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Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, Ohio 

In order to trace the origin of the Sabbath and the festivals 
and follow up the stages of their development, we must not con- 
sult the codes of law and the meaning attached to the words of 
the same in later times, but examine certain historical facts in 
the other narratives and in occasional allusions and draw our 
conclusions therefrom. By this method of historical-critical 
research we arrive at an altogether different calendar system in 
ancient Israel than that with which we are familiar. The Sab- 
bath and the festivals have gone through a process of evolution 
which we must try to unravel and which few of our historians 
have made clear. Nor have our Assyriologists succeeded in 
elucidating this process, especially in regard to the Sabbath, as 
the recent work of Morris Jastrow, Hebrew and Babylonian 
Traditions, and an article of his on 'The Day after the Sabbath' 
(AJSL 30. 94 ff.) seem to show. 


To begin with the Sabbath, let me state that we know as yet 
too little of the Assyrian Sabbath to build important theories 
concerning the origin of the Jewish Sabbath upon it. The name 
Shabbatum in the Babylonian calendar has been found by 
Pinches in a glossary to designate the full moon; hence the 
Hebrew Sabbath must have had the same meaning, according 
to Jastrow, Meinhart, and others. On the other hand there was 
brought to light long ago a Babylonian Elul calendar according 
to which the 7th, 14th, 19th, 21st, and 28th days were regarded 
as unlucky days, on which the priest-king was not allowed to 
officiate as judge, use fire, eat cooked meat, etc. ; but the term 
Sabbath is not applied to these dies nefasti. Now, while the 
older Assyriologists were inclined to identify these days of 
the Elul calendar with the Hebrew Sabbath (suggesting that the 
nineteenth day was really the forty-ninth — that is, seven times 

210 E. Kohler 

seven, counted from the beginning of the previous month), 
modern Assyriologists no longer lay stress upon this fact, and 
insist instead upon the other fact that Shabbatum designates 
exclusively the full moon. Combining with it the etymology of 
Shabat, which is elsewhere explained by gamar 'to complete,' 
they explain the term Shabbatum to be the time of the comple- 
tion of the moon's light, 'when the sun on the other side of the 
sky casts its full light upon it.' Prof. Jastrow goes even so far 
as to explain the /"OSf H PDtlDD to have meant originally the 
morrow of the full moon, because the Passover feast begins on 
the 15th of Nisan, assuming the verse in question to belong to 
two or three different sources. As we shall later see, the whole 
argument regarding the Passover feast rests on a fundamental 
error. But aside from that, I do not think that there is any 
basis or justification whatsoever for identifying the Hebrew 
Sabbath at any time with the full moon. It seems to me that we 
are not in a position as yet to assume with any kind of certainty 
that the Hebrew Sabbath was simply taken over from the Baby- 
lonians, at least in historical times. Like all the things 
Babylonians and Hebrews had in common, the Sabbath seems to 
me to belong to an older epoch when the Babylonian lore was 
not as yet developed, and the Hebrew Sabbath may just as well 
throw light on the Babylonian Shabbatum as vice versa. Each 
had its own process of growth. 

This much, however, is certain, that the Hebrew Sabbath is not 
only older than the Decalogue of the Exodus, which connects it 
with the Creation week, as does the Elohist in the first chapter 
of Genesis, but also older than the original form of the Deca- 
logue: )Qnp7 rOtSTT DV Da TON which refers to the Sabbath 
as an established and known institution, and is by no means a 
new commandment. It is, however, quite noteworthy that the 
older Decalogue of Ex. 34 simply says, DV3) TO^H D'O* DB^ 
fiSBTt *JP3BT1» while the same Sabbath is implied but not 
mentioned. The chapter on the Manna, Ex. 16, offers indubi- 
tably an explanation for the Decalogue expression J"IN "TDf 
rDCd DV by the narrative's placing the commandment of the 
Sabbath before the Sinai Eevelation — a point of view which the 
rabbis present in connection with the words pfl V? OW DtP 
DflSPOl in Ex. 15. 25 (see Mekilta, ad loc.). 

