How To Determine Aviv Barley

In the last chapter we saw that the new moon day (Rosh Chodesh) takes place when the first crescent sliver of the new moon is seen from the land of Israel. In this chapter we will see that the new year begins with one of the new moon days. This special new moon day is called Rosh Hashanah, or the Head of the Year.

In this chapter we will see that the priesthood should declare Rosh Hashanah on the new moon day after the barley in the land of Israel reveals immature green heads of grain from the stalks. We will also see that we still need trained observers when the weather is cold, but in general terms, when the first full shocks of barley in the land of Israel have revealed green (immature) grain heads, the priesthood should declare the next New Moon Day as Rosh Hashanah (the Head of the Year). It is essential for the priesthood to declare Rosh Hashanah at the right time, because if they do it wrong, the barley farmers with the earliest ripening barley can lose their crops. In ancient times this could potentially mean financial ruin, starvation, or even enslavement for the barley farmers, so it must be done correctly.

To begin, let us note that while the rabbis place Rosh Hashanah in the fall, Yahweh places it in the spring. To see this, first let us look at Exodus 9:31-32, where Yahweh struck Egypt with a plague of hail during the first Exodus. The hail struck the flax because it was budding, while the barley was developing exposed green heads of grain. When the barley is developing exposed green heads of grain, the barley is said to be developing “in the head”. In Hebrew, the term for “in the head” is aviv (אָבִיב).

Exodus 9:31-32
31 Now the flax and the barley were struck, for the barley was [developing] in the head and the flax was in bud.
32 But the wheat and the spelt were not struck, for they are late crops.
(31) וְהַפִּשְׁתָּה וְהַשְּׂעֹרָה נֻכָּתָה | כִּי הַשְּׂעֹרָה אָבִיב וְהַפִּשְׁתָּה גִּבְעֹל:
(32) וְהַחִטָּה וְהַכֻּסֶּמֶת לֹא נֻכּוּ | כִּי אֲפִילֹת הֵנָּה

This term aviv (אָבִיב) is Strong’s Hebrew Concordance OT:24, referring to tender green ears of grain. This means that aviv grain is immature green grain, and not almost-ripe grain. We will come back to this later.

OT:24 ‘abiyb (aw-beeb’); from an unused root (meaning to be tender); green, i.e. a young ear of grain; hence, the name of the month Abib or Nisan:

The next thing we need to know is that not long after the green heads of grain had emerged from the barley, Yahweh told Moshe and Aharon that they were to consider that month to be the first month of their year (aka Rosh Hashanah, or the Head of the Year).

Exodus 12:2
2 “This month is the head of months for you; it is the first month of the year to you.”
(2) הַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה לָכֶם רֹאשׁ חֳדָשִׁים | רִאשׁוֹן הוּא לָכֶם לְחָדְשֵׁי הַשָּׁנָה

But how can we know for sure that aviv barley is barley whose immature green grain heads have emerged from the stalk? To answer that, let us take a closer look at how barley develops.

How Barley Develops

While modern agriculture uses different terms, for our purposes, barley and other cereal grains can be thought to pass through seven (or eight) stages of growth. These stages take place with increasing rapidity, and the final stages take place relatively rapidly. It may be helpful to imagine a barley plant passing through these phases.

1. Vegetative growth (grass) stage
2. Budding and flowering stage
3. Seed pod formation (cotton) stage
4. Watery stage and Milk stage (minimum aviv)
5. Soft dough (parchable) stage
6. Hard dough (carmel) stage
7. Ancient ripe (sickle-ripe, not as brittle)
8. Modern ripe (combine-ripe, brittle)

The longest stage for barley, flax, or any other cereal grass is the vegetative growth stage. During vegetative growth, the grass is still green, and soft. If hail strikes it, it is not affected. However, as barley (or any other cereal grass) starts to mature, the stalks will get harder, so they can support the increased weight of the flowers and the grain. With flowering and seeding, the plants begin to get top-heavy. Once the plants are top-heavy and brittle, if they are struck by hail (or even by a hard rain), the stalks can bend, and sometimes kink. Yet even if they do not kink, wet, top-heavy stalks that have been knocked to the ground will not always want to stand back up—and if the crop stays down, it is lost. Exodus 9:31 (above) shows us that this can happen as early as the budding and flowering stages, because the flax was struck (or destroyed) by the hail, even though it was still only in the budding phase.

