Millstone Into the Sea

Grand Tour provides a series of parables in chronological order matched to the overall story of the Bible. The Parable of the millstone being tossed into the sea is about going down to Egypt.


The argument over who is greatest continues with Jesus calling together the 12 disciples and then calling out a little child. The following is the account.

33They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the road?" 34But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

35Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all."

36He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37"Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me." Mark 9:33-37 NIV

33And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? 34But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest. 35And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. 36And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, 37Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me. Mark 9:33-37 KJV

The 12 Gathered

To answer their question about who is greatest, Jesus calls together the twelve disciples. This action is the parable’s way of calling attention to the twelve patriarchs, Abraham’s great grand kids. After Abraham, their births are the next main event in the Bible’s original chronology. This happened while Jacob’ was in Laban’s service in the 20 years 9001 AA through 9020 AA.

The sons of Jacob ran into the issue of who was greatest also. They were arguing amongst themselves, jockeying for position. Reuben was the rightful heir to Abraham’s estate, so he would naturally be the greatest. They were stunned when their young brother Joseph began having prophetic dreams. The brothers would not believe what God was saying, and projected their own hearts on Joseph. Everyone in the family, including their father Jacob, was stunned by some of the things Joseph’s dreams implied, though they would come true in time.

Eventually, Joseph, was the greatest in his generation when he was made Prime Ministry of ancient Egypt. (About 9040 AA.) Because of Reuben’s sin, Joseph also inherited Abraham’s right of first born, as well as the ’great nation’ promise given to Abraham in the Abrahamic covenant.

Notice, though, the role of Joseph relative to the rest of the family. Joseph knew he was their servant and did all he could to provide for the needs of the rest of his family. He was both greatest and least.

The ’great nation promise’ passed to Joseph is one of the covenant promises that is key to understanding the lost tribes. The specific ’great nation’ promise passes to Joseph’s sons and eventually to the nations descended from them.

The parable continues and Jesus brings in an important word picture, the ’millstone.’ The following is the text:

38"Teacher," said John, "we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us."

39"Do not stop him," Jesus said. "No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40for whoever is not against us is for us. 41I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.

42"And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck. 43If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. 44 45And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. 46 47And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48where "`their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.' 49Everyone will be salted with fire.

50"Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other." Mark 9:38-50 NIV

38And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. 39But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. 40For he that is not against us is on our part. 41For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward. 42And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. 43And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: 44Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 45And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: 46Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 47And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: 48Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 49For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. 50Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another."have lost his saltness" was translated from "analon genatai" (more literally "became unsalted"); This is more phrase-for-phrase, so I tagged both words to this whole phrase. Mark 9:38-50 KJV

Who would not follow?

Of Jacob’s sons, the brother who would not follow the crowd was Joseph. He was following orders from heaven.

Jesus’ editorial is the same. If they are not against you, they are for you. As Paul would say later the kingdom of God is not about perswasive words but of a demonstration of power. Joseph did that as he had and interpreted dreams, as he became Prime Minister. People don’t have to follow you, or any crowd for that matter, in order to be following Jesus.

Causing a little one to stumble, ie: selling Joseph into slavery, is replayed with a millstone tied around the neck and being cast into the seas. This was the punishment given to the brothers for what they did to Joseph.

Seas are symbolic of peoples or nations generally and the best example of peoples generally was ancient Egypt. Jacob’s sons, except for Joseph who went earlier, were cast into Egypt.

The millstone, the mechanism where they were pulled into the sea was the need for grain. The drought cased a famine in Canaan and the only place where millstones were running was Egypt as the Egyptians broke into the grain stores of Joseph. The brothers had to go down to Egypt to get grain, the food supply for their own millstones. This is what caused them to get caught in Egypt.

Each of the body parts in this parable is a reference to one of the brothers. Together they make up a whole body, but each can cause the entire nation of ancient Israel to sin in various ways. Each will be cut off later as the nation of ancient Israel is dismembered. For now they are cut off from the promised land and cast into Egypt.

At the end of the parable Jesus exhorts: Have salt in yourselves and live at peace with one another.

This encouragement ends the book of Genesis when their father has died and they come to Joseph with a lie supposedly from their father. Joseph indeed wants to live at peace with his brothers, even if they don’t believe it, nor understand it.