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The sickle is one of humanity's oldest tools. Still widely used, it hasn't changed in design very much since ancient times - a (usually) curved blade with a handle that was used to cut, or reap, grain. The English word sickle (which is derived from an old Anglo-Saxon word to which scythe also originated) is used to translate the Old Testament Hebrew word pronounced ker-mash and the New Testament Greek word pronounced drep-anon. The sickle is mentioned in The Bible in both a literal manner, by humans for harvesting grain, and in a figurative way, by God for the eventual "harvesting" of humanity.

Wheat The Old Testament

The Israelites used sickles to harvest their crops of barley and wheat. The Biblical Holy Days are symbolized by the successive harvests, from the Feast of Weeks, or "First Fruits," later called Pentecost, in the spring, to The Feast Of Tabernacles in the autumn - a gradual harvest of crops over the seasons that symbolize the process of salvation through time.

"You shall count seven weeks; begin to count the seven weeks from the time you first put the sickle to the standing grain. Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to The Lord your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as The Lord your God blesses you; and you shall rejoice before The Lord your God, you and your son and your daughter, your manservant and your maidservant, the Levite who is within your towns, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are among you, at the place which The Lord your God will choose, to make His Name dwell there. (Deuteronomy 16:9-11 RSV)

People were permitted to eat from someone's field to satisfy hunger, but a sickle was not to be used since such excessive gathering would be regarded as theft:

"When you go into your neighbor's vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes, as many as you wish, but you shall not put any in your vessel. When you go into your neighbor's standing grain, you may pluck the ears with your hand, but you shall not put a sickle to your neighbor's standing grain." (Deuteronomy 23:24-25 RSV)

New Testament

The sickle is also used symbolically for salvation and judgment that the world awaits in the time of The Return Of Jesus Christ:

"Then I looked, and lo, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat upon the cloud, "Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe." So he who sat upon the cloud swung his sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped."

"And another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. Then another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has power over fire, and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, "Put in your sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe." So the angel swung his sickle on the earth and gathered the vintage of the earth, and threw it into the great wine press of the wrath of God; and the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the wine press, as high as a horse's bridle, for one thousand six hundred stadia." (Revelation 14:14-20 RSV)

Fact Finder: What do weeds symbolize?
See When Angels Will Do The Weeding

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This Week's Bible Quiz

What's the missing word? (Revised Standard Version):

1. "He said, "Come." So _______ got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus"

2. "And great crowds came to Him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the dumb, and many others, and they put them at His feet, and He healed them, so that the throng wondered, when they saw the dumb speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of _______."

3. "In the morning, as He was returning to the city, He was hungry. And seeing a _______ tree by the wayside He went to it, and found nothing on it but leaves only. And He said to it, "May no fruit ever come from you again!" And the _______ tree withered at once"

4. "And as for the _______ of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not God of the dead, but of the living."

5. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, _______! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others."

6. "As He sat on the Mount of _______, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the close of the age?"

7. "So when you see the desolating sacrilege spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place, let the reader understand, then let those who are in _______ flee to the mountains"

8. "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. As were the days of _______, so will be the coming of the Son of man"

9. "Now on the first day of _______ Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Where will You have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?"

10. "As they went out, they came upon a man of Cyrene, Simon by name; this man they compelled to carry His cross. And when they came to a place called _______, which means the place of a skull, they offered Him wine to drink, mingled with gall; but when He tasted it, He would not drink it"

For the answers to this January 22 2002 quiz, see the Bible Quiz Answers Page

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