Jeroboam’s Feast

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on David’s Tent, a ministry of Israeli believers Avner and Rachel Boskey. The Boskey’s have ministered at Tabernacle of David, and we consider them trustworthy and Biblically sound.

In the days of King Solomon, there was a valiant warrior whose name was Jeroboam (see 1 Kings 11:28). King Solomon promoted him to an important governmental post. But YHVH had even bigger plans. He sent Ahijah the Shilonite to prophesy over Jeroboam and to commission him to overthrow Solomon’s rule over the ten northern tribes of the Jewish people:


  • Then Jeroboam the son of Nebat, an Ephraimite of Zeredah, Solomon’s servant . . . went out of Jerusalem, [and] the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him on the road. Now Ahijah . . . said to Jeroboam, “. . .  This is what YHVH the God of Israel says: ‘Behold, I am going to tear the kingdom away from the hand of Solomon and give you ten tribes (but he shall have one tribe, for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen from all the tribes of Israel), because they have abandoned Me, and have worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the sons of Ammon. And they have not walked in My ways, doing what is right in My sight and keeping My statutes and My ordinances, as his father David did. Nevertheless, I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand, but I will make him ruler all the days of his life, for the sake of My servant David whom I chose, who kept My commandments and My statutes . . .  But to his son I will give one tribe, so that My servant David may always have a lamp before Me in Jerusalem, the city where I have chosen for Myself to put My name. However, I will take you, and you shall reign over all that you desire, and you shall be king over Israel. Then it shall be, that if you listen to all that I command you and walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight by keeping My statutes and My commandments, as My servant David did, then I will be with you and build you an enduring house as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you’” . . .  Solomon sought therefore to put Jeroboam to death. But Jeroboam set out and fled to Egypt to Shishak king of Egypt, and he was in Egypt until the death of Solomon (1 Kings 11:26-40)


Jeroboam was YHVH’s tool to weaken the Davidic dynasty. This happened because King Solomon had not walked in God’s ways. He did not do what was right in God’s sight and did not keep YHVH’s statutes and ordinances. In turn, Jeroboam was given the opportunity to listen to all that God was commanding him, to walk in God’s ways, and to do what was right in YHVH’s sight by keeping His statutes and His commandments. But, like Solomon, Jeroboam also flagrantly violated the terms of his own calling.


Four wrongs do not make a right


Those who do not learn from history, it is said, are fated to repeat that history. The Bible describes Jeroboam’s sins in detail:


  • Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and lived there. And he went out from there and built Penuel. And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will return to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the House of YHVH in Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will return to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah; and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.” So the king consulted, and he made two golden calves; and he said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, Israel, that brought you up from the Land of Egypt.” And he set up one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan. And he made houses on high places, and appointed priests from all the people who were not of the sons of Levi. Jeroboam also instituted a feast in the eighth month on the fifteenth day of the month, like the feast that is in Judah, and he went up to the altar. He did so in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves which he had made. And he stationed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made. Then he went up to the altar which he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, the month that he had devised in his own heart. And he instituted a feast for the sons of Israel and went up to the altar to burn incense (1 Kings 12:25-33)


Jeroboam was motivated by fear of the people and not by a holy fear of YHVH. He realized that the God of Israel had not granted him to rule over Jerusalem and the House of YHVH. He feared that the yearly pilgrimages of the ten tribes to Jerusalem would undermine his royal credibility and eventually lead to his own overthrow. As a result, he deliberately violated YHVH’s commands in Leviticus 23:23-25 that the Feast of Trumpets should be in the seventh month:


  • YHVH spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘In the seventh month on the first of the month you shall have a rest, a reminder by blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall not do any laborious work, but you shall present an offering by fire to YHVH.’”


By moving the date of that Feast, he hoped to ensure that his ten tribes would no difficulties attending his ‘new and improved’ feast celebrations.


Jeroboam also moved the center of worship from Jerusalem’s Temple Mount to Bethel (less than a day’s journey from Jerusalem) and also to Dan in the north (for those Jews who lived in the Galilee and the Golan). Yet this change of location was also forbidden by Moses:


  • You are not allowed to sacrifice the Passover in any of your towns which YHVH your God is giving you; but only at the place where YHVH your God chooses to establish His name, you shall sacrifice the Passover in the evening at sunset, at the time that you came out of Egypt. You shall cook and eat it in the place which YHVH your God chooses. In the morning you are to return to your tents (Deuteronomy 16:5-7; see also Deuteronomy 12:5-21)


Jeroboam also chose priests who were not from the tribe of Levi, to oversee the worship, the burning of incense and the sacrifices. Jeroboam’s decision was in clear violation of YHVH’s commands:


