Friday 19 July 2013

Bible Book:

“You shall count until the day after the seventh sabbath, fifty days; then you shall present an offering of new grain to the Lord.” (v. 16)

Leviticus 23:9-22 Friday 19 July 2013


Two harvests are celebrated in this section of Leviticus 23. Thebarley harvest comes first (verses 10-14). Always the first fruitsare considered to belong to God (whether grain or grape, kid goator child) and thus the first cut of grain is offered to God inthanksgiving. The grain sheaf is raise up to God by the priest whoswings the offering back and forth, most likely scattering seedover the earth as he does so. Once again an attitude ofwastefulness or careless generosity is encouraged, both here and inthe reference to the practice of gleaning (verse 22). Both thebarley harvest and the mention of gleaning invite the figures ofRuth, Naomi and Boaz (Ruth2) into this passage, underlying the themes of kinshipsolidarity and the welcome of the stranger that underlie much ofthese laws.

The wheat harvest (verses 15-22) is celebrated seven weeks orfifty days after the barley harvest. It is a more substantialfestival with larger offerings required (although the animalofferings would probably have been made by the whole congregationtogether, not by each individual and family). This time is known asthe Festival of Weeks or Shavuot. The Hebrew word for 'seven' isclose in sound to the word meaning 'to swear' or 'to make an oath'(Gerstenberger, Leviticus, 1996, p. 345). Thus the festival becameassociated with a time of covenant renewal, and elsewhere in theHebrew Bible, Shavuot is considered to mark the giving of the Torah(the law, the first five books of the Bible) on Mount Sinai. Theharvesting of grain is bound up with study and commitment to theTorah; both are understood to be essential for life. And both arereasons to give thanks.  

To Ponder

  • How do you give thanks for the food you grow, prepare, receiveor eat?
  • How do you mark time and pay attention to it?
  • What offerings might you make to God today?
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