Farming in old times

How did farming begin?

Israel may have actually been the Promised Land, but much that it was dry and infertile. Agriculture was difficult work – and also at the very least 90% of world in the old world lived by working the land.

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The story that the an initial human beings ideas at this: the Hebrew word for ‘man’ is adam; words for ‘earth’ is adamah.

According to the holy bible story, the Hebrews to be farmers (Cain), and also nomadic herders (Abel). It to be the conflict in between these two groups of people that motivated the story of Cain and also Abel. Watch Top 10 holy bible Murders.

Farming was also important in new Testament times. Jesus speak often around the land and also its assets in his teachings, reflecting he was acquainted with farming techniques. Matthew 13, for example, has four agriculture parables. You have the right to read about them at Famous Parables that Jesus.

Ancient agriculture calendars


Gezer-Calendar, reproduction that the original old artifact

The Gezer Calendar (see right) is a limestone tablet about 4inches (10cm) tall. It dates from the time of Solomon, in the mid-10th century BC. It describes the agricultural cycle month by month, giving the tasks to it is in performed at particular times of the year.

August and September room times the harvestOctober and also November because that plantingFebruary is specialized to cultivation of flax andMarch to the barley harvest, etc.

Note: the Gezer Calendar is deciphered in ~ the bottom that this page. It has the farmer’s work for each month that the year.

What to be the annual cycle?

The significant festivals in Israel were carefully linked v the farmer’s yearly cycle.

The Feasts the Passover and Unleavened Bread were commemorated at the beginning of the barley harvest.Fifty days later on came the Feast that Weeks, or Pentecost, once the wheat harvest began.The Feast the Tabernacles, or Ingathering, took location when the harvest was complete.

Sowing and ploughing began in around the middle of October at the moment of the beforehand rains. This was complied with by harrowing and also weeding. The later on rains were crucial for ripening the crops, and the merganser season typically ended roughly early April.

Harvesting started with the barley harvest, about the middle of April. The gathering of the grain harvest, the summer fruits, and also the grapes lasted until August and September, back the critical olives were ultimately picked in November.

Irrigating the land

After settlement in Canaan the Hebrews ended up being predominantly farmers.


Drawing Water, instance of a Shakeyehz: 1894 photograph

Canaan was surrounded by countries with successful farming approaches – Sumerians in the Tigris and Euphrates valleys, and also Egyptians in the Nile valley.

These countries had already mastered irrigation and also cultivation approaches – watch Ancient Technology.

The main plants were

graingrapes (for wine and dried fruit) andolives (for oil).

These three crops are mentioned over and also over again in the Bible.


Assyrian clay tablet telling the story that the Gilgamesh flood

Unsown land to be ploughed 3 or four times, suggesting biennial fallow, but the Hebrew sabbatical (seventh) year fallow was also important in cultivating soil fertility.

About 30lbs/13.5kg of seeds was supplied to a fifty percent acre of land (0.2 hectares). This is about half the quantity of seed usually used today.

Aerial shot reflecting traces of an ancient irrigation mechanism in Iran


Above: Two images of a traditional stone well used to collect and store water


Wall painting from one official’s tomb in Thebes, reflecting a plough preparing land because that sowing


Ploughing in the level of Jezreel, indigenous a 1925 photograph. Jezreel had productive farming land and was constantly battled over. Jezebel took several of this land indigenous Naboth (1 majesties 21:1-16) , and also she and her family members were ultimately murdered.See Jezebel’s Story

The valuable plough

Where walk ploughs come from? Who assumed of castle first?

The architecture of the plough arisen from the hoe. Hoes were offered by humans, yet a plough had the benefit of gift pulled through animals, i m sorry meant much less gruelling job-related for the farmer.

Except because that the plough-point, the plough was made of wood.

The at an early stage plough-points to be made of bronze, yet after the 12th century BC, iron plough-points began to change bronze. The plough had actually either one or two handles, so that pressure could be applied by a downward press of the plough-blade. It was pulled through a team of oxen or a single beast.

Unsown land was ploughed 3 or 4 times, arguing beinnial fallow, yet the Hebrew sabbatical (seventh) year fallow was also important in promoting soil fertility.

Sowing the seeds – how? when?

Sowing took location after the an initial rains had actually softened the ground. If the farmer tried to plough before the rain, the plough-blade might not dig into the ground.“I shall offer the rain for her land in the season, the beforehand rain and also the later rain, the you might gather in your grain and your wine and also your oil. Take it heed lest the rage of Yahweh it is in kindled versus you, and also He shut increase the heavens, so the there it is in no rain…. (Deuteronomy 11:13-17)

There were two approaches of sowing seed:

by broadcasting the seeds by handor making use of a seed-drill.

