Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
What Do You Mean, "Solemn Feast Day"?
Why does the King James Version use the word "solemn" to describe a FEAST day of YEHOVAH God Almighty? Is this word appropriate? In one of the church hymns, we sing, "Blow on the trumpet, sound the drum, On our solemn feast day." What does this really mean?
Are the holy days of YEHOVAH God to be "solemn" occasions? According to the Worldbook Dictionary, the word "solemn" means "serious, grave, or earnest"; "formal"; "causing serious or grave thoughts"; "done with form and ceremony"; "gloomy; dark somber in color." Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary points out that our word derives from a Latin word meaning "regularly appointed," and gives as synonyms "highly serious, grave, sober, somber, gloomy." It also refers to religious ceremonies and processions. According to Webster's New Dictionary and Thesaurus, "solemn" means "attended with, or marked by, special (esp. religious) ceremonies, pomp, or GRAVITY; attended with an appeal to God, as an oath; in serious earnestness; awed, grave, GLUM; awe-inspiring, SOMBER, stately; pompous. " The word derives from solennis referring to "all, every, annus, A YEAR. "
How is it that this word has come to be used in reference to the celebration of YEHOVAH's annual holy days? Is it really a good translation of the original Hebrew? In common usage, the word "solemn" seems to invoke an attitude of somber gravity, serious melancholy, a state of glum and gloomy moroseness -- the kind of state where one would hardly dare to crack a smile, and certainly not laugh out loud. It is the opposite of hilarity, joy, happiness, rejoicing, laughing, and festive gaiety!
Yet YEHOVAH God says concerning His annual Feast of Tabernacles,"On the first day you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and REJOICE before the LORD your God seven days" (Lev. 23:40). And in another place we read, "There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall EAT and shall REJOICE in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you" (Deut. 12:7). "And there REJOICE before the LORD your God, you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites from your towns" (verse 12).
YEHOVAH God also commands, "Be sure to set aside a tenth of all your fields produce each year. Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always. . . Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God AND REJOICE" (Deut. 14:22-26).
The word translated "rejoice" here in these verses is samach and means "to BRIGHTEN UP," "be blithe, or gleesome"; "cheer up, be glad, make joyful, have joy, be merry, cause to rejoice" (Strong's #8055). Obviously, then, YEHOVAH intends for His people to make merry, to be glad, to be happy, full of joy, and to be full of glee, radiant joy, and happiness during His Festivals! He wants us to CELEBRATE OUR JOY, OUR BLESSINGS, before Him!
This word is closely related to the word simchah, which means "blithesomness, glee, JOY" (Strong's #8057). We read that in the days of king Hezekiah, the children of Israel celebrated the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread, with tremendous joy and rejoicing. We read, "And all the congregation of Judah, with the priest and the Levites, and all the congregation that came out of Israel, and the strangers that came out of the land of Israel, and that dwelt in Judah, REJOICED. So there was GREAT JOY in Jerusalem: for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there was not the like in Jerusalem" (II Chron. 30:25-26).
In the days of Ezra the scribe, after the Jews began to return from exile in Babylon, and they finished building the Temple of the LORD, they killed the Passover and celebrated the Feast. "And the children of Israel which were come again of the captivity, and all such as had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen of the land, to SEEK the LORD God of Israel, did eat, and kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days WITH JOY: for the LORD had made them JOYFUL, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them, to strengthen their hands IN THE WORK of the house of God, the God of Israel" (Ezra 6:20-22).
On the first day of the seventh month, the Feast of Trumpets, Rosh Hashannah, the "head of the year," Ezra the scribe of the LORD read to all the assembled people from the book of YEHOVAH's Law -- the Torah (Nehemiah 8:1-8). Then he said to the congregation, "Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions [give!] to them for whom nothing is prepared: for THIS DAY IS HOLY UNTO OUR LORD: neither be ye sorry [downcast, or sad]; for the JOY OF THE LORD IS YOUR STRENGTH. So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, Hold your peace, for the day is holy; NEITHER BE YE GRIEVED. And all the people went their way to EAT, and to DRINK, and to SEND PORTIONS, and to MAKE GREAT MIRTH, because they had understood all the words that were declared unto them" (Neh. 8:10-12).
