Counting of Omer to Shavuot
When do we start counting of omer to have seven complete weeks to Shavuot? This question has been a great deal of debate among the observant believers who want to serve the Creator the way He wants to be served.
When you come into the land which I give you, and shall reap its harvest, then you shall bring an omer of the first-fruits of your harvest to the priest. And he shall wave the omer before Yehovah, for your acceptance. On the morrow after the Sabbath the priest waves it. And on that day when you wave the omer, you shall prepare a male lamb a year old, a perfect one, as an ascending offering to Yehovah, and its grain offering: two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire to Yehovah, a sweet fragrance, and its drink offering: one-fourth of a hin of wine. And you do not eat bread or roasted grain or fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your Elohim – a law forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. (Lev 23:10-14)
Note: Most modern Bible translations use the word “sheaf” for omer. However, the priests did not wave a sheaf of barley. The word “sheaf” is translated from the Hebrew word omer, which means a dry measure of 1/10 ephah, about two quarts or two liters. The Israelites traditionally cut a sheaf of the first of the firstfruits of barley, beat out the grain, then ground it into flour and offered an omer of that flour. The Torah does not specifically say that the grain must be ground, but simply “You wave the omer”. Therefore, the omer of barley could be interpreted as an omer of flour or an omer of grain of barley. The interpretation of flour of barley comes from the command that a male lamb a year old is to be brought as an ascending offering with its grain offering: two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour.
Only once this offering was brought in the Temple, all grain of the new harvest prior to the time of the offering may be eaten. The purpose of this way of bringing the first-fruits of the land before the Creator is to dedicate the fruits of our labor to Him before we eat from them ourselves, to remind us to be thankful to Him and that our sustenance is really a gift from YHVH.
Two interpretations of the counting of omer
Having said that, we are coming to the actual counting of omer to Shavuot.
There are two interpretations of the command of YHVH concerning counting of omer of barley, the sheaf of the wave-offering on the day of the First-fruits, HaBikkurim. We read the literal translation of the command of the counting of omer, thus,
And you shall count for yourselves from the morrow after the Shabbat from the day that you brought the omer of the wave offering seven complete Shabbats shall be. (Lev 23:15)
The Jewish Publication Society translation (JPS), however, reads (notice the difference),
And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the day of rest, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the waving; seven weeks shall there be complete; (Lev 23:15 JPS)
Note: In the Rabbinical tradition, the omer was brought to the Temple on the second day of Pesach, corresponding to the sixteenth day of the month of Nissan. In the Rabbinical calendar, the year begins in autumn with what the Torah calls the seventh month and Nissan is the seventh month in the spring. This is contrary to what the Torah teaches, namely that the beginning of the months is in the spring (see Exodus 12), the months have no names, but are simply numbered, and that there is no second day of Passover.
These two different translations of the Hebrew text have brought the two different interpretations of the counting of omer that have brought the division among observant believers as to how to count the omer, or the seven complete sabbaths to Shavuot.
According to the Rabbinical interpretation of the command of the counting of omer, seven complete weeks are to be counted after the morrow of “a day of rest”, i.e. after the first day of the Unleavened Bread, and Shavuot, the fiftieth day, can fall on any day of the week.
While the Hebrew text clearly says that seven complete Sabbaths are to be counted from the morrow of the [weekly] Sabbath, that is the first day of the week, when we start counting the seven complete Sabbaths, that is seven complete weeks. According to this counting of omer, Shavuot always falls on the first day of the week.
This is a huge difference of the counting of omer.
Which counting of omer is Scriptural?
In his last address to the nation, Mosheh reiterated the importance of observing the festivals of YHVH: The Unleavened Bread, the Weeks, and the Tabernacles, the laws previously given concerning these festivals in Exodus 12, Leviticus 23, Numbers 28 and 29, and now in Deuteronomy 16.
