GLEANING, GLEAN glēn’ ĭng, glēn. 1. Heb. לָקַט, H4377, pick or gather up, glean, is used of the gathering of grain by the poor, following the reapers, as provided for in the Mosaic law (Lev 19:9; 23:22) and beautifully exemplified in Ruth 2, where the word occurs repeatedly. Boaz’ generosity was rewarded with romance.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
The custom of allowing the poor to follow the reapers in the field and glean the fallen spears of grain is strikingly illustrated in the story of Ru (Ru 2:2-23). This custom had back of it one of the early agricultural laws of the Hebrews (Le 19:9; 23:22; De 24:19-21). Breaking this law was a punishable offense. The generosity of the master of the crop determined the value of the gleanings, as the story of Ru well illustrates (Ru 2:16). A reaper could easily impose upon the master by leaving too much for the gleaners, who might be his own children. The old Levitical law no longer holds in the land, but the custom of allowing the poor to glean in the grain fields and vineyards is still practiced by generous landlords in Syria. The writer has seen the reapers, even when they exercised considerable care, drop from their hands frequent spears of wheat. When the reapers have been hirelings they have carelessly left bunches of wheat standing behind rocks or near the boundary walls. The owner usually sends one of his boy or girl helpers to glean these. If he is of a generous disposition, he allows some needy woman to follow after the reapers and benefit by their carelessness. It is the custom in some districts, after the main crop of grapes has been gathered, to remove the watchman and allow free access to the vineyards for gleaning the last grapes.
Gideon touched the local pride of the men of Ephraim when he declared that the glory of their conquest surpassed his, as the gleanings of their vineyards did the whole crop of Abiezer (Jud 8:2). Gleaned is used of a captured enemy in Jud 20:45.
Figurative: Israel, because of her wickedness, will be utterly destroyed, even to a thorough gleaning and destruction of those who first escape (Jer 6:9). The same picture of complete annihilation is given in Jer 49:9,10.
James A. Patch