The Festival Calendars (Ex 23:14-17 vs Ex 34:18-26 vs Deut 34:18-26 vs Lev 23 vs Num 28-29)

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There are 5 different festival calendars in the Pentateuch, each one originating from a once separate and independent source:

  1. Exodus 23:14-17 (from the Elohist source)
  2. Exodus 34:18-26 (from the Yahwist)
  3. Deuteronomy 16:1-17 (from the Deuteronomist)
  4. Leviticus 23 (from the Priestly source, accredited to the Holiness Code)
  5. Numbers 28-29 (also from the pen of P)

I am presently going through these different calendars and will be posting their contradictions and differences over the next few days/weeks. I have already noted a few of these contradictions, those between the earliest sources and Deuteronomy (#109-110, #111, #112, #113, #117, #118, and #168). However, there are a few that I missed and I will additionally be adding the contradictions between the earliest sources and the late Priestly source, as well as those between D and P.

Here, in this initial introductory post, I merely wish to reproduce each of the different calendars in the broadest view possible, and in chronological order—that is from the oldest textual source forward, not from the narrative chronology as these sources now stand in the redacted text.

1) Exodus 23:14-17 (E): 3 pilgrimage festivals to local altars that must be observed by all males

  1. Festival of Unleavened Bread (7 day festival in the month of Abib; 7th day is the pilgrimage (Ex 13:6)
  2. Harvest Festival (first fruits/grains harvested)
  3. Festival of Gathering (end of year harvest)

2) Exodus 34:18-26 (J): 3 pilgrimage festivals to local altars that must be observed by all males

  1. Festival of Unleavened Bread (7 days in the month of Abib)
  2. Festival of Weeks = Harvest (#168)
  3. Festival of Gathering

3) Deuteronomy 16:1-17 (D)

  1. Passover + 6 days of Unleavened Bread (specific day of Abib still not specified; Passover must be celebrated at Jerusalem, which is now a pilgrimage festival (#117); Unleavened Bread no longer a pilgrimage festival; Passover is now absorbed as the 1st day of unleavened bread, reducing the Festival of Unleavened Bread to 6 days)
  2. Festival of Weeks (now delayed 7 weeks from early E date; now a pilgrimage festival to Jerusalem)
  3. Festival of Booths (7 days at Jerusalem; transformation of Festival of Gathering)

4) Leviticus 23 (P): Yahweh’s Appointed Times & Sacred Assemblies

  1. Passover & Unleavened Bread (14th & 15th of Abib; 7 days total (=D) or Passover + 7 days (cf. Ex 12:17-20)?; Passover no longer a pilgrimage festival to Jerusalem, but now (again, see E) at home; Unleavened Bread reclaimed a pilgrimage festival; now proclaimed an “eternal law”; burnt-offerings to Yahweh for 7 days, not specified)
  2. Festival of Weeks (now proclaimed an “eternal law”; grain & burnt offerings to Yahweh at the first reaping of harvest AND 7 sabbatical weeks later (i.e., start counting on the Sabbath), on the 50th day, more grain & burnt offerings to Yahweh, plus sin and peace offerings)
  3. Horn Blast Holy Day (1st day of 7th month; offerings to Yahweh)
  4. Day of Purgation (10th day of 7th month; an “eternal law”; offerings to Yahweh, see Lev 16)
  5. Festival of Booths (15th day of 7th month; an “eternal law”; burnt-offerings for 7 days; 8th day a sacred assembly)

