Seven Holy Day Offerings? Study No. 236
here is never a “bad” time to give to God. There is never a “wrong” time to devote funds for the work of the Almighty. God loves a cheerful giver, II Corinthians 9:7. It is a blessing and a pleasure to give financially to a divine work to help others be spiritually fed with Biblical Truth. Paying our tithes and offerings is truly a great blessing.
Traditions not against the Bible can be helpful to the brethren. The Church of God has a tradition of eating a festive meal at the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. We call this celebration “The Night to be Much Remembered,” or the “The Night to Be Much Observed,” based on the name given to the fifteenth day of the first sacred month in Exodus 12:42. Brethren having this joyous meal is good; I have done so for almost thirty-five years, and intend to continue doing so. However, this tradition of a festive “Night to Be Much Remembered” meal is NOT commanded in Scripture; there is no Bible example of God’s people having a festive meal at the beginning of Nisan 15. As long as we recognize this activity as a tradition, and do not insist that the Scripture mandates the practice, well and good.
The Church of God has a tradition of taking an offering on each of the seven annual holy days. Some claim there is a Scriptural mandate for this practice. Let us examine the evidence.
Three Times, or Seven Times?
It is common for the person giving the holy day offertory to cite Deuteronomy 16:16-17 as “proof” we should give seven holy day offerings. These verses state, “Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the Lord thy God in the place which He shall choose: in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the Lord empty: Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord thy God which He hath given thee.”
These verses do not talk about seven holy day offerings. In order to justify seven holy day offerings, some say that “times” here means “seasons.” This is not so. The Hebrew word for “times” in Deuteronomy 16:16 is pa’am, Strong’s #6471. It means a stroke, as in stroking an anvil, foot(step), time. Pa’am does not mean season.
The Holy Days are not in three seasons. Our common “four astronomical seasons” of spring, summer, fall, and winter, are not Biblical distinctions of time. In the Bible, there is summer and winter, two seasons, Genesis 8:22. Yet, it is commonly taught that Passover and Unleavened Bread are spring festivals, Pentecost a summer festival, and Tabernacles a fall festival. However, one of the rules of the Hebrew Calendar is that Pentecost can never fall on or after the summer solstice. Pentecost is a late spring, not a summer, festival!
Even if “times” means “seasons,” which it does not, there is no warrant for extending three times to seven times. Three does not equal seven. That the “three times” of Deuteronomy 16:16 cannot be extended to seven times is clearly shown in Exodus 34:18-23. We shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread, verse 18, the Feast of Weeks and Feast of Ingathering (Tabernacles), verse 22. Then, verse 23 sums it up, “Thrice in the year shall all your menchildren appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel.”
The fact is, that Deuteronomy 16 and Exodus 34 are both referring to the three “pilgrimage feasts,” when God’s people are to move their feet to the place described as “the place which the Lord thy God hath chosen to place His name there,” Deuteronomy 16:2, 11, 15. It was at these three times that faithful Israel journeyed to Shiloh, and later, Jerusalem, to keep a Feast, and pay their tithes and offerings (Malachi 3:8-10).
A clinching scripture is found in Exodus 23:14-17, “Three times [Hebrew: rehgel] thou shalt keep a feast unto Me in the year. Thou shalt keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread . . . And the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of thy labors [Pentecost], which thou hast sown in the field: and the Feast of Ingathering [Tabernacles], which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labors out of the field. Three times [pa’am] in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord God.”
The first use of “times” in this passage, verse 14, is not pa’am, but rehgel, Strong’s #7272, which is used scores of times in the Old Testament, and everywhere except this one place, translated “feet,” “footsteps,” and the like. Three times a year we are to move our feet to keep three pilgrimage feasts, Unleavened Bread, Weeks (Pentecost), and Ingathering (Tabernacles).
The second use of “times,” verse 17, is the same word pa’am, which means not seasons, but beats, strokes, timed movements.
So we see that there is no scriptural justification for seven annual holy day offerings.
In Leviticus 23, there are two distinct Hebrew words translated “feast.” Mo’ed, Strong’s #4150, means a set time, appointed time, or solemn feast, and refers to the weekly Sabbaths, and all the annual Holy Days.
Chag, Strong’s #2282, is an entirely different word. It means “pilgrimage feast,” and refers strictly to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), and Feast of Tabernacles.
The Day of Trumpets and Day of Atonement are mo’ed feasts, but not chag feasts. Trumpets and Atonement are not part of the three times of Deuteronomy 16 and Exodus 23 and 34.
But, what about the animal sacrifices and meal offerings on the Holy Days, as shown in Leviticus 23? Today, shouldn’t we substitute monetary offerings for these sacrifices? There were offerings made by fire on Firstfruits (Pentecost), Leviticus 23:18; Trumpets, verse 25; Atonement, verse 27; and Last Great Day, verse 36. However, there were also “offerings made by fire” on all seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, verse 8, and on all seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles, verse 36. Following this line of reasoning, should we give monetary offering eighteen times a year, not just seven? No.
Christ is the one sacrifice for all time, Hebrews 10:10. Animal sacrifices are not replaced by anything other than the sacrifice of the Messiah.
I cannot find one shred of scriptural evidence for seven annual holy day offerings.
Now, how did the custom or tradition of seven annual holy day offerings begin in the Church of God? Tom Justus (who ordained me as an elder in 1999) was ordained by Herbert W. Armstrong in 1962. Tom was in Pasadena with a group of men when Herbert W. Armstrong was asked about taking up a Holy Day offering on each Holy Day instead of the three times. His answer was it was convenient and you would collect more money that way. And so, the Holy Days were looked forward to as times to raise large sums of money for the Church, i.e., fund raising occasions. Ministers tried to see who could raise the most money. It still goes on today.
In 1972, I was assistant Festival Treasurer for the Worldwide Church of God festival in Jekyll Island, Georgia. After the morning Holy Day offering, a large group of men and I took the money in garbage cans to a large room in nearby Brunswick. It took several hours to open all the envelopes, count all the paper money and loose change, stamp all the checks, and prepare deposit slips. We all missed the afternoon service. The Treasurer and I took the money to deposit it in the bank, which I recall was over $100,000.
Rather than place the offering in a secured box and wait until after the Sabbath to count it and deposit the funds, we broke the Sabbath because the Church didn’t want to lose one day’s worth of interest. Years later, I came to my senses and realized that this activity is a SIN. Today, this same money-grubbing, Sabbath-breaking, practice continues. Those who are attuned to the Spirit of the Almighty will flee such sinful practices.
Ministers who preach that the Bible commands us to give seven annual holy day offerings are treading on dangerous ground. If you add to God’s precious Word, He will add to him the plagues written in the Bible, Revelation 22:18.
— written by Richard C. Nickels Ω