Barley in the Bible

October 1, 2021


barley in the bible

I get excited about food. Do you? I hope so! Some of the foods that are most exciting are the 7 foods of the Promised Land. These foods are loaded with nutrients and are delicious to boot.

Today, I can’t wait to share with you about barley in the Bible: plus how to cook and eat barley. 

Barley Bible Verse

"A land of wheat, and barley, of vines and fig trees, and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey. "

Deuteronomy 8:8

The Bible is filled with references to food, not the least of which is barley. This fascinating grain is among the earliest known and most nourishing grains ever to be cultivated. 

In fact, the Feast of Unleavened Bread was an ancient barley harvest festival following the celebration of Passover.

Is Barley Mentioned In The Bible 37 Times?

is barley mentioned in the bible

The answer to this question is yes, kind of.

Since the Bible is translated from other languages, namely Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic, sometimes words are translated into English differently.

In some translations, like the King James Version and English Standard Version, barley is mentioned 35 times.

In others, like the New American Standard Bible and the New Living Translation, barley is mentioned 36 times.

Yet in the Holman Christian Standard Bible, we see barley mentioned 37 times.

Now, the NASB, NLT, KJV, and ESV all translate Ruth 2:19 and 3:7 as “glean” and “grain,” respectively. One doesn’t mention the grain at all and the other uses a more generic word. However, because of context we know that the grain being gleaned was barley.

daniel fast

So if all four of these translations use different words in these two verses, how do the NASB and NLT only have one less use of “barley?”

They have another verse which uses “barley” instead of “grain,” namely 2 Samuel 17:19.

So, as you can see, the answer to this question is yes, kind of.

This is one reason we have a variety of Bible translations.

Barley is one of those wonderful gifts. Pull up a seat at the table, and we’ll talk all about where barley is found in Scripture, it’s nutrients, and how to incorporate it in a healthy meal plan.

Barley In The Old Testament

barley in the old testament

Barley in the Pentateuch

The Pentateuch includes the first 5 books of the Bible, which start at creation and follow God’s people through their exodus from slavery in Egypt.

These books are so rich in many ways.

It’s in the 5th book, Deuteronomy, we find God’s description of the Promised Land (Deut. 8:8), including 7 incredible foods

  1. Wheat
  2. Barley
  3. Grapes
  4. Figs
  5. Pomegranates
  6. Olives
  7. Dates.

Other verses referencing barley are:

Exodus

The flax and the barley were destroyed because the barley was ripe and the flax was budding, Exodus 9:31 

Leviticus

“If a man consecrates to the Lord any part of a field that he possesses, your assessment of value will be proportional to the seed needed to sow it, at the rate of 50 silver shekels for every five bushels of barley seed.” Leviticus 27:16 

Numbers

...then the man is to bring his wife to the priest. He is also to bring an offering for her of two quarts of barley flour. He is not to pour oil over it or put frankincense on it because it is a grain offering of jealousy, a grain offering for remembrance that brings sin to mind. Numbers 5:15 

In these verses, we see barley as not only a powerful, nutritious food, but also important in the economy and worship of the Israelites.

inner circle

Barley in Ruth

Are you familiar with the story of Ruth? I hope so! This story is one that engrosses and encourages the reader. 

The story of Ruth (and Naomi) shows that even in the direst circumstances, God is present and blesses humility and obedience. 

He provides ways we couldn't imagine - more abundantly and exceedingly beyond all we could hope, think, or imagine.

In brief, Naomi and Ruth returned to Israel during the barley harvest. The verses provide an overview of the story, which I highly recommend reading from beginning to end.

Barley Bible Verses in Ruth

So Naomi came back from the land of Moab with her daughter-in-law Ruth the Moabitess. They arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest. Ruth 1:22 

 So Ruth gathered grain in the field until evening. She beat out what she had gathered, and it was about 26 quarts of barley. Ruth 2:17

 Then her mother-in-law said to her, “Where did you gather barley today, and where did you work? May the Lord bless the man who noticed you.” Ruth told her mother-in-law about the men she had worked with and said, “The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz.” Ruth 2:19

 Ruth stayed close to Boaz’s female servants and gathered grain until the barley and the wheat harvests were finished. And she lived with her mother-in-law. Ruth 2:23

 Now isn’t Boaz our relative? Haven’t you been working with his female servants? This evening he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. Ruth 3:2

After Boaz ate, drank, and was in good spirits, he went to lie down at the end of the pile of barley. Then she went in secretly, uncovered his feet, and lay down. Ruth 3:7

And he told Ruth, “Bring the shawl you’re wearing and hold it out.” When she held it out, he shoveled six measures of barley into her shawl, and she went into the town. Ruth 3:15 

She said, “He gave me these six measures of barley, because he said, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’” Ruth 3:17

Barley In The Bible History Books

barley in the bible history books

The history books of the Bible include those from Joshua through 2 Chronicles and Esther.

We find many references to barley in these books.

