For if the firstfruit be holy
Some by "the firstfruit" and "root" understand Christ, who is sometimes called, "the firstfruits of them that slept", ( 1 Corinthians 15:20 ) , and "the root of Jesse and David", ( Isaiah 11:10 ) ( Romans 15:12 ) ( Revelation 5:5 ) , and indeed of all the righteous; and certain it is, that since he is holy, has all the holiness of his people in him, and is sanctification unto them, they shall be holy likewise; have it imparted to them in this life, and perfected in them in another: but this does not seem to agree with the apostle's argument. Others think that by them are meant the Jewish ancestors, and particularly Abraham, and dream of a holiness derived from him to his natural seed; but if no such holiness was derived from him to his immediate offspring, Ishmael, it can hardly be thought any should be communicated by him to his remote posterity; and to these here designed, at the distance of four or five thousand years from him: but by them are intended the first converts among the Jews, under the Gospel dispensation; it being usual with the apostle to call those persons, that were first converted in any place, the firstfruits of it; see ( Romans 16:5 ) ( 1 Corinthians 16:15 ) ; These were they who received the firstfruits of the Spirit in Judea, and who first among the Jews hoped and believed in Christ; these were but few in number, as the "firstfruit" is but small in comparison of "the lump", and mean, abject, and despicable, as the "root" under, and in a dry ground is; but yet were pledges and presages of a larger number of souls among that people, to be converted in the latter day: now the apostle's argument is, "if the firstfruit be holy",
the lump is also holy, and if the root be holy, so are the branches;
that is, that whereas those persons who were converted among the Jews, however few in number, and despicable in appearance they might be, yet were truly sanctified by the Spirit of God; and as they were, so should the whole body of that people be in the last days, "when holiness [shall] be upon the horses' bells, [and] every pot in Judah and Jerusalem shall be holiness unto the Lord of hosts", ( Zechariah 14:20 Zechariah 14:21 ) , by which metaphorical expressions is meant, that holiness should be common to the whole nation, and all the inhabitants of it, of which the call of some few among them was a pledge and presage. The allusion in the former clause is to the holy offerings of firstfruits to the Lord, the two wave loaves, ( Leviticus 23:14 Leviticus 23:17 ) , whereby the whole lump was sanctified, for after use throughout the year following; and that in the latter clause, to the holiness of trees; that is, to trees devoted to sacred use or that were planted in a field appropriated thereunto: hence we read F20, that the men of Jericho permitted, or as other exemplars read it, cut down (vdqh lv twyzmg) , "branches of holiness", or "holy branches"; and eat fallen fruit on the sabbath day. F21 Bartenora explains these branches, of such that grow upon a tree devoted to holy uses; and Maimonides F23, observes, that they thought it lawful to eat what grew in a holy field.
F20 Misn. Pesachim, c. 4. sect. 8.
F21 In Misn. Pesachim. c. 4. sect. 8.
F23 In ib.