This serves to explain the reason why only those three festivals are mentioned in the renewal of the Covenant at Mount Nebo, and not the Day of Trumpets or Day of Atonement: because the people were not required to assemble in Jerusalem out of the whole land on the occasion of these two days.
With regard to the Festival of Weeks (see Exo 23:16), it is stated in Deu 16:9 that the time for its observance was to be reckoned the time the sickle is first put to the standing grain, i.e., from the time when the sickle began to be applied to the grain, or in other words: from the commencement of the grain-harvest. We read,
Six days you eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there is a closing festival to Yehovah your Elohim – you do no work. Count seven weeks for yourself. Begin to count seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the grain. And you shall perform the Festival of Shavuot to Yehovah your Elohim, according to the voluntary offering from your hand, which you give as Yehovah your Elohim blesses you. (Deu 16:8-10)
As the grain-harvest was opened with the offering of the omer of first-fruits of barley on the day of the First-fruits, this regulation as to time coincides with the rule laid down in Lev 23:15. For more insight as to why the first-fruits of barley were brought before YHVH on the day of the First-fruits and how the Messiah has fulfilled it, refer to the corresponding articles.
Thus by observing the festival and more particularly the counting of omer and the seven complete Sabbaths, we remember the Exodus of the fathers from Egypt (Deu 16:12).
The fifty days of counting of omer represent the period during which the children of Israel were led out of Egypt by the mighty hand of Elohim until they had reached His mountain Sinai.
The Rabbinical tradition says that the children of Israel so eagerly were counting the days and the weeks from their departure from Egypt until they arrived to Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, that YHVH instituted the Festival of Shavuot (Weeks). Hence, the Rabbis instituted that the counting of omer and fifty days to Shavuot was to begin on the day following the first day of the Unleavened Bread.
Although it is true that the Festival of Shavuot is closely related to the Exodus, the counting of omer does not begin with the actual day of the departure of Israel, but with the day when the sickle was put to the grain.
The confusion in the Rabbinical interpretation of counting of omer comes from how they interpreted the word “Shabbat” in Lev 23:15. We should recall that only two days of the year are called “Shabbat”: the weekly Shabbat (every seventh day since the Creation) and the annual Shabbat: Yom Kippur (the tenth day of the seventh month). These two days are called in the Torah either Shabbat or Shabbat Shabbaton interchangeably. No other appointed time of YHVH is ever called “Shabbat”, but the weekly Shabbat and Yom Kippur.
Since the first day of the Unleavened Bread is never been called “Shabbat”, therefore it is incorrect to start counting the omer from the morrow of the first day of the festival. The Hebrew text clearly designates the beginning of the counting of omer as the morrow of the [weekly] Shabbat, not the first day of the Unleavened Bread. And even though the first day of the Unleavened Bread is a day of rest, it has never been called in the Torah a Shabbat, so that we should start counting of omer from it.
It is inconceivable that the Rabbis have misinterpreted the word Shabbat to mean the first day of the Unleavened Bread. This interpretation of the Rabbis simply cannot be supported by the Torah.
Between the Exodus from Egypt and the Revelation at Mount Sinai, came the counting of the seven weeks of the omer of barley, hence the name of the festival: the Festival of Weeks, or Shavuot. Therefore, these seven weeks can be viewed as the necessary transition from the Exodus from Egypt to the Revelation of the Covenant of YHVH to Israel.
Today, we see the counting of seven complete weeks as our own transition from the starting point to the completion of our final redemption from “Egypt”, the world we live in today. Every year we rehearse our Exodus from Egypt as we rehearse the festivals of the Unleavened Bread and the Festival of Weeks.
And how we rehearse the counting of omer year after year is important, because when we rehearse it, we know that the real event is coming.
This article is a part of series of articles dedicated to the Appointed Times of YHVH and how His Messiah Yeshua has fulfilled them. For the rest of the set-apart days of the Creator, please, visit The Appointed Times of YHVH.
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.