A wave offering is a ritual offering mentioned in the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament). One of several kinds of offerings mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, the Israelites gave wave offerings as a show of peace and service to God. God commands the Israelites to bring sacrificial animals and gifts of bread and oil to the Kohanim (priests). After preparing the sacrifices, the priests waved the offerings over the sacrificial altar.
In Exodus 29:22-28 and Leviticus 7:29-36, God commands the Israelites to present the priests with the fat, organs, breast and thighs of sacrificed rams, as well as loaves of bread, as peace offerings. God instructs the priests to hold the offerings and wave them in the air before burning them on the altar. God then permits the priests to eat the edible portions of the offerings in return for their service. In Leviticus 23:10-14, God commands the Israelites to make a wave offering of the first sheaves of grain harvested each spring.
Wave offerings were usually parts of sacrificed kosher mammals, including sheep, goats, and cows. Non-animal wave offerings included loaves and cakes of bread, either leavened or unleavened, sometimes coated with oil. The bread was often made from the first grain harvests of the year. First-fruit offerings included sheaves of newly-harvested wheat and barley.
The Israelites made sacrifices to atone for sins, recognize holy days, and as thanksgiving to God. Wave offerings were a separate class of offerings, given to God as a show of servitude, peace and commitment. Wave offerings also served to symbolically separate and sanctify the tribe of Levi as servants of God when Aaron, the Head Priest, is commanded to life and wave each Levite before the altar (Numbers 8:6-14). First-fruit wave offerings marked the beginning of the spring grain harvest and the counting period between the holidays of Passover and Shavuot.
Wave offerings were a part of the temple service performed by the Jewish people in Jerusalem. The offerings continued until the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians in 587 B.C., and were re-instituted with the construction of the Second Temple in 516 B.C. After the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 B.C., the temple service and wave offerings were discontinued.
Christians view the harvest wave offering as symbolic of the rebirth of Jesus, who is compared to the first-fruits (1 Corinthians 15:20). The period between Passover and Shavuot, known as the Festival of Weeks, symbolizes for Christians the period between the resurrection of Jesus and the descent of the Holy Spirit to his disciples. Christians have thus adopted the wave offering as a metaphor of the formation of the Christian Church.
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