How the First Fruits Day Points to Yeshua

The Day of the Wave Sheaf Offering or First Fruits Day

In Hebrew roots circles, a day has gained prominence for celebrating the resurrection of Yeshua. It is called by many, the Feast of First Fruits or simply First Fruits. In several books published by Messianic or Hebrew roots teachers, this day has been elevated to the status as one of the “feasts” of YHVH on a par with Passover, Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, Trumpets, Atonement and Tabernacles. In creating a special designation for this day—one, as we shall see later, that Scripture does not give it—most of these teachers curiously omit the last of YHVH’s seven “feasts” or miqra-ee kodesh (commanded assemblies); namely, The Eighth Day or Shemini Atzeret. This festival is a Sabbath and immediately falls after the Feast of Tabernacles. It has important spiritual significance and represents the formation of the New Heaven and New Earth and the descent of the New Jerusalem after the end of the 1000-year long Millennium on earth. It literally represents heaven-on-earth for eternity. It is, therefore, a shame to omit this most important festival of YHVH!

A field of barley grain in the land of Israel.

A field of barley grain in the land of Israel.

The Nature of the Omer Offering/Service

Does the omer offering on “Wave Sheaf Sunday” prophetically point to and foretell the death and/or resurrection of Yeshua, and if so, how? First, let us look at the scriptural passages that speak of this day.

Leviticus 23:10–17, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When you be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then you shall bring a sheaf of the first fruits [reshiyth] 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. And you shall offer that day when you wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto YHVH. And the grain offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto YHVH for a sweet savor: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin. And you shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that you have brought an offering unto your Elohim: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. And you shall count unto you from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf [omer] of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: Even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall you number fifty days; and you shall offer a new meat offering unto YHVH. You shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven; they are the first fruits [bikkurim] unto YHVH.

Leviticus 23:10b–14a, … you are to bring the premier sheaf of your harvest to the priest. He is to elevate the sheaf before the presence of YHVH, for acceptance for you; on the morrrow after the Sabbath the priest is to elevate it. You are to perform a sacrifice on the day of your elevating the sheaf: a sheep, wholly-sound, in its (first) year, as an offering-up to YHVH, and its grain-gift: two tenth-measures of flour mixed with oil, a fire-offering to YHVH, a soothing savour; and its poured-offering of wine: a fourth of a hin. Now bread, parched-grain or groats, you are not to eat, until that same day, until you have brought the near-offering of our Elohim… (The Shocken Bible)

Leviticus 2:12–16, As for the offering of the first fruits, you shall offer them to YHVH, but they shall not be burned on the altar for a sweet aroma. And every offering of your grain offering you shall season with salt; you shall not allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your grain offering. With all your offerings you shall offer salt. And if you offer a meal offering of thy first fruits [bikkurim] unto YHVH, you shall offer for the meal offering of thy first fruits [bikkurim] green ears [abib, H24, or green in the ears barley] of corn [qalah; H7033, roasted dried, burned, parched grain] dried by the fire, even corn beaten [geres; H1643, crushed grain or groats] out of full ears. And you shall put oil upon it, and lay frankincense thereon: it is a meat offering. And the priest shall burn the memorial of it, part of the beaten corn thereof, and part of the oil thereof, with all the frankincense thereof: it is an offering made by fire unto YHVH.

The Order of Events Associated With the Waving of the Omer

Now that we have the scriptural passages before us pertaining to the First Fruits Day, let’s list in chronological order the events and ceremonies that occurred on this day involving both the Israelite farmer and the priest.

