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and twelve hours, they had months alternately of twenty-nine and thirty days, and every third year intercalated a thirteenth month, to keep the vernal equinox, and, consequently, the Passover, nearly at the same time of the year. They began their month, not on the actual day of the conjunction of the sun and moon, but on the day of the appearance of the new moon, when was the feast of the new moon and proclamation made by the blowing of a trumpet: "Blow up the trumpet in the new moon." (Ps. lxxxi. 3.)
The civil year of the Jews began in autumn at the month Tisri, generally answering to our September. But their sacred year, by which their festivals, assemblies, and other religious acts were regulated, began in spring, at the month Nisan, or our March, sometimes including a part of April, according to the course of the year. The beginning of the year was changed for religious purposes: (Exod. xii. 2:) "This month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you." In the following argument we shall only have to deal with the months in Moses' time of thirty days.
The Israelites reckoned by weeks, as a memorial of the creation of the world, and had also weeks of seven years each, the last of which was the sabbatical year, or year of rest to the ground. They had also weeks of seven times seven years, terminated by the year of Jubilee.
The Hebrews began their day in the evening from sunset, or six o'clock, there not being much inequality in the length of days and nights in that latitude. "From even unto even shall ye celebrate your sabbath." (Lev. xxiii. 32.) They had no word to express the whole twenty-four hours (like the nuchthemeron of the Greeks.) The word “ day” with them, as with us, was ambiguous.
To express the whole twenty-four hours, they used the words "evening and morning," as in Gen. i., mentioning the evening first.
The Babylonians reckoned their days from sun-rising; Europeans from midnight; astronomers from noon.
The sacred writers of the New Testament generally divide the day and night into twelve unequal hours. The sixth hour is always noon throughout the year; the twelfth hour is the last hour of the day; and in summer the hours of the day were longer than those at night, or the hours of the day in winter, as is obvious. See Matt. xx. 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 12; John xi. 9.
After the Jews were in subjection to the Greeks, and subsequently to the Romans, they were obliged to conform to the customs of their masters to maintain order, by beginning their days at midnight, or in the morning, and by distributing the day and night (when unequal) into twelve unequal hours.
FEAST OF THE PASSOVER.
THE Jewish feasts began at evening. Thus, at the institution of the Passover, (Exod. xii. 6,) it is said, “Ye shall keep it [the lamb] up until the fourteenth day of the same month, and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening." The literal meaning of the Hebrew expression is inter duas vesperas, between the two evenings; that is, between the declining and setting of the sun. The passover was to be killed in this space of time between the declining of the sun on the fourteenth, and its setting, which was the commencement of the fifteenth. And it was to be eaten on the fifteenth; as it was in Egypt, where it
was eaten at midnight previous to their going out of Egypt. And it was on the fifteenth they came out of Egypt. (Numb. xxxiii. 3.) "And they departed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month, on the morrow after the passover, the children of Israel went out," &c. On the fourteenth, also, they were to put away leaven out of their houses, and to eat unleavened bread in the evening; that is, on the commencement of the fifteenth. Therefore the day of the Passover was the same day with the first day of unleavened bread. The feast of unleavened bread lasted seven days; the first was a holy convocation, and the seventh was a holy convocation: no manner of work was to be done in them.
FEAST OF PENTECOST.
THE feast of Pentecost was celebrated on the fiftieth day after the Passover, in memory of the law given to Moses on Mount Sinai fifty days after the departure out of Egypt.
They reckoned seven weeks from the Passover to Pentecost, beginning at the day after the Passover. The Hebrews called it the Feast of Weeks; the Christians call it "Pentecost," from a Greek word, which signifies "the fiftieth day,” πεντηκοσστη.
The scriptures do not anywhere inform us that this feast was kept in remembrance of the giving out of the law. It was, however, generally admitted, and all the commentators take it for granted. But I do not wish to found an argument upon anything that is not proved. We are, therefore,
to prove that the giving out of the law was on the fiftieth day from the first passover, or departure out of Egypt. They departed on the fifteenth day of the first month. Reckoning from the sixteenth to the end of the second month, were forty-five days; and on the first day of the third month, (Exod. xix. 1,) that is, on the forty-sixth day, they came to the wilderness of Sinai. On the next day, the forty-seventh, occurred the transactions recorded Exod. xix. 3-9; and on the forty-eighth, ver. 10, 11. "The Lord said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to-day, (forty-eighth,) and to-morrow, (forty-ninth,) and let them wash their clothes, and be ready against the third day, (the fiftieth,) for the third day the Lord will come down in the sight of all the people on Mount Sinai." This brings the giving out of the law to the fiftieth day from the departure out of Egypt.
That the day of Pentecost agrees exactly with this, appears from its institution: (Lev. xxiii. 15:) "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 [weeks] shall be complete: even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath [week] shall ye number fifty days and ye shall offer a new meat-offering unto the Lord." The sabbath here mentioned is not the weekly sabbath, but the day of the Passover, or first day of unleavened bread, which was always a sabbath. (Exod. xii. 16.) This was the 15th day of the month, and the morrow from whence they were to commence reckoning was the 16th, and the seven weeks made forty-nine days, and the day after the seventh week was the fiftieth, or the day of Pentecost.
In verse 15, "seven sabbaths" ought to be translated seven weeks." (Waterland.) The word is "sabbata,"
which signifies both weeks and sabbaths: (Pole :) and in Deut. xvi. 9, in our translation, it is "seven weeks;" and in Numb. xxviii. 26, speaking of the same feast, the expression is, "after your weeks be out." This is manifest; for the passover, or first day of unleavened bread, might be on any day of the week, and it would have been impossible to reckon fifty days from that day to the morrow after the seventh sabbath.
These first fruits were Passover, for (Exod. "the barley was in the
On the morrow after this sabbath, or passover, or first day of unleavened bread, the first fruits were to be waved : (See Lev. xxiii. 11, 12:) and along with the first fruits "an he lamb without blemish, of the first year, for a burnt-offering unto the Lord." barley, which was ripe at the ix. 31) at the Passover, in Egypt, ear." (32) "But the wheat and the rye were not smitten, for they were not grown up," or as the words may be better translated, "they were not yet eared." (Bochart.) Barley, in Egypt, was cut early in April, wheat in May,—more exactly to the same time in every year, than in our variable climate.
On the morrow after the seventh week, the fiftieth day, or day of Pentecost, they offered the first fruits of the wheat harvest,-two wave loaves of fine flour, baken with leaven. And seven lambs, without blemish, of the first year; and one young bullock and two rams; and on the same day one kid of the goats for a sin offering, and two lambs of the first year for a peace offering. (Lev. xxiii. 17-19.) It is remarkable that the first fruits of barley offered at the passover were in the sheaf, imperfect; the first fruits of wheat, at Pentecost, in loaves, of the finest flour, baken with leaven, in their most perfect form: these particulars had their meaning.