4 occurrences in 4 dictionaries

Reference: Agriculture


Tilling the ground (Ge 2:15; 4:2-3,12) and rearing cattle were the chief employments in ancient times. The Egyptians excelled in agriculture. And after the Israelites entered into the possession of the Promised Land, their circumstances favoured in the highest degree a remarkable development of this art. Agriculture became indeed the basis of the Mosaic commonwealth.

Illustration: Eastern Agriculture

The year in Palestine was divided into six agricultural periods:-


Tisri, latter half

(beginning about the autumnal equinox.)


Kisleu, former half.

Early rain due = first showers of autumn.


Kisleu, latter half.


Sebat, former half.


Sebat, latter half.



Nisan, former half.

Latter rain due (De 11:14; Jer 5:24; Ho 6:3; Zec 10:1; Jas 5:7; Job 29:23).


Nisan, latter half.

(Beginning about vernal equinox. Barley green. Passover.)


Sivan, former half., Wheat ripe. Pentecost.

V. SUMMER (total absence of rain)

Sivan, latter half.


Ab, former half.


Ab, latter half.


Tisri, former half., Ingathering of fruits.

The six months from the middle of Tisri to the middle of Nisan were occupied with the work of cultivation, and the rest of the year mainly with the gathering in of the fruits. The extensive and easily-arranged system of irrigation from the rills and streams from the mountains made the soil in every part of Palestine richly productive (Ps 1:3; 65:10; Pr 21:1; Isa 30:25; 32:2,20; Ho 12:11), and the appliances of careful cultivation and of manure increased its fertility to such an extent that in the days of Solomon, when there was an abundant population, "20,000 measures of wheat year by year" were sent to Hiram in exchange for timber (1Ki 5:11), and in large quantities also wheat was sent to the Tyrians for the merchandise in which they traded (Eze 27:17). The wheat sometimes produced an hundredfold (Ge 26:12; Mt 13:23). Figs and pomegranates were very plentiful (Nu 13:23), and the vine and the olive grew luxuriantly and produced abundant fruit (De 33:24).

Lest the productiveness of the soil should be exhausted, it was enjoined that the whole land should rest every seventh year, when all agricultural labour would entirely cease (Le 25:1-7; De 15:1-10).

It was forbidden to sow a field with divers seeds (De 22:9). A passer-by was at liberty to eat any quantity of corn or grapes, but he was not permitted to carry away any (De 23:24-25; Mt 12:1). The poor were permitted to claim the corners of the fields and the gleanings. A forgotten sheaf in the field was to be left also for the poor. (See Le 19:9-10; De 24:19.)

Agricultural implements and operations.

The sculptured monuments and painted tombs of Egypt and Assyria throw much light on this subject, and on the general operations of agriculture. Ploughs of a simple construction were known in the time of Moses (De 22:10; comp. Job 1:14). They were very light, and required great attention to keep them in the ground (Lu 9:62). They were drawn by oxen (Job 1:14), cows (1Sa 6:7), and asses (Isa 30:24); but an ox and an ass must not be yoked together in the same plough (De 22:10). Men sometimes followed the plough with a hoe to break the clods (Isa 28:24). The oxen were urged on by a "goad," or long staff pointed at the end, so that if occasion arose it could be used as a spear also (Jg 3:31; 1Sa 13:21).

Illustration: Ploughing

When the soil was prepared, the seed was sown broadcast over the field (Mt 13:3-8). The "harrow" mentioned in Job 39:10 was not used to cover the seeds, but to break the clods, being little more than a thick block of wood. In highly irrigated spots the seed was trampled in by cattle (Isa 32:20); but doubtless there was some kind of harrow also for covering in the seed scattered in the furrows of the field.

The reaping of the corn was performed either by pulling it up by the roots, or cutting it with a species of sickle, according to circumstances. The corn when cut was generally put up in sheaves (Ge 37:7; Le 23:10-15; Ru 2:7,15; Job 24:10; Jer 9:22; Mic 4:12), which were afterwards gathered to the threshing-floor or stored in barns (Mt 6:26).

The process of threshing was performed generally by spreading the sheaves on the threshing-floor and causing oxen and cattle to tread repeatedly over them (De 25:4; Isa 28:28). On occasions flails or sticks were used for this purpose (Ru 2:17; Isa 28:27). There was also a "threshing instrument" (Isa 41:15; Am 1:3) which was drawn over the corn. It was called by the Hebrews a moreg, a threshing roller or sledge (2Sa 24:22; 1Ch 21:23; Isa 3:15). It was somewhat like the Roman tribulum, or threshing instrument.

