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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

First-Fruits —On the offering of first-fruits as a Jewish institution see Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible, vol. ii. p. 10 f.

The word rendered first-fruits (ἀπαρχή) occurs 8 times in the NT, and only in  1 Corinthians 15:20;  1 Corinthians 15:23 is it applied directly to our Lord: ‘Now hath Christ been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of them that are asleep’; ‘Christ the first-fruits; then they that are Christ’s.’ It is possible, as some have suggested, that there is a reference in v. 20 to the specific offering of the sheaf of the first ripe corn on the second day of the Passover feast ( Leviticus 23:10-11). The coincidence of our Lord’s resurrection on the 16th Nisan—the day on which the sheaf was offered before the Lord—would no doubt suggest the idea of the first-fruits to the Apostle’s mind. But, even apart from this specific reference, the figure of the risen Christ as the first-fruits from the dead is perfectly natural. And there is more here than might be at first supposed. Christ’s resurrection is the pledge of His people’s resurrection, just as the first-fruits were the pledge of the harvest to come. Christ is the first to be raised from the dead, and so stands in the front rank alone, as the first-fruits were plucked before the rest of the produce was ripe; but, just as certainly as the harvest in due time followed the first-fruits, so shall those who sleep in Christ be raised up in due time, and stand in the second rank after Him. But, further, it is clearly implied here, and explicitly taught in other passages, that as is Christ the first-fruits, so shall be the rest of the harvest. There is implied here a community of nature and character between Christ, the first-fruits, and His people. It is only the time of their manifestation that is different. The portion gathered as first-fruits is of the same nature as the rest, and the rest is of the same nature and character and standing as the first-fruits. This is indicated specially in  Leviticus 23:21, where it is said that, as death came by man, so it is only by man that the resurrection can come, i.e. resurrection and triumph over death can be man’s possession only when given him by one who is man like himself. Man, therefore, must be of the same nature and character and standing as Christ, the first-fruits. What is suggested here is plainly taught elsewhere ( Colossians 3:4,  Romans 8:29,  1 John 3:2). Christ, according to these passages, is the first-fruits, the firstborn among many brethren, not only as the pledge that, as He rose, so His people shall rise from the dead, but also that as He is, in nature and character, so shall His people be. That is, perhaps, the most glorious promise of the resurrection first-fruits.

In  Romans 8:23 the first-fruits of the Spirit received by Christ’s people are referred to. That they have received the Spirit in some measure and have been sanctified inwardly, is the pledge that they shall receive it in yet greater abundance, that there shall be a final outpouring of the Spirit by which the body of man shall be redeemed even as the spirit has been sanctified—the psychical body being changed into a spiritual. In  Romans 11:16;  Romans 16:5,  1 Corinthians 16:15,  James 1:18,  Revelation 14:4 the reference is to the future redemption of mankind, of which those already gathered in are the first-fruits and pledge. Those already redeemed and presented to God as holy are the first-fruits, the pledge of the coming harvest of a holy redeemed humanity.

Literature.—Schürer, HJ P [Note: JP History of the Jewish People.] ii. i. 237; Edersheim, The Temple: its Ministry, etc. , xix.; Stapfer, Palestine in Time of Christ , bk. ii. ch. 13; Josephs, Judaism as Creed and Life , bk. ii. ch. 5; art. ‘First-Fruits’ in Jew. Encyc. vol. v.

