Welcome to the Mountjoy Ministries Blog

This blog was authored by Bryan W. Sheldon, author and Bible teacher. His books are listed below. The studies in the blog are offered in the desire that they may be helpful in directing readers to the truths contained in the Bible.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Messiah and the Ritual of Israel (Continued)

The Feasts if Israel (Continued)

The Feast of Tabernacles at the time of the Messiah

The Temple during the ceremony of
the kindling of the lamps
 The nature of the festival had been preserved both as a festival of joy, and as a continued remembrance of the forty-year journey from Egypt to Canaan. The festival included two ceremonies that especially characterized these aspects of the celebrations. One was the ceremony of the kindling of the lamps, and the other was the ceremony of the pouring out of the waters. In addition to these two ceremonies, the final day of Sukkoth was earmarked for additional sacrifices and special prayers and was called ‘Shemini Atseret’. The Festival evolved so that in later times, the seventh day echoed some of the aspects of the Day of Atonement and was know as Hoshanah Rabbah. The eighth day developed into a separate Festival under the name Simhath Torah, ‘Rejoicing of the Law’, and was the day on which the annual reading of the Torah was completed and restarted.

The Kindling of the Lamps

 At each of the four corners of the court of prayer, there was a huge Menorah, standing 86 feet high. Each of these was serviced by young men of priestly descent, who climbed ladders to fill the bowls of each branch with oil. The wicks were made out of the worn out underwear of the priests. They lit the giant Menorahs each night of the festival, and the light illuminated the courtyards of Jerusalem, as well as providing light for the celebrations that took place in the court of prayer.  At the heart of the festivities was music and dancing. A great Levitical orchestra and choir occupied the fifteen steps on the western side of the court of Prayer. Prior to the ceremony, galleries for spectators had been erected. Elders and men of prominence in Israel led the rejoicing in a dance. These ceremonies were supplemented by blasts on the trumpets and shofars at the times of cock-crowing. Those responsible for calling for the attention of the people by use of the trumpet and shofar, sounded them as they moved from the Nicanor doors to the Gate of the Pure and the Just which was the eastern gate of the Court of Prayer.  At this Eastern Gate they turned to face the Sanctuary and declared, “Our fathers who were in this place turned with their backs toward the Temple of the Lord and their faces toward the east, and they worshipped the sun toward the east. But as to us, our eyes are to the Lord.” 

The light from the Menorahs was considered to have several levels of symbolism. The light represented:

 1.            The Shekinah that once filled the Temple, for the descent of the Shekinah at the dedication of the Temple of Solomon took place at this feast.

2.            The Pillar of Fire that guided them on their wilderness journey, which journey was the main motif of the Festival (According to Jewish tradition, the pillar first appeared on the 15th Tishri, the first day of the feast)

3.            Messiah’s Name, for Isaiah had prophesied of the Coming One, “The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined.” (Isaiah 9:2)

 This theme of light at Tabernacles was only a continuation of a theme that was always present. In one Midrash we are told that windows commonly were narrow without but wide within to let light in, but in Solomon’s temple they were narrow within and wide without, because light from the Sanctuary was to lighten that which was without. The principle being that spiritual light emanates from the Temple. The light from the Menorahs, which illuminated the courtyards of Jerusalem, fulfilled this imagery. Also the law required the oil fired light of the Sanctuary to be always lit, not that God required light but that it was prophetic of the time when God would kindle for them ‘the Great Light’. The Rabbis spoke of the Light with which God wrapped Himself as with a garment, which was now reserved under the throne of God for the Messiah, in whose days it would shine out once more. In another Midrash, on Lamentations 1.16, the Messiah is designated as the ‘Enlightener’, because of the words of Daniel 2.22 “light dwells with Him” (Dan. 2:22).

