The Harvesting of Fruit

Last time, we presented the Jewish Calendar. Now, let’s apply it to the harvest seasons. There is a lot of info in this post so it may take a couple of readings to digest this.

The Seasons

The seasons in Israel during biblical times were much the same as they are today–warm, dry summers and cool, wet winters. The summer season is from about May to October, and winter is from November to April. While Israel has Spring and autumn, the Scriptures refer mainly to the dominant seasons of Summer and Winter.

During Bible times, the seasons determined the agricultural activities of sowing and reaping, planting, and harvesting. Generally, planting was done in winter months, harvesting in summer months.

The crops gathered at the beginning of the harvest season were called “first fruits” (Exodus 23:16). Crops at the end of season were known as “summer fruit” (Amos 8:2). Two of Israel’s major festivals were divinely integrated with the time of harvest. Shavuot (Pentecost) celebrated the beginning of harvest, and Sukkoth (Tabernacle) the end (Exodus 23:16).

Seven “fruits” of Deuteronomy 8:8:

  1. Barley (April): Harvested by winnowing.
  2. Wheat (May): Harvested by threshing.
  3. Grapes (June—September): Harvested by hand.
  4. Pomegranates (August—September): Harvested by hand.
  5. Figs (August$mdash;September): Harvested by hand.
  6. Olives (September—November): Harvested by shaking.
  7. Honey (Summer—Fall): Harvested by hand.
  8. Let’s add another fruit to present:

  9. Almonds (August—September(: Harvested by shaking.

Harvesting/Farming Tools/Methods

In studying the scriptures, we should pay attention to the details of the verses plus understand certain words. Having a basic knowledge of the farming tools and methods help to explain some interesting details about the harvest. Let’s learn some meanings of the biblical farming tools.

Hand

Many fruits are harvested by hand like grapes and figs. Honey is also gathered by hand. This is a labor intensive method. In the case of barley and wheat, sickles are used.

Sickle

A small hand tool used for cutting stalks of grain. The grain was held in one hand and cut off near the ground by the sickle. The final judgment is sometime pictured in terms of reaping with a sickle (Joel 13:13; Revelation 14:14–19).

Pruning hook

A sickle-shaped knife use by the keepers of the vineyards to prune grapevines in the spring (Isaiah 18:5). This regular cutting was essential if the vines were to continue to produce good crops.

Winnowing

The process of separating the kernels of threshed grain, such as wheat or barley from the chaff with a current of air. The grain and its mixture of straw and hulks were thrown into the air. The kernels of wheat or barley would fall into a pile on the threshing floor. The chaff or refuse would be blown away by the wind (Psalms 1:4).

In the Bible, winnowing is often used to describe how the saved (wheat) and unsaved (chaff) will be separated (Matthew 13:30). The people who have accepted Jesus as their Messiah will be gathered to be with Him in his “barn“. The term “barn” is an odd way refer to the incredibly beautiful Holy City that will come to Earth (Revelation 21:2). The unsaved people who rejected Jesus will be burned in an unquenchable fire referred to as Eternal Death being separated from God for Eternity.

Let’s make this more personal. If we have accepted Jesus as the Messiah, we are saved. We are not saved by works. Our works are often referred to as “fruit.” Some of our fruit is good and some is bad. The bad fruit is referred to as chaff. God allows events to “thresh” us to separate our bad fruit from our good fruit. Thus over time, we hopefully produce more good fruit and less bad fruit.

Winnowing fork

A type of long-handled fork used to toss the threshed grain into the air. The wind blew the chaff away, allowing the heavier grain to fall into a separate pile (Isaiah 30:24; Jeremiah 15:7).

Nugget: John the Baptist’s description of the Messiah as one who would separate good from evil in the last days uses the illustration (Matthew 3:12; Luke 3:17).

Mills and millstones

Are tools used to grind grain. The most common household mills of Bible time were flat stones on which grain was placed and crushed as other stones rolled over the grain.

The sound of grinding was heard constantly in villages and towns. Its absence was a prophetic sign of famine and death (Jeremiah 25:10; Revelation 18:22). The loss of a millstone could mean disaster for a family (Deuteronomy 24:6).

Threshing

The process of removing the kernel of grain from its stalk. The basic method by beating the grain was used by farmers with a small amount of grain to thresh. These farmers sometimes would walk their animals over the grain to thresh it.