J. Soutar.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [2]

First-fruits. As the first-born of men and firstlings of beasts, so the first-fruits of the increase of the land were regarded as holy to the Lord.  Romans 8:23;  Romans 11:16;  1 Corinthians 15:20;  1 Corinthians 15:23;  1 Corinthians 16:15;  James 1:18;  Revelation 14:4. One remarkable provision of the law was that the Hebrews must not for three years touch the produce of any fruit-tree they planted. The fourth year of bearing it was consecrated as the first-fruits to the Lord,  Leviticus 19:23-25; in the fifth year it was free for the owner's use. This rule is not supposed to have applied to the trees the people found on entering Palestine. There were general commands as to the offering of the first fruits,  Exodus 22:29;  Exodus 23:19;  Exodus 34:26, and also specified times when such offerings were to be publicly made. The first-fruits of the harvest in the sheaf were to be presented at the feast of the passover, on the morrow after the sabbath.  Leviticus 23:9-14. Till this was done, no harvest-work was to be proceeded with. At the feast of pentecost the first-fruits of the completed Harvest in the shape of two loaves made of the new flour were to be presented.  Exodus 34:22;  Leviticus 23:15-17;  Numbers 28:26. Besides these public and national oblations, there were others of a more private and individual kind. Such were the first-fruits of the dough,  Numbers 16:20-21; and of the threshing-floor, which Jewish writers distinguish into two kinds, the first including wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and figs; the second oil, wine, and other produce which supported human life, also the first of the fleece and the hair of goats. No rule was laid down in scripture as to the proportion the offered first-fruits ought to bear to the whole produce; but one-sixtieth is said to be the least; sometimes one-fortieth or one-thirtieth part was presented. The address which the offerer was to make to God is prescribed in  Deuteronomy 26:1-11. Doubtless in times of national declension less regard would be paid to the law of the first-fruits; but we find that during the various reforms they flowed in abundantly.  2 Chronicles 31:5;  Nehemiah 10:35;  Nehemiah 10:37; comp.  Ezekiel 20:40 to  Ezekiel 48:14. The first-fruits generally became the portion of the priests and Levites, to be eaten by them and their famines.  Numbers 18:12;  Deuteronomy 18:4;  Ezekiel 44:30. In Israel after the schism they were sometimes offered to the prophets.  2 Kings 4:42.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [3]


1. The law ordered, in general, that the first of all ripe fruits and of liquors, or, as it is twice expressed, the first of first-fruits, should be offered in God's house.  Exodus 22:29;  Exodus 23:19;  Exodus 34:27. It was an act of allegiance to God, as the giver of all. No exact quantity was commanded, but it was left to the spiritual and moral sense of each individual.

2. On the morrow , after the Passover Sabbath , that is, on the 16th of Nisan, a sheaf of new corn was to be brought to the priest and waved before the altar, in acknowledgment of the gift of fruitfulness.  Leviticus 2:12;  Leviticus 23:5-6;  Leviticus 23:10;  Leviticus 23:12.

3. At the expiration of seven weeks from this time, that is, at the Feast of Pentecost , an oblation was to be made from the new flour, which were to be waved in like manner with the Passover sheaf.  Exodus 34:22;  Leviticus 23:15;  Leviticus 23:17;  Numbers 28:26.

4. The Feast of Ingathering , that is, the Feast of Tabernacles , in the seventh month, was itself an acknowledgment of the fruits of the harvest.  Exodus 23:16;  Exodus 34:22;  Leviticus 23:39.

These [preceding] four sorts of offerings were national. Besides them, the two following offerings were of an individual kind.

5. A cake of the first dough that was baked was to be offered as a heave-offering.  Numbers 15:19;  Numbers 15:21.

6. The first-fruits of the land were to be brought, in a basket, to the Holy Place of God's choice, and there, presented to the priest, who was to set the basket down before the altar.  Deuteronomy 26:2-11. The offerings were the perquisite of the priests.  Numbers 18:11;  Deuteronomy 18:4. Nehemiah, at the return from captivity, took pains to reorganize the offerings of first-fruits of both kinds, and to appoint places to receive them.  Nehemiah 10:35;  Nehemiah 10:37;  Nehemiah 12:44. An offering of first-fruits is mentioned as an acceptable one to the prophet Elisha.  2 Kings 4:42.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [4]

among the Hebrews, were presents made to God of part of the fruits of the harvest, to express the submission, dependence, and thankfulness of the offerers. They were offered at the temple, before the crop was touched; and when the harvest was over, before any private persons used their corn. The first of these first-fruits, offered in the name of the nation, was a sheaf of barley, gathered on the fifteenth of Nisan in the evening, and threshed in a court of the temple. After it was well cleaned, about three pints of it were roasted and pounded in a mortar. Over this was thrown a portion of oil, and a handful of incense. Then the priest took this offering, waved it before the Lord toward the four parts of the world, threw a handful of it into the fire upon the altar, and kept the rest. After this, every one was at liberty to get in his harvest. Beside these first- fruits, every private person was obliged to bring his first-fruits to the temple. The Scripture prescribes neither the time nor the quantity. The rabbins say, that they were obliged to bring at least the sixtieth part of their fruits and harvest. These first-fruits consisted of wheat, barley, grapes, figs, apricots, olives, and dates. They met in companies of four-and-twenty persons to carry their first-fruits in a ceremonious manner. The company was preceded by an ox appointed for the sacrifice, with a crown of olives on his head, and his horns gilded. There was also another sort of first-fruits paid to God,  Numbers 15:19-20 , when the bread in every family was kneaded, a portion of it was set apart, and given to the priest or Levite of the place. If there was no priest or Levite, it was cast into the oven, and consumed by the fire. This is one of the three precepts peculiar to the women; because they generally made the bread. The first-fruits and tenths were the most substantial revenue of the priests and Levites. St. Paul says, Christians have the first-fruits of the Spirit,  Romans 8:23 , that is, a greater abundance of God's Spirit, more perfect and more excellent gifts than the Jews. Christ is called the first-fruits of them that slept; for as the first-fruits were earnests to the Jews of the succeeding harvest, so Christ is the first-fruits or the earnest of the general resurrection.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [5]

