Joshua 5:10-11 cannot be used to justify changing from the normal Pentecost counting pattern used when Passover falls on a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday.
Some, realizing their argument for always keeping Wavesheaf Day within the Days of Unleavened Bread is still quite weak, have leapt on another rationalization and conclusion from a series of assumptions read into Joshua 5:10-11. These assumptions have led them to the conclusion that, since Leviticus 23:14 states that the Israelites were not to eat bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain from their new spring harvest until they had brought their sheaf offering to God, and since Joshua 5:11 records that the Israelites ate of the produce of the land on the day after Passover, it means they must have made a wavesheaf offering.
However, major assumptions in their argument have led them to a wrong conclusion:
First Assumption: Joshua and the Israelites waved the sheaf following a harvest of Canaanite grain. This must be read into the context because this is nowhere stated. In fact, neither the words "wave," "waved," "waves" nor "wavesheaf" or "wave offering" appear in the entire book of Joshua. In addition, the context makes no mention of the burnt or meal offerings that were to accompany the waving of the sheaf (Leviticus 23:12-13). Finally, it does not mention the erection of an altar. This is no minor element because it would have been the first altar established after entering the Promised Land.
Second Assumption: This was a year Passover fell on a Sabbath. How do they know that? No one knows it! Nobody knows with absolute certainty what year Israel entered into the Promised Land, let alone the exact day this offering was supposedly made! They have no calendar date from which to offer proof. The argument is built on a series of "ifs" centered on the assumption that the Israelites were required to wave the sheaf before they could eat of the harvest of the land.
Third Assumption: Israel was required by God—forced by law—to make the wavesheaf offering before they could eat the grain from a Canaanite planting. This assumption is drawn from Leviticus 23:10, 14. Taken alone, these scriptures may lead one to think the wavesheaf had to be done immediately. However, where does God say that it had to be done immediately or that they could not eat of the produce of the land upon entering it? He says nothing of the sort as they approached the land. We will see that the Israelites not only did not have to make a wavesheaf offering of Canaanite grain before eating of the land's produce, but that they did not do so, and further, doing so would have been sin to them.
Fourth Assumption: God would accept an Israelite offering derived from crops they had not planted on their own land. Exodus 23:14-16 explicitly states that their offerings had to come from grain that the Israelites themselves had sown in the field. Any grains they would have harvested after entering the land would have come from what the Canaanites had sown. This makes all the difference in the world when we consider the spiritual significance of sowing and harvesting. Does God's Spirit produce the heathen—the unconverted—person's spiritual harvest?
II Samuel 24:24 shows that David clearly understood another principle involved here. The one making the offering must have done the labor and made the sacrifices necessary to produce the offering and render it acceptable to God. Offerings that cost the offerer nothing are not acceptable.
Where are the labor and sacrifice involved in Israel's supposed wavesheaf offering? Offering from Canaan's harvest was not acceptable for Israel to give because it cost them nothing. In short, God wants offered to Him what He has first given to us. When God loves us and we then return love to Him, it is acceptable because He first loved us (I John 4:19) and shed His Spirit abroad in our hearts (Romans 5:5). When we offer love to Him, it is His own love, providence, the fruit of His Spirit that we have labored to produce, returning to Him.
Fifth Assumption: God would accept an offering of polluted things. The context in Leviticus 22:19-25 specifically covers animal offerings, but the principle applies to grain offerings as well, as the explanation of the fourth assumption indicates. No animals with blemishes of explicit nature are permitted to be the food of God. In verse 25, God says that nothing from the foreigner's hand is acceptable "because their corruption is in them." God states, "They shall not be accepted on your behalf."
If one thinks this is of small consequence, then perhaps it would be good to review what happened to Nadab and Abihu, Aaron's sons, when they foolishly used coals from a profane or common fire as they made the offering on the incense altar. God did not think it insignificant when they offered fire He considered unfit for His altar. He struck them dead as a lesson to all those who are less concerned about purity of worship than they should be.
Israel was symbolically under the blood of Jesus Christ and had made the covenant with God. This rendered them a holy people consecrated for God's use and glorification. Because they were chosen by God and holy, their offerings, as long as they were without blemish and not from the stranger's hand, were acceptable to Him.
Israel had no acceptable harvest to offer in Joshua 5. In fact, under the circumstance, Israel was required by law not to make an offering!
