Wheat, חִטָּה, Triticum

Back to Flora
English:

wheat

Hebrew:

חִטָּה (ḥiṭṭâ)

Scientific Name:

Triticum

Image gallery

Biblical data

Introduction

The common noun חִטָּה (ḥiṭṭâ) denotes what seems to be the most important grain in the eyes of the biblical authors, as it is typically mentioned before other grains and persistently appears at the beginning of lists of plants and foodstuffs. In particular, it is first in the list of plants illustrating the goodness of the land of Israel (Deut 8:8).

The singular form of the noun occurs 7 times in the Hebrew Bible (Exod 9:32; Deut 8:8; 32:14; Isa 28:25; Joel 1:11; Ps 81:17; Job 31:40), and the plural occurs 23 times (Gen 30:14; Exod 29:2; 34:22; Judg 6:11; 15:1; 1 Sam 6:13; 12:17; 2 Sam 4:6; 17:28; 1 Kgs 5:25; Jer 12:13; 41:8; Ezek 4:9; 27:17; 45:13; Ps 147:14; Ruth 2:23; Song 7:3; 1 Chr 21:20, 23; 2 Chr 2:9, 14; 27:5). The standard plural form is חִטִּים, but in one case we find חִטִּין (Ezek 4:9), and the plural construct חִטֵּי מִנִּית occurs once as well (Ezek 27:17). The Aramaic cognate חִנְטִין, in the plural, occurs twice in the Hebrew Bible (Ezra 6:9; 7:22). As with other plant terms, it seems that the singular form refers primarily to the living plant itself, while the plural form refers primarily to its usable product, although the two forms are sometimes used interchangeably (Deut 32:14 and Ps 81:17 vs. Ps 147:14; Jer 12:13 vs. Job 31:40).

Distribution within the Bible

The Hebrew singular form occurs:
3 times in prophetic oratory / prophecy: Deut 8:8; Isa 28:25; Joel 1:11
twice in poetry: Deut 32:14; Ps 81:17
once in wisdom literature: Job 31:40
once in narrative: Exod 9:32

The Hebrew plural form occurs:
14 times in narrative: Gen 30:14; Judg 6:11; 15:1; 1 Sam 6:13; 2 Sam 4:6; 17:28; 1 Kgs 5:25; Jer 41:8; Ruth 2:23; 1 Chr 21:20, 23; 2 Chr 2:9, 14; 2 Chr 27:5
4 times in prophetic oratory / prophecy: 1 Sam 12:17; Jer 12:13; Ezek 4:9; 27:17
3 times in cultic instructions / law: Exod 29:2; 34:22; Ezek 45:13
twice in poetry: Ps 147:14; Song 7:3

The Aramaic plural form occurs twice in memoranda embedded in narrative: Ezra 6:9; 7:22.

Parts, Elements, Features that Are Specified in the Bible

Its fat (חֵלֶב חִטָּה, Ps 81:17; חֵלֶב חִטִּים, Ps 147:14) and kidney fat (חֵלֶב כִּלְיוֹת חִטָּה, Deut 32:14) are presumably figurative terms for its high-quality products.

Stages of processing: sowing (זָרְעוּ חִטִּים, Jer 12:13), harvest (קְצִיר חִטִּים, 1 Sam 6:13; 12:17; Ruth 2:23), its harvest time as a season of the year (בִּימֵי קְצִיר חִטִּים, Gen 30:14; Judg 15:1), first-fruits of its harvest (בִּכּוּרֵי קְצִיר חִטִּים, Exod 34:22), beating out (חֹבֵט חִטִּים, Judg 6:11) or threshing (דָּשׁ חִטִּים, 1 Chr 21:20), a heap of it (עֲרֵמַת חִטִּים, Song 7:3), flour made from it (סֹלֶת חִטִּים, Exod 29:2).