Judges

When Gideon arrived, there was a man telling his friend about a dream. He said, “Listen, I had a dream: a loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp, struck a tent, and it fell. The loaf turned the tent upside down so that it collapsed.”Judges 7:13 

2 Samuel

Then Absalom said to his servants, “See, Joab has a field right next to mine, and he has barley there. Go and set fire to it!” So Absalom’s servants set the field on fire. 2 Samuel 14:30 

And the woman took a cover and spread it over the well’s mouth and scattered barley meal on it, so that nothing was known. 2 Samuel 17:19

 brought beds, basins, and pottery items. They also brought wheat, barley, flour, roasted grain, beans, lentils, 2 Samuel 17:28

and handed them over to the Gibeonites. They hanged them on the hill in the presence of the Lord; the seven of them died together. They were executed in the first days of the harvest at the beginning of the barley harvest. 2 Samuel 21:9

1 Kings

Each man brought the barley and the straw for the chariot teams and the other horses to the required place according to his assignment. 1 Kings 4:28

2 Kings

A man from Baal-shalishah came to the man of God with his sack full of 20 loaves of barley bread from the first bread of the harvest. Elisha said, “Give it to the people to eat.” 2 Kings 4:42

Elisha replied, “Hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Lord says: ‘About this time tomorrow at the gate of Samaria, six quarts of fine meal will sell for a shekel and 12 quarts of barley will sell for a shekel.’” 2 Kings 7:1

Then the people went out and plundered the Aramean camp. It was then that six quarts of fine meal sold for a shekel and 12 quarts of barley sold for a shekel, according to the word of the Lord. 2 Kings 7:16

When the man of God had said to the king, “About this time tomorrow 12 quarts of barley will sell for a shekel and six quarts of fine meal will sell for a shekel at the gate of Samaria,” 2 Kings 7:18

7 steps

1 Chronicles

He was with David at Pas-dammim when the Philistines had gathered there for battle. There was a portion of a field full of barley, where the troops had fled from the Philistines. 1 Chronicles 11:13 

2 Chronicles

I will give your servants, the woodcutters who cut the trees, 100,000 bushels of wheat flour, 100,000 bushels of barley, 110,000 gallons of wine, and 110,000 gallons of oil.2 Chronicles 2:10 

Now, let my lord send the wheat, barley, oil, and wine to his servants as promised. 2 Chronicles 2:15

He waged war against the king of the Ammonites. He overpowered the Ammonites, and that year they gave him 7,500 pounds of silver, 50,000 bushels of wheat, and 50,000 bushels of barley. They paid him the same in the second and third years. 2 Chronicles 27:5

Barley in Job

There’s one reference to barley in Job. To get it’s full meaning, I suggest going to the chapter and reading the verse in context.

...then let thorns grow instead of wheat and stinkweed instead of barley. The words of Job are concluded. Job 31:40

Barley In The Bible Prophecy Books

barley in the bible history books

The books by prophets in Scripture are too often avoided because of hard-to-understand symbolism. 

However, just as with the rest of God’s Word, He included these books because He has something to say to us. Let’s not avoid them!

We can start with these references to barley.

Isaiah

When he has leveled its surface, does he not then scatter black cumin and sow cumin? He plants wheat in rows and barley in plots, with spelt as their border. Isaiah 28:25

Jeremiah

 However, there were 10 men among them who said to Ishmael, “Don’t kill us, for we have hidden treasure in the field—wheat, barley, oil, and honey!” So he stopped and did not kill them along with their companions. Jeremiah 41:8

Ezekiel

You will eat it as you would a barley cake and bake it over dried human excrement in their sight.” Ezekiel 4:12

“Also take wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt. Put them in a single container and make them into bread for yourself. You are to eat it during the number of days you lie on your side, 390 days. Ezekiel 4:9

You profane Me in front of My people for handfuls of barley and scraps of bread; you kill those who should not die and spare those who should not live, when you lie to My people, who listen to lies. Ezekiel 13:19

“This is the contribution you are to offer: Three quarts from five bushels of wheat and three quarts from five bushels of barley. Ezekiel 45:13

Hosea

So I bought her for 15 shekels of silver and five bushels of barley. Hosea 3:2

Joel

Be ashamed, you farmers, wail, you vinedressers, over the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field has perished. Joel 1:11

Barley In The New Testament

barley in the new testament

When we get to the New Testament, we only see 3 mentions of barley, two of them in the telling of Jesus’ miracle of feeding thousands of people with 5 small loaves of bread.

 “There’s a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish—but what are they for so many?” John 6:9

So they collected them and filled 12 baskets with the pieces from the five barley loaves that were left over by those who had eaten. John 6:13 

The Final Reference

The last reference is in Revelation. Again, we see barley as an important grain. 

Then I heard something like a voice among the four living creatures say, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius—but do not harm the olive oil and the wine.” Revelation 6:6

Significance Of Barley In The Bible

significance of barley in the bible

As stated above, barley is one of the 7 foods of the promised land diet.

It’s God’s way to show us how much he loves us, by giving us this super nutritious food that can help you thrive and feel so much alive.

Foods can be the initiating reminder of God’s promises, provisions, and grace. Perhaps this is why there are so many references to food in scripture.

Barley, a tiny seed, delivers a burst of nutrition (which I share more about in this post about barley nutrition and benefits).

Barley Symbolism

What a great reminder of what God can do with the smallest person, amount of faith, or obedience!

What seems minute to us, can accomplish powerful things when surrendered to the Lord. We can remember this when the small, seemingly menial tasks of each day seem insignificant.

When we offer even the most mundane parts of life to God, He will use them as blessings to us and those around us.

God’s plan is perfect and He uses even the smallest parts of His creation - like barley - to reveal more about Him to us and how each of us fits into His plan.

I pray that browsing the menu of barley in scripture has been a blessing to you and that you’re reminded how much GOD LOVES YOU!

Do we need?

Without getting into the weeds of why certain words, we’ll acknowledge that variation in translation doesn’t change the meaning or fact that the Bible is God’s inspired Word.

And in His Word, He talks a lot about food and blesses us with all the things we need to live not only an abundant, Spirit-filled life, but a healthy, vibrant life.

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