Ancient Waterpot

Illustration of an Ancient Waterpot

This sketch contains a colored illustration of an ancient water pot or water jug from Old Testament times.

How Kept Bottles. Wine, water, milk, and other liquids are kept in jars or other receptacles, but when carried on a journey these liquids are put into water skins or "bottles." The jars in Egypt are usually of two kinds, one with a narrow, and another with a wide, mouth. Lane says they are made of a grayish porous earth, which cools the water by evaporation. The interior of the jar is often blackened with the smoke of some wood, and then perfumed with an Arabic gum, like mastic.^ The leather or skin botdes are of several different sizes and kinds. They are usually made from the skin of the goat, rarely, if ever, from that of the sheep, because the sheep skin is not strong enough. Sometimes they are made from the skin of the camel, or an ox skin, which is
prepared by tanning. The goat's skin is used whole, being drawn off the body of the animal after cutting off its head and feet; the openings thus made being sewed up, and the joinings well smeared with grease. These bottles become dried by the smoke in the tents or houses of Arabs, and are liable to crack and become worthless when old. Fermenting wine put into old bottles not being strong enough to hold the wine during fermentation, suggested the comparison of our Lord: "No man putteth new wine into old wineskins; else the wine will burst the skins, and the wine perisheth, and the skins: but they put new wine into fresh wine-skins." ^ The large bottles, Bruce says, are besmeared on the outside all over with grease lest the water or the liquid should ooze through. Pliny Fisk used goats' skins to carry water when the skins were new. He says it gave the water a reddish color and an exceedingly loathsome taste. Harmer tells of carrying liquid in smoked leather bottles, which when rent "were mended by putting in a new piece, or by gathering up the piece, or by inserting a flat bit of wood." Burckhardt saw Arabs keeping water for their horses in large bags made of tanned camel skin. These were sewn
up on the four sides, so as to leave two openings; two such bags are a heavy load for a camel. Sometimes the wine or water is carried in a cruse, enclosed in a wicker basket, similar to that which David must have taken from beneath Saul's bolster. [Orientalism in the Bible]

The equipment and method of the potter. Today the potter plies his trade in many sections of the East, just like his predecessors have done for centuries. His workshop is very rude. He works behind a coarse wooden bench. His equivalent consists of two wooden discs or wheels, with an axle standing up from the center of the lower disc: The upper wheel thus turns horizontally when the lower one is put into action by the foot. He keeps a heap of clay lying on his bench, and from this he places a lump of clay that has been previously softened, upon the upper wheel. He makes this wheel spin around, as he shapes the clay with his hands into a coneshaped figure. Then he uses his thumb to make a hole in the top of the whirling clay, and keeps opening it until he can put his left hand inside of it. As it is necessary, he sprinkles the clay with water from a vessel which he keeps beside him. He uses a small piece of wood with his righthand to smooth the outside of the vessel as it continues to rotate. He is thus able to make the vessel into whatever shape he desires in keeping with his individual skill. Jeremiah referred to the work of the potter in his message, the inspiration of which came while he was visiting the potter's house: "O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as the potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel" (Jeremiah 18:6). The Apocrypha contains an interesting description of the potter and his work in that day: "So is the potter sitting at his work, and turning the wheel about with his feet, who is always anxiously set at his work, and all his handiwork is by number; he will fashion the clay with his arm, and he will bend its strength in front of his feet; he will apply his heart to finish the glazing; and will be wakeful to make clean the furnace" (Ecclesiasticus 38:29, 30). [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

Pottery in Easton's Bible Dictionary the art of, was early practised among all nations. Various materials seem to have been employed by the potter. Earthenware is mentioned in connection with the history of Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18), of Abraham (18:4-8), of Rebekah (27:14), of Rachel (29:2, 3, 8, 10). The potter's wheel is mentioned by Jeremiah (18:3). See also 1 Chr. 4:23; Ps. 2:9; Isa. 45:9; 64:8; Jer. 19:1; Lam. 4:2; Zech. 11:13; Rom. 9:21.