The below graphic is by the University of Wisconsin, USA, from their “Spring Barley Growth and Development Guide.” It shows the development of average spring barley. The process can take longer in cold weather, but what we need to see here is that for average spring barley, the amount of time between when the immature green heads of grain emerge and the barley is modern-combine ripe is only about 31 days, on average.

However, we also need to realize the difference between modern combine-ripe, and ancient sickle-ripe. When harvesting with a combine, one wants the barley heads to be as mature as possible, so that the grain is almost ready to fall out of the head. That is because when the combine comes along in the field, the paddles will slap the grain. The goal is not only to harvest the stalk, but also to knock the seed out of the seed head, and to get it to separate from the chaff. This can only happen when the plant is so mature that it is almost ready to start dropping its seed. Let us note well that once the green heads of grain emerge from the stalks, it only takes 31 days on average, to reach this point. We will also come back to this point later.

In the modern era, we often have romanticized ideas about what ancient sickle-harvesting was like. Many of us picture a steel sickle from the 1800s, when metallurgy was relatively well developed, and the steel could hold a sharp edge. However, in Biblical times, sickles were not nearly so sophisticated, or sharp. For example, here is a picture of an ancient flint sickle from Israel (file from Wikipedia). Even when new, such sickles were not as sharp as steel sickles, and one had to hit the grain stalks with much more force, in order to cut them.

If one hits barley that is modern-combine-ripe with this kind of sickle, the force of the blow will cause the grain heads to break, and drop much of their seed. For this reason, when harvesting with such a sickle, one had to harvest the grain at perhaps only 27-28 days, because if one waited for the crop to become modern combine-ripe, much of the crop would be lost.

Now let us consider that the difference between ancient sickle-ripe at 27-28 days is only a few days ahead of modern combine-ripe (at 31 days). Now let us imagine how much more fragile the barley heads become if we start going beyond 31 days. In another week or two, the barley heads will break even when the spring winds blow the barley around. That is why Yeshua tells us that when the grain becomes ripe, the wise farmer immediately puts in the sickle, because the time of the harvest has come.

Marqaus (Mark) 4:28-29
28 “For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head.
29 But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

Not Too Late, and Not Too Soon

What we have seen is that it is important not to wait too long to harvest barley. However, the flip side is that it is also important not to harvest it too soon. But how soon is too soon? We will see that anything before about 14 days from the time the green grain heads emerge from the stalk is too soon to harvest it, but it is also not too soon to declare the new moon of the aviv. To see this, let us look at how barley seed develops.

The below image shows how barley seed develops. When the green grain head is revealed from the stalk, the empty green seed hull is also revealed. First the empty hull fills with a watery fluid. This is called the water stage. Then the watery fluid becomes milky, called the milk stage. These first two stages last for a total of about 10-12 days. We cannot offer the barley as a firstfruits offering during these first two stages, because there is really nothing that can be eaten until about the 14th day.

With normal weather, about 14 days after the green grain heads emerge from the stalk, the barley reaches what is called the soft dough stage. This means the fluid inside of the husk has thickened to the point that it now has the consistency of soft bread dough. At this point it has a high starch content, which means it is edible. It can also be cut with a fingernail. Even though soft dough barley is not yet fully ripe, if one roasts or parches it in fire, the heat will drive the excess moisture out, and one is left with a delicacy like puffed wheat (except it is barley). The New King James Version (NKJV) calls this “green heads of grain parched in the fire.” In Hebrew it is called aviv kalui (אָבִיב קָלוּי). Leviticus 2:14 makes it clear that this is one of only two stages of grain which Yahweh accepts as a firstfruits offering.

Leviticus 2:14
14 “Also when you bring an offering of firstfruits to Yahweh, you shall bring green heads of grain [i.e., aviv] parched in the fire, [or] crushed carmel shall you offer for your firstfruits offering.’”
(14) וְאִם תַּקְרִיב מִנְחַת בִּכּוּרִים לַיהוָה | אָבִיב קָלוּי בָּאֵשׁ גֶּרֶשׂ כַּרְמֶל תַּקְרִיב אֵת מִנְחַת בִּכּוּרֶיךָ

The other stage of barley which Yahweh accepts for firstfruits offerings is called hard dough. Hard dough barley is barley whose head has turned brown, and the grain is so hard that you can no longer cut it in half with your fingernail, but can perhaps still dent it with your fingernail. Leviticus 2:14 calls barley in this stage by the name, crushed carmel (גֶּרֶשׂ כַּרְמֶל). Crushed carmel is hard dough barley that is not yet hard enough to grind into flour, but one can still crack it or crush it in a mortar and pestle and then roast it in fire, such that it yields a delicacy like cracked corn, or cracked wheat. Barley enters this stage about 21 days after the (aviv) green grain heads emerge from the stalk.

