The Fourth Month Feast
This page examines the rationale of this argument and discusses various objections.
As the High Priest, it was Aaron's duty to proclaim the timing of the feast of Pentecost (Lev 23:21). In Exodus 32:5, Aaron indeed proclaims a "Feast to YHVH". That day was fifty days after the seventh Sabbath, and the same day that the Law was given to Moses on Mt. Sinai (Ex 31:18, Deu 9:11). The Hebrew word that is translated as "Feast" in Ex 32:5 is Chag, and this word is used to describe both Pentecost and the two other pilgrimage feast days (the Feast of Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles). Because Passover is in the first month, and Tabernacles is in the seventh month, Aaron must have been referring to Pentecost as this chag.
It is true that Aaron, as High Priest, was tasked with the duty to proclaim the Feast of Pentecost . However, at this point in time, Aaron had not yet become the High Priest. In fact, YHVH did not tell Moses that Aaron should be appointed as the High Priest until he was on top of Mt. Sinai for forty days. This means that Moses had not come down from the mountain with this news before the Golden Calf had been created, and that Aaron was not yet acting in the authority of the High Priest of Israel in declaring a Feast.
The First Pentecost
It's not plausible that Aaron's feast was the first observance of Pentecost, since Pentecost was not to be observed until after the Israelites entered the Promised Land. Only at that time would they be able to offer the Firstfruits of the land as the Wave Sheaf offering and then begin the count to Pentecost:
Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: And he shall wave the sheaf before YHVH, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it. (Lev 23:10-11)
Since the Israelites were not yet in the Promised Land, and had not offered the Wave Sheaf Offering, they were also not supposed to keep Pentecost at that time.
Pentecost and the Giving of the Law
According to Jewish tradition, the date of Shavuot corresponds to the date on which YHVH gave the Torah to Israel. However, this is a Talmudic teaching and cannot be substantiated via the Bible. Although this teaching has become more widespread in Christian churches today, there is nothing in the Bible that indicates that the Torah was given on the day of Pentecost. So this point has no bearing on whether or not Aaron's feast was on the day of Pentecost.
Aaron's Feast on the Lunar Sabbath Pentecost Calendar
It's sometimes claimed that Aaron declared this Feast at the exact time of a Lunar Sabbath Pentecost. However, when the timeline of Moses' activities are overlaid on the Lunar Sabbath Calendar, two issues become apparent.
First, the earliest possible date of Aaron's feast is approximately one week after the date of Pentecost on the Lunar Sabbath Calendar. This is because Moses went up to the mountain for the first time on the 16th of the third month (see The Last Day in Rephidim), they sanctify themselves for three days (v10), and then the Ten Commandments are given by YHVH (Ex 20:1). Subsequently a cloud covers Mt. Sinai for six days (Ex 24:16), and it was not until the seventh day that YHVH called Moses into the cloud for forty days and forty nights (Ex 24:18).
Second, the date of Aaron's Feast falls in the Fifth month and not the Fourth month as often is claimed. The table below shows the chronology of events each day, starting with the arrival of the Israelites in the Wilderness of Sinai.
|Day of the Month||Count of 40 Days||Event||Reference|
|16th of Month 3||Moses goes up to the mountain||Ex 19:3|
|Sanctify for three days||Ex 19:10-11|
|17th of Month 3||(Day 2)|
|18th of Month 3||YHVH descends on Mt. Sinai in fire||Ex 19:16|
|YHVH gives the Ten Commandments to Israel||Ex 20:1-17|
|Moses receives and records the words of YHVH||Ex 21-23|
|19th of Month 3||Moses rises early the next day||Ex 24:4|
|Moses goes up into the mountain||Ex 24:15|
|Cloud covers the mountain for six days||Ex 24:16|
|20th of Month 3||Day 2|
|21st of Month 3||Day 3|
|22nd of Month 3||Day 4|
|23rd of Month 3||Day 5|
|24th of Month 3||Day 6|
|25th of Month 3||Day 1||Moses called into the cloud for 40 days and 40 nights||Ex 24:16-18|
|26th of Month 3||Day 2|
|27th of Month 3||Day 3|
|28th of Month 3||Day 4|
|29th of Month 3||Day 5|
|1st of Month 4||Day 6|
|2nd of Month 4||Day 7|
|29th of Month 4||Day 34||Lunar Sabbath Pentecost|
|30th of Month 4||Day 35|
|1st of Month 5||Day 36|
|2nd of Month 5||Day 37|
|3rd of Month 5||Day 38|
|4th of Month 5||Day 39||Tomorrow is a Feast to YHVH||Ex 32:5|
|5th of Month 5||Day 40||Rose up early in the morning, had a feast||Ex 32:6|
A sample of the Lunar Sabbath Pentecost Calendar, overlaid with the milestones of Moses' activities, is shown below. This calendar shows the counting of seven weeks followed by fifty days, and the relevant events in the book of Exodus are highlighted in yellow. The calendar begins with Day 26 of Month 2, during the sixth week of counting after the Wave Sheaf Offering.
Aaron's Feast a Holy Convocation?
Exodus 32 provides many details regarding this feast. It was celebrated while Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments from YHVH, and the descriptions do not align with any sort of "holy" activity given by YHVH. The idea for the feast did not come from YHVH or from Moses. Instead it came about when the people became impatient waiting for Moses to come back from the mountain, and they petitioned Aaron:
Make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. (Ex 32:1)
Aaron responded to the people's request by instructing them to break off their golden earrings and bring them to him. He then fashioned the gold into a molten calf, and the people exclaimed:
These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt (Ex 32:4)
Aaron then buit an altar before the golden calf and prolcaimed:
Tomorrow is a feast to YHVH. (Ex 32:5)
The next day, the people rose early, offered burnt offerings, brought peace offerings, "sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play".
From the context of this account, it appears that the timing of the Feast was due to the people's impatience and not Aaron's intention lead the Israelites in observing Pentecost.
Furthermore, there's evidence that this incident was a pagan sex orgy and not an innocent event. First, the Apostle Paul refers to the account in Ex 32:6 not just as idolatry, but in context with sexual immorality:
Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.(1Co 10:7-8)
Second, as Moses and Joshua descended down the mountain, Joshua told Moses that he heard the "noise of war" in the camp (Ex 32:7). Moses replies that it's not the shouting of victory or cry of defeat, but "the sound of singing I hear". The word translated as "singing" in the KJV is anah, Strong's Number H6031. It doesn't actually mean "singing", it means to defile, exercise, ravish or submit yourself. In other words, this sound was likely the sound of the orgy which Joshua innocently mistook as the sound of battle.
Third, Moses notices in Ex 32:25 that Aaron had made the people naked.
So, if this "feast" was motivated by the people instead of YHVH, was pagan in nature, and ended in a sex orgy, there's no justification for claiming that this event was a Pentecost observance, much less a "holy convocation".
The three pilgrimage feasts are not the only other events referred to as Chags. See the Chag page for more discussion on this topic. Referring to this event as a chag does not mean that it has to be either Passover, Pentecost or the Feast of Tabernacles.
- Lev 23:2
- Exodus 28:1