1. As God had claimed the first-born of man and beast, so also he claimed the first of the first-fruits, that they might be presented as an acknowledgement that God was the giver of them, and thanks be rendered for His gifts. All the males were to present themselves three times in the year before God, and these occasions were arranged at the times of ingathering of the barley (at the Feast of Unleavened Bread); of wheat (at the Feast of Weeks); and of the vintage (at the Feast of Tabernacles).  Exodus 23:16,19;  Exodus 34:22,26;  Deuteronomy 18:4;  Deuteronomy 26:10;  Ezekiel 48:14 .

2. Christians are said to have the first-fruits of the Spirit: they have the earnest or pledge of still future and larger blessing.   Romans 8:23;  2 Corinthians 5:5;  Ephesians 1:14 .

3. Those first gathered to God in any economy are called the first-fruits.   Romans 11:16;  Romans 16:5;  1 Corinthians 16:15;  James 1:18;  Revelation 14:4 .

4. Christ, being raised from among the dead, is the first-fruits of them that sleep.   1 Corinthians 15:20,23 . 'First-fruits' necessarily imply that there are more like them to follow.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [6]

  • The law enjoined that no fruit was to be gathered from newly-planted fruit-trees for the first three years, and that the first-fruits of the fourth year were to be consecrated to the Lord ( Leviticus 19:23-25 ). ( Jeremiah 2:3 ) alludes to the ordinance of "first-fruits," and hence he must have been acquainted with the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, where the laws regarding it are recorded.

    Copyright Statement These dictionary topics are from M.G. Easton M.A., DD Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain.

    Bibliography Information Easton, Matthew George. Entry for 'First-Fruits'. Easton's Bible Dictionary. 1897.

  • Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [7]

    FIRST-FRUITS . See Sacrifice and Offering.

    International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [8]

    fûrst´froots ( ראשׁית , rē'shı̄th , בּכּוּרים , bikkūrı̄m  ; ἀπαρχή , aparchḗ ̌ . Septuagint translates rē'shı̄th by aparchē , but for bikkūrı̄m it uses the word prōtogennē̇mata compare Philo 22 33): In acknowledgment of the fact that the land and all its products were the gift of Yahweh to Israel, and in thankfulness for His bounty, all the first-fruits were offered to Him. These were offered in their natural state (e.g. cereals, tree fruits, grapes), or after preparation (e.g. musk, oil, flour, dough), after which the Israelite was at liberty to use the rest ( Exodus 23:19;  Numbers 15:20;  Numbers 18:12;  Deuteronomy 26:2;  Nehemiah 10:35 ,  Nehemiah 10:37 ). No absolute distinction can be made between rē'shı̄th and bikkūrı̄m , but rē'shı̄th seems generally to mean what is prepared by human labor, and bikkūrı̄m the direct product of Nature. The phrase "the first of the first-fruits" ( Exodus 23:19;  Exodus 34:26;  Ezekiel 44:30 ), Hebrew rē'shı̄th bikkūrē , Greek aparchaı́ tō̇n prōtogennēmátōn , is not quite clear. It may mean the first-ripe or the choicest of the first-fruits. The rē'shı̄th offerings were individual, except that a rē'shı̄th of dough was to be offered as a heave offering ( Numbers 15:17-21 ). The priest waved a rē'shı̄th of corn before the Lord on the morrow after the Sabbath in the week of unleavened bread ( Leviticus 23:9-11 ). These offerings all fell to the priest ( Numbers 18:12 ). Bikkūrı̄m refers specially to things sown ( Exodus 23:16;  Leviticus 2:14 ). At the Feast of Weeks, seven weeks after the offering of the sheaf, bikkūrı̄m of corn in the ear, parched with fire and bruised, were brought to the House of the Lord as a meal offering ( Exodus 34:22-26;  Leviticus 2:14-16 ). The bikkūrı̄m also fell to the priest, except a portion which was burned as a memorial ( Leviticus 2:8-10 ,  Leviticus 2:16 ). The beautiful ceremony of the offering of the rē'shı̄th in the House of God is described in  Deuteronomy 26:1-11 , and is enlarged upon in the Talmud ( Bikkūrı̄m 3 2). According to the Talmud ( Terūmōth 4 3) a sixtieth part of the first-fruits in a prepared form was the minimum that could be offered; the more generous brought a fortieth part, and even a thirtieth. The fruits of newly planted trees were not to be gathered during the first three years; the fruits of the fourth year were consecrated to Yahweh, and from the fifth year the fruits belonged to the owner of the trees ( Leviticus 19:23-25 ). According to Mishna, ‛Orlāh i.10, even the shells of nuts and pomegranates could not be used during the first three years as coloring matter or for the lighting of fires. It is held by some scholars that the institution of the tithe (see Tithe ) is a later development from the first-fruits.

