Listen to the Land (Historical Geography) - Lesson 3

Climate, Resources and Calendar

Wind patterns and the shape of the land determine where more rain falls. Finding and managing sources of water is a critical aspect of survival. The feasts coincide with the agricultural calendar. Biblical passages containing references to water and the feasts had profound meaning to the original audience.

Cyndi Parker
Listen to the Land (Historical Geography)
Lesson 3
Watching Now
Climate, Resources and Calendar

I. Resources

A. Wind and rain

B. Rules of rainfall

II. Calendar

A. Two seasons

B. Thirst of the land

C. Cycle of the crops

D. Sheep

E. Late summer dew

F. Fruit harvest

III. Biblical Passages

A. Deuteronomy 8:7-10

B. Luke 2:8

IV. Three Festivals

A. Passover

B. Shavuot

C. Succoth

D. John 7:37-38

  • The Historical Geography of the Land of the Bible is a course that aims to explore the secrets of the land of the Bible by learning how to pay attention to details like rocks, water, and roads, and how they have a dramatic impact on the people living in that context and will change our theology.

  • The land influences the people that are living on it by affecting their stories. Learning to listen to the land helps you understand the details that are hiding in the background so that when you read the Bible, it’s like you see the narrative in living color and 3 dimensions.

  • Major rivers in the Ancient Near East provided the resources necessary for empires like Egypt, Assyria, Babylon and Persia to grow and flourish. Israel is on a couple of the major trade routes that connects these cultures. The location of mountains, hills and valleys in Israel affects the lifestyle and travel patterns of the people who live there and the people travelling through.

  • Wind patterns and the shape of the land determine where more rain falls. Finding and managing sources of water is a critical aspect of survival. The feasts coincide with the agricultural calendar. Biblical passages containing references to water and the feasts had profound meaning to the original audience.

  • Of the granite, sandstone and limestone layers of rock, the limestone layer is what controls much of the lifestyle of the people. The layers of limestone that are common throughout Israel and the surrounding areas are Cenomanian, Senonian and Eocene. It is a good land because there are enough resources to survive and thrive, but it is not an easy land. It has been referred to by different names throughout the years and the political boundaries have been fluid.

  • Bashan is in the north and has enough rainfall and arable soil to support crops and large animals like cattle. The Dome of Gilead provides connection points for international and local travel. Ammon and Moab are neighbors and descendants of Lot’s daughters. Edom is south and are descendants of Esau.

  • The people that migrated to live in the coastal plain were known as the Philistines. Because of the location and terrain, the roads were sources of international travel and trade. Cities were built for commerce and control. The Negev was an important area to control for travel.

  • The Rift Valley is valuable because of its location and resources. Bitumen and Balsam were sought after. It was a popular trade route but it was important to know where to get water. Jericho was at crossroads and was near some major springs. Connecting events in biblical history to the event and location of the baptism of Jesus adds weight and significance to it.

  • The hill country of Judah has enough rain to grow grapes and other crops. Hebron was first given to Caleb and then was the city that David ruled from when he first became king. It was a connecting point for local roads. Bethlehem and Tekoa are also cities in this area.

  • Jerusalem is framed by the hills and valleys that are near it. The Sorek Wadi System is to the west and the Mount of Olives is to the east. David built a palace and Solomon later built a temple. Jerusalem was important in Jewish history and also has a place in eschatology.

  • By the beginning of the first century, Jerusalem was the site of a magnificent Jewish temple built by Herod the great. He also built an impressive palace and a Roman fort which overlooked the temple. The events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus take on added layers of meaning when you understand how the geography of the events reminded people of Messianic prophecies.

  • Benjamin has the smallest tribal allotment but it is one of the most significant areas in the nation of Israel. The geographical features, the cities located there and the roads that run through it make it a region of national and international importance.

  • The Shephelah is between the hill country and the coastal plain and has unique geographical features. When you know the location of the roads, valleys and cities in this area, you can see their significance in the stories. When you understand where Micah and Isaiah came from and their historical context, you can understand why there is a difference in their message and tone.

  • The rocks and roads will give you valuable information about the Sharon Plain and Mt. Carmel. The international road took different paths around Mt. Carmel depending on your final destination. The harbor and palace that Herod built in Caesarea were impressive.

  • The hill country of Joseph has abundant resources and nearby roads for commerce. Shiloh was a religious center and the place where Joshua met with representatives from each tribe to determine their tribal allotment. The women of Shiloh also were instrumental in saving the tribe of Benjamin. Shechem was important as far back as Abraham. Every time people would see Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal, it was a reminder of the blessings and curses of their covenant with God.

  • Who was Omri, and why was he significant in making Samaria an important city? When the people of Judah returned from Persia, there was a conflict with the people of Samaria. The animosity that was still present during the ministry of Jesus set the stage for an encounter he had with a woman that was at a well near the city.  

  • Upper and Lower Galilee have the climate soil that is conducive to widespread agriculture. Lower Galilee also has some valleys that became major roads. Major empires of the fertile crescent exerted their influence here as they expanded. When the Greeks took control with their military, they also spread their cultural influence.

  • The Jezreel Valley is the center of activity for many of the biblical narratives. Not only was it an important economic and strategic location for Israel, but also for the Canaanites, Egyptians, Arameans and Assyrians. It is also a place where significant events took place in the lives of the prophets and Jesus.

