American Tract Society Bible Dictionary
In the Bible, is the general word for grain of all kinds, including various seeds, peas, and beans. It never means, as in America, simply maize, or Indian corn. Palestine was anciently very fertile in grain, which furnished in a great measure the support of the inhabitants. "Corn, wine, and oil-olive" were the staple products, and wheat and barley still grow there luxuriantly, when cultivated. Wheat was often eaten in the field, the ripe ear being simply rubbed in the hands to separate the kernels, Deuteronomy 23:25 Matthew 12:1 . Parched wheat was a part of the ordinary food of the Israelites, as it still is of the Arabs, Ruth 2:14 2 Samuel 17:28,29 ; by the feet of cattle, Deuteronomy 25:4 ; or by "a sharp threshing instrument having teeth," Isaiah 41:15 , which was something resembling a cart, drawn over the corn by means of horses or oxen. See THRESHING .
When the grain was threshed, it was separated from the chaff and dust by throwing it forward across the wind, by means of a winnowing fan, or shovel, Matthew 3:12 ; after which the grain was sifted, to separate all impurities from it, Amos 9:9 Luke 22:31 . Hence we see that the threshing-floors were in the open air, and if possible on high ground, as travellers still find them in actual use, Judges 6:11 2 Samuel 24:18 . The grain thus obtained was sometimes pounded in a mortar, Numbers 11:8 Revelation 18:22 , but was commonly reduced to meal by the hand-mill. This consisted of a lower millstone, the upper side of which was slightly concave, and an upper millstone, the lower surface of which was convex. These stones were each about two feet in diameter, and half a foot thick; and were called "the nether millstone," and the rider, Job 41:24 Judges 9:53 2 Samuel 11:21 . The hole for receiving the corn was in the center of the upper millstone; and in the operation of grinding, the lower was fixed, and the upper made to move round upon it with considerable velocity by means of a handle. The meal came out at the edges, and was received on a cloth spread under the mill on the ground. Each family possessed a mill, and the law forbade its being taken in pledge, Deuteronomy 24:6 ; one among innumerable examples of the humanity of the Mosaic legislation. These mills are still in use in the East, and in some parts of Scotland. Dr. E.D. Clarke says, "In the island of Cyprus I observed upon the ground the sort of stones used for grinding corn, called querns in Scotland, common also in Lapland, and in all parts of Palestine." These are the primeval mills of the world; and they are still found in all corn countries where rude and ancient customs have not been liable to those changes introduced by refinement. The employment of grinding with these mills is confined solely to females, who sit on the ground with the mill before them, and thus may be said to be "behind the mill," Exodus 11:5 ; and the practice illustrates the prophetic observation of our Savior concerning the day of Jerusalem's destruction: "Two women shall be grinding at the mill; one shall be taken and the other left," Matthew 24:41 . To this feminine occupation Samson was degraded, Judges 16:21 . The women always accompany the grating noise of the stones with their voices; and when ten or a dozen are thus employed, the fury of the song rises to a high pitch. As the grinding was usually performed in the morning at daybreak, the noise of the females at the hand-mill was heard all over the city, and often awoke their more indolent masters. The Scriptures mention the want of this noise as a mark of desolation, Jeremiah 25:10 Revelation 18:22 .
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