The Barley Harvest
Each of the three main feast days of Israel, which we have already discussed briefly, are associated with different harvests. The barley ripens first around the time of Passover; the wheat ripens later around the time of Pentecost; and the grapes ripen last just prior to the feast of Tabernacles.
These three crops depict three classes of people, as we will show soon. The barley represents the overcomer; the wheat represents the Church; and the grapes represent the unbelievers. There is a profound revelation in each of these crops, but our present study will focus on just the first one, barley.
The Barley Wave-Sheaf Offering
The wave-sheaf offering shortly after Passover was the first fruits of the barley that the priest offered to God in the early spring. It was always waved “on the day after the Sabbath” after Passover (Lev. 23:11). This day is sometimes called the feast of the first fruits or the counting of the omer.
Barley was the first crop to ripen in the spring in Canaan and Egypt. In fact, the Hebrew month of Abib (“green ears”) has direct reference to the ripening of barley in that month. On the first day of that month, the priest would inspect a sheaf of barley to see if it had “eared out” yet. If so, it was announced to all the people that Passover would be observed in Jerusalem two weeks later. If the barley grain was still closed, with the grain covered by the husk, the priest would announce that they would have to wait another month before Passover could be observed lawfully.
In such a case, a thirteenth month would be added to the previous year, rather than starting the new year with that month. Lunar months are only 29 1/2 days long, so 12 lunar months only covered 354 days. Thus, in order to keep pace with the seasons and the solar cycles, the Hebrews would add a reset month every two or three years. The earing of the barley determined whether that month was to be a 13th “reset” month or the first month of the new year.
This was also important, because it retained the symbolism of Israel’s feast days. Passover signified the death of the lamb and had prophetic reference to the crucifixion of Jesus. The wave-sheaf offering signified resurrection from the dead, for on this day Jesus was raised. Thus, the people could not lawfully observe the Passover unless the barley was eared out, for this signified newness of life.
Jesus presented Himself before His Father in the heavenly Temple at the time the priest waved the barley sheaf in the earthly temple. The waving motion, up and down, signified resurrection. Though Jesus had actually been raised from the dead “very early in the morning” (Luke 24:1), He did not allow Mary to touch Him prior to the wave-sheaf offering (John 20:17). Not until the wave-sheaf offering was Jesus declared legally alive in the court of heaven.
Barley Ripens First
When God was dealing with Pharaoh to allow Israel to leave, He sent ten plagues upon Egypt. The seventh plague was that of hail, which destroyed the barley and flax, but not the wheat and spelt. (This took place just prior to the Passover, which took place with the tenth plague, the death of the firstborn.) We read in Ex. 9:31, 32.
31 Now the flax and the barley were ruined, for the barley was in the ear, and the flax was in bud. 32 But the wheat and the spelt were not ruined; for they ripen late.
The barley was ripe and eared out just prior to that first Passover. But the wheat was not yet ripe.
We see another example of this forty years later, when Israel was ready to cross the Jordan. Joshua sent two spies to Jericho. It was the time of Passover (Joshua 5:10), and Rahab hid the spies under stalks of flax (Joshua 2:6). Flax ripened at the same time as barley, as we saw from Ex. 9:31. Linen comes from flax. It was used to make priestly garments, and in Rev. 19:8 we see that “fine linen is the righteousness of saints.”
The week after Passover is also called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The people were required to remove all leaven from their houses for a full seven days. Leaven is symbolic of sin; thus, removing the leavened bread depicts the removal of all sin from one’s house (body). This is the same symbolism as we find in flax, for to be clothed in flax (linen) is to depict putting on the righteousness of Christ. So all of these things work together, woven into a complete picture of the plan of God for Christ and the overcoming body. The body of Christ (the overcomers) who are identified with their Head will soon follow Him in the first resurrection.
Overcomers are Barley
We have already dealt with Israel’s three feast days and their significance on the personal level. They represent the three stages of salvation from justification to sanctification to glorification. It is now time to view the feast days from a much broader perspective. These feast days reveal the nature and scope of the resurrections from the dead. Each crop represents a different class of people. The barley, which ripens first, represents the overcomers of the first resurrection; the wheat, which ripens at Pentecost, represents the rest of the Church (i.e., believers in general); and the grapes, which are trodden down at the end of the growing season represent the unbelievers who are judged according to their works.
In this present study we will limit our focus to the barley company, showing the revelation God has given in this first “harvest of souls” called by John the first resurrection. This is the first of “three times in the year” when all the males were to appear before God’s throne in Jerusalem (Ex. 34:23).
The Hebrew word for barley is sehoraw. Strong’s Concordance says that the feminine form means “plant,” and the masculine form means “grain.” There is another word for grain as well, and this Hebrew word sheds much light on the symbolic meaning of barley. It is the Hebrew word bar. In Gen. 41:35 and 49 we read that Joseph gathered grain in preparation for the coming famine. The King James Version translates it “corn,” but this was not corn in the modern sense of the word, for Egypt did not grow corn. Corn is an old English word for grain in general, but in modern times the word has acquired a more specific definition and refers to a specific grain.
