WHEAT (Hebr. "ḥiṭṭah"; Deut. viii. 8 et seq.):

The chief breadstuff of Palestine in both ancient and modern times. It has been observed that the cultivation of wheat indicates a higher stage of civilization than the cultivation of barley alone. Barley bread is, therefore, mentioned comparatively seldom (Judges vii. 13; II Kings iv. 42), and was probably the food of the common people only. Among the Greeks and Romans, as in the Orient today, barley was less esteemed than wheat, which was therefore the preferred breadstuff. The loaves of bread used for divine sacrifice were naturally made only from the choicest wheat flour.

In Palestine the winter grain is sown in late autumn, when the early rains have loosened the soil and prepared it for plowing. Wheat is harvested somewhat later than barley, and generally at a time when the heavy rains have ceased (I Sam. xii. 17). The harvest season varies, according to the districts, between the end of April and the beginning of June. On harvesting, thrashing, and measuring the wheat see Agriculture; Baking; Bread.

Wheat was an article of export from ancient times, Tyre (according to Ezek. xxvii. 17) obtaining wheat from Judah (comp. also Acts xii. 20). Galilee, according to Josephus, was the most fruitful district. At present the plains of Philistia and Jezreel produce chiefly wheat, but the Hauran district is still the great granary of Syria; and its grain is exported in large quantities by way of Haifa and Beirut.

Grains of wheat were eaten also roasted, a survival from the period when grinding and baking were not understood. Parched kernels ("ḳali") seem to have been very popular among the ancient Hebrews (I Sam. xvii. 17, xxv. 18; II Sam. xvii. 28), especially during harvesting (Ruth ii. 14; Lev. xxiii. 14), as is still the case to-day.

E. G. H. I. Be.
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