When Is Shabuot - The Annual Debate

Tom Bigbee        


Every year there are several debates surrounding the day called both Shabuot and Pentecost.

NOTE:   I have since decided that the bet in Sha-b-uot is supposed to be pronounced as a b and not a v.  The Ashkenazi Jews changed several pronunciations of consonants and vowels through time.  The minority Sephardic Jews still use the b.  Therefore I have changed all cases to a b that were originally a v.

There are numerous hints that the Resurrection and Translation, collectively and popularly called The Rapture, MIGHT happen on this important day.  Although I would like it to be true and am watching for it, I will not argue this idea here but rather focus on the question of When Is Shabuot/Pentecost?

Aside from valid questions pertaining to when a 13th month needs to be inserted in some years (which I will not address now), I think it is possible to know exactly when the day of Shabuot occurs.

I do not want to demean any individuals so I will not reference by name any blog posts, but many of the arguments are not following the rule of “Scripture First”.  I also see some folks falling into the trap of focusing on one scripture to the exclusion of others.  Another common mistake I am seeing is assuming our English translations, or our favorite Bible version, is correctly translated when often the original language says something quite different.

Some Foundation

First let’s define a few things so we are talking the same language:

  • The day in question is called Pentecost in the New Testament which comes from the Greek word Pentekostes which means 50th [day is assumed].
  • In Deuteronomy 16:10 YHWH called it Chag Shabuot in transliterated Hebrew.  The English translation of this is the Feast of Weeks but should be Festival of Weeks to identify it as the second of the three traveling feasts.
  • It is the fourth of seven appointed times specified by The-LORD/YHWH and the second travelling feast where all males were required to go to Jerusalem – and everyone was to attend every seventh year.
  • Torah clearly specifies multiple times that the first, second, fifth, sixth, and seventh feasts were to be held on specific dates in the Hebrew months (1/14, 1/15, 7/1, 7/10, 7/15).
  • The third and fourth feasts do not have dates specified.  This is an important detail.
  • Because the day of Shabuot is counted from Firstfruits we must first correctly pin Firstfruits.

Question 1: Where Do We Count From?

Exodus 12:2 tells us to count the months starting in the month of the exodus – in the spring.  I have not heard anyone argue successfully against this.  Whether the first month is determined by the ripeness [Abib] of the barley as I think is supported by scripture, or by the spring equinox, or the Babylonian calculations built into the Hillel calendar is a debate for another time.

Once we know when the first month and the first day are we can know when Passover/Pesach, the 14th, and Unleavened Bread/Matzot, starting on the 15th are.

Question 2: When Is Firstfruits/Bikurim?

However, there are two competing ideas about how to determine the day of Firstfruits that must be resolved.

The first idea comes from the Hillel calendar established by the Pharisees that the Jewish people are using now.  Regarding the placement of Firstfruits, this calendar is absolutely wrong and it can be proved by history and by the day’s fulfillment in the resurrection of Jesus/Yahshua!

There is solid history that during the time of Jesus, the Temple and the calendar were controlled by the Sadducees.  Knowledgeable Jews will attest to this and even Wikipedia describes the details.  During this time they followed the literal meaning of Leviticus 23:11 where it says this day was: “…on the morrow after the Sabbath.”  The first day of Unleavened Bread was like a Sabbath where no work was to be done but in verse 7 it calls it a “holy convocation”, a miqra rehearsal, not a Sabbath.  In context “the Sabbath” meant the 7th day.  Almost 400 years later the Pharisees created their calculated calendar with many changes including pinning Firstfruits to the date of the 16th instead of it always being on the first day of the week (our Sunday).

Pinning this feast to the 16th is wrong and can also be proved by the accounts in the Gospels.  Jesus/Yahshua was the Messiah/HaMashiach and fulfilled Firstfruits by His resurrection on the first day of the week as solidly proved by the Gospels.  Four times it is recorded that the only sign given to an evil generation would the sign of Jonah, and twice He expounded saying “…the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

No matter how you reckon it, from Friday evening until Sunday morning is NOT 3 days and 3 nights!  Debating whether He was crucified and buried on Wednesday or Thursday is immaterial here, but that the day of Passover is “between the evenings” which is precisely what Leviticus 23:5 says in Hebrew, and that Jesus fulfilled this day, on that day, the day of the 14th, as the Passover Lamb of YHWH is indisputable except by applying reverse engineering using poor English translations!

It is not possible to fit 3 days and 3 nights between the evening ending the 14th and the morning of the 16th on the Hebrew calendar either.  Therefore the current Jewish method of fixing it to the 16th day is wrong!  It was not a 1 in 7 chance that Firstfruits fell on the first day of the week in that year.  It was 100% guaranteed that He would rise on the first day because Firstfruits was ALWAYS on the first day.

Question 3: When Is Weeks/Shabuot?

Because Firstfruits was always to be the first day we should be able to count days of the omer and correctly arrive at Shabuot.  But there is another controversy!