The following day, the leaders of the children of Israel gathered again to hear the words of the Law of YEHOVAH God expounded (Neh.8:13), "even to understand the words of the law." At this time they discovered that "the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month: and that they should publish and proclaim in ALL THEIR CITIES and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth unto the mount, and fetch OLIVE BRANCHES, and PINE brances, and MYRTLE branches, and PALM branches, and branches of THICK TREES, to make BOOTHS, as it is written . So the people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves booths . . . And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made BOOTHS, and SAT under the booths: for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun unto that day had NOT the children of Israel done so. And there was VERY GREAT GLADNESS. Also, day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he READ IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW OF GOD. And they kept the FEAST seven days; and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, according to the manner" (Neh. 8:14-18).
The word "solemn" here needs explanation. What does "solemn" have to do with days of festivity, joy, and rejoicing?
In connection with the Feast of the eighth day, following the Feast of Tabernacles, we read: "On the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you . . . it is a solemn assembly: and ye shall do no servile work therein" (Lev.23:36). This is the same word used in Nehimiah 8:18. The word "solemn" here is atzarah, and strictly means "AN ASSEMBLY," especially on a festival or holiday (Strong's #6116). That is, it refers to a MEETING or ASSEMBLY, where the words of YEHOVAH God are taught -- a holy convocation (see Leviticus 23:7-8, 21, 24, 27, 35, 36). In no way whatsoever does this Hebrew word mean "sobering, glum, gloomy, somber," as we generally think of the English word "solemn."
However, there is another word in the Hebrew sometimes translated as "solemn." Notice! "Also in the DAY OF YOUR GLADNESS, and in your solemn days, and in the beginnings of your months, ye shall BLOW WITH THE TRUMPETS [shofar] over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; that they may be to you for a MEMORIAL BEFORE YOUR GOD: I am the LORD your God" (Num.10:10). In Numbers 15:3 God speaks of the "solemn feasts." In these two verses the Hebrew word translated "solemn" is moed and strictly means "AN APPOINTMENT, A FIXED TIME OR SEASON, specifically A FESTIVAL, conventionally a YEAR; by implication, an ASSEMBLY (as convened for a definite purpose); technically, the congregation; by extension, the place of meeting." The English word "solemn" again hardly seems proper or appropriate here -- but in the days of the King James translators, "solemn" meant "yearly, annual, appointed time, festival," and did not carry the same connotation it has, today.
In another place we read: "Seven days shalt thou keep a SOLEMN FEAST unto the LORD thy God in the place which the LORD thy God shall choose: 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 " (Deut.16:15). Notice! Here we are COMMANDED to rejoice in the Feast of Tabernacles -- even though it is called a seven day long "solemn feast"! The Hebrew word for "solemn" here is chagag, and literally means "to MOVE IN A CIRCLE, to MARCH in a sacred procession, to OBSERVE A FESTIVAL; by implication, to be giddy: -- celebrate, dance, keep or hold a fesst or holiday, REEL TO AND FRO"!
Does that really sound like "solemn" to you? YEHOVAH God never intended His Feast Days to be days of seriousness, somberness, gloom, glumness, moroseness, saturine countenances, formality and self-righteous pompousness -- pomposity and self-importance. They were ordained as feast days of supreme JOY and sublime REJOICING!
Says the Jewish Tanakh for these verses in Deuteronomy, "After the ingathering from your threshing floor and your vat, you shall HOLD THE FEAST OF BOOTHS for seven days. You shall REJOICE IN YOUR FESTIVAL, with your son and daughter, your male and female slave, the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow in your communities. You shall HOLD FESTIVAL for the LORD your God seven days, in the place which the LORD will choose; for the LORD your God will BLESS all your crops and all your undertakings, and you shall have NOTHING BUT JOY " (Deut. 16:14-15).
The feasts of YEHOVAH God are times of TREMENDOUS JOY, hilarity, happiness! There should be NOTHING BUT DELIRIOUS JOY at YEHOVAH's Festivals!