The Hebrew word, bar, or “grain,” may possibly be the root of our modern word for barley. But bar also has some other meanings. It means a SON, in the sense of an heir. For example, Barabbas (John 18:40) means “son of the father,” and Barnabas means “son of consolation” (Acts 4:36). Barley thus signifies the overcomers, who are known also as the “sons of God.” This term is used of Israel in Hosea 1:10, because the prophet pictures Israel as being seed scattered in the field (the world), who ultimately would bring forth a great harvest of sons. In John 1:12 we read,
12 But as many as received Him (Jesus), to them He gave the right to become the children of God, even to those who believe in His name.
Again, we read in Rom. 8:14,
14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. . . 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ . . . 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.
Paul says that the sons of God are also heirs of God. Paul was referring to the fact that the Hebrew word, bar, means both a son and an heir. Romans 8 was Paul’s introduction to his Israel chapters (Rom. 9-11). He tells us the way Hosea’s prophecy will be fulfilled is only through Jesus Christ. Israel had been divorced (Jer. 3:8) and sent out of His house from 745-721 B.C. God had even stripped her of the birthright name, “Israel.”
Those ex-Israelites never returned to the old land, as did the Jews from the southern kingdom. The only way that those lost Israelites could ever be reinstated in the Kingdom of God was through Jesus Christ. Paul says that they had to be led by the Spirit of God in order to be the sons of God and fellow heirs with Christ.
Further, the word, bar, also means “a field” in the Chaldean language used in Daniel 2 and 4. It is number 1251 in Strong’s Concordance. The connection between a field and the grain that grows in the field is obvious.
The Value of Barley
The first Scripture relevant to any study of barley is Leviticus 27:16. It reads,
16 Again, if a man consecrates to the Lord part of the fields of his own property, then your valuation shall be proportionate to the seed needed for it; a homer of barley seed at fifty shekels of silver.
The value of a homer of barley in the eyes of God is fifty shekels of silver. Fifty is the number of Pentecost and Jubilee. Pentecost was to be celebrated on the 50th day; Jubilee is the 50th year. Both are revelations of the outpouring of the Spirit of God. Pentecost is the time when the earnest of the Spirit was poured out (Eph. 1:14; 2 Cor. 1:22 and 5:5). The Jubilee signifies a greater outpouring, that is, the fullness (pleroma) of the Spirit. Paul prayed to be “filled with all the fullness (pleroma) of God” (Eph. 3:19).
Thus, while Pentecost is a downpayment of a Jubilee, or the promise of a Jubilee, both are depicted by the number 50. The barley is valued at 50 shekels of silver, and this associates the barley with the outpouring of the Spirit, both in its earnest and its fullness.
This is consistent with the revelation of the overcomers who attain to the first resurrection or—if they are alive at the end of the age—their “change” (transfiguration) without dying. It is also consistent with the revelation of the “unleavened bread” at Passover and the flax (white linen) ripening at the same time, which is used in the priestly garments.
The Law of First Fruits
All of these details point to the fact that the barley company is the first to be raised of all of God’s creatures. James 1:18 says,
18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we might be, as it were, the first fruits among His creatures [“creation”].
In the book of Revelation, we are told of the 144,000 who sing a new song before the throne of God. In Rev. 14:4 these are called “the first fruits unto God and to the Lamb.” First fruits imply that a greater harvest is yet to come. Even as Jesus was “the First fruits of them that slept” (1 Cor. 15:20), so also are the overcomers of the first resurrection (the “144,000” of Rev. 14) the first fruits of others yet to come. The first fruits offering always signaled the beginning (not the end) of the harvest.
Paul alluded to the law of first fruits again in Rom. 11:16 (KJV), saying,
16 For if the first fruit be holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root be holy, so are the branches.
The first fruits always sanctified the harvest. When the first fruits of a crop, whether barley or wheat, were offered to God, then the people could go home and harvest the rest of that crop. For this reason, James tells us that the Church is the first fruits of creation. When the Church is “harvested” and brought into God’s house, it is not the end of the world, but the beginning of a greater harvest.
Likewise, the overcomers are the first fruits of the Church. They are the “first of the first fruits” (Ex. 23:19), that is, the barley first fruits that were offered shortly after the feast of Passover. These are the ones who inherit the first resurrection. Rev. 20:6 says,
6 . . . they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.
The rest of the dead, both unbelievers and the rest of the believers, will not be raised until the thousand years is finished. Then all of the dead, small and great, will be raised. At that time, the non-overcoming believers will receive LIFE, while the unbelievers will received JUDGMENT, as Jesus said in John 5:28, 29,
28 Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which ALL who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, 29 and come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of LIFE, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of JUDGMENT.
It is apparent from Jesus’ statement that the resurrection at the Great White Throne will include believers that will be given life, or immortality, as well as the unbelievers that will be judged. This is why we ought to strive to attain “a better resurrection” (Heb. 11:35). The first resurrection is the better resurrection. Those who attain the better resurrection are those who will rule and reign with Christ during the thousand years of the Tabernacles Age.