Reformed Articles

Jewish Feasts and Festivals

Those in Christ are merely “sojourners” and “resident aliens” traveling in this fallen world until they reach their final homeland (1 Peter 1:4; 2:11). Zechariah 14:16–21 depicts the return of Christ as the time when the international people of God will gather at Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Booths. This final festival anticipates the end and the victorious return of Christ.


The feasts and festivals of ancient Israel were times when the people of God would commemorate redemptive acts of the Lord. Six major assemblies are mentioned in the Mosaic law. The three major festivals of Passover, Weeks, and Booths were pilgrimage celebrations, when the entire nation gathered before the Lord. The others are the Feast of Firstfruits, the Feast of Trumpets, and the Day of Atonement. Two other feasts worth noting are Purim and Hanukkah, which were instituted later.

These festivals were not only corporate times of celebration; they also expressed a theological message as they reminded the Israelites of the ways the Lord provided for their past, present, and also their future. This future blessing, cast in shadowy form, found its fullest redemptive reality in the messianic work of Jesus Christ.

Feast of Passover/Unleavened Bread

The feast of Passover took place on the fourteenth day of the first month. According to Exodus 12:2, the exodus event marked the beginning of a new year. All the major festivals are dated in light of the exodus, which inaugurated a new stage in the life of the nation of Israel. The festival occurs in two parts: Passover and Unleavened Bread.

The first Passover took place on the night of the tenth plague, the death of the firstborn (Ex. 12). During this Passover, an unblemished lamb was prepared for sacrifice (v. 5). The meat was eaten, but the blood was the key element. Israel was to use it to mark the entries of homes as a sign for the Lord to “pass over” them. This act of “passing over” prevented an angelic destroyer from entering the home (v. 23). It appears that the destroyer’s job was to execute the firstborn of each household in the land of Egypt without prejudice, and the Lord acted as a divine shield to protect the blood-marked homes. Every generation thereafter would sacrifice lambs for this feast, but they would not mark their doors with blood.

This feast was followed by seven days of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, during which the Israelites were prohibited from using any leaven in their daily meals. At the time of the exodus, the Lord’s redemption was imminent, and there was insufficient time for yeast to permeate the dough. They needed to be ready to leave Egypt immediately (v. 39). Thus, to eat unleavened bread was an act of faith, of trust in the Lord’s promise of an immediate exodus. The use of unleavened bread would continue to characterize the feast in later generations.

The redemptive images of the meal provide the historical background for the greatest event in the history of salvation: the death of Jesus Christ. Jesus is declared the “Lamb of God”—an allusion to the Passover lamb—by John the Baptist (John 1:29). The blood that protected the homes represents the blood of Christ, which provides salvation for all those who trust in Him. Jesus’ final supper, which He institutionalized for the church to observe regularly, was indeed a Passover meal (Matt. 26:17–29). The wine is Christ’s blood, and the unleavened bread His body (1 Cor. 11:23–29). The typological significance of the two portions of the festival is the final redemptive work of Christ that was fulfilled on the cross.

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