Chapter 8:

Why the Omer Before the Harvest?

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It might seem ironic to declare the month of the aviv if the barley is not already aviv in large quantities at the time the new moon of the aviv is sighted, but sometimes that must be done, or dire consequences will result.

As this article will show, some barley search groups are teaching that we must wait until the barley is aviv (and in large quantities) before we can declare the month of the aviv (which starts the new year). However, as this article will show, if that policy is ever enacted into law, the barley farmers with the earliest ripening crops will one day lose their crops. Therefore, that doctrine is wrong, and needs to be abandoned.

In this article we will also see a method which calls for declaring the new moon of the aviv when the aviv barley is not yet seen, but is only anticipated. While this method may seem counterintuitive at first, we will see that this is the only method that will not eventually cause the barley farmers with the earliest ripening crops to lose their crops. Therefore, this method must be adopted.

The Timing of the Wave Sheaf

As we show in The Torah Calendar, in “Aviv Barley and the Head of the Year”, we should declare the head of the year when the first crescent sliver of the new moon is seen, when it is also known that at least one full sheaf of barley will be aviv at the time of the Wave Sheaf Offering (Omer), on the first day of the week (Sunday) after the week in which the Pesach (Passover) falls.

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 23:9-11,14
9 And Yahweh spoke to Moshe, saying,
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 we think about this logically, it means that depending on what day of the week the Pesach falls, the priesthood needs to offer the wave sheaf between 15 and 21 days after the new moon is seen. This means there must be at least one wave sheaf of barley that will be aviv 15 to 21 days after the time the new moon is seen. (However, no more barley than that one sheaf is required.)

For example, if the new moon is seen on the first day of the week, there will be only 15 days until the Omer.

Moon  2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 Pass
Wave

However, if the new moon is seen on the second day of the week, there will be 21 days until the Omer.

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

It is critical that there be at least one full sheaf of barley that is aviv at the time of the Omer offering. However, as we will see, it does not need to be aviv before the Omer is offered. It only needs to be aviv when the Omer is offered—and if we add anything to that requirement, it can cause big problems for the barley farmers.

The Presenting of Omer Sets the Harvest Apart

Deuteronomy 16:9-10 tells us that when we begin to put the sickle to the grain (i.e., when we cut the Omer), we also begin a 50-day count up to Shavuot (Pentecost).

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 16:9-10
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.
10 Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to Yahweh your Elohim with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as Yahweh your Elohim blesses you.”

The reason this verse matters so much is that it tells us that we cannot begin to cut our grain until after we have brought Elohim the Omer. That means the Omer is the very first thing that must be cut. We must remember this.

The Omer Must Be Immature Grain

Another critical factor is that Leviticus 2:14 tells us that the grain of the Omer must still be immature. That is, Yahweh wants grain which either is aviv or carmel. We will define these in a little bit, but for now what we need to see is that mature grain does not qualify.

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 2:14
14 “If you offer a grain offering of your firstfruits to Yahweh, you shall offer for the grain offering of your firstfruits green heads of grain [aviv] roasted on the fire, [or] grain beaten from full heads [carmel].”

To understand what aviv and carmel are, first let us understand the development cycle for barley.

Development after Head Emergence

The below graphic is by the University of Wisconsin, USA, from their Spring Barley Growth and Development Guide. It shows a normal development cycle for domesticated spring barley in normal spring weather. While the process will take longer if the weather is cold, at least in a normal warm spring, once the head emerges from the boot (the stalk), it takes the barley an average of 31 days to become ready for harvest by a combine.

It is important to note that maturation speed depends on the weather (temperature). For example, while domestic barley can be expected to become combine ripe on average about 31 days after the head emerges from the boot in a normal warm spring, if the weather is colder, the development will not be as fast. For example, in the winter of 2020-2021 CE, the winter was unseasonably warm, and some barley emerged from the head very early. The below picture was taken in the Galilee region on 2020-12-24. However, even though the weather was unseasonably warm for winter, it was still not as warm as a normal spring. Instead of a normal spring 75-80F (23-26C), the temperatures were perhaps +/- 65F (15C). Further, the days were shorter. Under those conditions, the barley could not be expected to become modern combine ripe 31 days after the head emerged, because the plants did not feel the same urgency to finish making seeds as they do in normal warm spring weather, when the rains are ending, and the land is becoming dry.

