Mountains in prophecy [pdf]
Mountains are to be threshed, in a prophecy of Isaiah. The saints will become a “threshing sledge.”
Isaiah 41:15-16 NIV
“See, I will make you into a threshing sledge,
new and sharp, with many teeth.
You will thresh the mountains and crush them,
and reduce the hills to chaff.
You will winnow them, the wind will pick them up,
and a gale will blow them away.
But you will rejoice in the LORD
and glory in the Holy One of Israel.”
Threshing separates grain from chaff. Archaeologists have described ancient threshing sleds. The teeth were sharp blades of flint, protruding from below, that cut the straw as the sled was dragged across. P. C. Anderson wrote:
When a threshing sledge is pulled on the threshing floor by one or two donkeys, oxen, horses or mules in a circular trajectory at a constant low speed over a mattress of sheaves of grain, the plod of animal feet, often sounds of chains or bells are accompanied by a continuous sound of cracking and swooshing which corresponds to the pulling and smooth working of the instrument as it sets the plant material in motion in such as a way as to rapidly thresh the grain and cut up the straw into tiny pieces.
Grain settled down through the straw to the threshing floor, and chaff was blown away by the wind.
A key question about Isaiah’s prophecy is, what do the mountains represent? Many commentators claim they represent the governments of nations, which were Israel’s enemies, but the threshing metaphor implies some kind of separation operation is performed on them.
The idea of threshing mountains implies there is something within them that needs to be extracted, and separated out, like grains of barley, oats, rye, and wheat from straw.
In Isaiah’s prophecy, mountains and hills are metaphors; they represent revelations of God; covenants, promises, and prophecies.
In the Old Testament, prophecies relate to the covenant, and the land promise to Israel was a type of the spiritual things contained in the new covenant. Mountains are both durable, and high, so they represent things that are eternal, having lofty or spiritual meanings. Promises to the saints about spiritual things are represented by mountains.
The promised land was the location of many revelations, and mountains are the prominent parts of the promised land. Specific mountains may give their name to prophecies, such as the Olivet Discourse.
Correctly interpreting prophecies and parables extracts their true meaning. This is the threshing process, that Isaiah said is to be accomplished by the church. The chaff that is blown away by the wind is the superficial literal view, or flawed interpretations. It is the embellishment surrounding and concealing kernels of truth.
Parables are similar to prophecies; the meaning or interpretation of a parable is the grain which provides nourishment to believers.
How are mountains threshed? This has to do with interpreting the symbolic mountains of prophecy. Joel said that mountains will drop down new wine and hills will flow with milk.
So shall ye know that I am the LORD your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth out of the house of the LORD, and shall water the valley of Shittim.
These mountains and hills are figures representing promises of God to the saints, who seek a “better country,” which represents their spiritual inheritance. Wine and milk are metaphors interpreted in the New Testament as representing God’s word. When Jesus spoke of new wine, and old bottles, he was referring to the gospel.
And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles.
The author of Hebrews said “milk” represents teachings intended for those who are immature:
For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
The apostle Peter encouraged his readers to seek “the sincere milk of the word.”
1 Peter 2:2
As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
Wheat is also a metaphor that Jesus often used to represent his teachings, for example in the parable of the sower. Harvesting of wheat involves threshing. After the stalks of grain are harvested, they are chopped and beaten or threshed, to separate the grain from the chaff.
Isaiah’s prophecy about threshing mountains alludes to this process of separating. The church is involved in beating the mountains, which are symbolic of the revelations of God, and prophecies, and the promises of God to the saints contained in scripture. Perhaps the “threshing” metaphor represents various attempts to discover the true meaning of the prophecies of scripture. In the threshing process, the stalks are broken and cut small, and the grains are rubbed against one another, and moved about, so that all the chaff can be dislodged, and blown away by the wind. The process of interpretation of prophecy is similar; various theories are proposed, which are the means of “threshing.” When these interpretations are compared one against one another, flaws are exposed in the debate, and “chaff” gets separated from the truth.
This is the role of theories of preterism and dispensationalism; these theories are opposed to each other, and are mutually destructive. Supporters of preterism expose flaws in the theories of dispensationalism, and likewise supporters of dispensationalism, when defending their views, expose the flaws of preterism. Both doctrines represent “chaff.” The grains of truth remain, to which both groups are blind.
Copyright © 2011 by Douglas E. Cox
All Rights Reserved.