  • And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and to his sons from among the sons of Israel, to perform the service of the sons of Israel at the tent of meeting and to make atonement on behalf of the sons of Israel (Numbers 8:19; see also 8:14-18; 2 Chronicles 133:9; 11:14-15; Numbers 3:8-10, 40-41) 


Jeroboam himself went up to the altar in Bethel to burn incense. But this calling was only given to the descendants of Aaron; Jeroboam was a descendant of Ephraim (1 Kings 11:26) and thus not qualified to burn priestly incense:


  • The priest Eleazar took the bronze censers which the men who were burned had offered, and they hammered them out as plating for the altar, as a reminder to the sons of Israel so that no layman, anyone who was not of the descendants of Aaron, would approach to burn incense before YHVH; then he would not become like Korah and his group – just as YHVH had spoken to him through Moses (Numbers 16:39-40; see also 2 Chronicles 26:16-20)


The ten tribes of Israel were in a bad way. They were now stuck in the middle with a wrong dynasty, a wrong feast date, a wrong worship city, a wrong priesthood, and a wrong master of ceremonies. All these were the result of a leader with a wrong heart.


No Messiah, no Temple, no atonement, no New Covenant


Nine hundred years later, the leaders of the Jewish people – both the High Priestly sons of Zadok (Bnei Tzadok or Sadducees) and the self-appointed scribes and interpreters of the Teaching of Moses (the Perushim or Pharisees) – were involved in rejecting Messiah Yeshua, handing Him over to the occupation forces of Rome and catalyzing His crucifixion:


  • From that time Yeshua began to point out to His disciples that it was necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem and to suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and to be killed, and to be raised up on the third day (Matthew 16:21)


  • He took the Twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all the things that have been written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be ridiculed, and abused, and spit upon, and after they have flogged Him, they will kill Him. And on the third day He will rise.” (Luke 18:31-33)


  • Yeshua declared, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who have been sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your House is being left to you desolate!” (Matthew 23:37-38)


The rejection of the Messiah and the destruction of the House of YHVH resulted in the practical removal of the authority of the Davidic dynasty, as well as no national atonement for the Jewish people. Though the New Covenant had been ratified (see Hebrews 9:11-15) at that Passover season nearly 2,000 years ago, the majority of Israel’s sons and daughters have not yet entered into its provisions and blessings (see Hebrews 1:1-2):


  • For the sons of Israel will live for many days without a king or leader, without sacrifice or memorial stone, and without ephod or household idols. Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek YHVH their God and David their king. And they will come trembling to YHVH and to His goodness in the last days (Hosea 3:4-5)


When God’s word challenges what our heart feels


Jeroboam had established a ‘kosher-style Judaism’ which was not really kosher. Instead of following YHVH’s calendar in Leviticus 23, he tweaked God’s clear commandments and devised in his own heart a different month for celebrating the Feast of Trumpets. The Hebrew Scriptures warn against such behavior. Moses challenges the Jewish people to remember that the tassels (tzitzit) on the borders of their robes have a spiritual purpose: “It shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of YHVH, so that you will do them and not follow your own heart and your own eyes, which led you to prostitute yourselves” (Numbers 15:39). Yet the period of the Hebrew Judges was characterized by Samuel in exactly this way: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). And Solomon concludes the matter: “Every person’s way is right in his own eyes, but YHVH examines the hearts” (Proverbs 21:12).


The Prophets saw that a day was coming when self-appointed teachers of the Mosaic Covenant would actually twist the plain meaning of the Torah (a Hebrew word meaning ‘Teaching’). Isaiah warned that such violation of God’s word would lead to spiritual shipwreck: “To the Teaching (Torah) and to the testimony (te’udah)! If they do not speak in accordance with this word, it is because they have no dawn” (Isaiah 8:20). One hundred years later Jeremiah declared that the spiritual leadership of the Jewish people was in mortal danger of reshaping Judaism into a leaky vessel that would not find favor in the sight of YHVH: “For My people have committed two evils: They have abandoned Me, the Fountain of living waters – to carve out for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that do not hold water” (Jeremiah 2:13).