Next Time - The Pouring of the Waters

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Messiah and the Ritual of Israel (Continued)

Sukkot in Jerusalem
The Feasts of Israel

The Feast of Tabernacles (Hag HaSukkoth)

The Scriptural warrant for this Feast is contained in Leviticus 23.33-44. See also Exodus 23:16; 34:22; Numbers 29:12; and Deuteronomy 16:13-15. It was an eight-day feast that began on the 15th Tishri, which is five days after the Day of Atonement. It was the third of the pilgrim feasts (shalosh regalim) when the strength of Israel, “all thy males”, (Exod.23.17; Deut.16.17; see also Exod.34.23) had to appear before the Lord. Yet another harvest festival, it celebrated the end of the fruit harvest. At this season, the grapes and olives and other fruits were gathered and either stored or processed. The wine was made and the oil was pressed. The first and last days of the festival were designated days for gathering together for a national assembly, for worship and teaching, and no servile work was permitted. The eighth day was the closing of the annual cycle of the YHWH’s feasts.

As was the custom, offerings were made each day, burnt offerings, meat offerings, various sacrifices, drink offerings as well as freewill offerings. The freewill offerings were to reflect the blessing of God, “every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you.” (Deut. 16:17) If the 10th of the month was a day of solemnity, the period of this festival from the 15th of the month was a time of rejoicing. The nation was to delight in the Lord and His goodness. “Seven days you shall keep a sacred feast to the Lord your God in the place which the Lord chooses, because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you surely rejoice. (Deut. 16:15)  At the heart of the festival was the dance that included waving aloft “the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook”. (Lev. 23:40) 

 Just like the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, this Feast also was a remembrance of the deliverance of the nation out of Egyptian slavery. For seven days, the nation was required to dwell in shelters made from the branches of trees, as a memorial that they were tent dwellers for forty years while journeying from Egypt to Canaan. They lived in tents from the time of Passover, when they were delivered from Egypt, through the time at Sinai when Moses received the Law, through the additional years in the wilderness that was the punishment for the sins of Israel, especially that of the golden calf, until they reached Canaan. In token of this, they called the festival the Feast of Booths.

 Every seven years there was an additional ceremony when the Torah was read to the nation that had gathered for the festival. The importance of these celebrations were further re-enforced when King Solomon chose the season of Sukkoth to dedicate the first Temple, and it was at this time that the Shekinah glory honored the Temple and the feast, by filling the building.

 The prophet Zechariah, looking to the future, saw a time when rejoicing over YHWH’s goodness would be international not just national. He foresaw a day when the nations would be brought to acknowledge the God of Israel and come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast and thank God for providing their corn, wine and oil. “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.” (Zech. 14:16)

More Next Time
[1] 1 Kings 8.2 ff

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Messiah and the Ritual of Israel (Continued)

The Feast of Israel

The Day of Atonement (Continued)

The High Priest's first duty done, the sin offering for himself, his family and the priestly caste, he then needed to make a sin offering for the nation. They brought the goat ‘For the Lord’, that is, the one designated as a sin offering. The High Priest cut its throat and collected its blood in a basin. Returning to the Ark in the Inner Sanctum he sprinkled the mercy seat once more.

On His return to the Holy Place where he had left the vessel containing the blood of the bullock, he completed a ceremony in which he used the blood of both animals, first separately, and then mixed, to purify the veil and the holy furniture. Finally, he emptied out any excess blood at the Great Altar where finally it ran down into the brook Kidron.

The ritual continued with the dispatch of the scapegoat. He took the goat, laid his two hands upon it, and made a third confession. “O Lord, your people, the house of Israel, has committed iniquity, transgressed, and sinned before you. Forgive, O Lord, I pray, the iniquities, transgressions, and sins, which your people, the house of Israel, have committed, transgressed, and sinned before you, as it is written in the Torah of Moses, your servant, For on this day shall atonement be made for you to clean you. From all your sins shall you be clean before the Lord (Lev. 16:30).” For a third time, the priests and people prostrated themselves on hearing the Name of God pronounced, and yet again say, “Blessed be the name of the glory of his kingdom forever and ever.”