Alternately, the King James Version (KJV) renders this phrase as “corn beaten out of full ears”.

Leviticus 2:14 KJV
14 “And if thou offer a meat offering of thy firstfruits unto [Yahweh], thou shalt offer for the meat offering of thy firstfruits green ears of corn dried by the fire [aviv kalui], even corn beaten out of full ears [crushed carmel].”

Strong’s Hebrew Concordance tells us that the word beaten is OT:1643, geres (גֶּרֶשׂ), referring to grain that needs to be husked (i.e., it needs to have its husk removed manually).

OT:1643 geres (gheh’-res); from an unused root meaning to husk; a kernel (collectively), i.e. grain:
KJV – beaten corn.

The KJV rendering also works, because when barley reaches the hard dough stage, it can be beaten with a mortar and pestle, which removes the husk, and it also often breaks in pieces. Yet what we need to see here is that Leviticus 2:14 tells us that the only two kinds of barley Yahweh accepts as a firstfruits offering are aviv kalui (soft dough) and crushed carmel (hard dough). In other words, Yahweh only accepts green, immature barley for firstfruits offerings—and therefore, if we bring Him a firstfruits offering of ripe, mature barley, it violates Leviticus 2:14.

Rosh Hashanah to Yom Hanafat Haomer

In the next two chapters we will see that two weeks after Rosh Hashanah comes the Pesach (Passover). The Passover can fall on any day of the week, but on the first day of the week (Sunday) following the Pesach, the priesthood is supposed to present Yahweh with a single wave sheaf of barley for the nation. We have already seen how Yahweh wants this wave sheaf to be either parched green grain (aviv kalui) or hard dough that is beaten, husked, or crushed (geres carmel). However, what is so fascinating is how this corresponds perfectly with how barley ripens.

Earlier we saw that when the soft green heads of grain emerge from the stalk, there are about 31 days until the barley is mature enough, and the head is fragile enough that it can be harvested with a combine. However, with an ancient sickle one only wants to wait about 28 days, or the heads will drop their grain when the stalks are hit by the sickle. Thus it only takes about 28 days after the green heads emerge from the stalks until the barley is ripe to harvest with a sickle. This corresponds to what we might call super-hard dough, or dough that is so hard that it cannot be dented with a fingernail.

Now let us consider the following sequence: once the green heads emerge from the stalk, the next time the first crescent sliver of the new moon is seen, that is Rosh Hashanah. From that point, the seed will take about 14 days until it reaches the soft dough stage (and becomes acceptable as a firstfruits offering). Notice that this is the same number of days until the Pesach (Passover).

In the next two chapters we will see that the Pesach is exactly 14 days after Rosh Hashanah. While Pesach can fall on any day of the week, we will see that the wave sheaf if offered on the first day of the week after that. So, for example, if Rosh Hashanah takes place on the first day of the week, and the Passover takes place 14 days later, then the Wave Sheaf will be offered 15 days later. This is the minimum time between Rosh Hashanah and the Yom Hanafat Haomer (the Wave Sheaf Offering).

Rosh 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
Omer

If we will consider this, it means that in a normal year, if there is even one full shock of barley whose grain heads have fully emerged from their stalks on the day of the new moon, the priests should declare Rosh Hashanah, because the barley has at least 15 more days to become parchable. And since it only takes barley 14 days to become parchable in an average year, it is safe to declare Rosh Hashanah. (We should note that 15 days might not be enough in a cold year, as the growth rate of barley slows in cold weather. That is why we send out teams of experienced observers, to judge the condition of the barley.)

We should note well that the barley does not need to be edible before Rosh Hashanah! Rather, it only needs to be ripe by the time of Yom Hanafat Haomer (the day of the Wave Sheaf Offering).

