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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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FAN.—The fan (מִוִרָה mizreh, the πτύον of Matthew 3:12 and Luke 3:17) was an implement used in the winnowing of grain (Isaiah 30:24 [where it is mentioned along with the רִחַת rahath, Authorized and Revised Versions ‘shovel’]). It was either a wooden shovel (Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible i. 51a; Smith, DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] i. 31; van Lennep, Bible Lands, p. 83) or a pitchfork (Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible iv. 509a; Encyc. Bibl. i. 84: Mackie, Bible Manners and Customs, p. 42). The balance of probability is in favour of the latter.

We get no help from LXX Septuagint and Vulgate. LXX Septuagint omits the word; the Vulgate renders by ventilabrum, which was, according to some, a shovel (Ramsay, Roman Antiquities, p. 482), and, according to others, a fork (Smith, Lat. English Dict. s.v.). Pesh. has raphsho’, which means ‘shovel.’ There is, however, the significant fact that down to the present day two winnowing implements are used in Palestine which bear practically the same names as those which occur in Isaiah 30:24. These are the miḍrâ and the raht, and there is no substantial reason for doubting that they correspond respectively to the mizrch and the rahath. The miḍrâ, which we accordingly identify with the ‘fan’ of Scripture, is a simple wooden fork about six feet long. It has from five to seven prongs, which are set in separately and bound together with a wrapping of fresh hide. The natural shrinkage of the hide renders it a very effective ligature. The raht is a wooden shovel about five feet in length.

The winnowing of the mixed mass of grain, chaff, and short straw produced by threshing is begun by tossing it into the air with the miḍrâ. This process frees most of the chaff and straw, which are carried away by the wind (see Agriculture, p. 40), but a good deal still remains mingled with the pile of grain. A second winnowing is therefore needed, and for this the raht is used. See also Chaff.

Literature.—On the meaning of Christ’s winnowing-fan see Seeley, Ecce Homo, ch. vi.

Hugh Duncan.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Fan'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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