Pentecost, also called the Feast of Weeks (Heb. Chag Shavuot), the Feast of Harvest (Heb. Chag haQatzir), and the Day of Firstfruits (Heb. Yom haBikurim) in the Old Testament, is the only Holy Day which wasn't designated to fall on a particular day of the month. Pentecost, which means "count fifty" in Greek, was to be determined by counting 50 days from the time the wave sheaf was offered during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. That sounds simple enough, but the difficulty that arises is when to start and end the count.
Almost all will agree that the 50-day count to Pentecost begins within the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread, also known as the Feast of Passover (Exo. 34:25; Eze. 45:21). The controversial passage which explains how to derive the date of Pentecost is found in Leviticus 23:
LEVITICUS 23:9 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 10 "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 firstfruits 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. . . . 15 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. 16 Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD.' " (NKJV)
Since before the ministry of Messiah Yeshua, a debate has raged regarding the proper time to observe Pentecost. One of the primary sticking points has been the meaning of "Sabbath" in Leviticus 23:11, 15 & 16. Some claim that the "Sabbath" referred to in verses 11 & 15 is the weekly Sabbath which falls within the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and that the "Sabbath" mentioned in verse 16 is the seventh weekly Sabbath from the Feast. Others believe that the "Sabbath" referred to in verses 11 & 15 is the first day of Unleavened Bread (a high Sabbath upon which no customary work was to be done and a holy convocation held-Lev. 23:7), while "Sabbath" in verse 16 should actually be understood as "week."
A.S. Van Der Woude explains where these different beliefs originated:
After the time of the Old Testament there are different ideas among the Jews as to the day constituting the terminus a quo of the seven weeks (Van Goudoever, pp. 18, 29). It concerns here the exegesis of Leviticus 23:11, 15, which speaks of "the day after the sabbath." The Sadducees (and also the Samaritans) took the text as literally as possible. They understood the sabbath mentioned there as being the seventh day of the week . . . In that case the Feast of Weeks was always on the first day (Sunday). The Council of Nicea more or less went along with this and put Pentecost (even as Easter) on a Sunday. The Pharisees counted differently. Their calculation became officially accepted in Jewish orthodoxy from the second century A.D. According to them the "sabbath" in these texts refers to the first feast day of the Passover. On the following day the sheaf was to be brought and the fiftieth day was to be calculated from that. (p. 389, The World of the Bible)
For more detailed information regarding this and other doctrinal differences between these two historical groups, see my article "Who Were the Pharisees and the Sadducees?."
The question of whether Pentecost falls on Sunday, Monday, or Sivan 6 has historically been a divisive one for messianic groups and those Churches of God which keep the weekly and annual Sabbaths. Those who believe that Pentecost always falls on a Sunday or Monday interpret the "Sabbath" specified in Leviticus 23:11 & 15 to be the weekly Sabbath which occurs within the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread. These two related views are held by most of the groups which split off from the Worldwide Church of God (WCG), with the Sunday Pentecost belief being the most prominent. In fact, Herbert W. Armstrong, the founder of WCG, taught all three (a Sivan 6, Monday, and Sunday Pentecost) during his tenure as leader. Many messianic groups also celebrate Shavu'ot on a Sunday every year, contrary to the traditional Jewish practice. Both Sunday and Monday observances of Pentecost are derived from the doctrine promoted by the Sadducees and the Samaritans.
However, this understanding occasionally causes a problem when the weekly Sabbath of Passover falls on the last day of the Feast. It then becomes impossible to start the count to Pentecost during the days of Unleavened Bread. In most cases, those who follow the Sadducean method compensate by beginning the count on the day after the weekly Sabbath which comes before the Feast starts. This way, the count to Pentecost can begin within the days of Unleavened Bread as required.
The difference between those who think that Pentecost always falls on a Sunday and those who believe it is on Monday results from the question of whether the count is inclusive or exclusive of the 50th day. Both groups generally count the Sunday within the Days of Unleavened Bread as "day one"; therefore, 50 days later always ends up being a Sunday also. The Sunday Pentecost faction observes this 50th day as Pentecost, while the much smaller Monday group counts 50 days to the same Sunday, and then keeps Pentecost on Monday, the 51st day.
