…the Hebrew Bible records barley (שְׂעֺרָה) as one of the most abundant and important crops of ancient Israel. It is one of the seven species by which the Promised Land is blessed (Deut. 8:8). In fact, it was so common that its price was approximately half that of wheat (2 Kgs 7:1, 16, 18; cf. Rev 6:6), and the value of a field was determined by the amount of barley required to sow it (Lev 27:16). Vast quantities of barley were allegedly needed to maintain Solomon’s palace economy, because barley paid the Temple workers (2 Chr 2:9) and fed his 40,000 horses (1 Kgs 4:28). Barley also had a cultic function, since it was frequently offered to Yahweh (Lev 27:16; Num 5:15; cf. Lev 23:10-14). Thus, there is no doubt that ancient Israel, like its neighbors, planted, harvested, and consumed mass quantities of barley. The Hebrew Bible attests to barley’s being eaten raw (2 Kgs 4:42), parched (2 Sam 17:28), and perhaps in porridge (Ezek 4:9). Barley was ground into flour (Num 5:15) and baked into bread (Judg 7:13; Ezek 4:12). It was also used as animal feed (1 KGs 2:28). Additionally, there is no direct textual evidence in the Hebrew Bible linking barley to שֵׁכָר. But, if ancient Israel did not drink beer, their abstention was unique in the entire ancient Near East.
Michael M. Homan, “Beer, Barley, and שֵׁכָר in the Hebrew Bible” in Le David Maskil: A Birthday Tribute for David Noel Freedman, eds. Richard Elliott Friedman and William H.C. Propp (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2004), 37-38.