The Sabbath and Festivals 211 

For us, however, the question is whether the Hebrew Sabbath 
was from the beginning based upon the fixed institution of the 
week, which certainly rests on Babylonian astrology, or whether 
it originally corresponded with the four lunar phases, so that 
the seventh, fourteenth, twenty-first and twenty-eighth of each 
month were the days of the moon's 'stand-still,' that is, Sabbath 
days. The latter view is expressed by Nowack, Hebr. Arch. 2 
144, who refers also to Wellhausen, Prolegomena 2 , p. 107. It 
seems to me that too little stress has been laid on the important 
fact that, throughout the entire pre-exilic literature, the Sabbath 
occupies only the second place alongside of the new moon, which 
is always mentioned first and foremost as a day of rest and of 
feasting, of sacrifice and of seeking the word or oracle of the 
Deity as given through the sacred seer. I refer to the well- 
known passages, 2 Ki. 4. 23 ; Am. 8. 5 ; Hos. 2. 13 ; Is. 1. 13 ; 
66. 23, where tJHIl always precedes the Sabbath. Down to the 
Exile — Ezekiel forms the interesting turning-point, as we shall 
see later on — the New Moon played a far greater role in ancient 
Israel than may be inferred from the Mosaic Code, where it is 
no longer made a day of rest, but has only the character of a 
survival in the Temple Cult. Note, however, Amos 8. 5, where 
the people are represented as saying: t5Hnf7 "D#* TIO - 
"13 finnSJl rOBTTl *"l3E> fTVaM: i. e., they could not sell 
corn on the New Moon, just as they could not on the Sab- 
bath. Very characteristically we find the day previous to the 
New Moon, and in distinction from the same, called by Jonathan 
(1 Sam. 20. 19) nVJKSTl DV 'Work Day,' which plainly shows 
the New Moon to have been celebrated by the people as a holy 
day. The presumption, then, is that the New Moon was the 
more solemn holy day, given over to feasting and sacrifices of a 
higher order among the families, such as we find it celebrated 
in the royal house of Saul and occasionally among certain 
classes in Israel (finSBW? tt OB> ffOTl POT. 1 Sam. 20. 6), 
over against which the Sabbath days of the month were but, 
so to say, diminutive moon seasons, four holy days of lesser 
solemnity and importance. But this very chapter reveals a fact 
the importance of which has not been recognized by historians. 
It is the agreement of David and Jonathan to meet again in the 
field on the third day, that is on the day following the two New 

212 K. Kohler 

Moon days (20. 5, 12, 19). That they could thus speak before- 
hand of the two New Moon days as a self-evident matter shows 
that the New Moon was not celebrated only on the first day of 
the month, when the reappearance of the moon had been observed 
by the respective functionaries, but on two days ; that is, on the 
twenty-ninth and thirtieth days of the month, the latter day 
leading over to the next month, which was counted from the day 
following as the first day of the first lunar week. "We get in 
this way the following division of the month : four lunar weeks, 
each ending with the Sabbath, and these twenty-eight days to be 
followed by the two New Moon days — thirty days altogether. 
But they occasionally divided the month into decades as did the 
Egyptians, and as we learn from the term "IIJJ'J? and lltJ^ 
{JHrf?. As a rule, however, the heptad prevailed. The holy 
number seven belongs to very ancient Semitic traditions, as all 
the oaths are made among the various Semitic tribes by the 
number seven. Hence we have the word JDBO ' to swear, ' which 
means 'to be bound by the holy seven.' (Whether the seven 
planets or Pleiades or some other seven was the object is not 
as yet ascertained.) The name rtffQE' for week, also yXZW. 
(in Jacob's story: fiitf JTOt? 10 Vfrft> Gen. 29. 27) is certainly 
old. All the festivities in private and public life filled up a 
full week, and, strange to say, the Sabbath is never mentioned 
in this connection. Not even in the story of the siege of Jericho 
is there any mention of the Sabbath. This can be accounted for 
only by the assumption that the Sabbath as a separate institution 
is of a later date. 

The new and full moon, however, were celebrated by all Semitic, 
nay by all primitive, tribes. The Moon was the real Measurer 
of time, as the Greek or Aryan (Jqv expresses it. Especially for 
the wandering tribes of the desert the Moon is the guide on the 
night march. Consequently the Bedouin still hails the appear- 
ance of the new moon with shouting, dancing, and clapping of 
hands, as Doughty describes it in his Arabia Deserta. And we 
learn from Job 31. 27 that the idolatrous practice of throwing 
kisses at the moon was still practised when that book was written. 
How much of a recrudescence of this was allowed to come in by 
the cabbalistic writers in the solemn greetings of the Kiddush- 
Lebanah rite, is not necessary to point out here. At any rate 
the New Moon celebrations, which were undoubtedly connected 

