FIRST SHEAF

by Avram Yehoshua


A special ceremony is mentioned in Leviticus 23:10-14 that acknowledges Yahveh for what He had given and would give to Israel: the coming year’s harvest (food to sustain life) and the Promised Land; a land flowing with milk and honey. A land of abundance:

Lev. 23:10: “Speak to the Sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you enter the Land which I am going to give to you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring in the sheaf of the first fruits (grain) of your harvest to the (High) Priest.’"

Lev. 23:11: ‘He shall wave the sheaf (omer; about two pounds of grain)1 before Yahveh for you to be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the Priest shall wave it.’

Lev. 23:12: ‘Now on the day when you wave the sheaf, you must offer a male lamb one year old without defect for a burnt offering to Yahveh.’

Lev. 23:13: ‘Its grain offering shall then be two-tenths of an ephah2 of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering by fire to Yahveh for a soothing aroma, with its drink offering, a fourth of a hin of wine.’3

Lev. 23:14: ‘Until this same day, until you have brought in the offering of your God, you shall eat neither bread nor roasted grain nor new growth. It is to be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwelling places.’

The male lamb offered to Yahveh in verse 12 pictured Yeshua dying in the prime of His life (at age 33), offering Himself up to His Father for us. The burnt offering (v. 12) is a picture of total surrender and dedication to Yahveh.

Both the flour and oil of verse 13, and the wine, were once part of things that needed to be crushed in order to be transformed for Israel to use: the fine flour from whole kernels, the oil for olives and the wine from grapes. These all picture Yeshua being crushed or crucified that we might be able to eat of Him as the Matza and Blood of Life filled with the Oil of the Holy Spirit. As we surrender ourselves to Him, He crushes us that His glory within us (the Holy Spirit) might flow out and touch others.

The Procedure

On the Sunday of Passover week known as First Sheaf, the High Priest would be presented with an omer of finely crushed barley. He would scoop up a handful of the grain, place some incense on it (symbolic of the prayers of the High Priest for Israel), wave it before Yahveh (a symbol of dedication, this first part of the crop representing all the harvests), bless Yahveh and acknowledge that He had brought the Hebrews into Israel as He had promised the Fathers, had made them as many as the stars of the heavens and had provided life (food) for them, the symbol of which was in his hand. Then he would cast the handful of grain and incense upon the fire of the bronze Altar of sacrifice. With the first sheaf being dedicated to God it made the rest of the harvest(s) acceptable to Israel for their use, and Israel acceptable to God.

The waving or offering up to God of the first sheaf in Hebrew is omer raysheet אֹמֶר רֵאשִׁית. It literally means the first omer. It’s from this term, omer, and what was done with it, being offered up to Yahveh, that would set in motion what is called ‘the counting of the omer.’ From the day the barley flour was offered, Israel counted 50 days to the next feast, Shavu’ot (Pentecost). The Hebrew of Leviticus 23:15, the verse right after the omer being waved, reads:

‘Then you are to count from the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the omer (sheaf) wave offering, seven Sabbaths’.
This is where we get the phrase, ‘the counting of the omer.’ The relationship of the omer to Shavu’ot is that on the day the first sheaf (Omer) being waved before Yahveh, the High Priest would count 50 days inclusive and that 50th day would be Shavu’ot.

In his blessing Yahveh, the High Priest would thank Yahveh for His faithfulness in keeping His Word to Fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in that they would multiply like the stars of the heavens and their Seed would be given the Land of Israel and their Seed would have Yahveh as their God forever. The promise is seen in Genesis:
Gen. 15:5, 7: “And He took him outside and said, ‘Now look toward the Heavens and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be…And He said to him, ‘I am Yahveh who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this Land to possess it.’"

Gen. 17:2, 4: ‘I will establish My Covenant between Me and you and I will multiply you exceedingly. As for Me, behold, My Covenant is with you and you will be the Father of a multitude of nations.’

Gen. 17:7-8: ‘I will establish My Covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting Covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession and I will be their God.’
On First Sheaf, the High Priest, a physical descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who represented all the Jewish people, thanked Yahveh for keeping His Word. Here they were eating of the ‘fruit’ of the Land that Yahveh had given them. The High Priest, waving the fine flour, pictured Israel’s thankfulness and praise to Yahveh for giving them a Land flowing with milk and honey.

The grain used for First Sheaf would be barley as it ripens four to six weeks before the wheat harvest, (which would be offered on Shavu’ot, which is in early June). First Sheaf would be about early April.

The wave offering of the first harvest pictured it and all the other harvests (summer and fall) that were to follow. They would all be dedicated or holy because the first was. This would make Israel acceptable to Yahveh. Without Him they wouldn’t be there. He was to get the first and the best.

