Butter. It is generally agreed among Bible scholars, that in most of the cases where the word "butter" appears in our generally used translation, it does not mean the kind of butter known by the Westerner, but rather curdled milk or "leben." There are two passages that do refer to butter, but even that is in a different form from that used by those people who live outside the Orient.
The first passage mentions "butter of kine" (Deuteronomy 32:14), and the second refers to the process of making butter, "the churning of milk bringeth forth butter" (Proverbs 30:33). The Bible-time method of making butter was doubtless the same as used by the Arab Bedouins of today.
Thomson describes the process and the resulting butter thus:
What are those women kneading and shaking so zealously in that large black bag suspended from that tripod? That is a bottle not a bag, made by stripping off the skin of a young buffalo. It is full of milk and that is their method of churning. When the butter has come they take it out, and boil it, and then put it in bottles made of goatskins. In winter it resembles candied honey, in summer it is like oil. That is the only kind of butter they have in this country.
Concerning the passage in Proverbs (30:33), "Surely the churning of milk bringeth forth butter, and the wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood," Thomson calls attention to the fact, that the word churning, and the word for wringing are the same word in the Hebrew. He says:
It is the wringing of milk that bringeth forth butter, just as these women are squeezing and wringing the milk in that skin bottle. There is no analogy between our mode of churning, and pulling a man's nose until the blood comes, but in this native operation the comparison is quite natural and emphatic. Buttermilk is not itself mentioned in the Bible, but it was without doubt used, because the process of churning, as has already been referred to, is mentioned. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
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