The threshing-floor (Hebrew: goren) is used as a symbol of divine judgment in both the Old and New Testaments. For example, in the Old Testament, see II Sam. 6:6, II Sam. 24:16-24, and Jer. 51:33. In the New Testament see Matthew 3:11-12. Now God's judgment on the wicked had to be duplicated at Calvary. Since those who forsake God are to be put to shame and forsaken by God, Christ had to be put to shame and be forsaken by the Father. For this reason, the threshing-floor becomes a type of Calvary, and some profitable truths concerning the atonement of Christ can be elicited by studying the symbolism of the threshing-floor.
First, we note that the threshing-floor was the place to which all the sheaves were gathered. See Deut. 16:13, Job 39:42. Compare this fact with the statement of Jesus in John 12:32:
"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all men unto me."
This declaration does not assert that all men will be saved, but that Calvary will become the center of attention for all men.
Next we note that the goren was a place of separation. In Ruth 3:2, we are told that Boaz was winnowing barley at the threshing-floor. Winnowing barley was the process of separating the barley grains from the chaff or trash. Similarly, we note that Calvary is also a place of separation; for in the description that we have given of the crucifixion, it is plain that Jesus, crucified, is a divisive element in this world. Even on the two crosses that flanked Jesus, we see a separation take place. On one side is a malefactor who ridicules and mocks the dying Jesus, seemingly unconscious of his own condition and need, while on the other side is another law-breaker, not one whit better than the first; yet he sees himself in his true condition and puts his trust in Jesus. Truly a marvelous separation took place!
But the threshing-floor is revealed in Scripture also as a place of mourning for Israel. When Jacob died in Egypt his sons carried his body back to the land of Canaan for burial and we read in Gen. 50:10:
"And they came to the threshing-floor of Atad, which is beyond Jordan, and there they mourned with a great and very sore lamentation: and he made a mourning for his father seven days."
Compare this scene with the one described in Zechariah 12:10:
"And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one moumeth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn."
Calvary truly will be a place of mourning for Israel!
But the threshing-floor is also shown to be a place of merry-making. In Ruth 3:7, it is said:
"When Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of corn."
Calvary, likewise, in spite of its connotation of suffering, is a place of merriment or joy for the believer, because of the consciousness that his sins have truly been atoned for. As for the eating and drinking, we recall the words of Jesus in John 6:53:
"Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, ye have no life in you."
Calvary is the place where we spiritually partake of the body and blood of Christ and rejoice in our deliverance from the guilt of sins.
This aspect of Calvary is further illustrated by those passages that speak of the threshing-floor as a place of plenty - as a store-house of food. See Deut. 15:14, Joel 2:24. But there are a few places where the threshing-floor was spoken of as a place of famine and emptiness. See I Kings 6:27; Hos. 9:2. Is it possible that Calvary can be a place of plenty and at the same time a place of famine and emptiness? It can indeed! Let us again consider the two thieves at Calvary. One found in Jesus all that his soul desired; the other found nothing to sustain him. To one it was a place of fatness; to the otner it was a place of famine. Thus, to those who are hungry for the bread of life, Christ is a never-failing source of nourishment, whereas, those whose hunger is for the things of this world will find nothing at Calvary to satisfy them.
The threshing-floor is further shown to be a place of betrothal. In Ruth 3:1-13, we have the beautiful story of how, at the threshing-floor, the mighty man of Bethlehem promised the young Gentile woman that he would redeem her and make her his bride. The Hebrew expression translated, Do the part of kinsman, etc., literally means to redeem. The application of the allegory is too clear to need belaboring.
But, sad to say, the threshing-floor is also shown to be a place of betrayal. In Hos. 9:1, God indicts Israel in these words:
"Rejoice not, 0 Israel, for joy, as other people: for thou hast gone a whoring from thy God, thou has loved a reward upon every corn floor (goren)"
This should be a solemn warning to Christians, for it is all too often that those who have been espoused to Christ at the threshing-floor have brought in other gods and have set them up, in a manner of speaking, upon the very threshing-floor of Calvary.
In Isaiah 21:10, the threshing-floor is revealed not only as a place of suffering, but also as a place of sonship. The passage reads, in the KJV:
"0 my threshing, and the corn of my floor."
This is a sad mistranslation. The American Translation of the Bible comes nearer than any other:
"0 my threshed one, my child of the threshing floor."
This is satisfactory, with the exception that the word child should be son. The Hebrew word is ben, and while it has a wide range of meanings (lit. son) only by the wildest stretch of the imagination could it mean corn or grain. It is obviously a lament over the sufferings of God's Son at the threshing-floor of Calvary.
Finally, let us devote a little more time to the threshing-floor as a place of judgment. The appropriateness of such a symbol can be appreciated when we understand the method of threshing used by the Israelites. The main threshing instrument used was a sort of sledge, pulled by oxen, to the bottom of which were fastened pieces of stone, metal, etc. This sledge was dragged over the grain spread out on the threshing-floor, the metal or stone teeth underneath tearing the sheaves to shreds and loosening the grain from the stalks. This imagery of the stalks of grain being torn and shredded under the heavy sledge became in the minds of ancient peoples a symbol of people being crushed and ground under forces they could not resist. Thus the Romans applied their name for the threshing sledge to a set of circumstances in which people suffered severely at the mercy of forces or conditions which they could not change. At such times people were thought of as being under the threshing sledge or tribulum (in Latin), a state which was called tribulatio, from which our tribulation comes.
Thus, the threshing-floor was a ready-made picture of God's judgment dealings with sinful men, and by virtue of that fact, became also the symbol of the place where God would judge his own Son in our stead.
John H Mattox