The confusion that erupted this year, has caused us to re-evaluate our position regarding exactly when the barley needs to be aviv. We shall look at the Scriptures quoted to prove the different points and consider the interpretation thereof in Scriptural context. We have published an article as to why the search for aviv/abib barley is scriptural. The study confirmed that barley needs to be aviv before the new year is declared. By re-considering the relevant scriptures, we will again confirm that the barley must be aviv at the sighting of the new moon in order for the new year to start. We will also consider other areas impacted by this.
The instructions for the new year
Why is all of this important? As you may know, the new month is declared by the sighting of the new moon. According to Scripture, the year must start when the barley is aviv. We conclude this based on the following two Scriptures. The first month of the year is the month of Abib/Aviv. This month gets its name from the condition of the barley crop.
1 Observe the month of Abib and celebrate the Passover to YHVH your Elohim, for in the month of Abib YHVH your Elohim brought you out of Egypt by night.
2 This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you. 3 Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, “On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household.”
Aviv/abib is a description of a stage in the growth cycle of the barley. This is a stage before the barley is completely ripe. Barley is the first crop harvested in the new year. From this we also learn that the timing of the Passover (Pesach), the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Fruit Fruits, are dependent on the start of the month of Aviv. The harvesting of the wheat for the offerings happens later with the Feast of Weeks (Shavu’ot.) As barley is the first crop of the year and the first wheat is offered later, it is clear that the feast of First Fruits is celebrated by the waving of sheaf of barley.
In Leviticus 23:10-14, we find the most complete instructions for this first fruit offering.
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 of your harvest to the priest. 11 He shall wave the sheaf before YHVH for you to be accepted; on the day after the sabbath the priest shall wave it. 12 Now on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb one year old without defect for a burnt offering to YHVH. 13 Its grain offering shall then be two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering by fire to YHVH for a soothing aroma, with its drink offering, a fourth of a hin of wine. 14 Until this same day, until you have brought in the offering of your Elohim, 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.
In this verse, YHVH speaks to the sons of Israel. He is instructing them regarding the first fruits offering of the barley. When the harvest is reaped, a sheaf of the first fruits of the harvest is to be taken to the priest as a wave offering. This implies that the owner of the barley needed to travel to Jerusalem to present his first fruit offering to YHVH in the temple. This is the reason that Pesach & Unleavened Bread are considered pilgrimage feasts, together with Shavu’ot and Sukkot. Exodus 34:26 is specific that the first fruits must be brought to the house of YHVH, His temple in Jerusalem.
25 You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leavened bread, nor is the sacrifice of the Feast of the Passover to be left over until morning. 26 You shall bring the very first of the first fruits of your soil into the house of YHVH your Elohim. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.”
15 You shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread; for seven days you are to eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the appointed time in the month Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. And none shall appear before Me empty-handed. 16 Also you shall observe the Feast of the Harvest of the first fruits of your labors from what you sow in the field; also the Feast of the Ingathering at the end of the year when you gather in the fruit of your labors from the field. 17 Three times a year all your males shall appear before YHVH Elohim.
In order for the owner to take his offering to Jerusalem, the first fruit offering is to be reaped and then taken to priest at the temple in Jerusalem. The priest will wave this sheaf before YHVH. This is why it is referred to as the wave sheaf offering. This is different from the wave offering that is done during Shavu’ot.
16 You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering to YHVH. 17 You shall bring in from your dwelling places two loaves of bread for a wave offering, made of two-tenths of an ephah; they shall be of a fine flour, baked with leaven as first fruits to YHVH.
The priest shall then wave them with the bread of the first fruits for a wave offering with two lambs before YHVH; they are to be set apart to YHVH for the priest.
Thus, we see that we have two wave offerings, one during First Fruits, when a sheaf of barley is waved and another during Shavu’ot when two loaves of bread and two lambs are waved. Let us focus on the wave offering that needs to be made during at First Fruits.
A wave sheaf offering
The specific instruction for this wave offering is given in Lev 23:12.
Now on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb one year old without defect for a burnt offering to YHVH.
We all know what it means to wave something, however, if understood literally, a sheaf is waved. The sheaf is grasped in the hand and waved. Here is a definition from a lexicon of what the Hebrew word translated as “wave” means:
2185 הֲנָפָה (hǎnā·p̄ā(h)): n.[fem.] [BDB: hif inf.cs. of 5677]; ≡ Str 5130; TWOT 1329, 1330—LN 16 waving, the act. of swinging back and forth, usually with an object in the grasp (Isa 30:28+), note: oth parse as 56771
What is a sheaf?
The Hebrew word translated as “sheaf” is “omer.” This word can be translated to mean two different things.
