Although the Bible mentions various agricultural operations, the implements that were used to cultivate the land are not described in detail. However, the pictures of farm implements on Egyptian monuments as well as actual specimens found in Egypt and Palestine supplement the Bible record to some extent. Moreover, there is great similarity between the simple farming implements still used in parts of Egypt and Palestine.
The harrow is not referred to in the Bible, but the agricultural operation of harrowing is mentioned as being distinct from plowing. (Job 39:10; Isa 28:24; Ho 10:11) Pulverizing and smoothing the soil constitute the chief function of the modern harrow, though it is also used for mulching, covering seed, and removing weeds. Anciently, perhaps a weighted-down board or a rough log was dragged over the plowed soil to break up the clods and level the ground.
Mattocks were probably used for grubbing and for loosening the soil. They were among the tools that the Israelites in Saul’s day had to take to the Philistines to get sharpened. (1Sa 13:20, 21) Bronze and iron mattocks, somewhat resembling the modern grub hoe, have been found.
The simple wooden plow still used in some parts of the Bible lands has undergone little change over the centuries, as a comparison of representations of plows on ancient monuments and even clay tablets clearly shows. The plow was neither equipped with wheels nor designed to turn a furrow; it merely scratched the surface of the soil to a depth of about 8 or 10 cm (3 or 4 in.). Except for the metal plowshare, it was made of wood. (Compare 1Sa 13:20; 1Ki 19:19, 21; Isa 2:4.) A stick, to which the plowshare was attached, constituted the larger part of the plow. The copper and bronze plowshares (actually plowpoints) that have been found in excavations in Israel are generally dented considerably from use.—See PLOWING.
Pruning shears are specifically mentioned in the Bible with reference to pruning the vine. (Isa 18:5) Since the Scriptures refer to converting spears into pruning shears and, by contrast, pruning shears into lances, this tool perhaps consisted of a sharp knifelike blade fastened to a handle and may have been similar to a sickle.—Isa 2:4; Joe 3:10.
Sickles were used mainly for reaping standing grain, though the Bible also speaks of thrusting in the sickle to harvest the vine. (Joe 3:13; Re 14:18) The sickles that have been found in Israel are slightly curved. Some specimens consist of notched flint chips that were pieced together and set with bitumen into a frame of either wood or bone. Iron sickle blades have also been found, and these were fastened to a handle by means of rivets, a tang, or a socket.
The threshing sledge was designed to separate the kernels from the ears of grain. The implement used in ancient times likely resembled the two types still employed in some parts of the Bible lands today. One consists of wooden planks joined together and bent back at the front. Its underside is equipped with sharp stones or knives. (Compare 1Ch 21:23; Job 41:30; Isa 41:15.) The driver stands on the sledge to weight it down. The other type has a seat for the driver and consists of a low-built, four-cornered wagon frame. Two or three parallel revolving rollers equipped with iron strips are fitted into this frame.—Compare Isa 28:27, 28.
Winnowing shovels, probably made of wood, were used for tossing threshed grain into the air so that the wind would blow the straw and chaff away.—Mt 3:12.