The waving by the High Priest of the finely crushed barley grain, the first sheaf, a handful thrown onto the Altar fire pictured Yeshua being totally dedicated to Yahveh. The incense on that handful of flour that was thrown into the fire pictures the prayers of Yeshua as our High Priest for His people Israel, engulfed in the Fire of the Holy Spirit. The High Priest, thanking Yahveh for the harvest, thanking Yahveh for His faithfulness to Israel pictured Yeshua as our High Priest, thanking His Father for giving unto Israel their Messiah, their Savior, their King, the pure grain/bread of Heaven. The grain that was not thrown onto the fire of the Altar, the priests would eat. This pictured the body of Yeshua being given to His priests, as Food for us (Jn. 6:53). Yahveh has been found faithful to His Word. He has provided everything that Israel needs; from literal food to the Bread (Matza) of Heaven.

The Church Ignorant

Because the Church severed its relationship both with the Jews who believed in Jesus and the Jews who didn’t, and because they also threw the Law of Moses out, they placed themselves in a position of ignorance in relation to many of the basic tenets of the Word of God. First Sheaf is one such instance. In John 20:16 Miryam (Mary) encounters the risen Savior:

“Yeshua said to her, ‘Miryam!’ She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, ‘Rabboni!’" (which is an even more respectful way of calling Yeshua, ‘Rabbi,’ something like, ‘great Rabbi’).
The reason why these sentences are in Scripture is because God wants us to understand that Yeshua’s first appearance has to do with the fulfillment of First Sheaf. First Sheaf was that Sunday of Passover week and Yeshua was in process of fulfilling it. That’s why Yeshua says not to cling to Him in the very next verse:
“Yeshua said to her, ‘Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father, but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God’’" (Jn. 20:17).
Yeshua says to Miryam, ‘Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended’ because He was about to fulfill the ceremony of First Sheaf in Heaven, in the Presence of His Father. Here we see the earthly reality paralleling the heavenly. It doesn’t mean the earthly falls away, only that the heavenly has been revealed, and now, fulfilled. That was the reason why the earthly was established in the first place. They are both valid for picturing what God has done (or will do) for Israel. Now, after Messiah has come, when we enter into the Feasts, we have both understandings of what they mean for us as believers in their earthly and heavenly realities. They are both significant, the earthly meant to continue until the new Heavens and new Jerusalem are established.

Notice also that Yeshua has not yet ascended, but obviously, He has already been resurrected. Many followers of Jesus claim that He rose on Sunday, and because of that, Christianity has Sunday assembly or a ‘Sunday Sabbath,’ but no authoritative cite in the New Testament states that He rose on Sunday.4 Also, there’s nothing in the New Testament that says because Yeshua rose on Sunday, the 7th day Sabbath has given way to Sunday.

Yeshua is first seen on this Sunday of First Sheaf, which is why God set it up this way, for Yeshua ascends as the First Sheaf of all the Harvest (of people) to come. This does not sanctify all Sundays, as interestingly enough, First Sheaf is not even a holy day (an annual Sabbath). This gives no warrant for Sunday observance over Sabbath, as this Sunday was placed within the Feasts of Israel for the specific purpose of both offering the first grain to Yahveh and establishing a time when Yeshua would complement the earthly reality.

Yeshua’s appearance before the Father pictured Yeshua being the First Sheaf from the resurrection of the dead (Earth). He would be holy unto Yahveh and make all that follow Him acceptable before Yahveh. Yeshua ascended to the Father on First Sheaf, but most likely wasn’t raised from the dead on this day, but on the 7th day Sabbath before it.

Yeshua is first seen alive on First Sheaf, but no one sees Him resurrect on Sunday and there is no authoritative Scripture to support a Sunday resurrection (and hence, Sunday assembly over Sabbath assembly or the doing away with of the Sabbath because of an alleged Sunday resurrection). Even if Yeshua did resurrect on Sunday, no cite in the New Testament tells us that because of this, Sunday is now the day of assembly, or that Sunday is the new Sabbath, or that Sunday is holy and blessed as the 7th day Sabbath was in Creation (Gen. 2:3). If Sunday has replaced the seventh day Sabbath we would expect to find volumes on this, not just a (proof text) verse, here or there. These ‘proof texts’ are used to validate the removal of the Sabbath, but these are only further instances of theologians and people misinterpreting Scripture in ignorance. According to Mt. 28:1 the tomb was empty on Saturday night. It reads, ‘Now after the Sabbath, in the dawning towards the first of the week’.