Two animals draw a till as the ploughman motivates them v a whip. Notice the young behind him, moving a satchel comprise seed for planting.

For the very first method, the farmer walked along the furrows in ~ a constant pace pulling handfuls the seed indigenous a bag at his side and throwing them end the soil.Several people might be connected for the second method: one to direct the plough and push the manage down right into the soil, one to direct the animals, and a third person to hold the seeds bag ~ above his shoulder and also drop the seeds right into the funnel i beg your pardon pointed under to the soil. These seed would loss behind the plough-point, so the they were spanned by the fall soil.

The pets were yoked in addition to either a solitary yoke or a dual yoke wih bars over and under the neck. An ox goad, a lengthy staff through a pond or metal tip, might be offered to control the regrettably animals.

Reaping the crop


Tomb of Sennedjem, Amarna: cut ripe grain through a blade

Harvesting was extreme work, and itinerant workers had to be hired particularly for it.

Harvesting the crops involved

cutting the was standing grain through scythes,tying the stalks right into sheaves, andtransporting the harvested plants to the threshing area.

Reaping was done v a sickle held in one hand if a bunch that stalks was seized v the other. The reapers to be led by a foreman, and behind them come other world who to be taking part in the harvest – the young men and also women.

For an example of this, see the story the Ruth and also Naomi.


 This painting (above) covered all of one wall surface in the tomb of Sennedjem, in ~ Amarna. It shows several phases in the process of farming, consisting of a prayer ritual readily available to the gods. The prophet Isaiah referred to the miscellaneous processes associated in growing grain, saying that it to be an occasion for wonder and praise that God. (28:23-29)

Who acquired the grain?

There to be others that were not directly affiliated with the harvest – the poor, that were allowed by religious law come glean any grains that the reapers to reduce or missed.

Religious legislation specified the a corner of the ar had to it is in left because that the bad – this part of the field can not be harvested by the landowner (Leviticus 19:9, 23:22).

The workers were given food – bread dipped in vinegar and parched grain.


Modern-day females harvesting through sickles

Threshing the grain

The separation the the grain from the stalks to be done ~ above the hard, flat rock that the threshing floor. This was normally located exterior the city or town, in a spot wherein the prevailing westerly wind could help with the winnowing.

A threshing floor surrounding by a low rock wall to contain the grain


Woman threshing grain, Israel, 19th century photograph

The threshing floor to be a wide, open an are also provided for windy functions.

For the many famous holy bible story including a threshing floor, check out the love story that Ruth at scriptures People: Ruth

Winnowing – nothing was wasted


Theban tomb painting, grain being winnowed

After winnowing was completed, the farmer was left with several products.

The first, that course, to be the serial itself.

But there was additionally coarse thick straw suitable for kindling, or together binding in brick making.

There was likewise a finer type of straw the was the main component of animal fodder. The good residue the dust/powder left on the threshing floor was offered as packing about the grain-filled storage jars.


Winnowing the grain, threshing through donkeys

Wine and oil production

The Old Testament legislation let human being eat grapes while they to be collecting them, but not placed them in their own baskets when in who else’s field (Deuteronomy 23:24).

The grapes were greatly used for wine, yet some to be dried also for later use. Isaiah 5:1-7 offers some idea of the tough work connected in preparing and cultivating vineyards.

As the fruit began to ripen indigenous July onwards, civilization used rock towers to keep watch for both human and animal intruders. Harvesting the grapes and also making wine were good social occasions.

A press was offered to to like the oil indigenous the olives after ~ they had been harvested – watch Ancient Technology. This press had a beam put either right into a niche in a wall surface or right into a large stone. Weights to be tied come the other finish of the beam. The olive baskets were put under the beam, inside a repertoire basin.

In later on times, throughout the roman occupation of Palestine, huge stone wheel were used to push oil.


Theban wall surface painting: grape-vines trained end a trellis, climate crushed in a vat.

The holy bible credits Noah v inventing wine, but Bible Art: Noah mirrors what happened then!

The land and its crops

The holy bible praises the fertility of the “promised land”, and in fact remains of old settlements show that the land could support large numbers the people.

Field Crops

The principal plants were grain, wine and olive oil (Dt. 7:13; Hos. 2:8).

A big slab that rock offered as an old mortar for crushing grain

Grain, i.e. Wheat, barley and also spelt, has actually been found in the damages of also the faster settlements, going ago to prehistoric times, while mortars were discovered at El-Wad cave. Many authorities agree that grain was first cultivated by people living in ~ the foot of mountain Carmel in the Mesolithic period (8th millenium BC) or perhaps even earlier.

