On her Connections blog, Donna B. Nielsen notes that the term “break the commandments” means more than just disobey. The word “break” is the Hebrew word parar, literally meaning the act of tossing grain on the threshing floor so the oxen may tread on it and break the hulls away from the grain. Literally, it is trampled upon.
As I read her thought, I wondered how often the Bible and Book of Mormon each use the term “trample” and in what context.
The Old Testament uses it twice: Isa 63:3, where Christ will “trod the winepress” alone, in Psalms 91:3, where God will trample his enemies.
In the New Testament, there is only one verse, which comes closer to the concept of parar:
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you. (Matt 7:6)
So we really do not see much in the Bible regarding such a concept. However, in the Book of Mormon, we find the word “trample” nine times! These include Christ quoting Matt 7:6 to the Nephites, but most of the quotes regard trampling either Christ or his commandments under one’s feet. Here are a sampling:
For the things which some men esteem to be of great worth, both to the body and soul, others set at naught and trample under their feet. Yea, even the very God of Israel do men trample under their feet; I say, trample under their feet but I would speak in other words—they set him at naught, and hearken not to the voice of his counsels. (1 Ne 19:7)
And that they had altered and trampled under their feet the laws of Mosiah, or that which the Lord commanded him to give unto the people; and they saw that their laws had become corrupted, and that they had become a wicked people, insomuch that they were wicked even like unto the Lamanites. (Hel 4:22)
And thus they did obtain the sole management of the government, insomuch that they did trample under their feet and smite and rend and turn their backs upon the poor and the meek, and the humble followers of God. (Hel 6:39)
Yea, and we may see at the very time when he doth prosper his people, yea, in the increase of their fields, their flocks and their herds, and in gold, and in silver, and in all manner of precious things of every kind and art; sparing their lives, and delivering them out of the hands of their enemies; softening the hearts of their enemies that they should not declare wars against them; yea, and in fine, doing all things for the welfare and happiness of his people; yea, then is the time that they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God, and do trample under their feet the Holy One—yea, and this because of their ease, and their exceedingly great prosperity. (Hel 12:2)
Interestingly, it seems that Joseph Smith’s translation retained the concept of the threshing floor being trodden by oxen as a symbol of “breaking” a commandment, even though the Bible does not reference it hardly at all.
(in also checking the terms “trod” or “tread” we see that the Old Testament uses it 54 times, the New Testament 7 times, and the Book of Mormon 21 times).