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fuller Summary and Overview

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fuller in Easton's Bible Dictionary

The word "full" is from the Anglo-Saxon fullian, meaning "to whiten." To full is to press or scour cloth in a mill. This art is one of great antiquity. Mention is made of "fuller's soap" (Mal. 3:2), and of "the fuller's field" (2 Kings 18:17). At his transfiguration our Lord's rainment is said to have been white "so as no fuller on earth could white them" (Mark 9:3). En-rogel (q.v.), meaning literally "foot-fountain," has been interpreted as the "fuller's fountain," because there the fullers trod the cloth with their feet.

fuller in Smith's Bible Dictionary

The trade of the fullers, so far as it is mentioned in Scripture, appears to have consisted chiefly in cleansing garments and whitening them. The process of fulling or cleansing clothes consisted in treading or stamping on the garments with the feet or with bats in tubs of water, in which some alkaline substance answering the purpose of soap had been dissolved. The substances used for this purpose which are mentioned in Scripture are natron, #Pr 25:20; Jer 2:22| and soap. #Mal 3:2| Other substances also are mentioned as being employed in cleansing, which, together with alkali, seem to identify the Jewish with the Roman process, as urine and chalk. The process of whitening garments was performed by rubbing into them calk or earth of some kind. Creta cimolia (cimolite) was probably the earth most frequently used. The trade of the fullers, as causing offensive smells, and also as requiring space for drying clothes, appears to have been carried on at Jerusalem outside the city.

fuller in Schaff's Bible Dictionary

FUL'LER . The Hebrew word comes from the verb "to tread," because originally the clothing was trodden upon in tubs of water until the soap which had been dissolved had cleansed it. The fuller did not simply full new cloth, but washed clothing that had been worn. Among the primitive Hebrews washing was done at home by the women. Ex 19:10; Num 19:7. It was obligatory in the case of the leper's clothing. Lev 13:54. But in later times among the Hebrews, as among the Egyptians, as the monuments testify, washing was an especial and important business of the men. 2 Kgs 18:17; Isa 7:3; Isa 36:2; Mark 9:3. Mention is made in the Bible of the various substances used in this business, such as nitre, Prov 26:20; Jer 2:22; soap, probably the juice of some saponaceous plant, Mal 3:2. Chalk was rubbed into clothes for the same purpose. Since the fullers occasioned offensive smells, they carried on their work outside the cities. West of Jerusalem was their field; its removed position and the supply of water from the upper Pool of Gihon rendered the place very fit. See Fullers' Field. En-rogel was the fullers' fountain.

fuller in Fausset's Bible Dictionary

kobes, from kabas "to tread." The fuller's chief work was cleansing and whitening garments for festive and religious occasions. The white garment typifies Christ's spotless righteousness, put on the saints. Revelation 3:4-5; Revelation 3:18; Revelation 6:11; Revelation 7:9; Revelation 7:14; Ecclesiastes 9:8, "let thy garments be always white"; the present, even if gloomy, should never rob saints of the festive joyousness of spirit which faith bestows, in consciousness of peace with God now, and in the prospect of glory for ever. Fulling or cleansing cloth was effected by stamping on the garments with the feet or bats in tubs of water containing some alkaline dissolved.

The alkaline substances mentioned are "soap" and "nitre" (Proverbs 25:20; Jeremiah 2:22), a potash which mixed with oil was used as soap. Malachi 3:2, "fullers' soap." Job 9:30, "if I make my hands never so clean," translated, "if I cleanse my hands with lye." Carbonate of potash is obtained impure from burning plants, especially the kali (from whence, with the Arabic al, the article, comes the word "alkali ") of Egypt and Arabia. "Nitre" is not used in our sense, namely, saltpeter, but native carbonate of soda. Natron is found abundant in the soda lakes of Egypt (Pliny, 31:10), in the valley Bahr-bela-ma (the waterless sea), 50 miles E. of Cairo, during the nine months of the year that the lakes are dry.

The Mishna mentions also urine and chalk used in fullers' cleansing. This may have suggested the indelicate filthy sneer of Rabshakeh to Hezekiah's messengers in "the highway of the fullers' field" (2 Kings 18:27). The trade was relegated to the outside of Jerusalem, to avoid the offensive smells. (See ENROGEL.) Chalk, or earth of some kind, was used to whiten garments. Christ's garments at the transfiguration became "shining" white "as no fuller on earth could whiten them" (Mark 9:3). Christ's mission, including both the first and second advents, is compared to "fuller's soap" in respect to the judicial process now secretly going on, hereafter to be consummated at the second advent, whereby the unclean are separated from the clean.