|(Deuteronomy 8:7-8) For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land--a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey;
This ancient land of plenty was renowned for its bounty of fruits and grains. Divine providence has been seen in the choice of this fruitful land as the Promised Land, the Holy Land, the Land of Israel. The essence of the Deuteronomic promise above has been encapsulated in the image of the Seven Species - wheat, barley, grape, fig, pomegranate, olive and date - which individually and as a unit have played a significant role in religious and cultural symbolism.
Of the Seven Species, wheat and barley are constantly referred to in the Bible as the "produce of the land". The grains are frequently linked with the grapevine and the olive tree in the divine gift of the inhabitants. Even depictions of the desolation of the country make reference to the Seven Species, as in the following:
(Joel 1:10-12)The fields are ruined, the ground is dried up; the grain is destroyed, the new wine is dried up, the oil fails. Despair, you farmers, wail, you vine growers; grieve for the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field is destroyed. The vine is dried up and the fig tree is withered; the pomegranate, the palm and the apple tree--all the trees of the field--are dried up. Surely the joy of mankind is withered away.
The Bible reflects the closeness of the people to its land. The three central festivals of the year, Peasch(Passover), Shavuoth(Pentecost) and Succoth(Tabernacles) interwove the two motifs which underscored the fusion of the ecological and religious elements: the fruitfulness of the Land of Israel and the history of its people. Pesach commemorates the bringing in of the winter barley harvest, the beginning of the wheat harvest and the exodus from Egypt; Shavuoth, the offering of the first grains of wheat and first-fruits of the land and the revelation of the Torah; Succoth, the final harvest of the year and the wanderings in the desert. Between Passover and Shavuoth(mid-April to mid-June), when the flowers of the olive, grape, pomegranate and date open and embryonic figs begin maturing, it is written:
(Song of Songs 2:11-13) See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.
On the holiday of Shavuoth, it is commanded: (Deuteronomy 26:1-2) When you have entered the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it, take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the LORD your God is giving you and put them in a basket. Then go to the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name.
The rabbis declared that: "One does not bring offerings of there first-fruits except from the Seven Species"(Mishnah, Bikkurim1,3). Tosefta Bikkurim2,8 describes in detail how the worshipper bore his offering in a basket, arranging layer upon layer of wheat, barley, olives, dates, pomegranates and figs, with clusters of grapes topping everything.
The calendar in ancient Israel revolved around the agronomic seasons which came to be named according to their agricultural activities. For instance, the biblical word kayitz(II Samuel 16:1-2; Jeremiah40:10, 12) which in modern Hebrew refers to 'summer', may specify summer fruits as a whole, but primarily signifies dried figs(cf. Isaiah16:9, Amos8:1-2). While the wheat harvest and the gathering of the first-fruits took place in the spring at Shavuoth, Succoth was the time when all the crops were quickly brought into the storehouse so as to prevent their spoiling in th winter rains. The grapes were ready to be made into wine, the olives pressed into oil and the dates made into honey. It has been suggested that the Seven Species are the outstanding representatives of the particular agricultural problems of the Land of Israel.
Fruit was of special importance in the biblical period because it could be stored in times of plenty to relieve hunger in times of want: figs, dates and grapes could be dired and oilves processed. Furthermore, these products were so abundant in the land that they were the basis of the export trade. According to Ezekiel27:17, "Judah and the Land of Israel were your merchants; dealing with you in wheat of Minnith and Pannag, honey, oil and balm"