The gathering of crops; one of the things that will never cease “all the days the earth continues.” (Ge 8:22) Harvesttime is accompanied by great rejoicing, although much hard work is, of course, required to gather the crops. (Ps 126:5, 6; Isa 9:3; 16:9, 10) Certain Biblical happenings were noted as occurring in relation to the time of harvest.—Ge 30:14; Jos 3:15; Jg 15:1; Ru 1:22; 2:23; 1Sa 6:13; 2Sa 21:9; 23:13.
Sabbaths and Jubilee. God’s law to Israel outlined certain requirements and provisions regarding the harvest. Important as it was, the Israelites were not relieved of their obligation to observe the Sabbath, the Law making no provision for harvesting on that day in the event of an emergency. (Ex 34:21; compare Ne 13:15.) Since no sowing was to be done during the Sabbath year, as well as the Jubilee year, there would, of course, be no crops to gather in, with the exception of the growth from spilled kernels of the former harvest. But even this was not to be harvested by the owner, although he, his slaves and his hired laborers, settlers and alien residents, as well as domestic animals and wild beasts could eat of the land’s produce.—Ex 23:10, 11; Le 25:3-7, 11, 12, 20-22.
Firstfruits, and Care for Poor. The firstfruits of each harvest were to be presented to Jehovah. (Le 23:10, 11; De 26:1-4) The fruit of a tree was not to be gathered for personal use until its fifth year.—Le 19:23-25.
If hungry, an Israelite could enter the field or vineyard of another and eat of its produce to satisfaction, but he could not carry anything away in a container or use a sickle to cut the grain of his fellowman.—De 23:24, 25; compare Mt 12:1; Lu 6:1; see GLEANING.
At harvesttime, the Israelites were not to reap the edges of their fields completely nor to pick up the gleanings, as such leftovers of their grainfields and vineyards were designated for the afflicted one and the alien resident.—Le 19:9, 10; 23:22; De 24:19.
Weather. In the Promised Land in ancient times, as today, it rarely rained during harvesttime; in fact, when Jehovah let it rain and thunder in answer to Samuel’s prayer, this proved to the Israelites that they had committed a great evil in asking for a human king. (1Sa 12:17-19; see also Pr 26:1.) But the Jordan River would overflow its banks because of the late rains in the early spring and the melting snows from the Lebanon Mountains.—Jos 3:15; 5:10, 11.
The weather is hot at harvesttime, making a cloud of dew most refreshing. (Isa 18:4) A drink chilled with snow from the mountains is welcome, and this, rather than a snowfall, is evidently what is referred to by the parallelism at Proverbs 25:13, since snow during harvesttime would be a calamity.
Flax, Barley, Wheat. In the vicinity of Jericho flax began to be harvested in the 12th month, Adar (February-March), or early in Nisan (March-April), the first month of the Hebrews’ sacred year. The stalks of flax were pulled or hoed up and then laid out to dry. There were stalks of flax on Rahab’s roof when she hid the spies (Jos 2:6) in the first days of Nisan.—Jos 2:16, 22, 23; 3:1, 2; 4:19.
Next came the barley harvest in the month of Nisan (March-April). The Israelites entered the Promised Land at the time of the barley harvest and began eating of the land’s produce on Nisan 15. (Jos 3:15; 5:10, 11) While the barley harvest continued in the hills of Palestine, in the plains the wheat harvest followed (Ru 1:22; 2:23; 2Sa 21:9), commencing during the month of Ziv, or Iyyar (April-May).
Then, during the month of Sivan (May-June), the wheat harvest was under way in the uplands. Grasping the stalks of grain with one hand, the reapers cut them off with a sickle.—Compare De 23:25; Isa 17:5.
Grapes, Dates, Figs, Olives. The month of Tammuz (June-July) saw the first ripe grapes, with the harvest of grapes beginning in the month of Ab (July-August), at which time the olives were also ripe in the lowlands. During the month of Elul (August-September) the general vintage harvest was under way, the dates were ripe, pomegranates were ripening, and the summer figs were gathered. (Nu 13:23) The harvest had generally been completed by the month of Ethanim, or Tishri (September-October), although olives might still be gathered in northern Galilee in the month of Bul, or Heshvan (Marheshvan) (October-November). Olives were harvested by beating the tree branches with a stick.—De 24:20; see CALENDAR.
Festivals. Israel’s three primary festivals were directly associated with the harvest. (Ex 23:14-17) The Festival of Unfermented Cakes, beginning on Nisan 15, coincided with the barley harvest. On Nisan 16, “the day after the sabbath” (not necessarily a weekly sabbath, as the initial day of the festival was designated a sabbath regardless of the day on which it fell), the high priest was to wave a sheaf of the firstfruits of the barley harvest to and fro before Jehovah.—Le 23:6-11.
The Festival of Weeks, or Pentecost, came on the 50th day from Nisan 16. This was at the time of the wheat harvest. Two leavened loaves of the firstfruits of the new grain were then to be presented as a wave offering to Jehovah. (Le 23:15-17) Evidently with reference to the seven weeks of harvesting between the Festival of Unfermented Cakes and the Festival of Pentecost, Jeremiah describes Jehovah as “the One who guards even the prescribed weeks of the harvest for us,” preserving this period as a dry season, since rain would be damaging to the harvest.—Jer 5:24; compare Am 4:7.
The Festival of Booths, or of Ingathering, beginning on the 15th day of the seventh month Ethanim, or Tishri, brought the major part of the agricultural year to a joyful conclusion, as the harvesting had generally been completed by that time.—Le 23:33-36, 39-43; see FESTIVAL and the respective festivals under their own headings.
Figurative Usage. The return of people from exile and the gathering of persons for life are compared to harvesting (Ho 6:11; Mt 9:37, 38; Lu 10:2; Joh 4:35-38), as is the gathering and destruction of the wicked. (Jer 51:33; Re 14:17-20) Christ Jesus referred to “the conclusion of the system of things” as the harvest, at which time the angels, acting in the capacity of reapers, would gather out all weedlike ones and pitch them into “the fiery furnace,” whereas the wheatlike ones would “shine as brightly as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Mt 13:24-30, 36-43) This harvesting work is carried on under the direction of Jesus Christ, for in the book of Revelation he, as ‘someone like a son of man,’ is depicted with a sharp sickle in his hand.—Re 14:14-16; see AGRICULTURE.