|Noah Webster's Dictionary|
(n.) One of two circular stones used for grinding grain or other substance.
Int. Standard Bible Encyclopedia
mil, mil'-ston (recheh; mulos, mulon): The two most primitive methods of grinding grain were
(1) by pounding it in a mortar, and
(2) by rubbing it between two stones.
In Numbers 11:8 both methods are mentioned as used for rendering the manna more fit for cooking. Numerous examples of both mill and mortar have been found in ancient excavations. Bliss and Macalister in their excavations at Gezer and other places have found specimens of what is called the saddle-quern or mill, which consists of two stones. The "nether" stone, always made of hard lava or basalt from the district of the Hauran, was a large heavy slab varying in length from 1 1/2 ft. to 2 3/4 ft., and in width from 10 inches to 1 1/3 ft. Its upper surface was hollowed out slightly, which made it look a little like a saddle and may have suggested the name of "riding millstone" applied by the Hebrews to the upper stone which rested on it (Judges 9:53). The "upper stone" or "rider" was much smaller, 4 inches to 8 in. long and 2 3/4 inches to 6 inches wide, and of varying shapes. This could be seized with the two hands and rubbed back and forth over the nether stone much the same as clothes are scrubbed on a wash-board. Such a stone could be used as a weapon (Judges 9:53 2 Samuel 11:21), or given as a pledge (Deuteronomy 24:6).
Macalister goes so far as to say that "the rotary handquern in the form used in modern Palestine and in remote European regions, such as the Hebrides, is quite unknown throughout the whole history, even down to the time of Christ" (Excavations at Gezer). The same writer, however, describes some mills belonging to the 3rd and 4th Sere periods which are much like the present rotary quern, except smaller (4 inches to 6 inches in diameter), and with no provision for a turning handle. Schumacher describes these as paint grinders. The only perforated upper millstones found in the excavations at Gezer belong to the early Arabic period.
If the above assertions are substantiated then we must alter somewhat the familiar picture of the two women at the mill (Matthew 24:41), commonly illustrated by photographs of the mills still used in modern Palestine These latter consist of two stone discs each 18 inches to 20 inches in diameter, usually made of Hauran basalt. The upper one is perforated in the center to allow it to rotate on a wooden peg fixed in the nether stone, and near the circumference of the upper stone is fixed a wooden handle for turning it. The grain to be ground is fed into the central hole on the upper stone and gradually works down between the stones. As the grain is reduced to flour, it flies out from between the stones on to a cloth or skin placed underneath the mill. To make the flour fine it is reground and sifted. Larger stones 4 ft. to 5 ft. in diameter, working on the principle of the handmill, are still used for grinding sesame seed. These are turned by asses or mules. Another form of mill, which is possibly referred to in Matthew 18:6 Mark 9:42 Revelation 18:21, 22, consisted of a conical nether stone on which "rode" a second stone like a hollowed-out capstan. The upper stone was probably turned with handspikes in much the same way as an old-fashioned ship's capstan was turned. The material to be ground was fed into the upper cone which formed the hopper and from which it was delivered to the grinding surfaces between the "rider" and the nether stone. This form of mill must have been known in late Biblical times, because many examples of the upper stone dating from the Greek-Roman period have been found. One may be seen in the museum of the Syrian Protestant College at Beirut. Another large one lies among the ruins at Petra, etc. In Matthew 18:6 Mark 9:42, the mill is described as a mulos onikos, literally, a mill turned by an ass, hence, a great millstone. It is not at all unlikely that the writers have confused the meaning of onos (chamor), a term commonly applied to the upper millstone of a handmill, thinking it referred instead to the animal which turned the mill. This explanation would make Christ's words of condemnation more applicable. The upper millstone of a handmill would be more than sufficient to sink the condemned, and the punishment would be more easily carried out. A few years from now handmills will have disappeared from the Syrian households, for the more modern gristmills turned by water or other motor power are rapidly replacing them.
See CRAFTS, II, 8.
(1) Of firmness and undaunted courage (Job 41:24). "The heart of hot-blooded animals is liable to sudden contractions and expansions, producing rapid alternations of sensations; not so the heart of the great saurians" (Canon Cook, at the place).
(2) To "grind the face of the poor" (Isaiah 3:15) is cruelly to oppress and afflict them.
(3) The ceasing of the sound of the millstone was a sign of desolation (Jeremiah 25:10 Revelation 18:22).
James A. Patch
Millstone (9 Occurrences)
Matthew 18:6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him that a huge millstone should be hung around his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depths of the sea. (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Mark 9:42 Whoever will cause one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him if he was thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around his neck. (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Luke 17:2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, rather than that he should cause one of these little ones to stumble. (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Revelation 18:21 A mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and cast it into the sea, saying, "Thus with violence will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down, and will be found no more at all. (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Revelation 18:22 And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee; (KJV DBY WBS YLT RSV NIV)
Deuteronomy 24:6 No man shall take the mill or the upper millstone to pledge; for he takes a man's life to pledge. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 9:53 A certain woman cast an upper millstone on Abimelech's head, and broke his skull. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS NAS RSV NIV)
2 Samuel 11:21 who struck Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? Didn't a woman cast an upper millstone on him from the wall, so that he died at Thebez? Why did you go so near the wall?' then you shall say,'Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.'" (WEB KJV JPS ASV WBS NAS RSV NIV)
Job 41:24 His heart is as firm as a stone, yes, firm as the lower millstone. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS NAS RSV NIV)