When the grain was threshed, it was winnowed by being thrown up against the wind (Jer 4:11), and afterwards tossed with wooden scoops (Isa 30:24). The shovel and the fan for winnowing are mentioned in Ps 35:5; Job 21:18; Isa 17:13. The refuse of straw and chaff was burned (Isa 5:24). Freed from impurities, the grain was then laid up in granaries till used (De 28:8; Pr 3:10; Mt 6:26; 13:30; Lu 12:18).

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While the patriarchs were in Canaan, they led a pastoral life, and little attended to tillage; Isaac and Jacob indeed tilled at times (Ge 26:12; 37:7), but the herdsmen strove with Isaac for his wells not for his crops. The wealth of Gerar and Shechem was chiefly pastoral (Ge 20:14; 34:28). The recurrence of famines and intercourse with Egypt taught the Canaanites subsequently to attend more to tillage, so that by the time of the spies who brought samples of the land's produce from Eshcol much progress had been made (De 8:8; Nu 13:23). Providence happily arranged it so that Israel, while yet a family, was kept by the pastoral life from blending with and settling among idolaters around. In Egypt the native prejudice against shepherds kept them separate in Goshen (Ge 47:4-6; 46:34). But there they unlearned the exclusively pastoral life and learned husbandry (De 11:10), while the deserts beyond supplied pasture for their cattle (1Ch 7:21).

On the other hand, when they became a nation, occupying Canaan, their agriculture learned in Egypt made them a self subsisting nation, independent of external supplies, and so less open to external corrupting influences. Agriculture was the basis of the Mosaic commonwealth; it checked the tendency to the roving habits of nomad tribes, gave each man a stake in the soil by the law of inalienable inheritances, and made a numerous offspring profitable as to the culture of the land. God claimed the lordship of the soil (Le 25:23), so that each held by a divine tenure; subject to the tithe, a quit rent to the theocratic head landlord, also subject to the sabbatical year. Accumulation of debt was obviated by prohibiting interest on principal lent to fellow citizens (Le 25:8-16,28-55). Every seventh, sabbatic year, or the year of Jubilee, every 50th year, lands alienated for a time reverted to the original owner.

Compare Isaiah's "woe" to them who "add field to field," clearing away families (1 Kings 21) to absorb all, as Ahab did to Naboth. Houses in towns, if not redeemed in a year, were alienated for ever; thus land property had an advantage over city property, an inducement to cultivate and reside on one's own land. The husband of an heiress passed by adoption into the family into which he married, so as not to alienate the land. The condition of military service was attached to the land, but with merciful qualifications (Deuteronomy 20); thus a national yeomanry of infantry, officered by its own hereditary chiefs, was secured. Horses were forbidden to be multiplied (De 17:16). Purificatory rites for a day after warfare were required (Nu 19:16; 31:19). These regulations, and that of attendance thrice a year at Jerusalem for the great feasts, discouraged the appetite for war. The soil is fertile still, wherever industry is secure. The Hauran (Peraea) is highly reputed for productiveness.

The soil of Gaza is dark and rich, though light, and retains rain; olives abound in it. The Israelites cleared away most of the wood which they found in Canaan (Jos 17:18), and seem to have had a scanty supply, as they imported but little; compare such extreme expedients for getting wood for sacrifice as in 1Sa 6:14; 2Sa 24:22; 1Ki 19:21; dung and hay fuel heated their ovens (Eze 4:12,15; Mt 6:30). The water supply was from rain, and rills from the hills, and the river Jordan, whereas Egypt depended solely on the Nile overflow. Irrigation was effected by ducts from cisterns in the rocky sub-surface. The country had thus expansive resources for an enlarging population. When the people were few, as they are now, the valleys sufficed to until for food; when many, the more difficult culture of the hills was resorted to and yielded abundance.

The rich red loam of the valleys placed on the sides of the hills would form fertile terraces sufficient for a large population, if only there were good government. The lightness of husbandry work in the plains set them free for watering the soil, and terracing the hills by low stone walls across their face, one above another, arresting the soil washed down by the rams, and affording a series of levels for the husbandman. The rain is chiefly in the autumn and winter, November and December, rare after March, almost never as late as May. It often is partial. A drought earlier or later is not so bad, but just three months before harvest is fatal (Am 4:7-8). The crop depended for its amount on timely rain. The "early" rain (Pr 16:15; Jas 5:7) fell from about the September equinox to sowing time in November or December, to revive the parched soil that the seed might germinate. The "latter rain" in February and March ripened the crop for harvest.