Now let us look at the maximum time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Hanafat Haomer. If Rosh Hashanah falls on the Sabbath, and the Passover takes place 14 days later, and then the omer is offered on the first day of the week following the Sabbath, then the omer will be offered at the maximum limit of 21 days after Rosh Hashana.

Rosh 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Pass 15 16 17 18 19 20
Omer

21 days is the amount of time in an average year that it would take aviv barley to become hard dough (geres carmel). Yet no matter whether the barley is soft dough or hard dough, both qualify as a wave sheaf offering, because both are still immature grains.

One reason this is so critical is that Deuteronomy 16:9 requires us to present the omer of firstfruits to Yahweh before we begin putting the sickle to the standing grain (i.e., harvesting our crops).

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 16:9
9 “You shall count seven weeks for yourself; begin to count the seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the grain.”

Once we have honored Yahweh by bringing Him the omer of immature-yet-edible barley He says He wants, then the farmers are free to harvest the rest of their crops as soon as they come ripe. This means their crops will not get lost by becoming over-ripe, and dropping their seed before they get harvested.

Wait Too Long, Lose the Crops

As we saw in the tables above, if the tender green heads of grain emerge from their stalks on the 58th day, and the priesthood correctly declares Rosh Hashanah when the next new moon is seen, then the Pesach will take place on the 14th of the first month, and the omer will be offered sometime in between the 15th and the 21st of the first month. By the 15th, the barley will have at least entered the soft dough stage, where it has enough starch to be parched and eaten. Alternately, by the 21st, the barley will at least have entered the hard dough stage, which can also be eaten. Either one of these is acceptable as a firstfruits offering according to Leviticus 2:14 (above).

Conversely, if the tender green heads of grain emerge from their stalks, but the priesthood fails to declare the Head of the Year at the next new moon, then another 29-to-30-day month will be added to the calendar. What this means is that instead of offering the firstfruits 15-21 days after the tender green grain heads emerged from their stalks (i.e., when the barley is at least in the soft dough stage, or in the hard dough stage), the firstfruits offering will be presented ([15-20] + [29-30] =) 44-50 days after the green heads of barley emerge from their stalks. However, that is a disaster, because the barley only has 31 days until it becomes modern combine-ripe, and the head is fragile. The heads will begin to break in the wind at about 37-40 days, and the barley crop will end up on the ground before the sheaf can be offered between 44-50 days—and so all of the farmers with the earliest ripening crops will lose their crops.

If you lose a barley crop today, it can mean financial ruin. However, in ancient times, it might also mean starvation, especially during times of famine. Neither famine nor slavery were uncommon in ancient times, and if you were a poor farmer who lost your crop, you might need to sell yourself and your family into slavery for silver, or even as little as a pair of sandals, as Amos also says.

Amos 2:6
6 Thus says Yahweh: “For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, Because they sell the righteous for silver, And the poor for a pair of sandals.”

The year 2020 CE was a good example of what can go wrong if the priesthood does not declare the Head of the Year at the next new moon after the green heads of grain are exposed. The new moon was seen on 25/02/2020. Even though there was much more than a simple shock of barley with heads of grain clearly exposed, most barley observer teams said the barley was not aviv, because it was not ripe for the harvest! Here is one field with clearly exposed heads of grain that was rejected.

Most observer teams also rejected this huge field of barley that had clearly exposed heads of grain.

One observer found barley in the hard dough stage. Yet even though it was still a week away from being ripe, some of the heads were already starting to shatter.

The observer correctly noted that barley in this stage could be roasted and presented as a wave sheaf offering, in obedience with Leviticus 2:14. In other places she correctly noted that all of the barley in this large field would fall to the ground before the next opportunity to offer the wave sheaf, 44-50 days later, so she correctly assessed that it was necessary to declare Rosh Hashanah that month.

Astonishingly, most of the search parties rejected this barley because it was not harvest ready. Instead, they chose to push the wave sheaf back another 44-50 days, even though this particular barley was only 7 days away from being sickle ripe, and would begin to lose its seed in about 14-15 more days!

“Mystical Barley Fields” Versus the Ancient Reality

Other search parties rejected this barley for reasons not found in Scripture. One rejected the field the barley was grown in, as it was not fenced off from animals. The problem with this is that there is no such commandment in Scripture. In this, they are violating Scripture, by adding to Scripture.

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 4:2
2 “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of Yahweh your Elohim, which I command you.”