Standardized amounts: twenty thousand kor traded by King Solomon of Israel to King Hiram of Tyre (עֶשְׂרִים אֶלֶף כֹּר חִטִּים, 1 Kgs 5:25; חִטִּים מַכּוֹת … כֹּרִים עֶשְׂרִים אֶלֶף, 2 Chr 2:9), ten thousand kor given by the Ammonites as tribute to King Jotham of Judah (עֲשֶׂרֶת אֲלָפִים כֹּרִים חִטִּים, 2 Chr 27:5), and homer (חֹמֶר הַחִטִּים, Ezek 45:13).

Function in Context

Reference to its growth in the land of Israel (אֶרֶץ חִטָּה …, Deut 8:8). Realistic references to its prominence in trade from Israel / Judah to Tyre (1 Kgs 5:25; Ezek 27:17; 2 Chr 2:9).

Realistic reference to its susceptibility to destruction by locusts (Joel 1:11).

Realistic references to חִטִּים as a commodity: as provision for refugees (2 Sam 17:27–29), as hidden treasure (Jer 41:8), purchasers of it (לֹקְחֵי חִטִּים, 2 Sam 4:6), use for cultic offering (1 Chr 21:23), as an ingredient in bread (לָחֶם, Ezek 4:9), and its flour (סֹלֶת חִטִּים) as the main ingredient in various baked goods used for cultic offerings (Exod 29:2).

Used metaphorically as an example of desirable growth, in an idiomatic curse of getting the undesirable growth of thorns (קֹצִים, Jer 12:13; חוֹחַ, Job 31:40) instead of it.

A heap of it, fenced with lilies / lotuses (שּׁוֹשַׁנִּים), serves as a colorful simile for a woman’s belly (Song 7:3).

Pairs and Constructions

First in the list of the so-called seven species of the land of Israel, followed by barley, grapevine, fig, and pomegranate, and then by olive and honey: ‏אֶ֤רֶץ חִטָּה֙ וּשְׂעֹרָ֔ה וְגֶ֥פֶן וּתְאֵנָ֖ה וְרִמּ֑וֹן אֶֽרֶץ־זֵ֥ית שֶׁ֖מֶן וּדְבָֽשׁ (Deut 8:8).

First in a list of items traded by Judah / Israel to Tyre, followed by pannag (?), honey, oil, and mastic: חִטֵּי מִנִּית וּפַנַּג וּדְבַשׁ וָשֶׁמֶן וָצֹרִי (Ezek 27:17). First in a list of items traded by King Solomon of Israel to King Hiram of Tyre, followed by barley, wine, and oil (2 Chr 2:9, 14; oil is placed before wine in v. 14). First in a shorter list of the same nature, followed only by pure oil (שֶׁמֶן כָּתִית, 1 Kgs 5:25).

First in a series of crops destroyed by locusts, followed by barley and denoted together with it as “harvest of the field” (קְצִיר שָׂדֶה), and then by grapevine, fig, pomegranate, date palm, and apple, which are collectively denoted as “trees of the field” (עֲצֵי הַשָּׂדֶה) (Joel 1:11–12).

First edible item in a list of provisions for refugees, followed by barley, flour, roasted grain, beans, lentils, roasted grain [sic], honey, cream, sheep / goats, and cow cheese (?): מִשְׁכָּ֤ב וְסַפּוֹת֙ וּכְלִ֣י יוֹצֵ֔ר וְחִטִּ֥ים וּשְׂעֹרִ֖ים וְקֶ֣מַח וְקָלִ֑י וּפ֥וֹל וַעֲדָשִׁ֖ים וְקָלִֽי׃ וּדְבַ֣שׁ וְחֶמְאָ֗ה וְצֹאן֙ וּשְׁפ֣וֹת בָּקָ֔ר (2 Sam 17:28–29). First in a list of hidden treasures, followed by barley, oil, and honey: חִטִּים וּשְׂעֹרִים וְשֶׁמֶן וּדְבָשׁ (Jer 41:8).