A typical pledge that, as there has been the early outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, so there shall be a latter outpouring previous to the great harvest of Israel and the Gentile nations (Zec 12:10; Joe 2:23,28-32). Wheat, barley, and rye (and millet rarely) were their cereals. The barley harvest was earlier than the wheat. With the undesigned propriety that marks truth, Ex 9:31-32 records that by the plague of hail "the flax and the barley were smitten, for the barley was in the ear, and the flax was bolled i.e. in blossom, but the wheat and the rye were not smitten, for they were not grown up." Accordingly, at the Passover (just after the time of the hail) the barley was just fit for the sickle, and the wave sheaf was offered; and not until Pentecost feast, 50 days after, the wheat was ripe for cutting, and the firstfruit loaves were offered. The vine, olive, and fig abounded; and traces everywhere remain of former wine and olive presses.

Cummin (including the black "fitches," Isa 28:27), peas, beans, lentils, lettuce, endive, leek, garlic, onion, melon, cucumber, and cabbage also were cultivated. The Passover in the month Nisan answered to the green stage of produce; the feast of weeks in Sivan to the ripe; and the feast of tabernacles in Tisri to the harvest home or ingathered. A month (Veader) was often intercalated before Nisan, to obviate the inaccuracy of their non-astronomical reckoning. Thus the six months from Tisri to Nisan was occupied with cultivation, the six months from Nisan to Tisri with gathering fruits. The season of rains from Tisri equinox to Nisan is pretty continuous, but is more decidedly marked at the beginning (the early rain) and the end (the latter rain). Rain in harvest was unknown (Pr 26:1).

The plow was light, and drawn by one yoke. Fallows were cleared of stones and thorns early in the year (Jer 4:3; Ho 10:12; Isa 5:2). To sow among thorns was deemed bad husbandry (Job 5:5; Pr 24:30-31). Seed was scattered broadcast, as in the parable of the sower (Mt 13:3-8), and plowed in afterward, the stubble of the previous crop becoming manure by decay. The seed was trodden in by cattle in irrigated lands (De 11:10; Isa 32:20). Hoeing and weeding were seldom needed in their fine tilth. Seventy days sufficed between sowing barley and the wave sheaf offering from the ripe grain at Passover. Oxen were urged on with a spearlike goad (Jg 3:31). Boaz slept on the threshingfloor, a circular high spot, of hard ground, 80 or 90 feet in diameter, exposed to the wind for winnowing, (2Sa 24:16-18) to watch against depredations (Ru 3:4-7). Sowing divers seed in a field was forbidden (De 22:9), to mark God is not the author of confusion, there is no transmutation of species, such as modern skeptical naturalists imagine. Oxen unmuzzled (De 25:4) five abreast trod out the grain on the floor, to separate the grain from chaff and straw; flails were used for small quantities and lighter grain (Isa 28:27).

A threshing sledge (moreg), Isa 41:15) was also employed, probably like the Egyptian still in use, a stage with three rollers ridged with iron, which cut the straw for fodder, while crushing out the grain. The shovel and fan winnowed the grain afterward by help of the evening breeze (Ru 3:2; Isa 30:24); lastly, it was shaken in a sieve. Am 9:9; Ps 83:10, and 2Ki 9:37 prove the use of animal manure. The poor man's claim was remembered, the self sown produce of the seventh year being his perquisite (Le 25:1-7): hereby the Israelites' faith was tested; national apostasy

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Throughout the whole period of their national existence, agriculture was the principal occupation of the Hebrews. According to the priestly theory, the land was the property of Jahweh; His people enjoyed the usufruct (Le 25:23). In actual practice, the bulk of the land was owned by the towns and village communities, each free husbandman having his allotted portion of the common lands. The remainder included the Crown lands and the estates of the nobility, at least under the monarchy. Husbandry

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This was little cared for by the patriarchs. The pastoral life, however, was the means of keeping the sacred race, whilst yet a family, distinct from mixture and locally unattached, especially whilst in Egypt. When grown into a nation it supplied a similar check on the foreign intercourse, and became the basis of the Mosaic commonwealth. "The land is mine,"

Le 25:23

was a dictum which made agriculture likewise the basis of the theocratic relation. Thus every family felt its own life with intense keenness, and had its divine tenure which it was to guard from alienation. The prohibition of culture in the sabbatical year formed a kind of rent reserved by the divine Owner. Landmarks were deemed sacred,

De 19:14

and the inalienability of the heritage was insured by its reversion to the owner in the year of jubilee; so that only so many years of occupancy could be sold.

