We have by no means exhausted our enquiry into the Biblical significance of the number eight. In this chapter we focus our attention on the subject of firstfruits.
The matter arose in the very earliest days of humanity on this earth, when Cain and Abel were presenting their offerings to the Lord, as presumably they had been taught to do, probably by conversation with the Cherubim at the Garden Gates of Eden.
We are told that Cain “brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord”. But Abel “brought the firstlings of his flock and the fat thereof.” We all know the story. Abel’s offering was accepted. Cain’s was rejected. Once again we are left to ponder how they knew. But if the Cherubim were their teachers, then they could also be the source of the divine fire that descended on Abel’s firstlings, but left Cain’s produce untouched. This is pure speculation, but we believe it is not outside the bounds of possibility, based on the manner in which the Old Testament speaks about sacrifice.
However, whatever process was involved, the clear message was received by both young men. Expositors have had a field day discussing the ins and outs of this case, as to why Cain’s offering was rejected. But surely the answer is very simple by turning to Deuteronomy 26:2. In that passage we read, “You shall take of the first of all the fruit of the earth, which you shall bring of the land that the Lord your God gives you, and shall put it in a basket, and go to the place which the Lord your God shall choose to place His name there.” The Priest then took the basket and the man offering the produce spoke to the Lord, the end of his prayer being, “And now behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land which You, O Lord, have given me.”
In other words, Cain failed to bring the firstfruits. He was content to abuse the Lord by bringing anything but the best of his increase, and the Lord refused to accept it. Although Genesis is very economical in the use of words to describe situations, enough has been granted us to know the facts. In Abel’s case, translating the verse more strictly, we read, “Abel brought the firstlings of his flock and the fattest ones too.” The emphasis is too obvious to miss, especially when compared with Cain, who merely “brought of the fruit of the ground.” No mention of firstfruits.
It has been necessary to deal with this historical narrative first in this chapter to set the scene. We learn from the story that firstfruit offerings were not only required by the Lord, but only the best would be accepted. To offer the Lord anything but the best would be shameful. Most of the offerings of the Old Testament were blood sacrifices, but our present concern is specifically with the firstfruits of the earth.
In Exodus 22:29-30 we read about offerings in this wise – “You shall not delay to offer the first of your ripe fruits, and of your wine and oil. The firstborn of your sons you shall give to me. Like shall you do with your oxen and sheep. Seven days shall it be with his dam [i.e. mother]; on the eighth day you shall give it to me.”
Here again we find mention of the eighth day. Jesus was the firstborn of His Father. He rose from the dead on the eighth day. What then do we find? In Leviticus 23:9-12 is the regulation concerning the waving of the firstfruit offering after Passover. We read “The Priest shall wave the sheaf before the Lord to be accepted for you. On the morrow after the Sabbath the Priest shall wave it.” It was on that resurrection morning, Sunday, the eighth day, that Jesus was offered to His Father for the acceptance of the rest of mankind. The whole matter of redemption was then settled and sealed. That which had been born in Adam was condemned to death, and died with Christ on the Friday. But the whole of Adamkind was judicially raised to life on the Sunday morning. The outworking of this great truth is taking a long time to mature, but God will have His way. “Behold I make all things new. Write, for these words are faithful and true.” (Revelation 21:5)