The seven day feast of King Artaxerxes (Esth 1:5-1:8)

“At the end of the festivity, the king gave a drinking party for the people of the various nations who lived in the capital city of Susa, both great and small, a banquet lasting for seven days, in the garden courtyard of the royal king’s palace. The courtyard was adorned with white cotton curtains and blue hangings tied with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and marble pillars. Gold and silver couches were placed on a mosaic floor of emerald, mother-of-pearl, and marble. There were coverings of gauze, embroidered in various colors, with roses arranged around them. The cups were of gold and silver. A miniature cup made of ruby was on display, worth thirty thousand talents. There was abundant sweet wine, such as the king himself drank. The drinking was not according to a restrained fixed rule. The king wanted it this way. Thus he commanded his stewards to comply with his pleasure and that of his guests, as each one desired.

The first gathering was more official. This week long festival seems a little less organized. The participants seem to be local Susa folk who worked in the capitol. Persian kings supposedly gave great feasts. The setting is a beautiful outdoor royal courtyard that is adorned with white, blue, and purple linen cloths tied to marble pillars with silver rings. They had gold and silver couches on a mosaic marble floor, with roses all around. This would indicate a late spring, early summer time frame. They drank from gold and silver drinking cups. He had a miniature cup of ruby worth millions of USA dollars. Everyone got to drink the king’s wine as much as they wanted. The king had given the orders to his wine stewards. This seems like a very happy sumptuous gathering.

Study of the law of Yahweh with Ezra (Neh 8:13-8:18)

“On the second day, the heads of the ancestral houses of all the people, with the priests and the Levites, came together with the scribe Ezra in order to study the words of the law. They found it written in the law that Yahweh had commanded by Moses that the people of Israel should live in booths during the feast of the seventh month. They should publish and proclaim in all their towns and in Jerusalem as follows. ‘Go out to the hills! Bring branches of olive, wild olive, myrtle, palm, and other leafy trees to make booths, as it is written.’ So the people went out and brought them. They made booths for themselves, each on the roofs of their houses. They made booths in their courts, in the courts of the house of God, in the square at the Water Gate, and in the square at the Gate of Ephraim. All the assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in the booths. From the days of Jeshua son of Nun to that day, the people of Israel had not done so. There was very great rejoicing. Day by day, from the first day to the last day, he read from the book of the law of God. They kept the festival seven days. On the eighth day there was a solemn assembly, according to the ordinance.”

Ezra the scholar wanted everyone to study the Law of Yahweh. The heads of the ancestral families, as well as the priests and Levites gathered around him. They found a passage in the Law of Yahweh as commanded by Moses about the feast of Tabernacles, booths, or tents. This could be based on Leviticus, chapter 23, Exodus, chapter 23, Numbers, chapter 29, and Deuteronomy, chapter 16, where there is a fall festival of ingathering, or the festival of booths, with a lot of sacrifices like a harvest festival. Usually, it followed the Yom Kippur or reparation day. Although there is nothing specific about the olive branches in Leviticus or the other books, it would be easy to make tents out of them. The original purpose of this feast day was to remember the time that they had lived in tents in the desert on the way from Egypt, but there is no mention of that here. Here they put the tents on top of houses, and in the court yards. Today, some Jews observe this feast with tents in their backyards. It could be an individual family or a communal tent gathering. During the 7 days of this festival they read from the book of the Law of God. Then on the 8th day, they had a solemn assembly. The reference to Jeshua son of Nun is probably Joshua son of Nun, which means that this festival of booths had fallen out of favor with the Jewish people.

Consecration of the altar of holocausts (Ex 29:35-29:37)

“Thus you shall do to Aaron and to his sons, just as I have commanded you.  Through seven days you shall ordain them.  Every day you shall offer a bull as a sin offering for atonement.  Also you shall offer a sin offering for the altar, when you make atonement for it.  You shall anoint it to consecrate it.  Seven days you shall make atonement for the altar, and consecrate it.  The altar shall be most holy.  Whatever touches the altar shall become holy.”

Everything takes 7 days, an important number.  Every day you take a bull and sacrifice it so that the altar itself can become holy, anointed, and consecrated.  Anointing is important in that is what consecrates it.  Who or whatever touches the altar shall become holy like the altar.

The Feast of the Unleavened Bread (Ex 12:15-12:20)

“Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread.  On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses, for whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day shall be cut off from Israel.  On the first day you shall hold a solemn assembly, and on the seventh day a solemn assembly.  No work shall be done on those days.  Only what everyone must eat, that alone may be prepared by you.  You shall observe the feast of unleavened bread, for on this very day I brought your companies out of the land of Egypt.  You shall observe this day, throughout your generations, as a perpetual ordinance.  In the first month, from the evening of the fourteen day until the evening of the twenty-first day you shall eat unleavened bread.  For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses.  For whoever eats what is leavened shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether an alien or a native of the land.  You shall eat nothing leavened.  In all your settlements you shall eat unleavened bread.”

For seven days you would eat unleavened bread.  On the first day, you had to remove all the leaven from your house.  If you ate leavened bread during this time, you were cut off from Israel.  There is a solemn assembly on the first and seventh day, when no work was done.  However, you could prepare meals.  This is another perpetual ordinance that takes place after Passover in the spring time, from the evening of the fourteen day until the evening of the twenty-first day.

Leaven and unleavened bread becomes a big deal. What is this leaven, and why leave it out?  Leaven is some kind of yeast that makes bread rise and makes it fluffy.  Apparently, it takes longer to make leaven bread since you cook it longer.  This unleavened bread is some kind of flat bread. This controversy carried over to Christianity about the use of regular fluffy bread or unleavened flat wafers in the Eucharistic Communion.