From this vantage point the words of Daniel the prophet take on added weight. He describes the final manifestation of evil – what is usually referred to as the anti-Messiah or anti-Christ – as someone like Jeroboam, who changes God’s appointed times and seasons:


  • “This is what he said: ‘The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth which will be different from all the other kingdoms, and will devour the whole earth and trample it down and crush it . . . And another will arise after them, and he will be different from the previous ones and will humble three kings. And he will speak against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law” (Daniel 7:23-25)


When seven becomes eight


YHVH revealed to Moses that His own divine calendar (which is also called the Hebrew calendar; see Leviticus 23:1-2) begins in the Spring: “Now YHVH said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, ‘This month shall be the beginning of months for you. It is to be the first month of the year to you’” (Exodus 12:1-2). This month is known in the Bible by its Hebrew name – Aviv [which means ‘Spring’]: “On this day in the month of Aviv, you are about to go forth . . .  Therefore, you shall keep this ordinance at its appointed time from year to year” (Exodus 13:4, 10; see also Exodus 23:15; 34:18; Deuteronomy 16:1).


Yet modern rabbinic practice calls this month by a different name – Nisan (from the Akkadian nisānu, meaning ‘sanctuary’ or ‘sacrifice’, or possibly from Sumerian nisag meaning ‘first fruits’) and lists it as the seventh month of the year. The Jewish New Year according to the rabbinical reckoning does not occur in Aviv (which is biblically the first month) but in Tishrei (from the Akkadian word tašrītu or ‘beginning’) – the month which the Bible describes in Hebrew as Eitanim (1 Kings 8:2) – that is, the seventh biblical month. These are significant changes in times and seasons. How did this change of calendar – this departure from the biblical pattern – happen?


In the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, the calendar described in the Bible still reflected the biblical New Year as being in the Spring: “Then Josiah celebrated the Passover to YHVH in Jerusalem, and they slaughtered the Passover animals on the fourteenth day of the first month” (2 Chronicles 35:1). Yet in Persia, at approximately the same time period, the pagan Babylonian and Akkadian month-names were what was being used in foreign courts. The Jewish people still used the biblical calendar’s year order, but began calling the Hebrew months by pagan names. Aviv was now referred to as Nisan, but it was still seen as the first month of the year: “In the first month, which is the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, Pur, that is the lot, was cast before Haman from day to day and from month to month, until the twelfth month, that is the month Adar” (Esther 3:7). For more background on this, see ‘Raiders of the Lost Jewish New Year’ and ‘The blast of the shofar.’


By the rivers of Babylon


The twelve Jewish tribes went into Exile between 722 B.C. (Assyria) and 587/6 B.C. (Babylon). They took the 12 original names of the Hebrew months with them. These included:


  • Aviv (the first, today called Nisan – Exodus 13:4)
  • Ziv (the second, today called Iyar – 1 Kings 6:1)
  • Eitanim (the seventh, today called Tishrei – 1 Kings 8:2)
  • Bul (the eighth, today called Heshvan – 1 Kings 6:38)


When Israel returned from Babylonian Exile, according to Rabbi Hanina bar Hama (d. 250 A.D.) “the month names came up with them [with the exiles] from Babylon” (Jerusalem Talmud, Rosh HaShanah 1:2, 56d). Babylonian names gradually replaced the original Hebrew names after the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. Today eight of the twelve original Hebrew names of the months have disappeared from our sources. The Babylonian month-names are for the most part names of Babylonian demons, even as most modern Western months are based on the names of Roman gods, while European days of the week are taken from Norse and Germanic gods. The Babylonian royal calendar began its year in Tishrei (biblical Eitanim) and so the Jewish people gradually fitted their calendar into this accepted international calendar. The Jewish calendar was swept along by the riptide of Babylonian paganism. It was still based on the biblical lunar cycle, but its month-names and New Year now differed from the biblical calendar. Whereas Jeroboam moved the Feast of Trumpets from the seventh to the eighth month, the rabbis moved the New Year from Aviv to Eitanim – from Nisan to Tishrei. All of this was done without biblical authority, yet today it is considered part of the normative traditions of Judaism.


The Karaite movement (an early medieval Biblicist form of Judaism) celebrates the New Year according to the Biblical commandment, in the month of Nisan, in the Spring.


When Messiah Yeshua returns, the whole planet will follow the Hebrew calendar. Ezekiel 45:18 prophesies a future Jerusalem holiday on the 1st of Aviv, while Zechariah 14:16-19, 8:18-19 and Isaiah 66:23 show that the entire planet will be keeping the Jewish calendar. Greek, Roman and Norse titans will all bow the knee and declare that Messiah Yeshua and His calendar are sovereign over the whole earth (Isaiah 45:23; Philippians 2:10-11).


And what about Messianic Jewish traditions?