Le 25:8-16,23-35

Rain.--Water was abundant in Palestine from natural sources.

De 8:7; 11:8-12

Rain was commonly expected soon after the autumnal equinox. The period denoted by the common scriptural expressions of the "early" and the "latter rain,"

De 11:14; Jer 5:24; Ho 6:3; Zec 10:1; Jas 5:7

generally reaching from November to April, constituted the "rainy season," and the remainder of the year the "dry season." Crops.--The cereal crops of constant mention are wheat and barley, and more rarely rye and millet(?). Of the two former, together with the vine, olive and fig, the use of irrigation, the plough and the harrow, mention is made ln the book of

Job 31:40; 15:33; 24:6; 29:19; 39:10

Two kinds of cumin (the black variety called fitches),

Isa 28:27

and such podded plants as beans and lentils may be named among the staple produce. Ploughing and Sowing.--The plough was probably very light, one yoke of oxen usually sufficing to draw it. Mountains and steep places were hoed.

Isa 7:25

New ground and fallows,

Jer 4:3; Ho 10:12

were cleared of stones and of thorns,

Isa 5:2

early in the year, sowing or gathering from "among thorns" being a proverb for slovenly husbandry.

Job 5:5; Pr 24:30-31

Sowing also took place without previous ploughing, the seed being scattered broad cast and ploughed in afterwards. The soil was then brushed over with a light harrow, often of thorn bushes. In highly-irrigated spots the seed was trampled by cattle.

Isa 32:20

Seventy days before the passover was the time prescribed for sowing. The oxen were urged on by a goad like a spear.

Jg 3:31

The proportion of harvest gathered to seed sown was often vast; a hundred fold is mentioned, but in such a way as to signify that it was a limit rarely attained.

Ge 26:12; Mt 13:8

Sowing a field with divers seed was forbidden.

De 22:9

Reaping and Threshing.--The wheat etc., was reaped by the sickle or pulled by the roots. It was bound in sheaves. The sheaves or heaps were carted,

Am 2:13

to the floor--a circular spot of hard ground, probably, as now, from 50 to 80 or 100 feet in diameter.

Ge 1:10-11; 2Sa 24:16,18

On these the oxen, etc., forbidden to be muzzled,

De 25:4

trampled out the grain. At a later time the Jews used a threshing sledge called morag,

Isa 41:15; 2Sa 24:22; 1Ch 21:23

probably resembling the noreg, still employed in Egypt --a stage with three rollers ridged with iron, which, aided by the driver's weight crushed out, often injuring, the grain, as well as cut or tore the straw, which thus became fit for fodder. Lighter grains were beaten out with a stick.

Isa 28:27

The use of animal manure was frequent.

Ps 83:10; 2Ki 9:37; Jer 8:2

etc. Winnowing.--The shovel and fan,

Isa 30:24

indicate the process of winnowing--a conspicuous part of ancient husbandry.

Ps 35:5; Job 21:18; Isa 17:13

Evening was the favorite time,

Ru 3:2

when there was mostly a breeze. The fan,

Mt 3:12

was perhaps a broad shovel which threw the grain up against the wind. The last process was the shaking in a sieve to separate dirt and refuse.

Am 9:9

Fields and floors were not commonly enclosed; vineyard mostly were, with a tower and other buildings.

Nu 22:24; Ps 80:13; Isa 5:5; Mt 21:33

comp. Judg 6:11 The gardens also and orchards were enclosed, frequently by banks of mud from ditches. With regard to occupancy, a tenant might pay a fixed money rent,

Song 8:11

or a stipulated share of the fruits.

2Sa 9:10; Mt 21:34

A passer by might eat any quantity of corn or grapes, but not reap or carry off fruit.

De 23:24-25; Mt 12:1

The rights of the corner to be left, and of gleaning [CORNER; GLEANING], formed the poor man's claim on the soil for support. For his benefit, too, a sheaf forgotten in carrying to the floor was to be left; so also with regard to the vineyard' and the olive grove.

See Corner

See Gleaning

Le 19:9-10; De 24:19

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