Some gardeners may be familiar with the phenomenon of seeing plants push buds out early in the spring when there is a heat wave, only to see the plants draw the buds back in if the weather turns cold again. This same phenomenon also applies to barley, which is why it is so important to pay attention not only to the temperature and weather, but also to the time of year.

What is Aviv Barley?

With normal spring weather, when the head emerges from the boot/stalk, it takes about a week for the barley to flower and develop a seed husk. Then it takes about another full week to fill with a milky fluid (sometimes called the milk stage). This milky fluid slowly becomes harder more solid as the husk fills with more starch, to the point it begins to resemble a slimy worm (sometimes called the worm stage). Then after about two full weeks, enough starch has been added to the barley seed that it has entered what is sometimes called the soft dough stage. As one might think, the seed consistency at this point can be likened to soft bread dough. At this point there is enough starch and enough moisture that the seed can hypothetically be parched (roasted) in fire, and eaten. This is what we call aviv. (Other groups have other definitions, but this is the right one.)

While the term aviv technically refers to the time when the barley plant is developing the seed head, the earliest that we can bring aviv grains to Yahweh is when it is possible to parch (roast) the grain head in fire, and end up with something edible. This corresponds to the soft dough stage.

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 2:14
14 “If you offer a grain offering of your firstfruits to Yahweh, you shall offer for the grain offering of your firstfruits green heads of grain [aviv] roasted on the fire, [or] grain beaten from full heads [carmel].”

What is Carmel Barley?

The term carmel refers to barley after about 21 days in a normal spring development cycle. Because it has had another week to mature it has more starch content, and is harder. It can seem like hard bread dough, and this is sometimes called the hard dough stage.

Sometimes barley search teams try to divide the grain with a fingernail (called the fingernail test). If the barley divides easily with the fingernail it is considered to be soft dough, but if the barley does not divide easily with the fingernail it is thought to be hard dough. This hard dough barley is what we call carmel barley, because while the grain is harder, it is not yet mature enough to separate easily from the husk. Therefore, the husk has to be manually removed, typically with a mortar and pestle. This qualifies as “grain beaten from full heads”, as in Leviticus 2:14 (above). It is not yet quite ripe, but it is very close.

If the barley cannot be divided or even be dented with the fingernail, it is thought to be very hard dough. Some believe that the ancient harvest began about this time, roughly 28 days after the head emerged from the boot in a normal warm spring. (In reality the harvest could even begin before then, depending on the farmer, and the weather.)

It is important not to wait too long to start the harvest, because it takes time to harvest, and at about 31 days, the barley heads start to become brittle, and the heads will even shatter in the wind. In fact, modern combine harvesting depends upon the barley heads being brittle at 31 days, because one of things the combine does is to strike the seed head, to separate the seed from the chaff.

While this fragility is considered a plus for combine harvesting, it is very bad for ancient sickle harvesting, because even the act of gathering the stalks together and hitting them with a sickle can be enough to cause ripe seed heads to shatter. Add to this the problem that ancient sickles were not nearly as sharp as modern steel sickles. Depending on the era, a sickle could be made of iron, bronze, flint, or even animal bones.

Because ancient sickles were not as sharp, one had to hit the stalks with a lot more force. This means one had to harvest earlier, in the hard dough or very hard dough stages, so that the barley heads would not drop their seed when they stalks were gathered and struck.

Problems with the Other Barley Theories

So now that we know what the boot, aviv, and carmel are, we can understand some of the fatal problems with the other search methods. Perhaps their main problem is that they mistakenly believe that they need a lot of aviv barley before they can even declare the new moon of the aviv, even though they will not need barley that is aviv until 15-21 days later (at the day of the Wave Sheaf Offering). This is because they misread Leviticus 23:10 as saying that first they need to reap the harvest of the land, and that then they need to bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of that harvest to the priesthood on the same day as the main harvest is cut.

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 23:9-11,14
9 And Yahweh spoke to Moshe, saying,
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.”

The way they misread it, it says that first when we come into the land (1) first we shall reap the harvest, and then (2) we shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of that harvest unto the priest. Because of this, they want to have a lot of barley that is almost ripe before they will declare the new moon of the aviv, even though they will not need an omer of aviv barley for another 15-21 days (when the Wave Sheaf is offered), and even though they will only need one omer at that time. However, this interpretation fails for many reasons.

