The day that God gave the commandments is called “Mattan Torah” or the “Giving of the Torah.” This is the first Shavuot, but how do we arrive at Mount Sinai and Shavuot today in our walk. First, we must have Passover lamb, where Yeshua has been slain for us. Then we must pass through the sea (death) and arrive safely on the other side (life). Our enemy Satan, like Pharaoh, has been cut off and we will not see them again.
We have a journey like a bridge, from Passover to Shavuot. We arrive at Mount Sinai and the Torah, which is not written on stone, but on our hearts (Deut 30.6; Jer 31.31-34). Then, after receiving the commandments, we leave ‘Sinai” and proceed to the land of promise where we will confront certain enemies. The Canaanite are the religious merchants and trafficker. The Hittite means “terror” and these are the ones who try to put spiritual terrors on us. The Hivite means “liver” and these are the people who tell others about “life” but are not born again themselves. The Perizzite are the “rustic squatters” who think they are born again but are really just “squatting” on earth with no legitimate claim. The Girgashite or “stranger drawing near” are those who come around us but have no spiritual claims at all. The Amorite are the “sayers” who are all talk but their hearts are from from the truth in the Lord. Then we have the Jebusite, meaning “trodden down” and they are those who hate Jerusalem and trod upon the Torah, causing no peace if they can help it.
Passover is not over until Shavuot, and there is a message in this. If we are only redeemed from slavery, and there is no Shavuot, you would not have the Torah. We are promised more, like a resurrection with a glorified body. We will have our kedusha restores once again. We will be able to come into the presence of God like Adam once did. This “bridge” from Passover to Shavuot is called “counting the Omer” because of a ceremony that the Lord instituted in the Temple. In the Mishnah, tractate Menachot 10.1-4, this ceremony is described, along with Lev 23.9-11.
The Omer is one of 13 different bread offerings in the Temple. So, we are going to describe this ceremony from the Mishnah where it says, “R. Ishmael says: If the Omer was brought on the Sabbath, it was taken from only three seahs of barley; if on a weekday, from five. But the Sages say: It is all one whether it was a Sabbath or a weekday: it was taken from three seahs. R. Hanina the Prefect of the Priests says: On a Sabbath it was reaped by one man and with a sickle and into one basket; and on a weekday it was reaped by three and into three baskets ans with three sickles. But the Sages say: It was all one whether it was a Sabbath or a weekday: it was reaped by three and into three baskets ans with three sickles. The prescribed rite for the Omer is that it should be brought from barley growing bear by. If the crop near Jerusalem was not yet ripe, it could be brought from any place. It once happened that it was brought from Gaggot Zarifin, and the Two Loaves (Sht’ai Ha Lechem) from the plain of En Soker (Sychar-John 4.5).”
“How was it made ready? The messengers of the court used to go out on the eve of the festive day (the day prior to First Fruits) and tie the corn in bunches while it was yet unreaped to make it easier to reap; and the towns near by all assembled there together that it might be reaped with much pomp. When it grew dark he called out, ‘ Is the sub set?’ And they answered, ‘Yes!’ ‘Is the sun set?’ And they answered, ‘Yes!’ ‘Is this a sickle?’ And they answered ‘Yes!’ ‘Is this a sickle?’ And they answered, ‘Yes!’ ‘Is this a basket?’ And they answered, ‘Yes!’ ‘Is this a basket?’ And they answered, ‘Yes!’ ‘Is this a basket?’ And they answered, ‘Yes!’ On the Sabbath he called out, ‘On this Sabbath?’ And they answered, ‘Yes!’ ‘On this Sabbath?’ And they answered, ‘Yes!’ ‘Shall I reap?’ And they answered, ‘Reap!’ ‘Shall I reap?’ And they answered, ‘Reap!’ He used to call out three times for every matter, and they answered, ‘Yes!’ ‘Yes!’ ‘Yes!’ Where fore was all this? Because of the Boethusians who used to say the Omer may not be reaped at the close of a festival day (the Boethusians were the same as the Sadducees. They said this festival was the first day of the week after the seventh day Sabbath of Passover week. The Pharisees said it was the first day of Unleavened Bread. The Sadducees were correct on this).”
