Threshing Floors in Ancient Israel

Threshing Floors in Ancient Israel: Their Ritual and Symbolic Significance

Jaime L. Waters
Copyright Date: 2015
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  • Book Info
    Threshing Floors in Ancient Israel
    Book Description:

    Vital to an agrarian community’s survival, threshing floors are agricultural spaces where crops are threshed and winnowed. But the Hebrew Bible rarely refers to such agricultural activities taking place at such sites. Instead, biblical narratives repeatedly depict threshing floors in ancient Israel as sites for mourning rites, divination rituals, cultic processions, and sacrifices. Kings consult prophets there; even the Solomonic temple was built on a threshing floor. Jaime L. Waters shows that these originally agricultural sites were also considered sacred spaces connected to Yahweh, under his control, and subject to his power to bless, curse, and save and that Israel had a special ritual access to Yahweh in these powerfully symbolic sites. Waters also examines the various personnel active in the use and operation of threshing floors in these sacred functions in order to draw a more complete picture of ancient Israelite social life. An addendum discusses relevant material for comparison from Ugarit.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-9660-4
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-28)

    As the title of this work openly indicates, the focus of this study is on threshing floors in ancient Israel. This work examines these oft-overlooked yet very important agricultural spaces where crops are threshed and winnowed to release grain. At the outset, one might suppose that there will be a discussion of how threshing floors were created, where they were located, and the types of agricultural activities that occurred on them in antiquity. One might also expect a discussion of the ancient Israelite threshing floors that have been uncovered in the archaeological record. While that information will be considered in...

  6. 2 Divine Control and Use of Threshing Floors
    (pp. 29-58)

    Three words characterize how Yahweh exhibits control over threshing floors: curse, bless, save. The biblical passages that are explored in the first section of this chapter exemplify divine control over threshing floors and highlight the significant interest that Yahweh has in the failure or success of these agricultural spaces. Prophecies from Hosea and Joel especially illuminate what happens when threshing floors are cursed or blessed. Similarly, three passages (1 Sam. 23:1; 2 Kgs. 6:24; Judg. 6:1-11) provide narrative contexts for Yahweh intervening to save threshing floors when they are under attack by foreigners. In the second section of the chapter,...

  7. 3 Threshing Floors in Legal Contexts
    (pp. 59-76)

    As this study of threshing floors progresses, it should be becoming clear that there is a divine association with threshing floors that is asserted in a variety of texts and in a variety of ways. In the previous chapter, prophetic oracles showed divine control over the failure or success of threshing floors. Prophetic oracles also imagine and articulate divine judgment of foreigners using threshing-floor imagery. Historical narratives revealed divine interest in saving threshing floors from foreign attacks. This belief in a divine link to threshing floors is what makes them logical choices for cultic activity, a phenomenon that will be...

  8. 4 Threshing Floors as Sacred Spaces
    (pp. 77-124)

    In the two previous chapters, several passages were discussed which elucidate how threshing floors were understood and conceived of in the Hebrew Bible. Chapter 2 asserted that Yahweh has control over and use of threshing floors, with the ability to bless, curse, and save them from attacks. Moreover, prophetic passages depict Yahweh using threshing-floor imagery to metaphorically punish enemies. In chapter 3, legal texts that mention threshing floors were examined. They highlight that these locations are associated with divine offerings and blessings; moreover, the divine name is invoked on a threshing floor. All of this is to suggest that within...

  9. 5 Temple Construction upon a Threshing Floor
    (pp. 125-144)

    In the previous chapter, the passages discussed very clearly depict threshing floors being used as sacred spaces. From rituals to theophanies, these agricultural spaces are understood and portrayed as sacred locations in several biblical texts. This chapter will present the clearest example of a threshing floor as a sacred space, as it is the foundation on which the Solomonic temple is built.

    At the end of 2 Samuel 24 // 1 Chronicles 21,¹ David purchases Aravnah/Ornan’s threshing floor and offers burnt offerings to avert destruction and plague. After the catastrophes are avoided, the Chronicler includes additional information about why David...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 145-150)

    In examining threshing floors in the Hebrew Bible, this book has shown that these agricultural spaces are multifaceted. Because ancient Israel was an agrarian society, threshing floors were considered important spaces, pivotal for seasonal activities of threshing and winnowing. Moreover, the basic function of threshing floors is transformative. A person arrives at a threshing floor with sheaves of crops, but through the blessing of Yahweh, that person can leave the threshing floor with grain to sustain life.

    Threshing floors played a significant role in food production, as these locations are fundamental for human nourishment and survival. It is only when...

  11. Addendum: Threshing Floors as Sacred Spaces in Ugarit
    (pp. 151-164)

    In this work, several passages affirmed the connection between threshing floors and Yahweh in the Hebrew Bible. From controlling the success or failure of threshing floors to manifesting divine presence on these spaces, the Hebrew Bible presents threshing floors as being used as sacred spaces in addition to agricultural spaces. Similarly, literature from the Late Bronze Age city of Ugarit (Ras Shamra) in ancient Syria depicts threshing floors together with divine and preternatural beings. In this addendum, Ugaritic references to threshing floors (grn, grnt) will be surveyed and will show divine control, theophanies, and sacrifice on threshing floors.¹

    In highlighting...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 165-198)
  13. Index of Names
    (pp. 199-200)
  14. Index of Bible and Ancient Literature
    (pp. 201-207)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 208-208)