Stone lined grain silo in ~ the ancient city the Megiddo; see inset for steps leading down into the warehouse area

Grain silos have been uncovered in the secret dwelling caves of prehistoric people of the Chalcolithic period (4th millenium) near Beersheba (Tel abu Matar). The silos, bell shaped and with a capacity of 40-55 litres were found both in the living chambers and also the connecting galleries.

From the later on Bronze and Iron Ages, silos were dug into the floors of residences for the warehouse of serial from one year come the next and larger granaries serving a communal or governmental purpose come to be a popular of excavations.

Of these, the best preserved and largest is the rock lined silo at Megiddo (see above), from the time of Jeroboam II (8th C. BC), or the granary excavated at Gezer.

Ploughing and also harvesting – how?

The earliest fields were operated with hoes.

In the stone Age these were made of a sharpened flint attached to a wood stick. Wooden implements, digging sticks, etc. Were supplied earlier yet the stays of this “wood age” have rotted and disappeared native the soil of Israel.


Bronze hoes native Kobuleti, circe 1300-1200 BC.

Presumably, rock implements were used together with wood indigenous the earliest times, as displayed by hand-axes supplied by males who lived in caves several millenia before the Mesolithic and also Neolithic ages.

But bronze changed stone, and also tools improved.

The biggest step front came v the development of the plough. Ploughs to be made — together they still space today in primitive communities — indigenous a item of wood, later on tipped with metal, drawn by one or two oxen.

Then through the 11th century BC (Late stole Age), iron had been introduced.

At first, manufacture and also repair of steel implements was monopolized by the Philistines. Lock guarded this technology jealously, because it gave them the edge on other groups.

Harvesting the crop

From the Neolithic come the so late Bronze Age, flint sickles were supplied in harvesting.

About 1100-1000 BCE iron began to be provided for all species of tools and weapons and also iron sickles displaced the flint ones. By the time of the separated monarchy, that is clear from the number of iron agricultural tools that have been found that the metal was readily accessible to everyone.

Even so, a plough of this form could only scratch the surface ar to a depth the 7-10 cms. It can not rotate the soil right into a furrow.


Flint sickles, flat grinding stone, rock ax v wooden handle


The straightforward grain plants were wheat and barley. The wheat was of a very poor range compared to modern-day strains. Rye appears to have actually been unknown. By the moment of the monarchy, various other seeds such together spelt and also flax were likewise sown.

Sowing to be done by scattering the seed by hand. The land was then ploughed again come cover it, branches gift dragged behind the till to smooth the ground over the seed, (Is. 28:24-5; project 39:10).

It can take main of laborious work because that the Israelite to sow a small field.


Vineyards came 2nd in prestige to fields, yet they necessary a an excellent deal more care and evoked a strong attachment in their owners — as witness the story that Jezebel and also Naboth’s vineyard.

A vineyard was a valuable possession. It called for much tough work — it had actually to be weeded and also fenced and a stone watch tower set up to safety it versus animals and marauders — and then years of waiting were needed before it came to fruition.

Vines were grown sometimes as bushes or small trees; in various other cases, fig trees could be used to support the vines. From this come the expression “every man under his very own vine and under his fig tree” (1 K. 4:25) together a price of perfect of society well-being.

The “Song that the Vineyard” (Isaiah 5) is a moving parable that the care demanded by a vineyard, with a vivid description of the farming operations involved. That is typical of Isaiah the he supplied such a parable to plead for justice for the little man and the peasant, “Woe to those who join … field to field” (5:8).

Nothing stays of these ancient vineyards.

The little heaps of stone which cover plenty of slopes in the Negeb were once taken for vestiges that vineyards or grapevine hills, yet this is now recognized to have actually been a mistake. Lock were offered to draw away rain water indigenous hill slopes to terraced “wadis” or cisterns. What carry out remain are the enormous rock grape-presses.

Grape Presses

When the grapes to be ripe, they were gathered and dumped, one or two baskets at a time, right into a tiny vat who floor sloped down in the direction of a tiny basin. The grapes to be trampled by foot come extract the juice.

Some that the grape presses discovered in the Judean lowlands (the Shephelah), may additionally have been supplied to extract olive oil through a similar method.


Reconstruction the a roman wine press

Wine presses reduced in solid rock abound in Judah and Samaria. Some are single square vats for treading out the grapes.

Others had actually three sections,

one wherein the grapes were trodden,one for refining andone because that storing the juice.

One that the earliest of this is the 7th century wine push at Gibeon through dipping basin and stone trough, left, and openings to 4 vats – watch Ancient Technology.