Threshing is mentioned frequently as a symbol for destruction (2 Kings 13:7; Amos 1:3) or divine judgment (Isaiah 28:27–28).

Flail

A flail is a tool for threshing a moderate amount of wheat from one basket full to a few filled baskets. A flail s a rod with three thongs attached at one end. For threshing wheat, a rod is attached to each of the three short thong. The tool is used to beat the wheat and break open the kernels.

A flail is also a weapon of war for close up hand-to-hand fighting. In this case, spiked rods are attached to the thongs. Or, sharp pieces of metal are tied to the ends of longer thongs which is used as a whip.

It is believed that Jesus was flogged with a flail (Matthew 27:26; Mark 15:15; John 19:1). He received 39 stripes. The Torah did not permit more than 40 lashes or stripes (Deuteronomy 25:3). Since the flail had three spiked thongs, each strike counted as three stripes. Thirteen strikes counted as 39 stripes. It is by these stripes, we are healed (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24)!

The Latin word for flail is “tribulim”. It is from this word that we get the word “tribulation”. The flail is also one of two symbols of the Pharaohs of Egypt. The other symbol is the crook.

Threshing sledge

A tool that was used by spreading the stalks of grain several inches deep on a smooth flat area that was on a high piece of ground open to the wind. Specially shod animals walked around on the stalks until the grain separated from the hulks.

Nugget: God promised to make His people into a “new threshing sledge” with sharp teeth and use them to bring judgment on those who oppress the godly (Isaiah 41:15).

Threshing floor

A flat surface prepared for the threshing of grain. The threshing floor was usually located at the edge of a village, frequently on a large flat rock outcropping. When no flat rock was available, the threshing floor would be prepared by leveling the ground and pounding the earth to create a hard circular surface.

Harrow

A tool bar, dragged by oxen, which was used to level plowed ground for planting. Harrow appear in the KJV in 2 Samuel 12:31. The tool is mentioned in the translations NRSV and REB in Job 39:10 as well as NIV and NASB in Isaiah 28:24.

Press

A device used to crush fruits in order to make oil or juice. Wine presses were deep pits dug out of the rock. The grapes were put in and trampled by the workers with their bare feet (Amos 9:13). Some were placed in large vats (vessels) and trampled with bare feet.

Nugget: The New Testament name Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36; Mark 14:32) is a compound word meaning “oil press.” Gethsemane was the place where the olives from the groves on the Mount of Olives were processed.

Shaking

Olive trees are beaten and shaken. The fruit of the olive trees were harvested by beating the boughs of the olive trees with a stick (Deuteronomy 24:20), or by shaking the trees (Isaiah 17:6).

The olive tree has always been one of the most important trees in Israel’s culture and economy. It provided food and the oil extracted was used for cooking, medicinal purposes, light, and spiritual purposes.

Shaking needed to be done to help the stubborn fruit to fall or be released from the tree. This represents what is going on today. This world is being shaken because we are too stubborn to see what is truly happening around us. The fruit that falls off the tree will be “gathered up” in the harvest. The rest will be left to rot or be eaten by the birds.

The Rainy Seasons

From Perry Stone pg 73, Breaking the code of the Feast:

These seven feasts are notably featured on GOD’s calendar and were fixed in accordance with cycles already in nature – rain cycles and harvest cycles.

In the spring and fall comes the rain – the former and the latter rains. Hence, the harvest are fixed the rainy season.

Thus, God appointed His time among these the important cycles to demonstrate that He alone is responsible for rain and harvest. He is our Provider.

The False Fruit (Figs)

Figs are actually a false fruit. A true fruit comes from a single flower. In the case of figs, a bulb forms. Inside the bulb is a collection of flowers. The flowers are hidden from view. The bulb has a hole that allows a fig wasp to enter. It is the movement of the wasp in the bulb that pollenates the flowers. Also, the wasp lays larvae in the bulb. Over time, the “fruit” of the flowers grow together to form a single mass.

