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Mill, Millstone

The other type, in frequent use by NT times, consisted of two round stones, each about eighteen to twenty-four inches in diameter. The lower one was fixed and had a center wooden peg over which the upper stone was placed. A central, funnel-shaped hole received the peg and also served for feeding grain into the mill. The upper stone was turned back and forth on the lower by use of a wooden handle on its outside edge. A variation of this type of mill used a bottom stone convex in shape and a top concave, fitting over the lower. The ground grain sifted out from the lower edges of the upper stone. Small mills could be operated by one person, but larger ones required two (Matt 24:41). The type of stone used, whether for the saddle quern or the round mill, was usually black basalt, rough and porous, constantly presenting good cutting edges.

A third type of mill was larger and normally required animal power. A millstone four or five ft. in diameter was rolled on edge by means of a lever arrangement, in a circular pattern on top of a still larger base stone on which grain was spread. This type of mill could supply flour for a community. It was prob. this size mill at which Samson was made to grind by the Philistines (Judg 16:21).

Saddle querns were in use from early times. Sarah must have used one in preparing the three measures of “fine meal” for Abraham’s visitors (Gen 18:6). The figure of an Egyp. woman grinding with a saddle quern, dating from the Old Kingdom period, is pictured in ANEP, p. 46, fig. 149. Grinding was the task of servants (Exod 11:5) and of women (Isa 47:2). The law prohibited taking either the family’s mill or upper millstone in pledge (Deut 24:6).

Bibliography W. M. Thompson, The Land and the Book, III (1907), 218, 219, 455; G. A. Barton, Archaeology and the Bible, 7th ed. (1937), 176, 177, pl. 34; G. Loud, Megiddo II (1948), pl. 264:11.