  • This body of water is often referred to as a, “sea” even though it is fresh water, not salt water. There are not many stories in the Hebrew Bible that take place in this area, but it is a center of activity for Jesus during his ministry. Many of the parables are illustrations taken from local culture and geography.

  • The Huleh basin has an abundance of water from several sources. The soil is also good, but the conditions for growing crops in some areas presents some challenges. Dan is a strategic city in the north as a gateway to the region and a religious center under Jeroboam. Caesarea Phillippi was built by Herod and was a place that Jesus used to teach his disciples about his role as Messiah and their future as leaders of the church.  

  • The Gospel of Luke traces the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem, and the book of Acts traces the journey of the gospel going out from Jerusalem. The events in Pentecost have a connection to the events at Mt. Sinai. The gospel is for the world but the events that made it possible are anchored in Israel. (Don't forget the Epilogue, Lesson 21!)

  • There are two different stories in the Gospels of Jesus feeding large groups of people. One account is in John 6 and another account is in Mark 8. The message is similar but the geography gives you some clues to help you understand why the details are different.

Have you ever read about a place and when you went there in person, it came alive? As you walk through the hills and valleys of Israel with Dr. Parker, you will see the stories of the Bible in living color. 

Your location affects your lifestyle, relationships, worldview, occupation, diet and travel. In ancient Israel, you depended on the resources around you to survive. People often lived near springs or rivers, but it was possible in some places to collect rain water and ration it through the year. The terrain and the type of soil would determine what crops you could grow, or what animals you could raise. Living near a road would give you opportunities to sell what you produced or buy what you needed. Your location would determine the amount of risk you would face from people in neighboring countries. By living in the hill country, you would develop a different mindset than if you lived on an open plain.

Once you begin to have an understanding of the, "rocks and roads" of Israel, reading your Bible with a good map next to you will help you get a 3 dimensional perspective. When the characters and the scenery become life-like in your mind, you will find yourself being inspired and motivated in your understanding of your relationship with God and how you can apply it in your interactions with others. Take this opportunity to learn from Dr. Parker to "Listen to the Land!"

Don't forget the Epilogue, Lesson 21!


Recommended Books

Listen to the Land: Historical Geography - Bible Study

Listen to the Land: Historical Geography - Bible Study

Have you ever read about a place and when you went there in person, it came alive? As you walk through the hills and valleys of Israel with Dr. Parker, you will see the...

Listen to the Land: Historical Geography - Bible Study
Satellite Bible Atlas

Satellite Bible Atlas

A comprehensive guide to biblical geography, The Satellite Bible Atlas by William Schlegel provides historical context and insightful maps to help readers better understand the world of the Bible.
Satellite Bible Atlas

Dr. Cyndi Parker
Listen to the Land (Historical Geography)
Climate, Resources and Calendar
Lesson Transcript

Okay. So just as things like roads, coastline, viewing the desert, just as those things are significant, so are other things that we don't always think about and that are somewhat hidden topics in the Bible because they were assumed between the biblical writer and the audience are things like climate and resources and calendars. How did they keep track of time? So those things are also really important. That's everything that we're going to cover in this segment. So I'm going to pull up the map that we are getting accustomed to seeing quite a bit of, and it may be hard to see on the screen, but on this map there are two almost parallel yellow dotted lines. So one runs right here on this crest of the mountain and the other one runs here. So those are on the crest, the lines to the east, Jordan, and then the trans Jordan shape of the mountains. It would be the flat ish sort of kind of the spine of those hill countries. Now, when we're looking at this land and we think of wind and water, especially because we don't have a B, it's not a riverine community. So we really have to think about where are they getting where's their water coming from? Well, the wind almost always comes in from over the Mediterranean Sea. So we see the two blue arrows coming from the Mediterranean into the land this way. So the clouds that form over the Mediterranean come in towards this landmass on the middle part of the Fertile Crescent. So what happens is as these clouds, as this moisture comes in from the Mediterranean and as the land starts to swoop up towards their Crestline, then it starts to coax all of this moisture out of the clouds.

[00:02:05] And then we get rain, which means on the western side of this mountain landscape, we're going to end up with the most amount of rain. So it'll rain and then some rain soaks down into the rocks and then other rain is going to hit the surface of the mountain and then it's going to drain back down and into the Mediterranean Sea. Now, what's interesting is as you pass over the spine of the hill country and the land drops away, and so we're there's a heating up of the land as it falls down into the Rift Valley, the clouds stop dropping rain. And so almost immediately as you go over the crest line, there's a significant drop in the amount of rain that hits this side of the mountain. So the rain clouds are going to keep moving towards the east. Now, they hit another mountain range. And so once again, in the Transjordan, the hills rise up very sharply, actually much higher than the hills over on this Jordan side. And as the land moves up and it controls the way the air currents are flowing, it coaxes more moisture out of the same clouds and then the clouds drop rain and it on this side, in the Transjordan side, some of the rain is going to fall down into the Rift Valley, but on the eastern side of the Rift Valley. So what we have are two parallel structures. It's the land divided in half by the Rift Valley, but it's acting exactly the same where the western side is going to be wet and the eastern side is going to be dry. So everywhere in the green overall is going to be your chance for agriculture, where you're not going to have the same opportunity for agriculture on the eastern side.

