Firstfruits (tithe)

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. 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. 14 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.

PARALLELS TO THE DEDICATION OF FIRSTBORN

The Sabbath of Firstfruits occurs immediately after Passover and Unleavened Bread, and has a parallel in Christ’s resurrection in the New Testament.  The events also have parallels in the Exodus 13 laws of the firstborn which immediately follow the Exodus 12 descriptions of Passover and Unleavened Bread.  The wording of firstfruits and the laws of the firstborn are very similar, and the remembrance of the admonition is the same:

(Exodus 13:12-16) that you shall set apart to the LORD all that open the womb, that is, every firstborn that comes from an animal which you have; the males shall be the LORD’s. But every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb; and if you will not redeem it, then you shall break its neck. And all the firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem. So it shall be, when your son askou in time to come, saying, ‘What is this?’ that you shall say to him, ‘By strength of hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. And it came to pass, when Pharaoh was stubborn about letting us go, that the LORD killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beast. Therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all males that open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’ It shall be as a sign on your hand and as frontlets between your eyes, for by strength of hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt.”

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE FEAST

The specific elements are:

  • The initial, first return of life that you receive, from firstborn sons, to firstborn animals, to first grown crops belong to God.  This recognizes that all life originates from God and not ourselves.
  • God demands that as a sign of allegiance, acknowledgment, and submission from us that He is the first source of life.  This recognition should take the form of an offering, sacrifice, presentation to the priest, etc… in the way that God instructs.
  • We submit the first and best of what we have to God and then search out His approval
  • God gave His firstborn Son to us, and we acknowledge and remember this by dedicating the first of what we have to God.
  • After the Passover lamb was slain (Christ’ death) and the period of mourning and recognition of Christ’s sacrifice and our necessary sacrifice (Unleavened Bread) we have immediately following these promises of Christ’s resurrection (firstfruits) as the first resurrection to precede the promise of the resurrection of all of the people who have ever lived in this world.
  • The offering for the wave sheaf is unleavened bread, representing the resurrection of sinless Christ.  Later the larger harvest offering is leavened bread, representing the resurrection of the sinful but forgiven followers of Christ.

RUTH

The entire book of Ruth is an exploration of the subject of firstfruits.  Every event takes place during the early barley harvest, and symbolically Ruth is personally at the point in her life with God where she is ready for the blessings of firstfruits.  She has lost her husband, brother-in-law, and father-in-law.  As represented by the sacrifice of Passover, she has given up her own family, her people, her gods, and committed all to following God’s people.  She and her mother-in-law left everything they had in Moab and traveled a great journey in poverty, as represented by unleavened bread. She enters the land of Israel exactly when the feast of firstfruits is taking place.

The central theme of the book is redemption. Ruth, Naomi, and the land belonging to Elimelech is purchased and restored by Boaz, and a son Obed is born to restore the family name that had died off. The son not only symbolically does this, but in his genealogy literally brings forth David who restores and redeems Israel, and later in the same line of descendents brings Jesus Christ who is the firstfruits of the entire world, redeeming us all from sin.

(Leviticus 25:25) ‘If one of your brethren becomes poor, and has sold some of his possession, and if his redeeming relative comes to redeem it, then he may redeem what his brother sold.

The laws of the land allowed anyone to sell his land or even sell himself a slave. Only a brother or next of kin can buy back freedom.  Jesus could pay the price only by first becoming out brother.  He then redeemed us by paying death, which is the price of sin.

PARALLELS

Sanctuary: Incense

(Exo 30:1-8) “You shall make an altar to burn incense on; you shall make it of acacia wood. A cubit shall be its length and a cubit its width—it shall be square—and two cubits shall be its height. Its horns shall be of one piece with it. And you shall overlay its top, its sides all around, and its horns with pure gold; and you shall make for it a molding of gold all around.   And you shall put it before the veil that is before the ark of the Testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the Testimony, where I will meet with you. “Aaron shall burn on it sweet incense every morning; when he tends the lamps, he shall burn incense on it. And when Aaron lights the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense on it, a perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations.

Grass and Fruit

(Gen 1:9-13)  Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. So the evening and the morning were the third day.

BIBLICAL ERA

This next time period has many parallels to firstfruits. This era starts with the genealogy in Genesis 25. The focus is upon blessings of God provided to the descendants of Abraham. Themes include the blessings of many children with one dedicated to God (Gen 25 & Gen 29) covenant with God (Gen 28) Blessings that follow trial and sacrifice (Gen 29, 30, 39) Redemption and rescue from slavery (Gen 32, 33, 41) and leadership and guidance from God (Gen 45, 49, 50)

PERSONAL SALVATION

Firstfruits represent the initial growth of the character of Christ in a new Christian.  After the sinful character is swept away, it must be replaced with something new or else the old life will return.

(Return to the Sabbaths of Leviticus 23)

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