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SHEAF (עֹ֫מֶר, H6684, a heap, also used as a unit of measurement of grain; אָלַם, H519, bound or tied). A small quantity of grain cut and gathered. The principal cereals mentioned in the Bible are wheat and barley: the former was grown on the lowland areas of Pal. and in the Hauran region E of the Jordan, while the latter was the crop of the uplands. Both were harvested by the method which was standard in grain growing regions for centuries afterward, and can still be observed in the Middle E—the reaper with his sickle goes ahead, and cuts the grain; then it is gathered into bundles by workers (often women) who follow, and the bundles are tied, by using a few stalks, into sheaves. After the gatherers come the gleaners, who collect any loose stalks dropped in the reaping. The best Bible description of the process occurs in the Book of Ruth.

Such sheaves were used as a form of offering in the levitical system of sacrifices (cf. Lev 23:10-12). Probably they were sheaves of barley, the first crop to be harvested each year in Pal. They represented the thank offering for the first fruits of the harvest.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

Figurative: "Being hungry they carry the sheaves" is a picture of torment similar to that of the hungry horse urged to go by the bundle of hay tied before him (Job 24:10). The joyful sight of the sheaves of an abundant harvest was used by the Psalmist to typify the joy of the returning captives (Ps 126:6).

James A. Patch