[00:04:01] So it means the western side of the mountains is farming territory. And in farming territory you end up still with hills that have lots of bends and folds. I mean, this whole entire the the hills that stretch to the north and south on both the Jordan and the Transjordan side are very steep, which means that the local people, they'd have enough rain on this side of the mountain to grow food, but they also need soil not to run off down into the Mediterranean. And so they would start to build terraces into the hillside. You have to collect soil onto your terrorists in order to plant on your terrace. It's very tedious, labor intensive work you can see in this part of the hills. Well, you can actually see how steeply it declines down towards the Mediterranean Sea, which is off into the haze of the picture. Here you can see the farmers that are working this portion of the land not only have terraces down the very steep hillside, but they also have some terraces. Is down, like in these little ravines where it is naturally a little bit. Not quite so steep. And it is naturally collecting the runoff soil as soil falls down into the valley. So they're making use of soil collection there as well. Now. It's not the same on the eastern side of the exact same hills. So when we go to the eastern side now, we're going to be in shepherding territory. And this would be just a few miles away from where I took that previous picture, which is astounding how different the landscape is in a very short amount of space. This picture I also took in the middle of the rainy season where we had had lots and lots and lots of rain.

[00:06:07] And so the this wilderness area, like packed full of so much green, I kept telling everyone who is with me on this trip, I've never seen it so green before. And they were looking out the bus windows going, we don't see the green. Yeah. So it's just a couple miles away. But this is the effect of when you don't have enough rain falling on the land, it just can't produce vegetation. So we get this farmer territory on the west, shepherding territory on the east. Now, rainfall is something that everyone paid attention to at all times. So I'm going to give you just a few rules of rainfall. So as we're traveling our way around the map, there are certain things you should already like. As we really get into this, you're going to be able to start guessing about the people who live there because the amount of rain will tell you what kind of professions they can have. Are they going to be farmers? Are they going to be shepherds? Is there going to be a mixture between the two? So four rules of rainfall, I'm going to say the places north on the map are going to be wetter. So we get once we get above the Sea of Galilee up here, we end up with like 40 to 48 inches of rain. Where once you come down to, let's say down here where Jerusalem is, we're looking at about 28 inches of rain. So in a very short distance, there's a dramatic decrease in the amount of rain that we have anything to the west which is receiving a lot more of influence and effects of the Mediterranean Sea. Anything to the West is going to be wetter than anything to the east, which is open to the Arabian desert and is open to the effects of the desert.

[00:07:59] So that makes sense. And then anything elevated. So the higher the mountains are, the more rain you're going to get. So again, up here in Upper Galilee, this is a mountainous area. It is not only north, it is not only west, but it's also very high in elevation where we can contrast that with Edam, which is down here off the southern part of the map. Edam also has very elevated mountains. And so because even though they're east influencing the effects of the desert, even though they're south and not getting very much rain, the mountains are so elevated that they do kind of pull some moisture out of the clouds. So that's their only little hope. But we should know then already just by placing stories on the ground that the people of Edam are not going to be known for their agriculture, where people in the north are going to be known for their agriculture. So we're going to pay attention to those kinds of things, which takes us to our calendar. I love talking about the agricultural calendar. I'm going to try to coax you into being fascinated with it. I tell everyone that they need to draw this on a little piece of paper and tuck it into the back of their Bibles. And every time they read the Bible, they should pull out their calendar because it influences so many things in the text and we're not always aware of it. So we drew this like a circle because ancient people thought of life as cyclical. We think of life as linear. Right? All of our calendars are lines, or they go down a page. There's something about past, present and future that just work like a line. Ancient people understood that time bends on itself and we come back around to it and there's a cycle and there are seasons, and they used that to their advantage.

[00:10:08] And ancient people were very, very land oriented people. So the land was dictating a lot about how they understood the world to be. When we look at the screen and we see all these different circles or ovals, really, so I could fit it onto onto a rectangular screen you can see on the very outer edges. We have the abbreviations for how we call the months of the year in English, starting at the top, because for some reason we always think of the beginning at the top. So we go January, February, March, April, and around like this we turn our calendars on January 1st, we start time on January 1st. January becomes the beginning of something new. That is not how the ancient world thought. So I'm going to introduce you to a different concept of understanding the land and time. So for the land of the Bible that we're going to be talking about, they only have two seasons, so they don't have four. So no matter where you live around the world, you may understand the two season idea, or if you live in other places, you're so accustomed to the cycle of four seasons in the land of the Bible. There was the rainy season and there was the dry season. Yeah, there's kind of transition times in between those two things, but they're not really seasons. They're really just as we transition from one to the other. If we were to look at this calendar, we find the winter rains are controlling this whole top part of our drying. The dry season is the whole entire bottom part of the drying. And so the more natural switching time and understanding time is going to be the transition between the dry season and the wet season.

[00:12:05] So we have what the Israelites called their early rains. There was a very specific term for the early rains, and these are the really significant rains that mark the transitional time for us. Very different because these are our light, gentle rains that come in little short bursts. They're very helpful because our land has had no rain for several months, which means the land is rock hard and the Middle Eastern sun has just been cooking the land. So it's like clay tablets. So you need gentle rain to come in small bursts to just kind of soak into the land and soften it up a little bit. Then the farmer can do all of his activities. He's going to plow the earth first just to break up the crust, and then he's going to sow his seed. And then he re plows over that to cover the seeds and bury them into the ground. And then we get our winter rains. Now, the winter rains are like massive, thunderous downpours of rain. And so we get the majority of the water you're going to get throughout the entire year is going to be your winter rains. Now, right around February into March, those big, massive winter storms taper off. You're still getting bursts of clouds that come in and move off pretty quickly and they drop the last bit of rain or the latter rains. And these are going to be our last little push into the harvest season. This was so ingrained in the minds of the Israelites, in the minds of all the ancient people that we see it showing up often in the biblical text, where the biblical writers are pulling on theological concepts and attaching it to even something as simple as the calendar.

