Counting the omer is a biblical practice done for 49 days that leads the nation of Israel to celebrate Shavuot (i.e., Pentecost or The Feast of Weeks), a contrasting festival to the Passover Seder.
10 Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. When you enter the land I (Yahweh) am giving you and you harvest its first crops, bring the priest a bundle of grain from the first cutting of your grain harvest (i.e., the omer). 11 On the day after the Sabbath, the priest will lift the omer up before Yahweh so (that the first fruits of your harvest) may be accepted on your behalf. 13 With it (the first fruits of your harvest) you must present a grain offering consisting of four quarts of choice flour moistened with olive oil. It will be a special gift, a pleasing aroma to Yahweh. You must also offer one quart of wine as a liquid offering. 14 Do not eat any bread or roasted grain or fresh kernels on that day until you bring this offering to your Elohim. This is a permanent law for you, and it must be observed from generation to generation wherever you live.
15 “From the day after the Sabbath—the day you bring the bundle of grain to be lifted up as a special offering—count off seven full weeks. 16 Keep counting until the day after the seventh Sabbath, fifty days later. Then present an offering of new grain to Yahweh. 17 From wherever you live, bring two loaves of bread to be lifted up before Yahweh as a special offering. Make these loaves from four quarts of choice flour, and bake them with yeast. They (i.e., these two loaves of bread) will be an offering to Yahweh from the first of your crops. 21 That same day (i.e., Shavuot, Pentecost or The Feast of Weeks) will be proclaimed an official day for holy assembly, a day on which you do no ordinary work. This is a permanent law for you, and it must be observed from generation to generation wherever you live.
Leviticus 23:10-11, 13-17 and 21
What exactly is an omer (עֹ֫מֶר)? The Oxford English Dictionary informs us that an omer is “A sheaf […] of grain presented as an offering on the second day of Passover” (OED 2018). Similarly, and omer is “The period of 49 days between the second day of Passover and Pentecost” (OED 2018).
Immediately after celebrating Passover, the children of Israel was prohibited from eating the new harvest of grain that they’ve just harvested from the field. They were to abstain from eating from the new harvest until they have presented it as a wave offering to Yahweh. Each day for forty-nine days, they were to gather one bundled sheaf of grain, separate it from the rest of the harvest and reserve it for Shavuot or Pentecost.
After separating the bundles, the children of Israel was required to bake two loaves of bread from that yield made with olive oil. Along with these two loaves, they were to bring a bottle of wine and a year old male lamb without blemish to present it to Yahweh. Once the sacrifice was performed, then the children of Israel may begin to enjoy the fruits of their harvest.
In essence, the meal enjoyed on Shavuot differs from The Passover Seder. Firstly, the bread is made with yeast. Secondly, bitter herbs are not required for the worshipper to enjoy Shavuot. Thirdly, Shavuot was a joyous occasion which differs from the solemn occasion that regulates Passover.
As time progressed, the rabbis redefined the meaning to the omer. The Online Jewish Encyclopedia informs,
The Rabbis, contrary to the Septuagint and later non-Jewish translators, consider the word "'omer" as designating the measure, which is one-tenth of an ephah (comp. Ex. xvi. 36; A. V. "omer"); therefore they hold that the wave-offering did not consist of a sheaf but was an 'omer of grain (see Rashi to Lev. xxiii. 10). They assert also that although the kind of grain is not specified in the Bible the only sort which could be used for the offering was barley (Pesiḳ. viii. 70a; Men. 68b). The grain had to be reaped on the day, or during the night preceding the day, it was to be brought into the Temple (Meg. 20b; see below). According to the Rabbis, the wave-offering was brought on the 16th of Nisan, that is, on the morrow after the Passover Feast, the main point of difference between the Rabbis and the Boethusians and modern Karaites being that the latter explained literally the words "morrow after the Sabbath" (Lev. xxiii. 15) as the day following the first Sabbath after the Passover Feast (Men. 65b; Meg.Ta'an. i.).
The Online Jewish Encyclopedia 1906
Provided the information concerning the omer, members of the international body of Messiah can better appreciate some of the New Testament accounts that deals with counting the days which lead to Shavuot.
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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scriptures were taken from the New Living Translation of the Bible.
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