Site hosted by Build your free website today!







My Redeemer > Bible Dictionary > Plants of the Bible > Manners and Customs of the Bible > Grains and Vegetables Homepage

Agriculture of the Bible

Plants of the Bible

(Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible)

From the beginning of Bible history, the land of Palestine has supplied a sufficient amount of food for the people and their cattle. The people of Bible lands found a use for nearly every plant, from the forests on Mount Lebanon to the scrubby shrubs of the desert.

The three main crops of Palestine were "wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face shine, and bread [grain] which strengtheneth man's heart" (Psa. 104:15).


  1. Grains
    1. Barley
    2. Corn
    3. Millet
    4. Rye
    5. Wheat
  2. Vegetables
    1. Beans
    2. Cucumbers
    3. Gourds
    4. Leeks
    5. Lentils
    6. Mandrakes
    7. Onions
  3. Herbs and Spices
    1. Aloes
    2. Anise
    3. Balm or Balsam
    4. Bay tree or Laurel
    5. Bdellium
      1. An Aromatic Substance
      2. A Mineral
    6. Bitter Herbs
    7. Calamus
    8. Camphire
    9. Cassia
    10. Cinnamon
    11. Coriander
    12. Cummin
    13. Fitches
    14. Frankincense
    15. Gall
      1. A Poisonous Herb
      2. A Secretion of the Liver
    16. Garlic
    17. Hyssop
    18. Mallow
    19. Mint
    20. Mustard
    21. Myrrh
    22. Myrtle
    23. Rue
    24. Saffron
    25. Spikenard
    26. Stacte
  4. Fruits
    1. Almonds
    2. Apples
    3. Figs
    4. Grapes
    5. Husks
    6. Mulberries
    7. Pistachio Nuts
    8. Pomegranates
    9. Sycamine
    10. Sycamore Fruit
  5. Wood
    1. Almug; Algum
    2. Ash
    3. Box Tree
    4. Cedar
    5. Chestnut
    6. Cypress
    7. Ebony
    8. Fir
    9. Gopher Wood
    10. Oak
    11. Pine
      1. An Evergreen
      2. A Deciduous Tree
    12. Shittah or Acacia
    13. Teil
    14. Thyine
  6. Additional Plants
    1. Bulrushes
    2. Cockles
    3. Cotton
    4. Flax
    5. Grass
    6. Hay
    7. Juniper Bush
    8. Lily
    9. Nettles
    10. Olives
    11. Palms
    12. Papyrus
    13. Reeds
    14. Roses
    15. Soapwort
    16. Straw
    17. Tares
    18. Thorns and Thistles
    19. Willows
    20. Wormwood

I. Grains. Grain has always been one of the main ingredients in man's diet. Various grains have been grown where climate and soil conditions allow. Especially rich were the areas of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in the east, the Nile River in Egypt, and the Jordan Valley of Palestine.

Grain was used in many different says in Bible times: for export, for food, and for sacrificial offerings (Gen. 4:3; Lev. 2:1). Also, Jesus used grain as an object for teaching, as in His parable of the sower (Mark 4:3) and His teaching about the Sabbath (Matt. 12:1).

Grain ("corn") and wine are used in the Old Testament as symbols of plenty and prosperity.In Deuteronomy 11:14, grain is mentioned as a gift of GOD; in Deuteronomy 18:4, it is described as an offering of obedience; and in Deuteronomy 28:51, the loss of grain is foretold as a warning of Israel's destruction.

When threshing season began, the grains were tossed into the air to remove the chaff. Isaiah suggests that the chaff was later burned (Isa. 5:24). For a more complete description of this process, see "Agriculture".

    A. Barley. The Hebrew word for barley is seorah, meaning "a hairy or bristling thing." I was so called because of the rough and prickly beard covering the ears. Barley belongs to the genus Hordeum, which was cultivated in Palestine (Ruth 1:22), in Egypt (Exod. 9:31), and in adjacent regions.

    Barley was used in ceremonial offering (Num. 5:15), baked into cakes (Judg. 7:13), and fed to horses and camels (I Kings 4:28). Jesus used barley loaves to feed the five thousand (John 6:9). For food, it was held in low esteem and was believed to be a symbol of poverty. According to Adam Clarke, barley had scarcely one-third the value of wheat in ancient trade.

    B. Corn. When Americans or Britons think of corn and cornfields, they visualize long rows of tall, green stalks, tasseling for the harvest. This is not what the Bible means by "corn". In fact, the plant we now call "corn" was introduced to us by the American Indians, who called it "maize".

    When the KJV speaks of "corn" in Mark 4:28 and Matthew 12:1, the Bible actually means "grain". The RSV correctly uses this term instead of "corn."

    C. Millet. The Hebrew word for millet is dohan. This term might refer to at least two kinds of grain. One is the cultivated grass known as Panicum millaceum, the other is Sorghum vulgare. Both of these grains were cultivated in Palestine, Egypt, and other parts of the ancient world. GOD instructed Ezekiel to use "millet" for bread (Ezek. 4:9), and it was probably a staple item in the Israelite diet.

