Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):

Old Myths Die Hard --

Was the Law Given at Mount Sinai On the Traditional Shavuot?

Because of the Jewish tradition that the giving of the Law occurred at Shavuot (Pentecost), the rabbinic authorities have been forced to interpret Exodus 19:1 to mean that the Israelites arrived at Mt. Sinai on the first day of the third month of Sivan -- since their traditional Shavuot can fall on the 5th, 6th or 7th of that month. The Bible, however, does NOT support this erroneous interpretation. So what does Exodus 19:1 REALLY mean?

by HOIM Staff

The Tradition

Of all of the traditions that have been handed down about Pentecost (Shavuot), perhaps none is more universally accepted than that of its being the anniversary of the day that YEHOVAH God came down upon Mount Sinai and spoke the Ten Commandments (or Words) to the assembled Israelites. It is a very ancient tradition in rabbinic Judaism and has been transferred intact to holy day observant individuals and groups who are disciples of Yeshua in our own day, as well as, very probably, those in past centuries.

The modern followers of Yeshua the Messiah, in accepting this tradition, have sought to link the "giving of the Law (Torah)" with "the giving of the holy spirit (Ruach haKodesh)", which the book of Acts (2:1ff) documents as having come in power upon the disciples that day. The question remains, however, as to whether the original tradition can be reconciled with the scriptural accounts. Although most popular Jewish sources tout the traditional point of view, leading Jewish scholars are clear about the origins of this "Shavuot is the anniversary of the giving of the Law" tradition.

Hayyim Schauss says,

"Shavuos played a minor role in comparison with the other two harvest festivals; it was considered no more than a continuation of and an epilogue to the Festival of Unleavened Bread. There was no effort made, even in later biblical times, to tie up the festival with a historic event; it remained through all that time, an agricultural holiday, the festival of the completion of the [summer] grain harvest. In none of the books of the Bible is there any trace or mention of Shavuos in connection with the giving of the Torah." [1] (emphasis added by author throughout this study)

And he adds,

"At any rate, Shavuos did not play a great role in the Jewish life of those days. It was obviously a festival observed only in the Temple, and not to any noticeable extent outside of Jerusalem. The holiday first attained importance when it became the festival of the giving of the Torah, of God revealing Himself on Mount Sinai." [2]

Abraham Bloch tells us,

"The connection of Shabuot with the Revelation at Mount Sinai is of later origin and is not mentioned either by Josephus or Philo. In the Torah the day is designated as the 'feast of harvest' or 'the day of the firstfruits' or 'the feast of weeks.' The designation as 'the day of the giving of our law,' found in the prayerbook is of much later origin." [3]

Given these acknowledgements, perhaps a reevaluation is in order to discover if we have an opportunity to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 3:18 -- New King James Version used throughout)

The Exodus Account

The stage is set for the Israelites to receive the Law when they arrive at Sinai:

"In the third month after the children of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on the same day, they came to the Wilderness of Sinai" (Exodus 19:1).

Because of their tradition that the giving of the Law occurred at Shavuot, rabbinical authorities have to interpret this verse to mean that the Israelites arrived at Sinai on the first day of the third month, since Shavuot could have been on the fifth, sixth or seventh of the same month and there was at least a three day period of ceremonial cleansing in the interval. The text itself, however, does not support this interpretation. It uses the phrase "on (or in) the same day". The same day as what? The Hebrew is as unambiguous as the English translation: it is "in the same day" (In the same day Image) that the children of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt. To what day does this phrase refer?

"So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt" (Exodus 12:17).

Clearly, the reference is to the first day of Unleavened Bread, Nisan 15. Notice in Exodus 12:17 the use of the phrase "same day" (Same Day Image) just as Exodus 19:1 uses "in the same day" (In the same day Image). Repeatedly in the account of the exodus, the day (yom) the Israelites went out of Egypt is used with the demonstrative adjective.

3 "And Moses said to the people: Remember this day (This day Image) [Accusative Imageis just the untranslatable accusative marker] in which you went out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out of this place. No leavened bread shall be eaten. 

4 "On this day you are going out, in the month Abib" (Exodus 13:3-4).

41 "And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years -- on that very same day (Very same day Image literally, "in the bone [i.e. substance] of this day) -- it came to pass that all the armies of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt" (Exodus 12:41).

51 "And it came to pass, on that very same day (Very same day Image), that the LORD brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt according to their armies" (Exodus 12:51).

