Our study would be incomplete unless we included the information available for the Hebrew words, which the NKJ has translated as “week,” in the Old Testament. In this study, we analyze the English translation of “week” in the Old Testament with a view to gaining knowledge concerning our findings in the New Testament..
In the following group we have 17 verses, 6 forms, and 20 hits that have the same Hebrew root word SHA-bu-wa for the English translation of “week” with one exception Ezekiel 45:21 where the English translation is “seven”. The Hebrew word means “a period of seven” – “a heptad”. The first thing we should observe concerning this word is that the context of each usage must determine for us the duration of each span of seven; biblically, it is either 7 days, or 7 years. Moreover, we must rely on the context to inform us of the beginning and ending of the period of seven. The Heptad or Septenary (the Greek Septuagint counterpart for heptad) gives us a different perspective than the Seven Days of Sabbath; the two are unrelated. The Seven Days of Sabbath marks the movement of time; whereas, a Heptad focuses on a specific interval of time. In relation to the Annual Holydays, a Heptad marks out the duration of the Festival period: The span of time from one point to another.
The American Heritage Dictionary simply informs: Heptad: A group or series of seven. In the Greek, we have 13 verses, 4 forms, and 15 hits, for EB-dom-A-don, which means the same as the Hebrew SHA-bu-wa: Heptad: “a period of seven” – “a septenary”. The Greek adds 3 verses to the Masoretic list for Heptad; and the English translation of the Septuagint Greek chose different words for 7 of the hits in this compilation. We will look at each of these and analyze each verse in order to learn as much as possible about this aspect of our study.
Our study begins with a wedding festival heptad.
JACOB’S & LEAH’S WEDDING FESTIVAL HEPTAD
Genesis 29:27 "Fulfill her week (Hebrew: heptad; Greek: sevenths), and we will give you this one (Rachel) also for the service which you will serve with me still another seven years."
Here, the Hebrew has “a heptad” for the English “week” or period of seven; and the Greek is “complete her sevenths”. The proposition: “Complete her seven days of the wedding festival,” which may have been coincidentally equivalent with the Hebrew “Seven days of Sabbath” or it may have begun and ended on a different pattern: The account does not give us that information; therefore, we cannot know that detail. The English concept of “week” has no exact counterpart in the Hebrew Language. The Greek “sevenths” also indicates the seven days of the wedding because each day was a seventh of the whole – a total being seven sevenths. The word for seventh does not refer to the seven years that Jacob worked for Rachel because they were complete before the wedding. The Greek word for “seven” in reference to the second period of seven years labor is a cardinal whereas the word used for whatever period Jacob had to complete here in this verse is an ordinal. The “period of seven” had already begun and refers to Leah rather than Rachel. Observe that from Jacob’s perspective, the first seven years of completed labor was for Rachel; and the second seven years of labor for Leah had not begun. However, according to the wording of Genesis 29:27, Laban saw the first seven years as being for Leah and required that Jacob labor another seven years for Rachel. In other words, while the perspectives of the two men were different, the length of labor was the same.
Now, observe that Samson, who was from the tribe of Dan, had a marriage feast for a period of seven days. It seems that one heptad of seven days for a wedding feast was the custom of the time for this family of people – handed down perhaps from Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his descendants. Isaac’s wife Rebekah and Laban were sister and brother and from the same ethnic group as Abraham. Observe that Samson’s wedding heptad has no specified beginning or ending day of “The Seven Days of Sabbath – the Hebrew Week”; in other words, the account does not mention the word “Sabbath,” for a wedding heptad could begin on any day of the Hebrew Week. It is possible that the culture required the wedding heptad to offset the Seven Days of Sabbath so that the first and last days of the feast would not conflict with the Seventh Day Sabbath.
Judges 14:12 Then Samson said to them, "Let me pose a riddle to you. If you can correctly solve and explain it to me within the seven days of the feast, then I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothing.
Judges 14:17 Now she (Samson’s wife) had wept on him the seven days while their feast lasted. And it happened on the seventh day [of the feast] that he told her [the answer to the riddle], because she pressed him so much. Then she explained the riddle to the sons of her people. 18 So, the men of the city said to him on the seventh day [of the feast] before the sun went down: "What is sweeter than honey? And what is stronger than a lion?" And he said to them: "If you had not plowed with my heifer, You would not have solved my riddle!"
It is important for the reader to comprehend the concept that what we call the seven-day week is what the Hebrews called “The Seven Days of Sabbath” – the emphasis of the days that we refer to as the week was always on the Sabbath, for the Hebrews. Although Sunday, in theory, is the first day of the English week, the reality is that it is the end of the week in practice. The Hebrews perspective of Sunday is what our perspective of Monday would be. We go back to work on Monday – they go back to work on Sunday. Therefore, Sunday has become the seventh day of the week for the English world, in practice.
When the Hebrew writer wanted to express a period of seven days other than the seven days of Sabbath, one way was that he used the term “heptad”. When we see this expression, we should understand that it is a period different to the Seven Days of Sabbath except where the heptad may coincidentally overlap the Seven Days of Sabbath. We have only one such example: In the Heptad of Passover, one occasionally has a year when the seven days of Passover overlap the Seven Days of Sabbath. In that instance, Saturday sunset of Nisan 14 begins Sunday, Nisan 15 and ends on Saturday sunset of Nisan 21 – the Heptad of Passover being Sunday through Saturday – an exact overlap of the Seven Days of Sabbath. It is important to note that the bible does refer to Passover as the Heptad of Passover; however, we find no passage where the bible refers to “The Seven Days of Sabbath” as a heptad. The logic is simple: Each of the seven days of Passover has an ecclesiastical focus, as the seven days of unleavened bread tied together, with a holyday at its beginning and its end. On the other hand, six of the Seven Days of Sabbath are workdays and the Seventh Day Sabbath is the one Holyday of the Hebrew Week. While the six days leading up to the Sabbath are days of anticipation, they do not have an ecclesiastical focus or the perspective of days set aside for worship. Therefore, the bible does not refer to the Seven Days of Sabbath as a heptad. The first six days of the seven days of Sabbath are workdays and the Sabbath is a day of rest. In order to use the term heptad for these seven days they would all be rest days or have some formal perspective of worship: The dissimilarity of the days of the week distorts the meaning of a heptad.
Genesis 29:28 Then Jacob did so and fulfilled her week (Hebrew: heptad; Greek: the sevenths for her). So, he gave him his daughter Rachel as wife also.
In Genesis 29:28, the Hebrew is that Jacob fulfilled Leah’s “heptad” or “period of seven” – a reference to the seven days of the wedding feast. The Greek is that Jacob fulfilled Leah’s “sevenths”. Each day of the seven days was 1/7th of the whole. Therefore, Jacob fulfilled the festival heptad – the whole period of the seven days of the wedding festival in progress. Although Jacob had intended this to be his and Rachel’s wedding feast, it turned out to be his and Leah’s wedding feast.