HARVEST. (har-vĕst, Heb. qātsîr, Gr. therismos). The economy of the Israelites was strictly agricultural. Harvest time was a very significant event for them. They had three each year. The barley reaping (Ruth.1.22) came in April-May; the wheat harvest (Gen.30.14) was about six weeks later, in June-July; and the ingathering of the fruits of tree or vine took place in September-October.
Grain crops were reaped with sickles, and the cut stalks were laid in bunches that were carried to the threshing floor. Some laws governed these simple harvest operations. The corners of the fields were not to be reaped, and the scatterings of the cut grain were not to be picked up. The part of the crop thus left was for the poor people to use (Lev.23.22). The owner was required each year to present the firstfruits of the crop as an offering to God before he could take any of it for his own use (Lev.23.10, Lev.23.14). Stalks of grain that grew up without being sown were not to be harvested (Lev.25.5). With a new orchard or vineyard the fruit was not to be gathered for three years, and the fourth year’s crop had to be given entirely to the Lord. So the owner had to wait until the fifth year to get any fruit for himself (Lev.19.23-Lev.19.25).
The Lord fitted the three main religious feasts that he prescribed for the people into this agricultural economy. The Passover came in the season of the barley harvest (Exod.23.16). Seven weeks later at time of the wheat harvest the Feast of Pentecost occurred (Exod.34.22). The Feast of Tabernacles was observed in the seventh month, which was the period of the fruit harvest (Exod.34.22).
In the NT, most of the time the term “harvest” is used figuratively for the gathering in of the redeemed saints at the end of the age (Matt.13.39).
Instructions were given clearly, requiring reapers to leave crops in areas of the field so that the poor and sojourners might follow them (Lev 19:9; Ruth 2:15, 16). Harvest time was characterized by intense heat, when a mistcloud brought welcome relief (Prov 25:13; Isa 18:4). The joy in harvest was a highlight of the year (Isa 9:3).
Several moral teachings are related to sowing and reaping. The law of reaping what one sows, whether righteousness (Hos 10:12) or wickedness (Prov 22:8) is given repeatedly. Galatians 6:7 echoes this law. Harvest is a picture of the blessing upon the returning captivity of Judah (Hos 6:11). More frequently, the wielding of the sickle in harvest portrays the judgment upon the nations of the world (Joel 3:13). Revelation 14:15 repeats this image of judgment as the “...harvest of the earth is fully ripe.”
Mark 4:29 compares the harvest to the kingdom of God, which grows by stages. The separation of the weeds and wheat will occur at the “harvest” of the kingdom (Matt 13:30). Christ used the harvest to represent a world of souls which is ready to be reached with the Gospel. The fields are ready to be harvested “but the laborers are few” (Matt 9:37).
G. E. Wright, Biblical Archaeology (1962), 183-187; G. L. Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (1964), 230, 231.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
(1) the feast of the Passover in April at the time of the barley harvest (compare Ru 1:22);
(2) the feast of Pentecost (7 weeks later) at the wheat harvest (Ex 34:22), and
(3) the feast of Tabernacles at the end of the year (October) during the fruit harvest.
The seasons have not changed since that time. Between the reaping of the barley in April and the wheat in June, most of the other cereals are reaped. The grapes begin to ripen in August, but the gathering in for making wine and molasses (dibs), and the storing of the dried figs and raisins, is at the end of September. Between the barley harvest in April and the wheat harvest, only a few showers fall, which are welcomed because they increase the yield of wheat (compare Am 4:7). Samuel made use of the unusual occurrence of rain during the wheat harvest to strike fear into the hearts of the people (1Sa 12:17). Such an unusual storm of excessive violence visited Syria in 1912, and did much damage to the harvests, bringing fear to the superstitious farmers, who thought some greater disaster awaited them. From the wheat harvest until the fruit harvest no rain falls (2Sa 21:10; Jer 5:24; compare Pr 26:1). The harvesters long for cool weather during the reaping season (compare Pr 25:13).
Many definite laws were instituted regarding the harvest. Gleaning was forbidden (Le 19:9; 23:22; De 24:19) (see Gleaning). The first-fruits were required to be presented to Yahweh (Le 23:10). In Syria the Christians still celebrate ’id er-rubb ("feast of the Lord"), at which time the owners of the vineyards bring their first bunches of grapes to the church. The children of Israel were enjoined to reap no harvest for which they had not labored (Le 25:5). In Proverbs the harvesting of ants is mentioned as a lesson for the sluggard (Pr 6:8; 10:5; 20:4).
In the Gospels, Jesus frequently refers to the harvest of souls (Mt 9:37,38 bis; Mt13:30,39; Mr 4:29; Joh 4:35). In explaining the parable of the Tares he said, "The harvest is the end of the world" (Mt 13:39; compare Re 14:15).
See also AGRICULTURE.
James A. Patch