The Sabbath and Festivals 213 

with the Canaanite or Semitic worship of the queen of Heaven, 
and the round cakes, D'J13 • offered her on the roof-tops of the 
houses, as we learn from Jer. 44. 17 — 25, could not but meet 
with disfavor on the part of the Hebrew legislators. Here we 
have the reason for the abrogation of the New Moon as a day of 
rest. Only the priestly tradition retained the New Moon in the 
cult (Ezek. 45. 17 ; 46 ; and Num. 28. 10 f.) . The Cabbalists, or 
Mystics, during the late Middle Ages gave dignity to the New 
Moon, and by a strange atavism, the Jewish women — compare 
the women in Egypt mentioned by Jeremiah — desisted on that 
day from doing work. The priest-prophet Ezekiel in his legis- 
lative system accords to the New Moon only the second place 
alongside of the Sabbath (cf. Ezek. 46. 1 — 3). A still more 
interesting change which the New Moon has undergone in the 
writing of Ezekiel, and which henceforth influenced the litera- 
ture of the Jewish people (Num. 28. 10 and elsewhere) is that 
the name is changed from tJHH 'renewal' into JJHH CfcO 
'beginning of the month,' and £JHn henceforth stands for 
month. We shall soon see what this implied for the regulation 
of the festivals in the Mosaic Code. But we have to turn our 
attention first to the new concept of the Sabbath. 

The Sabbath is transformed in the Decalogue from a lunar 
holy day into a day of the Lord, and made an institution inde- 
pendent of the phases of the moon, a weekly institution, whether 
for the rest of man, as the Deuteronomic decalogue has it, or as 
a testimony to God's creation of the world in a seven-day week, 
as the decalogue in Exodus has it. The latter idea is, of course, 
a transformation of the Babylonian myth in the monotheistic 
spirit. With Ezekiel (20. 20) begins the special accentuation 
of the Sabbath as a sign between Israel and his God, and hence 
also the Holiness Code, which emanated from the Ezekiel school, 
renders it a special sign of the covenant between Israel and the 
Lord (Ex. 31. 13, 17). In the Priest Code the ancient concepts 
of the Sabbath as a day of austerity and of the prohibition of 
labor, of the use of fire, of cooking, etc., made themselves felt 
again, and this led to ever greater rigidity in the Sadducean and 
Karaite and then in the Shammaite circles, whereas the Exilic 
seer in Is. 58. 13 voices a different view regarding the joy and 
cheer on Sabbath, though wishing to have the day devoted to 
divine things exclusively. The passage in Jeremiah ( 17. 19—27 ) 

214 K. Kohler 

threatening those that trade on the Sabbath with the conflagra- 
tion of the city belongs to the time of Nehemiah and ought never 
to have been assigned to the great prophet. 

Before concluding my views on the Sabbath, I wish to call 
attention to the one fact which the Assyriologists have failed to 
consider. Had the Sabbath been really known in Babylonia as 
a holy day outside of the priestly cult, the Biblical Sabbath could 
never have been made the sign of the covenant, or a mark dis- 
tinguishing the Jewish people from the rest, as is already done 
by Deutero-Isaiah and by Ezekiel. The idea of the distinction 
of Israel from the surrounding nations became the guiding 
motive in the Mosaic Code also for the festivals, as we shall 
now see. 


There can hardly be any dispute as to the meaning of tJHFT 
'New Moon,' wherever it occurs in ancient literature. Let me 
ask, then, when is Passover to take place, according to Deuter- 
onomy 1. There can be but one translation of 16. 1, tJHn fitf "UDt^ 

■'♦ Ttwnrr mnh bhpo *a yrt>tt mr*? nos rwyi Man 

■Th'h DHXDO 'N = 'Observe the New Moon of the Ripening Crops 
and offer the Paschal sacrifice, for on the New Moon of the 
Ripening Crops hath the Lord brought thee out of Egypt at 
night.' To translate CHIl by 'month' is simply impossible in 
view of the word J"? 1 ?' 1 ? at the end of the verse. In other words, 
the Passover at the time of King Josiah was celebrated, not on 
the eve of the 15th, but on the eve of the New Moon. Nor was 
it, as described in Exodus 12, the sacrificial day of a lamb, but, 
as we read in the following verse, of all kinds of animals taken 
from the flock and the cattle. This Deuteronomic precept 
receives its light from Ex. 13. 1 — 10, 11 — 16, where we have the 
duplicate of the law prescribing consecration of the first-born 
of man and beast and the sacrifice of the first-born of the beast 
on the memorial day of the Exodus. There we read also: 
30XH BHPO D»KXV DDK DVH ' This day have you been going 
out of Egypt on the New Moon of the Ripening Crops. ' So also 
in Ex. 34. 18 and 23. 15 (where the same law is given concerning 
the Feast of Mazzoth with especial reference to the redemption, 
or sacrifice of the first-born). There we find also the express 
statement MKTI BHI*D *3 3»3Kfl BHH l^d? ffVW "KMO 

