PLOW, PLOWSHARE (חָרַשׁ, H3086, to plow, till; אֵת, H908, hoe, plowshare; ἄροτρον, G770, a plow). An implement for tilling the soil. See Agriculture.

The noun אֵת, H908, as a tool for digging or grubbing may be roughly similar to a hoe or mattock. The expression “beat their swords into plowshares” (Isa 2:4; Mic 4:3; Joel 3:10) conveys the advent of peace with the resumption of agricultural pursuits. The Gr. ἄροτρον, G770, is found only in Luke 9:62 and appears to mean the whole implement.

The verb חָרַשׁ, H3086, means “to plow” or “to engrave.” It is applied literally (Deut 22:10; 1 Kings 19:19; and Prov 20:4), and fig. (Job 4:8; Hosea 10:13). Plowing the sea is an example of the absurd (Amos 6:12). In the time of David, iron plows were in wide use.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

No implement of the Bible is more frequently illustrated today than the plow. This is partly because there is every reason to believe that the plows still used throughout Egypt, Palestine, and Syria are counterparts of the ancient ones. The first plows were probably an adaptation of the ancient Egyptian hoe, where the handle was lengthened in order that animals might be hitched to it. To make it easier to break up the ground, it was pointed, and handles were added by which it could be guided. The ancient plow probably varied in type in different sections of the country, as it does today. In one form a young tree Of oak or other strong wood of a diameter of 3 or 4 inches is cut off just below a good-sized branch and again 15 or 20 inches above. The upper end of the severed trunk is pointed and forms the share. Between this and the side branch is fitted a brace. The branch is cut off 10 or 12 ft. from the trunk and forms the pole. A lighter stick, about 3 ft. long, projects upward from the share and forms the handle. The plow used in Syria is of slightly different construction. The handle and share are one continuous piece, so cut that there is a slight bend at the middle. The share is pointed and is used bare in the plains, or in more stony regions is shod with iron. The pole is of 2 pieces joined end to end. The thicker end of the pole is notched, so that it may be attached firmly to the share. The whole plow is so light that it can be easily carried on a man’s shoulder. These plows literally scratch the soil, as the Hebrew word implies. They do not turn over the ground as the modern implement does. The plowman guides the plow with one hand, and with the other sometimes goads the oxen, and at other times with the chisel end of his goad breaks away the lumps of earth or other material which impedes the progress of his plow.

See Yoke.

In addition to the words which are found above, the following terms occur: `abhadh (literally, "to serve"), "worked" or "plowed" (De 21:4); palach (literally, "to break open," Ps 141:7).

One special law is mentioned in connection with plowing, namely that an ox and an ass should not be yoked together (De 22:10), a prohibition which is utterly disregarded today. Oxen were principally used for plowing (Job 1:14). Often several yokes of oxen followed each other plowing parallel furrows across the field, a sight still common on the plains of Syria (1Ki 19:19). Plowing was done by bond servants (Lu 17:7; compare `abhadh, De 21:4). Plowing cannot be done before the rains (Jer 14:4); on the other hand the soil is too sticky to plow in the winter time (Pr 20:4). The law requiring one day of rest in every seven days included plowing time (Ex 34:21).

Additoinal Material

Exodus 23:11 discusses the law of the sabbatical year, prescribing one year of rest every seven years for cultivated soil. Here, the verb נָטַשׁ, H5759, “leave, forsake,” is tr. “lie fallow.” Such a custom was practiced by other nations as well. Evidently Israel failed to obey this dictum during much of its history (Lev 26:34, 35).