“They reaped it, put it into baskets, and brought it to the Temple Court. They used to parch it with fire to fulfill the ordinance that it should be parched with fire. So R. Meir. But the Sages say: They used to beat with reeds (Matt 27.50) and the stems of plants that the grains should not be crushed; then they put it into a hollow tube wherein were holes so that the fire might prevail over all of it. They spread it out in the Temple Court so that the wind blew over it. They put it in a grist-mill and therefrom a tenth of an ephah of flour which was sifted through thirteen sieves. What remained was redeemed and could be consumed by any one; it was liable to Dough-offering but exempt from Tithes. R. Akiba declares it liable both to Dough-offering and to Tithes. Then they came to the tenth, put in oil and the frankincense thereof, poured in the oil, mingled it, waved it, and brought it near, took from it the handful (kenitza) and offered it; and the reside was consumed by the priests.”
Now, we need some information in order to understand some of this. In 30 B.C, Hillel the Elder became Nasi of the Sanhedrin. In 20 B.C., Menachem the Essene was the Av Beit Din, or Vice-President. Menachem will leave his office and Shammai will eventually replace him. These two (Hillel and Shammai) will have “Houses” or “Schools” called Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai. Hillel will die in 10 A.D. and Shimon Ben Hillel will take over as Nasi for a few months. Then Shammai will take over until his death in 30 A.D. Hillel and Shammai are known as the last two “Zugot” or “pairs.”
In 30 A.D., Shammai is succeeded by Gamaliel the Elder, and he is the Nasi for 20 years. He is the grandson of Hillel and the teacher of Paul. When he passes, his son Shimon Ben Gamaliel takes over. At the time of Yeshua, the leaders of the Sanhedrin will always be Pharisees, but the president of the Sanhedrin doesn’t vote, he officiates. He will only vote in the event of a tie. The majority of the members of the Sanhedrin from 30-35 A.D. will be the Sadducees and the Boethusians. The Boethusians are just Sadducees under a different name.
Now, the the Omer ceremony will be on the first day of the week after Passover (a Sunday), after the weekly Sabbath. There is a parallel to this. The time that the priests are reaping the barley, very early in the morning, is the same time Israel passed through the Red Sea and the same time Yeshua was being resurrected. Yes, when these priests were cutting down the barley for the Omer ceremony, Yeshua was rising from the dead, and raining others with him (Matt 27.52-53). In 55 A.D. everything changes. For the first time, the Pharisees not only had the leadership of the Sanhedrin, but they also had the majority of the membership. The Pharisees will change the Omer ceremony to Nisan 16, the “morrow after” the first day of Unleavened Bread (Nisan 15-Lev 23.7). This is what we have read in the Mishnah. Did they have the right to do that? According to Deut 17.8-13, they did. However, the Sadducees were right on how Lev 23.11 was interpreted.
Now, we need to deal with something connected to how Deut 17.8-13 is interpreted today. There is a belief by some today that Deut 17.8-13 says we are to follow the rulings of the Sanhedrin even if they are wrong. That does not seem to be the practice of the first century believers however (Acts 5.27-42). We believe the Rabbis interpreted Deut 17 to mean something it doesn’t say, and we have gone over that previously in other posts. But, the belief today is people should follow the last legal decision the Sanhedrin ever made until it is changed by another Sanhedrin. So, the Jewish calendar has Nisan 16 as the day the Omer is waved and to begin counting the Omer, not what Scripture clearly means by the “morrow after” the weekly Sabbath. This is just one example that says if the Rabbis (after the destruction of the Temple) rule on something, but the Torah says otherwise, you follow the Rabbis.
Peter said, “We must obey God rather than men” in the Sanhedrin (or anywhere) when a decision conflicts with the Torah. What we have read in the Mishnah is the legal decision on the Omer after 55 A.D. The ceremony of the Omer is a picture of the resurrection of Yeshua and the resurrection of other believers right after Yeshua rose. Yeshua then took those people, like the barley that had been plucked from the ground, to the Temple in Heaven and presented them as first fruits of the harvest of souls. The counting of the Omer speaks of the days following Yeshua’s resurrection, leading up to Shavuot and the giving of the Ruach in Acts 2. It teaches on numerous levels, such as the Exodus historically, Yeshua in the first century, the life of a believer and the coming of the Olam Haba and the Redemption.
In Part 19, we will pick up here and begin discussing the authority of the Sanhedrin in the first century in detail, and how it is seen by some today. We are going to disagree with much of the current rabbinic and messianic views, and we will point this out.