Threshing Floors as Sacred Spaces in the Hebrew Bible

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Date
2013-10-02
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Johns Hopkins University
Abstract
Vital to an agrarian community’s survival, threshing floors are agricultural spaces where crops are threshed and winnowed. As an agrarian society, ancient Israel used threshing floors to perform these necessary activities of food processing, but the Hebrew Bible includes very few references to these actions happening on threshing floors. Instead, several cultic activities including mourning rites, divination rituals, cultic processions, and sacrifices occur on these agricultural spaces. Moreover, the Solomonic temple was built on a threshing floor. Though seemingly ordinary agricultural spaces, the Hebrew Bible situates a variety of extraordinary cultic activities on these locations. In examining references to threshing floors in the Hebrew Bible, this dissertation will show that these agricultural spaces are also sacred spaces connected to Yahweh. Three chapters will explore different aspects of this connection. Divine control of threshing floors will be demonstrated as Yahweh exhibits power to curse, bless, and save threshing floors from foreign attacks. Accessibility and divine manifestation of Yahweh will be demonstrated in passages that narrate cultic activities on threshing floors. Cultic laws will reveal the links between threshing floors, divine offerings and blessings. One chapter will also address the sociological features of threshing floors with particular attention given to the social actors involved in cultic activities and temple construction. By studying references to threshing floors as a collection, a research project that has not been done previously, the close relationship between threshing floors and the divine will be visible, and a more nuanced understanding of these spaces will be achieved. After careful analysis, the outcome of this work is the assertion that Yahweh is connected to threshing floors because essential life-sustaining activities take place at these spaces. Throughout the Hebrew Bible, Israel’s belief in Yahweh’s important role in livelihood and survival is asserted. Because threshing floors are inherently locations of food and sustenance, these spaces are divinely controlled and auspicious areas for human-divine communication. While threshing floors were continually used for their agricultural purposes, the Hebrew Bible places a greater emphasis on their depiction as sacred spaces.
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Keywords
threshing floors, sacred space, hebrew bible, old testament, agrarian space, biblical studies, spatial theory
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