  • The Israelite farmer had to first harvest a token portion or sheaf (omer) of barley from his field and take it to the priest. This was the premier or very first and best part of his barley crop. According to historical records, the Jews did this in the closing or twilight hours of the Sabbath—the day before the First Fruits Day (The Pentateuch–Leviticus, by S. R. Hirsch, p. 656; Mishnah Menahot 10:1). At the same time, during the Second Temple period, deputies of the temple would also go forth to cut a sheaf of barley for use in the temple’s ceremony of waving the omer of barley before YHVH. Mishnah Menahot 10:3 states how the omer of barley was cut: “Agents of the court go forth on the eve of [the afternoon before] the festival [of Passover] and they make it into sheaves while it is still attached to the ground, so that it will be easy to reap. And all the villagers nearby gather together there [on the night after the first day of Passover], so it will be reaped with great pomp. Once it is dark [on the night/early portion of the sixteenth of Abib], he says to them, ‘Has the sun set yet?’ They say, ‘Yes.’ … ‘on the Sabbath,’ he says to them, ‘[Shall I reap on] this Sabbath?’ They say, ‘Yes.’ … All this [pomp] for what purpose?’ Because of the Boethusians, for they maintain, ‘The reaping of the [barley for] the omer is not [done] at the conclusion of the festival.” According to Alfred Edersheim, agents of the temple priests would go to a field in the Valley of the Ashes across the Kidron Valley near the temple and put a red ribbon around the sheaf and then come back later and cut it. Edersheim says that they cut the barley on the evening of the fifteenth as the sun was going down while it was still the Sabbath (The Temple and Its Service, “The Sheaf of the Firstfruits,” p. 203–4).
  • The priest was to then to wave it before YHVH for him to accept it.
  • This was to occur on the morrow or day after the Sabbath. As we shall see later, this was the day after the weekly Sabbath (the first day of the week, or Saturday night through Sunday evening) that fell during the seven-day celebration of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which fell in the spring of the year immediately following the Passover.
  • After the waving of the barley sheaf, the priests were to sacrifice a blemish-free year-old male lamb as a  burnt or sin offering.
  • Some of the sheaves of grain were then taken, the grain was separated, roasted over a fire, beaten or crushed and ground into flour (Lev. 2:14). The Mishnah discusses how the priests reaped the barley, took it back to the temple, parched it, flailed it, ground it and sifted the flour 13 times to achieve the finest quality of flour. The priests then offered up a handful or omer of flour (Men. 10:4–10:5A). For the Pharisees, the day of the waving of the omer occurred on the second day of Passover (Abib 16, the morrow after the first high Sabbath of Unleavened Bread on Abib 15; Men. 10:5F). The waving of the omer occurred in the morning of the day after the Sabbath after which the Israelites were permitted to harvest their crops from noon time onward of the same day (Men. 10:5H and I). No reaping could occur prior to the waving of the omer (Men. 10:7).
  • The priest then placed in the fire a grain offering of an omer of barely flour mixed with olive oil along with a libation of wine. This offering was burnt in the fire. In Leviticus 2:13–16, we see that salt along with frankincense was also sprinkled on the meal offering. The smell of this offering burning was a sweet aroma to YHVH.
  • After the priest had performed his duties, on the same day, the Israelite farmers were then allowed to harvest the rest of their barley, and to make fresh bread therefrom.
  • The First Fruits Day began the seven week, fifty day count to the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost. This was called the count of the omer, and YHVH commanded the Israelites to count each day down until they arrived at the Feast of Weeks.

Yeshua in the Wavesheaf (Omer) Offering

It’s hard to miss to see the prophetic shadow pictures pointing to Yeshua’s death, resurrection and/or ascension in the ceremonies detailed above. As we shall discuss later, even though neither the apostolic writers nor the early church fathers discuss this connection other than in passing, that does not mean that it does not exist.

In the Testimony of Yeshua, we find the closest allusion to this ceremony in two quick references by the Apostle Paul in First Corinthians:

But now is Messiah risen from the dead, and become the first fruits [aparche] of them that slept. (1 Cor. 15:20)

But every man in his own order: Messiah the first fruits [aparche]; afterward they that are Messiah’s at his coming. (1 Cor. 15:23)

The Greek word aparche here (Strong’s G536) is used only eight times in the Testimony of Yeshua and in all cases is translated as firstfruit/s. The apostolic writers attach various spiritual meanings to aparche (as we shall see later). The word is defined as follows:

  • to offer firstlings or first fruits
  • to take away the first fruits of the productions of the earth which was offered to Elohim. The first portion of the dough, from which sacred loaves were to be prepared. Hence term used of persons consecrated of Elohim for all time.
  • persons superior in excellence to others of the same class

Now let’s analyze the events pertaining to cutting of the barley sheaf/omer to see how they point to Yeshua.

  • The temple priests would go out to the barley field prior to First Fruits Day and mark the barley to be harvested with a crimson cord. The Israelites would choose a perfect Passover Lamb on the tenth day of the first month. Yeshua, the perfect Passover lamb, was chosen on the tenth day of the month or four days before his crucifixion. Crimson red is the color of blood. This speaks of sacrifice and redemption by the blood of Messiah Yeshua. We see the crimson cord elsewhere in the Scriptures, which points to Yeshua’s redemptive work at the cross. Crimson was one of the colors used in the doors of the tabernacle and is a picture of the Messiah shedding his blood for redeeming man from his sin penalty. Crimson thread was also woven into the garment of the high priest, a picture of Yeshua our heavenly high priest. One of the four roof coverings of the tabernacle was constructed of dyed crimson wool. The table of showbread, when being transported, was covered with a crimson cloth (Num. 4:8). The red heifer, when sacrificed, was burnt with a piece of cedar wood and crimson cloth (Num. 19:6). One of the rituals for cleansing an Israelite with a skin disease involved a crimson cloth and a piece of cedar wood—a prophetic picture of Yeshua on the cross (Lev. 14:4). Speaking of Yeshua’s blood covering his people as an atonement for their sins. Isaiah 1:18, speaking of the work of the future Messiah, says, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be a red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” A crimson thread runs throughout the Scriptures leading directly to another crimson thread—the stream of red, sin-free blood that flowed from the side, hands, feet, back and head of Yeshua as he hung on the cross to pay the price for the sins of mankind.
  • On the early evening or twilight hours at the end of the weekly Sabbath, the Israelite farmers and priests would go into their fields and harvest the grain already marked for cutting. This speaks of Yeshua being cut off from the land of the living (Isa. 53:8) when he died on the cross for our sins and transgressions. Yeshua died at approximately 3 p.m. on Passover day and he was placed into the grave between the evenings of the fourteenth and fifteenth of the first month of the Hebrew calendar.
  • The next day, on the first day of the week, the priests lifted the cut barley sheaf and waved it heavenward as an offering to YHVH to be accepted. This act prophetically pointed to Yeshua’s resurrecting from the grave and to his ascension to heaven where he was presented to and accepted by the Father as the perfect sin sacrifice.
  • The priests then offered a blemish-free lamb as a burnt offering on the altar. This is another prophetic picture of the death of Yeshua on the cross.
  • Next, the priests took some of the barley still in its sheaves and roasted it, flailed it to separate the grain from its sheath and chaff, crushed and ground the grain into flour and then sifted it numerous times until only the finest and purest flour was left. This pictures Yeshua bearing our sins, and his soul becoming a sin offering (Isa. 53:10), and being poured out to death (Isa. 53:12). This occurred while he was in the grave, as we shall see later.
  • The priests then anointed the flour with olive oil, frankincense and salt, and then poured a wine libation over it, waved it heavenward before burning it up on the altar of sacrifice. This clearly pictures Yeshua being lifted up on the cross and then offered on the altar of crucifixion as the perfect sacrifice.

