- Many scholars believe that the "Covenant Code" (Exodus 21-23) is the oldest collection of laws in the Torah.
- No date. Indeed, it seems very likely that these festivals would be either personal or local, celebrated whenever one completes the spring harvest.
- Based on the fact that Hag Ha'asif is at the end of the year, this must be at the beginning of the year, following Hag Hamatzot, mentioned in the previous verse.
- The festival is called a חג which means a pilgrimage festival. Thus people must be going to some Temple/or place of worship. However, Exodus never discusses the centralization of worship. Thus a חג in Exodus would mean to a local sanctuary, not Jerusalem.
Two months gathering (Tishrei/Heshvan)
Two months planting (Kislev/Tevet)
One month cutting flax (Nisan)
One month reaping barley ( Iyar)
One month reaping and measuring grain (Sivan)
One month summer fruit (Elul)
The Gezer calendar is a small inscribed limestone tablet discovered in 1908 by Irish archaeologist R. A. Stewart Macalister in the ancient Canaanite city of Gezer, 20 miles west of Jerusalem. It is commonly dated to the 10th century BCE, although the excavation was unstratified and its identification during the excavations was not in a "secure archaeological context", presenting uncertainty around the dating.
- This is a difficult text--what does "Weeks" mean? Exodus gives us no answer and thus can only be interpreted based on other texts.
- Biblical scholars believe that the word "Weeks" is an interpolation/emendation by the Deuteronomist,, who changed the original "חג הקציר" with חג השבועות.
- Here "wheat" is mentioned, not barley. Wheat is a later harvest than barley, and thus, if we identify this with the other harvest holidays elsewhere in the Torah, this is the latter one. According to many scholars, Matzot is the barley harvest festival.
- Scholars attribute this section of Leviticus to the Holiness Code, a source from a different priestly author than the composer of the first 18 chapters of Leviticus.
- This is by far the most complicated, detailed description of these holidays. We will now look at this again, verse by verse.
The fact that there is a new header demonstrates that this is a new holiday. Distinct from Hag Hamatzot that preceded it.
According to its simple meaning, this verse commands the Israelite to bring the first of his harvest to the priest. The verb וקצרתם means that this is a grain harvest, and since the wheat harvest is referred to later, this must be the barley harvest, which precedes that of the grain.
The priest elevates the sheaf as is often done with sacrifices.
The problematic words here (and later in the passage) are “after the Sabbath.” The problem goes deeper than trying to identify which Sabbath the verse is talking about (a HUGE dispute among ancient Jews). The problem is that there is no date to the holiday, and indeed, were it not for this phrase (and its other appearances) the date on which this offering is brought would seem to be completely personal. “After the Sabbath” implies that there is a specific date in which this offering must be brought to the priest.
This leads Milgram (Leviticus, p. 2060) to suggest that the addition of the phrase would “allow the farmers in a particular area, devotees of the same regional sanctuary, to begin the grain harvest during the same week and, collectively, celebrate the firstfruits festival together on the same day.” It seems that Milgram thinks that originally the phrase “after the Sabbath” did not have any particular Sabbath in mind. He describes the gloss as “a vestige of the first attempt to prescribe a pilgrimage festival for the firstfruit of the grain heretofore brought by individual farmers whenever their grain ripened.” He calls the author the "Sunday Pentacostalist."
Again, it is worth remembering that Leviticus also does not mention the centralization of worship. Only Deuteronomy does. Thus there is no reason to suppose that this holiday was celebrated on the same day in every location.