Those who believe that the count to Pentecost begins on the day after the first annual Sabbath of the year (the First Day of Unleavened Bread) follow the traditional Jewish method of deriving the proper date. With the current structure of the Hillel II Jewish calendar, this holy day now always falls on Sivan 6.
Although the literal Hebrew text of verse 16 states that Israel was to "count 50 days to the day after the seventh Sabbath,", there is much ancient support for the view that "Sabbath" here is NOT referring to the weekly Sabbath. The 3rd-century BCE translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek called the Septuagint provides the oldest example of how this passage was understood anciently by the majority of Jews:
LEVITICUS 23:15 And ye shall number to yourselves from the day after the Sabbath [ton sabbaton], from the day on which ye shall offer the sheaf of the heave-offering, seven full weeks [hepta hebdomadas holoklerous]: 16 until the morrow after the last week [eschates hebdomados] ye shall number fifty days, and shall bring a new meat-offering to the Lord. (Brenton's LXX)
Clearly the Jewish sages who translated the Septuagint understood that "after the seventh Sabbath" in Leviticus 23:16 meant "after seven weeks." This is by no means the only ancient evidence showing that particular understanding of the instruction found in Leviticus 23. Two very old Aramaic translations of the Hebrew text also support this view:
LEVITICUS 23:15 And number to you after the first feast day of Pascha, from the day when you brought the sheaf for the elevation, seven weeks; complete they shall be. 16 Until the day after the seventh week you shall number fifty days, and shall offer a mincha of the new bread unto the Name of the Lord. (Targum Pseudo-Jonathan)
LEVITICUS 23:15 And count to you, after the festival day, from the day that you brought the omera of the elevation, seven weeks, complete shall they be. 16 Until the (day) after the seventh week number fifty days, and (then) offer a new mincha before the Lord. (Targum Onkelos)
Those who accept this evidence and follow the traditional Jewish view of when to observe Shavu'ot generally do so because they believe that YHVH gave His oracles to the Jews, and therefore the preservation of the calendar and Holy Days is under their authority:
ROMANS 3:1 What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? 2 Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God. 3 For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? 4 Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: "That You may be justified in Your words, and may overcome when You are judged." (NKJV)
A look at Jacob's deathbed prophecy to his children shows why Paul lauded the position of the Jews in God's plan. The tribe of Judah is prophesied to continue to be the guardians of the oracles of YHVH until the Messiah comes to reign:
GENESIS 49:10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver [mechoqeq] from between his feet, until Shiloh shall come; and to him shall be the obedience of the people. (RWB)
The root of the Hebrew word translated "lawgiver" in Gen. 49:10 (as well as Psa. 60:7 & Psa. 108:8) is chaqaq. It literally means "to engrave"; by extension, it means "to be a scribe." Judah was the one who was given the authority to document, record and transmit the oracles of God down through the ages.
Many theologians focus on the phrase "to him shall be the obedience of the people," making "Shiloh" (which is commonly understood to be the Messiah) the focus of this prophecy. However, we must remember that the primary thrust of the prophecies given by Jacob to his sons in Genesis 49 was to tell them "what shall befall you in the last days" (Gen. 49:1). Therefore, the true intent of this prophecy is to show that Judah and his descendants would be the preservers of God's oracles until the coming of the Messiah to establish the kingdom of heaven here on the earth.
Two of the Psalms echo the fact that YHVH gave the tribe of Judah the responsibility for preserving His oracles:
PSALM 60:7 Gilead is Mine, and Manasseh is Mine; Ephraim also is the helmet for My head; Judah is My lawgiver [mechoqqi]. (NKJV)
PSALM 108:8 Gilead is mine; Manasseh is mine; Ephraim also is the strength of mine head; Judah is my lawgiver [mechoqqi]; (KJV)
Three times (cf. Deu. 19:15, Matt. 18:16; II Cor. 13:1) the Hebrew Scriptures clearly confirm Paul's statement that the Jews as a whole are responsible for preserving and transmitting God's Word from generation to generation. Going back to the days of Yeshua, the majority of Jews have considered "the Sabbath" mentioned in Leviticus 23:11 and 15 to be the first high Sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Nisan 15), which is the first day of the Feast (Exo. 12:16; Lev. 23:6-7).
