Jesus used the common millstone in one of his teaching illustrations.
And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. (Luke 17:1-2; cf. Matthew 18:6; Mark 9:42 ESV)
The photo below shows a collection of millstones at the Roman ruins of Bosra in southern Syria, a few miles north of the border with Jordan, in a region known as Hauran. The area has seen much volcanic action in the past. These dark millstones are made of basalt. The region is described by Ulrich Hübner this way.
Bozrah lies on one of the fruitful and water-rich plains of S Haurān at the important intersection of the N–S route, which leads from Damascus through the Transjordan to the Hejaz, with the E–W route, on which one could travel from the Mediterranean to Mesopotamia. (The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary)
This Bosra is not to be confused with Bozrah in Edom (Genesis 36:33) or Bozrah in Moab (Jeremiah 48:21-24).
Millstones were significant in Bible times.
- Used for grinding grain (even manna) (Numbers 11:8; Isaiah 47:2).
- The work might be done by a slave girl (Exodus 11:5), or two women working together (Matthew 24:41).
- Taking a person’s upper millstone as a pledge would deprive the person of his livelihood (Deuteronomy 24:6).
- A woman at Shechem “threw an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head, crushing his skull” (Judges 9:53; 2 Samuel 11:21).
- In the LORD’S challenge to Job, He describes Leviathan with a heart as hard as stone, “Even as hard as a lower millstone” (Job 41:24).
- The sinking of a great millstone is used in the Apocalypse to describe the fall of Babylon (Revelation 18:21).