If we study these passages together, we will see that the waving of the sheaf occurred on the day after the weekly Sabbath that fell during the Days of Unleavened Bread. The Bible does not say, specifically, when the wavesheaf was cut, but it obviously must have happened sometime before it was waved.
We have long understood that Jesus fulfilled the waving of the sheaf at His ascension. However, it has not been emphasized that He also fulfilled the type of the cutting of the wavesheaf upon being resurrected.
During the Second Temple period, when Jesus died, the sheaf was reaped from the field as the Sabbath ended and Sunday began. This is the period of the day called ben ha arbayim. It was the time at dusk when one day was ending and the other was beginning.
We know this from the Mishna (a record of all the services and small observances that the Jews did and the directions for doing them), which says: "Rabbi Hananiah, prefect of the priests, says it [meaning the barley sheaf ] was reaped on the Sabbath. He [that is, the priest] says to them, 'Shall I reap on this Sabbath?' And they [a kind of chorus that had gathered around: the other priests, the Levites, and other spectators] shall say, 'Yes.' "
He repeated this three times. "Shall I reap on this Sabbath?" "Yes!" "Shall I reap on this Sabbath?" "Yes!" "Shall I reap on this Sabbath?" Yes!"
"With this sickle?" "Yes!" "With this sickle?" "Yes!" "With this sickle?" "Yes!"—and so forth. So what we see is that, during Jesus' lifetime, at the end of the Sabbath, at dusk, the priests put the sickle to the grain, as it says in Deuteronomy 16:9.
Now the reaping of the sheaf symbolizes Israel giving the firstfruits, the very best of their produce, to God, and this is exactly the symbolism that Jesus fulfilled (I Corinthians 15:20-23). Christians are also called the firstfruits of God.
So as the weekly Sabbath was ending, exactly seventy-two hours from His burial, God resurrected His Son from the dead. He became the perfect wavesheaf offering that would be waved the next day. He was the first and perfect Firstfruit. In a very real sense, God reaped the best and the first of His spiritual harvest.
One might wonder why this happened on the Sabbath. What is the significance of this being done on the Sabbath? It is the Sabbath that commemorates God as Creator. This same God rested on the seventh day of creation. This is Jesus Christ—the Word of God!
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Christ's Death, Resurrection, and Ascension
Does "put the sickle to the grain" refer to the cutting made for the wavesheaf offering or to the harvest itself? On the day the harvest begins the count to Pentecost also begins.
This phrase cannot refer to the cutting made for the wavesheaf offering because each Israelite having a harvest was required to make an offering. Each Israelite was no more excused by God from making an offering from his harvest any more than we are excused from making an offering from our wages when we appear before God on His holy days.
Deuteronomy 16:16 and Exodus 23:15 command us not to appear before God empty. The Israelites had to do the same. For the wavesheaf offering, they had to cut it several days before they took it to the priests to the Tabernacle in Shiloh or in later times to the Temple in Jerusalem because they had to allow for travel time. We do the same when we separate our holy day offerings from the rest of our monies and then travel to the feast where we offer it to God.
Therefore, the count begins when the harvest begins, not when the farmer cuts his wavesheaf offering. God commands the count to begin when the harvest work begins. This is why wavesheaf day must always fall on a workday. The wavesheaf offering by the priest, the harvest, and the beginning of the count all take place on the same day. This explains why God says in Leviticus 23:11 that the sheaf must be waved on the day after the Sabbath. It must not be waved on a Sabbath, in which no work may be done. It absolutely must not be done on the first day of Unleavened Bread, a high holy day Sabbath.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Countdown to Pentecost 2001