Pottery in Fausset's Bible Dictionary Early known in Egypt. Israel in bondservice there wrought at it (Psalm 81:6, so the Hebrew in 1 Samuel 2:14); but translated for "pots" the harden baskets for carrying clay, bricks, etc., such as are depicted in the sepulchral vaults at Thebes (Exodus 5:6-12; 2 Chronicles 16:6). The potter trod the clay into a paste (Isaiah 41:25), then put it on a wheel, by which he sat and shaped it. The wheel or horizontal lathe was a wooden disc, placed on another larger one, and turned by hand or worked by a treadle (Jeremiah 18:3); on the upper he molded the clay into shape (Isaiah 45:9); the vessel was then smoothed, glazed, and burnt. Tiles with painting and writing on them were common (Ezekiel 4:1). There was a royal establishment of potters at Jerusalem under the sons of Shelab (1 Chronicles 4:25), carrying on the trade for the king's revenue. The pottery found in Israel is divisible into Phoenician, Graeco- Phoenician, Roman, Christian, and Arabic; on handles of jars occur inscriptions: "to king Zepha .... king Shat" and Melek (Israel Exploration, Our Work in Israel). Emblem of man's brittle frailty, and of God's potter-like power to shape our ends as He pleases (Psalm 2:9; Isaiah 29:16; Isaiah 30:14; Jeremiah 19:11; Lamentations 4:2). As Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1 are thrown together in Mark 1:2-3; also Isaiah 62:11 and Zechariah 9:9 in Matthew 21:4-5; and Isaiah 8:14; Isaiah 28:16 in Romans 9:33; so Jeremiah 18:3-6; Jeremiah 18:19, and Zechariah 11:12-13 in Matthew 27:9. Matthew presumes his reader's full knowledge of Scripture, and merges the two human sacred writers, Jeremiah and Zechariah, in the one voice of the Holy Spirit speaking by them. In Matthew and Zechariah alike, the Lord's representative, Israel's Shepherd, has a paltry price set upon Him by the people; the transaction is done deliberately by men connected with the house of Jehovah; the money is given to the potter, marking the perpetrators' baseness, guilt, and doom, and the hand of the Lord overrules it all, the Jewish rulers while following their own aims unconsciously fulfilling Jehovah's "appointment."

Pottery in Naves Topical Bible Clay prepared for, by treading Isa 41:25 -Vessels made of Jer 18:3,4 -Place for manufacture of, outside the wall of Jerusalem, bought as a burying ground for poor people Mt 27:7-10 -FIGURATIVE Isa 64:8; Ro 9:21 Of weakness, in the idol in Nebuchadnezzars vision Da 2:41

Pottery in Smiths Bible Dictionary The art of pottery is one of the most common and most ancient of all manufactures. It is abundantly evident, both that the Hebrews used earthenware vessels in the wilderness and that the potter's trade was afterward carried on in Israel. They had themselves been concerned in the potter's trade in Egypt, Ps 81:6 and the wall-paintings minutely illustrate the Egyptian process. The clay, when dug, was trodden by men's feet so as to form a paste, Isa 41:25 Wisd. 15:7; then placed by the potter on the wheel beside which he sat, and shaped by him with his hands. How early the wheel came into use in Israel is not known, but it seems likely that it was adopted from Egypt. Isa 45:9; Jer 15:3 The vessel was then smoothed and coated with a glaze, and finally burnt in a furnace. There was at Jerusalem a royal establishment of potters, 1Ch 4:23 from whose employment, and from the fragments cast away in the process, the Potter's Field perhaps received its name. Isa 30:11

The Bible mentions "Potters"

Jeremiah 18:6 - O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay [is] in the potter's hand, so [are] ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.

Isaiah 64:8 - But now, O LORD, thou [art] our father; we [are] the clay, and thou our potter; and we all [are] the work of thy hand.

Lamentations 4:2 - The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, how are they esteemed as earthen pitchers, the work of the hands of the potter!

Isaiah 41:25 - I have raised up [one] from the north, and he shall come: from the rising of the sun shall he call upon my name: and he shall come upon princes as [upon] morter, and as the potter treadeth clay.

Romans 9:21 - Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

Revelation 2:27 - And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.

Jeremiah 18:4 - And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make [it].

Zechariah 11:13 - And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty [pieces] of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD.