Farming in old times

How did agriculture begin?

Israel may have actually been the Promised Land, yet much of it to be dry and infertile. Agriculture was hard work – and at least 90% of people in the old world live by working the land.

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The story that the an initial human beings ideas at this: the Hebrew word because that ‘man’ is adam; the word for ‘earth’ is adamah.

According to the bible story, the Hebrews to be farmers (Cain), and also nomadic herders (Abel). It to be the conflict in between these two teams of human being that inspired the story that Cain and Abel. Watch Top 10 bible Murders.

Farming was additionally important in brand-new Testament times. Jesus talked often about the land and its assets in his teachings, showing he was acquainted with agriculture techniques. Matthew 13, for example, contains four farming parables. You deserve to read around them at Famous Parables the Jesus.

Ancient farming calendars


Gezer-Calendar, reproduction of the original old artifact

The Gezer Calendar (see right) is a limestone tablet computer about 4inches (10cm) tall. It days from the time of Solomon, in the mid-10th century BC. It describes the farming cycle month by month, providing the jobs to be performed at specific times the the year.

August and also September are times the harvestOctober and November for plantingFebruary is committed to growing of flax andMarch to the barley harvest, etc.

Note: the Gezer Calendar is deciphered at the bottom of this page. It has actually the farmer’s jobs for each month the the year.

What was the yearly cycle?

The major festivals in Israel were closely linked with the farmer’s annual cycle.

The Feasts that Passover and Unleavened Bread were commemorated at the beginning of the barley harvest.Fifty days later came the Feast that Weeks, or Pentecost, when the wheat harvest began.The Feast that Tabernacles, or Ingathering, took ar when the harvest to be complete.

Sowing and also ploughing began in around the center of October at the moment of the early rains. This was adhered to by harrowing and also weeding. The later on rains were critical for ripening the crops, and the rainy season normally ended about early April.

Harvesting started with the barley harvest, roughly the middle of April. The gathering of the serial harvest, the summer fruits, and the grapes lasted till August and also September, back the critical olives were finally picked in November.

Irrigating the land

After negotiation in Canaan the Hebrews ended up being predominantly farmers.


Drawing Water, instance of a Shakeyehz: 1894 photograph

Canaan was surrounded by countries with effective farming approaches – Sumerians in the Tigris and Euphrates valleys, and also Egyptians in the Nile valley.

These countries had already mastered irrigation and also cultivation methods – view Ancient Technology.

The main crops were

graingrapes (for wine and dried fruit) andolives (for oil).

These three plants are discussed over and also over again in the Bible.


Assyrian clay tablet computer telling the story the the Gilgamesh flood

Unsown land to be ploughed 3 or 4 times, saying biennial fallow, but the Hebrew sabbatical (seventh) year fallow was likewise important in promoting soil fertility.

About 30lbs/13.5kg of seeds was offered to a half acre of floor (0.2 hectares). This is about fifty percent the amount of seed typically used today.

Aerial shot showing traces of an ancient irrigation system in Iran


Above: Two pictures of a traditional stone well offered to collect and also store water


Wall painting from an official’s dig in Thebes, mirroring a plough preparing land because that sowing


Ploughing in the level of Jezreel, indigenous a 1925 photograph. Jezreel had abundant farming land and was constantly combated over. Jezebel took few of this land native Naboth (1 majesties 21:1-16) , and also she and her family were eventually murdered.See Jezebel’s Story

The valuable plough

Where did ploughs come from? Who believed of them first?

The style of the plough occurred from the hoe. Hoes were used by humans, but a plough had actually the benefit of gift pulled through animals, i m sorry meant less gruelling job-related for the farmer.

Except for the plough-point, the plough was make of wood.

The beforehand plough-points were made that bronze, but after the 12th century BC, steel plough-points started to replace bronze. The plough had actually either one or two handles, so that pressure can be used by a downward press of the plough-blade. It to be pulled by a team of cow or a solitary beast.

Unsown land to be ploughed 3 or 4 times, arguing beinnial fallow, yet the Hebrew sabbatical (seventh) year fallow was likewise important in cultivating soil fertility.

Sowing the seeds – how? when?

Sowing took place after the first rains had softened the ground. If the farmer tried come plough prior to the rain, the plough-blade could not dig right into the ground.“I shall offer the rain for your land in that is season, the early on rain and the later rain, the you may gather in your grain and also your wine and your oil. Take heed lest the anger of Yahweh it is in kindled against you, and He shut increase the heavens, so the there be no rain…. (Deuteronomy 11:13-17)

There were two methods of sowing seed:

by broadcast the seed by handor making use of a seed-drill.

Two animals draw a plough as the ploughman motivates them v a whip. An alert the boy behind him, transporting a satchel containing seed for planting.

For the first method, the farmer walked follow me the furrows in ~ a continuous pace pulling handfuls of seed indigenous a bag at his side and also throwing them end the soil.Several people might be affiliated for the 2nd method: one to straight the plough and push the take care of down right into the soil, one to direct the animals, and a third person to organize the particle bag on his shoulder and also drop the seeds right into the funnel which pointed under to the soil. These seeds would autumn behind the plough-point, so the they were extended by the fallout’s soil.

The pets were yoked along with either a solitary yoke or a double yoke wih bars over and also under the neck. An ox goad, a long staff with a nail or steel tip, might be used to control the regrettably animals.

Reaping the crop


Tomb that Sennedjem, Amarna: cutting ripe grain through a blade

Harvesting was intense work, and also itinerant workers had to it is in hired specifically for it.

Harvesting the crops involved

cutting the standing grain through scythes,tying the stalks right into sheaves, andtransporting the harvested plants to the threshing area.

Reaping to be done v a sickle hosted in one hand when a bunch the stalks to be seized v the other. The reapers were led through a foreman, and also behind them come other human being who were taking component in the harvest – the young men and women.

For an instance of this, see the story the Ruth and Naomi.


 This painting (above) covered all of one wall in the tomb of Sennedjem, at Amarna. It mirrors several phases in the procedure of farming, consisting of a prayer ritual available to the gods. The prophet Isaiah referred to the various processes associated in growing grain, saying that it was an occasion for wonder and also praise the God. (28:23-29)

Who obtained the grain?

There to be others that were not directly connected with the harvest – the poor, who were enabled by spiritual law come glean any kind of grains the the reapers reduce or missed.

Religious legislation specified that a edge of the field had to be left because that the bad – this component of the field could not be harvest by the landowner (Leviticus 19:9, 23:22).

The workers were given food – bread dipped in vinegar and parched grain.


Modern-day women harvesting through sickles

Threshing the grain

The separation of the grain from the stalks to be done ~ above the hard, level rock of the threshing floor. This was generally located exterior the city or town, in a spot where the prevailing westerly wind could assist with the winnowing.

A threshing floor surrounding by a low rock wall to contain the grain


Woman threshing grain, Israel, 19th century photograph

The threshing floor was a wide, open an are also provided for public functions.

For the many famous bible story including a threshing floor, see the love story the Ruth at holy bible People: Ruth

Winnowing – nothing to be wasted


Theban dig painting, grain being winnowed

After winnowing to be completed, the farmer to be left with number of products.

The first, of course, to be the grain itself.

But there was likewise coarse special straw suitable for kindling, or together binding in brick making.

There was likewise a finer sort of straw the was the main component of animal fodder. The fine residue of dust/powder left ~ above the threshing floor was provided as packing roughly the grain-filled storage jars.


Winnowing the grain, threshing through donkeys

Wine and oil production

The Old Testament legislation let world eat grapes while they were collecting them, however not put them in their own baskets if in who else’s ar (Deuteronomy 23:24).

The grapes were greatly used because that wine, yet some to be dried also for later use. Isaiah 5:1-7 gives some idea of the tough work associated in preparing and also cultivating vineyards.

As the fruit began to ripen native July onwards, human being used stone towers to save watch for both human and animal intruders. Harvesting the grapes and also making alcohol were good social occasions.

A press was provided to to like the oil from the olives ~ they had actually been harvested – see Ancient Technology. This press had a beam placed either right into a niche in a wall or into a big stone. Weights to be tied come the other finish of the beam. The olive baskets were inserted under the beam, inside a repertoire basin.

In later on times, during the roman inn occupation the Palestine, large stone wheel were offered to press oil.


Theban wall surface painting: grape-vines trained end a trellis, then crushed in a vat.

The bible credits Noah through inventing wine, but Bible Art: Noah shows what happened then!

The land and also its crops

The scriptures praises the fertility the the “promised land”, and also in fact remains of ancient settlements show that the land might support huge numbers that people.

Field Crops

The principal plants were grain, wine and also olive oil (Dt. 7:13; Hos. 2:8).

A huge slab that rock used as an old mortar because that crushing grain

Grain, i.e. Wheat, barley and also spelt, has been found in the damages of also the more quickly settlements, going ago to ancient times, while mortars were found at El-Wad cave. Plenty of authorities agree that grain was very first cultivated by people living at the foot of mount Carmel in the Mesolithic age (8th millenium BC) or perhaps also earlier.

