The Feast Of Firstfruits
THE FEAST OF FIRSTFRUITS was the third feast Israel celebrated during the passover festival
to the Israelites and say to them: 'When you
the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath' Leviticus 23:10-11
Passover week, in the days of the Temple, originally consisted of three main events: (1) the Passover lamb slain on the fourteenth of Nisan, (2) the Feast of Unleavened Bread beginning on the fifteenth of Nisan, and (3) the Offering of Firstfruits on the sixteenth of Nisan.
The Sadducees at the time of our Lord disagreed with this chronology. Some modem Commentators also disagree. The difference is due to a misunderstanding of the words "on the day after the Sabbath" (Leviticus 23: 11). The word "Sabbath" not only refers to the seventh day of the week; it also clearly refers to the day of the festivals themselves (see Leviticus 23:24-25, 32, 39). The Sadducees, however, believed that the first sheaf was always offered on the day following the weekly Sabbath of the Passover week. The testimony of Josephus proves beyond a doubt that the word "Sabbath" in this instance is the fifteenth of Nisan, on whatever day of the week it fell.
But on the second day of unleavened bread which is the Sixteen day of the month, they first partake of the fruits of the earth, for before that day they do not touch them. (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 3, X, 5.)
Firstfruits: The Temple Service
The Feast of Firstfruits was not just a harvest festival it was an acknowledgment of God's bounty and providence to Israel. The order of service for the presentation of the firstfruits during temple days is fascinating and instructive. Remember, the day began at sundown. Alfred Edersheim details the order of service:
Already, on the fourteenth of Nisan, the spot whence the first sheaf was to. be reaped had been marked out by delegates from the Sanhedrin, by tying together in bundles, while still standing the barley that was to be cut down. Though, for obvious reasons, it was customary to choose for this purpose the sheltered Ashes Valley across Kedron, there was no restriction on that point provided the barley had grown in an ordinary field in Palestine itself, and not in garden or orchard land and that the soil had not been manured nor yet artificially watered. When the time for cutting the sheaf had arrived, that is, on the evening of the fifteenth of Nisan (even though it were a Sabbath), just as the sun went down, three men, each with a sickle and basket formally set to work. But in order clearly to bring out all that was distinctive in the ceremony, they first asked of the bystanders three times .each of these questions: "Has the sun gone down?" With this sickle?" "Into this basket?" "On this Sabbath (or first passover day)?" and lastly, "Shall I reap?" Having each time been answered in the affirmative, they cut down barley to the amount of one ephah, or ten omers, or three seahs, which is equal to about three pecks and three pints of our English measure. ·The ears were brought into the court of the Temple and thrashed out with canes or stalks, so as not to injure the corn; then “parched on a pan perforated with holes, so that each grain might be touched by the fire, and finally exposed to the wind. The corn thus prepared was ground in a barley mill which left the hulls whole. According to some the flour was always successively passed through thirteen sieves, each closer than the other. The statement of a rival authority, however, seems more rational-that it was only done till the flour was sufficiently fine, which was ascertained by one of the Gizbarim (treasurers) plunging his hands into it, the sifting process being continued so long as any of the flour adhered to the hands. Though one ephah, or ten omers, of barley was cut down, only one corner of flour, or about 5.1 pints of our measure, was offered in the Temple on the second paschal, or sixteenth day of Nisan.? (Edersheim, Alfred, The Temple, Its Ministry and Services, pp. 223·224.)
By the consecration of the firstfruits, the people of Israel joyfully proclaimed that they not only offered the firstfruits to the Lord, but that the whole harvest belonged to Him.
Firstfruits: Its New Testament Fulfillment
The New Testament tells of another harvest.
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have
fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes
also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ
all will be made alive. But
"Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep." We rejoice in the fact of our Lord's resurrection. He is risen from the dead. There is a vast difference between the teaching of the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body. Paganism gladly accepts the truth of the immortality of the soul, but that is not our hope. Our hope is not in an immortal, disembodied soul. It is in the resurrection of the body. Our Lord really died; His body was buried; He rose from the dead. The body of our Lord, which was resurrected, was the same body that died for us. Since He is the firstfruits of the harvest, so also is the harvest: "But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him" (I Corinthians 15:23). This truth gives us abundant comfort.
We should be clear in our thinking about the meaning of the word ‘resurrection" as it applies to the Lord Jesus Christ and as it will apply to believers. It means more than to reanimate, to resuscitate, or to reinvigorate. There were several resurrections before our Lord rose from the dead. In. the Old Testament, the Lord heard Elijah's prayer and raised the widow s son from the dead (1 Kings 17:17.23). In the New Testament, our Lord raised from the dead the daughter of Jairus (Luke 8:41·56), the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11·15), and Lazarus (John 11:43.44).
There is a remarkable study in contrasts concerning these three resurrections found in the New Testament. The body of each was in a different condition. The girl appeared to be sleeping; the young man was being carried to his grave, decay already begun in the warm climate; Lazarus had been dead four days and decay was advanced. Our Lord used a different method in each case: He took the little girl by her hand; He didn't touch the body of the young man, He touched the bier which was bearing him to the grave; and He cried to Lazarus with a loud voice. His care for each was different: He fed the girl; He gave the son to his mother; and He had Lazarus released from his grave clothes. Here the contrasts end. The comparisons are equally vivid: they were all dead, they were all raised from the dead, it was our Lord who raised them, and they all died again. Our Lord’s resurrection was different. He rose to die no more! "Christ, the firstfruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him."
The contrasts and comparisons between our Lord's resurrection and that of Lazarus are especially instructive. The stone had to be rolled away to let Lazarus come out of the tomb. The angel rolled the stone away from our Lord's tomb, not to let the Lord out, but to permit the disciples to enter: Lazarus "came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face" (John 11:44), and the disciples had to take off the grave clothes and let him go. How different it was with the resurrection of our Lord! He is the Prince of Life. It was utterly impossible that He should be holden of death. He arose. And although His body had been bound by grave clothes, neither the grave clothes, nor the walls of the tomb, nor the walls of the room could confine His glorious body. It is His resurrection that comforts us in our sorrow. "Because He lives, we too shall live."
It was "after the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, [when] Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb" (Matthew 28: 1) and learned that the Lord Jesus Christ had indeed been raised from the dead and become the firstfruits of those who belong to Him. The firstfruits were representative of the entire harvest. There is yet to be another harvest: "Christ, the firstfruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him" (1 Corinthians 15:23). Our faith in the future is not in philosophical vagaries concerning the "immortality of the soul." It is firmly embedded in the fact of our Lord's resurrection. The resurrection of the believer is not patterned after that of Lazarus. We shall be raised in our Lord's likeness. It is human for us to wonder about the resurrection body of our loved ones. With what body will they be raised? He is the firstfruits. Like Him, the resurrection bodies of our loved ones (and ours too) will be the same bodies that were buried in the grave, but with splendid differences. They will be our loved ones; we shall see and recognize them. "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Revelation 21:4).
Have you received your Redeemer, the Stone whom the builders rejected?
In Him is life, light and joy and in His sacrifice is forgiveness of sin.
Reprinted for educational purposes
ISRAEL’S Holy Days, In type and Prophecy, Daniel Fuchs, chapter 3
Chosen People Ministries www.chosenpeople.com
And other publication sources.
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