har'-vest (qatsir; therismos): To many of us, harvest time is of little concern, because in our complex life we are far removed from the actual production of our food supplies, but for the Hebrew people, as for those in any agricultural district today, the harvest was a most important season (Gen 8:22; 45:6). Events were reckoned from harvests (Gen 30:14; Josh 3:15; Jdg 15:1; Ruth 1:22; 2:23; 1 Sam 6:13; 2 Sam 21:9; 23:13). The three principal feasts of the Jews corresponded to the three harvest seasons (Ex 23:16; 34:21,22); (1) the feast of the Passover in April at the time of the barley harvest (compare Ruth 1:22); (2) the feast of Pentecost (7 weeks later) at the wheat harvest (Ex 34:22), and (3) the feast of Tabernacles at the end of the year (October) during the fruit harvest. The seasons have not changed since that time. Between the reaping of the barley in April and the wheat in June, most of the other cereals are reaped. The grapes begin to ripen in August, but the gathering in for making wine and molasses (dibs), and the storing of the dried figs and raisins, is at the end of September. Between the barley harvest in April and the wheat harvest, only a few showers fall, which are welcomed because they increase the yield of wheat (compare Am 4:7). Samuel made use of the unusual occurrence of rain during the wheat harvest to strike fear into the hearts of the people (1 Sam 12:17). Such an unusual storm of excessive violence visited Syria in 1912, and did much damage to the harvests, bringing fear to the superstitious farmers, who thought some greater disaster awaited them. From the wheat harvest until the fruit harvest no rain falls (2 Sam 21:10; Jer 5:24; compare Prov 26:1). The harvesters long for cool weather during the reaping season (compare Prov 25:13).
Many definite laws were instituted regarding the harvest. Gleaning was forbidden (Lev 19:9; 23:22; Dt 24:19) (see GLEANING). The first-fruits were required to be presented to Yahweh (Lev 23:10). In Syria the Christians still celebrate 'id er-rubb ("feast of the Lord"), at which time the owners of the vineyards bring their first bunches of grapes to the church. The children of Israel were enjoined to reap no harvest for which they had not labored (Lev 25:5). In Proverbs the harvesting of ants is mentioned as a lesson for the sluggard (Prov 6:8; 10:5; 20:4).
Figurative: A destroyed harvest typified devastation or affliction (Job 5:5; Isa 16:9; 17:11; Jer 5:17; 50:16). The "time of harvest," in the Old Testament frequently meant the day of destruction (Jer 51:33; Hos 6:11; Joel 3:13). "Joy in harvest" typified great joy (Isa 9:3); "harvest of the Nile," an abundant harvest (Isa 23:3). "The harvest is past" meant that the appointed time was gone (Jer 8:20). Yahweh chose the most promising time to cut off the wicked, namely, "when there is a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest" (Isa 18:4,5). This occurrence of hot misty days just before the ripening of the grapes is still common. They are welcome because they are supposed to hasten the harvest. The Syrian farmers in some districts call it et-tabbakh el'ainib wa tin ("the fireplace of the grapes and figs").
In the Gospels, Jesus frequently refers to the harvest of souls (Mt 9:37,38 bis; 13:30 bis,39; Mk 4:29; Jn 4:35 bis). In explaining the parable of the Tares he said, "The harvest is the end of the world" (Mt 13:39; compare Rev 14:15).
See also AGRICULTURE.
James A. Patch