The Count to Pentecost
By Frank Brown

For many years, I followed the teachings of my church leaders that Pentecost (Feast of Weeks) was properly counted as being 50 days after the wave sheaf was offered. This wave sheaf was presented the "day after" the weekly Sabbath that falls within the days of Unleavened Bread, as supposedly explained in Lev. 23:11. Using this method, both the wave sheaf and Pentecost always falls on a Sunday, the first day of the week.
Only later, after leaving that group, did I discover that this is the method of counting that was employed by the Sadducees in Yahshua's day. The method used by the Pharisees, of which the Apostle Paul was one, used a different beginning point, i.e., the first Holy Day of Unleavened Bread, the 15th of Abib. Using this method, they always come out on the 6th of Sivan, the third month of the Hebrew calendar, for Feast of Weeks.
Present-day Jews, for the most part, still use this method, although their calendar has been changed since the days of Yahshua the Messiah. They no longer watch for the visible new moon crescent in the western sky, but use a method of calculation based on the conjunction. In addition, they have added "postponements" so that Feast days will not occur on certain days of the week. By jockeying the beginning of the month around in this manner, their months no longer begin on the new moon, but may be a day or two earlier or later than the actual new moon date.
Several years ago, I began to read William Dankenbring's writings, in which he tried to prove that the present-day Jewish method is correct. Mr. Dankenbring is an ex-writer for the Worldwide Church of God's "Plain Truth" magazine. While his arguments seemed plausible, to the point that I kept both days for 3 or 4 years, I was never quite convinced that the "Sunday" method was wrong. Nor was I totally convinced that his "6th of Sivan" was correct, either. So I kept studying.
There are significant Scriptural indications for BOTH methods, which I will not delve into here. I published an article covering these some time ago. What finally convinced me was a conclusive word study done by Mr. Frank W. Nelte. Although his study covered 11 pages of small-type print, I want to hit only the highlights here. If you would like a copy of his study, write me.
It all revolves around the meanings of two Hebrew words used in Leviticus 23 and other places: "Sabbath" and "week," and Jewish traditions as opposed to what the Bible actually says. Yahshua told the religious leaders of His day that they preferred keeping their own traditions to keeping the Commandments of Yahweh.
Mark 7:9, And he said unto them, full well ye reject the commandment of Yahweh, that ye may keep your own tradition. He also told the Sadducees that they "do err, not knowing the Scriptures" (Mat. 22:29). He called the Scribes and Pharisees "hypocrites," and said they "say and do not." In fact, one of the purposes of His coming was to restore what the religious hierarchy had corrupted.
So we see that to put too much weight on Jewish tradition, whatever it may be, could lead to grievous error. Unless it squares with the Torah (the books of the Law), then it should not be used to establish doctrine and religious practice today. With that said, let's look at the words translated "Sabbath" and "week" in the Bible.
The main reference book used is Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament, by H. W. F. Gesenius. 1) There is a primitive root verb "shabath." It means "to rest," to cease (from labour)," etc. This verb has nothing to do with the number "seven." 2) From this verb "shabath" a noun has been formed. That Hebrew noun is the word "shabbath", the double letter "b" in the middle of the word signifying a strengthened form of the verb. This noun "shabbath" means "rest day". Now it is very clear from the Bible that Yahweh created the seventh day to be that recurring "rest day". But we need to understand that the word "shabbath", in and by itself, does NOT contain the meaning "seven" or "seventh" ... it simply means "rest day".
3) There is a Hebrew word "sheba" which means "seven". It is derived from the verb "shaba". 4) This word "shaba" is also a primitive root verb. It is NOT directly connected to the previous verb "shabath" we have looked at. They are totally different verbs, even though to us English-speakers they may sound very similar. This Hebrew verb "shaba" means "to swear" or "to charge" or "to make an oath". The word for "seven" (i.e. "sheba") is derived from this verb in the sense that oaths were (sometimes) confirmed by seven sacrifices or by seven witnesses and pledges, seven being the number that pictured completeness. So notice that this verb "shaba" has nothing to do with "resting", but that it is linked to the Hebrew word for "seven".
