“At a place where there was a field full of barley, the troops fled from the Philistines.” 1 Ch 11:13
The rice seeds had to be germinated first in a small plot of a flooded rice paddy. They would be ready to be transplanted when they were about a few inches tall and the time of transplantation usually took place during the early spring time after we celebrated the Chinese New Year when the water on the rice field was still pretty cold. Of course the field had to be flooded, plowed and tilled, which was mainly the job of our water buffalo who worked tirelessly for days in the howling wind blowing over from the Taiwan Strait just a few miles away. Our school was yet to start and my grandmother was such a taskmaster that it bothered her to see us children having nothing to do. There were always chores for us to do, be they grazing the water buffalo or doing some weeding in the sweet potato field, and it was always such a relief when school finally started. All the adults in my family, however, continued to labor in the rice paddy, doing the weeding, fertilizing, and other chores, oftentimes on their hands and knees, crawling between rows of tender rice plants while doing the weeding. We children only got to visit the rice farm during the weekends when grandmother drove us to the fields to help out, doing whatever we were able to do. The rice crops seemed to grow without us knowing it and their light greenness became darker as they grew. If all things went well and the usually unpredictable weather cooperated, the entire field would turn golden just before the rice was ready to be harvested, which was always a joyful occasion. Everybody would be smiling and in jolly mood, and even my grandmother would become a little mellow. We were allowed to roam and play hide and seek in the field, as long as we didn’t do any damage to the ripe rice crop. The labor of growing rice was long and laborious, but the harvest brought us a lot of joy. Indeed, “those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.”
The times were hard and the labor of being a farmer working on a small plot of land was laborious, but at least there was peace in the land and we got to eat the rice we had planted and drink the water from the well we had dug near the fishpond. The Japanese had been driven home by the nationalist army and Taiwan had been restored as a part of China. People in my village were mostly poor at the time, but thankfully the war was a thing of the past.
There was no such luxury for the Israelites as they continued to engage in a deadly battle with the Philistines during the time of Saul and David, and they turned their barley field into a battle ground. “At a place where there was a field full of barley, the troops fled from the Philistines.” How can we not shed a few tears when we read this verse depicting the quiet pastoral scene with the scent of blood and the shadow of death permeating the autumn air? Surely this wasn’t meant to be, wasn’t meant to be at all. The barley had been planted, watered, and cultivated, yet it was trampled down underfoot by the ones who butchered one another for one cause or another, and none of the reasons was quite justifiable.