Counting the Omer

What is “counting of the omer”? Why do we do this? What are we counting?

This is the counting of the days between Passover and Pentecost.

Counting the omer produces a time-sequenced guide that opens the way for new revelation (the time the Torah was to be given  (which we celebrate today as Shavuot) and multiplication (the time between the barley harvest and the first wheat harvest). Some groups “count” different ways, but the real issue is the anticipation of breakthrough!

Joshua 5:11  And they did eat of the old corn of the land on the morrow after the passover, unleavened cakes, and parched corn in the selfsame day.
12  And the manna ceased on the morrow after they had eaten of the old corn of the land; neither had the children of Israel manna any more; but they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year
.

The Children of Israel were forbidden to eat of the new crops until the day of the Omer Offering.

Leviticus 23:14  And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
15  And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete:
16  Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD.
17  Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the LORD.

The morrow after the sabbath is always the first day of the week (which we call Sunday in the western calendar). Thus, those who count according to the Bible pattern in Leviticus start the count on the Sunday in the week of unleavened bread, and the count ends on the Sunday of Pentecost. The Sunday when the count begins is not a fixed day in the Jewish Calendar, because 14th of Nissan does not always follow on the same week day every year. This results in a variable day for Pentecost Sunday.

Today’s Jews begin counting the Omer the day after Passover. Interestingly, the Sudacees (old strand of Judaism, no longer in existence) rejected the notion of the oral law, and so they began the count on the day after the Shabbat following Passover. All the other sects of Judaism considered all the main Jewish holidays as ‘Shabbat’ as no work is done on them, and therefore they begin counting of the Omer the day following Pesach. However, the Sudacees did not consider that the holidays were really ‘Shabbat’, so if, for instance, Pesach fell on a Monday, they would wait until the day following the next Saturday (the following Sunday) before beginning the count.

In other words most Jews count the omer from the “morrow after the Passover”, that is from the 15th Nissan, and so their count always arrive at a fixed date for Shavuot, namely the 6th of Sivan, which is 50 days counting from the 15th Nissan.

The controversy referred to above occurred during the Temple days. Later, in the Rabbinic period, the Jewish sages found additional scriptural support for their view in Exodus 19:1.

Exodus 19:1  In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai.

Thus, the children of Israel arrived in the wilderness of Sinai on the 1st of Sivan, and they were commanded to prepare themselves for three days.

Exodus 19:10  And the LORD said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes,
11  And be ready against the third day: for the third day the LORD will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai.

Thus, they calculated that the 3rd of Sivan was the day when the Lord came down in fire and lightning and thunder and the sound of a trumpet in the sight of all the people. They then extrapolate that the Ten Commandments were first given to Moses on the sixth Sivan which is today’s Shavuot, the feast of the giving of the Torah.

Whichever method of counting you follow, what does this mean for us? It is time for us to move into a new idea of supply. How heaven was responding to you now changes! As you progress through these 50 days, new revelation comes down. Each day God communes with you in a new way! Our understanding of Torah deepens (specially if we read the whole of Torah during the 50 days). And the harvest of fruit in our lives is raised from the barley harvest through the range of five species of grain, to the best harvest of all, that of wheat.

While on the subject of counting the omer, it should be noted that in Jewish history most of the first 32 days of the omer are considered sad days and a mood of mourning is encouraged. The Talmud teaches that during this period of time (around 132 A.D.) , Rabbi Akiva’s students were overcome with a fatal sickness or plague that killed approximately 24,000 of them. (This was, however, close to the time of the Bar Kochba revolt that Akiva was active in, leaving open the possibility of some of the students dying in battle).

There are other events in Jewish history that occurred during the Counting of the omer period that also contribute to a mood of mourning: In the year 1096, Crusaders marched through the Rhine basin, mercilessly slaughtering Jewish men, women, and children. The worst bloodshed occurred between the first of Iyyar and Shavuot. The Jewish populace of Speyer was attacked on the eighth of Iyyar, and the communities of Mainz and Köln fell to the marauders during the week preceding Shavuot.

But there were also some joyous days during the counting of the omer:

Joyous Days of the Omer:

Israel’s Independence Day is usually celebrated on the 20th day of the counting of the omer (5th of Iyar). This day is similar in meaning to July 4th in America.

Lag B’Omer is usually celebrated on the 33rd day of the counting of the omer (18th of Iyar). This holiday reflects the day that the plague that killed Rabbi Akiva’s students ended. Picnics at parks are a common way to celebrate.

Jerusalem Day is usually celebrated on the 43rd day of the counting of the omer (28th of Iyar). This is the day according to the Hebrew calendar that the Old City of Jerusalem was liberated during the 1967 Six-Day War.

 

The counting of the omer is the time between Jesus crucifixion on Passover and the sending of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. During this time, Jesus preached to spirits that were in prison (1 Pet. 3:19), came out of the tomb, showed his resurrected body to others, and ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. At the end of this time, day 50, the comforter (Holy Spirit) was sent to those who were waiting for it (Acts Chapter 2). Day 50, Shavuot was also considered a First Fruits offering and on that day, we were offered the First Fruits of believing in Christ, which is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus compared himself to a kernel of wheat in John 12:24:

John 12:24  Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

There is also a progressive theme during these days involving other holidays.

First is the holiday known as Day Of Remembrance. This falls on the 19th day of the counting of the omer.  We remember those that died.

Next is the holiday known as Day Of Independence. This falls on the 20th day of the counting of the omer. Here Israel celebrates her independence.

Then comes the holiday known as Day Of Jerusalem.This falls on the 43rd day of the counting of the omer. Here Israel celebrates the reunification of Jerusalem.

In all this, there is a messianic theme that fits for believers.

First we remember and recognize Jesus’ death.

Then through our faith we become independent of the hold Satan had over us. We have at this point gained our freedom. Despite those two very big blessings, we still have another to look forward to: our reunification with Christ Jesus.

After our death here, we will be together with him.

There is a connection between Passover and Pentecost. On Passover we were physically redeemed by the physical death of Jesus. On Pentecost our physical redemption was Spiritually empowered with the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Miscellaneous:

Known as Pesach Sheni when the Holy Temple was still standing, those who had become ritually impure would get a second chance to offer their Pascal sacrifice on the 14th Iyar.(approximately day 29 of the counting of omer days 1-49 with day 50 being Pentecost).

Recommended study

Read he Torah, Joshua 5 (from verse 10 on, the incidents happened during the counting of the omer) and Luke 24 (these incidents also happened during the counting of the omer as reckoned from the “morrow after the Shabbat” in the week of Unleavened Bread.).

Read Counting the Omer as a Spiritual Exercise
 

Back to Passover

 

 

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