- plou (charash; arotrioo): No implement of the Bible is more frequently illustrated today than the plow. This is partly because there is every reason to believe that the plows still used throughout Egypt, Palestine, and Syria are counterparts of the ancient ones. The first plows were probably an adaptation of the ancient Egyptian hoe, where the handle was lengthened in order that animals might be hitched to it. To make it easier to break up the ground, it was pointed, and handles were added by which it could be guided. The ancient plow probably varied in type in different sections of the country, as it does today. In one form a young tree Of oak or other strong wood of a diameter of 3 or 4 inches is cut off just below a good-sized branch and again 15 or 20 inches above. The upper end of the severed trunk is pointed and forms the share. Between this and the side branch is fitted a brace. The branch is cut off 10 or 12 ft. from the trunk and forms the pole. A lighter stick, about 3 ft. long, projects upward from the share and forms the handle. The plow used in Syria is of slightly different construction. The handle and share are one continuous piece, so cut that there is a slight bend at the middle. The share is pointed and is used bare in the plains, or in more stony regions is shod with iron. The pole is of 2 pieces joined end to end. The thicker end of the pole is notched, so that it may be attached firmly to the share. The whole plow is so light that it can be easily carried on a man's shoulder. These plows literally scratch the soil, as the Hebrew word implies. They do not turn over the ground as the modern implement does. The plowman guides the plow with one hand, and with the other sometimes goads the oxen, and at other times with the chisel end of his goad breaks away the lumps of earth or other material which impedes the progress of his plow.
In addition to the words which are found above, the following terms occur: `abhadh (literally, "to serve"), "worked" or "plowed" (Dt 21:4); palach (literally, "to break open," Ps 141:7).
One special law is mentioned in connection with plowing, namely that an ox and an ass should not be yoked together (Dt 22:10), a prohibition which is utterly disregarded today. Oxen were principally used for plowing (Job 1:14). Often several yokes of oxen followed each other plowing parallel furrows across the field, a sight still common on the plains of Syria (1 Ki 19:19). Plowing was done by bond servants (Lk 17:7; compare `abhadh, Dt 21:4). Plowing cannot be done before the rains (Jer 14:4); on the other hand the soil is too sticky to plow in the winter time (Prov 20:4). The law requiring one day of rest in every seven days included plowing time (Ex 34:21).
Figurative: "The plowers plowed upon my back" typified deep affliction (Ps 129:3; compare 141:7). "Plow iniquity" is urged in the sense of "plant iniquity." Doing evil was sure to bring evil consequences (Job 4:8; compare Mic 3:12). As surely as planting comes after plowing, so surely will Yahweh carry out His decree of destruction (Isa 28:23-25). "Judah shall plow," i.e. become enslaved (Hos 10:11); compare "Foreigners shall be your plowmen" (Isa 61:5). "Will one plow there with oxen?" (Am 6:12), "neither plowing nor harvest" (Gen 45:6) are figures of desolation. Zion plowed as a field, i.e. utterly destroyed (Jer 26:18). The plowman shall overtake the reaper, i.e. the soil shall be so fertile as to require no rest--typical of great abundance (Am 9:13). No opportunity to plow because of lack of rain is a desolate picture of drought (Jer 14:4). As the plowman expects to share in the fruits of the harvest, so might an apostle expect his temporal needs to be provided for (1 Cor 9:10). "If ye had not plowed with my heifer," i.e. used my wife, was Samson's reply to those who had secured the answer to his riddle from her (Jdg 14:18). "Beat their swords into plowshares" (or hoes) (Isa 2:4; Mic 4:3) typified peace; "beat your plowshares into swords"--war (Joel 3:10). "Having put his hand to the plow, and looking back," i.e. longing for evil things when one has set his face toward doing what is right, unfits a man for the kingdom of God (Lk 9:62; compare Gen 19:26; Phil 3:13).
James A. Patch