Timing of the Feast of Firstfruits

by William BenCarl

Yom Ha-Bikkurim / The First Feast Of Firstfruits / Resurrection Day / Omer Raysheet

A Messianic Outline/View

Along with Passover, this is the most important Holy Day of YHVH celebration for Messianic/Hebraic Believers: The Festival day when Messiah Yeshua/(Jesus) rose from the dead.

On this festival in the morning of the first day of the week, the the cohen gadol (high priest) waved the barley sheaf in the Temple. This I believe was the exact same time that Messiah Yeshua/(Jesus) ascended into Heaven unto the Father after His Resurrection.  The following account in Book of Yochanan/(John) would have been right before that event:

For as yet they knew not the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. then the disciples went away again unto their own home.  But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, and seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Yeshua/(Jesus) had lain. And they say unto her, woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him.and when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Yeshua standing, and knew not that it was Yeshua. Yeshua saith unto her, woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou? She, supposing Him to be the gardener, saith unto Him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away. Yeshua saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto Him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Yeshua saith unto her, touch Me not; for I am not yet ascended to My Father: but go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My Elohim/(God), and your Elolhim/(God). Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things unto her. Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week,…” -John 20:9-19a.

In Brit HaChadashah / (The New Covenant) Scripture, Sha’ul/Paul also speaks to us concerning this, by also drawing upon the Holy Day Festival of YHVH of Firstfruits:

But now is Messiah/(Christ) risen from the dead, and become the Firstfruits of them that slept. for since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. for as in Adam all die, even so in Messiah shall all be made alive. but every man in his own order: Messiah the Firstfruits; afterward they that are Messiah’s at His coming.” 1Cor.15:20-23.

In Rabbinic Judaism, while you’ll still hear about the “Firstfruits” Holy Day; more often what is stressed is this day being “Omer Raysheet” – the beginning of the counting of the Omer for 50 days until Shavuot/(Pentecost/The 2nd Feast of First-Fruits). While this day is when Torah says we are to begin counting, some commentaries have noted Yom-HaBikkurim/Firstfruits as being the ‘forgotten holiday’ in Rabbinic Judaism, as not much is mentioned about it.

As to what day does Firstfruits fall on is a point of contention amongst Messianic/Hebraic Believers. The reason for this contention is that the traditional Rabbinic calculations based on Talmud, have this Holy Day beginning on a fixed day…always the day following Passover Nissan 15, when they say this Holy Day begins. This however differs from the plain and simple (peshat) reading of the Torah as to when Firstfruits is to begin; which is shown not at a set date of Nissan 16; but rather as the first day of the week following the Shabbat that follows Pesach/Passover. Here’s the portion from Torah in context:

“These are the feasts of YHVH/(the-LORD), even Holy Convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons. in the fourteenth day of the first month at even is YHVH/(the-LORD’s) Passover. and on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread unto YHVH/(the-LORD): seven days ye must eat unleavened bread. in the first day ye shall have an Holy Convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto YHVH/(the-LORD) seven days: in the seventh day is an Holy Convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.

And YHVH/(the-LORD) spake unto Moses, saying, speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, when ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the Firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: and he shall wave the sheaf before YHVH/(the-LORD), to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto YHVH/(the-LORD). And the meat (bread) offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto YHVH/(the-LORD) for a sweet savour: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin. And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your Elohim/(God): it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.

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 YHVH/(the-LORD). Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the Firstfruits unto YHVH/the-LORD. and ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto YHVH/(the-LORD), with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savour unto YHVH/(the-LORD). Then ye shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings. and the priest shall wave them with the bread of the Firstfruits for a wave offering before YHVH/(the-LORD), with the two lambs: they shall be holy to YHVH/(the-LORD) for the priest. And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an Holy Convocation unto you: ye shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations. and when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am YHVH/(the-LORD) your Elohim/(God).” – Lev.23:4-22.

The Torah portion on this matter is very specific and clear, and one would think that would be the end of the matter.

