the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
an agricultural term used in two senses.
1. The curved piece of wood upon the neck of draught animals, by which they are fastened to the pole or beam. This well-known implement of husbandry is described in the Hebrew language by the terms mot (מוֹט), motah (מוֹטָה ), and 'ol (עֹל ), the former two specifically applying to the bows of wood out of which it was constructed, and the last to the application (binding) of the article to the neck of the ox. The expressions are combined in Leviticus 26:13 and Ezekiel 34:27, with the meaning, "bands of the yoke." The Hebrew word 'ol (Numbers 19:2; Deuteronomy 21:3; 1 Samuel 6:7) is often used as the symbol of servitude or slavery (1 Kings 12:4-11; Isaiah 9:4; Isaiah 10:27; Isaiah 14:25; Isaiah 47:6; Jeremiah 5:5), and to break the yoke is to become free (Genesis 27:40; Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 5:5; Nahum 1:13). An iron yoke is the symbol of severe bondage (Deuteronomy 28:48; Jeremiah 28:14). The term "yoke" is also used as the symbol of calamity or suffering (Lamentations 1:14; Lamentations 3:27). The Hebrew word motah also signifies a yoke as worn chiefly by men; probably such as is still borne by water- carriers, having a vessel suspended by a rope or chain at each end (Jeremiah 27:2; Jeremiah 28:10; Jeremiah 28:12). The breaking or removal of the yoke is an emblem of freedom (Isaiah 58:6; Isaiah 58:9; Leviticus 26:13; Ezekiel 30:18; Ezekiel 34:27; Nahum 1:13). So, likewise, the corresponding Greek term, ζύγός is used as the emblem of spiritual service (Matthew 11:29), also of spiritual bondage (Acts 15:10; Galatians 5:1).
Among the ancient Egyptians yokes of different kinds were used for several purposes (see Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt. 1:33, 379; 2:15).
(1) In many instances men were employed to carry the water in pails, suspended by a wooden yoke borne upon their shoulders. The same yoke was employed for carrying other things, as boxes, baskets containing game and poultry, or whatever was taken to market; and every trade seems to have used it for this purpose, from the potter and the brick-maker to the carpenter and the shipwright. The wooden bar or yoke was about three feet seven inches in length; and the straps, which were double, and fastened together at the lower as well as at the upper extremity, were of leather, and between fifteen and sixteen inches long. The small thong at the bottom not only served to connect the ends, but was probably intended to fasten a hook, or an additional strap, if required, to attach the burden; and though most of these yokes had two, some were furnished with four or eight straps; and the form, number, or arrangement of them varied according to the purposes for which they were intended.
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