The word for ‘Now’ is ohp’she and means, ‘late, put for the first watch of evening…after the close of the Sabbath.’5 Also, ‘usually between sunset and darkness’.6 The Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament is even more specific, citing both our verse and explaining that it means that the 7th day Sabbath had just passed, that is to say, it was Saturday night at dark when the women came to the tomb and found it empty:
An ‘adverb of time, after a long time, long after, late; a. especially late in the day…i.e. at evening…opse sabbatōn, the sabbath having just passed, after the Sabbath, i.e., at the early dawn of the first day of the week—(an interpretation absolutely demanded by the added specification tē epifōskousē k.t.l.), Matt. 28:1 cf. Mark 16:1’7
This means that it was Saturday night at dark when the women came to the tomb (cf. Mk. 16:1). In biblical terms, the day begins at dark, (Gen. 1:5). In Hebrew it’s known as the first day of the week, which begins Saturday night at dark and He was already risen.

Adding to this is the phrase, ‘In the dawning towards the first of the week’ it does not necessarily refer to sunlight, as in daybreak, for another Greek word or’thros would have been used for that which means ‘daybreak’ or ‘dawn.’ The Greek word in Matt. 28:1 is epi’fos’kus’say which means, ‘to dawn; hence used of the reckoned commencement of the day; to be near commencing.’8 What Matthew is telling us is that the Sabbath had ended and the first day of the week was beginning when Miryam went to the tomb in the darkness of the evening, Saturday night. Also of interest is what the angel says to Miryam about Yeshua, ‘He is not here for He has risen as He said’ (Mt. 28:6). It seems that He rose from the grave on the 7th day Sabbath.

Yeshua as First Sheaf

For Yeshua to be resurrected was no great miracle. He gave life to Lazarus and others who had died. The real miracle is that He prefigures our resurrection and ascension. We shall be like Him, to the glory of God our Father. 1st Cor. 15:22-23 reads:

‘For as in Adam all die, so also in Messiah all will be made alive, but each in his own order: Messiah the First Fruits (Sheaf/Omer), after that those who are Messiah’s at His coming.’
We, like the summer and autumn harvests, will also be resurrected to new life in our time. The first three feasts, falling in the springtime, were given to Israel to speak of something past, present and future; of the earthly and the heavenly. They were a yearly reminder of where Israel had come from, Who had brought them to where they were and what Messiah would do for them. They also picture the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Yeshua. As the Lamb of God He dies on the first day of Matza (15 Aviv), which pictured the firstborn of Egypt dying in order for Israel to be released from Egyptian slavery (Ex. 12:12f., Num. 33:3). At Yeshua’s crucifixion the heavens reverted into a nighttime scene of darkness, even though it was high noon:
Luke 23:44: ‘It was now about the sixth hour (12 in the afternoon) and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour’ (3:00 P.M. when Yeshua dies; cf. Mt. 27:45-56; Mk. 15:33-34).
As the Grain of Heaven He falls into the Earth on the first day of Matza. This is 15 Aviv. This is the day when Israel was set free from Egypt and the day when you were set free from the Kingdom of Satan. It’s His death that coincides with when Israel left Egypt:
‘These are the journeys of the Sons of Israel by which they came out from the land of Egypt by their armies under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. Moses recorded their starting places according to their journeys by the command of Yahveh and these are their journeys according to their starting places. They journeyed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month (on the next day after the Passover)9 the Sons of Israel started out boldly in the sight of all the Egyptians’ (Num. 33:1-3).
This day is the first day of the Feast of Matza, an annual Sabbath, 15 Aviv. It’s on this day that Yeshua cried out, ‘It is finished!’ (Jn. 19:31), which is a reference to the heavenly work of salvation by the death of the Passover Lamb of God.

He was most likely resurrected on the 7th day Sabbath between 3:00 and 6:00 P.M. because the weekly Sabbath is the holiest day of all. Three in the afternoon is when He died. About six in the evening is when He is was placed in the tomb (the heart of the Earth). On the third day, somewhere between three and six in the afternoon on the seventh day Sabbath (of the Passover Week) Yeshua was most likely resurrected to glory.

As the New Harvest, the first of many, He ascends at the exact time that the High Priest was thanking God and waving the new barley grain before Yahveh: the first sheaf wave offering confirming that all Israel would be acceptable to Yahveh, which speaks of us. He told Miryam not to cling to Him because He was going to appear before His Father as the heavenly First Sheaf. The High Priest might have said on that day:
‘Thank You, Yahveh, for your love and kindness to us. You are faithful and true! You promised our Fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that their Seed would be as many as the stars and that they would be given this Land and You have kept Your promise. Here we are, their Seed, in the Land that your promised to give them, and now, here is the first portion (first sheaf/omer) of the Land, in thanksgiving to you.’
With that, the High Priest would take a handful of the finely ground barley, place some incense upon it and toss it upon the Altar to go up in smoke to Yahveh. At about that time Yeshua, who had been speaking with Miryam (Mary) left her and ascended as the First Sheaf to rise from the dead:
John 20:17: “Yeshua said to her, ‘Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father, but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’’"
This ascension (obviously after His resurrection from the dead) is Yeshua fulfilling the picture of the First Sheaf on the first day of the week…He is a new creature…the God-Man glorified. It parallels the first day of Creation when God spoke and said, ‘Let there be Light!’ (Gen. 1:3) and from within the eternal depths of Yahveh came His word, His Son, the Light of the world, slain from before the Foundation of creation.

