The process of releasing grain from its stalk and chaff. Several methods employed in Bible times are still used in different parts of the earth. If gleaners had a small amount to thresh, or if the grain was of small size like cummin, or if the threshing was done secretly during dangerous times, a rod or flail was used to beat the grain by hand, either on the ground or in a winepress.—Judg. 6:11; Ruth 2:17; Isa. 28:27.
The threshing floor, however, was the location of normal threshing operations. Usually situated on a higher elevation exposed to the wind, it consisted of a flat circular area, up to fifty feet (c. 15 meters) in diameter, made either of stone or hard-packed earth. Threshing floors not privately owned were often clustered together near a village for communal use.
The sheaves of barley or wheat, the principal grains of Palestine, were spread out on the floor (today generally to a depth of twelve to eighteen inches [30.5 to 45.7 centimeters]). The treading by bulls or other animals, as they constantly circled the floor, gradually broke down the straw and freed the grain from the chaff. The animals were not muzzled while treading the grain.—Deut. 25:4; Hos. 10:11; 1 Cor. 9:9, 10.
Threshing instruments pulled by animals speeded up the process and were more thorough than animal hoofs alone. (Isa. 41:15; Amos 1:3) Models used in more modern times are a broad fiat heavy sledge with sharp teeth of stone or iron on its underside or a frame that pulls heavy cylindrical rollers fitted with knives to cut and break down the grain stalks. Such sledges and roller devices covered an additional swatch each round, and the added weight of the driver riding on top increased the effectiveness.—Compare Isaiah 28:28.
After the grain had been thoroughly threshed, and turned over several times in the process, it was winnowed.—See WINNOWING.
Because of providing an open, level space, threshing floors were often used for other purposes. The mourning rites for Jacob were held on the threshing floor of Atad near the Jordan. (Gen. 50:10, 11) At Jehovah’s direction, David purchased the threshing floor of Araunah (Ornan), built there an altar, and made a sacrifice to Jehovah. (2 Sam. 24:16-25; 1 Chron. 21:15-28) Later this threshing floor became the site of Solomon’s temple. (2 Chron. 3:1) When Jehoshaphat and Ahab conferred about warring against Syria, their thrones were set up on a threshing floor at the entrance of the gate of Samaria.—1 Ki. 22:10.
In a figurative sense, the treatment the stalks of grain receive on the threshing floor is a very fitting symbol of how Jehovah’s enemies will be beaten and cut to pieces. (Isa. 41:15; Jer. 51:33; Mic. 4:12, 13; Hab. 3:12) Threshing also illustrates the crushing treatment men sometimes mete out to others. (Judg. 8:6, 7, 15, 16; 2 Ki. 13:7) Or the separation of wheat from chaff may depict the separation of the righteous from the wicked by Jehovah’s judgment. (Matt. 3:12) In yet another sense, a long and bountiful threshing denotes prosperity and Jehovah’s blessing.—Lev. 26:5; Joel 2:24.