The Sabbath and Festivals 215 

0*1X00 fiK¥* : 'On the New Moon of the ripening of the Crops 
didst thou go out of Egypt.' By the way, let me say here that 
that little fragment in Ex. 4. 22—26, "p fiN m '3JK JlJH 
*"j"D2 ending with 'WW* HM *,33 belongs to the oldest stratum 
of the Exodus story in connection with the Pesah, connecting 
the Shepherd Spring feast with the death of the first-born. 
Originally then the Pesah as a festival of Spring was cele- 
brated on the New Moon of the Spring Month, when the 
blood of the first-born of the flock or cattle was put on the 
forehead and hand of the people, and also sprinkled on the door- 
post and door-sill, a practice that is still in vogue among 
fellahin natives of Palestine, Syria, and the Arabian peninsula 
(see Curtiss, Ursemitische Religion, p. 206 ff. and Dillmann, ad 
loc). The change from the New Moon to the Pull Moon is first 
recorded by the prophet Ezekiel, 45. 21, and then in the priest 
«ode, Ex. 12 and Lev. 23, which latter chapter is of composite 
nature and not a pure product of the Holiness Code. As a 
matter of fact the Passover feast was only, in consequence of the 
Deuteronomie Code, transformed from a Shepherd household 
feast into a national festival under King Josiah (2 Ki. 23. 22), 
and then connected with the Mazzoth feast. 


Coming to the Feast of Weeks, we observe that it nowhere has 
a special date as to the month, or day, like the other festivals. 
It was and remained even during the period of the second temple 
an agricultural festival, the time of which was determined by 
the end of the harvest of the barley and wheat crops, which 
lasted seven weeks. The Deuteronomie Law simply says : ' Thou 
shalt count seven weeks' — that is seven times seven days, without 
a mention of the Sabbath anywhere — 'and then thou shalt cele- 
brate the Feast of Weeks.' The older code of the Covenant 
calls it ~\i)£pn Jn adding y&pn »*TD3 (1*Xp). Ezekiel does 
uot mention it at all ; for nty'DE' for nj*3tP in 45. 21 is a 
scribal error. But the law in Lev. 23. 9 ff. devotes to it a long 
paragraph, which has become a matter of dispute not only 
among priest and sage, Sadducee and Pharisee of olden times, 
but also among the scholars, Jewish and non-Jewish, to this very 
day. I refer to the well-known passage in verses 15 — 17. I 
hold that no unbiased reader can translate this otherwise than 

216 K. Kohler 

the Sadducees originally did: 'Ye shall count from the day 
following the Sabbath, on which day you bring the Omer of the 
first barley harvest [of which it expressly says, v. 11, milDD 
p"DfT Ufl*J* rOBTf], seven weeks, and then on the following 
day, the morrow of the seventh Sabbath, which is the fiftieth 
day (Pentecost), ye shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks.' In 
other words, then, on the day following the Sabbath when they 
swung the sickle at the standing corn (which, of course, could 
not be done on the Sabbath Day), they offered the Omer of the 
first barley, and on the day following the seventh Sabbath, which 
is the fiftieth day, they brought the two loaves of bread made 
from the new wheat as a sacrifice for the Feast of "Weeks. What 
has been lacking in this Biblical Law is a specific date, which 
was not necessary, as it depended each year on the time of the 
ripening of the crops. This was good enough for the priests 
of the Temple, but what about the Jew living far away from the 
holy land? Should he forego celebrating the Feast of Weeks? 
It is remarkable that the Book of Jubilees (6. 17 f. ; 14. 20—21) 
takes the name JTl,Jfl3tS77 Jf7 to be the feast of the covenant 
oaths, telling us that the covenant made with Noah, with 
Abraham, and with Israel on Sinai were all made on the fifteenth 
of Sivan. 

