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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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The Syrian plough, which was probably used in all the regions around, is a very simple frame, and commonly so light, that a man of moderate strength might carry it in one hand. Volney states that in Syria it is often nothing else than the branch of a tree cut below a bifurcation, and used without wheels. It is drawn by asses and cows, seldom by oxen. And Dr. Russel informs us, the ploughing of Syria is performed often by a little cow, at most with two, and sometimes only by an ass. In Persia it is for the most part drawn by one ox only, and not unfrequently even by an ass, although it is more ponderous than in Palestine. With such an imperfect instrument, the Syrian husbandman can do little more than scratch the surface of his field, or clear away the stones or weeds that encumber it, and prevent the seed from reaching the soil. The ploughshare is a "piece of iron, broad, but not large, which tips the end of the shaft." So much does it resemble the short sword used by the ancient warriors, that it may with very little trouble, be converted into that deadly weapon; and when the work of destruction is over, reduced again into its former shape, and applied to the purposes of agriculture. In allusion to the first operation, the Prophet Joel summons the nations to leave their peaceful employments in the cultivated field, and buckle on their armour: "Beat your ploughshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears," Joel 3:10 . This beautiful image the Prophet Isaiah has reversed, and applied to the establishment of that profound and lasting peace which is to bless the church of Christ in the latter days: "And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more," Isaiah 2:4 . The plough used in Syria is so light and simple in its construction, that the husbandman is under the necessity of guiding it with great care, bending over it, and loading it with his own weight, else the share would glide along the surface without making any incision. His mind should be wholly intent on his work, at once to press the plough into the ground, and direct it in a straight line. "Let the ploughman," said Hesiod, "attend to his charge, and look before him; not turn aside to look on his associates, but make straight furrows, and have his mind attentive to his work." And Pliny: "Unless the ploughman stoop forward," to press his plough into the soil, and conduct it properly, "he will turn it aside." To such careful and incessant exertion, our Lord alludes in that declaration, "No man having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of heaven," Luke 9:62 .

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Plough'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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