There is also evidence of the Sadducees (who were made up of the cohanim/priests) method during Temple times of figuring Firstfruits in accord with the literal reading of Torah, and this also explains why one has to ‘count’ 50 days for themselves: As Shavuot didn’t always fall on the same calendar day of the month, because Firstfruits didn’t always fall on the same calendar day of the month; verses the other Holy Day observances of YHVH of which we are told exactly what day they are to fall on.

A beautiful reason that the above literal reading of Torah for counting to Shavuot would be the case is: There are 7 Shabbats, and then those Shabbats are times 7…(7 the number of completion/perfection x 7 (a week), 49 days, each 7 day week ending on a Shabbat, the day of rest. And the next day following those 7x (7days)- Shabbats is 50 days, which is also a Biblical number of a given deliverance, as in the 50th year being a Jubilee.

Another suggested reason that this is called the ‘forgotten holiday’ in Rabbinic Judaism, is the great importance placed upon it by the early Messianic/Hebraic Believers in Yeshua who celebrated His Resurrection on this day.  It has been suggested that during Temple times (if at all), if the Pharisee’s method of when Firstfruits was to be celebrated was observed, that this practice would have been started after the Resurrection of Messiah Yeshua or after 30/33 A.D.

The following article is based upon discussion on this matter, and goes into somewhat more depth if you’d like to read more on this subject….

Yom HaBikkruim / Firstfruits: What day was in on?…

I don’t have the time to do this subject justice here at this time, but here is a brief address:

There are only about 3 different subjects in Scripture that one cannot prove 100% to everyone’s satisfaction – as the various differing views all seem to have conclusive support from various Biblical passages, historical and Judaic records, and even logic! The worst of these debates to get into is: On what day did Messiah have the Passover on and what day did He die. Because people are so passionate about this subject, even though it is dogmatic and not doctrinal, it can get quite heated and unloving if one is not careful. There are at least 4 different scenarios held and given by different believers and scholars, and at least 3 of these seem to have valid proof to back them up (of course only one is right 🙂 One can study hour after hour, and still leave not 100% sure which view is correct. Nor is there a general consensus amongst all the Messianic Congregations as to what day is correct, all Congregations seem to hold at random one view or another.

To further complicate the issue, there are different calendars suggested by different groups for figuring Nissan 1 / Pesach Nissan 14-15:

a.) Dark-Lunar-Conjunction/(Astronomical/Scientific -&- the Mean/Conjunction-(+17.x hrs – as used in the Modern/Israeli calendar)

b.) Sliver/Cresent moon Kaarite sighting (along with the non-Sanhedrin approved Aviv sighting of today)

c.) Enochian solar

d.) Qumran calendar understandings (and more 🙂

This is an entire conversation in itself that I won’t address here. I’ll briefly state, that due to the Rosh Kodesh passage on Yom HaTeruah in Psalms 83, along with other Judaic and historical evidences: I believe view a.) above is correct.  I believe it is clear that on Nissan Rosh Kodesh the Aviv method was used by the Sanhedrin in Temple times to reset the lunar with the solar years; but the modern/Israel calendar uses Adar II every 7 years to accomplish the same thing, and most years the non-Sanhedrin approved method some correctly use of observing of the Aviv has been aligning with the modern/Rabbinic calendar anyway. Again, this subject is never ending in debate.


It is because of differing views of when Omer Raysheet, Sefirat HaOmer, counting of the Omer (50 days) begins: “And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the Sabbath…” Lev.23:15-16.

Probably the second most debated subject is on what day did Messiah Raise from the dead?  What day was Firstfruits / Yom HaBikurim / 1st day of the counting of the Omer on?  Again, on this subject, there are three primary beliefs and all seem to have some validity as to their being correct by Scripture, history, Judaic writings, and even logic. But with this view it is easier to show which one I believe is valid.