It should be clear that when all of these passages use the phrase Same day Image in some form and all clearly refer to the 15th of Nisan, the day of the Israelites' departure from Egypt, then Exodus 19:1 means that they came to the wilderness of Sinai on the fifteenth day of the third month. Since this is AFTER the traditional Shavuot, the giving of the Law could not have occurred on that day. The question then becomes -- how long a period of time elapsed between their arrival and that momentous day when the Law was thundered from the top of the mount?

If we continue reading Exodus 19, we see that the Israelites were commanded by Moses to consecrate themselves and wash their clothes for they were to meet with YEHOVAH God in 3 days.  "For on the third day, YEHOVAH will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people" (Exodus 19:10-11).  By this we can conclude that YEHOVAH descended on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people exactly 3 days after they arrived at the mountain.

On the THIRD month -- 15th day -- the Israelites arrive at Mount Sinai. For 2 DAYS the Israelites prepare and are presented before YEHOVAH God to receive His covenant on the 3RD DAY.

The Count from the Wave Sheaf Offering

To bring this discussion into focus, we need to understand the Biblical count from the Wave Sheaf Offering on Nisan 16 to the Feast of Shavuot or Pentecost -- this we find in Leviticus 23:15-17, notice!

"You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath that you bring the Wave-sheaf [Nisan 16], SEVEN SABBATHS. They must be complete. Then AFTER the seventh Sabbath, you shall COUNT FIFTY DAYS, when you shall present a new offering to the EVER-LIVING. You shall bring from your dwellings, two wave cakes of two tenths of fine [wheat] flour. They shall be fermented, -- baked in an oven for the EVER-LIVING."

Of all the modern translations of these verses, Ferrar Fenton is the only translator to understand the Hebrew meaning incorporated in them. From the Wave Sheaf Offering (Nisan 16), we are instructed to count seven Sabbaths complete. This will always bring us to the 8th day of the third month (Sivan). The Bible plainly tells us that from the day AFTER the seven Sabbaths complete, we are to number 50 days. So on the day AFTER the 8th of Sivan (third month), we are to then count 50 days -- day 1 being the 9th of Sivan. If the month of Sivan has 30 days, then the 50th day will fall on the 28th day of the fourth month (Tammuz). If Sivan has 29 days, then the 50th day will fall on the 29th day of Tammuz (the fourth month).

This new understanding creates a wonderful pattern of YEHOVAH's annual Feasts, being in the SPRING, SUMMER and FALL -- each corresponding to a season of harvest in Israel. As we have just seen, the Feast of Shavuot or Weeks is the ONLY Feast that is not a fixed day on YEHOVAH God's lunisolar calendar, thus making it the ONLY Feast in which we are asked to COUNT in order to find the correct day for the summer Feast.

What is most interesting about this is that the Israelites arrived at Mount Sinai on the following Sabbath AFTER the seventh Sabbath -- they DID NOT arrive by the modern "fifty day" count to "Pentecost." This is because from "the morrow after the seventh Sabbath" the 50-day count had begun, and by their arrival on the 15th, 7 days had already elapsed.

In Exodus 20:18-21, we read that the Israelites were terrified at the presence of YEHOVAH God, so they asked Moses to speak to YEHOVAH for them. Moses then ascends the mountain, where he remains for "forty days and forty nights" (Exodus 24:18). After 40 days, Moses descends Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments Law of YEHOVAH God (Deuteronomy 9:9-12). From this, we can conclude with certainty that Moses descended Mount Sinai with the Commandments EXACTLY 50 days after the "seventh complete Sabbath" (8th day of Third Month + 7 days + 3 days + 40 days).  Amazing! So while YEHOVAH's descent upon Mount Sinai is universally considered to be when He verbally delivered the Law to the Israelites, we most definitely PROCLAIM that the Feast of Weeks is NOT a memorial of this giving of the Law!  However, the TRUE day of Shavuot DOES commemorate when Moses brought the written Law down from the mountain.

It is worth noting also that Aaron (the high priest), one day earlier, somehow knew to proclaim a "feast to YEHOVAH" on this very day -- EXACTLY 50 days after the "seventh complete Sabbath." 

"And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, Tomorrow is a feast [Strong's H2282] to YEHOVAH" (Exodus 32:5).

