By Richard Adu-Ntow
The Feast of First Fruits is the third of the 7 annual Feasts of the Lord, as stipulated in Leviticus 23. It occurred in the spring season on the first month of the biblical calendar (Exodus 12:2), the month of the Abib (Exodus 13:4) or the Month of Nisan (This would be March/ April on the Gregorian calendar); which is the Sunday after the Passover (Also known as Resurrection Sunday). Leviticus 23:10-14 tells us exactly what God expected the children of Israel to do on this particular day of the year, it reads:
Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest. 11 He shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. 12 And you shall offer on that day, when you wave the sheaf, a male lamb of the first year, without blemish, as a burnt offering to the LORD. 13 Its grain offering shall be two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire to the LORD, for a sweet aroma; and its drink offering shall be of wine, one-fourth of a hin. You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your God; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
First Fruits was the day that marked the beginning of the cereal grain harvest in Israel (Leviticus 23:10-11). Barley was the first grain to ripen of those sown in the winter months, then wheat, and then various fruits (Deuteronomy 8:8). For First Fruits, a sheaf of barley was harvested and brought to the Temple priest as a thanksgiving offering unto the Lord for the harvest. This offering was representative of the whole harvest and served as a pledge or guarantee that the rest of the harvest would come in, in its entirety, in the days that followed. So in essence this offering sanctified the rest of the harvest in the sight of God.
The children of Israel were commanded to celebrate this feast when they entered into the Promised Land (Canaan) on the day after the first Sabbath of the year (Leviticus 23:11). Since a specific calendar date is not given for the feast, we assume its time of observance to be on the day after the weekly Sabbath of the days of unleavened bread or the Passover season (Sunday, which would be the 16th of the month). However, the word Sabbath is also designated any holy day on which work was prohibited, no matter what day of the week it was (Leviticus 23:24, 32, 39). In order to get scriptural evidence that this particular Sabbath is referring to a weekly Sabbath we can look at Joshua 5:10, which reads:
10 Now the children of Israel camped in Gilgal, and kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight on the plains of Jericho.
11 And they ate of the produce of the land on the day after the Passover, unleavened bread and parched grain, on the very same day. 12 Then the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten the produce of the land; and the children of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate the food of the land of Canaan that year.
You can see that the Passover was kept on the Nisan-14 (Leviticus 23:5) and then they celebrated the feast of unleavened bread on the day after the Passover, which was Nisan 15 (Leviticus 23:6) and the day of first-fruits would of occurred after this on Nisan 16. This is why the manna ceased because they were commanded in Leviticus 23:14 that they should not eat bread or parched grain until the first-fruits offering was offered unto God. Thus, the Chronology of the Passover season consisted of Passover (Nisan 14), the feast of unleavened bread (7 days, Nisan 15-21), and the feast of first-fruits (Nisan 16). The second day of unleavened bread (Nisan 16) was also first fruits, a day simultaneously shared by both feasts.
The procedures for first fruits were outlined by God in Leviticus 23:9-14. A sheaf of barley was to be brought to the temple priest who would wave it before the Lord for acceptance (wave offering or wave sheaf offering). There would also be a number of accompanying sacrifices: an unblemished male Lamb of the first year, a drink offering of wine, and a meal offering of the barley mixed with olive oil. The people were forbidden to partake of any part of the harvest in anyway until the first fruits was offered up to the Lord (Leviticus 23:14). To neglect these first fruits offerings or any other offering was considered robbery of God (Malachi 3:8). The ritual for first fruits is outlined in Deuteronomy 26:1-11. First Fruits is to be observed, “When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance”… (Vs 1 ). When the First fruits are brought to the priest the giver is to say, “Today I acknowledge to the Lord your God that I have entered the land the Lord swore to our fathers (Vs 3). The priest will then take the offering and place it before the alter in the tabernacle (later the temple), and the giver then recites the story of the Lord emancipating the children of Israel from Egypt and the giving of the Promised Land (Vs 4-10). The giver then bows down and worships God (Vs 10). The giver joins the priest and even the foreign resident amongst the people in rejoicing in all the good things the Lord has given them and his household (Vs 11).