The rabbis, with reference to Ex. 19. 1, point to the giving of 
the decalogue as the historical event which took place on the 
sixth, or as E. Jose says in Shabbath 86 b, the seventh, of Sivan, 

the ^-itr* 1 ? mm roru up dv nypn yn-rtDn jno ov 

(Shemoth B. 31. 17), taking the term Kazir as the spiritual 
harvest, the day when the Law was given to Israel. Of course, 
the *&*?&Tt Bnn here also can refer only to the first day, 
since it says fTtfT DV3- But the rabbis, or rather the Pharisees, 
wanted to have a close connection made between Pesah and 
Shabuoth in order to fix the date of the latter, and at the 
same time give it a historical character, and so they inter- 
preted the words rOBTJ milDO to mean 'on the day follow- 
ing the first day of Pesah.' So already the LXX has it. 
The first step to this connection between Pesah and the 
Omer sacrifice was taken at the time when the story of 
Israel's entrance into Canaan was told by the people, about 
which the Book of Joshua tells us that flDfln mHOD- on the 
morrow of the Pesah, that is on the fifteenth day of Nisan, the 

The Sabbath and Festivals 217 

people ate Mazzoth of the produce of the land, while the Manna 
ceased. This nDflPt mfTOO in Joshua could serve as some kind 
of support to the Pharisees to refer the expression fllHOO 
fDtSM of the Omer to the day after the first day of Pesah, 
while the Karaites and their predecessors, the Boethusians, and 
the Falashas refer it to the day after the last day of Pesah, so 
as to bring the Shabuoth festival close to the fifteenth of Sivan 
(see Jubilees, I. c). 


As to the Sukkoth festival I have long ago come to the convic- 
tion, and I now find also Dr. Ehrlich's commentary and Carpen- 
ter, quoted by Berthelot, Leviticus, p. 79, on my side, that the 
name has nothing to do with the harvest tents, as most modern 
exegetes think. There is nowhere such an allusion to harvest 
tents in the Bible, neither in Deuteronomy, where we might 
expect it, nor in Exodus 23. 16 or 34. 22, where it is simply called 

rutrn nsipn or rnvn nwo t)»DKn Ji*r . As a matter of 

fact, it was the Hag, 'Pilgrimage Feast' par excellence (see 
1 Ki. 13. 2 ; 12. 32 ; Lev. 23. 39—41 ; Ezek. 45. 23 ; Neh. 8. 14, 
and Mishna B. H. 1. 2; cf. Nowack, I. c. 150). But it is an 
error to ascribe to the Sukkoth feast, as Nowack does on p. 155, 
the Deuteronomic law concerning the offering of the first fruits 
(Deut. 16. 1), as both the Mishnah Bikkurim 3. 2 and Philo 
(Mangey, 2. 298), who calls it 'the feast of the basket,' show 
that there was no connection between the two. Naturally the 
pilgrimage feast of the people took place after the summer's work 
was over, when they could come in large numbers to the temple 
of Shilo, or Jerusalem, as the Muhammadans come to Mecca for 
their Hajj. And where would they find a shelter, unless, as is 
done in Mecca, they would erect tents for all the strangers? 
This gave the pilgrimage feast the specific name of Feast of 
Tents. But the priestly legislator was not satisfied with this 
idea of a simple harvest festival. He was anxious to invest it 
with historical meaning, and so he connected it also with the 
story of the Exodus. But how? The usual interpretation is 
that the words 'I placed you in tents when I brought you out 
of Egypt' refer to the fact that the people, on their journey 
from Egypt in the "Wilderness, dwelt in tents. But in this case 
the verse ought to read, 13103 D/TIN ^lPD, not WmrD 
15 JAOS 37 

218 K. Kohler 

DHlfD j-*"lND ODIN . A glance at the history of the Exodus and 
the list of journeys shows that Sukkoth was the gathering-place 
of the Hebrews, or the first station of their wanderings (Ex. 12. 
37; 13. 20; Num. 33. 5). It matters not whether the name is 
derived from the tents built there, or whether the name happened 
to be Sukkoth, just as we learn of Jacob that he gave the name 
Sukkoth to a place where he built his tents (Gen. 33. 17). The 
idea is that God provided a place of tents as a gathering-point 
for the fugitive slaves at their exodus from Egypt. Hence also 
the controversy between R. Eliezer, R. Akiba, and other Tannaim 
as to the meaning of Sukkoth, whether it denotes the place of 
Israel's starting-point at the Exodus, or whether God built for 
them these tents, or whether He wrapped them in clouds like 
tents to protect them when He brought them out of Egypt (see 
Mekilta to Ex. 12. 37; 13. 20; Sifra to Lev. 23. 43). That the 
tents in which the wine harvest is celebrated by the people should 
have given rise to the festival, as is the opinion of the various 
exegetes (see Dillmann, Berthelot and Driver on Deut. 16. 13, 
following Robinson, Bibl. Researches, 2. 81 f.), has no foundation 
in the Scripture, as there is nowhere any allusion made to the 
Sukkoth feasts being celebrated as a wine festival, whereas the 
pilgrimage tents correspond to the name Hag. 