[00:14:11] So, for example, from the Book of Jeremiah Jeremiah, Chapter five says They do not say in their heart, let us now fear the Lord, our God who gives rain in its seasons. And depending on your translation, which is interesting because obviously the translators of the SB version are accustomed to four seasons because they translate the Hebrew into autumn rain and spring rain, which is in it. The Hebrew is actually saying into the early and the latter rains, which are different kinds of rain. It's a specific type of rain. So we'll finish out what Jeremiah says, who keeps for us the appointed weeks of the harvest. So Jeremiah is pulling on the physical context of the Israelites and is saying, why aren't you fearing the God who gives you significantly the two rains that offset your entire agricultural season like these are the really significant rains. Those rains are going to tell you how successful your agricultural year is going to be. Now because this land is not a riverine land and because it depends so much on water, this land is incredibly thirsty. And that is something I just try so hard. It's hard for our modern day audiences to really understand the thirst of the people and the thirst of the land. And because they are so thirsty, they have very specific water management techniques and they have very interesting names for all of these different types of water. So, for instance, a spring. So this would be rainwater that has hit the mountain and has been absorbed by the cracks and crevices in the rock until it hit some sort of impermeable layer. And then it travels laterally until it finds a break in the earth and it comes out like a filtered water spring this spring.

[00:16:26] I mean, we have great, big, huge ones like this that are absolutely beautiful. They're always flowing all year long. So through the rainy season and through the dry season, spring water is always available. Now it can be as something as small as this. This is quite a small spring that comes out of this little bit of the hillside, but it's like a water tap that is always turned on, right? So even if it's just kind of coming out just a little bit at a time, you can stand there and fill up a water skin until it's full. Go out and water your garden, your neighbor can come. It's you know, it might happen slowly, but everyone has access to this water. This is living water. Living water is always flowing. It is purified. And because it's coming out of the ground, it's often kind of cool and refreshing, which is really nice in the Middle East to have something like that. Okay. Not every community has access to living water, so if you don't have access to water that's coming out of the ground to you, you can go into the ground and hopefully if the water table is high enough, you can dig down to the water and then pull water out of a well. This picture is taken kind of in the southern part of the land of the Bible, close to the coastal plain. This would be a very large community. Well, because the size of it is just so extensive. And there's something really interesting that we can see even from modern day of ancient wells like this. So not only the size, the opening is quite large, but depending on the clarity of the picture that you can see on the screen, you might be able to pick out.

[00:18:17] There's all of these grooves that are going up and down, all around the edge of the rock that is outlining the hole in the middle. These are grooves that have been etched into the rock from ropes, thousands of years of people pulling ropes up over the edge of the rock. And it creates these little grooves so shepherds or people who are going to the well could then pull water up from the large reservoir down below and dump it maybe into something like this. So this community, well, is surrounded by troughs, so which is a piece of stone that has just been cut down into the middle to hold water. So all the sheep would gather around the trough and a shepherd could then water their sheep in that way. This, by the way, is the correct picture of a manger. When Jesus is born, he's wrapped in cloth and put into a manger. It is this stone cut out square area, perfect for a little infant to fit inside of, which will come to that a little bit later. But that is the right kind of picture to have in your head. Okay. Well, I should say wells are something that are really fascinating. The well meeting at a well I mean, it's your meeting at the local watering hole. We use this kind of vernacular modern day. We mean it in a different way, but in the Bible. Interesting. You should think of all the different stories that happened around a well, because a well is communal. And so there's all kinds of people. People will go to a well, this is where, you know, the it's the kids in the family who would go to the well. So the unmarried youth in your community are the ones who are going to the well.

[00:20:13] It's the shepherds going to the well. So if you want to meet a bride to be or the other eligible bachelors that are in town, go hang out at the well, which means read Genesis numbers. It doesn't happen in Deuteronomy, but then all through the historical books, there's so many people meeting around a well and it's fun to look at those different layers of the story. Okay. You don't have living water anywhere near you. Vision of spring. The water table is too far down and you don't have access to the water table. What do you do? Well, you build a system. So the way a system works is you build or you you go down. If you have topsoil, you have to get through the topsoil first. You don't always have topsoil. Like this picture on this side, there's no topsoil. You dig directly into the rock, but you get to the bedrock. And then you create a very narrow opening. And then as you continue to go down into the rock, you create a really big bulbous portion where you're going to collect the water. The small opening is so that you prevent sunlight from getting in, because when sunlight hits stagnant water, you end up with mold and algae and gross things. And so you're trying to collect and then preserve your water as much as you can. So during the rainy season, families would have a cistern and the water hits the topsoil or hits the rock, and then all the water is going to go to the the lowest point. Right. So you're hoping like if the well is or if the cistern is here, all of the water that's hitting this rock that slopes down to it is going to drain and focus down into the cistern, which is nice until you think of everything on this rock face that the water is then also going to pull in.

