Seed (זֶרִע, zera; σπέρμα). The seed time of Palestine (Le 26:5) for grain came regularly in November and December (Lightfoot, Hor. Hebr. p. 340, 1003; Korte, Reis. p. 432). Since the harvest began in the middle of Nisan, the time of growth and culture was about four months (Joh 4:35; see Lücke, ad loc.). But this was certainly a very general reckoning, and perhaps had become proverbial. (In this passage the word ἔτι, yet, does not seem to accord with this explanation; see also Anger, De Temp. Act. Ap. p. 24 sq.; Wieseler, Chronol. Synops. p. 216 sq.; Jacobi, in Stud. u. Krit. 1838, p. 858 sq.). SEE AGRICULTURE.
Sowing was done by the hand, as often with us, though according to the Gemara (Baba Metsia, fol. 105) the Jews used machines also for this purpose (Otho, Lex. Rab. p. 685). The seed when sown and the young plants have more enemies in the East than even here: not only drought, hail, mice (1Sa 6:5), fire, but also grasshoppers and locusts (see these words), often destroy promising harvests. The following legal regulations are found in the Pentateuch:
1. Two kinds of seed, as wheat and barley, must not be sown on the same land (Le 19:19; comp. Josephus, Ant. 4, 8, 20). The Talmudists (Mishna, Chilaim, 2, 8) say that between two fields sown with different seeds must intervene either fallow ground or a ditch, path, or wall; but the law does not include garden beds (ibid. 3, 1; Shab. 9, 2). Michaelis (Mos. R. 4, 320 sq.) strives to show that the lawgiver meant simply to require a careful sorting of the seed, which is recommended by the ancients as very advantageous (Virgil, Georg. 1, 193 sq.; Varro, R. R. 1, 52, 1), and which would render impossible the springing up of weeds (especially the Lolium temulentum). But this cannot be supported, and a custom so advantageous to the agriculturist did not need the authority of law. Lappenberg (in the Brem. u. Verdensch. Biblioth., 5, 937 sq.) gives a purely theological exposition of it; and perhaps other parts of the law furnish an easier explanation of this class of regulations than this one. SEE DIVERSE. The more exact requirements of the rabbins will be found in the Mishna (Chilaiz, ch. 1-3). They are very trifling, and sometimes show a disposition to evade the law; but even anciently it was not so strictly enforced as to prevent giving a field of barley a border of spelt (Isa 28:25; see marg. A.V.). In general the rule is confined to Palestine, and the Jews do not refuse elsewhere to enjoy the fruit of mixed harvests (comp. Hottinger, Hebr. Leges, p. 376 sq.; Darsov, De Mirodis Seminandi Diversa Semina Hebr. Vet. [Viteb. 1695]).
2. Le 11:37 sq. provides that seed set apart for sowing should remain clean if the carcass of a creeping beast fell upon it; but if it had been wet, it should be made unclean, perhaps because wet seed takes up impurities far easier than dry (comp. the analogy, ver. 34). Similar is the law of purification in the Zendavesta (2, 335, Kleuker), and a similar distinction of wet and dry is observed among the Arabs still (Niebuhr, Beschs p. 40).
By an easy metaphor, seed, as the prolific principle of future life, is taken in Scripture for posterity, whether of man, beasts, trees, etc., all of which are said to be sown and to fructify as the means of producing a succeeding generation (Jer 31:27). Hence seed denotes an individual, as Seth in the stead of Abel (Ge 4:25 etc.). and the whole line of descent; as the seed of Abraham, of Jacob, etc., the seed royal, etc., much in the same acceptation as children. The seed of Abraham denotes not only those who descend from him by natural issue, but those who imitate his character (Ro 4:16), for if he be "the father of the faithful," then the faithful are his seed by character, independent of natural descent; and hence the Messiah is said to see his seed, though, in fact, Jesus left no children by descent, but by grace or conversion only (Isa 53:10). This is occasionally restricted to one chief or principal seed, one who by excellence is the seed, as the seed of the woman (Ge 3:15; Ga 3:16), the seed of Abraham, the seed of David — meaning the most excellent descendant of the woman, of Abraham, of David. Or understand by the "seed of the woman" the offspring of the female sex only, as verified in the supernatural conception of Jesus (Mt 1:18, etc.; Lu 1:26, etc.), and of which the birth of Abraham's seed (Isaac) was a figure. See below.
Seed is likewise taken figuratively for the Word of God (Lu 8:5; 1Pe 1:23), for a disposition becoming a divine origin (1Jo 3:9), and for truly pious persons (Mt 13:38).