Other uses of First Sheaf in Scripture

There are a number of times in the New Covenant that the term ‘first sheaf’ (or ‘first fruits’ having an identical meaning) are used. The Apostle Paul uses the term to apply to Yeshua as the first to be raised from the dead and that in fact, Yeshua had been raised from the dead (1st Cor. 15:20, 23). Another use of the term is seen when Paul uses it to describe the Holy Spirit within us, our promise or pledge from Yahveh that He will do for us as He has promised (glorification on the Day of Judgment):

‘And not only this, but also we ourselves having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body’ (Rom. 8:23).
Here Paul used first fruits as a general concept of something that comes first and not a direct reference to the ceremony. It’s also how we experientially come to know our God, by His Spirit. James10 gives us yet another use of the phrase:
‘In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of Truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures’ (James 1:18).
Jacob (James) is the half-brother of Yeshua and the Prince (nasi from the Hebrew, sometimes erroneously translated as ‘president’) of the Assembly of all the Jews in Jerusalem that believed in Yeshua (Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18; Gal. 1:19; 2:9). He’s saying that he considers the believers who have come to Yeshua in his lifetime as the first fruits of the heavenly Harvest.

Israel is seen as the firstborn son of Yahveh (Ex. 4:22), and so, from Israel comes a first fruits who have believed on the Messiah of Israel. In Rev. 14:1f. the 144,000 are also seen as first fruits:
‘These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased (redeemed) from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb’ (Rev. 14:4).
That these refer to the natural Seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob seems to have support from this verse:
‘And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every Tribe of the Sons of Israel’ (Rev. 7:4).
From Rev. 7:9 we see that Gentiles who love the Lord are also present. It’s interesting to see that they have palm branches in their hands as this is peculiar to the last great harvest feast, Sukote, the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:33-44).
‘After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues standing before the Throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes and palm branches were in their hands’ (Rev. 7:9).
You and I are more like the End Time Harvest (than the ‘us’ or ‘we’ in Jacob 1:18). Our ‘time’ or picture is in the fall or autumn of salvation history, and yet, we are all ‘firstborn sons of God:
“For you have not come to a Mountain that can be touched and to a blazing Fire and to Darkness, gloom and whirlwind and to the blast of a Shofar and the sound of Words, which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them. For they could not bear the command, ‘If even a beast touches the Mountain, it must be stoned.’ And so terrible was the sight that Moses said, ‘I am full of fear and trembling.’ But you have come to Mount Zion and to the City of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem and to myriads of angels, to the General Assembly and Congregation of the Firstborn who are enrolled in Heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect and to Yeshua, the Mediator of a New Covenant, and to the sprinkled Blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel’" (Heb. 12:18-24).
The Congregation of the Firstborn is a throwback to Yahveh calling Israel His firstborn Son and we know that Yeshua is truly the Father’s Firstborn Son (Ps. 2:7; Jn. 1:18). The concept is also seen in Yeshua speaking of His followers as being ‘chosen’:
‘You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit and that your fruit would remain so that whatever you ask of the Father in My Name He may give to you’ (Jn. 15:16).
Both times that Yeshua mentions choose and chose, the Greek parallels the Hebrew for the chosen people and here it speaks of Yeshua choosing them.11 Of course, Yeshua wasn’t speaking Greek, but Hebrew, and so the words He used would have come from bahar

. Finally, there is the general conceptual framework of ‘first fruits’ taken to be a person or a family outside of Israel that was the first to respond to the Message of Life in Yeshua the Messiah:
‘Likewise, greet the assembly that is in their house. Salute my well beloved Epaenetus who is the first fruits of Achaia unto Christ’ (Rom. 16:5).

‘Now, I urge you, brethren (you know the household of Stephanas, that they were the first fruits of Achaia and that they have devoted themselves for ministry to the saints)’ (1st Cor. 16:15).