The historical works of Josephus, a Jewish Pharisee who wrote late in the 1st century CE, confirm this:
In the month of Xanthicus, which is by us called Nisan, and is the beginning of our year, on the fourteenth day of the lunar month, when the sun is in Aries, (for in this month it was that we were delivered from bondage under the Egyptians,) the law ordained that we should every year slay that sacrifice which I before told you we slew when we came out of Egypt, and which was called the Passover; and so we do celebrate this passover in companies, leaving nothing of what we sacrifice till the day following. The feast of unleavened bread succeeds that of the passover, and falls on the fifteenth day of the month, and continues seven days, wherein they feed on unleavened bread; on every one of which days two bulls are killed, and one ram, and seven lambs. Now these lambs are entirely burnt, besides the kid of the goats which is added to all the rest, for sins; for it is intended as a feast for the priest on every one of those days.
But on the second day of unleavened bread, which is the sixteenth day of the month, they first partake of the fruits of the earth, for before that day they do not touch them. And while they suppose it proper to honor God, from whom they obtain this plentiful provision, in the first place, they offer the first-fruits of their barley, and that in the manner following: They take a handful of the ears, and dry them, then beat them small, and purge the barley from the bran; they then bring one tenth deal to the altar, to God; and, casting one handful of it upon the fire, they leave the rest for the use of the priest. And after this it is that they may publicly or privately reap their harvest. They also at this participation of the first-fruits of the earth, sacrifice a lamb, as a burnt-offering to God. When a week of weeks has passed over after this sacrifice, (which weeks contain forty and nine days,) on the fiftieth day, which is Pentecost, but is called by the Hebrews Asartha, which signifies Pentecost, they bring to God a loaf, made of wheat flour, of two tenth deals, with leaven; and for sacrifices they bring two lambs; and when they have only presented them to God, they are made ready for supper for the priests; nor is it permitted to leave any thing of them till the day following. (p. 96, 3.10.5-6, Antiquities of the Jews)
The Jewish Publication Society's Tanakh reflects this same understanding in its translation of Leviticus 23:9-11, 15-16:
LEVITICUS 23:9 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 10 Speak to the Israelite people and say to them: When you enter the land that I am giving to you and you reap its harvest, you shall bring the first sheaf of your harvest to the priest. 11 He shall elevate the sheaf before the LORD for acceptance in your behalf; the priest shall elevate it on the day after the sabbath. . . . 15 And from the day on which you bring the sheaf of elevation offering - the day after the sabbath - you shall count off seven weeks. They must be complete: 16 you must count until the day after the seventh week - fifty days; then you shall bring an offering of new grain to the LORD. (JPS Tanakh)
In their commentary on this passage, Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown concur with the traditional Jewish viewpoint. They write:
11. the morrow after the sabbath - i.e., the day after the Sabbath, not the weekly Sabbath, but the first day of unleavened bread, which was to be kept as a Sabbath; for upon it there was to be a holy convocation . . . 15. ye shall count . . . from the morrow after the sabbath - i.e., after the first day of the passover week, which was observed as a Sabbath." (p. 497, vol. I, A Commentary: Critical, Experimental, and Practical)
At the time of Yeshua's ministry, the Pharisees believed that the second occurrence of the word "sabbath" in verse 15 and "sabbath" in verse 16 referred to a period of seven days, not the weekly Sabbath. This is the way the JPS Tanakh translates this passage above, and it is the common understanding of most Jews today.
A parallel passage in Deuteronomy 16 seems to substantiate the common Jewish understanding of "sabbath" in this passage:
DEUTERONOMY 16:9 "You shall count off seven weeks [shiv'ah shavu'ot], computing them from the day when the sickle is first put to the standing grain. 10 You shall then keep the Feast of Weeks [chag shavu'ot] in honor of the LORD, your God . . . (NAB)
In this Scripture, the word "week" is a translation of the Hebrew root word shavua', which literally means "a period of seven," or "a week." The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) says this about the use of shavua' in Deuteronomy 16:
In Deut 16:9, shabu'a represents a period of seven days (literally "seven seven-periods you shall-number-to-you"). . . .