First, one big problem for believers in Yeshua is that this (mis)interpretation does not fit the pattern of type and shadow. The Omer of firstfruits is symbolic of Yeshua, and Yeshua was offered alone, as the very first of the firstfruits (and not as part of a larger harvest).

Qorintim Aleph (1 Corinthians) 15:20-23
20 But now Messiah is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.
22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Messiah all shall be made alive.
23 But each one in his own order: Messiah the firstfruits, afterward those who are Messiah’s at His coming.

The System Yahweh Wants

The system that Yahweh wants is that we bring Him the very first sheaf of immature, green barley at the day of the Wave Sheaf Offering (symbolic of Yeshua), to honor Him, so that He can bless the harvest for all Israel. After that, all the farmers in Israel can harvest their crops as they come ripe, and bring Him the firstfruits offerings at Shavuot (Pentecost), 7 weeks later. This makes perfect sense, as Barley ripens over about a 7-week period in Israel. However, sadly, the other barley search groups do not seem to understand this.

Impossible Problems with the Other Systems

Now let us consider the impossible problems we get into when we say that all of the barley in Israel needs to be cut together, and then the first wave sheaf that is cut should be brought up to the priesthood, along with the firstfruits offerings.

Normally the first of the barley comes ripe in the Gaza or the Jordan River Valley, or sometimes in the Negev (in the south). Some of these places are 2-3 days’ travel on foot from Jerusalem, and some places in Israel are 4-5 days travel on foot from Jerusalem. Now imagine trying to coordinate the cutting of the very first wave sheaf that came ripe in ancient Israel as the very first thing that was cut, with no radios or cell phones, on the same day that all the rest of the harvest is taking place, even though the harvest takes many days (or even a few weeks) to complete! Even with today’s electronics, this would be a logistical nightmare requiring military-grade precision, and there is no witness to this anywhere in Scripture, or even in the Talmud.

Next, let us realize that before the firstfruits can be brought up to Jerusalem, first they must be harvested over a few days (or even a few weeks), and then brought to the threshing floor, and then threshed (and in many cases, dried), before the grains can be sacked up, and then loaded on carts and transported (or sold for gold or silver), and that all of this takes time. Then on top of that, consider that many of the farms in Israel are 4 or 5 days away from Jerusalem, whether on foot, or on camel, or by donkey! Even with modern combines and freeways, this could not all be carried out in the same day.

Further, now consider that all of the males in Israel (who are supposedly doing all of this harvesting and threshing back on their farms), are commanded to be in Jerusalem for the Passover and Unleavened Bread! So, they would have to go to Jerusalem for Passover and the first day of Unleavened Bread, and then turn around and walk back to their farms (taking 1-5 days) in order to harvest their crops, and then thresh and dry and sack them (no matter how long that took), and then transport a sheaf and the firstfruits back up to Jerusalem in time for the Wave Sheaf Offering, even if it was hypothetically the day after the Passover. This is a logistical impossibility that would require all the males to violate Deuteronomy 16:16.

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 16:16
16 “Three times a year all your males shall appear before Yahweh your Elohim in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles; and they shall not appear before Yahweh empty-handed.”

The Need to Declare the Aviv in Advance

Another huge problem with these other barley groups’ theories is that by waiting until they can bring firstfruits of a substantial part of the harvest, they will eventually force the barley farmers with the earliest ripening crops to lose their crops (and perhaps also their freedom). Why?

As we have seen, once the barley grain head emerges from the boot, it takes about 28 days (or four weeks) on average in normal Spring weather until it is ripe for an ancient sickle harvest. And it only takes 31 days (or four and a half weeks) on average until it is ready for modern combine harvesting, because the grain heads are much more brittle, and they will shatter when they are hit. After about five weeks, the barley heads are so brittle that even the wind will cause the barley to lose its seed. That is why Yeshua tells us that when the barley is 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.”

If the barley has not been harvested by the sixth week, most of the seed will already be on the ground.