The Technical Problem

In the seven day Feast of Matza there would naturally be a Sunday. On this Sunday the High Priest would wave finely crushed grain from the first of the barley crop. It symbolized Israel’s recognition that Yahveh, the Owner of the Land, had provided sustenance (food) for His people Israel. First Sheaf would always fall on a Sunday, the day after the seventh day Sabbath, in counter-distinction to what the Pharisees thought, what the Rabbis practice today, and what some believers would tell us was the way the Temple operated during the Second Temple period.12

The Sadducees followed the understanding that the Sunday after the seventh day Sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread was ‘the day after the Sabbath’ that Lev. 23:11 spoke of. In the seven day Feast of Matza there are (generally) three Sabbaths: the first and seventh days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (which are annual Sabbaths) and the seventh day Sabbath (that always comes after Friday.)13

The Pharisees, on the other hand, believed that ‘the day after the Sabbath’ in Lev. 23:11 referred to the first day of Unleavened Bread, 15 Aviv, which is an annual Sabbath. This position, as we’ll see, is untenable, but has been adopted in Judaism since the destruction of the Temple because the Rabbis are the spiritual descendants of the Pharisees. With their belief that ‘the day after the Sabbath’ refers to 15 Aviv (today called 15 Nisan), 50 days later would always be 6 Sivan. That’s when Orthodox Judaism (and unfortunately most so-called Messianic congregations) celebrate Shavu’ot (Pentecost).

The problem with the Pharisaic interpretation is seen in that both First Sheaf and the Feast that is marked 50 days later, Shavu’ot, are never given any date in Scripture. If the counting of the 50 days would always commence the day after the first day Sabbath of Matza (16 Aviv/Nisan), then Shavu’ot would always fall on 6 Sivan.

Neither of these dates (16 Aviv nor 6 Sivan) is ever mentioned by Yahveh or anyone else in Scripture and that’s because those dates for First Sheaf and Shavu’ot are ‘floating dates’ and can’t be given. First Sheaf, and consequently Shavu’ot, 50 days later, always change dates from year to year, depending on what day of the week Passover begins (Monday, Tuesday, etc.).

Yahveh speaks of the dates for all the other Feasts, but doesn’t give either First Sheaf or Shavu’ot. This is the key to understanding that the Sadducees were right. The weekly seventh day Sabbath within the Feast of Matza can fall on either the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, etc. of the month of Aviv, and therefore, the date for First Sheaf, the day after the Sabbath, would always be changing. It could be the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, etc. of Aviv, thereby making the date for Shavuot 50 days later, as either the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, etc. of the third Hebrew month (Sivan).

The Scripture for Shavu’ot (literally, ‘sevens’ or ‘weeks,’ which refers to the seven weeks that one must wait to celebrate it) states this:

‘You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day when you brought in the Sheaf of the wave offering. There shall be seven complete Sabbaths. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a new grain offering to Yahveh’ (Lev. 23:15-16).
You might say it seems plain to you: ‘the day after the seventh Sabbath is obviously always going to be a Sunday, and seven complete Sabbaths seems pretty clear also, but the way that it’s worded in English doesn’t take into account that ‘Sabbath’ can also be used of our ‘week’ and not refer to the 7th day Sabbath. This is the way that the Pharisees and modern Judaism take it: ‘seven complete weeks’ and ‘the day after the seventh week.’ This has some grammatical support, but it doesn’t have any biblical validity.

Just like your birthday, which is always the same date every year, but will fall on a different day of the week, so too, with the Passover meal. It’s always 15 Aviv, but 15 Aviv can fall on a Monday night or a Tuesday night, etc. Now, First Sheaf, biblically, will always be the Sunday of Passover Week, but its date, 16 Aviv, 17 Aviv, etc., will change from year to year, depending on what day (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, etc.) the Passover begins. That’s why God didn’t give a date for either First Sheaf or Shavu’ot—every year the dates change.

To clarify the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread week, the Passover sacrifice of the lamb happens as the sun is setting on 14 Aviv. What is the Passover? The Passover is not ‘a day’ per se, but refers to the sacrifice of the lamb around 5:00 P.M. on 14 Aviv.

A few hours later at dark, the biblical day changes to 15 Aviv, the beginning of the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (an annual Sabbath no matter what day of the week it falls on). This is the first day of the Feast, the first day of the Feast of Matza. About 9:00 P.M. the lamb will be eaten during the Passover ceremonial meal.

At dawn it will still be 15 Aviv. When dark comes, 12 hours later, it will begin 16 Aviv; this is the second day of Matza. It’s the day when the ancient Pharisees and modern Rabbis believe the First Sheaf should be offered.

The Sadducees, which were biblically correct, would wait till the day after the seventh day Sabbath (Friday night dark till Saturday night dark is the Sabbath) and on the next day, Sunday, the High Priest would offer the First Sheaf.

Aviv 21, the seventh day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, is an annual Sabbath (the Feast of Matza is from 15–21 Aviv, seven days). The community comes together for the holy assembly on the last day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

If the counting began on the day after the Sabbath of Unleavened Bread, as the Pharisees and modern Judaism contend, First Sheaf would always be on 16 Aviv and Shavu’ot would always be on 6 Sivan. Two days, two dates, very simple, but we never see them in Scripture.