The simple facts are that most Jews (and Gentiles, too!) are not aware of all the above historical information. Most Messianic Jews are similarly unaware of these facts. In an effort to identify with our people, we strive to imitate the traditions we learned as children or have heard about in old movies and Jewish literature. For most Messianic Jews, if it was good enough for Rabbi Akiva or the Lubavitcher Rebbe, it’s good enough for us. Come the High Holidays, most Messianic Jews publicize their Jewish New Year services and exchange the traditional Jewish greetings which are based on the rabbinic perspective.


The unquestioning acceptance of rabbinic tradition here reveals some fault lines in some streams of the Messianic Jewish movement.


Other examples of this include a blind acceptance of how rabbinic theology refuses to accept the teaching of Jeremiah 31:31-32. Jeremiah declares that the New Covenant is not like the Mosaic covenant, and that it is a different covenant: “Behold, days are coming, declares YHVH, when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah – not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the Land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them, declares YHVH” (Jeremiah 31:31-32).


The rabbis disagree with the ‘peshat’ (the plain exegetical meaning) of this text. Instead, they define ‘New Covenant’ as simply being a renewed Mosaic Covenant. I have had the privilege of sitting down with some of those who are considered to be top Messianic scholars and asking them why they buy the rabbinic reasoning here, and how that fits with accurate exegesis. Their responses were not what I had expected, and fell short of the apostolic standard that Paul exhorts us all to follow: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a worker who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). 


There is a certain amount of confusion among some Messianic leaders and teachers on these points. Some teach that Jewish identity must be Mosaic-based, and that rabbinic expressions are the quintessential expressions which we need to follow closely. This tendency in turn has led to encouraging Gentiles to convert to rabbinic Judaism, to mold Messianic liturgy based on rabbinic liturgy and theology, etc. These positions can be problematic, because rabbinic theology often fundamentally disagrees with Yeshua’s New Covenant teachings. Two historical vignettes on this point follow.


Rachmiel Frydland and my haredi friend


Rachmiel Frydland was a Polish Jewish Messianic teacher and scholar who survived the Holocaust, losing his entire family. He had studied at the Mir Yeshiva in Poland before becoming a believer. His Holocaust story is available on Amazon. His first language was Yiddish, a language that I also speak. Once I had the privilege of spending a week in 1977 as his house guest. We had deep conversations about Jewish life in Poland prior to World War II. In a discussion we had regarding the differences between halachic and biblical definitions of ‘Who is a Jew,’ Rachmiel emphatically stated: “If we give the rabbis the authority to determine who is a Jew, then we give them the authority to determine who is the Messiah.”


Another interesting interaction occurred at the brit (circumcision or bris) of one of my grandsons in Jerusalem. A haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jewish man who has an ongoing relationship with one of my sons, asked my other son, “Why is it that you Messianic Jews have this fixation to imitate rabbinic traditions when you yourselves know that rabbinic teaching is fundamentally opposed to what you believe – the Messiahship of Yeshua, the validity of atonement and forgiveness through the New Covenant, etc.?”


Digging deeper – Jewish Roots and Hebraic Roots


I love the roots of my people – spiritual, historical, cultural, musical, culinary, etc. I have seen that sometimes in the Messianic movement the terms ‘Jewish Roots’ and Hebraic Roots’ mean different things to different people. Sometimes it can mean very positive things. At other times it means the acceptance of rabbinic authority, rabbinic anti-Messianic perspectives, and spiritual control that borders on witchcraft and misogyny. I encourage all who would pursue Jewish and Hebraic roots to weigh carefully how hidden agendas may spin out here. I have written a book titled ‘How to be Messianic without becoming Meshuggeh (*crazy): A common sense approach to kosher Messianic foundations’ which delves into these issues and more, for those who would like to go deeper.


How should we then pray? 


  • Pray for God to bring revelation and alignment to believers everywhere concerning His times and seasons (Daniel 2:21; Genesis 1:14-18)
  • Pray for Messiah’s body to become even more attuned to how the God of Jacob is using His calendar as a catalyst and a holy milestone in bringing forth the salvation of Israel as well as life from the dead for the world
  • Pray for revelation specifically for Bible teachers, pastors and teachers of the Word about these issues
  • Pray for the Jewish people who are turning their thoughts to deep issues of sin and atonement at this time – that YHVH would pour out a spirit of grace and supplications on us through a revelation of Messiah Yeshua our atonement
  • Pray for those who have given their lives to communicating the message of Messiah Yeshua’s atonement to His own precious people – that they might be encouraged, receive needed provision, and experience God’s enabling presence
  • Pray for the raising up of Ezekiel’s army speedily and in our day


Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do.

In Messiah Yeshua,

Avner Boskey

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BOX 121971 NASHVILLE TN 37212-1971 USA

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