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Time of Harvest

A look at the cycles of sowing and reaping in the Bible.

From the February 2009 issue of The Christian Science Journal

As we look back to the Old Testament, we see that from the time the children of Israel crossed over the river Jordan into the land of Canaan, they ceased being nomads. Settling into towns and villages, they became both a pastoral and an agricultural people. This dramatic change from wandering in the wilderness for 40 years after their escape from slavery in Egypt to a more permanent lifestyle added many new customs and practices to the Israelite culture.

Before the Israelites arrived around 1300 BC, the Canaanites had occupied and cultivated Canaan with its plains, terraced hills, and rich fertile land for about a thousand years. So naturally the new occupants adapted the Canaanites' agricultural practices into their own lives. The Israelites became adept at growing grain and cultivating vineyards and olive orchards. Stony plateaus and hills adjacent to the villages became good grazing land for flocks and herds. These lands remained common property to the Israelites.

Agriculture literally and figuratively became the economic and Biblical backbone of Israel. Farming had an enormously strong influence on daily life, social behavior, religion, and the law. And although individuals, royalty, and priests owned land, the Israelites believed that ultimately the land belonged to God. So, not only did the Israelites plow, sow, and reap, but in doing so, each one entered into a relationship with God, who in turn guaranteed an abundance of whatever was essential to daily life. Religion was an integral part of the Israelites' agricultural life. No wonder the Bible is replete with analogies to planting, sowing, reaping, shepherds, sheep, and other rural examples.

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