All of Yahwehs seven annual Feasts or moedim (appointments) revolve around the harvest cycle of cereal grains and other produce. This is clear with the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread, which occur at the barley harvest (Ex. 9:31). Then comes the Feast of Firstfruits, also known as Pentecost in the New Testament. This special time occurs seven weeks after Unleavened Bread and represents the firstfruits of the wheat harvest made into two loaves of bread that were waved (Lev. 23:17). Then in the seventh month we come to the Feast of Tabernacles, otherwise known as the Feast of "Ingathering." (Ex. 23:16). Tabernacles represents the general harvest at the close of the growing cycle when everything is "gathered in"-- from grains to vegetables, melons, nuts, and fruit.
Clearly, the various harvests are central to Yahwehs Feasts and are key to them like nothing else is. The harvests prophetically point to the harvest of souls in Yahwehs great salvation plan from the firstfruits, which indicate His first chosen people, to the general harvest of souls later. Even the first month of the sacred year is named Abib, which in Hebrew means "tender, green ears." The "ears" refer to barley grain, the only grain mature enough at the time of the Passover to be green and in the head (Ex. 9:31, "And the flax and the barley was smitten: for the barley was in the ear, and the flax was bolled" [bolled=podded, BDB No. 1392, Heb. gibol]. "32: But the wheat and the rie were not smitten: for they were not grown up.). Therefore, Yahweh says, "This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you," Exodus 12:2. "This day came you out in the month Abib," Exodus 13:4.
The state of the crops, especially the barley and flax grain, is the only criterion that Yahweh gives for establishing the timing of the first month of the year. Nothing in the Bible explains how to establish the first month of the year in any other fashion than the developing green ears of barley grain.
In the spirit of maturing crops, we are to establish and observe the first month when the barley grain is green, Leviticus 23:14 (note the words "parched" meaning roasted, and "green"). Baking or parching the green barley dried it. This was not ripe barley, it was young and green barley. We cannot establish Abib if the barley head is not developed or if the barley seed is dry, ripe, yellow and ready to harvest; by then it would be too late. The barley must be green and this occurs in a specific month.
Can I Look in My Locale?
Can we look at the barley crop growing in our own vicinity to establish Abib? Naturally we will find a difference of many weeks between barley that is ripening in southern Texas and barley that is growing in North Dakota. The same is true of barley that may be grown in Brazil compared with the grain growing in Russia. Seasons are opposite on either side of the equator. Therefore, whether a small or a great difference in distance, Abib would occur at widely varying times depending on where one lives.
The only way to reconcile this discrepancy in growing seasons is to look at the barley that is grown in or around Israel. It was to people living in that area of the world that Yahweh gave the command to keep the Passover and Feast during the green ear month of Abib. It is that area of the world that will give us the proper and accurate time of maturing barley, when Yahweh commanded Israel to keep the first month.
Interestingly, barley originated in the Mediterranean region. How appropriate, then, that we look at the barley maturing in Israel, and not barley grown in North Dakota, Texas, or Australia to establish Abib.
What About 1999?
Two different sources confirmed that the barley had green ears in the head by wave sheaf time in Israel this year, or April 4. One report claims the barley was green even by March 18. Not believing these reports and choosing to rely on barley growing in the United States, some observed Passover on April 29 this year, making the wave sheaf day May 2.
The law provides that the wave sheaf be of the firstfruits of the barley. Whatever barley field produced green ears first, from that crop the wave sheaf was taken. Once the wave sheaf was offered to Yahweh, the harvest could begin. Harvesting of barley typically begins in early April near Jericho and in early May in the mountains around Jerusalem.
We find a serious flaw with the keeping of an April 29 Passover and a May 2 wave sheaf this year based on barley:
The firstfruits barley would have been past Abib stage by May 2. In other words, these would not be "green" ears, but brown, ripe ears. Agriculturalists maintain that only a couple of weeks elapse between the time of barley green ears and mature and yellowing ripe ears. Therefore, waiting an additional FOUR more weeks would be far too long for green-ear firstfruits.
