(barʹley) [Heb., seʽo·rahʹ; Gr., kri·theʹ].
An important cereal and widespread in its cultivation from ancient times till now. It was one of the valuable products awaiting the Israelites in the Promised Land, and that region continues to be a “land of wheat and barley” to this day.—Deut. 8:8.
The Hebrew name for barley (seʽo·rahʹ) is derived from the word for “hair” and literally means “the hairy thing,” thus describing the long slender bristles or awns forming the characteristic beard of the barley head. It is a very hardy plant, better able to withstand drought and adapting to a wider range of climates than any other grain. When mature it stands about three feet (91.4 centimeters) high, with somewhat broader leaves than those of wheat.
The barley harvest figures prominently in the dramatic events of the book of Ruth. Sowing of barley was done in Palestine during the month of Bul (October-November) after the early rains had begun to fall and the ground could be plowed. (Isa. 28:24, 25) Barley matures more rapidly than wheat (Ex. 9:31, 32), and the harvest began in the early spring during the month of Nisan (March-April), commencing in the hot Jordan valley and continuing into the higher, more temperate sections until it reached the highland plateau region E of the Jordan in the month of Ziv (April-May). Barley harvest thus marked a definite time of the year (Ruth 1:22; 2 Sam. 21:9) and its start corresponded with Passover time, the sheaf waved by the priest on the sixteenth day of Nisan being of the barley firstfruits. (Lev. 23:10, 11) Some suggest that the barley harvest was the time-indicator by which the Jews determined when there was need to insert an intercalary month to maintain the calendar months in their proper relation to the seasons, so that if, at the close of the month of Adar, the barley was judged not sufficiently advanced to maturity for its firstfruits to be presented by the time of the festival of unfermented cakes, a thirteenth month (Veadar) was added.
Barley was esteemed as of less value than wheat, just one-third that of wheat in John’s vision at Revelation 6:6. It was sufficiently common and abundant that it could be used as fodder for Solomon’s horses (1 Ki. 4:28), a purpose that it still serves in modern times. It was ground into flour and made into bread, often in the form of a round cake (2 Ki. 4:42; Ezek. 4:12; John 6:9, 13), and sometimes mixed with other grains.—Ezek. 4:9.
Though undoubtedly more frequently used among the poor due to its lower cost, there is nothing to indicated that barley was viewed with disdain among the Israelites, even by those able to afford wheat. Thus, it was included in the provisions suitable for offering to King David’s company upon their arrival in Gilead during the time of Absalom’s revolt. (2 Sam. 17:27-29) Solomon provided twenty thousand cor measures (124,000 bushels [440,000 decaliters]) of barley, along with a corresponding quantity of wheat, and large amounts of oil and wine to Hiram as supplies for the Tyrian king’s servants preparing temple materials. (2 Chron. 2:10, 15) King Jotham of Judah exacted tribute of the king of Ammon that included ten thousand cor measures (62,000 bushels [220,000 decaliters]) of barley. (2 Chron. 27:5) Men seeking to avoid death at the hands of assassin Ishmael after the fall of Jerusalem assured him they had “hidden treasures in the field, wheat and barley and oil and honey.”—Jer. 41:8.
Nevertheless, barley was a common and a humble food and some commentators suggest that these qualities are represented in the figure of “a round cake of barley bread” seen in the Midianite’s dream as symbolizing Gideon’s humble army. (Judg. 7:13, 14) It may be noted that Bedouins of modern times refer contemptuously to their enemies as “cakes of barley bread.” In Roman times barley was the basic food of soldiers when being subjected to correction.
Hosea paid fifteen silver pieces ($7.13) and one and a half homer measures (9.3 bushels [33 decaliters]) of barley to buy back the adulterous woman Gomer as his wife (Hos. 1:3; 3:1, 2), a price that some commentators consider to total the price of a slave, thirty silver shekels ($14.25). (Ex. 21:32) The “offering of jealousy” required by the Law in the case of a man suspecting his wife of sexual infidelity was to be a tenth of an ephah of barley flour.—Num. 5:14, 15.
Barley was also used in measuring, the amount required for sowing a field being the legal means for determining the field’s value. (Lev. 27:16) Rabbinical writings show it to have been used among the Hebrews in later times for linear measurement; thus seven barleycorns laid side by side equaled one “fingerbreadth.”
[Picture on page 191]
Heads of barley
(Barʹna·bas) [son of comfort].
This prominent figure of first-century Christianity is first introduced to us in the Scriptures by the historian Luke in Acts 4:34-36. There we learn that this devout man was a Levite and a native of the island of Cyprus, but who, at the time of his being introduced, is in Jerusalem. Of the many believers who shortly after Pentecost sold their fields and houses and gave the price to the apostles for the advancement of the Christian work, this man was one mentioned by name. His given name was Joseph, but the apostles surnamed him Barnabas, meaning “Son of Comfort.” This practice of giving surnames in keeping with one’s characteristics was not uncommon.
The portrait of Joseph Barnabas, as painted for us in the book of Acts, is one of a very warmhearted and generous person, one who did not hesitate to offer both himself and his material possessions willingly for the advancement of the Kingdom interests. He gladly ‘came to the aid’ of his brothers (9:27), and in the presence of newly interested persons “he rejoiced and began to encourage them all to continue in the Lord with hearty purpose.” Barnabas “was a good man and full of holy spirit and of faith” (11:23, 24), a prophet and teacher in Antioch. (13:1) The apostles spoke of Barnabas as among those “that have delivered up their souls for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Little wonder the apostles themselves spoke of him as “our beloved Barnabas.” (15:25, 26) Although he was not one of the twelve apostles, he was properly called an apostle (14:14), for, indeed, he was one “sent out by the holy spirit.”—13:4, 43.
The close association that Barnabas had with Paul, and that extended over the years, had its beginning about three years after Paul’s conversion when he wanted to get in touch with the Jerusalem congregation. How Barnabas knew Paul, whether being an old acquaintance or as a fellow student at the feet of Gamaliel, as certain traditions say, or whether quite by chance in the marketplace, is not revealed, but it was Barnabas who had the privilege of first introducing Paul to Peter and the disciple James.—Acts 9:26, 27; Gal. 1:18, 19.