Shavuot versus Pentecost


The Outpouring of the Spirit with His Gifts is celebrated in the feast of Pentecost

The Feast of Pentecost occurs on Sunday the fiftieth day after Bikhurim, Feast of Firstfruits.

In Greek, it is called Pentecoste (πεντηκοστή ), fiftieth.

In Hebrew, it is called Shavuot (tw(wb¿), Weeks (alternative name for the feast).


Pentecost in the New Testament


Acts 2:1  And when the day of Pentecost was 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 all the house where they were sitting.

3  And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.

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


Acts 2:5  And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.

6  Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.

7  And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?

8  And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?


Acts 2: 9  Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,

10  Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,

11  Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.

12  And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?


Why were people of so many regions and countries present in Jerusalem on that day?

They had gathered there to celebrate Pentecost.


But isn’t Pentecost the commemoration of the Holy Spirit’s descent on the disciples gathered in the Upper Room?

Since it happened that day for the first time, how was it that the crowds had already gathered before the event?

They had not gathered to celebrate what we know as Pentecost.

They had gathered to celebrate Shavuot.


Shavuot (tw(wb¿) is the Hebrew name of the feast.

It was known to the Jews as the Feast of Weeks.

Shavua means “week”. Shavuot means “weeks”.

Shavuot falls at the end of a week of weeks, that is 7 weeks, or 49 days, after the Biblical Feast of Bikhurim, Firstfruits.


Shavuot was a Harvest Feast

There were three harvest feasts in the Old Testament.

  • The first (the barley harvest) was at the beginning of Spring. It was Passover (Pesach), which lasted a week. This was the week of Unleavened Bread (HaMatzot). The day after the Sabbath of that week was Firstfruits (Bikhurim).

  • The second harvest feast (wheat harvest) was Shavuot, at the end of Spring, exactly 50 days after Bikhurim.

  • The third harvest feast (olive and grapes harvest) was Sukkot (Tabernacles) in the autumn.

Each of the harvest feasts involved a Pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

All able-bodied men had to go to Jerusalem.

Only the women, the children, and old or sick men stayed back home.



Influx of People at Festival Times


The Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus (55 – 117 AD) records that the population of Jerusalem was around 600,000 in the first century AD.

He says that this population exploded to between two and three million due to the pilgrims.

The pilgrims slept on the flat roofs of the houses, camped outside the walls of Jerusalem, were given hospitality by relatives and friends.

All within a Sabbath day’s journey to reach the House of God.

The result of so many Jews gathering in Jerusalem for Shavuot was, that when the apostles preached to the crowd, 3000 believed on the Lord Yeshua as Messiah!

Most of these new believers were Jewish, while some were Gentile converts to Judaism who had come there to celebrate Shavuot.


So Shavuot is for us a Double Anniversary!

For us in the New Testament, it is the anniversaries of when God gave …

  • His written word and

  • His indwelling Spirit!



Shavuot in the Old Testament


Leviticus 23:15  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:

16  Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD.

17  Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the LORD.


Two loaves of bread were waved before the Lord, as part of this service. These loaves were made with newly harvested fine flour with leaven. They were to be the firstfruits unto the Lord, the firstfruits of the wheat harvest.

This is the only time that bread with leaven was used as a wave offering before the Lord.


Shavuot in Jewish synagogues


In synagogues, the Book of Ruth is read during this Feast.

Ruth was a Gentile who said to her Jewish mother-in-law,


Ruth 1:16  … Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:


Through Ruth’s choice to return to her late husband’s Jewish roots and through the command to wave two loaves of bread with leaven, God was preparing us for the time when He would take Jewish and Gentile sinners unto Himself.


Jewish and Gentile sinners = two loaves of bread, with leaven.

David’s royal line was not totally Jewish. There was a Gentile in it. Ruth.

Ruth married Boaz, they had a son Obed … Obed had a son Jesse … and Jesse had a son David whom God appointed King of Israel.