[00:22:15] So not only rocks and maybe mud and twigs, but whatever your sheep have left on the road as they've walked by or out in your yard, it's going to pull all of that in to the cistern. So you hope that during the rainy season you're able to collect enough rain to get your family through the dry season, which means the dry season is all about water management. At the beginning, your cistern is going to be very full and you're going to have nice clean water at the top because all the heavier sediment is going to fall down here to the bottom. The problem is you don't necessarily know how long the dry season is going to last. So how much water can you afford to drink? You know, and then the heat comes and it's really hot and you have sheep and you have a garden and you have all these things you have to take care of. It's all about carefully paying attention to how much of this precious resource that you have. Now let's just think of towards the end of the dry season, before those early rains come, the family is going to be on the thirsty side. Not only that, but our collection of water has gone down, which means the closer we get to the bottom, the thicker our water is getting. And so it's going to be making us very anxious for the early rains that is going to give us hope that God is going to be providing again. But this year is quite significant. So you can see how, depending on where you are and what kind of water you have access to, tells you how anxious you're going to be during the course of the year.

[00:24:11] I'm going to use Jeremiah again because Jeremiah's so great about pulling these agricultural images. And we're going to look at Jeremiah chapter two. And Jeremiah, too. And again, I just don't always think that we understand that the punch of what Jeremiah is telling us when he tells he's writing and rebuking the Israelites and when he says be appalled, oh, heaven at this and shudder, be very desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils, and now we're going to name what those two evils are. My people, they have forsaken me. The fountain of living water, which throughout the Hebrew Bible, God is often referred to as living water. Because if you're going to compare God to anything, if you are thirsty all the time, if the land is thirsty all the time, one of your most valuable resources is water. What's the best kind of water? Living water. So if you're going to borrow from your experience and attribute that to God, God is living water. And so here we have God telling his people, You have forsaken me, the fountain of living water. That is your first offense. You turned away from me in order to hew out for yourselves. Cisterns. Broken cisterns at that that hold no water. Ray So this is great because Jeremih is taking the two extremes living water versus cistern water. Everyone knows living water is better, but the Israelites have turned away from living water. They've said, You know what, cistern water is going to be just fine, which is in and of itself awful. But they're broken systems and there's no water there. So the rebuke is quite strong against the Israelites and how they're acting towards their God. Let's go back to our calendar.

[00:26:13] So we have the early rains that lead to the first plow, to the sowing winter rains. We're waiting for everything. We're hoping that we get enough of the rain to soak into the ground, to really create a vibrant agricultural season. And then we're going to start harvesting right as the late rain starts to come. So if I were to give you pictures, we'd have farmers that have little family plots, right? There's no industrial agriculture that is going on. It's the agriculture you use for your family. Donkeys are going to be used primarily to help plow mules. Donkeys, if you happen to have a large piece of land like family land holding, or if that land is just really, really rough, maybe you have oxen like the big animals for the big jobs, but most people are going to have mules and donkeys or they can do it by hand, but it's a lot harder to do. So the plow is not only to break up the soil, but then later to till the seeds into the soil, we can go down onto a much bigger plane. We can see how even after you, till the soil, you end up with these huge boulders that are all throughout this agricultural field. So in some cases, especially if you're terracing the land, the farmer will go through the process of removing boulders. But if you're in an area like this, I mean, there's just too many. So you just kind of go around it. You need oxen for a job like this. I actually took this picture in the area that Alicia is from. When we meet Alicia, when Elijah comes up to Alicia, he's in the field, not with a mule or a donkey, but teams of oxen.

[00:28:04] So you look at that, you're like, Oh, yeah, okay, I see. I see what that would be like. Okay. So once we've kind of broken up the soil, we're going to have the heavier the dark black storm clouds come in. If you are elevated up in the mountains, every once in a while, you might get snow. You do get snow. It's not a guarantee, but you often get snow up at Mount Hermon. This picture was in Jerusalem one year. We got snow. They got snow this year. It just I don't know if anyone has seen pictures, but they got snow this year and then the snow goes away. The winter thunderstorms go away and the sky gets crystal blue and it's so beautiful. So this is the time people call spring, but it's just the time where the land is happy and we get all of these wildflowers that are all over the place. So this greenery and that color is going to last a very short amount of time. And this goes right up to the end of the latter rains now the latter rains are marking for us roughly when we start to harvest. So we harvest first the barley because barley is quite robust and barley can start growing even when the land is quite cold. So barley is going to be the first to be harvested. We get that roughly in March, depending exactly where your field is located, and then we go into the wheat. So our cereal crops are first and then we hit June and now there's no more rain, but that sun comes out and all of that heat and then we get the through July. Actually, July gives us a little bit of moisture because we get really heavy dew that sits in the crevices of the mountains.

[00:30:02] And so even though the dew is there only briefly, because then it heats up and it burns off and it goes away, it does kind of add a little few last drops of moisture into the roots of these plants. And then in August we get the grapes and then figs and pomegranates and olives, and it all comes like in really quick succession and the land just feels bountiful. Okay, so this is what the agricultural calendar looks like in reality. So we get all these grains fields that are full of grains and when they're harvested, they turn white, like ready to be harvested. They get that brown dead. Look, this is when the community is very busy. They gather often around a community threshing floor. Families don't have them, communities have them. It's usually up on an exposed portion of the rock where you use. Well, this would be an ancient plow. You use a threshing sledge. It looks something like this with. Well, those are metal teeth in this one. But you. You would put, like, hard rocks into the bottom of the threshing sledge. Turn that over. Spread your wheat or your barley out onto the threshing floor and either stand on it yourself and have a mule or an animal drag you around in circles to chop up this grain, or you get your kids involved and pile them on. And it's a big family affair. So then you get like this chopped up mixture of the grains, and then you use your winnowing fork, which is kind of under here. And this is at about 3:00 in the afternoon. Like clockwork, that Mediterranean breeze comes in. Even modern day, you find people hiding from the heat and everyone starts to go back outside.

