Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions

By Roland De Vaux ; John McHugh | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIFTEEN
THE LITURGICAL CALENDAR

IN Israel, as among all nations, there was a host of feasts which, though they did not celebrate a religious event, had a religious character. The Bible mentions some of them, though usually it gives no details about the way in which these feasts were observed. The family or the clan held a feast to celebrate the various events of human life: e.g. the weaning of a child ( Gn 21: 8),1 a marriage ( Gn 29: 22f.; Jg 14: 10f.),2 a funeral ( Gn 23: 2; 2 S 1: 11-12, 17f.; 3: 31f.)3 and so forth. Life in the country provided other occasions for rejoincing (e.g. sheep-shearing, 1 S 25: 2-38; 2 S 13: 23-29; cf. Gn 38: 12), and we shall see in a moment how the three great feasts of the year were connected with events of pastoral or agricultural life. Public events were also occasion for feasts: e.g. the coronation of the king,4 or a victory in war, which would be celebrated with singing and dancing ( Ex 15: 1-21; 1 S 18: 6-7); and on the occasion of national calamities the people would fast ( Za 7: 1f.; 8: 19) and sing lamentations ( Jl 1-2 and the Book of Lamentations). Many feasts of which we have now no record must have been observed in the sanctuaries of Israel (cf. Os 4: 15; 12: 12; Am 4: 4-5), for it is only rarely that a really ancient story alludes to one, e.g. there was a pilgrimage from Shechem to Bethel ( Gn 35: 1-4), and a feast of Yahweh at Shiloh ( Jg 21: 19-21; cf. 1 S 1: 3f.). In this book we shall discuss only those feasts which were of importance for a considerable period; we are better informed about these, because they were incorporated into the Temple worship in Jerusalem. We shall begin by describing the ordinary services which were conducted in the Temple, and then pass on to discuss tile religious calendars which give the order of the great annual feasts.


1. The ordinary services of the Temple

(a) The daily services. The laws in Ex 29: 38-42 and in Nb 28: 2-8 lay down that two lambs should be offered daily as holocausts, one in the morning and one in the evening 'between the two evenings', i.e. at twilight.5 An offering of flour kneaded with oil, and a libation of wine were made along with this sacrifice. Lv 6: 2-6 also assumes that two holocausts were offered daily, one in the morning and one in the evening (cf. Si 45: 14).

____________________
1
Cf. p. 43.
2
Cf. p. 34.
3
Cf. pp. 59-61.
4
Cf. pp. 102-107.
5
Cf. p. 182.

-468-

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