1.) One view that some hold is that Firstfruits was always on the weekly Shabbat following Pesach.  This view I believe is incorrect and while there at first seems to be a lot of support given by them who hold to this view,  I believe their appeal is convoluted, and requires severe linguistic gymnastics to prove. It also goes against almost all Scriptural translations, historical and Judaic and Christian writings on this subject, and it attempts to show a 49 day verses 50 day Weeks. So I feel this view is not valid.

That leaves us with two main views that also have a lot of support:

2.) The P’rushim/Pharisaic (current Rabbinic) view that Firstfruits is always the day following Passover, regardless of what day of that week that might be.

3.) The other view is that Firstfruits was on the 1st day of the week following the weekly Shabbat of the Passover week.

Both of these two views appear to have Scriptural, Historical and Judaic writings support. So which one is correct?

While I agree there is a strong case for view #2 (P’rushim); there is likewise a strong case for view #3 (which was held by the Sadducees/Priests, Kararites and Samaritans). While there are certain evidences presented that the Halacha ruling of the Sanhedrin was according the P’rushim/Pharisees, one must note that that evidence itself is written by the P’rushim! It is important to note here that the Sanhedrin was comprised of both Sadducees (the majority of whom were Cohanim/Priests) and Pharisees (both the house of Hillel and the house of Shammai).

BUT in the latter half of the first century, there was a debate one day in the Sanhedrin between the house of Hillel and the house of Shammai (who were in the minority) and in the fight that broke out over it, the house of Hillel killed the members of the house of Shammai! By the time that the Mishnah was written at the close of the 1st century and the following Talmudic commentary on it was given, there was no voice in these writings other than the house of Hillel!  To me that would somewhat call into question the validity of the statements of the House of Hillel on their absolute authority in matters that were given by Torah to the Cohanim/Priests. We also know that many of the Torah-Sages/Lawyers were Sadducees who were considered experts on interpreting the Torah and it’s applications, including the Temple Mitzvot.   I find it hard to believe that the Cohanim/Sadducees would submit their Temple Mitzvot authority to the P’rushim, with whom they disagreed on so many things.

While there is evidence that for some time during the 40 years after Messiah’s Resurrection until 70 AD, the current Rabbinic method of Firstfruits was used; some have said that this was due to the obvious conclusion the Jewish people would have of Messiah’s Resurrection being in conjunction with the First Feast of First Fruits!!! So, a late Temple Halachic ruling was given, agreed upon by the Sadducees, to change the method so that it would obscure this fact.

It is likewise interesting to note that the literal readings of the New Testament and Torah indicate the first day of the week following the weekly Shabbat would be most logical. Why?  If one takes the literal Bible reading of Yom HaBikurim / Feast of Firstfruits, the counting of the Omer was always began on the 1st day of the week following the LITERAL Shabbat. Now while the P’rushim considered that ‘Shabbat’ mentioned to be Pesach itself, that doesn’t fit at all.  For one reason, you can’t count the day after 7 ‘Shabbats’ to be day 50, if you start other than the 1st day of the week, or else you are calling mundane days, i.e. Monday, Tuesday, etc. as a ‘Shabbat’.  That P’rushim method doesn’t follow the Peshat of Torah at all.

I don’t have time to do a detailed study here on this issue, but there is a lot more that could be said.  While this is a very important issue, it is still a dogmatic one, and not a doctrinal issue. Don’t slam your Brethren over these things 🙂

An article on Zola Levitt’s web-site, by Dr. Thomas McCall, Th.M. in Old Testament studies and a Th.D. in Semitic languages and Old Testament gives some good information; I’m sure there are even better articles out there.  I also have some things on disk about it, but don’t have the time to find and compile them here for you at the moment. When all is said and done,  YHVH knows, even if we’re not sure one way or the other 🙂 (Tentstake disclaimer: the article is well-written and explains quite clearly the differing timings of Feast of Firstfruits. My only concern is the end where he suggests that Yeshua was not in the grave for three days and three nights which was the ‘sign’ he gave to ‘a wicked and adulterous generation.’)