[The implication of Deuteronomy 4:2 is that if we add to His commandments, then it means they are no longer His commandments, but our own.]

Strangely enough, at least two search parties named a certain field, “Father’s Field.” They say that the barley sheaf must come from this field (and no other).

The ancient reality was that if you were an Israelite who was growing barley in one of the regions where barley ripens the soonest (in the south, and near Gaza, and in the Jericho Valley), as soon as you had at least a full shock of barley with green grain heads emerged from the stalk, you would tell the priests in your area that the barley was now developing “in the head.” They would send someone to verify. If they could verify it, they would declare the next month to be Rosh Hashana, knowing that unless the year was very cold, that within 14 days, the barley would be at least in the parchable soft dough phase. And they would not want to delay, because they would not want you to lose your crop, as a farmer who loses his crop cannot tithe on it. This would also obey Leviticus 23:10-11, and 14.

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 23:10-11, 14
10 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest.
11 He shall wave the sheaf before Yahweh, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it….”
14 “You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your Elohim; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.”

If the priesthood did not want to declare Rosh Hashana because your field was not fenced, or it was not “Father’s field”, or for whatever reason, you would lose your crop, and the priesthood would lose your tithes, and Yahweh would be angry.

Objections Based on Weather

Some observer teams objected to holding the Pesach y which has clearly exposed heads of grain, in that it can make the Passover cold. Israel has a relatively long, hot summer, and a long, moist winter, and in between there are two relatively short spring and fall seasons where the weather is generally very pleasant. Some of the observer teams seem to think that the feasts must take place in these short transition seasons, because it makes for a nicer vacation. They say that if they declare Rosh Hashana soon after the heads of grain emerge, it will mean that the Passover will be held when the weather is still cold, which will not be as nice of a vacation. However, the weather was also cold when Yeshua was sacrificed.

Yochanan (John) 18:18
18 Now the servants and officers who had made a fire of coals stood there, for it was cold, and they warmed themselves. And Kepha [Peter] stood with them and warmed himself.

Intercalation and Objections Based on Animals

Some aviv barley teams said we cannot declare Rosh Hashanah if certain animals are not also seen in the land of Israel at the time the new moon of the aviv is seen. In other words, rather than declaring the new moon of the aviv based solely on the presence or absence of green heads of grain, they want to “intercalate” (i.e., inter-calculate, or interpolate) Rosh Hashana based on other factors. However, intercalation is a rabbinic term, and the desire to intercalate the head of the year is the fruit of a rabbinic spirit (because that is what the rabbis do).

Gamliel (Gamaliel) was a well-respected rabbi during Yeshua’s lifetime. (He also appears in Acts 5:34.) The historical record in the Talmud Tractate Sanhedrin 11b tells us that about 50 CE (or perhaps 20 years after Yeshua’s death), Gamliel began intercalating Rosh Hashanah not based only on the barley, but also on the state of fledgling doves, and the newborn lambs. He also said that he and his colleagues felt that the barley had to be (fully) ripe before Rosh Hashanah could be declared (rather than just having exposed grain heads). The reason the Talmud records this is that it was a new practice in 50 CE (meaning it was not practiced before that, in Yeshua’s time).

Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 11b
It once happened that Rabban Gamliel was sitting on a step on the temple mount, and the well-known scribe Yochanan was standing before him with three cut sheets [of parchment] lying before him. He [Gamliel] said to him [Yochanan]… “take the third [sheet] and write to our brethren, the exiles of Babylon and to those in Media, and to all the other exiled [sons] of Israel, saying: ‘May your peace be great forever! We beg to inform that the doves are still tender, and the lambs are still young, and the aviv [barley] is not yet ripe. It seems advisable to me and to my colleagues to add thirty days to this year.’”

This passage perfectly illustrates how the rabbis see their authority regarding the Torah. The rabbis do not believe it is their job to obey the Torah of Moshe to the letter. Rather, they believe Yahweh gave Moshe the authority to decree what they call “Torah law” in his generation—and that when Moshe died, the authority to decree so-called “Torah law” then transferred to his successors (i.e., Joshua, and so on). Because the rabbis see themselves as heirs to this authority, they have no qualms about changing the Torah to suit themselves, just as when Gamliel did when he considered the state of the fledgling doves and the newborn lambs, and required the barley to be ripe before the new year could be declared.

