The Palestinian harvest began in April with the cutting (hence "ḳaẓir") of the barley. The lentil and pea ripened at the same time, and the reaping of the wheat and spelt followed two weeks later, although, of course, the time varied with the climatic conditions in the different districts. While in the lowlands around Jericho the barley harvest began early in April, along the coast it began eight days later, and in the mountains it was often from two to four weeks later. The harvesting of grain usually lasted seven weeks. It is doubtful whether the Feast of Maẓẓot was at the beginning of the harvest; at any rate the chief harvest festival ("ḥag haḳaẓir") was the Feast of Weeks (see Shebu'ot). The grain was cut with a sickle ("ḥermesh," "maggal"), as is still the custom in Palestine (Deut. xvi. 9). The reaper ("ḳoẓer") grasped a number of ears with one hand (Isa. xvii. 5; Ps. cxxix. 7), and cut them off quite high up; perhaps in early times the single ears were plucked out by hand. The cut grain lay in rows ("'amir") behind the reaper, and was bound into sheaves ("alummah"; Gen. xxxvii. 7) by the sheaf-binder ("meassef"; Jer. ix. 21: "me'ammer"; Ps. cxxix. 7) and placed in heaps ("gadish").

Lev. xix. 9 and xxiii. 22 ordain that the reapers shall leave something for the poor, and shall not clean the field too thoroughly. During the reaping the workmen refreshed themselves with parched grain ("ḳali"), and with bread dipped in a sour drink ("ḥomeẓ"; Ruth ii. 14). Since the grain was usually thrashed in the open field, the husbandmen usedto sleep there as long as the thrashing lasted, as they still do in Palestine. The yield from the seed varied greatly: from sixty to one hundredfold was an unusually rich return (Gen. xxvi. 12); probably thirtyfold was the ordinary return (Matt. xiii. 8), although to-day the average return is considerably less than this.

The harvest celebrations reached their climax in the harvest festival ("ḥag ha-asif"), which was preeminently a vintage festival. On that occasion the land was filled with rejoicing, and the people gave themselves over to mirth and dancing (comp. Judges ix. 27; Isa. xvi. 10; Jer. xxv. 30, xlviii. 33). Today grapes to be consumed as food are gathered from the beginning of the month of August on, whereas those destined for the wine-press are not garnered until the months of September and October; it was the same in ancient times, since the real vintage festival is the Feast of Tabernacles, which comes in Tishri. Harvest rejoicings are frequently mentioned in the Bible (comp. Isa. ix. 3; Ps. iv. 8 [A.V. 7], cxxvi. 5 et seq.). At a time of such rejoicing the poor must not be forgotten, hence the injunction, that the corners and edges of the field, as well as the gleanings and any sheaves that may have been over-looked, be left for the poor and the stranger (Lev. xix. 9, xxiii. 22; Deut. xxiv. 19; Ruth ii. 2, 15 et seq.).

  • Stade, Gesch. des Volkes Israel, i. 7;
  • Nowack, Lchrbuch der Hebräischen Archäologie, s.v. Ernte;
  • Benzinger, Hebräische Arch., 1894, p. 209;
  • Thomson, The Land and the Book (popular ed., 1880), s.v. Harvest;
  • Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästinavereins, ix. 149;
  • H. Vogelstein, Die Landwirtschaft in Palästina zur Zeit der Mischnah, p. 47, Berlin, 1894;
  • Adler and Casanovicz, Biblical Antiquities, p. 1005.
E. G. H. W. N.
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