Fruit tree – main resource of sugar

Figs were a staple of the country’s diet, being one of the key sources of sugar.An alternate selection was the sycamore fig, grown largely in southern Palestine. Amos (7 :14) to be “a dresser the sycamore trees”, definition that that punctured the green fig while tho on the tree, to ensure the softening that the fruit, after i m sorry it quickly ripened and also became edible.

Fig syrup, favor that the carobs, was offered for sweetening, while dried and also pressed figs to be a practically preserve, simple to transport and acceptable together gifts. The wily mrs Abigail gave David 2 hundred cakes of pressed figs.

Figs were also said to have actually medicinal value: a poultice that figs was applied to Hezekiah’s boils, top top the advice the Isaiah.

Olive trees because that oil

These to be of an excellent importance for old Israel’s economy. Olive oil is used in

cookingfor lampsfor cosmetics purposesas a cleaning agent andin the treatment of sprains and wounds.

To extract the oil, the ripe olives to be put right into the vat and then either trodden or pounded through a rock or pestle. The oil created in this means was the finer ‘beaten oil’. The pulp left behind was then put under heavy weights come squeeze out the remainder of the oil.


Reconstruction that a huge stone olive press

Commercial oil presses had big vats which would certainly be filled through olives and heavily weighted. Presses choose this dating from the 10th to sixth centuries BC were discovered at Debir and Beth-Shemesh. Component of the payment Solomon made come Hiram, King that Tyre, because that cedar wood and also carpenters gave for the building of the holy place was in olive oil.

Other fruit trees to be the date palm, pistachio, apricot, mulberry and also pomegranate.

The bicycle of Seasons


Ancient Egyptian farmer’s calendar.

Because of the tremendous prominence of farming, the year to be divided and festivals time in relation to the farmer and his needs.

Even whereby festivals later obtained a religious and nationwide significance, they maintained traces of your original duty as the festive seasons of an agricultural community.

The biblical polite calendar provided the months numbers, counting native the first (fall/autumn) month come the twelfth. This device originated with the Israelites and replaced the Canaanite nomenclature.

The peasants, even if it is Canaanite or Hebrew, listed the month according to the tasks to be performed in the various periods the the farming year.

The Egyptian farmers’ calendar over does the very same thing, mirroring land preparation, ploughing, reaping, winnowing and grain storage.

The Gezer Calendar

You can see this calendar in the rock tablet native Gezer (top the page) the is assumed come be part of a 10th century BCE schoolboy’s exercise. It is not an main calendar.In 7 lines, the lists the months and also seasons as:

1: 2 months Olive Harvest (Sept/Oct or Oct/Nov), first the choose of the olives climate the pushing for oil.2: 2 months Sowing: The next two month (Nov./Dec or Dec/Jan) come, in Israel, ~ the an initial winter rains and, as a rule, ~ the ploughing, excellent at the end of October and early November. This was the grain-sowing season.3: 2 month Late Planting: January to March was the time for sowing millet, sesame, lentils, chick peas, melons, cucumbers and also so on.4: 1 month Hoeing: This was particularly the duration for cutting the flax. This to be done with a hoe together the plants have to be cut close come the soil so the the complete length the the stalk deserve to be used, once dried and also treated, to do thread and cloth.5: 1 month Grain Harvest: Barley is harvest in April in the south and in may in the north. Wheat and spelt come later in May/June. The serial was cut by a sickle, made before the 10th century BC indigenous flint chips set in a haft make of wood or bone. Later, a little curved wood blade to be affixed come a wooden handle. The grain was separated native the straw and also husks by dispersing the reduced plants ~ above a specially ready threshing floor exterior the town and then driving cow round and also round over it, pulling a threshing sledge which can be flat or on small rollers. The grain was then winnowed and also sieved, and also finally stored in huge jars. Rooms complete of such jars room not uncommon in excavations.6: 1 month Festivals: 7 weeks indigenous the beginning of the grain harvest (Dt. 16:9) or at around the time it to be completed, a pilgrimage was made come the sanctuary bearing an giving of “first fruits” because that the festival the Pentecost (Shavuoth). In later on usage, the Hebrew terms for “early harvest” or “first fruits” have gained the broader meaning that “choice” fruit or produce.7: 2 month Vine Tending: during the warm summer months of June/July or July/August, after the grain harvest, vines to be pruned and also the vineyards weeded and also cleaned in preparation for the grape harvest.8: 1 month Summer Fruits: The critical month of the agricultural calendar (August/Sept.) was specialized to harvesting summer fruit, especially grapes, figs and pomegranates.

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According come the oldest liturgical calendars, (Ex. 23:14-17; 34:18-23), the first month, Nisan, throughout which the feast the Unleavened Bread was celebrated, started in the spring, approximately March-April in contemporary terms.