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In Exod. ix. 31, 32. we find mention of various crops grown in Egypt. Isaiah xxviii. 25. speaks of several sorts of grain which were sowed by the Jews. We read Gen. xxvi. 12. how plentiful a harvest Isaac reaped, even a hundred fold what he had sown. In Egypt there is a sort of wheat which bears several ears upon one stalk, as described in Pharaoh's dream, Gen. xli. 5. and which produces very plentifully. See the drawing prefixed to this chapter. Some persons have tried to grow it in England, but our climate and soil do not suit it. We are told that three months after sowing the corn, the harvest usually began, and in four months it was at its height. The barley harvest was the first, 2 Sam. xxi. 9. it began about the time of the Passover, and the wheat harvest about the time of Pentecost. They used sickles to cut the corn much as we do now; see Joel iii. 13. Deut. xvi. 9. and several other texts. They bound up the corn in sheaves, Gen. xxxvii. 7. Deut. xxiv. 19, &c. and then piled it into shocks, Judg. xv. 5. As corn and other sorts of grain are the produce of the ground, and not made by the contrivance of man, there has been much less alteration in the methods of cultivation than in most other things.
In the second chapter of Ruth, we find a very beauti. ful and particular account of the way in which the harvest was managed in Judea. There was an overseer set over the reapers, vet. 5. and women were employed in the harvest-field as.well as men, ver. 8.
But I am afraid there are now very few masters and servants who speak to each other on these occasions as Boaz and his reapers did, ver. 4. though I am sure that if this were generally done with sincerity and truth, and not as a mere common way of speaking, there would be more comfort and happiness than there is in general.
We also find that the refreshment for the reapers in the field was only bread and parched corn, 'and their drink was water, with vinegar (or a weak sort of wine) mixed with it, which is very refreshing, as Dr. Clarké found when travelling in those hot countries. At the end of harvest there was great rejoicing and a feast, Psa. cxxvi. 6. Isa. ix. 3. xvi. 9, 10. These feasts were usual on other occasions, such as sheep-shearing, 1 Sam. xxv. 36. 2 Sam. xiji. 23. and from the account of Na. bal's preparations, it is plain that a great quantity of all sorts of provisions was got ready. The corn was carried home, sometimes on men's shoulders, sometimes on the backs of the cattle, and sometimes in a wagon or cart, Amos ii. 13. It was then piled up in stacks, Exod. xxii. 6. or in barns, Matt. vi. 26. xiii. 30. Luke xii. 18, 24.
The poor were allowed to glean, and the owners were forbidden to strip the fields quite bare ; some was to be left “ for the poor and the stranger,” Lev. xxii. 22. this also reminds us of Ruth. Farmers should not object to poor people's gleaning, if those who are allowed to do so are honest, and do not attempt to take any but what is fallen. The bad conduct of those who glean, sometimes has been the cause of forbidding it altogether.
After the corn is brought home, the next thing is to thresh out the grain. This was done in different ways; sometimes by horses, Isa. xxviii. 28. or by drawing the wheels of a cart over the corn; but more frequently by
oxen, which are mentioned Hosea x. 11. and by Moses, Deut. xxv, 4. where he particularly says that the mouth
of the ox that treadeth out the corn is not to be muz. zled to prevent him from eating. Travellers say
that this is observed at the present day, though the oxen are muzzled when employed in other things. The horses and oxen either trod out the grain with their feet, or dragged large stones and heavy pieces of wood, or the carriages already mentioned, backwards and forwards. This method was used by other ancient nations; it is mentioned by Homer, and is still practised in the east, as many travellers tell us, and some say that even now the oxen are not muzzled. The most general way probably was, by beating the corn with a flail or staff; see Isa. xxviii. 27. Thus Gideon, Judg. vi. 11. and Arau. nah, or Ornan, and his sons, 1 Chron. xxi. 20.
The floors, or places where the corn was threshed, are mentioned several times; that of Araunah was the place where Solomon's temple was afterwards built. At the floor of Atad, Joseph mourned for Jacob, Gen. 1, 10. These floors were made with some expense and trouble ; they were covered at the top, but open at the sides in the daytime, to let the wind blow away the chaff, and to this the destruction of the wicked is compared, Psa. i. 4. They were shut up at night to preserve the corn from being stolen, Ruth iii. 6. The grain was winnowed or separated from the chaff, during the daytime, by turning it over with a shovel, using a fan to blow away the chaff, Isa. xxx. 24. John the Baptist alludes to this when speaking of the separation of the righteous from the wicked, Matt. iii. 11, 12.
During the last fifty years several machines for threshing and other purposes have been invented, which differ from the simpler methods formerly used in Eng. land; but, till that time, the methods of cultivating the ground, and preparing the corn for the mill, were nearly the same as those mentioned in the Bible.
When the grain was threshed out it was stored in buildings called garners, or granaries, Psa. cxliv. 13. Joel i. 17. Matt. iii. 12. The rich man mentioned in Luke xii. 18. did so. Sometimes the quantity of grain thus laid up was very great; in 1 Chron. xxvii. 25. it is