THE LIFT OFFERINGBack to Alphabetical Index | Back to Chapter Index
The Lift Offering (the Wave Sheaf Offering) during the Festival of Unleavened Bread is extremely important to understand because of its historical meaning to ancient Israel, and its prophetic meaning concerning Jesus Christ and the two loaves of bread offered on the Feast of Weeks.
The Lift Offering was offered on the morning of the first day of the week that came after the first weekly Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread. This offering was an offering of the first fruits of the spring grain harvest. Moreover, the day of the Lift Offering is the starting point from which to calculate the Festival of First Fruits (Pentecost).
This seemingly obscure ritual pictures Jesus' resurrection and his ascension to heaven to be accepted by his Father as the first of the first fruits of humanity.
The First of the Harvest
This first ripened grain of the spring harvest clearly represents Christ who was the first human to be transformed into a son of God. The Wave-Sheaf Offering pictures Christ being cut loose from the earth and ascending up to be accepted by the Father.
Leviticus 23:10-11; 14
"Speak to the sons of Israel, and you will say to them, When you come to the land that I am giving you, and you will harvest its harvest, then you will bring the first omer of your harvest to the priest. And he will lift the omer before 'He Is' [God] for your goodwill, on the morning after the Sabbath the priest will lift it" (vs.10-11 Para.).
Definition of Terms:
"You must not eat any bread, roasted grain or new grain, until the very day you bring this offering to your God. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live" (v14 NIV).
Most of the instructions given to the Levitical Priesthood that detail how to perform the various rituals, offerings, and sacrifices are not specified in the scriptures. However, they were given to Moses to give to Aaron or they were directly given to Aaron. These instructions were then handed down through the priesthood in an oral or written form, which was not recorded in the Old or New Testaments.
Understanding how the various offerings and sacrifices were performed is very important when trying to sort out the meanings of chronological events surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Therefore, it is necessary to do a detailed review of the Lift Offering (Wave Sheaf Offering) of the first grain of the spring harvest.
It is important to know that the day of the Lift Offering was improperly reckoned by the Pharisees as the 16th of Abib/Nisan (the day after the first day of Unleavened Bread), but it should have been after the weekly Sabbath, which is required by the biblical text (Lev.23:10-11). For this reason, some information from the Mishnah is useless but is provided here only as background information to show the chronological order of events for the Lift Offering. Also keep in mind that, when the Sabbath is mentioned, it is referring to the First Day of Unleavened Bread (FDUB), not the weekly Sabbath as assumed in the Mishnah.
Order Kodashim, Tracttate Mena-chot , Chapter 10, Mishayot 1-6 (Paraphrased):
10:1 On whatever day of the week the day fell, whether Sabbath (FDUB) or a weekday, the omer was made from three sheaves of grain, and the reaping was carried out by three men with three sickles and three baskets.
10:2 The omer should have come from barley growing near Jerusalem, but if such was not ripe, it could come from anywhere.
10:3 How the omer was made ready:
Messengers of the court went out on the day before the 'good day' (i.e., festival day; therefore, they went out on the day before, which was during the day on the 14th of the month) and would bind together a sufficient amount of standing grain so that it would be easier to reap.
The night before the offering, just after sunset and at the Sabbath's (FDUB) end, a group of Priests and Elders would supervise the cutting of one ephah of grain. The people of the towns nearby the chosen field would gather there so that the reaping would take place with great ceremony.
When it had grown dark, a Reaper would ask the people, "Has the sun set?" The people would reply, "Yes."
All questions and answers exchanged between the messengers and the people during this reaping ceremony were repeated a total of three times each.
The Reaper: "This sickle?"
The People: "Yes."
The Reaper: "This Basket?"
The People: "Yes."
If the day was a Sabbath, the Reaper would ask, "This Sabbath?" and the people would answer, "Yes."
The Reaper: "Shall I reap?"
The People: "Reap!"
All of these questions and answers were spoken because of those who said the reaping did not take place at the end of the festival day, namely, the Boethusians and Sadducees.
10:4 The grain was reaped, put in baskets, and brought into the temple Courts.
The grain was threshed with reeds and plant stalks (rather than the usual flails) so it would not be crushed. Then, the grains were put into a (metallic) perforated cylindrical tube, so fire would reach each grain. The parched grain was then spread out in the court to let the wind blow over it. Then, it was ground in a mill to a course flour. After the grinding process, the coarse flour was sifted through 13 fine sieves and out of the sifted flour an omer was taken for the Lift Offering. The rest of the flour belonged to the priest and could be sold or eaten by anyone.
The priest making the offering took the flour, mixed it with oil, and poured a handful of incense onto the flour and oil mixture. After this, the priest "waved" (lifted) the mixture forward, backward, and up and down at the eastern side of the altar with his hands under it. The Priest then brought the offering to the southwest corner of the altar, scooped up a handful of the mixture, and burned it on the altar. The rest of the omer was eaten by the priests.
This was not an offering that is actually waved; it was lifted in the fashion of being presented to God for his acceptance (see Studies in Cultic Theology and Terminology, by Jacob Milgrom, p.133-138).
