OT: Notes on Israel's Feast and Festivals (3)

Their Evolution Part 1

In the 7th century it was generally recognized that there was a major change in the observance of the festivals.

What were local agricultural celebrations were transformed into national celebrations that required a pilgrimage to the central sanctuary.  The requirement (centralize worship in the capital city of Jerusalem) reflects the mandate associated with the reforms of King Josiah (2 kings 22-23). This kind of transformation reflected in the instruction found in Deut 16:1-17.

The morphing of observation of festivals (in Deuteronomy):

Passover and Unleavened Bread

Of importance Passover and Unleavened Bread are now joined as two parts of one pilgrimage festival. Passover was originally a family observation in homes. But Deut turned it into a national pilgrimage that required Passover sacrifice to be slaughtered at the central sanctuary.

Passover overlaps with the first day of the seven-day Unleavened festival. People were not required to remain in Jerusalem for the duration of 7 days, however were required-observe solemn assembly on 7th day.

Festival of Weeks/ pilgrimage of harvest

–          Observed seven weeks from the time of the sickle first put in the standing grain.

–          Requires a freewill offering which functions as a ritual response of gratitude to the blessing of Yahweh.

–          People are to rejoice before Yahweh and remember that they were slaves in Egypt.

–          In postexilic times the festival came to be associated with Sinai covenant though this information is not found in biblical text.

Pilgrimage of Ingathering (Booths)

–          Now termed pilgrimage of Booths

–          7th autumn festival associated with the gathering of produce used in the making of oil and wine.

–          A time of celebration that functions as response to the anticipation of Yahweh’s blessings.

–          Although it is not stated, it booths were temporary field shelters constructed during times of harvest.

–          When it was centralized the booths built in capital city for the purpose of providing living quarters for pilgrims.

Developments of festivals and their implications

–          In Deuteronomy is the movement towards the historical and theological rendering of the festivals.

–          Festivals associated with moments in Israel’s national story

–          Effort is made to construct a ritual context that provides the occasion and opportunity for theological reflection on Yahweh’s acts in history on behalf of the whole community

“Ritual offerings provide the occasion for enacting one’s response to the experience of divine blessings in “nature” and in “history.” Thus, the festivals provided the context not only of thinking about God and God’s actions, but also for responding to the divine being in acts of thanksgiving, celebration, and offering.”

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