Gamliel also had a son, Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel I. When he was faced with a similar situation a generation later, he issued an identical ruling, postponing the start of the calendar year based on factors other than the presence of exposed grain heads. Rabban Yannai quotes Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel below as saying that because the doves and the lambs were not yet ready, and because the barley was not yet ripe, he thought it advisable to delay the Pesach. This is another example of rabbinic intercalation.

Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 11a
R. Yannai said in the name of R. Shimon b. Gamliel: “We beg to inform you that the doves are still tender, and the lambs are still young, and the aviv is not yet ripe. I have considered the matter and thought it advisable to add thirty days to this year.”

These two incidents mark the start-point of a change in the way brother Judah declared Rosh Hashana. Before 50-80 CE, the head of the year was declared based on the exposed heads of barley alone. However, after about 50-80 CE, the head of the year was now being based on three factors.

1. The presence of fully ripe barley
2. The state of the fledgling doves
3. The state of the newborn lambs

From a certain standpoint this decision seems to make sense. It is nice if the doves and the lambs are also at a certain state of maturity for Pesach, except that it is not truly necessary, and it is also not what Scripture says to do. Rather, it is adding to Yahweh’s word.

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 12:32
32 “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.”

The barley teams which advocate intercalation can give you some beautiful sounding reasons why we should let them declare Rosh Hashanah based on factors other than the emergence of the barley heads, but this kind of assumed rabbinic authority is to do what seems right in our own eyes, rather than doing what Yahweh says (which is heresy).

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 12:8
8 “You shall not at all do as we are doing here today — every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes —”

In “The Equinox Error”, in Nazarene Scripture Studies, Volume 2, we show how this process of intercalation led eventually to the adoption of the rabbinical calendar, which is not based on the observation of the barley in the land of Israel at all. Rather, by a series of small steps away from Yahweh’s commands, brother Judah fell into iniquity, and self-idolatry. It seems very sad to watch some in Ephraim fall into the very same ego trap.

Confusion Because of the Modern Zadok Scale

Many of the search parties also seem confused because of a modern scale called Zadok’s Scale. Zadok’s Scale says barley is aviv when you can no longer divide it with your thumbnail. However, this corresponds to the hard dough stage, which begins at about 21 days past the emergence of the (aviv) green heads of grain.

Confusion over “Harvestable Fields”

Certain search parties also believe that most of the barley in the land of Israel must be harvestable before the new moon of the aviv can be declared. This seems like an easy mistake to make, as it looks good from a certain perspective. However, we will see that it requires us to violate several other principles we have seen so far, as well as a few we will discuss here. This error is based on a misunderstanding of Leviticus 23:10-14 and Joshua 5:10-12.

First, these parties misread Leviticus as saying that most of the barley in Israel must be harvestable before the new moon of the aviv can be declared, because they think they read a requirement in Leviticus 23:10 and 14 that all the barley in Israel must be ripe enough to eat by the time of Yom Hanafat Haomer (the day of the Wave Sheaf Offering).

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 23:10-14
10 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest…
14 You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your Elohim; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.”

They think they see support for this position in Joshua 5:10-12, because they think there is a requirement for the barley in Gilgal (near Jericho, in the Jordan River Valley) to have been substantially harvest-ready when the children of Israel came into the land of Israel under Joshua ben Nun.

Yehoshua (Joshua) 5:10-12
10 Now the children of Israel camped in Gilgal, and kept the Pesach on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight on the plains of Jericho.
11 And they ate of the produce of the land on the day after the Pesach, unleavened bread and parched grain, on the very same day.
12 Then the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten the produce of the land; and the children of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate the food of the land of Canaan that year.

What they believe they are reading is that when the children of Israel came into the land of Israel under Joshua ben Nun, that there were enough standing fields of harvestable barley to feed the nation for the year. This is an easy mistake to make, but let us spot several flaws in this argument.

It seems clear that the parched grain the children of Israel ate came from standing grain, as no one stores green grain to parch later (but rather, they let it become ripe, and then harvest it). However, to be complete, we should point out that it is an assumption that when the children of Israel made unleavened bread in verse 11, that this came from ripe grain that was harvested that year. It could very well be that this unleavened bread was made from grain left over from the previous year, as the Jordan River Valley was probably very fertile in those days.