Stone inside wall grain silo in ~ the old city the Megiddo; watch inset for steps leading down into the storage area

Grain silos have actually been uncovered in the secret dwelling caves that prehistoric civilization of the Chalcolithic period (4th millenium) near Beersheba (Tel abu Matar). The silos, bell shaped and with a volume of 40-55 litres were found both in the life chambers and the connecting galleries.

From the later Bronze and also Iron Ages, silos were dug into the floors of residences for the warehouse of grain from one year to the next and also larger granaries offer a communal or administrative purpose end up being a popular of excavations.

Of these, the ideal preserved and also largest is the stone lined silo in ~ Megiddo (see above), from the time of Jeroboam II (8th C. BC), or the granary excavated in ~ Gezer.

Ploughing and harvesting – how?

The earliest fields were worked with hoes.

In the stone Age these to be made that a sharpened flint attached to a wooden stick. Wooden implements, digging sticks, etc. Were provided earlier however the continues to be of this “wood age” have rotted and disappeared native the floor of Israel.


Bronze hoes from Kobuleti, circe 1300-1200 BC.

Presumably, stone implements were used together with wood native the more quickly times, as displayed by hand-axes supplied by males who stayed in caves numerous millenia prior to the Mesolithic and also Neolithic ages.

But bronze replaced stone, and also tools improved.

The biggest step forward came with the development of the plough. Ploughs to be made — together they still room today in primitive neighborhoods — indigenous a item of wood, later tipped v metal, drawn by one or two oxen.

Then through the 11th century BC (Late steel Age), iron had actually been introduced.

At first, manufacture and also repair of steel implements to be monopolized through the Philistines. Castle guarded this technology jealously, due to the fact that it gave them the leaf on other groups.

Harvesting the crop

From the Neolithic to the late Bronze Age, flint sickles were offered in harvesting.

About 1100-1000 BCE iron started to be used for all species of tools and weapons and iron sickles displaced the flint ones. By the time of the split monarchy, that is clear from the variety of iron farming tools that have actually been uncovered that the metal was readily easily accessible to everyone.

Even so, a plough of this type could just scratch the surface to a depth of 7-10 cms. It could not revolve the soil into a furrow.


Flint sickles, flat grinding stone, stone ax v wooden handle


The an easy grain plants were wheat and also barley. The wheat to be of a very poor range compared to modern-day strains. Rye seems to have actually been unknown. By the moment of the monarchy, other seeds such as spelt and also flax were also sown.

Sowing to be done by scattering the particle by hand. The land to be then ploughed again to cover it, branches being dragged behind the till to smooth the ground end the seed, (Is. 28:24-5; task 39:10).

It can take mainly of industrious work for the Israelite to sow a small field.


Vineyards came 2nd in prominence to fields, but they essential a an excellent deal much more care and evoked a strong attachment in their owners — as witness the story the Jezebel and also Naboth’s vineyard.

A vineyard was a priceless possession. It referred to as for much tough work — it had to be weeded and also fenced and a stone watch tower put up to guard it versus animals and marauders — and then years of waiting were needed prior to it pertained to fruition.

Vines were grown periodically as bushes or tiny trees; in various other cases, fig trees could be offered to support the vines. Indigenous this came the phrase “every guy under his own vine and under his fig tree” (1 K. 4:25) together a prize of an ideal of social well-being.

The “Song that the Vineyard” (Isaiah 5) is a moving parable that the treatment demanded by a vineyard, v a vivid summary of the agricultural operations involved. The is common of Isaiah that he used such a parable come plead because that justice because that the small man and also the peasant, “Woe to those who join … ar to field” (5:8).

Nothing remains of these old vineyards.

The small heaps of stone which cover many slopes in the Negeb were once taken for vestiges of vineyards or grapevine hills, yet this is now recognized to have been a mistake. They were provided to divert rain water indigenous hill slopes to terraced “wadis” or cisterns. What do remain are the enormous stone grape-presses.

Grape Presses

When the grapes to be ripe, they were gathered and also dumped, one or two baskets at a time, into a small vat whose floor sloped down in the direction of a small basin. The grapes were trampled through foot to extract the juice.

Some of the grape presses discovered in the Judean lowlands (the Shephelah), may also have been offered to extract olive oil by a similar method.


Reconstruction of a roman inn wine press

Wine presses reduced in solid absent abound in Judah and Samaria. Part are solitary square vats because that treading out the grapes.

Others had actually three sections,

one wherein the grapes were trodden,one for refining andone because that storing the juice.

One the the earliest of this is the 7th century wine press at Gibeon through dipping basin and stone trough, left, and also openings to 4 vats – view Ancient Technology.