Moreover, it is not a "sheaf of grain" that is lifted, but an "omer of flour." History also shows that this offering took place at the time of the morning sacrifices (approximately 9 a.m.).
10:5 After the Lift Offering, all the new grain in the country could be used. People who were not near Jerusalem would not know exactly when the offering had occurred; therefore, they were permitted to use the new harvest after noon on the 16th, because the court would never let the offering take place so late in the day.
The Prophetic Meaning
There are a number of things within this offering and its instructions that are prophetic of Christ and the Elect of God.
"Speak to the Israelites and say to them: When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. He is to wave the sheaf before the Lord so it will be accepted on your behalf, the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath" (Lev.23:10-11 NIV).
Verses 10-11 point to the future advent of the Messiah when he would become the first of the harvest of humanity and the events which would surround his death, resurrection, and ascension to the Father as the perfect sacrifice for humanity.
"You must not eat any bread, roasted grain or new grain, until the very day you bring this offering to your God. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live" (Lev.23:14 NIV).
Verse 14 points to humanity waiting for its salvation until the Messiah (the bread of life) comes and is offered and accepted by the Father as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of humanity. See Jn.20:16-17.
Jesus is the first human to become a son of the Father; he is also the first of humanity to be resurrected from death to become an immortal son of God. Jesus is clearly the first-fruit of the Father's harvest of humanity.
No one could precede Christ to partake of heavenly things: no one could receive the spirit of sonship, enter the Kingdom of God, or have eternal and immortal life until the advent of Christ. Therefore, during this festival, no one could eat bread or grain until the first of the grain, which represented Christ, was offered and accepted by God.
Jesus: The Bread of Life
During his ministry, Jesus often spoke of himself as being the prophetic bread of life that must be eaten if a person is to have eternal life and immortality.
John 6:32-35; 47-58 Paraphrased
There was a belief in Christ's day that the greatest work of Moses was the bringing of manna from heaven. There was also a belief that, when the Messiah came, he would bring down bread from heaven and surpass this great work with greater works. Therefore, some wanted Jesus to prove that he was the Messiah by bringing manna from heaven as they believed Moses had done and by performing a greater miracle than the bringing of manna:
"Truly, truly, I say to you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world" (vs.32-33).
Jesus spoke of himself as the one whom the Father sent to give life:
"And Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life: he that comes to me shall never hunger; and he that believes on me shall never thirst" (v35).
It is through a belief in him that a person can receive the gift of eternal life:
"Truly, truly, I say to you, he that believes on me shall have everlasting life" (v47).
Jesus clearly says that he is the giver and sustainer of life. It is important to understand that the spiritual nourishment provided through the holy spirit is only available because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ:
"I am the bread of Life" (v48).
Christ is truly the bread of life. Without him, our life cannot continue, because God the Father has given him all authority over eternal life and death. It is through him that all life is given and sustained. See Jn.10:27-29; 17:22; Heb.1:2-3.
"Your fathers did eat bread in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (vs.50-51). See also vs.54-58; Jn.6:26-27.
Here, Jesus speaks of the futility of seeking to sustain one's life with physical food, which can only forestall but not eliminate death. Moreover, he speaks of himself as the giver of spiritual nourishment that gives and sustains eternal life.
Eat His Flesh and Drink His Blood
Jesus Christ is the only hope of salvation: only after his death and resurrection could those who lived before and after him have salvation. It is only through his sacrifice that others may obtain sonship in the Kingdom of God and live forever.
"As the living Father has sent me, and I live by the Father: so that he that eats me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread that came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eats of this bread shall live forever" (vs.57-58).
Jesus' fulfillment of the symbolical and prophetic meaning of the Lift Offering is direct biblical proof as to the time of his death and resurrection. This offering also fixes the day of the crucifixion on a Friday, the day before the weekly Sabbath (Jn.19:31).
The evidence in the New Testament shows that Christ rose from the dead early during the first day of the week, and that he rose up to meet his Father on that same day (Jn.20:17). It is therefore obvious that this cutting of the grain for the Lift Offering of the first-fruits of the barley harvest was shortly after the end of the weekly Sabbath, and it pictured the resurrection of Christ. In addition, it is obvious that the omer of flour which was presented as the Lift Offering pictured his ascension to heaven at the time of the morning sacrifice to be accepted by his Father as the first of the Father's harvest of humanity.
It is no wonder that Paul wrote so confidently about the resurrection of Jesus being on the third day, according to the scriptures. Paul says, "For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us" (1.Cor.5:7-8). Paul understood the prophetic sequence of events that Jesus had fulfilled beginning on the 14th day of the first month with the sacrifice of the lamb (Jesus) and culminating on the 16th day with the offering of Jesus as the first-fruits of the harvest.
"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 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" (1.Cor.15:20-23 Para.).
Jesus' victory over sin and death was complete; thus, the way for redemption for all those the Father calls to salvation is open. Jesus shared the human experience with mankind in order that humanity would have the opportunity to share in an eternal existence in the Family of God.
Remember what John the Baptist said in recognition of Jesus:
"Behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world" (Jn.1:29 Para.).