If the counting for Shavu’ot (Pentecost) begins on the day after the weekly Sabbath, then Yahveh could not give a date because it would continually change from year to year, depending upon what day of the week the Passover lamb would be slain:
  1. If 14 Aviv, the Passover, the sacrifice of the lamb, fell on a Sunday at 5:00 P.M. then the Feast of Unleavened Bread, 15 Aviv, would begin at darkness and the lamb would be eaten around 9:00 P.M. Sunday night. The date for the following Sunday, the day after the seventh day (weekly) Sabbath, would be 21 Aviv. This would be both First Sheaf and the concluding day of Unleavened Bread, the annual Sabbath of the last day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread for those dates that year.

  2. If 14 Aviv, the Passover, the sacrifice of the lamb, fell on a Monday at 5:00 P.M. then the Feast of Unleavened Bread, 15 Aviv, would begin at darkness and the lamb would be eaten around 9:00 P.M. Monday night. The date for the following Sunday, the day after the seventh day (weekly) Sabbath would be 20 Aviv. This would be First Sheaf that year.

  3. If 14 Aviv, the Passover, the sacrifice of the lamb, fell on a Tuesday at 5:00 P.M. then the Feast of Unleavened Bread, 15 Aviv, would begin at darkness and the lamb would be eaten around 9:00 P.M. Tuesday night. The date for the following Sunday, the day after the seventh day (weekly) Sabbath would be 19 Aviv. This would be First Sheaf that year.
  4. If 14 Aviv, the Passover, the sacrifice of the lamb, fell on a Wednesday at 5:00 P.M. then the Feast of Unleavened Bread, 15 Aviv, would begin at darkness, and the lamb would be eaten around 9:00 P.M. Wednesday night. The date for the following Sunday, the day after the seventh day (weekly) Sabbath would be 18 Aviv. This would be First Sheaf that year.

  5. If 14 Aviv, the Passover, the sacrifice of the lamb, fell on a Thursday at 5:00 P.M. then the Feast of Unleavened Bread, 15 Aviv, would begin at darkness and the lamb would be eaten around 9:00 P.M. Thursday night. The date for the following Sunday, the day after the seventh day (weekly) Sabbath, would be 17 Aviv. This would be First Sheaf that year.

  6. If 14 Aviv, the Passover, the sacrifice of the lamb, fell on a Friday at 5:00 P.M. then the Feast of Unleavened Bread, 15 Aviv, would begin at darkness and the lamb would be eaten around 9:00 P.M. Friday night. The date for the following Sunday, the day after the seventh day (weekly) Sabbath, would be 16 Aviv. This would be First Sheaf that year.
    a.  This would be the only time when the two different interpretations of the Sadducees and the Pharisees would dovetail together. 16 Aviv (Pharisee) would be that Sunday, and that Sunday would also be ‘the day after the seventh day Sabbath’ (Sadducees).

    b.  It seems that Joshua, when he brought the Sons of Israel into the Promised Land, celebrated that first Passover in Canaan on a Friday night, with First Sheaf on Sunday. This would account for the Scriptures stating that Israel kept the Passover on the 14th day and that they ‘ate of the produce of the land on the day after the Passover (i.e. the day after the first day of Matza; 16 Aviv)…the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten of the produce of the land’ (Joshua 5:10-12). For Israel to eat of the produce of the land on the day after 16 Aviv implies that the Passover meal was eaten on Friday night and First Sheaf was offered up on Sunday for it states that one wasn’t to eat of the new barley crop until the first sheaf had been dedicated to Yahveh (Lev. 23:10-14).

    c.  Some people point to Joshua 5:10-12 to prove that the Pharisaic-rabbinic concept is right, but all it proves is that the Passover lamb was slain on Friday and they eat the meal on Friday night and that that year the Pharisaic interpretation coincided with the biblical reality.
  7. If 14 Aviv, the Passover, the sacrifice of the lamb, fell on the weekly 7th day Sabbath at 5:00 P.M. then the Feast of Unleavened Bread, 15 Aviv, would begin at darkness and the lamb would be eaten around 9:00 P.M. Saturday night. First Sheaf would be eight days later, after the next weekly Sabbath.
    a.  The Feast of Matza literally begins that night (Saturday night) so the ‘day after the Sabbath’ that First Sheaf must fall on has to wait a full week until the seventh day Sabbath within the Feast of Matza comes around. God would want them to wait for a week until the weekly Sabbath actually fell within the Feast of Unleavened. This seventh day weekly Sabbath would also be the last day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the ceremony of First Sheaf would take place the day after this Sabbath, on that Sunday, actually outside the perimeter of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, on 22 Aviv.

    b.  Some might say that it should be offered on that first Sunday, 15 Aviv, so that it can take place within the Feast of Unleavened Bread, but nowhere in Scripture does it say that First Sheaf must take place within the Feast of Unleavened Bread. (The seventh day weekly Sabbath, when the lamb would have been sacrificed at 5:00 P.M.14 cannot be considered as it is not the 7th day Sabbath within the Feast of Matza.)

