Two days before Passover (Mk 14:1-14:1)

“It was two days

Before the Passover,

The Festival

Of Unleavened Bread.”

 

Ἦν δὲ τὸ πάσχα καὶ τὰ ἄζυμα μετὰ δύο ἡμέρας

 

There is something similar to this in Matthew, chapter 26:2, and in Luke, chapter 22:1, where there was talk of the Passover in 2 days.  There were 3 major annual pilgrimage festivals in Jerusalem, Pentecost, Booths, and Passover, with Passover the most popular.  This Passover feast celebrated the Israelite Exodus from Egypt.  Therefore, this festival reminded the Jewish people of their escape from a foreign country.  Thus, the Roman leaders had a heightened alert with more troops in Jerusalem.  Mark indicated that Jesus said to his disciples that it was 2 days (μετὰ δύο ἡμέρας), before the Passover (Ἦν δὲ τὸ πάσχα), the festival of Unleavened Bread (καὶ τὰ ἄζυμα) that lasted a whole week.  Passover and Unleavened bread were one festival, not 2 separate ones.

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The campaign against Gorgias (2 Macc 12:31-12:34)

“Then they went up to Jerusalem, as the festival of weeks was close at hand. After the festival called Pentecost, they hurried against Gorgias, the governor of Idumea. He came out with three thousand infantry and four hundred cavalry. When they joined battle, it happened that a few of the Jews fell.”

They went on to Jerusalem because the festival of the weeks or Pentecost was coming up. After the festival of Pentecost that was 7 weeks after Passover, they want out to war against Gorgias. Idumea was southeast of the Dead Sea, the old Edom or Esau territory. Gorgias had only 3,000 infantry and 400 cavalry. In this battle, some Jews actually died.

Tobit returns to Nineveh (Tob 2:1-2:8)

“Then during the reign of King Esarhaddon I returned home. My wife Anna and my son Tobias were restored to me. At our festival of Pentecost, which is the sacred festival of the weeks, a good dinner was prepared for me. I reclined to eat. When the table was set for me and an abundance of food placed before me, I said to my son Tobias.

‘Go, my child!

Bring whatever poor person you may find of our people,

Among the exiles in Nineveh,

Who is wholeheartedly mindful of God.

He shall eat together with me.

I will wait for you until you come back.’

When he returned, he said. ‘Father!’ I replied. ‘Here I am, my child.’ Then he went on to say.

‘Look, father!

One of our people has been murdered

He has been thrown into the market place.

Now he lies there strangled.’

Then I sprang up. I left the dinner before ever tasting it. I removed the body from the square. I laid it in one of the rooms until sunset when I might bury it. When I returned, I washed myself and ate my food in sorrow. Then I remembered the prophecy of Amos, how he said against Bethel.

‘Your festivals shall be turned into mourning.

All your songs into lamentation.’

I wept. When the sun had set, I went and dug a grave. I buried him. My neighbors laughed at me. They said.

‘Is he still not afraid?

He has already been hunted down

To be put to death for doing this.

Yet here he is again burying the dead!’”

Tobit had been on the run. With the coming of King Esarhaddon (681-669 BCE) he returned home to Nineveh to be with his wife and son. They celebrated the festival of weeks, 50 days after Passover. Tobit asked his son to invite one of the Israelite exiles to come to eat with them since they had so much food. However, his son Tobias reported back that one of their kinsmen Israelite had been killed. His strangled body was lying in the town square. Tobit immediately got up and removed the body from the square into a room nearby. He then ate his meal, but he remembered the prophecy of Amos about festivals turned into mourning. The citation is from the Book of Amos, chapter 8, who lived around 750 BCE, so that Tobit might have known him. After eating and weeping, Tobit went out, dug a grave, and buried the body. Meanwhile his neighbors were laughing at him for doing the same thing that he hunted own for, burying the dead.

The Feast of Weeks (Lev 23:15-23:22)

“From the day after the Sabbath, from the day on which you bring the sheaf of the elevation offering, you shall count off seven weeks.  They shall be complete.  You shall count until the day after the seventh Sabbath, fifty days.  Then you shall present an offering of new grain to Yahweh.  You shall bring from your settlements two loaves of bread as an elevation offering, each made of two-tenths of an ephah.  They shall be of choice flour, baked with leaven, as first fruits to Yahweh.   You shall present with the bread seven lambs a year old without blemish, one young bull, and two rams.  They shall be a burnt offering to Yahweh, along with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering by fire as a pleasing odor to Yahweh.   You shall also offer one male goat for a sin offering, and two male lambs a year old as a sacrifice of well-being.   The priest shall raise them with the bread of the first fruits as an elevation offering before Yahweh, together with the two lambs.  They shall be holy to Yahweh for the priest. On that same day you shall make a proclamation.  You shall hold a holy convocation.  You shall not work at your occupations. It is a statute forever in all your settlements throughout your generations.  When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field to its very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest.  You shall leave them for the poor and for the aliens.  I am Yahweh your God.”

Once again, we are in the area of a settled farming community in the Promised Land, not in the wilderness.  7 weeks after the first harvest you will make an offering, probably because of the wheat harvest.  This 7 week period is 50 days since you presented the first fruits of the harvest. Thus, it came to be called Pentecost based on the Greek translation of 50 days. However, this harvest leaves the very edges of the field and the gleanings for the poor. There was an elaborate offering with 2 loaves of leavened bread made with 20% of a bushel of choice flour as the first fruits to Yahweh.  This feast has leavened bread and not the unleavened bread.  Then you need 7 one year old unblemished lambs, 1 young bull, and 2 rams, quite a large herd of 10 animals.  All this makes up the grain offering and the burnt offering so that there is a pleasing odor to Yahweh.  However, there is more.  You have a sin offering of a male goat and 2 male lambs as a well-being offering.  This makes 13 animals.  Obviously this is not one individual but a group of people.  On the same day that you shall make a proclamation, you hold a holy convocation and you do not work at your occupations.