[00:32:01] At about three, they start opening their windows three or four, because a mediterranean wind is going to come in. So as the wind picks up in the early afternoon, that's when you start throwing the grain up into the sky and the chaff gets blown away by the breeze. And then you're left, hopefully with just the kernels of grain. And so then you start to sift them in the seeds, and then you start pulling out the rocks and the bigger particulates. And then this is the grain you have. This grain has to last you the entire year. So again, the management skills that people had to collect, all the food they're going to eat like you were going to collect it now in this month. And then we're going to ration ourselves the whole rest of the year. Now, once the harvest, once the grains, the wheat and barley has been harvested out of the fields and again, depending on where you are in the land, but if there are is a shepherding family maybe that you have an agreement with or maybe your family also has sheep along with fields of grain, it's only after the grain is out of the fields that you would allow sheep to go in. Now this can be really beneficial. So ancient people were very clever. They knew they had to work together to a certain extent. They were suspicious of the other, like the people who lived differently than them. But you also build these alliances between families. And so let's say you're the farming family and you've already pulled in your harvest for the whole year. You may allow a local shepherding family or someone that you have a contract with. You may allow them to then take their flocks into your field.

[00:33:48] Well, this is great because the sheep and the goats are going to help clear the field. They love to eat the stubble that we humans don't eat and they leave manure behind. And so then the farmer can go back in and till that into the soil, and then it helps them have a better crop the next year. Okay. So before we really get to harvesting the fruit, we get that late June or early July heavy due that sits in the crevices of the mountains and this image of do that sits and then as soon as that sun hits it, it's gone. It's a favorite image for in a positive and a negative way in Deuteronomy 32 and you'll quickly learn Deuteronomy is my jam and I think everything goes back to Deuteronomy absolutely everything. So in Deuteronomy 32, there's a song of Moses at the end, and he starts off by saying, May my words, may my teaching be like dew in the images, may my teaching and my instructions fall on you gently and soak in to your roots. It's such a beautiful image. I really, really love it. And I often as a teacher I'm thinking, How hard is my teaching? Am I do like or am I winter rain? So the dew also then can be a bad image. So when the prophets sometimes rebuke Israel for their loyalty to God being like Do it's here today, gone tomorrow. Hey, burns off quickly in the heat of the moment Hey, so do you like people understood its value. So as soon as we move out of that, we start to hit August. Oh, now we're getting all of our fruits right, so we get grapes. They're harvested first. This was a classic way of growing grapes where the vines grow along the ground, maybe up over trellises, or people could train the vine to go up over the doorframe of their house, which provides a little bit of shade and wonderful snacking when you leave the door.

[00:35:58] But if you were raising grapes as a crop, it very often just ran either up and over the walls or down along the ground, which means that the farmer has to be actively involved. Because they have to go through and always be lifting up the vine and pruning the vine in order to make sure that the grapes are not sitting on the ground, but that they're also exposed to the sunshine so that they get rape. So we have grapes, we have figs. Pomegranates are right after that date. Palm trees. We've had dates from this part of the world. They're magical. You harvest them in this light kind of beige color, and then as they age, they turn black and are very. Last harvest is olives. And again, all of these are very family oriented activities. Everyone has to help, you know, the adults and the kids, because this is our survival is living off of the land. And it's really helpful because to harvest the olives, you shake the trees or you pound on the branches, you send the tiniest of the kids up to the really top bit so they can shake it, and then all the olives will fall. So in this part of the land, there are green olives and black olives, but they're the exact same variety of olives. The only difference between them is how ripe they are. So the green olives are just not as rape and the black olives are a lot riper. So by the time we're harvesting the olives, if we're like because all of us are land oriented and we're paying a lot of attention and we're getting thirsty because it's the end of the dry season and we've been doing all this harvesting. So we're really quite conscious of the fact that by the time we get to olives, olives are marking for us when we're going to be anticipating the early rains and we're going to start all of this all over again.

[00:37:56] Now because everything goes back to Deuteronomy. And I can't help it. We can see how Deuteronomy is a very land oriented book, which is why I like it so much. I think it's it's so specific with details of real life for people in the land. And so Deuteronomy eight to see if you can get and see the pattern, to see if these verses are hitting you in a slightly different way now. For the Lord. Your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of bricks, of water fountains and springs flowing forth from valleys and hills. We've seen pictures of all those things just in the introduction. A land of wheat and barley of vines, fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey, a land where you will eat food without scarcity in which you will not lack anything. A land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper. Do you see in the description of the land? We're just given the agricultural calendar. From the grains to the grapes and fruits to the olives. Deuteronomy loves to say your bread, your wine and your oil. This is the trilogy, but it comes from the agricultural calendar. So it's all the grains, all the fruits, and then the oil that are together. That's the three are like a shortcut way of giving you the entire calendar. Okay. Now, just knowing the calendar can help us interpret events. So, for example. A very familiar passage in the same region. There were some shepherds staying out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. This is what Luke tells us. That alone helps us know when Jesus was born. I mean, it's not in December. Spoiler alert, just according to the calendar, there's a few things we can start to puzzle out about when Jesus was born.