Note this astounding report about barley grown in the Middle East, from the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges (Exodus 9, p. 76): "In Egypt, according to a farmer living in the Delta (cited by W.R. Smith, Journal of Phil. xii. 300), flax blossoms and barley ripens in Jan.; but, he adds, the seasons vary, and so the travellers cited by Kn. mention mostly Feb.: wheat and spelt are ripe, in any case, about a month later."
In light of this information, the argument that an April 4 wave sheaf was too early to be seen in Israel this year has no validity whatsoever.
The explanation of why only the barley and flax were damaged by the plague of hail in Egypt (Ex. 9:31) brings up an important confirmation point many miss: " for the barley was in the ear, and the flax was bolled." "Bolled" is from the Hebrew gibol and means swollen, podded, in the bud. Therefore, one can use the flax as a second witness to the month of Abib if the flax shows to be in the pod at that time.
Why Not Use the Vernal Equinox?
Some ignore barley altogether and set Abib 1 according to the vernal equinox. The vernal equinox is that instant when the sun is directly above the earth's equator while going from the south to the north (for inhabitants of the northern hemisphere). It is the time that most people take as the definition of the beginning of spring.”
Those who employ the vernal equinox point to Genesis 1:14, claiming that the sun, moon, and stars set the Feasts. It is true that the sun divides day from night and establishes the seasons, while the new moon sets the beginning of months. Yet, nowhere in the entire Bible can one find where the vernal equinox establishes Abib. We can go even further and say unequivocally that nowhere in the Bible is there even any mention of the vernal equinox. To say that Genesis 1:14 refers to the vernal equinox is reading into Scripture what isn't there.
Passover is related to spring through the growing cycle of crops. First and foremost, it must occur in the month of Abib. And Abib is a condition of grain as much as it is a time of the year. The King James Version has led some astray in the way it translates moed in Exodus 13:10, Num. 9:2, 3, 7, and 13. The KJV uses "season" in these verses, causing some to believe that the command is specifically for springtime, and therefore must involve the vernal equinox. In reality, the Hebrew moed simply means "set time" or "appointed time." Yahweh has set Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread by the criteria of the crops, not by a purely astronomical reckoning known as the vernal equinox.
The vast majority of Jews gradually got away from actually looking for the green ears of barley, going instead by a calculated calendar that involved the vernal equinox. This was done for the sake of convenience. But Yahweh tells us that His growing cycle reveals the proper month for His Feasts.
Vernal Equinox and Historic Paganism
When the Roman church deliberately acted to separate Easter from Passover, it ruled in 325 CE in the Council of Nicaea that Easter would fall on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox. This setting of an observance was entirely man-made, and appropriately applied to a man-made holiday called Easter. The Roman church on its own volition, therefore, bestowed a legitimacy on the vernal equinox as a calendar marker where it had none before at least not in any kind of Biblical context.
That does not mean, however, that the vernal equinox had no significance among historic pagans and their calendars. Note the following:
"Easter, too, celebrates the victory of a god of light (J-sus) over darkness (death), so it makes sense to place it at this season. Ironically, the name 'Easter' was taken from the name of a Teutonic lunar Goddess, Eostre (from whence we also get the name of the female hormone, estrogen). Her chief symbols were the bunny (both for fertility and because her worshipers saw a hare in the full moon) and the egg (symbolic of the cosmic egg of creation), images which Christians have been hard pressed to explain. Her holiday, the Eostara, was held on the Vernal Equinox Full Moon. Needless to say, the old and accepted folk name for the Vernal Equinox is Lady Day. Christians sometimes insist that the title is in honor of Mary and her Annunciation, but Pagans will smile knowingly." -- Lady Day: The Vernal Equinox, by Mike Nichols.
