Manners & Customs
The Threshing Floor
THRESHING THE GRAIN
Threshing floor. A typical Oriental threshing floor has been described by Thomson thus:
"The construction of the floors is very simple. A circular space, from thirty to fifty feet in diameter, is made level, if not naturally so, and the ground is smoothed off and beaten solid, that the earth may not mingle with the grain in threshing. In time, the floors, especially on the mountains, are covered with a tough, hard sward, the prettiest, and often the only, green plots about the village, and there the traveller delights to pitch his tent. Daniel calls them summer threshing floors; and this is the most appropriate name for them, since they are only used in that season of the year." [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Methods of threshing. Three methods of threshing were in use in ancient times, and in some places in the East today.
was used for threshing small quantities of grain. Ruth must have used such a wooden instrument. "And beat out that she had gleaned: and it was about an ephah of barley" (Ruth 2:17). And without doubt Gideon was also using such an instrument when he was threshing a small amount of wheat secretly, for fear of the enemy. "Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites" (Judges 6:11).
A threshing instrument
was often used. One type that has been used in Bible lands in modern days, is composed of two wooden planks joined together, about three feet wide and six feet long, and underneath has rows of cut square holes, and sharp stones or pieces of metal are driven into these. Isaiah well describes such a threshing instrument: "Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth" (Isaiah 41:15). This threshing board is pulled by the oxen over the grain, and the thresher sits or stands upon the instrument, with his goad in his hand to hurry up the animals.36 Another type of threshing instrument takes the form of a small wagon with low cylindrical wheels that serve as saws.37 The prophet must have been thinking of this sort of instrument when he mentioned "the cart wheel" in connection with the threshing activity of the farmer (Isaiah 28:27, 28).
alone were driven over the grain in order to thresh it. This method was the most common method used by the Jews in Old Testament times. The animals were turned over the layer of grain as it lay upon the threshing floor, and their hoofs did the work of threshing. Many of the Fellahin today will say that this is the best way of threshing. "This must have been the same in Bible days, for the Hebrew verb "to thresh" is doosh, which has as its root-meaning 'to trample down], 'to tread under foot'" (cf. Job 39:15; Daniel 7:23).
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
What the threshing process accomplishes. What happens has been described as follows:
"As these heavy sledges are drawn over the layer of straw and ears, they rub out the grain. This by its form and weight, sinks immediately through the straw, and thus escapes being hurt. The straw, which by its lightness remains on the surface, is slowly broken and crushed into tiny pieces. Thus a double process goes on by means of this simple but effective treatment. Not only is the corn threshed out, but the straw is at the same time prepared for cattle and camel fodder. In this crushed state it is called "teben" and is used to mix with the barley with which all their animals are fed, just as we mix chopped hay with oats; but this crushing is far superior to our chopping as a means of preparing cattle food. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Transporting the Grain
Transportation of grain to the threshing floor. The usual method of transporting the grain to the threshing floor is as follows: two large bundles of the grain are made secure by a network of rope and then placed a few feet apart. Then a camel is made to kneel in the space between them, and then the bundles are fastened to the animal's packsaddle. The driver gives his signal, and the camel rises and begins to march off to the threshing floor, which is usually located not far from the village. Here he kneels again and is relieved of his burden of grain, and goes back for another load.
When a camel was to be had, this was the method of transportation that was doubtless used in Bible times. Otherwise the much-used donkey was utilized for the purpose. When sheaves of grain are loaded on the donkey, a sort of cradle is suspended to the flat saddle, and the cut grain is thrown over this and tied by a rope.
The brothers of Joseph used asses to carry sacks of grain and also straw for them to eat (Genesis 42:26, 27).
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]