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Holman Bible Dictionary

Lamps, Lighting, Lampstand

The system and articles used to illuminate homes in biblical times. Lamps are mentioned often in the Bible but seldom described. Archaeological excavations have provided numerous examples of these lighting implements used in ancient times, dating from before Abraham to after Christ. Lamps of the Old Testament period were made exclusively of pottery. These lamps were of the open-bowl design with a pinched spout to support the wick. Wicks were made generally of twisted flax (Isaiah 42:3 ). Lamps burned olive oil almost exclusively (Exodus 25:6 ), though in later times oil from nuts, fish, and other sources were used. Lamps from the Bronze Age to the Hellenistic times were made on the pottery wheel, after which molds were made for the enclosed forms of the Greek and Roman periods (about 500 B.C. onward). For outdoor lighting, the torch (KJV lantern) was used (Judges 7:16; John 18:3 ).

A golden lampstand with three branches extending from either side of the central tier was placed in the tabernacle (Exodus 25:31-40 ). Each branch may have had a seven-spouted lamp (Zechariah 4:2 ), as do some individual lamps found in Palestine. This seven-branched candelabra (menorah), supporting seven lamps, continued in prominence through the first and second Temple periods, and later became symbolic of the nation Israel. Surrounding nations also employed multitiered and multilegged lamps and lampstands.

Lamps (lights) were used symbolically in the Old and New Testaments. Light depicted life in abundance, divine presence or life's direction versus death in darkness (compare Psalm 119:105; 1 John 1:5 with Job 18:5; Proverbs 13:9 ). Jesus is depicted often in John as the light of the world (John 1:4-5 ,John 1:4-5,1:7-9; John 3:19; John 8:12; John 9:5; John 11:9-10; John 12:35-36 ,John 12:35-36,12:46 ). Jesus' disciples are also described as the light of the world (Matthew 5:14-16 ). See Light, Light of the World

Dennis Cole


Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Lamps, Lighting, Lampstand'. Holman Bible Dictionary. http://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hbd/view.cgi?n=3750. 1991.

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