6684 I. עֹמֶר (ʿō·měr): n.masc.; ≡ Str 6016; TWOT 1645a, 1645b—LN 3.33–3.46 sheaf, i.e., a tied bundle of cereal plant material, including both head and stalk (Lev 23:10, 11, 12, 15; Dt 24:19; Ru 2:7, 15; Job 24:10+), note: the sheaf was bundled for transport, processing, or other kinds of handling, see also domain LN 18.12–18.23
6685 II. עֹמֶר (ʿō·měr): n.masc.; ≡ Str 6016; TWOT 1645b—LN 81.20–81.24 omer, i.e., a dry measure of food stuffs such as manna or grain, reckoned at 1/10th of an ephah or about a two quart measure (Ex 16:16, 18, 22, 32, 33, 36) 1
Which one of the two needs to be determined by the context where it is being used. According to the concept of semantic domains1, in the context of Lev 23:12, it refers to a tied bundle of cereal plant material. It is not a dry measure (1/10th of an ephah of grain). More examples of the meaning being a tied bundle are found in Deut 24:19 and Ruth 2:7.
19 When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that YHVH your Elohim may bless you in all the work of your hands.
7 And she said, “Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.” Thus she came and has remained from the morning until now; she has been sitting in the house for a little while.
The context is very important.
This view is confirmed by the first translation of the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint. The Greek translation of this verse translated the Hebrew word “omer” with the Greek word “dragma” δράγμα. The definition of this word is as follows:
δράγμα, ατος, τό, (δράσσομαι) as much as one can grasp, a handful, truss of corn, Lat. manipulus, Il.:—also a sheaf, = ἄμαλλα, Xen.
The same Greek word is being used when the dream of Joseph is retold in the Septuagint.
6 He said to them, “Please listen to this dream which I have had; 7 for behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and lo, my sheaf rose up and also stood erect; and behold, your sheaves gathered around and bowed down to my sheaf.”
On the other hand, when manna was to be gathered, it was gathered in a container, an omer a piece, a dry measure. When the Septuagint refers to a measure of an omer, it uses a different Greek word “gomor” – γομόρ. This is what is used in verses like Exodus 16:16.
16 This is what YHVH has commanded, “Gather of it every man as much as he should eat; you shall take an omer apiece according to the number of persons each of you has in his tent.” 17 The sons of Israel did so, and some gathered much and some little. 18 When they measured it with an omer, he who had gathered much had no excess, and he who had gathered little had no lack; every man gathered as much as he should eat.
This makes it clear that the earliest interpretation of Leviticus 23:12 expected a tied bundle of barley to be waved to YHVH, not a measure of dried barley meal. This wave sheaf offering brought on the day of first fruits was unique, and therefore, we should not exchange or interchange this for other grain offerings as described in Leviticus 2. Barley was not normally used as a grain offering, the exception being the sotah offering in Num 5:15.
When a grain offering was brought to YHVH, it was wheat. For this reason we should not take the instructions in Leviticus 2 and apply it to the wave sheaf offering saying that we can offer parched grain instead, if the barley is not yet ripe on the day of First Fruits. This makes it important that we are one hundred percent sure that enough barley will be ripe to cut a sheaf of ripe barley.
To clarify our position, let us look in more detail at the instructions we find in Leviticus 2.
The instructions for grain offerings
The law of grain offerings is presented to us in Leviticus 2:1-16. Let us look at these instructions and compare them to what we need to do with the wave sheaf offering. First, we need to check what the contents of a grain offering are.
Now when anyone presents a grain offering as an offering to the Lord, his offering shall be of fine flour, and he shall pour oil on it and put frankincense on it.
Here we find the Hebrew word “solet” being used to describe the fine flour.
6159 סֹלֶת (sō·lěṯ): n.fem.; ≡ Str 5560; TWOT 1512—LN 5.1–5.22 wheat bread flour, fine-ground groats, i.e., grain crushed into powder, with the hulls removed, using only the inner grain kernel (Ge 18:6), note: this is distinguished from “meal” which include whole grain 1
TWOT 1512 סֹלֶת (sōlet) (fine) flour (So ASV, RSV.)
The word (from Akkadian salātu “crush”), denoting a finely ground flour, is known throughout the ancient Mediterranean world (e.g. Akkadian siltu, Arabic sultun, Aramaic sûltāʾ, Egyptian tþṛt). As opposed to qemaḥ “meal” which came from whole kernels and bran, this finest of flour was ground exclusively from the inner kernels of the wheat (hence, LXX semidalis, Vulgate simila). Though available to all, it was expensive and considered a luxury item (Ezk 16:13; cf. Rev 18:13), to be used especially in entertaining important guests (Gen 18:6).3
Fine flour figured prominently in the Levitical sacrifices (Lev 2 etc.), the offerings of the twelve tribal leaders at the inauguration of the tabernacle worship (Num 7), the regulations relative to the fulfillment of the Nazirite’s vow (Num 6:15), the consecration ceremony of the priests (Ex 29:2ff.), and the ordination of the Levites, whom God graciously allowed to take the place of the firstborn in a life of dedicated service to him (Num 8:8). The fine flour reminded the priests and Levites of their high calling and the fine quality of their service and dedication to God of all the fruits of their labor. 3
The offering is made up of the fine flour, with oil and frankincense added. There may be no leaven with the offer and the offer needs to be done with salt.