shabua' is also used as a technical term in Deut 16:10, 16 where it denotes the Feast of Weeks (hag shabu'ot), i.e. the Feast of Seven-Periods. . . . It was so named because it was to be celebrated "on the morrow after" the seventh sabbath after the day of firstfruits (Lev 23:15-16)! Hence it was the feast of the day following the seven seven-periods, or the feast of hamishim yom, fifty days - "Pentecost" from the Greek. This feast marked the early wheat harvest at about the sixth of Sivan, at the end of our own month of May. (p. 899, vol. II)
At the time of Yeshua, the Hebrew calendar was still being determined by the Sanhedrin every month by visual observation of the new moon. Because of this, Shavu'ot could fall on either Sivan 5, 6, or 7 (Rosh Hashana 6b, Talmud). This was possible because the total number of days in the months of Nisan and Iyar could be either 29 or 30. Now, because the standardized rules for the Hebrew calendar compiled by Hillel II in 358 CE call for Nisan and Iyar to always have 30 and 29 days, respectively, Pentecost consistently falls on Sivan 6 of the Hebrew calendar.
As John Lightfoot explains, there are two passages of Scripture the Pharisees used to determine that the Sabbath in Leviticus 23:11 & 15 was referring to the First Day of Unleavened Bread (Nisan 15):
"But the scribes, very differently [from the Sadducees], keep strictly to the sixteenth day of the month of Nisan for offering the firstfruits without any dispensation, after the sabbatical day or the first day of the feast is over. And amongst other by which they strengthen their opinion, those two different places of Scripture, Exod. xii. 15, "Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread," and Deut. xvi. 8, "Six days thou shalt eat unleavened bread," they, according to the sense they have, do thus reconcile, 'seven days, indeed, you shall eat unleavened bread;' that is, unleavened bread of the old wheat, on the first day of the feast, the sheaf being not yet offered; and unleavened bread of the new wheat, the remaining six days, after you have offered the firstfruits." (pp. 23-24, vol. 4, A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica)
There is another passage of Scripture found in the book of Joshua that confirms that Nisan 16 is the proper time to begin the 50-day count to Pentecost:
JOSHUA 5:10 While the people of Israel were encamped at Gilgal, they kept [ya'asu] the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening on the plains of Jericho. 11 And the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. 12 And the manna ceased the day after they ate of the produce of the land. And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year. (ESV)
God told Moses that when the Israelites came into the Promised Land, they were NOT to eat of the new produce of the land until they had offered a sheaf of the firstfruits of the land as an offering to YHVH (Lev. 23:9-14). This offering, which was to take place AFTER a Sabbath, was then the beginning point for the count to Pentecost (Lev. 23:15-16).
The only way that the Israelites could have eaten the produce of Canaan on "the day after the Passover" is if Passover was "the Sabbath" referred to in Leviticus 23:11 & 15. This would of necessity mean that the term "Passover" sometimes is used to refer to the First Day of Unleavened Bread.
The seeming combination of Passover with the beginning day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread has been a cause for some confusion. Regarding the word ya'asu, translated "kept" in Joshua 5:10, TWOT states that the root word 'asa "is often used in specialized expressions such as . . . "offer sacrifice" (Exo 10:25), "keep the Passover" (Exo 12:48) . . ., and many more." The meaning of "kept" here is that the Israelites sacrificed the Passover lamb between the evenings on the afternoon of Nisan 14, which was the time commanded by God (Exo. 12:6). They then would have cooked the Passover late on the afternoon of Nisan 14, and eaten the Passover meal after sunset, as Nisan 15 (the First Day of Unleavened Bread) was beginning.
Although some have tried to separate the sacrifice of the Passover lamb and the Passover meal from the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the ancient Israelites considered them to be intricately tied together. In fact, Ezekiel 45:21 states that "in the first month, on the 14th day of the month, you shall observe the Passover, a feast of seven days." Compare this Scripture with the original command for the observance of Passover:
EXODUS 12:17 "So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance. 18 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening." (NKJV)
In the "Holy Day" chapter of the Law (Lev. 23), we see that the Feast of Unleavened Bread was commanded to be a seven-day feast, beginning on Nisan 15 (Lev. 23:6). The original command shows that the Passover lamb was sacrificed in mid-afternoon of Nisan 14, as the sun was setting. It was then cooked as the day waned and eaten after sundown on Nisan 15, as the Feast of Unleavened Bread started. Although slightly longer than seven 24-hour days, the entire period from mid-afternoon on Nisan 14 to the sunset that ended Nisan 21 was considered to be a period of seven days. Consequently, the period from the afternoon of Nisan 14 to the end of Nisan 15, even though it was longer than 24 hours, was considered to be one day (alternately called Passover or the First Day of Unleavened Bread).
