Page images

months, but all is finished before the autumn rains, and from that time till the next harvest the floors are entirely deserted; but when



the threshing is in full operation, the scene is both picturesque and eminently Oriental.

The Egyptian mowrej is quite different, having rollers which revolve on the grain, and the driver has a seat upon it, which is certainly more comfortable. In the plains of Hamath I saw this machine improved by having circular saws attached to the rollers. It is to this instrument, I suppose, that Isaiah refers in the fortyfirst chapter of his prophecies: “Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth : thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff."

1 Isa. xli. 15.



This passage has several allusions which residents in this country can readily understand.

The sacred writers speak of treading out the corn. Is this mode still practised by these farmers of Philistia ?

On some floors here at Yebna, for example, there was no machine of any kind; but boys rode or drove horses, donkeys, and oxen, either separately or yoked together, round upon the grain; and it was this, in part, which made the scene so peculiar. Some ran

[graphic][merged small]

from left to right, and others the reverse; and no one continued long in the same direction, but changed every few minutes, to keep the animals from becoming dizzy ; while some sought to secure the same result by fastening blinders over the eyes of the bewildered animals; and this practice prevails especially in Egypt.

The command of Moses not to muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn is literally obeyed to this day by most farmers, and you often see the oxen eating from the floor as they go round. There are niggardly peasants, however, who do muzzle the ox

enough to show the need of the command ; and Paul intimates that there were some such in the Church in his day: “ Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that plougheth should plough in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope."

The Hebrew poets often allude to the whirlwind that sweeps away the chaff from the summer threshing-floor. Job, also, had witnessed the boisterous behavior of these winds in his native Hauran, where both they and the chaff they carry away abound; and hence his threatening to the wicked, upon whom “God distributeth sorrows in his anger. They are as stubble before the wind, and as chaff that the storm carrieth away.'

Elihu says, “The whirlwind cometh out of the south." Is that still the case ?

According to my experience, it is, and also that "fair weather cometh out of the north.”3 There is in both statements an indication that the author of them dwelt in the “south country," in which these phenomena are most frequently witnessed, and where I have myself looked earnestly northwards for relief from persevering and relentless rain. With regard to whirlwinds, there is something in the manner in which they catch up the chaff, and whirl it hither and thither, over hill and plain and thorn-hedge, in a sort of manifest fury, that vividly excited the imagination of the Hebrew poets. For example, in the first Psalm, or the thirty-fifth, or the eighty-third, or in Isaiah xvii. or xxix., or Hosea xiii., and elsewhere, every incident is noticed which could intensify the destruction denounced against the ungodly “as chaff of the mountain, chased by the wind, and driven out of the floor by the whirlwind." These whirlwinds are extremely common, and very curi

Without warning or apparent cause, they start up suddenly, as if by magic or spirit influence, and rush furiously onwards, swooping dust and chaff up to the clouds in their wild career.

The intention of the farmer is to grind down his unthreshed grain to chaff, and much of it is reduced to fine dust, which the wind carries away. The references to the wind which drives off Ii Cor. ix. 9, 10. ? Job xxi. 17, 18.

Job xxxvii. 22.




the chaff are numerous in the Bible, and very forcible. The grain, as it is threshed, is heaped up in the centre of the floor, until it frequently becomes a little mound, higher even than the workmen. This is particularly the case when there is no wind for several days, since the only way adopted to separate the chaff from the wheat is to toss it up into the air, when the grain falls in one place, and the chaff is carried on to another.

Biblical writers frequently mention the fan in connection with its use on the threshing-floor. The prophet Isaiah, in the thirtieth chapter and twenty-fourth verse, thus alludes to the fan and the shovel: “The oxen likewise and the young asses that ear the ground shall eat clean provender, which hath been winnowed with the shovel and with the fan;" and again, “ Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them." Concerning the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Lord saith, “I will fan them with a fan in the gates of the land ;"2 and of Babylon, "I will raise up a destroying wind; and will send unto Babylon fanners that shall fan her, and shall empty her land." John the Baptist says, “He that cometh after me is mightier than I: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." Is the fan now seen on the threshing-floors of these Palestinian farmers, and what is it like?

It is a wooden shovel, generally about a foot and a half in length 1 Isa. xli. 16. ? Jer. xv. 7.

; Jer. li. I, 2. 4 Matt. iji. II, 12; Luke iii. 16, 17.




and one foot broad, with a handle sufficiently long for convenient

In Isaiah xxx. 24 both the shovel and the fan are mentioned as if they were different instruments; but I think the Arabic translation gives the true rendering. The word there translated shovel probably means pitchfork, and both are in common use throughout this country, the fork to turn the grain while the threshing is in progress, and also to toss up the mingled contents, in the first instance, to the wind. But when the chaff is mostly separated from the wheat, the fork is practically useless, and resort must be had to the fan, by which the floor is further purged from earth, gravel, and other impurities.

I never pass through this rude Moslem village of Yebna without recalling some curious facts in its history. From about the middle of the first century Yebna became the centre of Hebrew learning, and after the destruction of the Holy City and temple by Titus, in A.D. 70, this insignificant town here in the centre of Philistia was exalted into a second Jerusalem. It is said that Gamaliel, the grandson of Hillel, transferred hither from Jerusalem the theological college of the Jews, even before the destruction of the temple. After that calamity the Sanhedrim was convened here, and Yebna was for a time both the religious and political centre of the Hebrew people. Hither resorted the wisest of their sages, to teach and lecture to the young rabbies, gathered here from all parts of the world, whither the Jews were dispersed. If we are to believe anything transmitted to after ages through the "tradition of the elders,” there must have been at that time a large Jewish population on this plain of Philistia. This at least accords with what is said in the ninth chapter of Acts, about the labors of Peter in this neighborhood. “The saints which dwelt at Lydda," and all they that dwelt at Saron, who saw the miraculous healing of Eneas, were Jews; and so were Simon the tanner, and Tabitha; for Peter had not yet learned "that God is no respecter of persons," but still believed that it was “an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation." We are thus enabled to modify the exaggerations of Josephus in regard to the total destruction at that time of the Hebrew nation. Multi

1 Acts ix. 32-35.

9 Acts x. 28, 34.

« PreviousContinue »