OFFERINGS ON THE HOLY DAYS
OF THE FEASTS OF THE LORD
Some have wondered whether there should only be three Holy
Day offerings a year based on Deuteronomy 16:16. What does the
Bible say, and how does the Church apply this teaching?
Deuteronomy... 16:16-17 says, "Three times a year all your
males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which He
chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks,
and at the Feast of Tabernacles; and they shall not appear before
LORD empty-handed. Every man shall give as he is able, according
to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has give you"
(emphasis added throughout).
Let's notice what this passage is saying and what it is not
saying. First of all, it states that all males must attend these
festivals. Does this forbid or preclude their family member from
attending? Certainly not! (See Deuteronomy 12:12,18; 14:26;
Furthermore, only three festivals are mentioned in this
passage. Yet Leviticus 23 clearly states that there are seven
festivals that are holy convocations, to be proclaimed in their
seasons (Leviticus 23:4).
Finally, God commanded Israel to give an offering in
accordance with the blessings that He had given to them. This
approach to giving in accordance with God's blessings is one that
the Church has emphasized over the years.
While this passage supports Holy Day observance and giving
to God as He has blessed us, questions have arisen regarding the
Holy Day offerings. How often should these offerings be given?
Should there be only three offerings during the year and only at
the three times indicated?
Ancient Israel, being an agrarian society, primarily used
agricultural products for their offerings: "When any one of you
brings an offering to the LORD you shall bring your offering of
the livestock - of the herd and of the flock" (Leviticus 1:2)
Although Feastgoers could exchange their Festival tithes
from farm products to money (Deuteronomy 14:25)..... they also
brought sacrificial offerings to God, some of which were
enjoyed during festival meals.
But we should not envisage in Deuteronomy 16 a modem setting
of offering baskets being passed around the congregation during
services of the collection of monetary offerings. Israelites
would have brought their animal offerings to be given to the
priests at these times.
Of course, this would not have been done during services but
at some time during the festival or perhaps even before the
festival began, depending upon their arrival. The command to not
appear "empty-handed" refers to coming prepared to give offerings
during these three times a year when the males were commanded to
appear before the Lord. The passage does not address the
specifics of WHEN or HOW often the offerings were to be
The primary focus in Deuteronomy 16 is the pilgrimage, to a
central location (Jerusalem, later on) for the festivals that
occur at three times in the year. Unleavened Bread (which would
include Passover, since it is the day immediately before), Pente-
cost and Tabernacles (which would also include the Last Great
Day, since it is the day immediately after Tabernacles). Failure
to mention,specifically Passover, Trumpets, Atonement and the
Last Great Day; does not mean they are not festivals nor does it
negate the commanded convocations on the Holy Days.
In Deuteronomy 16:16, the Hebrew word for "times" (pa'am) is
defined as "a stroke ... a foot, a hoof-beat... a footstep"
(Brown, Driver and Briggs Hebrew Lexicon). This same word is used
for festival attendance in Exodus 23:17, "three times" (pa'am).
But in Exodus 23:14, in the same context of God's feasts, a
different Hebrew word for "times" (regal) is defined as "a foot,
a leg ... three times (feet, paces)" (ibid.). Therefore "three
times." here emphasizes the number of foot pilgrimages, not the
number of freewill offerings.
As The Expositor's Bible Commentary mentions about "the
three times" of Feast attendance in Exodus 23:17, "This section
deals with the great annual pilgrimage feasts: Feast of
Unleavened Bread at the beginning of the barley harvest in the
spring, commemorating the Exodus; Feast of Harvest (also called
the Feast of Weeks in Ex.34:22) at the end of the spring harvest
of grain, commemorating the giving of the law; and the Feast of
Ingathering of the summer crops of olives and grapes in early
autumn, commemorating the wilderness wanderings."
So, there would have been ONE pilgrimage for the Days of
Unleavened Bread (including the Passover). There would have been
one pilgrimage for the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost). And, for
practical reasons, there would have been one pilgrimage for
Tabernacles (and the Last Great Day). Interim travel and return
would have been impractical, given that there are only eight
days between Trumpets and Atonement and four days between
Atonement and Tabernacles.
