What Is The Purpose Of Sifting Wheat?

After wheat has been harvested, one of the steps in preparing it for use is to sift or thresh it. This is done to release the inedible chaff from the usable, edible grain. This is also known as separating the wheat from the chaff, a phrase which is used metaphorically in the Bible and in literature to allude to separating that which is good and usable from that which is useless. Read on to learn more about what is the purpose of sifting wheat.

How Is Threshing Done?

how is threshing doneThreshing can be performed in many different ways. One traditional way is to spread the harvested wheat out on a hard surface.

A floor made of concrete, brick, stone or even tamped earth will do. After the wheat has been spread, it is beaten with a club or flail.

This method of manual threshing isn’t used anymore in the developed world, but there are still many places in the world where machines are hard to come by. In these places, people must use manpower to accomplish the task.

This interesting video shows one ancient method of threshing using donkeys and tumbling children to knock the grain loose from the stalks. Be sure to look below the video for a very thorough description of the process.

Ancient Way Of Wheat Thresher

What Happens After Sifting?

After wheat has been threshed, it is winnowed. In this process, the chaff that has been separated from the grain is removed entirely.

The manual way of doing this is to toss the chaff and grain up into a light breeze. The wind blows the light chaff away, and the heavier grain falls into a waiting dish, tray or basket.

Like manual threshing, manual winnowing is not used in the developed world these days. Instead, machines called combines are used.

A combine is a piece of farm machinery that can perform a great many tasks, including harvesting and threshing.

Wheat Threshing And Winnowing By Hand

Use Of A Combine Speeds Up Wheat Harvest

A combine is a great labor saver in farm work. It allows a single individual to accomplish tasks alone that were formerly done by a crew.

With a combine, a single worker can drive through the fields cutting down and scooping up the wheat and placing it into a machine with the purpose of separating the plants’ stalks from husks.

Once this task is accomplished, the grain is moved along into several horizontal cylinders that are called rasp bars. These guide the grain up through a series of grates and sieves.

This action combines the two tasks of threshing and winnowing into a single process. Once this is accomplished, the finished grain is deposited into a truck or trailer.

This video gives a good account of the complete, modern process.

Baked Bread: How Flour Is Made

Which Method Is Best?

It would be difficult to produce the amount of wheat the world demands using old fashioned harvesting, threshing, winnowing and grinding methods, but there is evidence that these old ways produce a healthier food product.

Modern processing of wheat removes the fiber and the wheat germ, which holds most of the valuable nutrients of the grain.

Additionally, processing large amounts of wheat into modern flour sets up a situation in which the final product is not likely to be fresh by the time it gets to the consumer.

If you are able to grow and process your own wheat by hand, you will reap many health benefits. Alternately, purchase whole wheat berries to process at home for excellent flavor and health.

Separating The Wheat From The Chaff In India

Frequently Asked Questions

In the Bible, what does the term “sifting” symbolize in a metaphorical sense?

In the Bible, “sifting” is often used metaphorically to represent a process of testing, purification and sorting.

For example, in Luke 22:31 Jesus says Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat the phrase, sift as wheat is used a metaphor for shaking apart or breaking a person down.

How does the term “winnowing” appear in biblical passages, and what does it symbolize?

Literally, winnowing is the process of separating worthless straw and seed heads from edible grain. Winnowing in the Bible is also a metaphor for separating the valuable from the worthless, often used to illustrate God’s judgment and the division of good and evil, as in Matthew 3:12 He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.

How is “threshing” depicted in biblical stories, and what does it symbolize?

This term may be used to represent separation, revelation and/or abundance. References to threshing in the Bible involve the threshing floor where the wheat and chaff are separated, the worthless is discarded and the valuable product is revealed and counted. This is illustrated in Joel 2:24 refers to the value of repentance thusly, The threshing floors will be filled with grain. The vats will overflow with new wine and olive oil.

How are these concepts carried into literature?

There are many examples of the use of these concepts in literature. One of the most prominent in American literature is John Steinbeck s, The Grapes of Wrath. The title of this book is a direct reference to Matthew 3:12, His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire. The experiences of the characters of the novel – the Joad family and other Dust Bowl migrants – illustrate this passage as they faced extremely harsh conditions and unrelenting adversity that had the effect of burning away all that was extraneous and leaving only the strongest and most resilient aspects of those who survived the experience.

In literature and biblically, is the concept of “sifting” always used in reference to a person’s qualities?

No, it is often used as a metaphor for examining evidence or facts. For example, in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes” series, the great detective is known for his meticulous “sifting” of evidence. Holmes often declared “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

In George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the term, winnowing, was used in reference to the separation of the ruling elite from the working classes.

3 thoughts on “What Is The Purpose Of Sifting Wheat?”

  1. Thank you, I loved learning from you and linked to this post in my own blog, Preparing for Pentecost, a devotion on Luke 22:31-31, Simon being sifted like wheat. Many thanks!


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