What is the “shambles?”


by Shawn Brasseaux

“Shambles” is a good King James Bible word, found once. The passage in which it is found is 1 Corinthians 10:24-26: “[24] Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth. [25] Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: [26] For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.”

It is an archaic word, but we can use context clues to get a pretty good idea of its definition. The term is associated with things that can be eaten. In other words, the “shambles” is place where food is sold. Specifically, as Strong’s Greek Dictionary tells us, it is a butcher’s stall, indoor meat market, or provision-shop. The Greek word is “makellon,” derived from the Latin “macellum” (“market”). Here, animals were actually slaughtered. In the pagan Roman Empire, the meat was connected to idol worship. For more information, see our related study on 1 Corinthians chapter 8, linked below.

As one brother in Christ described it, most comically: “Indeed we can be certain that ‘shambles’ was a much more accurate description of the ancient marketplace (and many around the world today)!” (“Shambles” is synonymous with “chaos.”)

Also see:
» Can you explain 1 Corinthians chapter 8?
» What is a “charger?”
» What does the Bible say about blood transfusions?