Scriptures referring to withered figs and fig trees:

  1. In Matthew 21:18–19 and Mark 11:12–14,20, Jesus curses a fig tree for not bearing fruit. The Mark account states that figs were not in season. But, the tree should at least had bulbs with the flowers inside.
  2. In Isaiah 34:4, the LORD uses shriveled figs as part of description of what will happen to the nations of the world.
  3. In Jeremiah 5:17, the LORD uses a fig tree to describe what He will do the Israelites who keep turning away from Him.
  4. In Luke 13:6–9, Jesus tells a parable about a man who planted a fig tree in a vineyard.
  5. In Luke 19:1–6, tells about Zacchaeus who climbed a sycamore [fig] tree (ficus sycomorus) to see over the crowd. Jesus saw him and called him out of the fig tree. Zacchaeus came down in a hurry!

The Bible does not say which kind of fruit that Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. But we, my mom and I, speculate that the fruit could had been a fig. The reasoning is that figs are “false fruits“. Also, figs are cursed in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. The shriveled fig is a symbol to describe the destruction to come.

Nugget: In Jewish tradition, the pomegranate is thought to be the “forbidden” fruit.

The “Holy” Fruits

Almonds

It was very interesting researching almonds. Almonds are a fruit, not a nut. They are kin to peaches. The almond on a tree has a husk. The hard nut-like almonds we see in stores are actually the pit of the almond fruit. Inside this pit is the soft tasty part that we eat. When almonds are ripe to pick, the husk splits exposing the pit. This split resembles an eye. This is what the “almond shaped” eyes of Middle-Eastern and Asian people are compared to. When the husk splits, a thick, clear sap drains out. This makes the “almond eyes” look like they are weeping.

Jeremiah 1:11–12 (NIV)
[11] The word of the LORD came to me: “What do you see, Jeremiah?”
“I see the branch of an almond tree,” I replied.
12] The LORD said to me, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.”

The Hebrew word for almond and almond tree is shaqed (שָׁקֵדšāqēḏ) [h8247]. The Hebrew word for watching or hasten (KJV) is shoqed (שָׁקַדšāqaḏ) [h8245]. Notice that both words use the same Hebrew letters שקד. Is this because when the husk splits, the almond looks like it is watching anyone who is passing by?

The almond flower is symbolized on the lampstand in the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:31–39; 37:17–24). The lampstand represents the LORD. See “The Lampstand” section in the post And the People Took Their Dough.

Ever since I was a boy, I have wondered why Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit first. Why didn’t they eat from the Tree of Life first? Preparing for this blog entry got me thinking. With all that is said about the almonds, almond branches, and almond blossoms in the Bible, I started wondering, “What if the Tree of Life was an almond tree?”

It takes a little work to eat an almond. At least since the fall of Man, it isn’t easy. First, you need to remove the husk. Then you have to crack open the almond shell to get to good part inside. Did Adam and Eve know that the almond pit was tasty inside? Figs (see above in “The False Fruit” section) on the other hand were ready to eat. No work involved.

Nugget: From Wikipedia “Almond“: According to tradition, the rod of Aaron bore sweet almonds on one side and bitter on the other; if the Israelites followed the Lord, the sweet almonds would be ripe and edible, but if they were to forsake the path of the Lord, the bitter almonds would predominate.

Pomegranates

Exodus 28:33–34 (NIV)
33Make pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet yarn around the hem of the robe, with gold bells between them. 34The gold bells and the pomegranates are to alternate around the hem of the robe.

The choice of the Tree of Knowledge (figs?) over the Tree of Life (almonds?) brought sin into this world through the act of disobedience. However, there is hope through the blood of the Messiah.

The pomegranate is an interesting fruit. It is big and red when ripe. When one is cut open, lots of tiny seed sacs are exposed. The seed sacs can vary in color from white to pink to red to scarlet. It seems to me that the seed sacs resemble drops of blood.

It is said that the pomegranates on the hem of the ephod kept the bells from hitting each other producing a discordant sound. The choice of the pomegranate shape makes me think of the blood that was shed for us. The golden bells represent purity. The blood of the Messiah purifies us.

In Judea, the back of a shekel was embossed with a picture of three pomegranates on a single branch. It would make sense that blood would be associated with this coin even though the symbolism may not have been realized. Jesus the Messiah paid the ultimate price for our sin with His own blood. Plus, it adds a whole new meaning to the 30 shekels of silver that was paid to Judas to betray Jesus thus later being called blood money (Matthew 27:6).

Next time, we will write about the Feast of Firstfruits. We will also describe more fruits.

Until then,
שָׁלוֹם (Shalom!)