    D. Rye. The Hebrew word for rye, mentioned in Exodus 9:32, is kussemeth, meaning "hairy or bearded grain". The same Hebrew noun is used in Ezekiel 4:9, where the KJV has fitches. The RSV translates it as spelt.

    It is generally believed that this grain had less food value than wheat and was mixed with other grains to make bread (Ezek. 4:9). The Hebrew word may also refer to another inferior grain, emmet, which grows in the area today. Spelt is no longer grown there.

    E. Wheat. The Hebrew word for wheat is hittah. The kind grown in biblical Egypt (Gen. 41:5-7) is believed to have been the variety with many heads on one stalk. This may also have been the kind of wheat grown in Palestine; but some scholars believe that another species was the "wheat" of Palestine.

    Whatever the species, wheat had been cultivated from earliest times in Palestine, Egypt, and Mesopotamia. In Egypt it was grown in abundance and was exported during early Christian times (Acts 27:38).

II. Vegetables. Everywhere the Hebrew people traveled, they included vegetables in their diet. Vegetables were boiled, eaten raw, or mixed with other foods. Some of the vegetables we have today have been known from ancient times.

    A. Beans. The "beans" mentioned in the Bible were not found on a bushy plant like the beans of North America or Great Britain, although they were of the same family. The plant grew 91 cm. (3 ft.) high, with white pea-shaped blooms. The beans are large, coarse seeds. Sometimes the Israelites mixed these beans with other grain for bread (II Sam. 17:28); Ezek. 4:9). Generally, these beans were eaten by the poorer classes of people.

    B. Cucumbers. The Hebrew word for cucumber, kishshu'ah, could refer to either of two species of cucumbers grown in Egypt and Palestine today.

    As Moses led the people through the desert, they still longed for the cucumbers of Egypt (Num. 11:5). They planted cucumber gardens in Palestine (Isa. 1:8); in this text, the "lodge in a garden of cucumbers" refers to a shelter used by watchmen to guard the crops.

    C. Gourds. The gourd that shaded Jonah (Jonah 4:6-10) may have been either the castor-oil plant or the pumpkin. Either of these could be considered a member of the gourd family.

    Most scholars believe that the Hebrew word for gourd (kikayon) refers to the castor-oil plant. (This word is similar to the Egyptian word for the castor-oil plant, kiki.) The castor-oil plant grows rapidly up to 4.6 m. (15 ft.), with purplish-red stems, broad leaves, and fiery red fruit. Any slight injury causes it to wilt. Grown in Southern Asia and Egypt, it is sometimes referred to as the "Christ Palm."

    The wild gourd (Hebrew, pakkuoth) mentioned in II Kings 4:39 was gathered in Gilgal near Jericho and wa very poisonous. It was a wild vine of the gourd family that flourished during extreme droughts. The fruit was gourd-like, 8 or more centimeters (2 or more inches) in diameter. Images of the same fruit (called knops in I Kings 6:18; 7:24) were carved in the cedar beams of Solomon's temple.

    Some botanists believe that the plant Ecballium elaterium was the "wild gourd" of II Kings 4:39. Although the fruit of this plant was similar to the wild gourd, the plant grew upright with no tendrils, and could hardly have been the vine referred to.

    D. Leeks. The Hebrew word hasir (spelled Chatzir in Num. 11:5) usually meant grass. But Numbers 11:5 probably refers to the leek, which grew extensively in Egypt. When the children of Israel grew tired of eating manna, they remembered the foods of Egypt that they considered to be delicacies, such as the leek.

    E. Lentils. This plant is from the pea family. The Hebrew word for lentils is adhashim. It has five or six pairs of oblong leaves on each stem and white, violet=striped flowers. These legumes are harvested and boiled to produce the red pottage mentioned in Genesis 25:30.

    Lentils are grown in all parts of Palestine (cf. II Sam. 23:11). They were combined with other ingredients to make bread (Ezek. 4:9).

    The pulse mentioned in Daniel 1:12,16 and in II Samuel 17:23 is believed to have been the lentil plant.

    F. Mandrakes. Mentioned in only two passages in the Bible (Gen. 30:14-16; Song of Sol. 7:13), mandrakes were thought to aid fertility. The Hebrew word for this plant was dudaim.

    We do not know whether the mandrakes of the Bible were the same as the plant known as mandrakes in Palestine today. This plant has a large forked root with broad, wavy leaves sprouting from the base. The small purple flowers produce yellow fruit. Song of Solomon 7:13 notes the mandrakes' strong fragrance.

    G. Onions. The only mention of the onion in the Bible is Numbers 11:5. The Hebrew word is basal. Grown in Egypt and other parts of the East, these onions are very large and of exceptional flavor.

Back to Top

Back    Next

Home Site Index Bible Index
Kingdom Dynamics Truth in Action Links