As regards the striking difference which exists between 
Nehemiah 8. 15, where the law regarding the Sukkoth tents is 
quoted, and the passage in Lev. 23. 40, I am quite sure that our 
Code text has undergone a transformation, and that the text 
in Nehemiah is more authentic. According to the latter the 
plants mentioned were all used for the cover of the tents and 
instead of HQ the reading was "HPT fl? ^P ( not 01H 'myrtle,' 
as Ehrlich thinks, nor can I accept his HNfl 'branches,' instead 
of Hfl)- The Talmudic authorities have no longer any compre- 
hension of Tin Y$ HS and do all sorts of guessing. Our 
Ethrog is really the Persian Othrang, which is our orange ; while 
Josephus {Ant. 3. 10. 4) and LXX seem to think of a peach 
instead of a citron. The prophet Zechariah, or rather the author 
of the fourteenth chapter, which belongs to a very late date, gives 
us an insight into an altogether different and yet archaic char- 
acter of the harvest feast of Sukkoth, when he describes it as a 
feast of rain which is to bring its fertility to those nations who 
come to Jerusalem for the celebration of the feast, and the 

The Sabbath and Festivals 219 

blessing of which is to be withheld from the nations who do not 
come to bow down before the One and Only God of Israel in 
Jerusalem. Obviously we have here an ancient water festival, 
traces of which are found also in Is. 12. 3 and 30. 29. It is 
called in the Mishnah Sukkah (5. 1) Simhath beth ha-shoebah, 
'Festivity of the House of the Water-drawing.' It consisted of 
a procession from the Shiloah Spring to the temple made by 
large crowds following the priest with his chalice of water for 
the water libation at the altar, and was preceded by dances 
during the whole night of each day of the Sukkoth festival, 
amidst the play of instruments and the carrying of torches, in 
which especially 'the Hasidim and the Wonderworkers' (anshe 
maaseh, probably the Essene 'rain-makers') took a prominent 
part. It closed with the beating of the willows — hibbut arabah — 
at the close of the feast (Sukkah 4. 1—6, cf. Ps. 118. 27). The 
Sadducean priesthood, however, opposed it (Sukkah 4. 9 ; 
Tosefta Sukkah 3. 1, 16) . The ceremony was connected with the 
belief in the water foundation in the depth of the world's center 
as placed beneath the Temple mountain of Jerusalem (see Suk- 
kah 53 a, b), a belief still shared by the people, Jew and Chris- 
tian, and it reaches far back in ancient Semitic life, as has been 
shown by Peuchtwang, Das Wasseropfer u. d. verb. Ceremonien, 
1911 (cf. Sepp, Jerusalem, Index, s. v. Siloa). 

The name Azereth in Lev. 23. 36 and Num. 29. 35 for the last 
day of the festival gathering seems rather to denote ' Conclusion 
Feast,' as is shown in Deut. 16. 8, and as Tradition has it, which 
gave to the Feast of Weeks as the ending of the seven harvest 
weeks also the name Azereth, Aram. Azarta (Bosh ha-Shanah 1. 
2 ; Hagiga 2. 4 ; Josephus, Ant. 3. 10 b) . 

These three festivals were adopted from the Canaanites as 
agricultural feasts, and, no doubt, celebrated originally in the 
various sacred localities according to the ancient custom, while 
the annual pilgrimage feast at the end of the agricultural year 
(Ex. 23. 16; 34. 22) was at an early date made an especial 
season of gathering at the main Sanctuary of Shiloh ( Ju. 21. 19 ; 
ISa. 1. 3). 