The scapegoat was given over to the one who was to lead it out. It was taken out through the exit gate on the eastern wall. From there  it was led to a place some distance from Jerusalem, where it was thrown down a ravine. Preparations had been made prior to the Day of Expiation. Tents had been set up a mile distant from each other, where some waited to accompany the man that had charge of the scapegoat. Some senior men conducted him to the first tent, where others took that responsibility and traveled with him to the second. This was repeated until they reached the tenth. From the tenth tent the goat was taken a further two miles to the rock Tsok from which it would be thrown down to its death.

After the scapegoat had left the Temple mount, the High Priest began the procedure to dispose of the carcasses of the animals that had been used as sin offerings and killed in the court of priests. They were burned ‘outside the camp’. The High Priest and the people also waited for news that the scapegoat had reached ‘the wilderness’. The message was relayed back to the Temple by the use of flags through a chain of sentinel posts, although the Mishnah also says they had another sign. R. Ishmael says, “There was a crimson thread tied to the door of the sanctuary. When the goat had reached the wilderness, the thread would turn white, as it says, Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah. 1:18).

From the elaborate ritual and the threefold confession, it is clear that the Day of Atonement was a day of solemnity when the people had to mean business with God.

The High Priest’s duties were not yet over. Having bathed again, and now clothed in fresh white apparel he went out through the great Nicanor door, and faced the people in the court of prayer (the court of women). There he was given sections of the Torah to read. The first was Leviticus 16, which describes the Day of Atonement ritual, then Leviticus 23.26-32 which again describes the activities of the Day of Atonement. The third portion (Numbers 29.7-11) which deals with the ceremonies of the Day, he repeated by heart, while holding the Torah scroll to his bosom. Then he said eight blessings over it, “… for the Torah, … for the Temple service, … for the confession, … for the forgiveness of sin, … for the sanctuary (by itself), for Israel (by themselves), … and for the priests (by themselves), and for the rest of) the Prayer”, the prayer here meaning the Shemoneh ’Esreh, the eighteen benedictions.

The High Priest now turned to the next section of the duties of the Day. He bathed again and dressed in his robes of beauty and glory, to offer burnt offerings – first for himself and his brother priests, and then for the people. With constant washing of hands and feet, and a further change of clothes into white linen garments, the High Priest recovered the instruments used for the burning of incense from the Sanctuary. Finally, dressed in his own clothes and accompanied by many friends he returned home for an evening of celebration.

At the heart of the requirements of the Day is the phrase, “you shall afflict your souls”. Mostly it is interpreted as a day of fasting. The Mishnah lists the prohibitions: “On the Day of Atonement it is forbidden to (1) eat, (2) drink, (3) bathe, (4) put on any sort of oil, (5) put on a sandal, (6) or engage in sexual relations.” To this day Rosh HaShanah is celebrated with joy while Yom Kippur is celebrated with solemnity.

More Next Time

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Messiah and the Ritual of Israel (Continued)

The Feasts of Israel


The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) was, and still is, the most important day in the religious calendar of Israel. It falls on the 10th Tishri, and brings to a conclusion the Days of Awe. The Levitical instructions for the Day are in Leviticus 23.26-32. “And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God. For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people. And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath.” The essence of these instructions is repeated in Numbers 29.7-11 where the ritual offerings are listed. Leviticus 16.29-34 also refers to this Day where the emphasis there is on the priest who performs the ceremony in the Tabernacle.

It had long been considered that the first Yom Kippur took place after Moses had received the second set of stone tablets on which were the Ten Commandments. After the sin of the golden calf, the nation fasted and waited in repentance while Moses ascended the mountain to intercede for them. He returned on the 10th Tishri to announce that God had forgiven the nation, in honor of which the 10th Tishri would remain a day of atonement for all generations.