5) The Hebrew noun "shabuwa" (or also "shabua") is the passive participle of the verb "shaba". This Hebrew noun means "a week", a period of seven days. It is also derived from "shaba". So we need to understand that in biblical Hebrew there is a word for "Sabbath" (the meaning of which is 'rest day') and there is another word for "week" (the meaning of which refers to 'a period of seven days'). While they may sound quite similar to us, these two words come from different roots and the one word is not derived from the other. These two words (shabbath and shabuwa) are NOT interchangeable! They do NOT mean the same thing!
To summarize: The verb "shabath" (to rest) is the root of the word for Sabbath. The verb "shaba" (to swear) is the root for the words for "seven" and for "weeks."
The Hebrew word "Shabuwa" is used 20 times in the Old Testament; nine of those in the first five books, the "books of the Law:" Genesis 29:27-28; Exodus 34:22; Lev. 12:5; Deut.16:9-10 & 16. This word "shabuwa" is also used seven times in the book of Daniel, all meaning "weeks." Of the 20 uses in the Old Testament, in the King James Version it is translated 19 times as "weeks" and one time as "seven," that being Ezek. 45:21.
In the first month, in the fourteenth day of the month, ye shall have the passover, a feast of SEVEN DAYS; unleavened bread shall be eaten. (Ezekiel 45:21)
The Hebrew words here translated as "SEVEN DAYS" are "shabuwa yom" ('yom' is the Hebrew word for 'day'). This literally means: "... a feast of a week of days ..." Thus, the translation as "a feast of SEVEN days" conveys the intended meaning and the word "shabuwa" is linked to the word for "seven". An examination of the 9 occurrences in the above-quoted 8 verses should make quite clear that THIS is indeed the Hebrew word for "week" and "weeks". This word really has no other meanings! It is NEVER used in any way to IMPLY any other meaning! Moses, who wrote the first five books of the Old Testament, was obviously familiar with this word. SO THERE IS A CLEARLY DEFINED WORD IN HEBREW WHICH MEANS "WEEKS"! Now let's take a look at the word "shabbath".
This word, "Shabbath," is used 108 times in the Old Testament. It is thus quite common. Another word, which has been formed from this word "shabbath", is the word "shabbathown", which is used 11 times in 10 different verses, all 11 occurrences being in the books of Exodus and Leviticus. This word "shabbathown" is translated (in the KJV) 8 times as "REST" and 3 times as "SABBATH". It is an intensive form of the word for "rest" and that is precisely what it means ...EMPHATIC REST! In the 108 occurrences of the word "shabbath" it is translated as "Sabbath" 107 times and one time as "ANOTHER". That one time is in Isaiah 66:23.
And it shall come to pass, [that] FROM ONE NEW MOON TO ANOTHER, and FROM ONE SABBATH TO ANOTHER, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith Yahweh.
While this translation correctly conveys the intended meaning, it is not a fully correct translation of the Hebrew text. In the Hebrew text there is no word which means "another". In the Hebrew text this verse actually reads: "... from NEW MOON TO NEW MOON, and from SABBATH TO SABBATH, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith Yahweh." The translators opted to use the word "another" twice in this verse to make it more readable in English without changing the intended meaning. But it should be quite clear that IN ALL 108 PLACES the word "shabbath" is ALWAYS correctly translated as "SABBATH"! It is NEVER translated as "WEEK" or as "WEEKS"! Let's examine every single use of this word up to the end of Leviticus chapter 23, where the instructions for the Feast of Pentecost are also recorded.
The word "shabbath" is used 27 times in 22 different verses before Leviticus chapter 24. Those 27 uses should be sufficient to make VERY CLEAR exactly what meaning Yahweh, the One who inspired Moses to write these books, attached to this word "shabbath". Specifically, let's see if there is ANY evidence that this word EVER meant "week". Here are these 22 verses.
And he said unto them, This [is that] which Yahweh hath said, TO MORROW [is] the rest of THE HOLY SABBATH unto Yahweh: bake [that] which ye will bake [today], and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning. (Exodus 16:23)
And Moses said, Eat that to day; for TO DAY [IS] A SABBATH unto Yahweh: to day ye shall not find it in the field. (Exodus 16:25)
Six days ye shall gather it; but on THE SEVENTH DAY, [which IS] THE SABBATH, in it there shall be none. (Exodus 16:26) NOTE: In this verse Yahweh gives us a very clear definition of what the word "Sabbath" means TO HIM! It is defined as referring to "THE SEVENTH DAY!"