Note that the word "feast" in the above verse is Strong's H2282 (khag); Khag is consistently used throughout Scripture to denote a pilgrimage feast (See The New Strong's Expanded Dictionary of Bible Words). The Feast of Weeks is one of three pilgrimage feasts (khags) commanded by YEHOVAH God -- Deuteronomy16:16. Also note that YEHOVAH does not reprimand His high priest (Aaron) for proclaiming a feast on the wrong day; rather YEHOVAH cites idolatry as the reason for His anger (Exodus 32:7-9; Deuteronomy 9:16, 20).

Moses descended the mountain with the Ten Commandments Law of YEHOVAH God on the same day that Aaron (the high priest) somehow knew to proclaim a "feast (khag) to YEHOVAH."  This took place 50 DAYS AFTER THE "SEVENTH COMPLETE SABBATH"! It is simply NOT reasonable to dismiss all of these things as coincidence -- as some will try to do!

It seems apparent that the children of Israel had been anticipating a feast on this very day, because on the preceding day we see that it was when they saw that Moses "delayed" that they went to Aaron and began to pressure him in going along with their own idolatrous preparations for a feast the following day. "Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, 'Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him'" (Exodus 32:1, NKJV).

Recapitulating we see --

1) On the THIRD Hebrew month (Sivan) -- 15th day -- the Israelites arrive at Mount Sinai. That is 7 days after the "seven Sabbaths complete" on the THIRD month, 8th day.

2) For 2 DAYS the Israelites prepare and are presented before YEHOVAH God to receive His covenant on the 3rd day.

3) On the next day, THIRD month -- 18th day -- Moses prepares and goes up onto the mountain to receive the tablets of stone. That's 3 more days. 7 days + 3 days = 10 days.

4) Moses spends 40 days up on Mount Sinai with YEHOVAH God, receiving the written law. That's 10 days + 40 days = yes, 50 DAYS!! Count 50 to the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot in the fourth month of Tammuz!

And what did Aaron say on the day BEFORE Moses descended the mountain? "So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, 'Tomorrow is a FEAST to the LORD.' Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play" (Exodus 32:5-6).

For more information on YEHOVAH God's true Feast of Weeks, download or send for the following articles: New Understanding On Observing the Correct Day of PENTECOST!, PENTECOST -- Its True Meaning and Incredible Symbolism, and Pentecost -- The MYSTERY Solved!

Incidentally, this is one of the most remarkable proofs for the lunar Sabbath! For only by counting "seven complete Sabbaths" on a lunisolar calendar -- and then counting 50 days -- can we locate the Biblical Feast of Weeks or Shavuot! This means that ONLY those who use the lunisolar calendar to reckon the seventh-day-Sabbaths (as well as the other feast days) can correctly locate YEHOVAH's Feast of Weeks -- the feast most closely associated with the pouring out of YEHOVAH's holy spirit and the latter rain! (See our articles, Have We Been Observing the Sabbath At the Wrong Time All These Years? and From Sabbath to Saturday: The Story of the Jewish Rest Day for more information on YEHOVAH's Sabbath Day).

What About Acts 2?

Many expositors claim that the giving of the Law -- when YEHOVAH God descended upon Mount Sinai -- is paralleled by the giving of the holy spirit and the founding of the New Testament church in Acts 2:1-4 and verse 6. However, as we have seen, when YEHOVAH God came down on the mountain and verbally gave His Law to the assembled Israelites Shavuot had not yet fully come -- it was only three days after their arrival at the mountain. And YEHOVAH assuredly didn't send His holy spirit on the correct day of Shavuot when the Israelites were desecrating His holy day by worshipping the golden calf! So is there any event at that time which might parallel the pouring out of YEHOVAH's spirit in Acts 2?

While the events of the Israelites' time at Mount Sinai do not seem to offer any linkage to the dynamic events recorded in Acts 2 -- which transpired on Pentecost (Shavuot) in 31 A.D. -- there is an interesting parallel in Numbers 11 to the Acts account. Notice!

16 "So the LORD said to Moses: Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tabernacle of meeting, that they may stand there with you. 

17 "Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone" (Numbers 11:16-17).

25 Then the LORD came down in the cloud, and spoke to him, and took of the Spirit that was upon him, and placed the same upon the seventy elders; and it happened, when the Spirit rested upon them, that they prophesied, although they never did so again. 

26 "But two men had remained in the camp: the name of one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad. And the Spirit rested upon them. Now they were among those listed, but who had not gone out to the tabernacle; yet they prophesied in the camp" (Numbers 11:25-26).

The similarity to Acts 2 is obvious:

1 "When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place

2 "And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 

3 "Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them

4 "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."

