The first-fruits of the ground were offered unto God just as the first-born of man and animals.
The law required, (1.) That on the morrow after the Passover Sabbath a sheaf of new corn should be waved by the priest before the altar (Lev. 23:5, 6, 10, 12; 2:12).
(2.) That at the feast of Pentecost two loaves of leavened bread, made from the new flour, were to be waved in like manner (Lev. 23:15, 17; Num. 28:26).
(3.) The feast of Tabernacles was an acknowledgement that the fruits of the harvest were from the Lord (Ex. 23:16; 34:22).
(4.) Every individual, besides, was required to consecrate to God a portion of the first-fruits of the land (Ex. 22:29; 23:19; 34:26; Num. 15:20, 21).
(5.) The law enjoined that no fruit was to be gathered from newly-planted fruit-trees for the first three years, and that the first-fruits of the fourth year were to be consecrated to the Lord (Lev. 19:23-25). Jeremiah (2:3) alludes to the ordinance of "first-fruits," and hence he must have been acquainted with the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, where the laws regarding it are recorded.
- furst'-froots (re'shith, bikkurim; aparche. Septuagint translates re'shith by aparche, but for bikkurim it uses the word protogennemata; compare Philo 22 33): In acknowledgment of the fact that the land and all its products were the gift of Yahweh to Israel, and in thankfulness for His bounty, all the first-fruits were offered to Him. These were offered in their natural state (e.g. cereals, tree fruits, grapes), or after preparation (e.g. musk, oil, flour, dough), after which the Israelite was at liberty to use the rest (Ex 23:19
; Nu 15:20
; Dt 26:2
; Neh 10:35,37
). No absolute distinction can be made between re'shith and bikkurim, but re'shith seems generally to mean what is prepared by human labor, and bikkurim the direct product of Nature. The phrase "the first of the first-fruits" (Ex 23:19
; Ezek 44:30
), Hebrew re'shith bikkure, Greek aparchai ton protogennematon, is not quite clear. It may mean the first-ripe or the choicest of the first-fruits. The re'shith offerings were individual, except that a re'shith of dough was to be offered as a heave offering (Nu 15:17-21
). The priest waved a re'shith of corn before the Lord on the morrow after the Sabbath in the week of unleavened bread (Lev 23:9-11
). These offerings all fell to the priest (Nu 18:12
). Bikkurim refers specially to things sown (Ex 23:16
; Lev 2:14
). At the Feast of Weeks, seven weeks after the offering of the sheaf, bikkurim of corn in the ear, parched with fire and bruised, were brought to the House of the Lord as a meal offering (Ex 34:22-26
; Lev 2:14-16
). The bikkurim also fell to the priest, except a portion which was burned as a memorial (Lev 2:8-10,16
). The beautiful ceremony of the offering of the re'shith in the House of God is described in Dt 26:1-11
, and is enlarged upon in the Talmud (Bikkurim 3 2). According to the Talmud (Terumoth 4 3) a sixtieth part of the first-fruits in a prepared form was the minimum that could be offered; the more generous brought a fortieth part, and even a thirtieth. The fruits of newly planted trees were not to be gathered during the first three years; the fruits of the fourth year were consecrated to Yahweh, and from the fifth year the fruits belonged to the owner of the trees (Lev 19:23-25
). According to Mishna, `Orlah i.10, even the shells of nuts and pomegranates could not be used during the first three years as coloring matter or for the lighting of fires. It is held by some scholars that the institution of the tithe (see TITHE) is a later development from the first-fruits.
Figurative: In the Old Testament, in Jer 2:3, Israel is called "the re'shith of his increase." In the New Testament aparche is applied figuratively to the first convert or converts in a particular place (Rom 16:5; 1 Cor 16:15); to the Christians of that age (Jas 1:18; 2 Thess 2:13, WHm), and to the 144,000 in heaven (Rev 14:4); to Christ, as the first who rose from the dead (1 Cor 15:20,23); also to the blessings which we receive now through the Spirit, the earnest of greater blessings to come (Rom 8:23).