BARLEY (שְׂעֹרָה, H8555, long hair; κριθή, G3208, piercing or pointed; κρίθινος, G3209, barley). There are thirty-six references to barley in the Bible. It was one of the main cereal crops of Pal., and being cheaper than wheat was used for feeding horses, donkeys and cattle. It was often mixed with wheat to prepare flour for human beings. Barley bread, even today, is the staple food of the poorer people in Pal.
There are three main barleys— spring barley (Hordeum vulgare), winter barley (H. hexastichon), and common barley (H. distichon).
Barley is harvested in Pal. in late March or early April, or on the hilly fields in May. Winter barley may be sown in November and spring barley in March.
As barley was largely the food of the poor, it was looked down on, and is even scorned today. It was good enough for the price of a harlot (
Arabs today refer to Jews as “cakes of barley.” This is a scornful term. The true followers of Mohammed are “wheat” and the Jews are “barley.” The Midianites prob. called the Israelites “cakes of barley” (
Orpah with Ruth returned to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest (
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
(1) In the Bible, as in modern times, barley was a characteristic product of Palestine--"a land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees," etc. (
Barley was (
Barley was also used in the ORDEAL OF JEALOUSY (s. v.). It was with five barley loaves and two fishes that our Lord fed the five thousand (
(2) Several varieties of barley are grown in Palestine The Hordeum distichum or two-rowed barley is probably the nearest to the original stock, but Hordeum tetrastichum, with grains in four rows, and Hordeum hexastichum, with six rows, are also common and ancient; the last is found depicted upon Egyptian monuments.
Barley is always sown in the autumn, after the "early rains," and the barley harvest, which for any given locality precedes the wheat harvest (
The barley harvest was a well-marked season of the year (see Time) and the barley-corn was a well-known measure of length.
See Weights and Measures.