The other two festivals ordained in the Priest Code (Lev. 23. 
23 — 32; Num. 29. 1 — 11) have in my opinion not been satisfac- 

220 K. Kohler 

torily explained as to their origin and -meaning. The priest- 
prophet Ezekiel seems to have taken cognizance in his festal 
system (45. 18 — 25) of the double calendar existing already in 
ancient Palestine as well as in Babylonia, the agricultural one 
beginning in the fall (see Ezek. 40. 1) and the sacred or official 
one beginning in the spring (2 Sam. 11. 1; 1 Ki. 20. 22; Jer. 
36. 9, 22). Accordingly he proposed an Expiation for the 
Temple on the first of the first month of the sacred calendar and 
another on the first of the seventh month {Qnii? "JTOO U^KO)- 
This is the reading restored after LXX by Cornill, Smend, and 
Wellhausen. As was seen already by Ewald, the Priest Code 
has, in accepting the agricultural calendar beginning the year in 
the spring, made it its object to build the whole system of Jewish 
life on the holiness of the number Seven, according to which the 
seventh day of the week, the seventh month of the year, and 
again the year following the seventh time seventh year as the 
Jubilee year should be holy unto the Lord. Accordingly the 
New Moon of the seventh month, being the Sabbatical month 
following the six months of agricultural labor, was, in distinction 
from the New Moon of any other month, which was always 
ushered in by the blowing of trumpets (Num. 10. 10), to have a 
more sonorous blast by the Shofar, and therefore it is called a 
day of memorial by blowing the horns (Lev. 23. 24; Num. 29. 1), 
whereas the first day of the first month of the year has nothing 
specific as the year's beginning. The rite of expiation of the 
Temple, however, is transferred from the first (on which day 
Ezekiel has it, 45. 20) to the tenth of the seventh month. The 
reason for this must be sought in the fact that this was the 
ancient solar New Year's day, as Ezekiel has it in 10. 1, and 
because the Jubilee year was according to the later legislation 
to begin on this day (Lev. 25. 9 — 10). It was only with the 
introduction of the Babylonian system of the months that the 
first of Tishri, which denotes 'the month beginning the year,' 
Tasritu (see now Jastrow's highly interesting article 'Sumerian 
and Akkadian Views of Beginnings,' JAOS 36. 274—299, esp. 
p. 298, n. 62), became in the Jewish liturgy the New Year's 
Day, while it was a subject of the controversy between R. Eliezer 
and R. Joshua of the second century whether on the first of Nisan 
or of Tishri the creation of the world or of man took place (Bosh 
ha-Shanah 10 b-11 a) . Possibly the important event recorded in 

The Sabbath and Festivals 221 

Neh. 8. 2 ff. of the introduction of the book of the Law by Ezra 
at the festal gathering on the first day of the seventh month, 
marked as especially 'holy,' had some influence on rendering 
this day a great memorial day for the future. Still the day is 
characterized there as one of joy and social festivity, not of a 
serious nature such as the New Year's day became afterwards. 
Unquestionably, however, it was the old Babylonian New Year's 
day, celebrated originally in the fall at the beginning of the 
seventh month Tishri (corresponding also with the seventh month 
of the Persian calendar named after Mithras), on which Bel 
Marduk or his predecessor, as the supreme deity of Babylon, sat 
in the mystic chamber of the fates to determine from the book 
of life the destiny of mankind for the coming year, 1 which gave 
the Jewish New Year's day its serious character as the day of 
divine Judgment on which the Creator and Judge of the world 
assigns to all men their destiny according to their merits or 
demerits each year, inscribing the same in His book or books 
of life, finally to seal it on the Day of Atonement. 


The great Day of Atonement, celebrated on the tenth day of 
the seventh month, which forms the culminating point of the 
Temple worship of the year, called like the Sabbath, 'a Sabbath 
of complete rest,' Lev. 16. 31, has a unique character among the 
Jewish festivals. While obviously unknown as yet in Ezra's 
time (Neh. 8), not to speak of the Solomonic time (1 Ki. 8. 65), 
it soon became during the second Temple 'the great Day' of the 
year and afterwards the most solemn holy day of the Synagogue. 
To account for its origin and meaning it is not sufficient to point 
to Ezekiel's proposed system, according to which the first day 
of the seventh month was like that of the first month to be a 
day of expiation of man's sin and of atonement for the temple 
(Ezek. 45. 20), and simply to assume that the author of the 
Priest Code transferred it to the tenth day in order to have the 
New Moon of the Sabbatical month stand out as distinguished 
from the other New Moons of the year. We have also to consider 

1 See Jastrow, Religion of Babylonia and Assyria, p. 67 — 69, especially 
p. 68; Schrader-Zimmern, KAT. p. 402 f., 514 f.; Alfred Jeremias, Bos 
Alte Testament im Lichte des alien Orients, p. 43, 357, note 3. 