Another interesting suggestion as to how to interpret the word is that ממחרת השבת does not refer to the seventh day of the week, but to an older meaning of the word "shabbat"--the middle day of the month. This mostly emerges from the pairing of "Hodesh" with "Shabbat" as in II Kings 4:23, וַיֹּ֗אמֶר מַ֠דּוּעַ אתי [אַ֣תְּ] הלכתי [הֹלֶ֤כֶת] אֵלָיו֙ הַיּ֔וֹם לֹֽא־חֹ֖דֶשׁ וְלֹ֣א שַׁבָּ֑ת וַתֹּ֖אמֶר שָׁלֽוֹם׃" or Isaiah 1:13, "לֹ֣א תוֹסִ֗יפוּ הָבִיא֙ מִנְחַת־שָׁ֔וְא קְטֹ֧רֶת תּוֹעֵבָ֛ה הִ֖יא לִ֑י חֹ֤דֶשׁ וְשַׁבָּת֙ קְרֹ֣א מִקְרָ֔א לֹא־אוּכַ֥ל אָ֖וֶן וַעֲצָרָֽה׃." If this is the meaning, then counting would begin on the 16th of the month, as it does in later Pharisaic tradition. See https://www.academia.edu/39224051/Israelite_Festivals_From_Cyclical_Time_Celebrations_to_Linear_Time_Commemorations
Once the first grain has been offered, along with the attendant sacrifices, the new grain harvest may be eaten. Many scholars have pointed out that in different regions in Israel the grain will ripen at different times. Thus it does not really make sense to have one unified time for all of Israel in which new grain could be eaten. This is what leads many to conclude that the holiday was originally personal or at least regional.
Modern scholars disagree over whether these verses are a later interpolation, reflecting the centralization of worship, or whether they are part of the original strata and that the individual farmer was meant to bring these sacrifices, along with the first omer.
Now that we have clarified that “after the Sabbath” refers to an attempt to unify a personal holiday into a regional one, the counting make more sense. The count begins the day that the first omer of barley is brought, and continues until the wheat harvest, when another offering of new grain is brought. Again, this counting is either personal or regional. Leviticus has no notion of centralization of worship.
Verse 17 is posited to be part of the original strata.
Verses 18-19 are later additions by the editor of H, who converts an individual offering into a public offering in the sanctuary.
Note the use of the word "bikkurim" "first fruits". This is the same word used in Exodus 23 and 34. However, it is unclear if the date of this holiday is the same as that in Exodus. Exodus has only one festival and Leviticus has two. Furthermore, here instead of ears of corn being offered, bread is being offered, making it more likely that this is a latter festival, at the end of the harvest, the same one referred to in Exodus.
This is not a pilgrimage festival, as can be seen from the words “in all your settlements,” and from the fact that the word “חג” is not used anywhere in connection with the day. The offerings listed above are brought to the sanctuary (be it central or local) but the work prohibition applies everywhere.
To conclude, the source that lies behind the Holiness Code describes two independent first fruits festivals. The first was for the barley and the second for wheat. These offerings are not part of pilgrimage festivals. They are occasions in which farmers had to bring firstfruits and sacrifices to their local sanctuaries. The redactors of the Holiness code attempt to regionalize these occasions by dictating that they both occur on the day after the Sabbath, and that they are separated by seven “Sabbath-weeks.” The redactors of H add in offerings brought to a central sanctuary but fall short of calling this a חג a pilgrimage festival.
However, as elsewhere in the Bible there is no date for these offerings nor is there any connection to Hag Hamatzot. "After the Sabbath" did not originally refer to the Sabbath after Matzot (as the Sadducees/Dead Sea Sect posited) nor to the Sabbath after the first day of Matzot (Pharisees/Rabbis). The seven weeks did not connect Pesah with Shavuot. They connect a dateless barley harvest with a dateless wheat harvest.
According to Milgram, this refers to barley, not wheat, as barley is not usually eaten in this manner.
The text does not refer to any festival in which such an offering is brought. The phrasing seems to imply that it is up to the individual to decide when to bring the offering "if" and not "when." However, if Leviticus does not have a date for this holiday and leaves it up to the individual farmer, then there is no reason not to identify this with the Omer offering.
Again, this is not called a חג, unlike Sukkot and Matzot which are (see below). The name of the day is “The Day of Firstfruits” the same name as is given in Exodus 23, and probably was originally part of Exodus 34. The crux of this passage is “in your weeks.” This word has almost certainly been awkwardly inserted into the verse by a later author. The syntax of the word itself is unusual—why is it “your weeks.” Clearly, the gloss alludes to a count of sorts, but within Numbers what this count is is unclear, for Numbers has no other firstfruits festival from which to count.
