Updated: Jun 10, 2019
“Celebrate the Feast of Harvest with the first fruits of the crops you sow in your field.”
Jewish religious feasts are based on the yearly agricultural activities, while the Christian calendar and its feasts are somehow influenced by it but founded upon the incarnation, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Feast of Pentecost is a Christian celebration based on the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It is the birth of the church and its empowering and equipping the church to the great task of proclaiming what Christ has done on the cross "for the life of the world." Looking at Pentecost through the lens of the scriptures, it is a time of harvest as a direct result of the planting of the seed; the life of Christ. “Unless a seed falls into the ground, it bears no fruit.”
The Feast of Harvest is also called the Feast of Weeks because of the “seven weeks” by which its time is determined: “Count off seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain. Then celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God by giving a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings the LORD your God has given you” (Deuteronomy 16:9–10). It is also referred to as the Day of First fruits (Numbers 28:26) because, on that day, the first loaves made from the wheat harvest were offered to the Lord. Later it was called Pentecost (fiftieth day) because it occurred fifty days after Passover. Pentecost is the name most familiar to us today. These fifty days began with the offering of the first sheaf of the barley harvest during Passover week (see Leviticus 23:10) and ended with the Feast of Harvest. This Feast took place after the grain harvest, and before the vintage (wine harvest).
The purpose of the Feast of Harvest was to express gratitude to God for the harvest that had been gathered, and thereby acknowledge that it was God who gave them the harvest. Some Jews assert that, in addition to this, it was intended to celebrate the giving of the law on Sinai, which took place fifty days after the Passover. It is further said that the Feast occupied only one day because that was all the time it took God to give Moses the law.
On this day, the people rested from all labor. Two-loaves made of the new wheat were offered before the Lord. These were leavened (Leviticus 23:17), in contrast to the Passover bread, which was unleavened, because Passover is a memorial of the haste in which they departed from Egypt, when they had not time to leaven their bread, and the Feast of Harvest is a celebration of thankfulness to God for their ordinary food. In addition to this offering of the loaves, every person was required to bring in a basket a portion of the first fruits of all they produced from the soil and offer it to the Lord (Deuteronomy 26:1–10). At the same time, there was a burnt offering of seven young lambs, one young bullock, and two rams. A kid was given as a sin offering, and two young lambs for a peace, or fellowship, offering (Leviticus 23:18–19).
Freeman, J. M., & Chadwick, H. J. (1998). Manners & customs of the Bible. North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers.