORD, after your weeks be out, ye shall have an holy convocation; ye shall do no servile work.” (Numbers 28:26 KJV)

“And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” (Exodus 20:18-19 KJV)


Shavuot from Wikipedia



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top