"The vernal equinox has long been a significant event in the lives of agricultural peoples as it symbolizes nature's regeneration, fertility, growth and bounty. The word equinox comes from Latin and means "equal night" (Tag- und Nachtgleiche). On this day, night and day each last twelve hours. The Vernal Equinox used to be considered the beginning of the Pagan New Year. It was a time of joy called forth by the resurrection of the "Light of the World" (sun god) from the underworld of the winter, from where he arose to join his goddess Eostre."-- by Ruth Reichmann, Max Kade German-American Center, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis.
"Babylonians and Assyrians placed greater importance on the Equinoxes than the solstices. The most important festival in Babylonia was the New Year, which occurred at the Spring equinox. This was the akitu, a twelve-day ceremony in which the King, as the son and representative of the divinity, regenerated and synchronized the rhythms of nature, cosmos, and human society."-- Tales of the Vernal Equinox, by Robin DuMolin
"Modern Pagans also celebrate the universal principle of Resurrection at the Equinox which is named for Eostre, a Pagan goddess. She is the goddess of Spring to whom the offerings of cake and colored eggs were made at the Vernal Equinox. Rabbits, especially white ones, were sacred to her, and she was believed to take the form of a rabbit. She is also said to be the goddess of the East, that being the direction of rebirth. Since the sun rises in the East, she is linked with the sunrise. Traditional Easter services stem from this association." Ibid o "Easter is supposed to be derived from Anglo Saxon Eostre, the name of the Norse goddess whose festival is celebrated by the pagans at the vernal equinox." -- A Book About the Bible, George Stimpson, p. 180.
"Ostara, also known as The Spring or Vernal Equinox, the Festival of Trees, Alban Eilir, Ostara, the Rites of Spring, and the Rites of Eostre, occurs between March 19 and 21 and marks the first day of true Spring. Day and night are equal on this day, hence the name Equinox. It is observed by Pagans throughout the world." -- from The Witches' Web
Pagans revere the G-d and G-ddess through rituals or ceremonies of various kinds. Pagans of the western traditions celebrate eight festivals or Sabbats each year. They comprise the four solar quarters i.e. the two solstices (longest and shortest days) and the two equinoxes (day and night are the same length) plus four Celtic seasonal festivals. All these mark important events in the cycle of life. They are: Ostara (Easter), the spring equinox, 21st March: Return of the sun from the south, springtime proper. Some celebrate a holy union between G-d and G-ddess.-- from What Do Pagans Do?
Vernal Equinox as the Tequphah?
The argument has been attempted that the vernal equinox corresponds to the Hebrew word "tequphah," which is found several times in the Bible. The definition of tequphah (Strongs Concordance No. 8622) is: "A revolution, i.e. of the sun course (of time) lapse: circuit, come about, end." From the definition, we find it next to impossible to attach any firm connection of tequphah to a spring equinox. The evidence, in fact, points to the end of the year, not the beginning.
The following passages contain the Hebrew word tequphah as well as its meaning, as indicated by the quotation marks:
Exodus 34:22 (Feast of ingathering at the "years end")
2Chron. 24:23 (Syria attacked Judah at the "end of the year")
2Chronicles. 24:23; 36:10 ("end of the year/year was expired")
Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon defines the tequphah (Strongs No. 8622) as: "coming round, circuit;--Ex. 34:22, adv., at the circuit (completion) of the year, so 2Chron. 24:23= pl. cstr. 1Sam. 1:20; sig. Sf. Of finished circuit of sun." p. 880
Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon says about the root of tequphah, No. 5362 naqaph: 1. An intransitive verb meaning to surround something (Isa. 29:1, let feasts go around, i.e. run the round (of the year). 2. make the round, i.e. complete the circuit. Job 1:5 when the days of feasting had completed their circuit.
The closest we have in the Hebrew to spring as a season is 6779, tsamach, a primitive root meaning to sprout, bear, bring forth, bud, grow, cause to spring (forth, up). Yahweh again reveals that the time for His Feasts is attached to the growing of crops, not to the vernal equinox.
If all truth seekers would realize that the Feasts have profound significance in the plan of Almighty Yahweh, and that His year as well as His Feasts are closely tied to the harvest, then greater truth would be known and Yahweh and His salvation plan for man would be far better understood.