    c.  I used to think that First Sheaf should come within the framework of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and so I opted for First Sheaf being observed on that Sunday, 15 Aviv, but God does not make any provision or exception for the Passover sacrifice being on Saturday 14 Aviv, saying that First Sheaf should then be on the next day, Sunday, the first day of the Feast of Matza, an annual Sabbath.

    d.  Also, there seems to be no biblical reason why First Sheaf can’t be done on the Sunday after the last day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The last day of the Feast would be both the seventh day weekly Sabbath and the seventh day Sabbath of the Feast itself. The Feast of Matza would end on Saturday night at dark and the next day, Sunday, would be 22 Aviv, when First Sheaf would take place.
Depending on what week day 14 Aviv came, the day when the lamb would be sacrificed, would determine the actual Sunday date for the First Sheaf ceremony in Temple times. It would always be that Sunday coming, but the date of the Sunday would change from year to year, depending on if Passover began on a Monday, or Tuesday, etc. Consequently, Shavu’ot 50 days later, would always have a different date every year, too. Because of this ‘floating date’ God couldn’t give the dates for either First Sheaf or Shavu’ot and this directly points to the ‘day after the Sabbath’ as being the day after the 7th day Sabbath in Passover Week.

The Talmud—Can we Trust it?

Most scholars today, both Jewish and non-Jewish, agree that Second Temple practices were in the hands of the priests. Things like when First Sheaf, and therefore, Shavu’ot, would have been, followed the Sadducean concept, and not that of the Pharisees. This disagrees with the Talmud, but Jacob Neusner, ‘an internationally recognized authority on the Talmud and a conservative Jewish scholar’15 states that the Talmudic writings that refer to the Second Temple period are,
‘Sayings and stories…made up and attributed to prior times or authorities.’16
Neusner presents that historical facts didn’t get in the way of rewriting what actually had transpired during the Second Temple period after the Second Temple was destroyed and there was no one around to argue with the Pharisees:
‘Ample evidence in virtually every document of rabbinic literature sustains the proposition that it was quite common for sages to make up sayings and stories and attribute the sayings to, or tell stories about, other prior authorities. Considerations of historical fact did not impede the search for religious truth: the norms of belief and behavior. That is why, if all we want are historical facts, we cannot believe everything we read except as evidence of what was in the mind of the person who wrote up the passage: opinion held at the time of the closure of a document.’17
‘David Kraemer, a Jewish professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York City wrote that it is impossible to determine from the Talmud what actually went on during the Second Temple period:18
“Scholars, mostly Jewish but also non-Jewish, have been using Rabbinic sources for historical study for well over a century. These studies–one ‘History of the Jews in the Talmudic Period’ or another–have been, almost without exception, what Jacob Neusner terms ‘gullible.’ They have assumed, in other words, that the Rabbinic record can, more or less, be taken at its word and that, once one has determined the ‘original version’ of a teaching and discounted obvious fabulous material" (meaning gross exaggerations of the Rabbis), “one may accept that teaching as historically reliable."

“By this stage in the development of Judaic scholarship, the folly of these earlier habits is broadly recognized. Neusner and others have pointed to a variety of crucial and even fatal flaws in the approach just described, and there is hardly a scholar writing today about the history of Jews in late antiquity who does not at least pay lip service (though often no more than lip service!) to the much repeated critique. But even the critical questions that have been articulated–Can we believe Rabbinic attributions for purposes of dating a tradition? Why should we believe what any given tradition reports? and so forth–do not capture the full scope of the problem of using such records for writing history. In the following pages, I will describe the obstacles that would have to be overcome before we could be sure that a Rabbinic record contains historically reliable evidence. I will conclude that these obstacles are effectively insurmountable, and that most sorts of political, social, or religious histories cannot be constructed on the basis of Rabbinic testimony. " 19
William Green writes that the times of the Feasts were in the hands of the Aaronic Priesthood:
Before the fall of the Jerusalem temple in A.D. 70, the priests proclaimed the sacred times of the year. In the aftermath of the temple’s destruction, the new rabbinic movement appropriated that priestly task to itself."20
Neusner concurs with Green and declares,
‘The Pharisees before 70 did not control the Temple and did not make laws to govern its cult [the Levitical priesthood]. But afterward, they made plans for the conduct of the Temple when it would be restored.’21
What the Talmud says about First Sheaf taking place on 16 Aviv is not to be taken as historical. It’s the product of deceitful rabbinic minds that rewrote the history and practices of the Second Temple period to suit their teachings and religious practices.