The Hebrew word chagag literally means, according to Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament, "to go round in a circle, hence -- 1)TO DANCE, 2) to keep a festival, from the idea of LEAPING, and dancing in sacred dances, 3) to reel, to be giddy. "
Reeling, or swaying to and fro, as in a dance, is not the same thing as drunkenness, of course. YEHOVAH God nowhere in His Word sanctions getting drunk, or inebriated or intoxicated, from too much wine or strong drink. However, He does intend that His people REALLY REJOICE at His Festivals. The word "giddy" is from an old English word meaning "mad, foolish," and literally means, by definition, "lightheartedness, silly, frivolous, dizzy; causing dizziness, whirling rapidly." Joyous folk dancing can cause a person to feel "giddy" at times -- whirling rapidly, moving in and out, as in various Israeli dances, which are not only great exercise but wonderful fun!
The implication of the use of this word chagag in reference to the whole seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles is that YEHOVAH's people should joyously celebrate all seven days, with marching, processions, dancing -- before the LORD!
When YEHOVAH God delivered Israel through the Red Sea, in an awesome display of His power, we find that, "And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea" (Exodus 15:20-21).
YEHOVAH's Word commands, "Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and SHOUT FOR JOY, all ye that are upright in heart" (Psalm 32:11). David declared, "I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday" (Psa. 42:4).
David, a man after YEHOVAH's own heart, exclaimed, "Then will I go unto the altar of God, UNTO GOD MY EXCEEDING JOY: yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my God" (Psalm 43:4).
"And he brought forth his people with JOY, and his chosen with GLADNESS [Hebrew, margin, SINGING ]" (Psalm 105:43).
Do we begin to get the picture? One of the fruits of YEHOVAH's holy spirit is JOY! Paul writes, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, JOY [the very second fruit mentioned!], peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law"(Gal. 5:22-23). That is, brethren, there is absolutely NO LAW AGAINST LOVE, AND NO LAW AGAINST JOY AND REJOICING!
Some people might have attitudes of disapproval at seeing YEHOVAH's people singing and dancing before the LORD. Some people, having been wrongly influenced by Satan's society, frown upon all dancing. They should remember the example of Michal, the daughter of Saul.
Michal, the daughter of Saul, disapproved of David her husband, the king of Israel, who danced before the Lord. "So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obededom into the city of David WITH GLADNESS. . . And David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet. And as the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal Saul's daughter looked through a window, and saw king David LEAPING and DANCING before the LORD, and she despised him in her heart" (II Sam. 6:12-19). When David returned home, Michal met him and said with dripping scorn and contempt for her husband, the king, "How glorious was the king of Israel today, who uncovered himself today in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself!" (v. 20).
David responded to her, "It was before [or unto] the LORD, which chose be before [or in place of] thy father, and before all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the LORD, over Israel: therefore will I play before the LORD. And I will yet be more vile than thus, and will be base in mine own sight: and of the maidservants which thou hast spoken of, of them shall I be had in honour" (II Sam. 6:21-22). Michal's attitude displeased David greatly. "Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death" (verse 23).
YEHOVAH's Word actually commands us, "PRAISE ye the LORD. SING unto the LORD a new song, and his praise in the congregation of the saints. Let Israel REJOICE in him that made him: Let the children of Zion be JOYFUL in their King. Let them praise his name IN THE DANCE: let them sing praises to him with the timbrel and harp" (Psalm 149:1-3).
YEHOVAH God also declares: "Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness. Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. Praise him with the timbrel and DANCE [Heb., or pipe ]; praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him with the high-sounding cymbals. Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD" (Psalm 150:1-6).
The Hebrew word translated "dance" in these verses is machowl and literally means "a (round) dance, dancing." It is from chuwl, which means, "to twist or whirl, in a circular or spiral manner, , ie, to dance." Speaking of the Millennium, of which the Feast of Tabernacles is a type, YEHOVAH God says, "Therefore shall they come and SING in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the LORD, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden, and they shall not sorrow any more at all. Then shall the virgin REJOICE IN THE DANCE, both young men and old together: for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and MAKE THEM REJOICE from their sorrow" (Jeremiah 31:12-13).
Brethren, with these keys of understanding, let's learn how to really celebrate the Feasts of YEHOVAH God, and let us truly learn to REJOICE before YEHOVAH in His Holy Festivals! The Festivals of YEHOVAH God ought to be seasons of SUPREME JOY and delirious happpiness. Let us sing, and dance, and praise YEHOVAH in His High Holy Days!
May YEHOVAH God grant you the blessing of a great, exhilarating, joyous, overflowing Feast!
-- Edited By John D. Keyser.
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