See, for that Yahweh hath given you THE SABBATH, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. (Exodus 16:29)
Remember THE SABBATH DAY, to keep it holy. (Exodus 20:8) But THE SEVENTH DAY [IS] THE SABBATH of Yahweh thy Elohim: [in it] thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that [is] within thy gates: (Exodus 20:10) NOTE: Here Yahweh AGAIN gives a very clear definition for the word "Sabbath". It is "THE SEVENTH DAY"! For [in] six days Yahweh made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them [is], and rested the seventh day: wherefore Yahweh blessed THE SABBATH DAY, and hallowed it. (Exodus 20:11).
Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily MY SABBATHS ye shall keep: for it [is] a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that [ye] may know that I [am] Yahweh that doth sanctify you. (Exodus 31:13)
Ye shall KEEP THE SABBATH therefore; for it [is] holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth [any] work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. (Exodus 31:14)
Six days may work be done; but in the seventh [is] THE SABBATH OF REST, holy to Yahweh: whosoever doeth [any] work in THE SABBATH DAY, he shall surely be put to death. (Exodus 31:15).
Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep THE SABBATH, to observe THE SABBATH throughout their generations, [for] a perpetual covenant. (Exodus 31:16).
Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, A SABBATH of rest to Yahweh: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death. Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon THE SABBATH DAY (Exodus 35:2-3).
It [shall be] A SABBATH of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute forever. (Leviticus 16:31) NOTE: Here the word "shabbath" is used to refer to the Day of Atonement.
Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father, and KEEP MY SABBATHS: I [am] Yahweh your Elohim. (Leviticus 19:3).
Ye shall KEEP MY SABBATHS, and reverence my sanctuary: I [am] Yahweh. (Leviticus 19:30).
Six days shall work be done: but THE SEVENTH DAY [IS] THE SABBATH of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work [therein]: IT [IS] THE SABBATH of Yahweh in all your dwellings. (Leviticus 23:3). NOTE: Here Yahweh AGAIN gives a very clear definition for the word "Sabbath". It is "THE SEVENTH DAY"! And he shall wave the sheaf before Yahweh, to be accepted for you: on the morrow AFTER THE SABBATH the priest shall wave it. (Leviticus 23:11)
And ye shall count unto you from the morrow AFTER THE SABBATH, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; SEVEN SABBATHS shall be complete: Even unto the morrow AFTER THE SEVENTH SABBATH shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto Yahweh. (Leviticus 23:15-16)
It [shall be] unto you A SABBATH of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth [day] of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye CELEBRATE YOUR SABBATH. (Leviticus 23:32) NOTE: Here "shabbath" is AGAIN used to refer to the day of Atonement.
Beside THE SABBATHS of Yahweh, and beside your gifts, and beside all your vows, and beside all your freewill offerings, which ye give unto Yahweh. (Leviticus 23:38) {In the KJV the word "Sabbath" is also used in Leviticus 23, in verses 24 and 39, but in both of those verses it is a translation of the intensified Hebrew word "shabbathown", referred to earlier. In both these verses "shabbathown" is used to refer to Holy days ... the Feast of Trumpets in verse 24 and the Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day in verse 39.}
We have now looked at EVERY USE OF THE WORD "SHABBATH" prior to Leviticus 24. In three different places Yahweh VERY CLEARLY defines the word as referring to "the seventh DAY". In NONE of those 22 different verses does it even remotely have the meaning of "week". This word simply NEVER means "a week" or "weeks" ... it never does! The only reason some Jewish "authorities" will attach the meaning of "week" to the word "shabbath" is in order to justify their own unbiblical customs! To define the word as "week" is a blatant defiance of the three definitions Yahweh Almighty inspired Moses to record! The attempt to persuade people to accept that "shabbath" ALSO means "week" also counts on people's ignorance ... it attempts to persuade people to accept that the word "shabbath" somehow also means "SEVEN"! But it clearly does NOT mean "seven" at all and in fact the word has NOTHING to do with "seven"! The expression "the seventh day" simply tells us WHEN the Sabbath is to take place ... but it does NOT tell us WHAT is to take place on that day. It is the meaning of the word "Sabbath" itself which makes clear that it is to be "A REST DAY."
