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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia


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The finely ground substance of any cereal. The earliest and most simple way of crushing grain consisted in pounding it in a mortar, producing a coarse flour, or rather different grades of grits (comp. the preparation of the manna, Numbers 11:8). In order to obtain fine flour the grain, it seems, was pulverized between two stones (see illustration in Erman, "Aegypten und Aegyptisches Leben im Altertum," p. 268; Bliss, "A Mound of Many Cities," p. 85). But as far back as can be traced the Israelites used a mill for preparing fine flour. A small hand-mill was used down to a late date, but in the Gospels mills worked by asses are mentioned (μνλος όνικáς, Matthew 18:6, R. V., margin). Each household prepared its own flour—hence the prohibition to take a hand-mill in pledge from the poor (Deuteronomy 24:6); the heavy work of grinding was the task of the women and the female slaves (Exodus 11:5; Isaiah 47:2; Matthew 24:41), or of captives (Judges 16:21; Lamentations 5:13).

The ancient mill could hardly have differed from that now used in Palestine, which consists of two circular stones ("pelaḥ"); hence the designation "reḥayim" (lit. "the two millstones"; comp. Deuteronomy 24:6; Isaiah 47:2). The mill is also known as "ṭaḥanah" (Ecclesiastes 12:4; "ṭeḥon," Lamentations 5:15). At present these stones, generally made of basalt, are about 40-48 cm. in diameter and about 10 cm. thick. The nether stone ("pelaḥ taḥtit") is fixed and is especially hard (Job 41:16). It is somewhat convex, with a small plug of hard wood in the center. The upper stone is correspondingly concaved on the nether side, with a funnel-shaped hole in the center, into which the plug of the nether stone is fitted. On the edge is a peg ("yad") used as a handle. The upper stone is turned by the grinder around the plug of the nether stone; hence its name "pelaḥ rekeb," or merely "rekeb" ("the wagon"; Judges 9:53; 2 Samuel 11:21; Deuteronomy 24:6). The grain is poured by hand through the funnel-shaped hole of the upper stone, and the flour, dropping from the edge of the nether stone, is collected on a cloth spread beneath.

Grain Used.

The grain commonly made into bread was barley and wheat, especially the latter, spelt ("kussemet") being evidently used in special cases only (Ezekiel 4:9). Wheat bread was the superior article, barley bread being the food of the poor. In the ritual, barley flour was used for the offering of jealousy (Numbers 5:15). Wheat flour was prepared in two different grades. The flour that was generally used for baking was called "ḳemaḥ," being fine or coarse as it fell from the mill; and from this a finer flour (which is probably the meaning of the term "solet" = υεμίδυλις) was separated by means of a hair-sieve. This fine flour, the "fat of the wheat" (Deuteronomy 32:14; Psalms 81:17, 147:14), was worth twice as much as barley (2 Kings 7:1,16,18; comp. Erman, c. p. 266, as to the two kinds of flour imported from Syria into Egypt). With the one exception mentioned above, the use of fine flour ("solet") is prescribed throughout in the ritual; the conclusion is not warranted, however, that the ordinary flour used for daily consumption was not employed for sacrifices in ancient times.

E. G. H.
I. Be.

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Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Flour'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

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