3 thoughts on “How the First Fruits Day Points to Yeshua

  1. I’m confused about the date of the cutting and waving of the barley.
    As attributed: ‘Edersheim says that they cut the barley on the evening of the fifteenth as the sun was going down while it was still the Sabbath (The Temple and Its Service, “The Sheaf of the Firstfruits,” p. 203–4).’

    Three lines down from the Edersheim attribution, is said: “…this was the day after the weekly Sabbath (the first day of the week, or Saturday night through Sunday evening) that fell during the seven-day celebration of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which fell in the spring of the year immediately following the Passover.”

    Interesting to me is that if First Fruits occurred the day after the Sabbath (if the 15th of Nisan, being a Holy convocation day, is counted as the Shabbat of Lev. 23:9-21), then the day after that day would not necessarily be Yom Rishon–the first day of the week in the Hebrew calendar; or, in the modern calendar, a Sunday. It could be any day of the week, but it would always be 16 Nisan, some say 17 Nisan. And the 49-day, 7-week, count to Shavuot would always fall on the same date on the Hebrew calendar, but not on the same day of the week. But neither First Fruits nor Shavuot has a dated designation like all the other holidays. One would logically conclude that the actual date of the Sabbath mentioned in Lev. 23, starting with verse 9, would be fluid but always occurring during Unleavened Bread.

    This would indicate, at least to me, that the biblical understanding of the Sabbath occurring sometimes during the 7-day Feast of Unleavened Bread would indeed change its date every year, depending on what day of the week was the first day of Unleavened Bread. The Sabbath day, a Saturday, would be the constant, no matter how far during that seven days it landed from the start of the 15th. The only constant about the day after the Sabbath, First Fruits, would be that it would always be a Sunday or Yom Rishon.

    Yeshua as fulfillment of all the feasts has an elegant biblical logic, particularly when coupled with a scholarly historical understanding of the times of Yeshua. If Yeshua would be the perfect fulfillment of First Fruits, this would be the day of His bodily resurrection from the tomb when He would, in essence, be waved before God and all the spiritual realm as the First Fruit of all who believe who will be raised to meet Him in the air. This would coincide with the First Fruits of the harvest (presaging the harvest of souls) being waved by priests and people before the Lord on that feast day.

    To say this would likely sound naive (maybe not), but that would put the crucifixion always on Friday. The “Last Supper” would not have necessarily been the Passover seder but literally the final gathering of Yeshua with His disciples and the inauguration of the Lord’s Supper. It was also the night of His betrayal (Thursday) and questioning/scourging in the early hours of Friday, during the night, and the crucifixion later on that day. The next day would be the Sabbath when the women would not have been able to anoint the body, then Sunday when they went to anoint the body in its tomb and found that He had resurrected (on First Fruits, the Yom Rishon after the Shabbat–1st day after the 7th day).

    I know that scholars have broken their heads over these dates, some giving the date of First Fruits as the day after the first day of Unleavened Bread, but the empirical dating of that feast isn’t stated biblically. It leaves the rest of us to draw our own conclusions on the best of what we can discern from our own approach to the revealed word. At least this controversy doesn’t challenge our faith in the truth of the Gospel.

    • The day after the Sabbath is the day after the weekly Sabbath (Saturday), not the day after the high holy day Sabbath of the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is on the 15th day of the first month. That’s why First Fruits Day always occurs on a Sunday as does Shavuot—50 days later. On the other hand, the rabbinic Jews call “the day after the Sabbath” the day after the high holy day Sabbath of the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which would be the 16th day of the first month. In this case, Shavuot would always fall on the sixth day of the month of Sivan.

      The only time the 15th day of Nisan would be considered the Sabbath as in “the morrow or day after the Sabbath” would be if that day happened to be both a weekly Sabbath AND a high holy day Sabbath. When that occurs, it does from time to time, then Shavuot would fall on the same day for the rabbinic Jews as well as for the rest of us.

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