    Figurative: In the Old Testament, in   Jeremiah 2:3 , Israel is called "the rē'shı̄th of his increase." In the New Testament aparchē is applied figuratively to the first convert or converts in a particular place ( Romans 16:5;  1 Corinthians 16:15 ); to the Christians of that age ( James 1:18;  2 Thessalonians 2:13 , WHm), and to the 144,000 in heaven ( Revelation 14:4 ); to Christ, as the first who rose from the dead ( 1 Corinthians 15:20 ,  1 Corinthians 15:23 ); also to the blessings which we receive now through the Spirit, the earnest of greater blessings to come ( Romans 8:23 ).

    Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [9]

    There are various regulations in the law of Moses respecting first-fruits which would be of much interest to us, could we in every case discern the precise object in view. No doubt the leading object, as far as regards the offering of the first-fruits to God, was, that all the after-fruits and after-gatherings might be consecrated in and through them; and it was not less the dictate of a natural impulse that the first-fruits should be offered to God in testimony of thankfulness for His bounties. Hence we find some analogous custom among most nations in which material offerings were used. There are, however, some particulars in the Mosaical regulations which these considerations do not adequately explain.

    First-Fruits of Fruit-Trees

    It was directed that the first-fruits of every tree whose fruit was used for food, should, for the first three years of bearing, be counted 'uncircumcised,' and regarded as unclean . It was unlawful to sell them, to eat them, or to make any benefit of them. It was only in the fourth year of bearing that they were accounted 'holy,' and the fruit of that year was made an offering of first-fruits, and was either given to the priests , or, as the Jews themselves understand, was eaten by the owners of it before the Lord, at Jerusalem,' as was the case with second tithe. After the fourth year all fruits of trees were available for use by the owner. As the general principle of the law was, that only that which was perfect should be used in offerings, it is an obvious inference that the fruits of trees were considered imperfect until the fourth year; and if so, the law may have had the ulterior object of excluding from use crude, immature, and therefore unwholesome fruits. Michaelis (iii. 267-8), indeed, finds a benefit to the trees themselves in this regulation.

    First-Fruits of the Yearly Increase

    Of these there were two kinds—1. The first-fruits in the sheaf . 2. The first-fruits in the two wave-loaves . These two bounded the harvest, that in the sheaf being offered at the beginning of the harvest, upon the 15th of the month Nisan; the other at the end of the harvest, on the Feast of Pentecost. 3. The first of the dough, being the twenty-fourth part thereof, which was given to the priests : and this kind of offering was not neglected even after the return from Babylon . 4. The first-fruits of the threshing-floor.

    The oblation of the first-fruits of the threshing-floor was distinguished by the Jewish writers into two sorts. The first of these was the first-fruits of seven things only, namely, wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates. The second sort consisted of corn, wine, oil, and whatever other produce was fit for the support of human life. Under this class of first-fruits was included the first of the fleece, by which the priests were provided with clothes, as by the other offerings with food. The hair of goats, which are shorn in the East, was included under this denomination.