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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Mortar and Pestle

MORTAR AND PESTLE . The use, from the earliest times, of the mortar and pestle for crushing the grains of the cultivated cereals, for the preparation of spices, and probably, as at the present day, for pounding meat and vegetables (see the Comm. on Proverbs 27:22 ) is attested by the constant occurrence of these articles in the remains of places recently excavated in Palestine. The mortars found at Gezer, as elsewhere,’ are simply heavy stones, a foot or two across, in whose upper surface a hemispherical hollow is cut. The pestles are cylindrical with [convex] bases, which not infrequently display marks of rough treatment ( PEFSt [Note: Quarterly Statement of the same.] , 1903, 118; illus. in Bliss, Mound of Many Cities , 85; Bliss and Macalister, Excavations in Palestine , Plates 72, 73).

The manna is expressly said to have been beaten in mortars as well as ground in mills (Numbers 11:8 ). Their use is implied for pounding certain spices ( Exodus 30:36 ) and for the ‘bruised corn’ for the meal-offering of the first-fruits ( Leviticus 2:14 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ). Copper mortars are also mentioned in later literature, and in Herod’s Temple the incense was pounded in mortars of gold. From the Mishna ( Baba bathra , iv. 3) we learn that it was customary to have larger mortars fixed into the floor of the house.

In Babylon, when a house was built, the seller handed the pestle of the house-mortar to the purchaser, in token of the conveyance of the house to its new owner. Hence the frequent occurrence, in deeds of sale, of the words ‘the pestle has been banded over.’ Cf. art. Shoe.

A. R. S. Kennedy.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Mortar and Pestle'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdb/m/mortar-and-pestle.html. 1909.

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