First in a list of ingredients to make bread, followed by barley, beans, lentils, millet, and emmer: חִטִּין וּשְׂעֹרִים וּפוֹל וַעֲדָשִׁים וְדֹחַן וְכֻסְּמִים (Ezek 4:9). The geographical setting here is Babylonia. The fact that nothing like this list of ingredients appears elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible in relation to bread suggests that this is not ordinary bread.

Paired with emmer (כֻּסֶּמֶת) and contrasted with flax (פִּשְׁתָּה) and barley (שְּׂעֹרָה) in terms of its growth schedule (Exod 9:31–32). Its harvest follows the barley harvest (Ruth 2:23).

Collocated with nigella (קֶצַח), cumin (כַמֹּן), barley (שְׂעֹרָה), and emmer (כֻסֶּמֶת) as examples of items that can be planted (Isa 28:25).

Followed by barley in the context of cultic instructions (Ezek 45:13). Followed by barley (and preceded only by silver) in list of tribute given by the Ammonites to King Jotham of Judah (2 Chr 27:5).

Its kidney fat (see above) is paired with “grape blood” (דַם עֵנָב), presumably grape juice (Deut 32:14). Its fat is paired with honey (Ps 81:17).

Contrasted with thorns in metaphor (קֹצִים, Jer 12:13; חוֹחַ, Job 31:40).

Collocated with lilies / lotuses to form a poetic image (Song 7:3).

