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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Barley

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(שְׂעֹרָה, seorah', from its bristling beard; the plur. שְׂעֹרַים, seorim', designates the grains; Gr. κριθή ), a grain mentioned in Scripture as cultivated and used in Egypt (Exodus 9:31), and in Palestine (Leviticus 27:16; Numbers 5:15; Deuteronomy 8:8; 2 Chronicles 2:10; Ruth 2:17; 2 Samuel 14:30; Isaiah 28:25; Jeremiah 41:8 : Joel 1:11; etc.). Barley was given to cattle, especially horses (1 Kings 4:28), and was, indeed, the only corn grain given to them, as oats and rye were unknown to the Hebrews, and are not now grown in Palestine, although Volney affirms (2. 117) that small quantities are raised in some parts of Syria as food for horses (comp. Homer, 11. v. 196). Hence barley is mentioned in the Mishna (Pesach, fol. 3) as the food of horses and asses. This is still the chief use of barley in Western Asia. Bread made of barley was, however, used by the poorer classes (Judges 7:13; 2 Kings 4:42; John 6:9; John 6:13; comp. Ezekiel 4:9). In Palestine barley was for the most part sown at the time of the autumnal rains, October-November (Lightfoot, Hor. Hebr. ad Matthew 12:1), and again in early spring, or rather as soon as the depth of winter had passed (Mishna, Berachoth, p. 18). This later sowing has not hitherto been much noticed by writers on this part of Biblical illustration, but is confirmed by various travelers who observed the sowing of barley at this time of the year. Russell says that it continues to be sown to the end of February (Nat. Hist. Aleppo, 1:74; see his meaning evolved in Kitto's Phys. Hist. of Palestine, p. 214; comp. p. 229).

The barley of the first crop was ready by the time of the Passover, in the month Abib, March-April (Ruth 1:22; 2 Samuel 21:9; Judith 8:2); and if not ripe at the expiration of a (Hebrew) year from the last celebration, the year was intercalated (Lightfoot, ut supra) to preserve that connection between the feast and the barley-harvest which the law required (Exodus 23:15-16; Deuteronomy 16:16). Accordingly, travelers concur in showing that the barley harvest in Palestine is in March and April advancing into May in the northern and mountainous parts of the land; but April is the month in which the barley harvest is chiefly gathered in, although it begins earlier in some parts and later in others (Pict. Palestine, p. 214, 229, 239). At Jerusalem, Niebuhr found barley ripe at the end of March, when the later (autumnal) crop had only been lately sown (Beschreib. von Arabien, p. 160). It was earlier than wheat (Exodus 9:31), and less prized (Thomson, Land and Book, 2:166), although reckoned among the valuable products of the promised land in Deuteronomy 8:8. We read of barley- meal in Numbers 5:15, of barley-bread in Judges 7:13, and barley- cakes in Ezekiel 4:12. It was measured by the ephah and homer. The jealousy-offering (Numbers 5:15) was to be barley-meal, though the common mincha was of fine wheat-flour (Leviticus 2:1), the meaner grain being appointed to denote the vile condition of the person on whose behalf it was offered. The purchase-money of the adulteress in Hosea 3:2, is generally believed to be a mean price. (See CEREALS).

The passage in Isaiah 32:20, has been supposed by many to refer to rice, as a mode of culture by submersion of the land after sowing, similar to that of rice, is indicated. The celebrated passage, "Cast thy bread upon the waters," etc. (Ecclesiastes 11:1), has been by some supposed to refer also to such a mode of culture. But it is precarious to build so important a conclusion as that rice had been so early introduced into the Levant upon such slight indications; and it now appears that barley is in some parts subjected to the same submersion after sowing as rice, as was particularly noticed by Major Skinner (i. 320) in the vicinity of Damascus. In Exodus 9:31, we are told that the plague of hail, some time before the Passover, destroyed the barley, which was then in the green ear; but not the wheat or the rye, which were only in the blade. This is minutely corroborated by the fact that the barley sown after the inundation is reaped, some after ninety days, some in the fourth month (Wilkinson's Thebes, p. 395), and that it there ripens a month earlier than the wheat (Sonnini, p. 395). (See AGRICULTURE).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Barley'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/b/barley.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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