Separating the Wheat From the Chaff: A Rice Harvest in Bali

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A hot and sweaty January in Bali leaves you without a lot of energy. We had already discovered that the dirty Bali beaches aren’t the best places to hang out or cool off, so we headed to Ubud to see some rice paddies. Ubud, in the center of Bali, is known for supplying some of the best natural perks. Between the lush, green rice paddies, the numerous coffee plantations, a close-by volcano and a large waterfall, it sounded like a good place to be.



I had read about one hotel that was built in the middle of a rice paddy field. It was reported to have some of the best natural views around on the edge of town. We made the long, exhausting trek out there only to find it in the midst of construction and nothing but dusty, brown earth.


Discouraged, we lowered our standards to just find a clean, decent hotel. The first one my mom checked was on a normal road in town. The room there was good and cheap, but what do you know? A huge rice field sat serenely spread out below that hotel room’s window. It was a bit like a miracle.


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While rice resembles vibrant green grass when it is young and planted in a wet, marshy field, these brownish stalks were ready to be harvested.


It was incredible to watch the hard work of the farmers who diligently rose early and worked through the heat of the day. Although dressed in long sleeves and pants, the Balinese farmers didn’t seem to sweat.

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They worked as a small community, each shouldering a specific part of the job. Their tools and methods were as ancient as the Bible. I felt as though I was sucked back in time. The sickle was an exciting tool to witness in use. I thought all the sickles of the world had been stacked on the shelf of antiquity. The rice harvest allowed me to grab a glimpse of what life was like even as far back as Deuteronomy.


“You shall count seven weeks for yourself; you shall begin to count seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain. Then you shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God with a tribute of a freewill offering of your hand, which you shall give just as the LORD your God blesses you;” Deuteronomy 16:9-10


One of the most important Bible verses for me is found in Revelation and uses the imagery of a sickle, which henceforth I will be better able to picture:

I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like a Son of Man with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested. Revelation 14:14-16

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Seeing the thrashing of the stalks brought back to my memory stories from Ruth. It was fascinating to watch. It was like seeing the Bible come alive.


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Boaz gave orders to his men, “Let her gather among the sheaves and don’t reprimand her. Even pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.” So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered ~Ruth 2:15-17


One of the most awe-inspiring travel moments for me came from witnessing literal chaff being separated from the rice. The main gunk was first taken out by hand. Then the heavy rice was lifted up and dropped into a pile, while the chaff floated more slowly down on top. Best of all was watching the chaff be wafted with the basket for the wind to carry away.


Jesus said that he will separate the wheat from the chaff when he comes to reign and judge the world. He will also burn up all the chaff, as did the Balinese set fire to their harvested fields.


These allegories that Jesus used in Israel concerning harvests, sickles, chaff, and wheat would all have made perfect relevant sense to the Israelis of the day. For me, not so much. The experience of watching something like a week long rice harvest in Bali meant the world to me. It was as cool as being stuck in a time machine. Having your faith come to life is a priceless gift. Just another reason that it’s amazing to travel. 🙂


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