Every grain offering of yours, moreover, you shall season with salt, so that the salt of the covenant of your Elohim shall not be lacking from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.
The instruction also makes it very clear that you need to roast the kernels that are not yet fully ripened and dried.
14 Also if you bring a grain offering of early ripened things to YHVH, you shall bring fresh heads of grain roasted in the fire, grits of new growth, for the grain offering of your early ripened things. 15 You shall then put oil on it and lay incense on it; it is a grain offering. 16 The priest shall offer up in smoke its memorial portion, part of its grits and its oil with all its incense as an offering by fire to YHVH.
What these verses are telling us is that when you bring a grain offering and it contains kernels from your early harvest, you need to ensure that these heads of grain are properly dried before making the fine flour (solet.) If you had aviv heads in the sheaves you used for making the flour, the moist could impact the quality of the flour you would be able to produce. The “early ripened things – bikkurim” is not referring to the wave sheaf offering because:
- We do not add salt, incense or oil to the wave sheaf offering
- There is no instruction in Leviticus 23 that the wave sheaf offer should be burned
Unleavened cakes and parched grain
Joshua 5 is used to prove that the Israelites offered parched grain as the first fruit offering. The Scriptures do not specifically state that, but some deduce that from what is recorded in Scripture.
10 While the sons of Israel camped at Gilgal they observed the Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month on the desert plains of Jericho. 11 On the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. 12 The manna ceased on the day after they had eaten some of the produce of the land, so that the sons of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate some of the yield of the land of Canaan during that year.
Let us investigate what the details are. First, they ate the unleavened cakes, and parched grain. The Scripture does not state that they offered it as a First Fruit offer. The “day after the Passover” is the first day of Unleavened Bread, thus the reason for them eating unleavened cakes. However, this also tells us that this is a Sabbath day where they would not perform any work. Thus, we must assume that they harvested and grind the meal the day before. So, indirectly we find that the people harvested the crop before the Wave Sheaf offering was brought. It is not recorded for us if they did do the offering and the fact that they did not own the harvest, could have played a role here. Let us assume for now that they did. It creates a problem because that means they harvested more than just the sheaf for the offering before the day of First Fruits. Is this really a problem?
You shall count seven weeks for yourself; you shall begin to count seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain.
The literal interpretation of this verse leads us to believe that we should start counting the omer when we start to harvest the grain, “put the sickle to the standing grain.” If we add this to the other instruction we get for when we start the counting, we can tie the start of the harvest with the waving of the sheaf offer.
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.
We have held this believe up to now, but this year has led us to re-examine this view. Let us see what we can determine from the Scripture about the relationship between the waving of the sheaf and the start of the harvest.
When does the harvest commence?
The time of the start of the harvest is considered, rightly so, of extreme importance in this investigation. People’s livelihood depended on the harvesting of their grain. We do believe that YHVH does not make cruel laws that will negatively impact people’s provision for their families. We have seen that Lev 23:15 and Deut 16:9 seems to tie the waving of the sheaf and the start of the harvest to the same day. This is the day that we must start counting the omer. However, we have some other verses, like Joshua 5:11, that seem to point us that this literal reading of Deut 16:9 may be wrong. We also read a specific instruction earlier in Leviticus 23 about the sequence of events.
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 of your harvest to the priest. 11 He shall wave the sheaf before YHVH for you to be accepted; on the day after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.
We see that all the people needed to bring the “first fruits of your harvest” to the priest. This implies a number of things:
- They needed to cut a sheaf to bring as a First Fruit offering. As they had to travel to Jerusalem for the feast, this would need to happen before the day that the priest waves the offer. This would then create a contradiction with the literal reading of Deut 16:9.
- It is supposed to be the first fruit of the “harvest.” Could this be read that the harvest was already done before you go to offer your first fruits? This is the case for Shavu’ot and Sukkot. For Shavu’ot, you need to bring bread made from your new harvest, confirming that they would have harvested before bringing the offers. Sukkot is clear that you first gather in your fruit, before you come to Jerusalem.
- If all the men are in Jerusalem for the Wave Sheaf offering, who will start the harvest on that day? They need to stay for the rest of the 7 day feast and then travel home. This would delay the start of harvest even more.
