Posts Tagged harvest
וּבֹעַז עָלָה הַשַּׁעַר וַיֵּשֶׁב שָׁם וְהִנֵּה הַגֹּאֵל עֹבֵר אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר־בֹּעַז וַיֹּאמֶר סוּרָה שְׁבָה־פֹּה פְּלֹנִי אַלְמֹנִי וַיָּסַר וַיֵּשֵׁב׃
וַיִּקַּח עֲשָׂרָה אֲנָשִׁים מִזִּקְנֵי הָעִיר וַיֹּאמֶר שְׁבוּ־פֹה וַיֵּשֵׁבוּ׃
וַיֹּאמֶר לַגֹּאֵל חֶלְקַת הַשָּׂדֶה אֲשֶׁר לְאָחִינוּ לֶאֱלִימֶלֶךְ מָכְרָה נָעֳמִי הַשָּׁבָה מִשְּׂדֵה מוֹאָב׃
וַאֲנִי אָמַרְתִּי אֶגְלֶה אָזְנְךָ לֵאמֹר קְנֵה נֶגֶד הַיֹּשְׁבִים וְנֶגֶד זִקְנֵי עַמִּי אִם־תִּגְאַל גְּאָל וְאִם־לֹא יִגְאַל הַגִּידָה לִּי וְאֵדְעָה כִּי אֵין זוּלָתְךָ לִגְאוֹל וְאָנֹכִי אַחֲרֶיךָ וַיֹּאמֶר אָנֹכִי אֶגְאָל׃
וַיֹּאמֶר בֹּעַז בְּיוֹם־קְנוֹתְךָ הַשָּׂדֶה מִיַּד נָעֳמִי וּמֵאֵת רוּת הַמּוֹאֲבִיָּה אֵשֶׁת־הַמֵּת קָנִיתָה לְהָקִים שֵׁם־הַמֵּת עַל־נַחֲלָתוֹ׃
וַיֹּאמֶר הַגֹּאֵל לֹא אוּכַל לִגְאָל־לִי פֶּן־אַשְׁחִית אֶת־נַחֲלָתִי גְּאַל־לְךָ אַתָּה אֶת־גְּאֻלָּתִי כִּי לֹא־אוּכַל לִגְאֹל׃
וְזֹאת לְפָנִים בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל עַל־הַגְּאוּלָּה וְעַל־הַתְּמוּרָה לְקַיֵּם כָּל־דָּבָר שָׁלַף אִישׁ נַעֲלוֹ וְנָתַן לְרֵעֵהוּ וְזֹאת הַתְּעוּדָה בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל׃
וַיֹּאמֶר הַגֹּאֵל לְבֹעַז קְנֵה־לָךְ וַיִּשְׁלֹף נַעֲלוֹ׃
Now Boaz had gone up to the gate and sat down there. And behold, the redeemer, of whom Boaz had spoken, came by. So Boaz said, “Turn aside, friend; sit down here.” And he turned aside and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down.
Then he said to the redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our relative Elimelech. So I thought I would tell you of it and say, ‘Buy it in the presence of those sitting here and in the presence of the elders of my people.’ If you will redeem it, redeem it. But if you will not, tell me, that I may know, for there is no one besides you to redeem it, and I come after you.” And he said, “I will redeem it.”
Then Boaz said, “The day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead, in order to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance.” Then the redeemer said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.”
Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, the one drew off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was the manner of attesting in Israel. So when the redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself,” he drew off his sandal. (4:1-8, ESV)
Up to the gate. The gates of a town or city where the main meeting place for most business in ancient Judea. This was true whether the town was only lightly fortified or a built up city. The gates where something of a choke point. Everyone had to enter by them, and certain business was done at each. This is why the gates of Jerusalem had names like Sheep Gate and Water Gate. If you were a farmer, you would most likely be using a particular gate so other farmers who wanted to meet you would naturally head to that gate.
In a town the size of Bethlehem, it was likely that there were only one or two gates. The gates were breaks in a small wall, although no remains have yet been uncovered. The walls of Jericho, which is to the south, would have stood about 14′ high and were 5′ feet thick. They were made mostly of mud brick with a stone tower for defense. Jericho was a major city at a ford in the Jordan River. Bethlehem was essentially a farming town, so it is reasonable to assume that the fortifications – whatever they would be – were less imposing than Jericho’s; but they must still have provided some protection.
Bethlehem’s hilltop situation in a mostly pastural setting meant that most of the warfare of the region would pass it by. There were other very genuine and very real concerns. The walls probably served as protection against wild animals. Of particular interest were Syrian bears (Ursus arctos syriacus) and Asian lions (Panthera leo persica). Today these top level predators are found only in zoos and reserves, but in the Bronze Age, they were very real concerns. The Syrian bear is actually a subspecies of the same family as the kodiak (Ursus arctos middendorffi) and the grizzly (Ursus arctos horribilis) bears. The lions, although smaller than their African cousins, were still ferocious. Since both troubled the flocks and the populace, it is not surprising that settlements were walled.