The very list of sacrifices implies the centralization of this holiday. Similar to the end of the passage in Leviticus, Numbers assumes that this holiday is observed by the priests in some either regional or national sanctuary and not just by farmers visiting the local priest.
Deuteronomy seems to be a combination of P and H, with its own particular Deuteronomic shift. Like H, it refers to a count of seven weeks. However, unlike H and more like P (or at least the oblique reference in P) it does not have any first holiday with a determined date. While in H both holidays could have been originally personal, every farmer bringing these offerings when his own harvest began, and later on regional, with everyone bringing the offerings on the Sunday following the beginning of the harvest and again at the end of the seven-week period, since D calls this a pilgrimage festival, a חג, the date must be the same for everyone. Thus, as often happens, the confusion in D is a result of their taking an older, personal or regional holiday, and imposing upon it a unified national pilgrimage.
Deuteronomy has an entirely different understanding of "bikkurim." Whereas ch. 16 does not call the harvest festival "bikkurim," ch. 26 has a different occasion for bringing first fruits. This first fruits festival does not seem to have a date nor does it mention any particular type of first fruits.
Here too there does not seem to be a particular date on which the bikkurim must be brought.
In Exodus 23 and 34 and Deuteronomy 16 we read of three pilgrimage festivals, but here in Ezekiel, only the spring and fall festival are included. Shavuot or Katzir is not mentioned. It may be that this holiday was not considered a national pilgrimage as late as Ezekiel's time.
We should note that there is no explicit reference to this holiday in the Tanakh outside of the Torah. This is not true for Sukkot or Matzot.
In this text they begin to eat parched grains on the first day of Matzot. This is only one day earlier then Pharisaic tradition begins and it might be an allusion to the interpretation of Shabbat as the 15th of the month.
[ו] ס֗פ֗ר֗ת֗מ֗ה֗ לכמה מיום הביאכמה את המנחה חדשה ליהו֗[ה] [את] ל֗ח֗ם֗ ה֗בכורים שבעה שבועות שבע שבתות תמימות [תהיינה] עד֗ ממוחרת השבת השביעית תספורו חמשים יום ו[ה]ק֗[ר]ב֗תמה יין חדש לנסך…
Temple Scroll, Column 18
[And] you shall count off for yourselves from the day on which you carried to YHW[H] the new cereal offering, the bread of the first-fruits, seven weeks; [there will be] seven full weeks [up] to the day after the seventh sabbath. You shall count off fifty days, and [y]ou [shall] o[f]fer new wine for the libation… (19:11-14)
The wine festival is celebrated 50 days after the wheat festival. The date would be the third of the fifth month.
וספר֗[תמ]ה [לכ]ם֗ מיום֗ הזה שבעה שבעות שבע פעמים תשעה וארבעי֗ם יום שבע֗ שבתות תמימות תהיינה עד ממוחרת השבת השביעית תספורו חמשים יום. והקרבתמה שמן חדש ממשבות [מ]טות בנ֗[י יש]רא֗ל מחצית ההין אחד מן המטה, שמן חדש כתית [ויקריבו את ראשית ה]י֗צהר על מזבח העולה, בכורים לפני יהוה…
Temple Scroll 21:11-16
From this day [you] shall count off [for yourselves] seven times seven weeks. There will be forty-nine days, seven full weeks, up to the day after the seventh sabbath. You shall count off fifty days and you shall offer new oil from the dwelling places of the clans of the so[ns of Is]rael half a hin, one per clan, refined new oil, and they shall bring the first of the oil on to the altar of burnt-offerings, first produce (bikkurim) before YHWH…
The oil festival, fifty days after the wine festival. The date would be the 22nd of the sixth month.
The rabbis do seem to be familiar with some ritual marking the beginning of the offering of the Omer.