Therefore, we see that Joshua's account of the eating of the new produce of Canaan shows that Passover (from the afternoon of Nisan 14 to the sunset that ended Nisan 15) was "the Sabbath" referred to in the command that determines the count to Pentecost.
Regarding the symbolism found in the Passover feast, theologians acknowledge that Yeshua was the "Lamb of God," the ultimate embodiment of the Passover lambs (I Cor. 5:7; I Pet. 1:19; John 1:29, 36; Rev. 5:6). He was the one represented by the Passover lambs for centuries. Indeed, he died on the cross on Nisan 14 at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, the same time that the Passover lambs were being slaughtered in the Temple courtyard.
However, those who keep a Sunday or Monday Pentecost believe that Yeshua fulfilled another Old Testament symbol: the wave sheaf. While there is no Scripture that directly links Messiah to the wave sheaf offering, those who hold this view allege that two passages of Scripture (John 20:17-18 and I Cor. 15:20) prove that he was the fulfillment of the wave sheaf. We shall look at each in turn:
JOHN 20:17 Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to [haptou] 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.' " 18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her. (NKJV)
The offering of the wave sheaf (Heb. omer) was to be performed as part of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, beginning when the Israelites first entered the Holy Land (Lev. 23:11). Leviticus 23:14 specifically says that no bread, roasted grain, or new grain was to be eaten until the wave sheaf had been offered to God.
Many of those who keep a Sunday or Monday Pentecost claim that this passage of Scripture is proof that Yeshua was the fulfillment of the wave sheaf. They maintain that the reason Mary wasn't supposed to "cling to" ("touch"-KJV) the resurrected Messiah on that Sunday morning was because he had not yet been "waved" before the Father. According to this theory, Yeshua ascended to the Father in heaven later that morning at about 9:00 a.m., the same time the Sadducees were supposedly offering the wave sheaf. After having his sacrifice accepted by God, he later returned to earth and was then able to be touched by his disciples (Matt. 28:9).
This theory has several fatal flaws.
The first comes about due to a misunderstanding of the Greek word haptou ("cling to"), a form of the verb haptomai. Friberg's Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament says that it literally means "to take hold of." Here it does not simply mean "touch," as the KJV implies. Rather, the connotation is of "embracing," clinging to one in an emotional way, seeking comfort from someone through physical contact.
Mary, understandably emotional when she recognized Yeshua, wanted to embrace him and be comforted and reassured that he was indeed alive and still with them. But Yeshua quickly sought to clarify her misconception of why he had returned. He did not tell Mary that she could not "touch" him; rather, he was saying that their relationship has changed since his resurrection. He was no longer a physical man, but a glorified spirit being. He would not now physically comfort his disciples. Instead, after his ascension to claim the High Priesthood of the New Covenant, he would comfort them through the Holy Spirit (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7), which was to be sent on Pentecost.
In the passage above, Yeshua does say that he is ascending to his Father in heaven; however, he doesn't say when he will ascend. Does the Bible tell us when he ascended back to heaven to his Father? Yes, it clearly does. Acts 1:3, 9 tells us that after appearing to his disciples during a 40-day period, he ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives. Nowhere is any other ascension mentioned in the Bible. Those who believe Yeshua ascended to heaven on Sunday morning after his resurrection do so based on their own reasoning, not the Bible. (For information regarding when Yeshua was actually raised from the dead, see my article "When Was Christ Resurrected?.")
Those who feel Yeshua is the wave sheaf believe that he had to ascend to heaven that morning to be accepted by God the Father, just as the wave sheaf had to be offered to God before the rest of the harvest could be used. But does the Bible support this view? No, it does not! In fact, it clearly shows through a symbolic event caused by God that Yeshua's sacrifice was accepted immediately upon his death:
MARK 15:37 And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed his last. 38 Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. (NKJV)
The veil of the temple was the divider between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies (Exo. 26:33). The Holy of Holies represented God's throne in heaven. The ripping of the veil, starting at the top and going to the bottom, symbolically indicated that believers now had access to the very throne of God through the sacrifice of Yeshua (Heb. 10:19-20). Clearly, this miracle showed that Yeshua did not have to wait until after his resurrection to have his sacrifice accepted by the Father.