Gates (שַׁעַר, ša’ar) could be made of anything, but most likely they were wooden doors of some kind, set into the wall and hinged. Since they were locked at night, the people who lived or were working outside of them would gather right outside in the morning. This was a time to do some quick business before the day began, and this is probably when Boaz went to the gates.
Naomi is selling her property. Boaz waits for the other family member (who is never named) and then assembles a council of elders to hear the situation. Then he phrases the matter carefully. He mentions only the property and that Naomi is attempting to sell it. It is only after the kinsman says he would like to purchase the land that Boaz mentions the woman Ruth.
This moment again highlights an important concept built into the redeemer. He not only restores what is dead, but he becomes the owner of it. He becomes responsible for it. While the nearer kinsman is more than happy to redeem the lands, he is not ready for the responsibility of a new wife.
More than likely, this nearer kinsman was already married and had selected an heir. Were he to marry Ruth and have a son with her, he would have to re-evaluate and reallocate his legacy.
Now, there is something else at work as well. People must have known of Boaz’s interest in Ruth. Would you marry a woman who another man clearly has designs upon? The potential for trouble is obvious. While I am sure the other kinsman was sincere in not wanting to have to rethink his legacy, there was probably also a bit of common sense built into turning down the property.
וַיֹּאמֶר לָה בֹעַז לְעֵת הָאֹכֶל גֹּשִׁי הֲלֹם וְאָכַלְתְּ מִן־הַלֶּחֶם וְטָבַלְתְּ פִּתֵּךְ בַּחֹמֶץ וַתֵּשֶׁב מִצַּד הַקּוֹצְרִים וַיִּצְבָּט־לָהּ קָלִי וַתֹּאכַל וַתִּשְׂבַּע וַתֹּתַר׃
וַתָּקָם לְלַקֵּט וַיְצַו בֹּעַז אֶת־נְעָרָיו לֵאמֹר גַּם בֵּין הָעֳמָרִים תְּלַקֵּט וְלֹא תַכְלִימוּהָ׃
וְגַם שֹׁל־תָּשֹׁלּוּ לָהּ מִן־הַצְּבָתִים וַעֲזַבְתֶּם וְלִקְּטָה וְלֹא תִגְעֲרוּ־בָהּ׃
וַתְּלַקֵּט בַּשָּׂדֶה עַד־הָעָרֶב וַתַּחְבֹּט אֵת אֲשֶׁר־לִקֵּטָה וַיְהִי כְּאֵיפָה שְׂעֹרִים׃
And at mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over.
When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.”
So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. (2:14-17)
A Meal Together. Boaz’s invitation to Ruth is yet another sign that she has been welcomed to the clan. This is a social meal more than a sustenance one. Because the harvest was a time of celebration, they would be eating the roasted and preserved products from the previous harvest. The term for roasted grain (קָלִי, qaliy) can be applied to many different dried or parched products, from roasted grain to dried spices.
The Egyptians still eat a dish called duqqa which dates from the time of the Pharaohs. It is bread dipped in wine and then dipped in a mixture of chopped up spices and grains. The content of duqqa varies but it is most likely that this is the kind of meal that Boaz invited Ruth to participate in.
The participants probably sat around shallow bowls of wine, which at this point in the year would have been nearing the end of its lifespan, and dipped their bread into the wine and duqqa. Their conversations would be about the day, the harvest and of course the people in the fields. Ruth probably sat across from Boaz, and you can imagine the way he looked at her.
Leave it for her to glean. Boaz’s further instructions to his reapers expands significantly on the idea of gleaning. First, she is permitted to glean among the sheaves (עֹמֶר, ‘omer). The sheaf was the primary form of measurement used for grains. It was roughly the amount of stalks that one man could carry and appears to have been the amount of grain one person ate in a day. (Exodus 16:16) It works out to about 2 liters of grain, and ten omer’im were equal to an ephah. (Exodus 16:36)
The reapers would gather a handful of stalks (צֶבֶת, tzebeth) and cut it with their scythe. The handfuls were somehow bound together and left lying. Another reaper would then come behind and bind the handfuls into sheaves which were stood up in the field. At the end of the day, the sheaves were carried to the threshing floor. The reapers would shake the grain from the stalks into ephah baskets before being threshed to release the grain from its spike and husk.
Apparently, the reapers were to drop some of the grain from the handfuls and leave it around the sheaves. As the sheaves were cleared, this left a supply of grain for Ruth to pick up. She would have had a much more difficult task since she would be doing the gathering herself. She would need to shake out the grain herself, and most likely she carried it in the fold of her robe.
At the end of the day, Ruth had collected an ephah of grain. That means she had harvested the equivalent of ten sheaves of barley. This was a week’s worth of grain, if she and Naomi were willing to eat barley bread. Of course, making barley bread was not a simple task and involved threshing, malting and grinding; but Boaz’s generosity is still unmistakeable.
