The festive occasion for gathering the crops, usually marked by important religious festivals.
Among the more important crops grown were wheat, grapes, and olives. Other crops included barley, flax, and various vegetables and fruits. Crops that had been planted were harvested at various times. Olives were harvested between mid-September to mid-November by beating the trees with long sticks (Deuteronomy 24:20;
Isaiah 17:6). Flax was gathered in the spring by cutting it off near the ground and then laying the stalks out to dry (Joshua 2:6). Barley was harvested from April to May; wheat from May to June; and summer fruits from August to September. The average harvesting period was set at a period of seven weeks (Leviticus 23:15;
All members of the family were expected to work during harvest (Proverbs 10:5;
Proverbs 20:4). Significant events were connected with harvest times (Exodus 34:18-20;
1 Samuel 16:13). Harvest time became the occasion for joyful festivals (Exodus 34:22;
Isaiah 9:3). See Festivals.
Several laws governed the harvest. Part of the crop was not harvested (Leviticus 19:9) out of concern for the poor. The firstfruits of the harvest were presented as an offering to God (Leviticus 23:10).
The Old Testament provides several figurative uses of harvest. A destroyed harvest represented affliction (Job 5:5;
Isaiah 16:9). The “time of harvest” sometimes represented the day of destruction (Jeremiah 51:33;
Joel 3:13). “The harvest is past” meant the appointed time was gone (Jeremiah 8:20).
Jesus spoke often of the harvest in connection with the harvesting of souls (Matthew 9:37;
John 4:35). In the parable of the tares, Jesus related harvest to the end of the world (Matthew 13:30-39). The rhythm of harvest time (sowing and reaping) provided an illustration of a spiritual truth (Galatians 6:7-8).