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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature
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.
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'First-Fruits'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature". https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​kbe/​f/first-fruits.html.