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Wheat, barley and harvests

Bible overview
Life in Bible times. Harvesting wheat and barley.
Contributed by David Padfield
Story also available on our translated websites: Spanish, Polish, Hindi
In Bible times, ploughing was done after the early rains have softened the earth. The early rains in Israel usually come in the late October or early November (Job 29:23). – Slide 1
A farmer would ensure his yoke was in good repair and fitted around the neck of the animals pulling the plough. Jesus spoke of an ‘easy yoke’ for His followers (Matthew 11:30). – Slide 2
The plough was made up of two wooden beams. One beam was hooked to the yoke and at the other end was fastened to a crosspiece. – Slide 3
The crosspiece served as a handle at one end and had the iron ploughshare at the other. It was these ploughshares that were sometimes beaten into swords in times of warfare (Joel 4:10). – Slide 4
The ploughman carried a long stick called a goad. It had a sharp point at one end to prod slow-moving animals into action. Christ said to Saul: it is ‘hard to kick against the goad’ (Acts 26:14). – Slide 5
Oxen, both bulls and cows, were used to pull ploughs. The law forbade an oxen and an ass to be yoked together (Deuteronomy 22:10). And the Apostle Paul spoke about not being unequally yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14). – Slide 6
The two principle seeds sown were barley and wheat. They were scattered over the ground and covered over by the ploughing. The word ‘sow’ means ‘to scatter’. – Slide 7
The heavy rains of December to February were vital to the growth of the grain as were the latter rains that fall in March and April. – Slide 8
The barley was first to ripen. Sometimes thorns or tares appeared in the crop. Tares look like wheat but the grains are black and taste very bitter. Jesus told a parable about wheat and tares (Matthew 13:25). – Slide 9
Barley was harvested in April and May. – Slide 10
The wheat harvest followed in May and June. – Slide 11
When the crop has hardened, it was delicious to eat raw. People would pluck the heads and rub them in their hands to get the grain. – Slide 12
Jesus’ disciples were criticised for doing this on the Sabbath day. – Slide 13
Ripe grain was cut with a sickle made of bronze or iron. – Slide 14
The cut grain was then gathered and tied into sheaves (Genesis 37:7). – Slide 15
The threshing floor was a circular space of 30-50ft (10-18m). – Slide 16
The floor was of stone or hard pressed soil. It was sited in a place that would catch any wind. – Slide 17
One method of threshing the grain from the stalk was to use a wooden flail or to beat the stalks against a rock. Ruth and Gideon used such methods (Ruth 2:17, Judges 6:11). – Slide 18
Another method was to use a threshing board made from planks joined together. – Slide 19
On its underside were sharp stones or metal cutters (Isaiah 41:15). – Slide 20
The threshing board is pulled by animals over the grain. The animal hooves also threshed the grain. – Slide 21
The Bible talks about not muzzling an animal when it treads the grain (Deuteronomy 25:4). A threshing board not only separated the grain head but crushed the straw, making it ready to be served as cattle food. – Slide 22
A winnowing fork was used to separate the grain from the straw (Ruth 3:2). – Slide 23
The crop was thrown into the air for the wind to separate the elements. – Slide 24
The heavier grain would fall back to the ground, the lighter straw blown further away into a heap and the chaff and dust blown further still. – Slide 25
As the grain still had elements of chaff, tares or small stones, it was then put through a sieve. – Slide 26
Women would sift the grain from the other matter. Jesus talked about the sifting of ‘Simon Peter’ (Luke 22:31). – Slide 27
Grain was stored in earthenware jars, in dry cisterns under the ground, or in barns (Luke12:18). – Slide 28
This is an underground granary from Bible times in Caesarea Maritime. – Slide 29
Slide 30