The Sadducean priests controlled the Temple in the days of the Apostles. Their concept of when First Sheaf, and therefore, Shavu’ot, would come, is the biblical model. In the days of Messiah Yeshua they were on Sundays. Shavu’ot happened on a Sunday. The Apostles of the Lord were drenched in the Holy Spirit on that annual Jewish feast known as Pentecost.22

Today, Judaism, which is a direct offshoot of the Pharisees, is wrong on their dating for First Sheaf and Shavu’ot, and so, too, are all the so-called Messianic believers who follow the Rabbis. The Lord warned us not to follow Pharisaic teaching when He said to the Apostles:
“‘Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.’ How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?!—but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees" (Mt. 16:6, 11-12).

First Sheaf recognizes God’s provision for Israel in the land that He promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The ultimate provision, Yeshua, alive from the dead, appeared before His Father, as the First Sheaf to rise from the dead, acknowledging God’s promise of a Savior for Israel.

First Sheaf is not a holy day (unless it coincides with the seventh day Sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, as on page 9, point 1). It should, though, now that we know the significance of it, be celebrated as a time of feasting and thanksgiving unto the Father for keeping His promise of sending provision for forgiveness of sin and eternal life in His Son, Yeshua, and Yeshua’s ascending to the Father as the first to rise from the dead.

ENDNOTES:

1.   C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary On The Old Testament, vol. 1: The Pentateuch (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2001), p. 368. About five pints.

2.   W. H. Bellinger, Jr., New International Biblical Commentary: Leviticus, Numbers (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2001), p. 122. An ephah was a dry measure of weight about 20 quarts (20 liters). Two-tenths of an ephah would weigh about four quarts (four liters).

3.   Ibid. A hin of wine weighed about six pints (three quarts or three liters).

4.   For the only place that seems to say that Yeshua rose on Sunday, see Mark 16:9 and the Resurrection at http://seedofabraham.net/mark169Res.html.

5.   Wesley J. Perschbacher, editor, The New Analytical Greek Lexicon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publications, 1990), p. 301.

6.  “ὀψέ,” BDAG, p. 746. Pertains ‘to an advanced point of time in the day (usually between sunset and darkness), late…specif. to the period between late afternoon and darkness, late in the day, evening i.e. in the evening…marker of a point of time subsequent to another point of time, after.’

7.  “ὀψέ,” Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, n.p.

8.   Perschbacher, The New Analytical Greek Lexicon, p. 168.

9.   The next day after the Passover refers to the day the Passover lambs were slain in Egypt (14 Aviv).

10.   The Hebrew name of James should have been translated into English as Jacob, but because of anti-Semitism among many past and present theologians, a foreign, non-Jewish sounding name was used. It’s interesting that John 4:6 speaks of Jacob’s well, and not James’ well, suggesting that the half brother of Yeshua could have been called Jacob.

11.   “ἐκλέγομαι,” Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, n.p. ‘the Septuagint for bāḥar; to pick out, choose; in the N.T…to pick or choose out for oneself…one from among many (of Jesus choosing his disciples), John 6:70; 13:18; 15:16; Acts 1:2.’

12.   It seems that the Mishna-Talmud was edited by the Rabbis after the destruction of the Second Temple period to place their Pharisaic view for when First Sheaf would be, and therefore, Shavu’ot, as the practice of the Second Temple period. Many other things were similarly revised.

13.   If either the first day or the last day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread coincides with the seventh day Sabbath then, for all practical purposes, there are only two Sabbaths; one of the annual Sabbaths coinciding with the 7th day Sabbath.

14.   I have used 5:00 P.M. as the time when the lambs would have been sacrificed, believing that this would be the approximate time that they would have sacrificed them at the First Passover in Egypt. The Scriptures say that the sacrifice is to take place ‘between the two evenings’ and this is generally seen as dusk. This has been variously interpreted, and in Yeshua’s day, because of the vast number of lambs that were taken to the Temple to be sacrificed for the Passover, it started about 2:00 P.M.

15.   Herb Solinsky, The Hail Plague and the First Biblical Month, a 61 page treatise found at http://sevendayweek.com/articles/fi.pdf, p. 41.

16.   Ibid. Jacob Neusner, Rabbinic Literature & the New Testament (Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1994), p. 13.

17.   Ibid. Neusner, Rabbinic Literature & the New Testament, p. 68.

18.   Ibid., pp. 41-42.

19.   Ibid., p. 42. David Kraemer, Rabbinic Sources for Historical Study, Judaism in Late Antiquity, part 3, volume 1, (edited by Jacob Neusner and Alan J. Avery-Peck. Leiden: Brill, 1999), p. 201.

20.   Ibid. William Scott Green, Storytelling and Holy Man, Take Judaism, for Example (edited by Jacob Neusner. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1983), pp. 35-36.

21.   Ibid. Jacob Neusner, In Search of Talmudic Biography (Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1984), p. 81.

22.   For why the Lord chose this day to immerse His Jewish followers in the promised Holy Spirit, see Shavu’ot at http://seedofabraham.net/pentecst.html or ask Avram for the PDF.


Email Avram — avramyeh@gmail.com

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