That means King David had one-eighth Gentile blood!


Jewish tradition has it that David was born on Shavuot, and died also on Shavuot.


Is that why Peter quoted David?

We cannot be sure, but it might be, because Shavuot was David’s birthday and death anniversary, that Peter quoted David thrice in his first evangelistic sermon that Pentecost (Acts 2:25-34)


Traditionally, Shavuot was the celebration of when God appeared upon Mount Sinai and instituted his covenant to the Jewish people.

However, the remembrance was bittersweet because at Sinai the Israelites backed away from what God had wanted.


Exodus 20:18  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.

19  And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.

20  And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.

21  And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.


From “of” to “with”

Because of the Israelites’ fear , God changed them from a nation of priests to a nation with priests.


Israel was called to be nation of priests


Exodus 19:5  Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, …

6  … ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.…


Instead, they became a nation with priests


Exodus 28:1  And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, … that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office, ….


The Vigil


Traditionally, on the evening of Shavuot (remember that Jewish days start in the evening) the Jews hold a vigil called Tikkun Lail Shavuot, when the Jewish people plead with God, promising that if He would again offer to make Israel a people of priests that they would not refuse again.


In Acts 2 the believers were gathered in one place.
It was their Vigil, as they awaited the Promise of the Father.


Acts 2:1  And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.


The year that Yeshua died and rose again, God actually answered that Vigil. The people of priests was finally established (1 Peter 2:9). God’s Offer was fulfilled


1 Peter 2:9  But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light:


Shavuot = Pentecost


Shavuot is about the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, Egypt

Shavuot is also about the giving of the Spirit in Jerusalem, Israel


God declared His choice of Israel as His people at Sinai.

God chose the followers of Yeshua to be an extension of His people.


At Sinai, God appeared with thunder and fire on the mountain.

God’s Spirit came down with a strong rushing wind and flames of fire on the heads of the disciples.


The Ten Commandments were given to the Israelite Nation as a sign of God’s Covenant with His people.

The Spirit was given to Yeshua’s disciples as a sign, and a seal of the New Covenant. It was also an empowerment of the disciples.


Jews think of Shavuot as the birthday of Judaism

Christians think of Shavuot / Pentecost as the birthday of Yeshua’s Church


So Shavuot celebrates the Law and the Spirit.

Paul said that God chose the followers of Yeshua “that the righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:4).


Shavuot vs Pentecost

Feast: Shavuot

Feast: Shavuot / Pentecost


Mountain: Sinai

Hill: Calvary


Source: God through Moses

Source: God through His Son Jesus who sent the Holy Spirit


Focus: Law

Focus: Gospel (Good News)


Prohibition vs Promise

Thou shalt not” Exodus 20:1-17


I will” Jeremiah 31:31-34 Hebrews 8:6-13


Thou Shalt Not…

Exodus 20:3  Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

4  Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness …

5  Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them:

7  Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain;

10 … the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work,

13  Thou shalt not kill.
14  Thou shalt not commit adultery.
15  Thou shalt not steal.
16  Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
17  Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, …


I Will…

Jeremiah 31:31  Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:

32  Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:

33  But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

34  And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.


Put off” vs “Put on”

Put off thy shoes from off thy feet.” Exodus 3:5

Put shoes on his feet.” Luke 15:22


Exodus 3:5  And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.


Luke 15:22  But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and (put) shoes on his feet:

Slain vs Saved

3000 were slain. Exodus 32:28


3000 were saved. Acts 2:41

Exodus 32:28  And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.


Acts 2:41  Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.


Nation vs Nations

Nation: One (Israel)

Nations: All (the World)


Works vs Faith

Justification: by works

Justification: by faith


Old Covenant vs New Covenant

For the Law was given by Moses … John 1:17a

but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. John 1:17b


The Covenant in which we stand

ye are not under the law, … Romans 6:14b

but under grace. Rom 6:14c



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