The first-fruits of the ground were offered unto God just as the first-born of man and animals.
(5.) 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 (Le 19:23-25). Jeremiah (Jer 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.
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). Ex 23:16,19; 34:22,26; De 18:4; 26:10; Eze 48:14.
FIRST-FRUITS, 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, Nu 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, Ro 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.