IF I were to include at this stage THE TEXT for the remaining 81 occurrences of the word "shabbath" in the Old Testament, it would reveal EXACTLY the same thing we can see in the first 27 occurrences ... that it ALWAYS refers to "a day" and NEVER to "A WEEK"! Nowhere in the Old Testament does the word "shabbath" ever refer to "a week"! It simply never does. I will not take the time to list the other 81 places ... but if you are still unconvinced, please feel free to do so yourself with the help of a concordance. But also keep in mind that in Hebrew there ALREADY was a word which specifically and exclusively meant "a week" ... and that is the word "shabuwa". There is neither need nor justification for extending the meaning of a word that refers to ONE SPECIFIC DAY to also somehow mean "a period of seven days."
To apply the word "shabbath" to mean "a week" defiles and pollutes the meaning of the word "shabbath". How could you POSSIBLY assume that a word which means "a rest DAY" could refer to a period of time that includes SIX WORK DAYS? To imply that the word "shabbath" can mean a period of time which includes 1 REST DAY PLUS 6 WORK DAYS totally obliterates the meaning of "rest day"! The other 6 days of the week actually OPPOSE the meaning of the word "shabbath" ... Yahweh clearly spelled out that they are to be WORK days. The Sabbath is always presented by Yahweh IN CONTRAST to the other 6 days of the week. It is the one day which is DIFFERENT! And the word "Sabbath" can NEVER include the other ordinary workdays of the week! The reason the word "Sabbath" can be applied to the Holy days is precisely because of what the word means ... rest day. The Holy Days are also rest days from our normal labor.
Note also: IF the word "Sabbath" in any way meant "seven" THEN it would not have been possible to refer to the annual Holy Days as "Sabbaths". The fact that the word "Sabbath" CAN be applied to the Holy Days proves again that this word "Sabbath" inherently refers to REST and not to seven or to seventh. This should suffice to clearly establish the meanings these two Hebrew words are given in the Bible: SHABBATH always means "Sabbath" and never means "week." SHABUWA always means "week" and never means "Sabbath." With this background, let's now examine the Scriptures which speak about the Feast of Pentecost.
Leviticus 23:15-16 Examined
Let's start off by looking at the KJV of these two verses. 15 And ye shall COUNT unto you FROM the morrow AFTER THE SABBATH, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; SEVEN SABBATHS shall be complete: 16 Even unto THE MORROW AFTER THE SEVENTH SABBATH shall ye number FIFTY DAYS; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto Yahweh. (Leviticus 23) Let's look at this verse with the original Hebrew words inserted for our key words. 15 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after THE "SHABBATH", from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; SEVEN "SHABBATH's" shall be complete: 16 Even unto the morrow after THE SEVENTH "SHABBATH" shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto Yahweh. (Lev. 23) The facts about these verses are: 1) The word "FROM" is better translated as "BEGINNING WITH". 2) The word "COUNT" refers to "COUNTING DAYS", not seeds. 3) The Hebrew word "SHABBATH" is used 3 times here. 4) The Hebrew word "SHABUWA" is NOT USED in these verses. 5) The day after a Sabbath is "the first day of the week". 6) To start counting from the first day of the week means that every time you reach a new Sabbath in your counting, you have counted A FULL WEEK. So when you have counted "the seventh Sabbath", you have in effect also counted "seven weeks". 7) But here the original instruction is to count "seven Sabbaths" and NOT "seven weeks", even though the effect is the same IF you start out counting after a weekly Sabbath. 8) The expression "the morrow after" means "THE DAY after", and not "the morning after". The Hebrew here has nothing to do with "morning". In fact, "the morrow after" begins at sunset.
