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The Harvests

For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper. When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you.
Deut 8:7-10

The Promised Land that God has given to His covenant people is a very fruitful land. A land of abundance, having no lack!

Major crops in Israel are wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and honey. But the harvests of these crops are determined by both God and man. This principle of co-partnership of God and man is evident since the beginning of time. God chose man to be His helpmate.

In Genesis 1:11-12, God created grass, herbs and trees. All of these have seeds according to their kind. These seeds are fertilized and ripened egg cells of the vegetation. They are capable of sprouting to produce new plants. Before these seeds can become young plants, they need to be watered, and their ground needs to be tilled by man (Genesis 2:5). One of the basic tasks that God had given man was to till and cultivate the land (Genesis 2:15). Man’s first divinely given ability was to be a gardener or farmer. Man's close relationship with the soil is indicated by the similarity between two Hebrew words for man (adam) and earth (adamah).

In Deut 11:10-15, we are told that the Promised Land is not like the land of Egypt where irrigation is necessary. It is a land of hills and valleys with plenty of rain-- a land that the Lord personally cares for! His eyes are always upon it, day after day throughout the year! The people of God are to carefully obey all of His commandments and to love the Lord their God with all their hearts and souls. They are to worship Him only. Upon their trust and obedience, the Lord will continue to send forth both the former and latter rains that will produce wonderful crops of grain, grapes and olive oil. He will also give them lush pasturelands for their cattle to graze in so that they shall have plenty to eat and be fully contented.

The Promised Land was indeed a land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:8,17). The fertility of the land was not without divine intervention and help. The success and prosperity in agriculture came from God. His blessing was closely associated with His people's trust in Him and their obedience to His word (Deut 28). The fruitfulness of their agricultural labor corresponded to their spiritual and moral attitudes.

When the Israelites settled in the land of Canaan, they were largely confined to the heavily wooded hill country. Their enemies, the Canaanites, continued to live in the valleys and along the coast (Judges 1:27-33). As the climate and weather of Israel were highly unpredictable, many Israelites were seduced by the pagan Canaanite ways and methods. They too bowed down and worshipped the pagan gods in their desperate desire for a good harvest. But bumper crops could not be guaranteed by worshipping the fertility gods of Canaan. And as a result, the Israelites invoked the anger of God, and suffered poor harvests instead.

Growing crops in Israel was no easy matter. Located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Desert, Israel had very irregular rainfall. The growth of vegetation was restricted in some lowland areas, such as the Jordan River Valley and parts of the Plain of Sharon along the coast. Therein some dense forests flourished. Other areas, mainly in the east, were dry and barren. They were rocky terrain as they received only occasional rain. The lands were impossible to farm. Even if they could be cultivated, the people had to face continual hazards such as locusts, hail, desert storms and invading enemies. That’s why they had to turn their eyes to the Lord and wait for His promise of His heavenly rain!

As the years went by, the Israelites began the long process of clearing the forests. The uplands of Ephraim and Judah, as well as the land east of the Jordan River, were gradually made suitable for cultivation. During the time of King David and Solomon, agricultural activity prospered (1 Kings 4:25). Each man had his own vine and fig tree. Some agricultural products, such as wheat, olive oil and honey, were even exported (Ezekiel 27:17). Certain kings, such as David (1 Chr. 27:26-31) and Hezekiah (2 Chr. 32:27-28), took a special interest in agricultural production. King Uzziah was described as one who loved the soil (2 Chr. 26:10).

The three basic Israelite crops are namely, grain, grapes and olives. In Psalm 104:14-5, the psalmist wrote that God "causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the service of man, that he may bring forth food from the earth, and wine that makes glad the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread which strengthens man's heart."

The harvests of these three crops are at the end of their growing season, when they are gathered. Harvesting is one of the happiest times of the year in Israel (Psalm 126:5-6). They are marked with joyous celebrations and religious festivals (Exodus 23:16). In ancient Israel, the primary harvest season was from April to November. This harvest period might be subdivided into three seasons and three major crops:

  • The spring harvest of grain
  • The summer harvest of grapes
  • The autumn harvest of olives

Season Spring Summer Autumn














































The Spring Harvest

The most important spring crops are the cereals, namely barley and wheat. These form the main diets of the Israelites.

Wheat was grown mainly in the central area of the western highlands of Manasseh, and in Gilead and Bashan, east of the Jordan River. Barley was grown in the drier south and east, especially in Philistia. Barley is able to grow in poorer soils than wheat.

Before reaping any harvest, the seeds must first be sowed. The seeds are sowed by scattering unto the ground. They are plowed or raked into the soil. Sometimes plowing is done before sowing. In ancient times, a single wooden plow with a metal tip was used. It was pulled by a pair of oxen or donkeys. The animals were yoked together with either a single yoke or a double yoke with bars over and under their necks. An ox goad, which was a long staff with a nail or metal tip, was used to control the animals.

Both the seeds of barley and wheat are sown in autumn, about late October or November. These crops are harvested in springtime. As barley has a shorter ripening period, it will be harvested before wheat. Barley is gathered from mid-April onwards, and wheat from mid-May.