222 E. Kohler 

the fact that the tenth of Tishri is called by Bzekiel (40. 1) 'the 
beginning of the year,' and that the Jubilee year was actually 
to be proclaimed by the blowing of the horn as holy on the 
Atonement day, the tenth of the seventh month, which implies 
that the year began on that very day (Lev. 25. 9 — 10). It is 
obviously the solar year, in contradistinction to the lunar year, 
the beginning of which was to be marked according to the 
system recognized also in the story of the Flood (see Gen. 8 — 9, 
cf. 7. 11), where the difference is also one of ten days. 

Here, then, the question arises whether it is likely that the 
strange rites prescribed in Lev. 16, which placed the Azazel, the 
demon of the wilderness, in some sort of opposition to Yahweh, 
the Only One God of Israel, were introduced as an innovation 
during the second temple at a time when the religious spirit of 
the people and the priesthood was scarcely susceptible any more 
to the worship of the goat-like deities, the Seirim (= satyrs) 
against which ch. 17. 7 warns. It was Ibn Ezra in his com- 
mentary to Lev. 16. 8 who saw the relation of the Azazel to these 
demons 'of the field.' But we know from the book of Enoch, 
written in the second pre-Christian century, what an important 
role among the demons Azazel played. The Masoretic writing 
"7fi<tt# was introduced to give the name *?Hfty as found in 
Mandaean, Sabaean, and Arabian mythology (Norberg, Onomas- 
ticon, p. 31, Brand, Mandaeische Theologie, p. 197 f.) the mean- 
ing of a 'rugged place,' (Sifra ad loc. ; Yoma 67 b) instead of 
a 'wilderness deity.' The very spot in the neighborhood of 
Jerusalem, the sharp rocks (Beth Hadude) where the scapegoat 
was to be cast down to Azazel according to the Mosaic Code 
{Yoma 6. 8), was regarded as the place where the demon was 
cast down by the angel Eaphael there to remain shackled in the 
darkness until Judgment Day {Enoch 10. 4 — 5; see Charles, 
ad loc.). In other words, Azazel was in the popular belief the 
head of the demons whose dwelling was in the wilderness around 
Jerusalem. The sending out of the scapegoat to him laden with 
the sins of the people was originally, then, the cleansing of the 
people of all impurity in order to secure their welfare for the 
year just begun. It was an ancient rite dating from primitive 
time, to be compared with the rite concerning leprosy (Lev. 
14. 7), which has its analogies also in Babylonian rites (see 
Sayce, Hibbert Lectures, 1887, p. 461), and in all likelihood the 

The Sabbath and Festivals 223 

festal dance of the maidens on the hills of Jerusalem assigned in 
the Mishnah Tmnit 4. 8 to the Atonement day and the fifteenth 
of Ab (August), reminding one very much of the dance of the 
maidens at the sanctuary of Shilo (Ju. 21. 21), was connected 
with the celebration of the solar New Year's day (cf. Morgen- 
stern JAOS 36. 324 f.). The signals informing the people of the 
arrival of the scapegoat at its destination, the Azazel rock {Yoma 
6. 8), seem to have been the inducement to open the dance on 
the hills. 

Now it is rather strange that the date for the Atonement Day 
is not given at the beginning of the chapter, but in v. 29, which 
together with v. 30 — 31 did not belong to the original text. 
Possibly the whole law underwent changes as to date and con- 
tents. As a matter of fact the chapter is composed of many 
sources, as was shown by Benzinger and others (see Berthelot 
and Driver ad loc). From a popular New Year festival it was 
transformed by the author of the Priest Code into a day of great 
pontifical function, and the final redactor of Leviticus in insert- 
ing v. 29 — 31 rendered it a Day of Atonement for the people. 
Later on the Pharisees invested it with a still higher or holier 
character in rendering it a day of prayers for repentance as well 
as fasting, a day of divine mercy on which the thirteen attributes 
of God (Ex. 34. 6 — 7) revealed to Moses were brought home to 
the people as assurance of the divine forgiveness. They went 
even so far as to refer the words: Ki bayom hazeh yekapper, 
'on this day he shall atone,' not to the priest but to God, who 
shall, through the day, have atonement for the people (Sifra to 
v. 30) . Thus the whole idea of sacrificial worship on the Atone- 
ment Day, on which the Epistle to the Hebrews (c. 9) and 
Barnabas (c. 7) base their doctrine of Christ as the world's 
Atoning High Priest, was replaced by the prayers and litanies of 
the 'great day.'