Most folks think that Leviticus 23:15-16 says that there are 50 days and 7 Sabbaths counted CONCURRENTLY to Shabuot.  However, there is an alternative idea being promoted that it means that we should count 7 Sabbaths PLUS 50 days.  Further proofs are offered by the proponents with these ideas:

  1. The exodus from Egypt to Mt. Sinai could not have happened within 50 days.
  2. The wheat would not be ready to harvest 50 days after Firstfruits.
  3. The day the Holy Spirit was given they were accused of being drunk on “new wine” and there are no grapes ready by then for any new wine.
  4. Joel 2:24 states that “And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with wine…” and therefore the wheat and the wine at the same time means it is in summer.

Let me first offer some insight on these points and THEN I will show you why according to scripture this double counting method cannot be correct!

  1. Yes, the exodus could have, and did happen in a 50 day time frame.  Whether because they were hardened slaves and/or because YHWH miraculously intervened, in Psalms 105:36 it says, “He brought them forth also with silver and gold: and there was not one feeble person among their tribes.”  There’s no space to get detailed but I offer this very rough calculation.  400 miles from Egypt to the new Mt. Sinai (farther than the traditional site) divided by 2 mph = 200 hours.  200 divided by 8 hours per day = 25 travelling days.
  2. Search the web yourself.  Yes, wheat is ready 50 days after Firstfruits.  Here is a picture of wheat being harvested in Israel, in 2008, in APRIL!
  3. “New” wine is an incorrect translation.  The word new is NOT in any Greek manuscript.  It is “gleukous”, meaning “sweet wine” which is a type of wine that was traditionally drunk in the morning.  This “gleukous” wine is made differently from “oinos” wine, takes six weeks to ferment, and can be kept year around – so it has nothing to do with when it was pressed.  See Barnes’ and Clarke’s commentaries here: http://bible.cc/acts/2-13.htm which both attest to this.  This is the same sweet-wine [Asis] mentioned in Isaiah 49:26, “…and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine.
  4. A recent posting claimed that Joel’s prophecy was 1) specifying a time of year, 2) that it was fulfilled at Pentecost, and 3) that by listing both wheat and wine it means that it was in the summer instead of spring.  OK, let’s consider ALL of what it says “And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with wine AND OIL”! (my caps)  What oil?  Olive oil – meaning that following the same logic Pentecost would have to be after the olive harvest in the autumn!  Yes, the prophecy was partially fulfilled when the Holy Spirit was given on that particular Shabuot/Pentecost but Peter did not quote verses 24-27.  He started at verse 28.  Read all of Joel 2 and see that its primary fulfillment is yet to happen.  Verse 1 announces that this about “the day of YHWH” and verse 24 is saying that will take place at a time when Israel is prospering year around with grain, grapes, and olives – which is now, in our time.

And The Answer Is?

Now, following the “scripture first” rule I will show you that it is indeed just seven weeks between Firstfruits/Bikurim and Weeks/Shabuot.  We can’t ignore other witnesses in scripture.  Here is what Deuteronomy says:

Six* days you shall eat unleavened bread: and on the seventh day shall be a solemn assembly to YHWH your God: you shall do no work therein.  Seven weeks shall you number to you: begin to number the seven weeks from such time as you begin to put the sickle to the grain.  And you shall keep the feast of weeks to YHWH your God… – Deuteronomy 16:8-10

* I can’t pass up an opportunity for accuracy.  Our Old Testament is mostly based on the Masoretic text that the Jews use now which says “Six days” in this verse.  But ALL the Dead Sea Scroll versions say “Seven days” – which then matches Leviticus 23:6-8.

What’s the context?  This is the festival of Unleavened Bread.  When do they start harvesting the barley grain?  Immediately after the day of the Firstfruits offering that falls within the festival.  Does it say 7 weeks plus 50 days?  No.  It’s just 7 weeks from Firstfruits to the feast of weeks.  If we were supposed to count 7 weeks PLUS 50 days it would have told us this here ALSO – but it doesn’t!

And you shall count to you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: Even to the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall you number fifty days; and you shall offer a new meat offering to YHWH. – Leviticus 23:15-16

I can see how the King James could be construed as adding the counts but the witness of Deuteronomy tells us differently.  The Hebrew in Leviticus is much clearer.  The first four words are “Ad Mimmachorat HaShabat HaShebiit” or “Up to the day following the Sabbath the seventh”.  The NAS is a little clearer than the KJV saying, “You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath…” – the critical word being “to”.

The two accounts in Deuteronomy and Leviticus together complete the picture.  Firstfruits is not on a date but the first day of the week following the weekly Sabbath that falls within the week of Unleavened Bread.  Counting Firstfruits as day one, Weeks/Shabuot/Pentecost is also on the first day of the week, 50 days later.

What is this day in 2018?  From sundown on Saturday, June 19th to sundown Sunday, June 20th.


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