Could some Israelites have included Trumpets and Atonement
along with Tabernacles (and the Last Great Day)? Possibly some
would have done so, though for obvious reasons God did not
require that Israelites make this pilgrimage two weeks prior to
Tabernacles. However, these two festivals were still Holy Days
and would have been observed as annual Sabbaths in the local
Let us now ask this question: Were Israelites forbidden from
including Trumpets and Atonement along with Tabernacles if they
wished to do so and financially could afford to do so? Of course
not. God stipulated the three major festival times when they were
required to attend, but that did not mean they could not include
Trumpets and Atonement if they wished to do so.
ARE ONLY THREE OFFERINGS ALLOWED?
Therefore, the primary focus of the three "times" in
Deuteronomy 16 has to do with the commanded frequency of
attendance of the festivals at a central location. It may seem
that the frequency of giving offerings is also implied in the
context. This would seem to be a logical conclusion, as it is
unlikely that the Israelites would have apportioned their
agricultural offerings at different times during the festivals.
However, there is nothing in the context that would have
prevented them from doing so. The context simply says that they
should come prepared to give an offering at these three
festivals. It does not address precisely how or when the
offerings were given.
The primary question that is raised regarding the offerings
is to whether or not, only three offerings should be given during
the year. Are there just three offerings and no more?
If it is assumed that this passage limits the Holy Day
offerings to only three, then we must also conclude that only
males may attend these festivals.... Also, we must conclude that
those three are the only festivals that we may attend.
These conclusions me not logical, and they are not implied
in the context. God's laws are rehearsed and sometimes
supplemented in the book of Deuteronomy, as they were given to
the second generation of Israel. Deuteronomy 16:16 should not be
taken as a limiting passage. It does not limit festival
attendance only to males. It does not limit festival attendance
to only the three festivals specifically mentioned. Nor does it
limit the number of times in which offerings may be given to God.
All of these details are covered in the books previous to
Deuteronomy, such as Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers.
It is interesting that at times the people of Judah remained
after a festival was over, observing additional days (see 2
Chronicles 30:13-23; Nehemiah 8:2-13). Deuteronomy does not
prevent God's people from observing additional days. Nor does it
limit giving offerings to God on just three days.
God gave all of the necessary specifics to keep His Holy
Days in a manner that is pleasing in His sight. However
details are explicitly commanded, leaving it to the leadership to
establish practices consistent with biblical principles.
Today, administrative decisions have been made for various
aspects concerning the Holy Days, the Festival site locations,
number of church services, collection and handling of offerings
and many other Festival matters.
Due to the absence of a specific frequency for the Holy Day
offerings, is the duty of the Church leadership to make
administrative decisions appropriate for our contemporary
culture, in accordance with biblical principles. We today give,
monetary offerings rather than agricultural ones. Giving those
offers on specific Holy Days is not forbidden in the Bible, and
doing so is consistent with the principle of giving an offering
to God during His festivals in accordance with the blessings He
has given to us during the year.
Regardless of the number of times one gives festival
offerings (seven or three times), this does not necessarily
affect the total annual amount given. Many figure the total
amount they wish to give for a year and divide it by seven.
Others use different methods, but normally the total amount given
to God based on the blessings He has given to us is not altered
by differing methods.
In conclusion; the "United Church of God, an International
Association, believes that its practice of taking up Holy Day
offerings on all seven Holy Days of the year is consistent with
and permitted by the principle enunciated in Deuteronomy 16.
Therefore, that is what we practice. UN (United News -
March/April 2006 - a publication of The United Church of God)
Let me add that I personally believe having an offering service
during and on each of the seven annual Holy Days in God's
calendar, does give a little extra "something" to that service.
We have an opportunity as a congregation to stop and reflect on
the MANY blessings our heavenly Father gives to us, and take a
few moments to THANK Him for them all. It is just a nice thing to
do, just as singing hymns and spiritual songs is on those Holy
Days, and singing such songs is not specifically commanded to be
done, nor is the number of songs to sing commanded, but we do it,
knowing is does add a nice touch to the overall service. Hence I
so think taking up a congregational offering on the Holy Days is
"nice" also to add to the overall service of those days - Keith
Hunt (April 2006).