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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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WHEAT.—Of all the cereals, wheat is at once the most valuable and the most widely distributed. It has been cultivated from very early times, as is proved by the finding of wheat grains in some of the oldest Egyptian tombs. In what land it had its-origin is unknown, but de Candolle assigns the honour to Mesopotamia. In Palestine its cultivation dates back to a time prior to the Hebrew conquest (Deuteronomy 8:8). How long before cannot be said, but it was probably a considerable time. In the OT the most common name for it is חִמָּה, which the LXX Septuagint renders in most instances by πυρός (Genesis 30:14, Exodus 9:32 etc.) but sometimes by σῖτος (Judges 6:11, Ezekiel 27:17), and the Vulgate by triticum and, in a few cases, frumentum. On the other hand, σῖτος is used also to render בָּר (Jeremiah 23:28, Joel 2:24), רָּגָן (Numbers 18:12, Jeremiah 31:12), עבוּר (Joshua 5:11), and שֶׁבֶר (Genesis 42:2-3). In the NT this is the term invariably employed (Matthew 3:12, Luke 16:7 etc.), and in Authorized and Revised Versions it is nearly always translated ‘wheat.’ Like the Heb. רָּגָן, however, σῖτος is really a general term for the cereals. But we can readily understand how, just as in Scotland the word ‘corn’ has become practically the equivalent of oats, so in Palestine σῖτος should come to mean wheat. For it was the most common and the most valued of the staple products of the country, and was, as it still is, its principal breadstuff. Several varieties of wheat are grown in Palestine. Tristram (Nat. Hist. of Bible, 492) mentions specially three of them: Triticum compositum, T. spelta (which is the most common of all), and T. hybernum.

Wheat is sown about November, shortly after the first rains have softened the soil and rendered it fit for ploughing. It is ripe in May or June, but the time of harvest varies for the different districts, being earliest in the low-lying Jordan Valley, and latest in the Lebanons. The processes of reaping, threshing, winnowing, and sifting have already been described (see Agriculture). The return yielded by wheat varies greatly. Thirty-fold is, according to Tristram, reckoned a good return (op. cit. 489). But that applies to Palestine as it is now. The sixty-fold or hundred-fold of the parable (Matthew 13:8 ||) might well have been obtained in the days of its former prosperity. Wheat was an article of export from very early days (Ezekiel 27:17, cf. Acts 12:20), and even to this day considerable quantities are exported by way of Haifa and Beirut. It is obtained mainly from the Haurân.

Hugh Duncan.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Wheat'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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