The Feast of First Fruits

The Lord instructed Moses to institute seven yearly feasts for the nation of Israel. Each of these feasts had prophetic significance. The Feast of Passover pictured the death of Christ. Another feast, the Feast of First Fruits, pictured His Resurrection.

4 These are the feasts of the Lord, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons.

5 In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord's passover.

6 And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the Lord: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread.

7 In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.

8 But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.

9 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

10 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest:

11 And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.

12 And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the Lord.

13 And the meat offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the Lord for a sweet savour: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin.

14 And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.

Leviticus 23:4-14

In these verses the Lord gives instructions for the Feast of Unleavened Bread. He specifies when the feast should be held (vv. 5-6). He lays down strict requirements for the first and last days (vv. 7-8). And He appoints a special observance for the day after the Sabbath (vv. 9-14). On that day, which became known as the Feast of First Fruits, the priests were to present an offering consisting of a single sheaf of barley. The offering was called first fruits, for two reasons.

  1. It represented the first produce of the barley harvest, which was just then beginning. Nothing from that harvest could be used or eaten until the offering was presented (v. 14).
  2. The barley harvest in Nisan, the first month, was the first harvest of the year.

We have three solid reasons for asserting that the Feast of First Fruits foreshadowed the resurrection of Christ.

  1. Throughout Scripture, life springing up from a seed symbolizes resurrection.

    23 And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.

    24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

    25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

    John 12:23-25

    The middle verse has a secondary reference to the work of the gospel following Jesus' death and resurrection. But the fruiting of the dying seed mainly pictures the believer's future attainment of an immortal body. The bracketing verses verify this interpretation. In verse 23, Jesus calls our attention to His own glorification, which will immediately follow His resurrection. In verse 25, He says that anyone willing to renounce this world even at the cost of his life will win life eternal. Like a seed, he will not really die, but rather he will progress to a superior form of life. God will raise him to immortality, glory, and power.

    The same imagery occurs also in Paul's writings.

    35 But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?

    36 Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:

    37 And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain:

    38 But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. . . .

    42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:

    43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:

    44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.

    1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-44

    The picture is clear. The body a believer now has is like a nondescript, perishable seed. It is not at all comparable to the wonderful body he will inherit at his resurrection, for then he will become like beautiful ripened grain. But first he must be buried in the ground and undergo a kind of death.

  2. On the Feast of First Fruits, one sheaf of grain was offered on behalf of the whole nation. The Lord could have asked for a sheaf from every farmer. Instead, He was content with a single sheaf. The singularity of the offering suggests that it typified one man. Since fruited grain depicts a man in his immortal state, we surmise that the offering typified one man risen from the dead.

  3. Who is that man? His identity is revealed in the second offering that the Lord required on the Feast of First Fruits. Besides waving a sheaf of barley before the Lord, the priests also sacrificed a he lamb without blemish (Lev. 23:12). These two offerings on behalf of the whole nation were single entities, as if each represented one person, and they were concurrent, as if both represented the same person. The lamb was undoubtedly a type of Christ, for many prophecies announce that He would die like a lamb for the sins of the world.

    All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

    Isaiah 53:6

    Thus, the wave offering prefiguring a man who would gain immortality was also a type of Christ. In its transparent symbolism, the Feast of First Fruits was God's message to Israel that the coming Redeemer would die and rise again.


Our interpretation of the Feast of Firstfruits is upheld by the teaching of Paul. He declared that Jesus' resurrection actualized the shadowy pictures set forth in the Feast of First Fruits.

But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

1 Corinthians 15:20

The correspondence between type and antitype was complete in every detail.

  1. The sheaf offered to the Lord at the feast was the first grain to be harvested during the year. Indeed, Jesus was the first man to pass from death to life immortal.

  2. The Feast of First Fruits fell on the day following the Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread; that is, on the first day of the week, which was Sunday. The New Testament also places Christ's resurrection on Sunday (Mat. 28:1-6). The Sabbath one day before was the Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread (John 18:28; 19:31). It is therefore evident that Resurrection Sunday coincided with the Feast of First Fruits. Here, then, is a coincidence defying naturalistic explanation. The Feast of First Fruits not only foreshadowed the resurrection of the coming Redeemer; it showed on precisely what day of the year He would rise.

Jonah's Escape

Just as there is an Old Testament prophecy stating the duration of Christ's stay in the tomb, so there is an Old Testament type giving the same message. Jesus Himself referred to it when He rebuked His enemies for seeking a sign.

For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Matthew 12:40

Seeing Jonah's ordeal as a type of Christ's time in the grave is by no means far-fetched. Jonah's prayer while he languished in the fish's belly clearly suggests a larger significance.

1 Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish's belly,

2 And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.

3 For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.

4 Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.

5 The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.

6 I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.

7 When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.

8 They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.

9 But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.

Jonah 2:1-9

He speaks of himself as cast away by God (v. 4). His alienation reminds us of another who cried that God had forsaken Him. Furthermore, Jonah refers to himself as one dead, locked in the belly of hell (v. 2), although he himself did not die when the fish swallowed him. The prayer therefore points to the experience of someone else. Leaving no doubt that it is specifically the experience of Christ is Jonah's exultation that God has "brought up my life from corruptions" (v. 6). Where is that? It is the place at the bottom of the mountains where he would have lain under bars forever. The imagery plainly speaks of resurrection from the dead. The consequence, according to the prayer, is that the man God has delivered will again come to the Temple (v. 7). In other words, after being dead, he will act again as a living man.

Since Christ was the first to rise from death to life immortal, the prayer is properly seen as a poetic celebration of His resurrection, which in Jonah's day was still hundreds of years in the future. And since the prayer was Jonah's plea to be rescued from the fish's belly, his rescue is properly seen as an event God intended to serve as a type of the Resurrection.