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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature

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The word thus rendered (Kussemeth) in; , is translated fitches in; but its true meaning still remains uncertain. It was one of the cultivated grains both of Egypt and of Syria, and one of those employed as an article of diet. It was also sown along with wheat, or, at least, its crop was in the same state of forwardness; for we learn from , that in the seventh plague the hail-storm smote the barley which was in the ear, and the flax which was bolled; but that the wheat and the kussemethwere not smitten, for they were not grown up. That kussemethwas cultivated in Palestine we learn from , where it is mentioned along with ketzah and cumin, wheat and barley; and sown, according to some translators, 'on the extreme border of the fields,' as a kind of fence for other kinds of corn. This is quite an Oriental practice, and may be seen in the case of flax and other grains in India, at the present day. The rye is a grain of cold climates, and is not cultivated even in the south of Europe. Korte declares that no rye grows in Egypt; and Shaw states that rye is little known in Barbary and Egypt. That the kussemeth was employed for making bread by the Hebrews we know from , where the prophet is directed to take wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentiles, and millet, and kussemeth, and put them in a vessel, and make bread thereof.'

Though it is very unlikely that kussemethcan mean rye, it is not easy to say what cultivated grain it denotes. The principal kinds of grain, it is to be observed, are mentioned in the same passages with the kussemeth. Celsius has, as usual, with great labor and learning, collected together the different translations which have been given of this difficult word. In the Arabic translation of , it is rendered julban, a species of pulse. By other Arabian writers it is considered to mean peas, and also beans. Many translate it vetches, as in the Authorized Version of . The majority, however, instead of a legume, consider kussemethto indicate one of the cereal grains, as the rye or the oat, neither of which is it likely to have been. Several eminent authors consider that 'spelt' is the grain referred to, and it seems very probable that this is the true meaning. There are two kinds of spelt, both of which were cultivated and esteemed as food in Egypt and Syria. That it was highly esteemed by the ancients is evident from Dioscorides describing it as more nourishing than barley, and grateful in taste. The goodness of this grain is also implied from the name of semen having been especially applied to it.

Triticum Spelta, or Spelt, is in many respects so closely allied to the common wheats as to have been thought by some old authors to have been the original stock of the cultivated kinds; but for this there is no foundation, as the kind cultivated for ages in Europe does not differ from specimens collected in a wild state. These were found by a French botanist, Michaux, in Persia, on a mountain four days' journey to the north of Hamadan. It is cultivated in many parts of Germany, in Switzerland, in the south of France, and in Italy. It is commonly sown in spring, and collected in July and August. Though some circumstances seem to point to this species as the kussemeth of Scripture, the subject is still susceptible of further investigation, and can only be finally determined by first ascertaining the modern agriculture of eastern countries, and comparing it with the ancient accounts of the agriculture of Syria and Egypt.





Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Rye'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature". https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​kbe/​r/rye.html.
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