5) Numbers 28-29 (P): Yahweh’s Sacrifices

  1. The tamid (twice daily “continual” burnt-offering of one-year old lambs, in the morning and in the evening)
  2. Sabbath Day (burnt-offering of 2 lambs w/accompanying grain-offering + the tamid)
  3. New Moon, 1st of the month (burnt-offering of 2 bulls, 1 ram, 7 lambs w/accompanying grain-offering + sin-offering of 1 goat + the tamid)
  4. Passover & Unleavened Bread (14th & 15th of Abib; Unleavened Bread a pilgrimage festival for 7 days, each day a burnt-offering of 2 bulls, 1 ram, 7 lambs w/accompanying grain-offering + sin-offering of 1 goat + the tamid)
  5. Day of Firstfruits = Festival of Weeks (pilgrimage festival; burnt-offering of 2 bulls, 1 ram, 7 lambs w/accompanying grain-offering + sin-offering of 1 goat + the tamid)
  6. Horn Blast Holy Day (1st day of 7th month; burnt-offering of 1 bull, 1 ram, 7 lambs w/accompanying grain-offering + burnt-offering for New Moon + sin-offering of 1 goat + the tamid)
  7. Day of Purgation (10th day of 7th month; burnt-offering of 1 bull, 1 ram, 7 lambs w/accompanying grain-offering + burnt-offering for Atonement (= Lev 16) + sin-offering of 1 goat + the tamid)
  8. Festival of Booths (15th day of 7th month; pilgrimage festival; 7 days of burnt-offerings: day 1: 13 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs w/accompanying grain-offering + a sin-offering of 1 goat + the tamid; day 2: 12 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs; day 3: 11 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs, etc.; day 8 declared a sacred assembly: burnt-offering of 1 bull, 1 ram, 7 lambs w/accompanying grain-offering + sin-offering of 1 goat + the tamid)

As is visible from this detailed list of the Pentateuch’s festival calendars, the two Priestly calendars, most likely from the post-exilic era, express a heightened interest in and concern for the cult—as we would expect from this Aaronid priestly guild. Not only are the lunar dates of these festivals precisely articulated, but so too, at least in Numbers, the actual sacrifices to be performed.

The reader can additionally see where there are minor discrepancies and even contradictions between these sources’ calendars. We will look at these in more detail over the next few posts. I think I will proceed by first looking at the variations, discrepancies, and contradictions in the Passover and Unleavened Bread Festival accounts, and from there the accounts of the Festival of Weeks, etc.

4 thoughts on “The Festival Calendars (Ex 23:14-17 vs Ex 34:18-26 vs Deut 34:18-26 vs Lev 23 vs Num 28-29)

  1. Although some sources identify Numbers 28-29 as P, Richard Elliott Friedman identifies the source as the Redactor. As he says on page 296 of *The Bible With Sources Revealed*:

    Numbers 28-29 is a body of laws of sacrifice. The laws of grain offerings and libations were introduced in Numbers 15, but here they are assumed to exist along with the meat offerings. This passage therefore appears to come from the same source as Numbers 15 and to continue it…it is therefore identified as R. This is further confirmed by the absence of any reference to the Tabernacle in the passage, just as there is none in Numbers 15 or in any passage identified as R–because R comes from the time of the post-exilic Temple, which did not contain the Tabernacle…Also, in P *the law is given at Sinai.* Hardly any law is given in P after the departure from Sinai unless it has something to do with a story…the one possible exception is the matter of the red heifer. If these two long chapters (Numbers 28-29) are P, then they are anomalous, the only long independent body of law in P that is not revealed at Sinai.

    1. Thanks John. Indeed, I’m familiar with Friedman’s comments here and interestingly enough I was going to footnote them, but then decided not to—since even for Friedman, if I remember his work correctly, R is also of the Priestly tradition; it is the Priestly Redactor. This is a remnant from an earlier debate: whether the P source is best seen as a separate literary source that was later redacted together with the JE tradition, or whether the priestly Redactor composed P around, and in reaction to, the JE tradition, such as many of P’s Genesis passages suggest. I still think the best scholarly treatment of this out there is David Carr’s Reading the Fractures of Genesis. I know you would greatly appreciate his book John—his scholarship, his attention to textual details, his clear claims and textual support of them, and his writing style in general.

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