An apparatus used to apply pressure to fruit so that liquid is forced out. Since the harvest of olives came after that of grapes, the same presses were often used for extracting both grape juice and olive oil, although there was also a pillar type of press used for olives.
Common presses usually consisted of two shallow sinklike cavities cut out of natural limestone, the one on a higher level connected by a small channel to the lower one. (Nu 18:27, 30; 2Ki 6:27) The grapes or olives were trodden or crushed in the upper basin (gath, Ne 13:15), allowing the juices to flow by gravity into the lower vat (yeʹqev, Jg 7:25; Pr 3:10; Joe 2:24; Hag 2:16). In Joel 3:13 both terms occur: “Come, descend, for the winepress [gath] has become full. The press vats [ha·yeqa·vimʹ, plural of yeʹqev] actually overflow.” Apparently the term yeʹqev was also used in reference to single-basin presses, in which both the treading of the grapes and the collecting of the juice took place. (Job 24:11; Isa 5:2; 16:10; Jer 48:33) The bottoms of these presses were more on an incline than the conventional two-basin type, to allow for the collecting of the juice at the lower end. If the press was long and narrow, like a trough, it was called pu·rahʹ. (Isa 63:3; Hag 2:16) The Christian Greek Scriptures also speak of the winepress (le·nosʹ, Mt 21:33), as well as the “vat for the winepress” (hy·po·leʹni·on, Mr 12:1).
One such winepress was found, the upper basin of which measured 2.4 m (8 ft) square and 38 cm (15 in.) deep. The smaller vat, some 0.6 m (2 ft) lower in elevation, into which the juice ran, was 1.2 m (4 ft) square and 0.9 m (3 ft) deep. Such a winepress served Gideon as a place in which to thresh his wheat.—Jg 6:11.
Crushing the fruit in these presses was usually done by bare feet or by heavy stones. From two to seven or more treaders worked as a team in the press. It was therefore noteworthy that Isaiah said the Great Treader, Jehovah, will tread the wine trough alone. (Isa 63:3) Above the heads of the treaders was a crossbeam from which ropes extended for the men to hold on to for support. The splashing of “the blood of grapes” stained the upper garments of the treaders. (Ge 49:11; Isa 63:2) Although it meant plenty of hard work, the crushing season was usually a time of rejoicing; joyful shouting and singing helped to keep rhythm in the treading. (Jg 9:27; Jer 25:30; 48:33) The expression “upon the Gittith” (rendered “winepresses” in the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate) appearing in the superscription of three Psalms (8, 81, 84) may indicate that they were songs associated with the vintage.
Figurative Use. There are a number of Scriptural instances where the winepress is referred to in a figurative sense. (Isa 63:2, 3; La 1:15) In the day of Jehovah when crowds are assembled in the low plain of decision, the command goes forth: “Thrust in a sickle, for harvest has grown ripe. Come, descend, for the winepress has become full. The press vats actually overflow; for their badness has become abundant.” (Joe 3:13, 14) Similarly, John saw in vision “the vine of the earth” hurled “into the great winepress of the anger of God,” there trodden until the “blood came out of the winepress as high up as the bridles of the horses.” The one called “Faithful and True,” “The Word of God,” is the one who treads this winepress of the “anger of the wrath of God the Almighty.”—Re 14:19, 20; 19:11-16.