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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Harvest

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Three months intervened between the seed time and the first reaping, and a month between this and the full harvest. Barley is in full ear all over the Holy Land, in the beginning of April; and about the middle of the same month, it begins to turn yellow, particularly in the southern districts; being as forward near Jericho in the latter end of March, as it is in the plains of Acre a fortnight afterward. The reaping continues till the middle of Sivan, or till about the end of May or beginning of June, which, as the time of wheat harvest, finishes this part of the husbandman's labours.

2. The reapers in Palestine and Syria make use of the sickle in cutting down their crops, and, according to the present custom in this country, "fill their hand" with the corn, and those who bind up the sheaves, their "bosom,"

Psalms 129:7 ; Ruth 2:5 . When the crop is thin and short, which is generally the case in light soils, and with their imperfect cultivation, it is not reaped with the sickle, but plucked up by the root with the hand. By this mode of reaping, they leave the most fruitful fields as naked as if nothing had ever grown on them; and as no hay is made in the east, this is done, that they may not lose any of the straw, which is necessary for the sustenance of their cattle. The practice of plucking up with the hand is perhaps referred to in these words of the Psalmist, to which reference has already been made: "Let them be as the grass upon the house tops, which withereth afore it groweth up; wherewith the mower filleth not his hand, nor he that bindeth sheaves his bosom." The tops of the houses in Judea are flat, and, being covered with plaster of terrace, are frequently grown over with grass. As it is but small and weak, and from its elevation exposed to the scorching sun, it is soon withered. A more beautiful and striking figure, to display the weak and evanescent condition of wicked men, cannot easily be conceived.

3. The reapers go to the field very early in the morning, and return home betimes in the afternoon. They carry provisions along with them, and leathern bottles, or dried bottle gourds, filled with water. They are followed by their own children, or by others, who glean with much success, for a great quantity of corn is scattered in the reaping, and in their manner of carrying it. The greater part of these circumstances are discernible in the manners of the ancient Israelites. Ruth had not proposed to Naomi, her mother-in-law, to go to the field, and glean after the reapers; nor had the servant of Boaz, to whom she applied for leave, so readily granted her request, if gleaning had not been a common practice in that country. When Boaz inquired who she was, his overseer, after informing him, observes, that she came out to the field in the morning; and that the reapers left the field early in the afternoon, as Dr. Russel states, is evident from this circumstance, that Ruth had time to beat out her gleanings before evening. They carried water and provisions with them; for Boaz invited her to come and drink of the water which the young men had drawn; and at meal-time, to eat of the bread, and dip her morsel in the vinegar. And so great was the simplicity of manners in that part of the world, and in those times, that Boaz himself, although a prince of high rank in Judah, sat down to dinner in the field with his reapers, and helped Ruth with his own hand. Nor ought we to pass over in silence the mutual salutation of Boaz and his reapers, when he came to the field, as it strongly marks the state of religious feeling in Israel at the time, and furnishes another proof of the artless, the happy, and unsuspecting simplicity, which characterized the manners of that highly favoured people. "And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, The Lord be with you. And they answered him, The Lord bless thee," Ruth 2:4 .

4. It appears from the beautiful history of Ruth, that, in Palestine, the women lent their assistance in cutting down and gathering in the harvest; for Boaz commands her to keep fast by his maidens. The women in Syria shared also in the labours of the harvest; for Dr. Russel informs us, they sang the ziraleet, or song of thanks, when the passing stranger accepted their present of a handful of corn, and made a suitable return. It was another custom among the Jews to set a confidential servant over the reapers, to see that they executed their work properly, that they had suitable provisions, and to pay them their wages: the Chaldees call him rab, the master, ruler, or governor of the reapers. Such was the person who directed the labours of the reapers in the field of Boaz. The right of the poor in Israel to glean after the reapers was secured by a positive law, couched in these words: "And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy land; neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard: thou shalt leave them to the poor and the stranger: I am the Lord your God," Leviticus 19:9 . It is the opinion of some writers, that, although the poor were allowed the liberty of gleaning, the Israelitish proprietors were not obliged to admit them immediately into the field, as soon as the reapers had cut down the corn, and bound it up in sheaves, but when it was carried off: they might choose, also, among the poor, whom they thought most deserving, or most necessitous. These opinions receive some countenance from the request which Ruth presented to the servant of Boaz, to permit her to glean "among the sheaves;" and from the charge of Boaz to his young men, "Let her glean even among the sheaves;" a mode of speaking which seems to insinuate that though they could not legally hinder Ruth from gleaning in the field, they had a right, if they chose to exercise it, to prohibit her from gleaning among the sheaves, or immediately after the reapers.


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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Harvest'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/wtd/h/harvest.html. 1831-2.

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