[00:40:05] So let me put the calendar back up. If the shepherds are out in the fields at night, let's go ahead and rule out the rainy season. Why? Because you don't want all this rain falling on your sheep all the time. It gets their wool gets really heavy. And if they're out at night when the temperatures drop really quite low, then your animals are more susceptible to disease and they might die. And your sheep are your family fortune. So you you have to do everything you can to protect them. So it's during the rainy season when shepherds would actually bring sheep into the house and have them in a portion of the house because, well, one, it keeps the sheep safe and too, it heats up the house for the humans that are living in that house. Okay. So that already let's go ahead and rule out half of our calendar. Now, if the sheep are out in the fields, not out in the wilderness, then we have to go. Okay. So it's not barley, it's not dairy, wheat season. The fields have to be empty, so the grains have to be harvested. So already we have to say maybe June, July, except we're going to say, well, if the dew is really heavy at night. They're probably not outside at night when the dew can also hang on to their wool. So I'm going to cut out July, but keep it in there. Maybe it's a possibility, but I don't really like July, which means if the farmer has to go back into their fields to pre plow their field and get it ready for the next harvest, and if they're doing that up here after the olive harvest, we have now shortened our timeframe to just a couple of months of when Jesus could be born.

[00:42:02] And Luke can tell us all of that just by saying Shepherds were out in the field that night and that's it. And by all of that, we're like, Oh, okay, it's the end of the dry season. It's really hot. It's much nicer to have all your animals out of the house than in the house. When it's hot and it's very pleasant to be outside. It's not going to rain that night. And so it's really nice to be out at night. Okay, so let's finish out this calendar by saying the land is dictating how the people live. The land is establishing the rhythm that everyone is involved in, whether they're shepherds or they're farmers. They all understand how the land is working. And so the Israelites have three. I'm only going to cover three. They have many festivals, but only three of them are pilgrimage festivals where people were supposed to go and journey to the tabernacle or journey to the temple and sit at God's table and feast. They were feasting holidays, which I love, and I think we need to bring back those, bring back the feasts. So the first one is as soon as you start to harvest. So in the barley harvest, it's we're at the beginning of harvesting out of our fields. What an amazing time to think about God who brought us the early rain and is bringing our late rain. And we're seeing evidence of very first evidence of that. It's a beautiful time to have a festival and the festival that they're going to celebrate is Passover. So this is when I always ask classrooms and people, what are people remembering when they celebrate the Passover? It's when God and Pharaoh go head to head and God wins, right? And God's people are protected in their homes for that last final meal before they leave and go out into the wilderness.

[00:44:02] So this Passover. And interesting, because if you read Exodus, one of the plagues that hit Egypt was the destruction of their barley fields. So it's actually happening at this time of year as well. So we're harvesting our barley. And this is when we remember God's protection over us, as evidenced by this early harvest. Now our next holiday is going to be Shavuot. Now, in the Hebrew Bible, Shavuot is an agricultural holiday. So it really is just by the time you get barley and wheat. So your grains have come in, throw a huge party. Feast with God. Feast with your family, with your neighbors. Celebrate what has come sometime between like during the Israelite development of like as their community develops and becomes a little bit more sophisticated. Definitely by the time we get to Jesus, Shavuot had taken on the memory of the people standing at the base of Mount Sinai receiving their marriage contract from God. This covenant that is making them part of God's family. So they're remembering Shavuot, but they're also remembering remember how at the exact same time we created an idol? But God still somewhat had grace on us and we continue to survive. But God made a contract with us and we're going to live according to this contract because we're his family. We are God's son or we're God's wife. I read the Hebrew Bible loves to play between those two images of either being married to God or being God's son, his children. So Shavuot is by the time we take care of our our grains, we're also remembering another significant part of our history that we have a connection, we have a covenant with God. Now, we're not going to have any festivals during this time because we're way too busy.

[00:46:10] Everyone's in the field at all times. Everything is really, really busy during the harvest season, but when you get to the point where you can harvest your olives now we're going to celebrate so-called Sukkot, also called the Feast of Booths. Now. This is an amazing time of celebration. It's a seven day long festival where everyone is supposed to go to the temple again. They're feasting with God. But Sukkot, too, is reminding people of another portion of their history that when they were wandering through the wilderness, God provided everything they needed. The rabbis later used to say, We. Oh. What did they used to say? That they lacked? Nothing. But it's just barely enough. Just barely had enough. But you never lacked anything. Where the sandals on their feet didn't wear out. Where they had water, they had manna. It wasn't a luxurious provision, but it was God's obvious provision during this time. And so during Sukkot, we've just pulled in all of our harvest. What a better time to turn around and say, God, just like you provided for our ancestors so that they had everything they needed and didn't lack anything. So have you done in this year? You gave us everything we needed. The barley, the wheat, the grapes, the pomegranates gave us everything we need. So it's. It's this beautiful festival. And again, it becomes a tradition that develops at some point in time before the first century, before Jesus time, where the very final the seventh day of the feast, instead of looking backwards and saying, Oh, God, thank you for doing for us what you did to our ancestors. It's drawing a connection between us and the layers of history. But on the last day, the feast people turn and look towards the future and say, But you know what? We really need this early reign.

