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Reference: Husbandry


HUSBANDRY. In the primitive ages of the world, agriculture, as well as the keeping of flocks, was a principal employment among men, Ge 2:15; 3:17-19; 4:2. It is an art which has ever been a prominent source, both of the necessaries and the conveniences of life. Those states and nations, especially Babylon and Egypt, which made the cultivation of the soil their chief business, arose in a short period to wealth and power. To these communities just mentioned, which excelled in this particular all the others of antiquity, may be added that of the Hebrews, who learned the value of the art while remaining in Egypt, and ever after that time were famous for their industry in the cultivation of the earth. Moses, following the example of the Egyptians, made agriculture the basis of the state. He accordingly apportioned to every citizen a certain quantity of land, and gave him the right of tilling it himself, and of transmitting it to his heirs. The person who had thus come into possession could not alienate the property for any longer period than the year of the coming jubilee: a regulation which prevented the rich from coming into possession of large tracts of land, and then leasing them out in small parcels to the poor: a practice which anciently prevailed, and does to this day, in the east. It was another law of Moses, that the vender of a piece of land, or his nearest relative, had a right to redeem the land sold, whenever they chose, by paying the amount of profits up to the year of jubilee, Ru 4:4; Jer 32:7. Another law enacted by Moses on this subject was, that the Hebrews, as was the case among the Egyptians after the time of Joseph, should pay a tax of two-tenths of their income unto God, whose servants they were to consider themselves to be, and whom they were to obey as their King and Lord, Le 27:30; De 12:17-19; 14:22-29; Ge 28:22. The custom of marking the boundaries of lands by stones, although it prevailed a long time before, Job 24:2, was confirmed and perpetuated in the time of Moses by an express law; and a curse was pronounced against him who without authority removed them. These regulations having been made in respect to the tenure, incumbrances, &c, of landed property, Joshua divided the whole country which he had occupied, first among the respective tribes, and then among individual Hebrews, running it out with the aid of a measuring line, Jos 17:5,14; Am 7:17; Mic 2:5; Ps 78:55; Eze 40:3. The word ???, a line, is accordingly used by a figure of speech, for the heritage itself, Ps 16:6: "The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places, yea I have a goodly heritage.' Though Moses was the friend of the agriculturist, he by no means discouraged the keeper of the flock.

The occupation of the husbandman was held in honour, not only for the profits which it brought, but from the circumstance that it was supported and protected by the fundamental laws of the state. All who were not set apart for religious duties, such as the priests and the Levites, whether inhabitants of the country, or of towns and cities, were considered by the laws, and were, in fact, agriculturists. The rich and the noble, it is true, in the cultivation of the soil, did not always put themselves on a level with their servants; but none were so rich or so noble as to disdain to put their hand to the plough, 1Sa 11:7; 1Ki 19:19; 2Ch 26:10. The priests and Levites were indeed engaged in other employments, yet they could not withhold their honour from an occupation which supplied them with their income. The esteem in which agriculture was held diminished as luxury increased; but it never wholly came to an end. Even after the captivity, when many of the Jews had become merchants and mechanics, the esteem and honour attached to this occupation still continued, especially under the dynasty of the Persians, who were agriculturists from motives of religion.

The soil of Palestine is very fruitful, if the dews and vernal and autumnal rains are not withheld. The country, in opposition to Egypt, is eulogized for its rains in De 11:10. The Hebrews, notwithstanding the richness of the soil, endeavoured to increase its fertility in various ways. They not only divested it of stones, but watered it by means of canals, communicating with the rivers or brooks; and thereby imparted to their fields the richness of gardens, Ps 1:3; 65:10; Pr 21:1; Isa 30:25; 32:2,20. Springs, therefore, fountains, and rivulets, were held in as much honour and worth by husbandmen as by shepherds, Jos 15:9; Jg 1:15; and we accordingly find that the land of Canaan was extolled for those fountains of water of which Egypt was destitute The soil was enriched, also, in addition to the method just mentioned, by means of ashes; to which the straw, the stubble, the husks, the brambles, and grass, that overspread the land during the sabbatical year, were reduced by fire. The burning over the surface of the land had also another good effect, namely, that of destroying the seeds of the noxious herbs, Isa 7:23; 32:13; Pr 24:31. Finally, the soil was manured with dung.

The Hebrew word, ???, which is translated variously by the English words, grain, corn, &c, is of general signification, and comprehends in itself different kinds of grain and pulse, such as wheat, millet, spelt, wall-barley, barley, beans, lentils, meadow-cumin, pepper-wort, flax, cotton; to these may be added various species of the cucumber, and perhaps rice. Rye and oats do not grow in the warmer climates; but their place is, in a manner, supplied by barley. Barley, mixed with broken straw, affords the fodder for beasts of burden, which is called ????. Wheat, ???, which, by way of eminence, is called ???, grew in Egypt in the time of Joseph, as it now does in Africa, on several branches from one stalk, each one of which produced an ear, Ge 41:47. This sort of wheat does not flourish in Palestine: the wheat of Palestine is of a much better kind.

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