Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost) marks the end of what we typically call the Spring Feasts. It is the second of the three Pilgrimage Feasts. The Feast of Shavuot is the First Fruits of the wheat harvest, as described in Exodus 34. In the outline of Feast celebrations found in Leviticus 23, the final instruction before the Summer season is to leave some of the harvest for the less fortunate.
You shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread… You shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks, that is, the first fruits of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year. Three times a year all your males are to appear before the Lord GOD, the God of Israel.Exodus 34:18, 22-23
When you reap the harvest of your land, moreover, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field nor gather the gleaning of your harvest; you are to leave them for the needy and the alien. I am the LORD your God.Leviticus 23:22
The next Feast mentioned in Leviticus 23 is Yom Teruah, often called the Feast of Trumpets. This is the beginning of the Fall Feast season. But what happens in between the Spring Feasts and the Fall Feasts?
The First Fruits
Jewish tradition was to bring the First Fruits, or bikkurim (Strong’s Hebrew word #H1061) to the Temple between Shavuot and Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles). The First Fruits are those described in Deuteronomy 8:8, often referred to as the “Seven Species.” They are wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates (as a source of honey).
For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey…Deuteronomy 8:7-8 NASB
There are, however, additional First Fruits offerings and celebrations found in the writings of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Temple Scroll describes the Feast of New Wine and the Feast of New Oil right along with the other festivals found in Torah. The dates for these observances are timed in much the same way that Shavuot, the First Fruits of Wheat, is counted from the waving of the sheaf of the First Fruits of Barley (Leviticus 23:10-11). This takes place throughout the summer months, and at the conclusion we are ready for Sukkot, the final harvest ingathering.
Together, these four Feasts of First Fruits represent a sequence of First Fruits harvest offerings:
- The First Fruits of Barley
- The First Fruits of Wheat
- The First Fruits of Wine
- The First Fruits of Oil
Even though they are not all specifically called out in Torah, there are many illusions to them in Scripture.
This also is yours [Aaron’s], the offering of their gift, even all the wave offerings of the sons of Israel; I have given them to you and to your sons and daughters with you as a perpetual allotment. Everyone of your household who is clean may eat it. All the best of the fresh oil and all the best of the fresh wine and of the grain, the first fruits of those which they give to the LORD, I give them to you.Numbers 18:11-12
You shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God, at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and your flock, so that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always.Deuteronomy 14:23
You shall give him the first fruits of your grain, your new wine, and your oil, and the first shearing of your sheep.Deuteronomy 18:4
For the sons of Israel and the sons of Levi shall bring the contribution of the grain, the new wine and the oil to the chambers; there are the utensils of the sanctuary, the priests who are ministering, the gatekeepers and the singers. Thus we will not neglect the house of our God.Nehemiah 10:39
The LORD will answer and say to His people, “Behold, I am going to send you grain, new wine and oil, And you will be satisfied in full with them; And I will never again make you a reproach among the nations.Joel 2:19
And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine.”Revelation 6:6
The Temple Scroll
A fragmented part of the Temple Scroll (11QT or 11Q19-20) mentions the waving of the First Fruits of the barley sheaf after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, but does not give many details.
. . . for this ram . . . They shall hold a sacred convocation on this day, and . . . a male goat for a sin offering . . . its grain offering and drink offering following the usual regulation: a tenth of an epha of choice flour mixed with oil, one-fourth of a hin, and wine for a drink offering, one-fourth of a hin. . . . He shall atone for the people assembled, and for their sin, and they shall be forgiven. Generation after generation, eternal statutes shall these be for them, wherever they may dwell. After that they are to sacrifice the single ram, once, on the day of waving the sheaf.Temple Scroll, column 18 lines 2-10
Then it describes the counting to the “new grain offering,” the Feast of Shavuot (weeks).
You shall count seven full weeks from the day on which you bring the sheaf of the wave offering. You are to count until the day after the seventh Sabbath: count fifty days. Then you shall bring a new grain offering to the LORD from wherever you dwell…Temple Scroll, column 18 lines 11-13
This is a pilgrimage feast of Weeks, a feast of first fruits established as a memorial forever.Temple Scroll, column 19 line 9
This is essentially the same as we find in Leviticus 23 regarding the timing of Shavuot. Then immediately following these instructions, we are introduced to the Feast of New Wine.