Contributor: Dr. Raanan Eichler, Biblical scholar, Postdoc 2016

History of Identification

Identification History Table

Hebrew Greek Aramaic Syriac Latin Arabic English
Reference MT LXX Revisions Targum Peshitta Vulgate Jewish Christian KJV NRSV NJPS
Exod 9:32 חִטָּה πυρὸς
= wheat, Triticum vulgare
O:   חִיטַיָא
= wheat
PJ: חיטייא
N: חטיה
GTD: חִטַיָּא
S: חטיה
ḥṭˀ
= wheat
triticum
= wheat
wheat wheat wheat
Deut 8:8 חִטָּה πυροῦ O: חִיטִין
PJ: חינטין
N: חיטין
S: חטה
ḥṭˀ frumenti = corn, grain wheat wheat wheat
Deut 32:14 חִטָּה πυροῦ O: וֻמַשִריָתְהוֹן
= and their camps (midrashic interpretation)
PJ: חיטיהון
N: חטייא
FTP, FTV: חיטיא
ḥṭˀ tritici wheat wheat wheat
Isa 28:25 חִטָּה πυρὸν חִטִין ḥṭˀ triticum wheat wheat wheat
Joel 1:11 חִטָּה πυροῦ חִטִין ḥṭˀ frumento wheat wheat wheat
Ps 81:17 חִטָּה πυροῦ חיטין ḥṭtˀ / ḥṭˀ frumenti wheat wheat wheat
Job 31:40 חִטָּה πυροῦ חטיא / חנטיא ḥṭˀ frumento wheat wheat wheat
Gen 30:14 חִטִּים πυρῶν O: חִטִין
PJ: חינטין / חיטין
N: חטיא
GTE: חטייה
S: חטים
ḥṭˀ triticeae wheat wheat wheat
Exod 29:2 חִטִּים πυρῶν O: חִטִין
PJ: חינטין
N: חטין
S: חטים
ḥṭˀ triticea wheaten wheat wheat
Exod 34:22 חִטִּים πυρῶν O: חִטִין
PJ: חינטין
N: חטיא
S: חטים
ḥṭˀ triticeae wheat wheat wheat
Judg 6:11 חִטִּים πυροὺς חִטִין ḥṭˀ frumenta wheat wheat wheat
Judg 15:1 חִטִּים πυρῶν חִטִין ḥṭˀ triticeae wheat wheat wheat
1 Sam 6:13 חִטִּים πυρῶν חִטִין ḥṭˀ triticum wheat wheat wheat
1 Sam 12:17 חִטִּים πυρῶν חִטִין ḥṭˀ tritici wheat wheat wheat
2 Sam 4:6 חִטִּים πυροὺς חִטִין bny ḥṭˀ spicas tritici
= spikes of wheat (contextual clarification)
wheat wheat wheat
2 Sam 17:28 חִטִּים πυροὺς חִטִין ḥṭˀ frumentum wheat wheat wheat
1 Kgs 5:25 חִטִּים πυροῦ חִטִין ḥṭˀ tritici wheat wheat wheat
Jer 12:13 חִטִּים πυροὺς חִטִין ḥṭˀ triticum wheat wheat wheat
Jer 41:8 חִטִּים πυροὶ חִטִין ḥṭˀ frumenti wheat wheat wheat
Ezek 45:13 חִטִּים πυροῦ חִטִין ḥṭˀ frumenti wheat wheat wheat
Ps 147:14 חִטִּים πυροῦ חטים ḥṭˀ frumenti wheat wheat wheat
Ruth 2:23 חִטִּים πυρῶν חנטין ḥṭˀ triticum wheat wheat wheat
Song 7:3 חִטִּים σίτου
= “grain, comprehending both wheat and barley” (LSJ)
מעסר קודשא ונדרא ונדבתא (midrashic interpretation) ḥṭˀ tritici wheat wheat wheat
1 Chr 21:20 חִטִּים πυρούς חטייה 0 triticum wheat wheat wheat
1 Chr 21:23 חִטִּים σῖτον חנטייה ḥṭˀ triticum wheat wheat wheat
2 Chr 2:9 חִטִּים σῖτον חטין ḥṭˀ tritici wheat wheat wheat
2 Chr 2:14 חִטִּים σῖτον חטין ḥṭˀ triticum wheat wheat wheat
2 Chr 27:5 חִטִּים πυροῦ חנטין ḥṭˀ tritici wheat wheat wheat
Ezek 4:9 חִטִּין πυροὺς חִטִין ḥṭˀ frumentum wheat wheat wheat
Ezek 27:17 חִטֵּי מִנִּית σίτου πράσει = sale of grain חִיטֵי דִיחוּש / רִיחוּש
= myrrhobalsam wheat.
Var: חִיטֵי דחושלא
= hulled and crushed wheat.
ḥṭˀ wrwzˀ = wheat and rice frumento primo
= best grain
wheat of Minnith wheat from Minneth wheat of Minnith
Ezra 6:9 חִנְטִין πυρούς ḥṭˀ frumentum wheat wheat wheat
Ezra 7:22 חִנְטִין πυροῦ ḥṭˀ frumenti wheat wheat wheat

Discussion

The Septuagint renders the term in all its forms as πυρὸς, “wheat,” with a few instances in which it uses the more general term σῖτος, “grain” (Song 7:3; 1 Chr 21:23; 2 Chr 2:9, 14; Ezek 27:17). The Vulgate similarly alternates between triticum, “wheat,” and the more general term frumentum, “grain.” There is no obvious criterion deciding the choice in either work. The Peshitta and the Targumim consistently use the Aramaic cognate of the Hebrew word, חטה, “wheat.” The identification as wheat is unanimously accepted by modern scholars.[1]

End Notes

[1] Löw 1924–34, 1:776–98; Feliks 1968, 142–45; Zohary 1982, 74–75; Amar 2012, 94.

Bibliography

Amar, Zohar. 2012. צמחי המקרא. Jerusalem: Rubin Mass.
Feliks, Yehuda. 1968. עולם הצומח המקראי. Ramat-Gan: Masada.
Löw, Immanuel. 1924–34. Die Flora der Juden. 4 vols. Vienna and Leipzig: Löwit and Kohut.
Zohary, Michael. 1982. Plants of the Bible. London: Cambridge University Press.

Contributor: Dr. Raanan Eichler, Biblical scholar, Postdoc 2016

Biological Information