From the Time of Abraham 2000 years before the birth of Messiah Yeshua, the  P’rushim/Pharisees were only in existence for about 150 years post-exile. (They are given WAY too much attention folks!)  The Qumran community was very vocal that the sitting Sanhedrin was invalid, having been corrupted by Rome, and should not be viewed as a minority objection, as they (Qumran) were comprised of Cohanim/Priests/(Sadducees) who were trying to be faithful to Torah.  The Temple Mitzvot were given to  Aaron and his sons (L’vinim/Cohanim – not the P’rushim who didn’t even exist for centuries when these were first given! The Qumran community have Feast of Firstfruits following the ‘weekly’ Shabbat.

Is the contention of certain scholars who suggest that the Sanhedrin changed the Temple mitzvot, (with the Sadducees approval), between 30 to 70 AD for The First Feast of Firstfruits hard to believe?  No.  When considering also that the earliest Midrashim/Commentary on Isaiah 53 was always spoken to be of Messiah before Yeshua’s time was then thereafter from Yeshua’s time, suddenly became considered to be ‘of Israel’ and not ‘of Messiah’, I think we can see a pattern!!! –

If Yeshua warned us to beware the leaven of the P’rushim, why are we as Messianic believers so quick to embrace the teachings of the Rabbi’s today as our guidelines?!

I believe the stronger case is to be made for the first day of the week following  the weekly Shabbat following Pesach. It is a complex and lengthy issue with just a couple of quick observations.

From Joshua 5:10-12.

On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover. The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. The manna stopped the day after[a] they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate the produce of Canaan.” 

Unleavened bread and roasted grain is translated in several versions as OLD corn/produce. We know they didn’t harvest the barley BEFORE Passover and there is no indication that they harvested the next day following Passover.  However, commentaries say they ate the OLD grain stores of the peoples they’d just conquered.   This would make sense as the people’s prior wheat harvest would still be in their storage bins and would have been permitted as grain for ‘unleavened cakes’ and use the OLD stock as parched.

Since it mentions ‘unleavened cakes’/(matzah) in the passage, I ‘think’ that always had to be made from OLD harvest, i.e. wheat, and not a new-barley harvest.  I have noticed that most Rabbinic translations of Joshua don’t use OLD and I’d suspect that is the reason for the Pharisee’s understanding of Yom HaBikkurim. On the other hand, I haven’t researched in depth due to time constraints  that word  OLD is in the Hebrew. Regardless,  it would seem to me the context would be of old/unleavened-cakes/wheat were already there for them anyway.  

On the Biblical calendar each day begins at sundown the day before and ends at sundown on the current day. However, inn Biblical-Judaism for the first day of the counting of the Omer and for each day thereafter, the Omer for those 50 days is counted in the morning. This is because the waving of the barley sheaf was done in the morning by the high-priest in the Temple on Yom HaBikkurim/ The First Feast Of Firstfruits. On this day, following the Resurrection of Messiah Yeshua/(Jesus), and in regards to the waving of the sheaf on this first-day Festival of YHVH, we note when Messiah Yeshua/(Jesus) speaks to Mary/Miryam in the garden that this takes place right before the waving of the sheaf and that His ascension into heaven is  timed with the waving of the barley sheaf in the Temple:

“Yeshua/(Jesus) saith unto her, Touch Me not; for I am not yet ascended to My Father: but go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My Elohim/(God), and your Elohim/(God.)” 1(John)/Yochanan 20:17.

We know from the N.T. Gospel accounts that they rested on the Shabbat before going to the tomb early at the next dawn, and we also know that Yeshua Messiah rose on the first day of the week. Since we know that Messiah did not die on the Shabbat and that the New Testament writers speak of Messiah being our Firstfruits offering,  and since Messiah fulfilled the Biblical spring feast days, then we can easily conclude that the scholarship that says the Temple was following the Sadducee/Cohanim time for Yom-HaBikkurim/First-Fruits (rather than the Pharisee opinion of when it should be), is correct.

Passover, Weekly Sabbath, and Feast of Firstfruits all during the week of Unleavened Bread.

Shalom in Messiah Yeshua!

©March, 2013 William BenCarl

Leave a Reply