The Day of Atonement was always significant in the national calendar, but after the Babylonian exile, it took on much greater importance in the culture of Israel. Since the exile was considered a judgment of God because the nation had failed to keep the Mosaic Law, then fulfilling the Law, especially as it applied to this key Temple service in which atonement was made for the sins of the people, became vital. Because the daily sacrifices were unable to cleanse all sins, particularly secret sins, the sacrifice of atonement on the Day of Atonement became the major offering of the religious year. Therefore, it was necessary for the priesthood, not only to perform the duties of the Day, but also to perform them in the right order.


The High Priest was cosseted for the week before the day of his duties, and every precaution was taken to ensure he would not be defiled. He prepared himself thoroughly for the elaborate Temple ceremony, memorizing those parts of the T’nach that he had to recite by heart. On the 10th Tishri, the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies to atone for the sins of the people. The basic idea was a ‘covering’ for sin, the purpose of which was to accomplish reconciliation between God and man. To prosecute the duties of the day, the High Priest removed his official garments, made for beauty and glory, bathed himself and then dressed in white linen as a symbol of repentance. First, he needed to offer a bull calf as a sin offering for himself, his family and the family of priests. Approaching the bullock that was placed between the altar and the entrance into the Sanctuary, the High Priest laid hands on the animal and made confession for himself and his household. “O Lord, I have committed iniquity, transgressed, and sinned before you, I and my house. O Lord, forgive the iniquities, transgressions, and sins, which I have done by committing iniquity, transgression, and sin before you, I and my house.” As it is written in the Torah of Moses, your servant, For on this day shall atonement be made for you to clean you. From all your sins shall you be clean before the Lord (Lev. 16:30)”. When the priests and the people heard the Name of God, the tetragrammaton YHWH uttered, they prostrated themselves and cried, “Blessed is the name of the glory of his kingdom forever and ever.”

Early in the ceremony, the selection of the goat for ‘azazel’ was performed. Two goats, previously selected, were brought before the High Priest, as well as a golden box with two lots in it. On one lot was marked, “For the Lord”, and on the other, “For azazel”. If the right hand took the lot, “For the Lord”, then the High Priest was instructed to raise his right hand. If the left hand took the lot, “For the Lord”, then the High Priest was instructed to raise that hand. In this way, they identified each goat for its purpose. Again the people responded with, “Blessed is the name of the glory of his kingdom forever and ever.” The High Priest tied a crimson thread to the scapegoat and pointed the goat in the direction it was to be taken. He then tied a crimson thread around the throat of the goat that was to be sacrificed.

The High Priest then proceeded to the bullock to pronounce the second confession. Laying two hands upon the animal he said, “O Lord, I have committed iniquity, transgressed, and sinned before you, I and my house and the children of Aaron, your holy people. O Lord, forgive, I pray, the iniquities, transgressions, and sins which I have committed, transgressed, and sinned before you, I, my house, and the children of Aaron, your holy people, as it is written in the Torah of Moses, your servant, For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. From all your sins shall you be clean before the Lord (Lev. 16:30).”

This second confession had the same wording as the first except it was for, “I, my house and the children of Aaron”. Yet again, on hearing the ineffable Name of YHWH, the people prostrated themselves and cried, “Blessed is the name of the glory of his kingdom forever and ever.” The bullock was slaughtered and its blood caught in a basin. This blood was to be taken into the Holy of Holies, but not before the High Priest had armed himself with incense. Another priest held the basin with the blood of the sin offering, constantly stirring it so that it would not congeal, while the High Priest collected live coals from the Great Altar. He used these to burn incense in the Holy of Holies. When the room was filled with the smoke of the incense, he returned to collect the vessel with the blood of the sin offering. Retracing his steps to the Ark of the Covenant, he sprinkled the blood of the bullock on the mercy seat and on the floor before the Ark. In those days when the Ark was no longer there, the blood was sprinkled on the stone on which the Ark had rested.

More Next Time