First Fruits was pre-eminently seen as a time marker. It marked the beginning of the grain harvest in Israel, but even more importantly, it marked the countdown to the feast of weeks (Pentecost), the fourth of Israel’s annual feasts. Beginning with first fruits, forty-nine days (or seven sevens) were counted and on the fiftieth day the feast of weeks was celebrated. The reason the feast of Pentecost is also called the feast of weeks is because it always comes exactly 7 weeks or Sabbaths after first fruits. The Lord commanded Israel, saying: “And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath‘’ (Leviticus 23:15-16). As a result, this period of time was, and still is known as the counting the sheaf because of the ritual of counting the days from the offering of the barley sheaf to the feast of weeks (Exodus 34:22, Deut16:10; 16:16, Numbers 28:26, 2 Chronicles 8:13). So the Feast of First Fruits and the Feast of Pentecost are always linked by this 50 day period.
We know that First Fruits was the day Jesus rose again because He died in the first month of the Jewish year on the day of Passover (Nisan 14); this day was also a preparation day when the Jews would prepare for the Feast of Unleavened Bread by removing all the leaven from their houses (Leviticus 23:6-7 Exodus 12:15;12:19; John 19:14;19:31; Luke 23:54; Mark 15:42;). Jesus was then buried during the first day of Unleavened Bread which was a high Sabbath (Nisan 15) and rose again on the ‘morrow after the Sabbath’ (Leviticus 23:11 cf Matt 28:1, Mark 16:2, Luke 24:1, John 20:1, John 20:19) early Sunday morning on the day of first fruits (Nisan 16). So this would have been the day when the people of Israel would have taken the first fruits of their harvest to the High Priest to be waved before the Lord. The Apostle Paul makes it perfectly clear that Jesus was our first-fruits offering to God, when he writes:
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits 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 Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.
Jesus compared himself to a grain of wheat before his death (John 12:24), this comparison is very significant because even though barley is the first grain to ripen of the seeds planted during the winter months, and therefore the first to be harvested. It is Wheat that is harvested exactly 50 days subsequent to the Feast of First Fruits, on the Feast of Pentecost (Exodus 34:22). At His resurrection and ascension he became the first fruits offering (Wave Sheaf) on our behalf. This can be seen early on in the book of Genesis, when Joseph (A type of Christ) has a dream about him being a sheaf exalted above other sheaves (Genesis 37:5-11). After rising from the dead he visited his friends for a further 40 days (Acts 1:3) until He was taken up into heaven (Luke 24:51) and a few days later (Acts 1:5), on the 50th day subsequent to first fruits (The Feast of Pentecost), the Spirit of Christ descended upon the believers in the Upper Room, and Peter preached in power and three thousand souls were in-gathered, thus beginning the wheat harvest; which will continue until the last of God’s elect is saved (Matthew 13:39).
Jesus rose on first fruits Sunday. The annual feast of First Fruits in the Gospels is known in most translations of the bible as the ‘First day of the week’ (Matt 28:1, Mark 16:2, Luke 24:1, John 20:1, John 20:19). If you look carefully at all the occurrences of this term in the King James translation for instance, the word day is always italicized so therefore this word is not actually present in the Greek, it has just been added to fit what is thought to be the context. It is common practice to add words in italics wherever they are needed, to give what is thought to be a meaningful translation. But in this case I believe the translators have done damage to the intended meaning. The First day of week implies a regular weekly Sunday with no greater significance than any other, but a careful study of the Greek and some other passages of scripture show that the first day of the week is actually the annual feast of first fruits which was fulfilled with Christ’s corporeal resurrection.
The Greek words that are used, mian sabbaton, should literally read ‘the first of the sabbaths’ (Young’s literal translation has this correct) or it can also be called ‘the first of weeks’ (some use the literal rendering of the Greek to advocate the ridiculous notion of a weekly Sunday Sabbath, but scripture knows nothing of this). The First of the Sabbaths is none other than the day of First Fruits. This annual feast was also called the first of the Sabbaths or the first of weeks because it is the first day that Israel were told to count 7 Sabbaths or weeks until the feast of weeks (Pentecost) (Leviticus 23:15-16; Deuteronomy 16:9). The first day of the week (first fruits) is the particular day (Nisan 16, which sometimes coincides with Easter Sunday) that Jesus rose from the dead and 50 days after this came the feast of Pentecost, First Fruits and Pentecost are always linked by a 50 day period, as I have already established.
In the bible ‘firsts’ are very significant because they generally represent pre-eminence or importance for example Jesus is the:
The first fruits principle is replete throughout the whole of scripture, here are some more examples:
Date : 30/11/-0001