The similarity becomes even more pronounced when we look at the Hebrew word (Prophesied Image v'yotnabu) translated "prophesied" in Numbers 11:25-26. The Hebrew verb here is from the verbal root Prophesy Image naba, to prophesy. Notice what the Theological Word Dictionary of the O.T. has to say about this word:

"The derivation of nabi is a matter of controversy. The old Gesenius Lexicon (ed. Tregelles), for example, derives this noun from the verb naba, "the ayin being softened into aleph, " and meaning to bubble up, "boil forth," hence, "to pour forth words, like those who speak with fervour of mind or under divine inspiration, as prophets and poets." Ewald, Haevernick and Bleek agree (see Samuel Davidson, Introduction to the OT, II, p. 230) as does also Oehler (OT Theology, p. 363). For these reasons this group of authors have supposed that to utter revelations from God's spirit (ecstatic speech) is the function of the nabi."

It would seem that the elders in Numbers 11 were doing something very similar to what the disciples in Acts 2 were doing. Perhaps they were also each speaking a tongue of the seventy nations.

But what day was this? The text does not specifically say but it does tell us very nearly. Earlier, in chapter 10 we read,

"Now it came to pass on the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year, that the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle of the Testimony" (Numbers 10:11).

As we continue reading the narrative, we find, in verse 33, that the Israelites leave Mount Sinai for a three day journey, which would have ended on the 23rd of Iyar (second month). There seems to be a lengthy period of indeterminate time implied between when they left the camp in verse 34 of Numbers 10 to when the people complain in Numbers 11:1, in that second year. The events of Numbers 11:1-15 would have taken several days to play out, although no reckoning of time is given. Nevertheless, when we continue to verse 16, at which point the Eternal tells Moses to gather the seventy elders, several days must have passed. From verse 17 to verse 24, at least one more day and possibly more transpire before the elders are gathered and the spirit comes down and rests upon them.

While we certainly have no definitive proof, it seems plausible, given the strong correlation in wording between Numbers chapter 11:24-26 and Acts 2, that the Ruach HaKodesh (holy spirit) may well have come upon the seventy elders of Israel on the day of Shavuot in the second year of the exodus.

Other Parallels

In Exodus 32:28 we read that the

"sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And about THREE THOUSAND men of the people fell that day."

This occurred on the Feast day of Exodus 32:5 -- which we have shown to be the Biblical Feast of Shavuot or Weeks. "About three thousand men" die as a result of idolatry on the same day that Aaron "somehow" knew to proclaim a "feast to the LORD" -- exactly seven Sabbaths complete plus 50 days. Now, if we go to Acts 2 we read:

"Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about THREE THOUSAND souls were added to them" (verse 41).

"About three thousand souls" are called by YEHOVAH God as a result of the pouring out of His holy spirit -- on the same day that thousands were gathered together in Jerusalem because the Feast of Shavuot or Weeks "had fully come" (Acts 2:1).

Another interesting parallel can be found in Exodus 24:12 and Exodus 32:15-16:

12 "Then the LORD said to Moses, 'Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of STONE, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them."

15 "And Moses turned and went down from the mountain, and the two tablets of the Testimony were in his hand. The tablets were written on both sides; on the one side and on the other they were written.

16 "Now the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God engraved on the tablets."

At the end of the FOURTH month of Tammuz -- when YEHOVAH's Feast of Shavuot or Weeks had fully come -- Moses returned from the mountain with the tablets of STONE -- and with the intention of teaching the words thereon to the people of Israel (Exodus 24:12, last part). When Moses came close to the camp and saw the people polluting YEHOVAH's Feast Day, he "cast the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain" (Exodus 32:19).

While here at the mountain of YEHOVAH God His law was written on "tablets of STONE," in Acts 2 we find a fulfillment of the prophecy found in Jeremiah 31:33 -- notice!

"But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their HEARTS; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people."

This is referred to by the apostle Paul in Hebrews 10:16. At Sinai the law was written in stone due to the stiff-necked and rebellious people of Israel; but at Jerusalem in 31 A.D. the law was written "on their hearts" due to the 3,000 obedient Israelites who received YEHOVAH's spirit on that day.


[1] Schauss, Hayyim Guide to Jewish Holy Days History and Observance, p. 87.

[2] Ibid, p. 89.

[3] Bloch, Abraham P. The Biblical and Historical Background of the Jewish Holy Days, KTAV Publishing House, 1978, p. 229.


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