BibleAsk Team

What does the word millstone mean in the Bible? 


In Biblical times, a stone structure was used to grind grain, olives, or seeds. It consisted of two parts: one stationary at the base and the second at the top that moved around to grind. There were different kinds of millstones: large ones that required an ass to turn it. And smaller ones that were turned by human hands. This crushing tool is mentioned in the Bible in several places:

Old Testament

The law of Moses warned against taking someone’s crushing stone to pay debts: “No man shall take the lower or the upper millstone in pledge, for he takes one’s living in pledge” (Deuteronomy 24:6). For by taking from a poor man something essential to the preparation of his food, this would endanger the livelihood of his family.

Also, the Bible resembled the toughness of a Leviathan with that of the lower millstone, which was larger and harder than the upper: “Its chest is hard as rock, hard as a lower millstone” (Job 41:24).

These stones were also used for defense. While the men would use bows and spears, women could roll down heavy stones from the walls on those who threatened them. There is a reference to a woman that killed Gideon’s son Abimelech by throwing an upper part of a millstone from a tower on him. As a result, the stone crushed his skull (Judges 9:53; 2 Samuel 11:21).

New Testament

Jesus used the millstone in a passage that alerted His followers against causing children to stumble: “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea” (Mark 9:42). The Lord gave a clear warning against the man who by precept or example, would lead others to sin or discourage them from following His footsteps.

Also, Jesus used the illustration of grinding at the mill to stress the necessity of watching and praying. He said, “Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left” (Matthew 24:41). In this parable, the Lord taught that His followers should always remain spiritually alert. They are not to await for His coming in idleness. While waiting and watching, they are to work by His grace to purify their own souls by obedience to the truth, and to save others (1 Peter 1:9).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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