Finally, we must realize that even though the Sadducees controlled the high priesthood at the time of Yeshua, their power was severely restricted. The New Unger's Bible Dictionary states:
Although the spiritual power of the Pharisees had increased greatly, the Sadducean aristocracy was able to keep at the helm in politics. The price at which the Sadducees had to secure themselves power at this later period was indeed a high one, for they were in their official actions to accommodate themselves to Pharisaic views (p. 1112, "Sadducee").
Alfred Edersheim, a noted Jewish historian, recorded the practical effects of the Pharisees' power in relation to the keeping of Pentecost:
The Pharisees held, that the time between [Passover] and Pentecost should be counted from the second day of the feast; the Sadducees insisted that it should commence with the literal "Sabbath" after the festive day. But despite argument, the Sadducees had to join when the solemn procession went on the afternoon of the feast to cut down the "first sheaf," and to reckon Pentecost as did their opponents. (p. 220, ch. 15, Sketches of Jewish Social Life)
It is almost certain that the Sadducean High Priest Caiaphas did not wave the sheaf offering on the Sunday morning after Yeshua first appeared to his disciples. History shows that, whatever his personal feelings about Pentecost might have been, the high priest was forced for political reasons to present the wave sheaf offering at the same time the majority of the nation thought it should be done: on the morning of Friday, Nisan 16.
Now let's look at I Corinthians 15:20, which Sunday/Monday Pentecost factions say also proves Messiah was the wave sheaf:
I CORINTHIANS 15:20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits [aparche] of those who have fallen asleep. (NKJV)
The Greek word aparche translated "firstfruits" above is singular, not plural. Yeshua was the "firstfruit," not the "firstfruits" as this translation of the verse implies. This distinction will become important as we more fully understand the wave sheaf offering. Let's look at a detailed description of the omer offering as described by Alfred Edersheim:
. . . They [delegates from the Sanhedrin] 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 successfully 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 (Men. vi. 6, 7), 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 (Men. viii. 2). Though one ephah, or ten omers, or barley was cut down, only one omer of flour, or about 5.1 pints of our measure, was offered in the Temple on the second Paschal, or 16th day of Nisan. The rest of the flour might be redeemed, and used for any purpose. The omer of flour was mixed with a 'log,' or very nearly three-fourths of a pint of oil, and a handful of frankincense put upon it, then waved before the Lord, and a handful taken out and burned on the altar. The remainder belonged to the priest. This was what is popularly, though not very correctly, called 'the presentation of the first or wave-sheaf' on the second day of the Passover-feast, or the 16th of Nisan. (pp. 204-205, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, updated edition)
Yeshua was the firstfruit (singular); however, the wave sheaf offering represented the firstfruits (plural). Who are those firstfruits? They are those called and chosen, the ekklesia, the Church of God. A look at the symbolism of the wave sheaf offering in conjunction with the details of how this offering was performed reveals the truth of this claim.
I PETER 4:12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when his glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. (NKJV)
MATTHEW 21:42 Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: 'The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes'? 43 Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. 44 And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder." (NKJV)
MATTHEW 22:14 "For many are called, but few are chosen." (NKJV)
When you consider all aspects of the wave sheaf offering, it's clear that symbolically the wave sheaf represents the Church, not Yeshua.
However, the fact that some Sunday/Monday Pentecost adherents are mistaken about the symbolic identification of the wave sheaf in no way invalidates the duality present in Yah's plan. We constantly see antetypes and types throughout the Bible. We see the first man, Adam, and the second man, Yeshua (Rom. 5:14; I Cor. 15:47-49). As mentioned earlier, the original Passover lambs slain in Egypt were types of Yeshua, the true Passover Lamb (I Cor. 5:7). We have the earthly Jerusalem and the new Jerusalem (Rev. 3:12; 21:2). I could cite more examples from the Scriptures, but clearly God's plan is dual in many, if not all, respects.
The entire nation of Judah, following the teaching of the Pharisees, was observing Pentecost on the correct day in the time of Yeshua. No wonder he told his disciples, as well as the people, that "the scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat; therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do . . ." (Matt. 23:2-3).
Bryan T. Huie
March 4, 1998