Offering the Omer – Secrets of the Barley
We are now in the season of Counting the Omer, counting the days between the Feast of First Fruits and the Feast of Shavuot:
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest. And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. And on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb a year old without blemish as a burnt offering to the Lord. And the grain offering with it shall be two tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, a food offering to the Lord with a pleasing aroma, and the drink offering with it shall be of wine, a fourth of a hin. And you shall eat neither bread nor grain parched or fresh until this same day, until you have brought the offering of your God: it is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering.
The word in Hebrew for sheaf is omer, a measure of about 2 liters.
During the Feast of First Fruits, the omer taken to the priest was a measure of barley, which was harvested during the season of Pesach. The wheat would be ready for harvest just around the Feast of Shavuot, around 7 weeks later.
On Exodus 9.31-32, during the plague of hail in Egypt (some days before Pesach) the Lord describes the agricultural season:
“The flax and the barley were struck down, for the barley was in the ear and the flax was in bud.” But the wheat and the rye were not struck down, for they are late in coming up.”
In Hebrew the word aviv is translated to the expression “was in the ear”, describing the aspect of the barley in that season.
Aviv also means spring and names the first month of the biblical year.
If we make a research in the bible regarding the barley we may find interesting secrets.
First of all, barley is one of the seven species of Israel mentioned in Deuteronomy 8.7-10
For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.
On the book of Ruth we see a time of famine and the way God provides to the widows is through the barley.
So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest. Ruth 1.22
saying, “These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said to me, ‘You must not go back empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’” Ruth 3.17
It seems like Boaz was offering his omer, his First Fruits to God by giving it to Ruth and Naomi.
On the book of 2Kings chapter 4, we see another story of provision in a season of famine. The Lord specifies that the bread were made of barley.
A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing the man of God bread of the first fruits, twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. And Elisha said, “Give to the men, that they may eat.” But his servant said, “How can I set this before a hundred men?” So he repeated, “Give them to the men, that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left.’” So he set it before them. And they ate and had some left, according to the word of the Lord. 2Kings 4.42-44
Here the prophet receives food to feed his students called sons of the prophets. It is mentioned that the man brings bread of the first fruits. Again it seems like someone is offering the “omer” giving it to the priest (in this case the prophet Elisha) to be waved. After the “omer” is offered and waved a wonderful miracle of multiplication happens!
On the New Testament, we see a similar but greater miracle taking place with Yeshua and his followers:
After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. 3 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. 5 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, “Two hundred pennyworth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” John 6.1-14
In this story the boy is the one who offers the omer and Yeshua waves it making the multiplication.
The barley appears in other episodes in the bible and always related to sacrifice and offering in the midst of exile, slavery, poverty and famine bringing forth provision and revealing God’s glory in unexpected ways!
May we count our days to Shavuot offering our hearts to be “waved”, “moved” by Yeshua, being ready to be used by him in a season when people are so hungry for eating the bread of Life, the Word of God!