AGRICULTURE (ag'ri-ciileare). The antiquity of agriculture is intimated in the brief history of Cain and Abel (Gen. iv:2, 3).
(1) Before the Deluge. But of the actual state of agriculture before the deluge we know nothing. Whatever knowledge was possessed by the old world was doubtless transmitted to the new by Noah and his sons, and that this knowl edge was considerable is implied in the fact that one of the operations of Noah, when 'lie began to be a husbandman,' was to plant a vineyard and to make wine with the fruit (Gen. ix:2o). There are few agricultural notices belonging to the patriarchal period, but they suffice to show that the land of Canaan was in a state of cultiva tion, and that the inhabitants possessed what were at a later date the principal products of the soil in the same country.
(2) Land Under Cultivation. In giving to the Israelites possession of a country already un der cultivation, it was the Divine intention that they should keep up that cultivation, and become themselves an agricultural people, and in doing this they doubtless adopted the practices of ag riculture which they found already established in the country.
(3) The Seasons. As the condition of the sea sons lies at the root of all agricultural operations, it should be noticed that the variations of sun shine and rain, which with us extend throughout the year, are in Palestine confined chiefly to the latter part of autumn and the winter. During all the rest of the year the sky is almost uninterrupt edly cloudless, and rain very rarely falls. The autumnal rains usually commence at the latter end of October or the beginning of November, not suddenly, but by degrees, which gives oppor tunity to the husbandman to sow his wheat and barley. The rains continue during November and December, but afterwards they occur at longer intervals, and rain is rare after March, and almost never occurs as late as May. The cold of winter is not severe, and as the ground is never frozen, the labors of the husbandman are not en tirely interrupted. Snow falls in different parts of the country, but never lies long on the ground.
In the plains and valleys the heat of summer is oppressive, but not in the more elevated tracts. In such high grounds the nights are cool, often with heavy dew. The total absence of rain in summer soon destroys the verdure of the fields, and gives to the general landscape, even in the high country, an aspect of drought and barren ness. No green thing remains but the foliage of the scattered fruit trees, and occasional vine yards and fields of millet. In autumn the whole land becomes dry and parched, the cisterns are nearly empty, and all nature, animate and inani mate, looks forward with longing for the return of the rainy season. In the hill country the time of harvest is later than in the plains of the Jordan and of the seacoast. The barley harvest is about a fortnight earlier than that of wheat. In the plain of the Jordan the wheat harvest is early in May; in the plains of the coast and of Esdraelon it is towards the latter end of that month, and in the hills not until June. The general vintage is in September, but the first grapes ripen in July, and from that time the towns are well supplied with this fruit.
(4) The Soil. The geological characters of the soil in Palestine have never been satisfactorily stated, but the different epithets of description which travelers employ enable us to know that it differs considerably, both in its appearance and character, in different parts of the land, but wher ever soil of any kind exists, even to a very slight depth, it is found to be highly fertile. As parts of Palestine are hilly, and as hills have seldom much depth of soil, the mode of cultivating them in terraces was anciently, and is now, much em ployed. A series of low stone walls, one above another, across the face of the hill, arrest the soil brought down by the rains, and afford a series of levels for the operations of the husbandman. This mode of cultivation is usual in Lebanon, and is not unfrequent in Palestine, where the remains of terraces across the hills, in various parts of the country, attest the extent to which it was anciently carried.