Fruit tree – main source of sugar

Figs to be a clip of the country’s diet, being among the key sources of sugar.An alternate selection was the sycamore fig, grown greatly in southerly Palestine. Amos (7 :14) was “a dresser of sycamore trees”, an interpretation that that punctured the eco-friendly fig while tho on the tree, come ensure the softening that the fruit, after i beg your pardon it rapidly ripened and became edible.

Fig syrup, like that of carobs, was supplied for sweetening, if dried and pressed figs were a convenient preserve, basic to transport and acceptable as gifts. The wily mrs Abigail gave David 2 hundred cakes of pressed figs.

Figs were likewise said to have medicinal value: a poultice the figs was used to Hezekiah’s boils, ~ above the advice of Isaiah.

Olive trees because that oil

These to be of great importance for old Israel’s economy. Olive oil is supplied in

cookingfor lampsfor cosmetic purposesas a clean agent andin the therapy of sprains and wounds.

To extract the oil, the ripe olives were put into the vat and also then one of two people trodden or pounded with a stone or pestle. The oil produced in this method was the finer ‘beaten oil’. The pulp left behind was then placed under heavy weights come squeeze out the remainder of the oil.


Reconstruction that a huge stone olive press

Commercial oil presses had large vats which would be filled v olives and heavily weighted. Presses favor this date from the 10th to 6th centuries BC were found at Debir and also Beth-Shemesh. Part of the payment Solomon made come Hiram, King of Tyre, because that cedar wood and also carpenters gave for the structure of the temple was in olive oil.

Other fruit trees to be the day palm, pistachio, apricot, mulberry and pomegranate.

The cycle of Seasons


Ancient Egyptian farmer’s calendar.

Because the the tremendous prominence of farming, the year to be divided and festivals time in relationship to the farmer and also his needs.

Even whereby festivals later obtained a spiritual and nationwide significance, they retained traces of their original function as the festive periods of an agricultural community.

The biblical civil calendar provided the month numbers, counting native the very first (fall/autumn) month come the twelfth. This device originated v the Israelites and also replaced the Canaanite nomenclature.

The peasants, whether Canaanite or Hebrew, detailed the month according to the work to it is in performed in the various periods that the farming year.

The Egyptian farmers’ calendar over does the same thing, reflecting land preparation, ploughing, reaping, winnowing and also grain storage.

The Gezer Calendar

You have the right to see this calendar in the stone tablet native Gezer (top that page) that is assumed come be part of a 10th century BCE schoolboy’s exercise. The is no an official calendar.In 7 lines, that lists the months and seasons as:

1: 2 months Olive Harvest (Sept/Oct or Oct/Nov), first the choose of the olives then the pushing for oil.2: 2 months Sowing: The following two months (Nov./Dec or Dec/Jan) come, in Israel, after ~ the very first winter rains and, as a rule, after ~ the ploughing, done at the end of October and early November. This was the grain-sowing season.3: 2 months Late Planting: January come March was the time for sowing millet, sesame, lentils, chick peas, melons, cucumbers and so on.4: 1 month Hoeing: This was particularly the period for cut the flax. This to be done through a hoe together the plants must be cut close come the soil so that the full length of the stalk have the right to be used, when dried and treated, to do thread and cloth.5: 1 month Grain Harvest: Barley is harvest in April in the south and in might in the north. Wheat and spelt come later on in May/June. The serial was reduced by a sickle, made before the 10th century BC native flint chips collection in a haft made of lumber or bone. Later, a tiny curved wood blade to be affixed come a wood handle. The grain was separated from the straw and husks by dispersing the reduced plants top top a specially ready threshing floor outside the town and climate driving oxen round and round end it, pulling a threshing sledge which can be flat or on little rollers. The grain to be then winnowed and also sieved, and finally save on computer in big jars. Rooms complete of such jars room not unusual in excavations.6: 1 month Festivals: 7 weeks native the beginning of the grain harvest (Dt. 16:9) or at about the time it to be completed, a trip was made come the sanctuary bearing an supplying of “first fruits” for the festival of Pentecost (Shavuoth). In later on usage, the Hebrew terms because that “early harvest” or “first fruits” have acquired the wider meaning of “choice” fruits or produce.7: 2 month Vine Tending: during the hot summer months of June/July or July/August, ~ the serial harvest, vines to be pruned and the vineyards weeded and also cleaned in preparation for the grape harvest.8: 1 month Summer Fruits: The last month of the agricultural calendar (August/Sept.) was committed to harvest summer fruit, particularly grapes, figs and pomegranates.

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According come the earliest liturgical calendars, (Ex. 23:14-17; 34:18-23), the first month, Nisan, throughout which the feast the Unleavened Bread was celebrated, started in the spring, roughly March-April in modern terms.