We also have some other Scriptures that indicate that the harvesting starts when the harvest is ripe.
Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, tread, for the wine press is full; The vats overflow, for their wickedness is great.
But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.
Except for the literal reading for Deut 16:9, do we have another place that restricts the start of the harvesting? No, but we do have a restriction of when we are allowed to start eating the barley of this year’s harvest. We see this as part of the instructions for Firsts Fruits in Leviticus.
Until this same day, until you have brought in the offering of your Elohim, 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.
Leviticus informs us of the perpetual statute that we may not eat of the new year’s harvest. If it was a restriction on when we are allowed to start the harvest, why would we need an instruction here to tell us not to eat of the harvest before the sheaf was waved by the priest? You cannot eat what is not harvested.
Whenever we have the case of one Scripture contradicting another, we nee to investigate our interpretation of the Scriptures. The Word of YHVH would not contradict itself. Thus, it seems that we do not have a correct understanding of the Deut 16:9 based on what we see in Leviticus and Joshua. We do not have a clear answer on what is the correct way of interpreting Deut 16:9, but it is clear that a literal interpretation does not add up.
It appears that this year, we were forced to relook our opinion on exactly when the barley needs to be aviv. Does it need to be aviv before the new moon is sighted and the new year is proclaimed, or does it need to be aviv before the wave sheaf offering is brought. In our original article we stated that the barley needs to be aviv before the new moon is sighted. We still hold to this position for the following reasons:
- We need to bring our best offers to YHVH. This is very clear in the Scriptures that YHVH wants us to bring the best of the best to Him. YHVH instructed His people to watch over the Pesach lamb for days before it may be offered. The lambs being offered may not have any defect. This is why we need to ensure that the barley we need for the Wave Sheaf offering is in perfect condition. This implies that it needs to be ripe. I should not have some ripe kernels. If the barley is only aviv, then it is simply not the best we have!
- The instructions were written in such a way to give people time to prepare for the feast. This implies that people required some time to clean the leaven out of their properties and travel to Jerusalem. If, at the start of the first month, we do not know if we will have sufficient barley for the offering, how can the nation prepare. Even today, those who go up to Jerusalem for Pesach need enough notice to confirm travel arrangements. Two weeks’ notice is already difficult to manage. What happens if we now bring it down to a couple of days?
- We do not know exactly how long it takes for barley to go from aviv to ripe. Even the agricultural experts who compiled scales like the Zadok scale, that is quoted most often, did not put any timeline for the transition between grades. Why not? Simply because there are too many factors that impact this, including temperature, sunlight and moisture. Even if we restrict ourselves to wild barley we cannot know for sure if it will be 2 weeks or 3 weeks.
The arguments that tell us we need to proclaim the new year earlier are using an argumentation technique called “Reductio ad absurdum.” This technique makes their argument superior because the other arguer’s position (barley must be aviv at the start of the year) leads to unacceptable implications! The unacceptable implications they claim are:
- We will lose the barley crop – This creates a false sense of urgency due to the possibility of the re-seeding of the barley crop. The fear is that if we have another month, the seed will drop before it can be harvested. This year, 2016, this should not be a concern for us. If we believe that 2016 is the sabbatical year, then this is not a problem. As we may not harvest this year’s crop, we must let it go into seed in any case. The reseeding is what will provide the crop for 2017, as we are not allowed to sow during the fall of 2016. This may all be part of YHVH’s great plan to show us His wonderful provision and blessing in the next year.
- Farmers and their families will suffer because they lose the barley harvest. This is not an issue if they are allowed to harvest before the Wave Sheaf, but they may not eat of it. We see from the Scriptures that if we change our literal interpretation of Deut 16:9 this issue goes away. At the same time, is this really an issue today? Do the commercial farmers really plan their start of harvesting by the waving of the Wave Sheaf. If they are Torah observant, they should not have to worry this year due to the Sabbatical year of 2016.
All of this confirmed to us that there is no need to change our view on the condition of the barley at the start of the month. While studying and praying about this, I received the following confirmation. We need to stay true to His Word and not our own understanding of what the potential problems are. We do not need to solve this non-existent problem. We need to trust in YHVH, that He knows best.
5 Trust in YHVH with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear YHVH and turn away from evil. 8 It will be healing to your body And refreshment to your bones. 9 Honor YHVH from your wealth And from the first of all your produce; 10 So your barns will be filled with plenty And your vats will overflow with new wine.
- Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
- Liddell, H. G. (1996). A lexicon: Abridged from Liddell and Scottâ€™s Greek-English lexicon (p. 211). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
- Patterson, R. D. (1999). 1512 ×¡Ö¹×œÖ¶×ª. R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer Jr., & B. K. Waltke (Eds.), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (electronic ed., p. 628). Chicago: Moody Press
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