However, it is also not necessary for the unleavened bread that they made in Joshua 5:11 to have been made from grain that was left over from the previous year, for the “harvestable fields” conclusion to be proven false. Rather, let us consider that if the green heads of grain were to appear the day after the first crescent sliver of the new moon of the month prior to the aviv is seen, then the barley would have up to 28 more days to mature before the next new moon (of the aviv) is seen. If this was the case, then the barley would be already be ready to harvest by sickle on the day of the new moon of the aviv. Then add to that the 15-day count to Yom Hanafat Haomer, and there would be ripe grain in abundance. Yet this does not justify presupposing a rule that the barley must be almost harvest-ready throughout the land of Israel before the new moon of the aviv can be declared! And it is vital that we not presuppose such a rule, for as we have seen in earlier examples, if we make the assumption that the barley must be harvest-ready or almost harvest-ready before the new moon of the aviv can be declared, sooner or later, the farmers whose barley ripens soonest are going to lose their crops, and most likely, their livelihoods (and may be sold into wage slavery, as noted in Amos).

Further, it does not follow that just because the barley may have been harvestable in the Jordan River Valley (which is hot) that year, that all the barley in the land of Israel has to be harvestable before the new moon of the aviv can be declared. There are many different micro-climates in Israel, and barley ripens over a span of about 2-3 months. Specifically, the barley in the Jordan River Valley, the Negev (south), and in Gaza ripens much sooner than the barley in the hill country of Samaria. If one waits for most of the barley in the nation to become ripe before declaring the new moon of the aviv, then the barley farmers in the hotter areas are going to lose their crops.

The “harvestable fields” theory goes on to say that we cannot take Deuteronomy 16:9 at its face value, when it tells us not to harvest our crops before we bring the omer (the wave sheaf).

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 16:9
9 “You shall count seven weeks for yourself; begin to count the seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the grain.”

They tell us that we can harvest our crops—only that we may not eat of them. However, this is a direct violation of the face value of the text. However, the “harvestable fields” theory tells us that it is alright to violate the face value of the text, because Leviticus 23:10 and 14 seem to say that we are to harvest the crop first, and then bring an omer (sheaf) to the priests. They say that the language here indicates that first we should bring in the harvest, and then we should bring the omer.

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 23:10, 14
10 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest…
14 You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your Elohim; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.”

It is easy to see where they get this misunderstanding, but if we interpret it this way, then we have to violate Deuteronomy 16:9, and periodically, the barley farmers in the hotter regions (the Jordan River Valley, the Negev, and in Gaza) will lose their crops, and be ruined, or potentially starve. This cannot be Yahweh’s will. So if it comes down to a question of whether we should default to Deuteronomy 16:9 and the barley farmers do not lose their crops, or default to Leviticus 23:10 and 14, and the barley farmers lose their crops, we have to default to Deuteronomy 16:9, because it cannot be Yahweh’s will that the barley farmers are ruined or starve every few years. That interpretation makes no sense, and that is the logical outcome if we interpret it that way.

Why should the barley farmers in the hotter regions be able to harvest their crops in a famine year, but not eat of them until the following month? Are they to starve to death in obedience to the “harvestable fields” theory, when they could have cleared the way for the harvest by bringing the earliest possible wave sheaf offering to the priesthood, thus clearing the way for all the rest of the farmers to harvest their crops as they become ripe?

It is easy to see where the “harvestable fields” theory comes from, but taken overall, we must reject it as being not proven, and not functional, as it penalizes the barley farmers in the hotter regions unnecessarily.

We should also reiterate that the “harvestable fields” theory defines aviv barley as super-hard-dough barley that is so brown and so hard, it can no longer be dented with the fingernail. This is a condition much closer to ancient sickle-ready barley. It is far from being young, tender, and green barley (which is the very definition of aviv barley). Further, if we define aviv barley as barley that is sickle-ready (or almost sickle-ready), then what is the more-advanced stage of carmel barley?

Conclusion

What we have seen in this chapter is that the barley in the land of Israel is aviv when the tender green heads of grain are exposed from the stalk. When this happens, there are about 14 days on average until the barley is ready to be offered as firstfruits, and about 28 days until it is ready for an ancient sickle. At a practical level, this means that when the first full shocks of barley in the land of Israel reveal their green grain heads, the priesthood should declare Rosh Hashanah, because the wave sheaf offering will be ready to harvest some 15-21 days later.

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