Now understand something very clearly! In these two verses the Hebrew "shabbath" is used three times. ALL OF THE INCORRECT EXPLANATIONS DEPEND ON, WITHOUT ANY PROOF WHATSOEVER, APPLYING DIFFERENT MEANINGS TO THIS WORD "SHABBATH"! In verse 15 everyone is agreed that the expression "the day after the SHABBATH" means that the word "shabbath" means "a day" and does NOT mean "a week". Those who follow the wrong explanation want the word "shabbath" in this verse to refer to the ANNUAL HOLY DAY (i.e. the first day of Unleavened Bread). However, they CERTAINLY do not claim that the first use of "shabbath" in verse 15 means "a week"! They AGREE that there the word MUST refer to "a day"! But when the word "shabbath" is used again exactly six words later (in the Hebrew text), then they want the word ALL OF A SUDDEN, WITHOUT ANY PROOF, WITHOUT ANY PRECEDENT, to have a different meaning. Suddenly "shabbath" is supposed to mean "WEEK". This is in spite of the fact that Hebrew has a very specific word for "week" (shabuwa). Yahweh inspired this one word "shabbath" to be used twice in one verse; and the false explanations depend on changing the meaning of the word midway through this verse. They are not prepared to be consistent. Then, in the next verse (i.e. verse 16) they want the word "shabbath" to again have this meaning of "weeks"; a meaning this word NEVER has anywhere in the Bible. The inconsistency in assigning meanings to this word "shabbath" again becomes obvious in verse 16. The expression "the day after the seventh SHABBATH" cannot refer to "after the seventh HOLY DAY", which is the meaning these people want to attach to the first use of "shabbath". That is: IF the expression "the morrow after the Sabbath" in verse 15 is supposed to mean "the day after THE HOLY DAY", then it would follow that the expression "the morrow after the seventh Sabbath" in verse 16 really should mean "the day after THE SEVENTH HOLY DAY" ... and that doesn't make sense. IT SHOULD BE QUITE OBVIOUS THAT THESE CLAIMS ARE ONLY MADE IN ORDER TO HOLD FAST TO THE TRADITIONS THE JEWS HAVE DEVELOPED AROUND THE DAY OF PENTECOST! The words of Yahshua the Messiah very clearly apply to these wrong interpretations of these two verses. And he said unto them, FULL WELL YE REJECT THE COMMANDMENT OF Yahweh, THAT YE MAY KEEP YOUR OWN TRADITION. (Mark 7:9) Just think about it for a while: it is the use of "shabbath" in verse 16 (i.e. "after the seventh shabbath") that makes quite clear that in this context "shabbath" must refer to the WEEKLY Sabbath. It follows that therefore the starting point seven weeks earlier must also be a weekly Sabbath. Remember that the word "shabbath" NEVER means "week" anywhere in the Bible. The word "shabuwa" means "week".
Of the more recent translations, it is only the NEW KING JAMES VERSION, which stays faithful to the original Hebrew words in these verses. This translation reads as follows: "And you shall count for yourselves from the day after THE SABBATH, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: SEVEN SABBATHS shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after THE SEVENTH SABBATH; then you shall offer a new grain offering to Yahweh." (NKJV Lev. 23:15-16) NOTICE THIS MODERN TRANSLATION! They have correctly and faithfully translated the three occurrences of the Hebrew word "shabbath" into English as "Sabbath". This is the CORRECT way of translating these verses. They have not allowed JEWISH CUSTOMS to influence them in the translation of these two verses.
1) We have carefully examined the meanings of key Hebrew words. We have done this by examining how these words are used. 2) Specifically, we have seen that "SHABUWA", the Hebrew word for "week" is not in any way connected to the Hebrew word "SHABBATH". 3) The instructions for establishing when Pentecost is to be observed are found in two different passages. Lev. 23:15-16 tells us to count 7 Sabbath days. Deut. 16:9-10 tells us to count 7 weeks. 4) Yahweh created the weekly cycle and with Yahweh a Sabbath day concludes a week. 5) The only way Lev. 23 and Deut. 16 can be reconciled is to have the counting start on the day after the WEEKLY Sabbath day. This is the only way in which Lev. 23 and Deut. 16 will come up with the same day for Pentecost. This way perfect weeks are counted. 6) The statement in Lev. 23:16 "... the day after the seventh Sabbath" also makes very clear that this MUST refer to the weekly Sabbath day. Therefore seven weeks earlier it must also be a weekly Sabbath day. 7) All of the wrong explanations are based on changing the meaning of the word "shabbath" in Lev. 23:15-16. There is no justification anywhere in the Bible for doing this. 8) To imply that "shabbath" in Lev. 23:15 refers to the First Day of Unleavened Bread totally negates any need "to count". In this case every explanation for "counting" is weak and artificial.
It should be quite clear by now that there is no Biblical justification for keeping Pentecost on any other day than a Sunday.
(Edited, Condensed, and Adapted from an eleven-page article by Frank W. Nelte. My thanks to him). <>

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