You quite literally can’t read the Hebrew Scriptures without encountering harvests of every size, shape and color. Since Palestine was a highly agrarian region for most of its history, harvests loom large. They define offerings and sacred holidays in the Torah. The barley and wheat harvests in particular defined the rhythms of life and even theology, as we see in the book of Ruth. In the prophets, harvests of all types are used as anchor points – both for blessings and curses.
It should not surprise us then that Jesus uses this kind of language when describing the Kingdom of God.
A Sidebar About the Kingdom of God
I should pause for a moment and explain the terms kingdom of God and kingdom of heaven because they often get garbled. When these terms appear in the Scriptures, they are not talking about some pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by place where we go when we die. They refer very directly to Jesus himself. John said, “The kingdom of God is at hand” and then baptized Jesus. When Jesus himself speaks of the kingdom of God or heaven, he does not speak about somewhere you go. If you watch what he says, it becomes pretty obvious that he is speaking about himself. In particular, read Matthew 13 where Jesus uses five metaphors to describe the kingdom:
- “A grain of mustard seed” (v 31) – in other words, it is present now and will grow into something larger
- “Leaven hidden in flour” (v 33) – you can’t see it, but it will transform everything
- “Treasure hidden in a field” (v 44) – soon it will be uncovered, but it is already there
- “A merchant in search of pearls” (v 45) – it is something others must find
- “A net thrown in the sea” (v 47) – the fish aren’t caught yet, but they will be
Jesus makes it clear in the first three illustrations that the Kingdom is right in front of his hearers. And the last two illustrate the universal nature of what he is about to do.
That being said, it is important to remember that we are Jesus’ body, as the church, (a metaphor I will get to) and as such, we are the Kingdom. This is the great mystery of the church that Paul writes about in Ephesians 5. Somehow the Kingdom is Jesus, and we are His body, so the Kingdom is us.
We Are a Field to Be Harvested
Jesus makes it plain that the field of mankind is ripe and we are in the season of harvest (Matthew 9, Mark 4:29, Luke 10:2, John 4:35). He calls us to be laborers in these fields, even as he calls us the harvest itself. He also notes that the field will have weeds, which will ultimately be destroyed but must grow among us for the time being (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43).
The feast of Pentecost (Acts 2) was the celebration of the first harvest of winter barley. It was not accidental that God chose that day to fill the Church with the Holy Spirit, making it alive and active as Jesus’ body. It is a harvest that will include all nations (Romans 1:13).
James also warns about trying to harvest what is not our own (James 5:4), echoing Jesus’ parables of the unjust husbandmen who tried to claim the harvest for themselves (Matthew 21).
The motif of harvest can hardly be avoided. Today, we tend to downplay such things as unimportant or as simply metaphors, but in Jesus’ day this was as real and practical a way of describing the church as you could get.
A couple of guys from our church team and I are down in Lynchburg, Virginia, for Innovate ‘09. We are intentionally not going to every session because I think there’s just too much going on to actually be able to absorb it all. Yesterday, we heard Eric Geiger, co-author of Simple Church.
Both of the guys who are down here with me commented, “Isn’t this pretty much what you did?” The answer is yes. We looked at our church and said: let’s not do programs just to do programs. Let’s have meaning and vision for everything we do. We clarified our vision and we ask the hard questions to keep ourselves focused. We take our time and do things right.
One of the thoughts Eric shared was that too many churches have ministries that are “silos”, distinct from the other ministries of the church. Eric said it just as an illustration, but I spent most of the session thinking about the idea of silos in ministry.
It is no secret that I am highly cynical about the way the modern (and postmodern) church at large does ministry. To me, the purpose of the church is to lift Jesus Christ up and create environments where people encounter him. Too much is invested in church and not enough on living the Way of Jesus.
And this idea of silos really resonates with me because I grew up on farms, and I know that silos are for storage. They are for accumulating grain and storing as much of it as you can for later. Jesus spoke on the problems with this in two different situations.
Jesus said to his disciples:
The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. [Luke 10:2, ESV]
He makes it clear that we are called to be laborers in his fields rather than farmers of our own fields. In fact, it reminds me of a church growth book I read a few years ago that talked about how pastors need to be ranchers instead of shepherds. This idea always struck me as a bit off from what Jesus said. Jesus does not call us to own the church but to be his servants in the church.
Which leads me to the second time that Jesus spoke on this topic. He told a parable:
The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ [Luke 12:16-20, ESV]
Here is the danger of building silos instead of working in the fields, in believing we own the farms instead of living as workers in the LORD’s fields. We become complacent; we become content. We store rather than serve. We forget the amazing blessing of seeing the harvest come every year and knowing it is from God.
Jesus spoke on this theme of ownership at another time:
A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others. [Luke 20:9-16, ESV]
Do you see what Jesus is saying to us? We cannot afford to think that the church is ours, that our ministry there is somehow ours to control. We are his servants.