Sixth Assumption: Israel was permitted to make an offering of any kind. This is a big one, reinforcing all the other objections against the common interpretation that Joshua 5:10-11 permits or demands a First Day of Unleavened Bread waving of the sheaf and beginning of the count.
In reality, upon entering the land, offerings involved in the worship of God were specifically forbidden by Him until certain things were first accomplished. Through Moses, God instructs in Deuteronomy 12:1, 5-14:
These are the statutes and judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. . . . [Y]ou shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His habitation; and there you shall go. There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, your vowed offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and flocks. And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which the Lord your God has blessed you. You shall not at all do as we are doing here today—every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes—for as yet you have not come to the rest and the inheritance which the Lord your God is giving you. But when you cross over the Jordan and dwell in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and when He gives you rest from all your enemies round about, so that you dwell in safety, then there will be the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide. There you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, and all your choice offerings which you vow to the Lord. And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levite who is within your gates, since he has no portion nor inheritance with you. Take heed to yourself that you do not offer your burnt offerings in every place that you see; but in the place which the Lord chooses, in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I command you. (emphasis added)
This instruction supersedes Leviticus 23 and Numbers 28-29—and especially for the purposes of this article, Leviticus 23:10, 14, where God commands, "When you come into the land. . . ." From those two verses, one could easily assume that the Israelites were to begin keeping those days and all their offerings immediately upon entering. However, Deuteronomy 12, written within the last month before entering the Promised Land, puts a hold on doing these things immediately upon entering the land (Deuteronomy 1:3). Deuteronomy 12 makes clear that they were not free to follow the Leviticus 23 instructions until certain matters were accomplished.
Deuteronomy 12 paves the way for Israel, at God's command, to establish a headquarters, a national, central place for the worship of the Lord God at the site of His choosing. Further, God adds that they were actually to be dwelling in the land, to be at rest, and to be dwelling in safety from their enemies. Also included within these instructions, though not specifically mentioned, is that the Tabernacle, the altar, the laver, and all the interior furniture had to be erected and in place.
Please pay special attention to what Moses says while the Israelites are still in the wilderness: "You shall not at all do as we are doing here today" (verse 8), referring to making offerings any old place that was convenient. In addition, Israel actually had to be living in the land, not marching around it fighting wars. They had to be in a settled circumstance—so settled that they were in safety. Obviously, this eliminates a wavesheaf offering and its accompanying burnt and meal offerings from happening in Joshua 5.
The place God ultimately chose and in which Israel erected the Tabernacle was Shiloh. This was not accomplished until Joshua 18:1: "Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of meeting there. And the land was subdued before them." This was the first sign that things were almost ready so they could legitimately offer sacrifices to God. However, some land had yet to be apportioned. The land for seven tribes plus the allocation of cities to the Levites and the cities of refuge had yet to be settled. The final apportioning is recorded in chapters 18-21. Thus, many of the tribes were not yet dwelling and at rest at the beginning of Joshua 18.
The official announcement that all was in place appears in Joshua 21:43-45:
So the Lord gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it. The Lord gave them rest all around, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand. Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.
From the time they crossed the Jordan and entered the land, seven years passed before they were free to offer what Deuteronomy 12 forbade and what some claim occurred in Joshua 5.
Seventh Assumption: Joshua and the Israelites were so irresponsible as to disregard God's clear instruction given through Moses while they were still wandering. Does the Scripture anywhere speak badly of Joshua? In Joshua 1:6-9, God specifically seeks out Joshua to exhort him to be courageous, not turning to the right or left regarding what he had been instructed as Moses' right-hand man. That Joshua did just this is verified in Joshua 11:15: "As the Lord had commanded Moses His servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did. He left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses." At the end of his life, he is as firm as ever (Joshua 23-24).
Joshua 22:25-30 provides a telling example of how deeply the command not to make any sacrifices except where God had placed His name was burned into all of Israel's heart at that time. When it was found that Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh, which had settled on the east side of Jordan, had erected what appeared to be a sacrificial altar, the remaining tribes almost entered into civil war to stop them! A fuller explanation revealed they had erected, not an altar, but a monument dedicated as evidence of the East Bank tribes' unity with God and the other tribes of Israel on the west side. They were not about to make offerings anywhere except where God commanded.
The Israelites did not make the wavesheaf offering when they came into the land.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost, Consistency, and Honesty