Now consider that since the new moons and the Passover fall seemingly at random, eventually the barley farmers with the earliest ripening crops will lose their crops (and their livelihoods), according to the following scenario. In this scenario (and others like it), the barley heads are seen emerging from the stalk on the fifth day of the week, 10 or 11 days before the new moon is seen (depending on how one counts). At only 10 or 11 days of development, the barley will not yet have reached the soft dough stage. Rather, it will still be in the milk stage, or the worm stage. Neither of these qualifies as being aviv at the time of the sighting of the new moon. However, they will have 20 more days to develop before they are needed for the Wave Sheaf (and a standard timeframe is anywhere in between 15-21 more days). If this is in a normal Spring, and they have had 11 days out of the stalk, and they get 20 more days to develop, that is a total of 31 days out of the boot (stalk).

Emerge 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 Moon 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
Pass 25 26 27 28 29 30
Wave 32 33 34 35 36 37

 

As we saw before, 31 days is the amount of time that it takes for barley to become completely combine ripe (i.e., fragile).

Consider deeply that even when we correctly declare the new moon of the aviv although the barley only had 11 days out of the boot, this barley will be completely ripe by the day of the Wave Sheaf Offering! It is not possible to delay it by another month (as the other barley groups do), because after another week at most, all of that barley will be falling on the ground, and the farmer will be losing his crop.

Now consider that in ancient times, there was no such thing as bankruptcy court. If you lost your crop, probably you had to sell your land, or (horribly) perhaps you had to sell your daughter as a concubine, to pay your bills. Or perhaps you even had to sell yourself and your family into slavery, so you could eat, and survive. Such slavery was common in ancient times (verse 6).

Amos 8:4-6
4 “Hear this, you who swallow up the needy, And make the poor of the land fail,
5 Saying: ‘When will the New Moon be past, That we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, That we may trade wheat? Making the ephah small and the shekel large, Falsifying the scales by deceit,
6 That we may buy the poor for silver, And the needy for a pair of sandals — Even sell the bad wheat?’”

If the flawed doctrines of these other barley groups is ever codified into law in the land of Israel, the barley farmers with the earliest ripening crops will face similar financial hardships. Therefore, they must abandon their wrong doctrines.

The Year Begins with the Barley

Finally, to be complete, one common question regards the length of the year. Many people have been taught incorrectly that a Hebrew year can only be 12 or 13 months long (no more, no less). However, that is not correct. In actuality, because an average Hebrew year is only 354 days long, on average, 2/3 of the years have 12 months, and 1/3 of the time, the years have 13 months. However, the number of months is not set by Scripture. Rather, what is set by Scripture is only that the year begins with the ripening of the barley. Because of this, it is very conceivable for a year to have 11 or 14 months.

For example, if the previous year was very cold (and the barley harvest was delayed, but then the next year was hot (and the barley harvest was early), then the year can easily have 11 months.

The opposite can also be true. If the previous year was hot (and the barley harvest was early) and then the next year is cold (and the barley harvest is delayed), the year can have 14 months. Neither one of these will happen often, but one can easily imagine it happening at least once in a lifetime, or so.

Summary and Witnesses’ Testimonies

What we have seen in this chapter is that according to Scripture, the determining factor for the start of the year is not the number of months, but our ability to declare the new moon of the aviv based on our ability to present a sheaf of immature aviv barley to the priesthood 15-21 days after the new moon is seen from the land of Israel.

We do not want to wait too long to declare the new moon of the aviv, because then the barley seed will fall out of the head. However, we also don’t want to declare the new year too early, because the barley that we bring to the priesthood must be parchable.

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 2:14
14 “If you offer a grain offering of your firstfruits to Yahweh, you shall offer for the grain offering of your firstfruits green heads of grain [aviv] roasted on the fire, [or] grain beaten from full heads [carmel].”

In ancient times, the weather was not predictable, and cold weather can slow or almost halt the development of the barley. So, while the barley which has emerged from the head will hypothetically mature into aviv barley by the time of the wave sheaf offering 15-21 days later, the expert witnesses I have spoken with have said that to be safe, the bare minimum condition of the barley that they would feel comfortable declaring the new moon of the aviv with is the milk stage, meaning there is some kind of fluid and some kind of starch content inside the husk. However, they also emphasize that this is at least as much of an art as it is a science, and for that reason, it makes sense to have at least two, or ideally three or more witnesses, if such qualified witnesses are available (which at the time of this writing in 2021, they are not).

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