I recently read through and promised to review, Festival Days, by Raphael Chaim. Edward Howell and I had been reviewing the “Feasts of the Lord” as outlined in the Books of Moses (Genesis – Deueteronomy) on the Preterist Power Hour for quite some time, and we created an online resource. You can review that updated resource at then following link, https://powerofpreterism.wordpress.com/2020/11/12/feasts-of-the-lord-an-ongoing-resource/
I appreciated with many of the points that Chaim Raphael had made regarding the feasts, especially, that “One becomes aware, in considering the festivals, that they add up to a demonstration of the uniqueness of Jewish history in the world story”. He went a bit further in his list of feasts than we did, as he noted, “…the traditional list does not include some important new celebrations which have emerged in Israel”, and he furthered explained that “…the festival calendar includes fasts as well as feasts”.
In my estimation, Festival Days, highlighted the evolving nature of the feast days, sometimes contradictory (somber or celebratory); as well as the agricultural details (or what he referred to as the “season understructure”. A great point he had made that Edward and I hadn’t spent much time on, was the fact that the feasts were by and large organized around the new moon. The ancient world relied upon the agricultural and celestial details for their accounting for time and memorials, and as Chaim noted, “At one level , the ancient Hebrews were linked to the cultures around them; at another, they had been transformed by the revelation through Moses of a faith in God that enshrined a new approach to morality”.
Encouraging further study into the surrounding cultures, Chaim Raphael mentioned the Tablets of Ninevah and a book by John B. Prichard called ‘Ancient Near Eastern Texts Related To The Old Testament’. ‘Hebrew Myths’ by Robert Graves and the ‘Cultural Background Study Bible’ as a resource put forth by John Walton are resources I have found beneficial in this area.
I found this following point interesting and something I want to respond to (and that’s why I share it):
“…the festivals enable one to get a quick guide on whether God is satisfied with one’s behavior. This guide is available they (rabbis) said, four times in the year: at Passover, through the ripening of the grain; at Pentecost, through the ripening of the fruit; at New Year, when a human’s survival or death is weighted upon by God; at Sukkot, ‘if it rains’. God would only make life difficult for His faithful Jews is he was really angry with them”.
This became the Achille’s Heel in Jewish thinking, often times leading them to desire other false gods, because it seemed those who worshipped them were doing something right. The wisdom found in the Book of Job runs contrary to this type of thinking. Rather than Job noting his calamities came upon him because of something his did wrong, it was important to gain the wisdom that God gives and takes away (cf. Job 1:21). Jesus Christ dealt with this type of thinking in John chapter 9, wherein He was asked about the blind man, and He responded, ““but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”. Other examples in Scripture of trying times not necessarily being a indicator of God being displeased with you would be Jesus Christ telling His disciples they will have ‘tribulation in this world’ (cf. John 16:33) and the wisdom from the Apostle Paul about rejoining in tribulation (cf. Romans 5:3 – surely this wasn’t encouragement to be joyful when God is displeased with you, right?!?!).
In conclusion, Chaim Raphel noted that “The celebrate the Jewish faith is not a commitment to legalism or pomposity. If anything it is a commitment to the intellectual liveliness that has fueled Jewish life in all the ages”. The essence of the Jewish Festival Days was to help the people become so absorbed in the things of God, that they could do nothing else than “Love the Lord God with all your mind, heart, soul, and strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5). He went on to note that “Life is drained of meaning of meaning in a struggle to win…when God is brought down to earth, “it changes the taste of the sea”. In the Old Testament, it was understood that God was brought down to earth through he Spirit found in the feasts, festivals, and sacrifices, all of which pointed to Jesus Christ (cf. Colossians 2:16-17; Hebrews 10:1).
Review written by Michael Miano