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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia


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hwēl : (1) אופן , 'ōphan , is the usual word ( Exodus 14:25 , etc.). In Proverbs 20:26 ; Isaiah 28:27 the rollers of a threshing wagon are meant (see AGRICULTURE ). (2) גּלגּל , galgal , "rolling thing," generally in the sense of "wheel" (Isaiah 5:28 , etc.), but the Revised Version (British and American) in Ezekiel 10:2 , Ezekiel 10:6 , Ezekiel 10:13 has "whirling wheels ," an advantageous change. The "wheel ... broken at the cistern" in Ecclesiastes 12:6 is the windlass for drawing the water, and by the figure the breakdown of the old man's breathing apparatus is probably meant. In Psalm 83:13 , the King James Version has "wheel," but this translation (that of the Septuagint) is quite impossible; the Revised Version (British and American) "whirling dust" (sucked up by a miniature whirlwind) is perhaps right, but the translations proposed are end-less. (3) גּלגּל , gilgal , Isaiah 28:28 , the roller of a threshing wagon. (4) אבנים , 'obhnayim , Jeremiah 18:3 . See POTTER . (5) פּעם , pa‛am , Judges 5:28 , literally, "step" (so the Revised Version margin), and the sound of horses' hoofs is intended. (6) τροχός , trochós , Sirach 33:5; James 3:6 (the King James Version "course"). In the former passage, "The heart of a fool is as a cart-wheel," the changeableness of a light disposition is satirized. In James the figure is of a wheel in rotation, so that a flame starting at any point is quickly communicated to the whole. Just so an apparently insignificant sin of the tongue produces an incalculably destructive effect.

The phrase "wheel of nature" ( τροχὸς τῆς γενέσεως , trochós tḗs genéseos ) is used here for "the world in progress." It is not a very natural figure and has given rise to much discussion. the King James Version accents trochós ("course") instead of trochós (" wheel"). but the language throughout is metaphorical and "course" is not a sufficiently metaphorical word. The translation "birth" for geneseōs (so the Revised Version margin). i.e. "a wheel set in motion by birth." is out of the question. as the argument turns on results wider than any individual's existence. "Wheel of nature" is certainly right. But a comparison of life to a wheel in some sense or other (chiefly that of "Fortune's wheel") is common enough in Greek and Latin writers, and, indeed the exact combination trochos geneseōs is found in at least one (Orphic) writer (full references in the commentaries of Mayor and W. Bauer). It would seem, then, that James had heard the phrase, and he used it as a striking figure, with entire indifference to any technical significance it might have. This supposition is preferable to that of an awkward translation from the Aramaic. See COURSE .

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Wheel'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 1915.

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