The Day of Firstfruits – Yom Habikkurim

Sheaf Offering“The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. He is to wave the sheaf before the LORD so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath. On the day you wave the sheaf, you must sacrifice as a burnt offering to the LORD a lamb a year old without defect, together with its grain offering of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour mixed with olive oil—a food offering presented to the LORD, a pleasing aroma—and its drink offering of a quarter of a hin of wine. You must not eat any bread, or roasted or new grain, until the very day you bring this offering to your God. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live” (Leviticus 23:9-14).

The Offerings

When Israel entered the Promised Land, they were to celebrate the day of Firstfruits by offering an individual sheaf of grain from their harvest.  The sheaf was to be waved by the priest along with a burnt offering of a lamb, a fellowship offering of fine grain mixed with olive oil and a drinking offering of wine.

For the burnt offering, a lamb without defect was presented to the LORD.  Laying hands on the animal’s head was called semichah. It implied a physical ‘leaning’ on the animal so that the weight of the man was transferred to the animal.  This was symbolic of transferring the identity of the man onto the lamb. In effect,  the lamb represented him before God.  The blood of the lamb was splattered on the sides of the Altar.  Then the lamb was completely burnt up on the Altar as a food offering and a pleasing aroma to the LORD. 

The grain offering was a free will offering.  It was to be from kernels from fresh ears, dry roasted and covered in olive oil and frankincense or it could be a fine flour mixed with olive oil and frankincense poured over it.  A grain offering could be baked in an oven like bread, cooked on a griddle like a pancake or boiled in a pot like a dumpling. 

A hin of liquid was equal to about 1.5 gallons or 5.7 liters.   The drink offering was a quarter of a hin of wine or close to one liter – the size of a modern-day Coke.    It was to be poured out at the foot of the altar as part of the burnt and grain offering. 

These three firstfruits offerings of the lamb, the grain, and the wine were Yeshua’s reality within the Passover that had occurred several days earlier:  the Lamb of God, his broken body and poured out blood.  These offerings were presented to God by the priest bringing individual atonement for sin.

The Sheaf of Grain

“Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them” (Psalm 126:6).

Sheaf OfferingThere was another offering on firstfruits, a sheaf of grain.  According to Zondervan’s Bible Dictionary, sheaves are the stalks of grain left behind by the reaper.  It is gathered by the handfuls and bound by women or children in a joyful manner.  Collected sheaves were carried by donkeys or on heavily loaded carts to the threshing floor.  Some sheaves were left behind for the poor.  The sheaves that were offered as Firstfruits were only the amount that an individual could hold, a handful.

According to the command, a handful of sheaves from the spring harvest was to be brought to the priest.  He became the intercessor between the individual and God as he waved it before the LORD as an acceptable offering. Until the firstfruits sheaf was accepted by God,  no one was to eat any roasted or new grain.

Yeshua, the Firstfruits

“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:24).

In the beginning eternal fellowship with God was cut short by sin and death.  God promised a Seed who would have victory over death and restore fellowship with Him.  In order to have a sheaf of grain, there has to be a planting of one Seed.  Once put into the ground, it dies and then produces a harvest.  Yeshua is the promised Seed.  He was buried in the ground and rose to life producing a firstfruits sheaf of grain becoming the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

“But Messiah has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:20).

Notice that he was the plural firstfruits of those raised from the dead, not the singular.  According to the gospel of Matthew, at the moment of Yeshua’s death, when the temple curtain was torn in two, the bodies of holy people who had died were raised to life.  A firstfruits  resurrection of the dead had occurred. 

“At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.  They came out of the tombs after Yeshua’s resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people” (Matthew 27:52-23).

The Day After the Sabbath

Over the centuries a lot of confusion has developed over the meaning of the ‘day after the Sabbath’ because the first and last days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread are also called ‘sabbaths’.  God never called these days Sabbath even though He commanded complete rest.   This subtlety is a manmade tradition that has caused the Feast of Firstfruits to fall on whatever day of the week the ‘day after the sabbath’ of Unleavened Bread begins.  This rendering has blurred the tremendous differences between the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Firstfruits and put much less emphasis on the day of the firstfruits of those raised from the dead.   If the sheaf were to be waved by the priest on the day after the weekly Sabbath during the week of Unleavened Bread, this would always put Firstfruits on the ‘first day of the week’ and put a powerful reality of Yeshua in another of God’s ‘appointed times!’ 

“When the Sabbath was over, on the first day of the week when it was still dark, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so they might go anoint Yeshua’s body.  Just after sunrise, they were on the way to the tomb and they asked each other, ‘Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?’ When they arrived at the tomb, they saw the stone had been removed from the entrance.  They entered, but they did not find the body of Yeshua.  While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.  In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ Then they remembered his words.  ‘Go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has risen from the dead….’ They told this to the apostles, but they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.  Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb.  He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Yeshua’s head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed” Matthew 28:7-10, Mark 16:1-3, Luke 24:1-8, John 20:1-8 15-16).

Yeshua’s Sheaf

“Yeshua said, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’” (John 20:17). 

In order for the sheaf  of grain to be accepted, the priest had to wave it before God. As our High Priest, the risen Yeshua ascended to his Father to offer his sheaf of firstfruits in our behalf.  Once his sheaf of grain, filled with innumerable seeds was accepted, the spiritual harvest of souls could begin.  Yeshua’s family would not only include his brothers and sisters in Israel, but those brought forth in a harvest from the nations.

“…Because those whom he knew in advance, he also determined in advance would be conformed to the pattern of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers…” (Romans 8:29). 

While the priests were preparing for the Firstfruits offering in the Temple, the women found the empty tomb, met with angels, and spoke with their risen Lord.  While the women ran to tell the disciples that Yeshua was alive, the men of Israel began to offer their lambs, grain and wine.  As the individual sheaves of grain were taken by the priests, Yeshua ascended to his Father and presented himself as a sheaf offering.  As the sheaf of grain was being waved, a gentle breeze drifted throughout the Temple.  Yeshua’s offering to His Father was accepted.  The disciples entered the empty tomb and saw the strips of linen and  the cloth that had been wrapped around Yeshua’s head separate from the linen.  They knew and believed he had risen from the dead. Yom Habikkurim, the day of Firstfuits had been become reality.  It was time to begin counting the days to the celebration of the final spring harvest. 

©2014 Tent Stake Ministries (from Journey with Jeremiah: Nourishment for the Wild Olive.)

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