The harvesting process begins with the cutting of standing grain with a sickle. They are gathered into bundles or sheaves. These sheaves are then taken to the threshing floor. The floor is usually hard ground. Various tools, such as metal-toothed sledges, are used for threshing. The next process is winnowing. The threshed grains are tossed into the air with a pitchfork. As the wind blows, it carries off the chaff. The heavier kernels and straw fall to the ground. Finally, the kernels are shaken in a sieve, made of a wooden hoop with leather thongs. The grains are then separated and stored either in earthenware jars or in underground silos.

These newly harvested grains will not be eaten until the firstfruits of the grains have been offered on the day after the Sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:9-14). The firstfruits of grain offered during this Feast of Unleavened Bread will be barley. Wheat will be offered to the Lord during the Feast of Pentecost, which is near the end of the spring harvest. Pentecost is also called the Feast of Harvest (Exodus 23:16). During this Feast, the people of God will present an offering of new grain of wheat to the LORD. They will bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the LORD (Lev 23:15-17).

Crops mature earlier in the Jordan Valley where the climate is warmer than in the regions where the climate is cooler such as in Judea and Galilee. In Galilee, some of the grain harvest will only be completed after Pentecost, especially in years when Pentecost comes as early as mid-May. Though not all the crops are harvested by Pentecost, the Feast of Pentecost is still being celebrated as the Feast of Harvest when the firstfruits of grain are offered and waved before the Lord.

In the springtime, various herbs and legumes are also being harvested. The importance of vegetables is indicated by Ahab's desire to turn Naboth's vineyard into a vegetable garden (1 King 21:1-2).

The Summer Harvest

Grapes are the first major fruits to ripen. In a good year, the harvests of wheat and grapes overlap. During such times, threshing of wheat and grape picking occur simultaneously. The new wine festival is 50 days or seven weeks after Pentecost. The grape harvest is usually completed before the Feast of Tabernacles. Until the new wine is offered to the Lord, no one can drink any of the new juice:

You may not eat within your gates the tithe of your grain or your new wine or your oil, of the firstlings of your herd or your flock, of any of your offerings which you vow, of your freewill offerings, or of the heave offering of your hand. (Deut 12:17)

Vineyards were concentrated on the terraces of the Judean hills. They were also found in the Carmel area and in parts of the region east of the Jordan River. Hard labor was involved in preparing and cultivating vineyards. Vines were often left to trail on the ground. As the fruit began to ripen from July onwards, people built watchtowers, or temporary booths, to keep watch for both human and animal intruders. Harvesting the grapes and making wine are great social occasions. According to the Torah, while helping to harvest at a neighbour's vineyard, a person may eat his fill of grapes at his pleasure, but he must not carry any away in a container (Deut. 23:24). Most of these grapes are pressed into wine, but some are eaten as fresh fruits and some are dried as raisins.

The seeds for the summer harvest, such as beans, cucumbers and melons, are sown between January and March. In ancient Israel, melons, cucumbers, leeks, herbs and spices were only grown in the gardens of the rich. The poor had to be contented with beans and lentils, which were often grown between the vines of other crops (2 Sam. 17:28).

The people of Israel eagerly waited for these summer fruits. They were not only tasty supplements to their regular diets, but also refreshing thirst quenchers against the blazing sun and intense heat. Figs and pomegranates were in abundance. Dates were cultivated in the Jericho region. Nuts, such as almond and pistachio, were also harvested and enjoyed.

The Autumn Harvest

Olive trees need little cultivation. They can grow in shallow soils and survive long periods of drought. They were grown in the central uplands of Ephraim and Carmel and parts of Gilead. Olives are the last crops to be picked, as late as October and November. They are used mainly for their oil.

Fourteen weeks after Pentecost, shortly before the Feast of Trumpets, is the new olive oil festival. No one can use new olive oil until they are first offered to the Lord (Deut 12:17). Most of the olive harvest will only be completed after the Feast of Tabernacles.

This Feast of Tabernacles is also known as the Feast of Ingathering (Exodus 23:16), when the people have gathered in all the fruit of their labors from the field. The celebration is observed for seven days at the end of all the harvest season, after the grain is threshed and the grapes have been pressed. It is a happy time of rejoicing together with family and friends. It is a time of thanksgiving to the Lord for blessing them with a good harvest. It is a time of great joy (Deut 16:13-15).

Seven Biblical Principles Of Harvesting

A time to sow and a time to reap. Ecc 3:2
A time to be born; A time to die; A time to plant; A time to harvest;
Choose the right soil. Luke 8:5-8
A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.
The seed must die.

John 12:24-25
Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

Patience is necessary. James 5:7
Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.
We will reap what we sow. Gal 6:7-8
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.
Sow more reap more. 2 Cor 9:6
But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
God gives the increase. 1 Cor 3:6-7
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.

After the resurrection of Christ, more than 500 saw the Risen Lord (1 Cor 15:6). They were asked to wait patiently for the Promise of the Father (Acts 1:4). But only about 120 received the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room (Acts 1:15). More than 380 people (or 76%) opted out! They gave up waiting on the Lord.

During this season of Pentecost, the message is again:

And let us not grow weary while doing good,
for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
Galatians 6:9

'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD of hosts.
Zechariah 4:6

Pentecost is truly the Feast of Harvest! Remember to sow seeds and till the ground if you desire a bountiful harvest! And wait patiently for the Promise of the Father! The Former and Latter Rain! The Holy Rain of God from heaven!

Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary

Written on:
28 May 2004