shef, shevz ('alummah, `omer, `amir): When the grain is reaped, it is laid in handfuls back of the reaper to be gathered by children or those who cannot stand the harder work of reaping (Ps 129:7). The handfuls are bound into large sheaves, two of which are laden at a time on a donkey (compare Ne 13:15). In some districts carts are used (compare Am 2:13). The sheaves are piled about the threshing-floors until threshing time, which may be several weeks after harvest. It is an impressive sight to see the huge stacks of sheaves piled about the threshing-floors, the piles often covering an area greater than the nearby villages (see AGRICULTURE). The ancient Egyptians bound their grain into small sheaves, forming the bundles with care so that the heads were equally distributed between the two ends (see Wilkinson, Ancient Egyptians, 1878,II , 424; compare Joseph's dream, Ge 37:5-8). The sheaves mentioned in Ge 37:10-12,15 must have been handfuls. It is a custom in parts of Syria for the gatherers of the sheaves to run toward a passing horseman and wave a handful of grain, shouting kemshi, kemshi (literally, "handful"). They want the horseman to feed the grain to his horse. In Old Testament times forgotten sheaves had to be left for the sojourner (De 24:19); compare the kindness shown to Ruth by the reapers of Boaz (Ru 2:7,15).
Figurative: "Being hungry they carry the sheaves" is a picture of torment similar to that of the hungry horse urged to go by the bundle of hay tied before him (Job 24:10). The joyful sight of the sheaves of an abundant harvest was used by the Psalmist to typify the joy of the returning captives (Ps 126:6).
James A. Patch