You shall count beginning from the day when you bring the new grain offering to the LORD – the bread of the first fruits – seven weeks, seven full weeks, until the day after the seventh Sabbath. You are to count fifty days, then bring new wine as a drink offering: four hin from all the tribes of Israel, one-third of a hin from each tribe.Temple Scroll, column 19 lines 11-15
So the children of Israel are to rejoice before the LORD, this being an eternal statue, generation after generation, wherever they may dwell. They shall rejoice this day, for they have begun to pour out a fermented drink offering, new wine, upon the altar of the LORD, and annual rite.Temple Scroll, column 21, lines 8-10
Notice that “new wine” does not refer to unfermented grape juice as is often taught. The new wine is fermented, as seen in this description of pouring out the drink offering. It is called “new wine” simply because it comes from a new harvest of grapes. Wine from the new harvest was not to be consumed before the first fruits offering was made. Until that time, the people drank from the older wine. After the Feast of New Wine and the offering, they were permitted to drink from the new batch.
And following the Feast of New Wine, the same pattern is presented leading up to the Feast of New Oil.
You shall count from that day seven weeks – seven times seven days, forty-nine days, seven complete weeks – until the day after the seventh Sabbath: count fifty days. Then offer new oil from the places where the tribes of the children of Israel dwell, half a hin from each tribe, newly extracted oil. They are to offer the first fruits of the oil on the altar of burnt offering, as first fruits before the LORD . . .Temple Scroll, column 21 lines 12-16
…they are to anoint themselves with new oil and eat olives, for on that day they shall have atoned for all the oil of the land before the LORD, as an annual rite once a year. The children of Israel shall rejoice before the LORD wherever they may live; this is an eternal statute for generation after generation.Temple Scroll, column 22 line 15 – column 23 line 2
Just as with the wine, oil from the new harvest of olives was not to be used until the first fruits offering was made at this Feast.
So the Temple Scroll outlines a series of Feasts spaced equally throughout the Spring and Summer.
The First Fruits of Barley, the Wave Sheaf, is on the first day of the week following the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Then exactly seven weeks later, counting fifty days inclusive of the first day and ending on the first day of the week, is the First Fruits of Wheat, the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot (Pentecost).
Exactly seven weeks later, counting fifty days inclusive of the first day and ending on the first day of the week, is the First Fruits of New Wine.
And exactly seven weeks after that, counting fifty days inclusive of the first day and ending on the first day of the week, is the First Fruits of New Oil.
Did Yeshua Observe These Feasts?
The Feast of New Wine and Feast of New Oil are not directly mentioned in Scripture, either in the Tanakh (Old Testament) or the New Testament. There are many Biblical references to offerings of grain, wine, and oil that would correspond to these four First Fruits Feasts, but the details laid out in the Temple Scroll are not found. There are a a few Scripture passages referring to Shavuot, the first fruits of the wheat harvest, and only one reference to the wave sheaf of the barley harvest.
Yeshua’s relationship to the Qumran community, those who were the keepers of the Dead Sea Scrolls including the Temple Scroll, is also not defined in the Gospels. Some who are familiar with the community have found clues within the New Testament, but it is all speculation.
There is no evidence that Yeshua observed the Feast of New Wine or the Feast of New Oil. There is also no evidence anywhere in the Gospels that he observed the wave sheaf of the barley harvest, or Shavuot, or Yom Teruah, or Yom Kippur. But does anyone truly doubt that he kept those Feasts? Silence does not indicate that it did not happen.
Torah designates the Feast of Weeks as an annual Sabbath festival, one in which no ordinary work is to be done (Leviticus 23:21). The waving of the barley sheaf is NOT a Sabbath festival. Likewise, the Temple Scroll does not say that the Feast of New Wine or Feast of New Oil should be observed as a Sabbath.
Clearly the offerings and rites of all four of these First Fruits celebrations cannot be observed as prescribed in the Torah or the Temple Scroll today. We can count and acknowledge the day, at least as best we understand it. And we can continually be mindful of offering Yahweh our best “first fruits” in everything we do.
Take some time to contemplate the Wine and the Oil, their significance in the Scriptures, and their application to your life in Messiah Yeshua.Unless marked otherwise, Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation
Quotations from the Temple Scroll are taken from The Dead Sea Scrolls, A New Translation by Wise, Abegg, and Cook © HarperCollins