[00:48:16] They were all just a little bit thirsty. So will you please provide the water that we need in the next year as well? Okay. So again, John, if I were to say in the gospels, John in particular, I think uses the agricultural calendar to tell us a lot of things. This is why I think you should always have the calendar in your Bible. Let's we're just going to go through one. But we could sit here for a long time talking about all the imagery that John pulls from. In John Chapter seven, he gives us this moment of now the Feast of Jus. The Feast of Booth's was near. Okay. You, as the reader, should be asking yourself, What time of year is it? What's going on? John is telling you specifically and then John is going to go on this. Like he's going to keep telling you things, but he's given you the important clue at the beginning. It's the Feast of Booths. So, whoops, let's go back to here. Nope. This one. The Feast of Booths is too cooked. What is John telling you? Jesus is in Jerusalem for the celebration of SHU code, which means the harvest has all been harvested. It is the very end of the dry season. Right? And everyone in the community is remembering the portion of their story where God provided what they needed. And John is going to tell us now on the last day, the great day of the feast. Ah, that is the day where people turn from going. Thank you for being consistent like you were with our ancestors. We really need the water. And so John says on this last day, this great day, the feast. This is when Jesus stands up at the temple and says, if anyone is thirsty.

[00:50:18] So who in the community is thirsty? In October. At the end of the dry season? Everyone. Everyone. Unless they're living by living water, boy, their water is thick and they desperately need new water. So you can see Jesus, like tagging their physical experience and saying, Who's thirsty? We are great. He who believes in me, as the Scripture said from his innermost being, will flow rivers of living, water that is standing. I just think the gumption of Jesus to stand up and say You're thirsty because your cistern is almost dry. If you come to me, believe in me from your innermost being is going to gush forth. Consistent, ever flowing. Beautiful, filtered, purified, refreshing living water. Now, if you read the story in John, the crowds kind of go, wow, you know, there's like this really big reaction and you're like, what's the big deal? Except you go in Hebrew scripture, who is living water? God is always the source of living water. And so when Jesus is going, Hey, if you believe in me, I am that source of living water. It's very provocative for people. It's it's it is a very close way for God or for Jesus to say, I am in the role of God. Let's pause there because that was a whole bunch of information and a lot of data and just see if anyone has any questions. I thought it was interesting when you were talking about the early rains and how they come in short bursts with just a little bit at a time and how God. Created that ecosystem in order that that would happen in that order. So prepare the land and how intricate it is, how all of those things work together, and how God created all that that way.

[00:52:40] Yeah, it's beautiful. Yeah, I love it. This is again back to my if we get to know the land, we start to listen in, you know, to to a no, it's not a new version of the story. It's just a richer version of the story. We are filming this in the Pacific Northwest and always and forever. If I have people from this portion of the United States who come to Israel, they're always saying to me, this looks just like at home. I mean, exactly the same because there's different agriculture out here, but it's the exact same effect. And so we find this even on the South Island of New Zealand, it's exactly the same where the mountain runs, the same shape as the land and the western side is wet and the eastern side is dry. And so this is not just the land of the Bible. There's people from around the world that are probably able to say, that's just like at home for us. It happens the exact same way. And and I think it's really important for us to realize how fragile the process of agriculture is and how many things can go wrong in any given time and how dependent people were on that, because we get accustomed to having things packaged whenever we want. And and it's there's so many people still throughout the world today and but in scripture to how dependent they were on those things, you know, when the rains would come, when the water would be there that they needed or different things with the crops and and how in-tune they were with that and what a difference that makes just in in your mindset, in how you live, just. Are we going to be able to have enough food until the next crop? Yeah, it is.

[00:54:45] I tell people all the time, I, I need to spend more time in communities in the developing world because they are land oriented. They are intimately connected to the ground. They have better insights into Scripture and into the experience of the Israelites than we do in a technological world. Like we have so much to learn from people in the developing world because they're reading Scripture with the right kind of eyes for us. We have bank accounts and money is invisible and food shows up packaged. Like you said, I can eat kiwifruit any time of year, which is ridiculous because it has a season and it has a portion like there you can't I think you can grow kiwifruit out in in the Pacific Northwest if you try really hard. But right. There's, there's something about communities that celebrate the food as it becomes available to them, you know, and then you mourn it because it goes away. You have to wait and you have to be patient. And but then the next time it shows up, you get super excited when it shows up again. And we're going to see this because we'll touch on this later. But we could just say, think of how significant some of the biblical laws are that are don't harvest to the edges of your field. Don't go over your olive tree like more than the first time through. That's astounding. If you are on the verge of hunger all the time, if you have to harvest everything because you actually don't know if you're going to survive this next year, it's really quite you could it could be a fearful existence, which is why God is always saying, trust me, trust me, trust me, trust me. But it's hard to trust even more, hard to do not take everything.

[00:56:37] And so for an agrarian people who have one chance at harvesting grain for the whole entire year to leave some of it for those who are more vulnerable than they is actually God saying just exercise some self-restraint in the thing that is the most valuable to you. That means your family is going to survive, right? Those for me are like this. The more we understand the land and we get into the heads of the ancient people, the more astounding the the quality of the faith that God is calling his people to. Is is a challenge to us, even in modern day.