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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Potter, Pottery

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POTTER, POTTERY . The artificer ( yôtsçr ) is first named in 2 Samuel 17:28 . This implies the use of pottery at an earlier period. The ancient Egyptians were familiar with its manufacture (Wilk. Anc. Egyp . ii. 190 ff.), and Israel could not be entirely ignorant of it. During their nomad life, however, such brittle material would be little serviceable, and its use would be reduced to a minimum skins, vessels of wood, metal, etc., being preferred. Skins for water, wine, etc., have been in use at all times, down to the present day ( Genesis 21:14 , Judges 4:19 , 1 Samuel 16:20 etc.); but we also find the earthenware pitcher , or jar ( kad ), similarly employed ( Genesis 24:14 , Jdg 7:18 , 1 Kings 17:12 [EV [Note: English Version.] ‘barrel’] etc.). Only after settlement in Palestine was the art developed to any extent by Israelites. In the later writings the potter is frequently referred to ( Psalms 2:9 , Isaiah 29:16 , Jeremiah 18:2 etc.).

The potter first kneaded the clay with his feet ( Isaiah 41:25 ), then shaped the vessel on the wheel ( Jeremiah 18:8 ). This consisted of two wooden disks attached to a perpendicular axle, the larger being below the work-table. This the potter turned with his foot. The vessel was then fired in an oven ( Sir 38:29 ff.). In later times the art of glazing was also understood, oxide of lead (‘silver dross’), obtained in refining silver, being used for the purpose ( Proverbs 26:23 , Sir 38:30 ). In Jeremiah’s day the potters seem to have had a stance by the ‘gate of potsherds ’ ( Jeremiah 18:1; Jeremiah 19:1 f., RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘gate Harsith ’), prohably in the neighbourhood of the clay pits, where they offered their wares for sale.

The thought of the potter moulding his clay at will is implicit in many passages where yâtsar , ‘to form,’ is the verb used ( Genesis 2:7 f., Psalms 33:16; Psalms 95:5 etc.), and is made explicit in such passages as Isaiah 29:16; Isaiah 45:9 , Romans 9:21 etc.

The reading el ha’ôtsâr (Syr.), ‘into the treasury ,’ is preferred in Zechariah 11:13 by many scholars and RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] to MT [Note: Massoretic Text.] el hayyôtsçr , ‘unto the potter .’ The passage is one of great difficulty.

What is known of the potter’s art in Palestine is due mainly to the work of the Palestine Exploration Fund, and especially to that carried out by Flinders Petrie, Bliss, and Macalister, at Tell el-Hesy possibly the ancient Lachish and elsewhere, from 1890 onwards. The result of their investigations, and discussions by other scholars, are found in the PEFSt [Note: Quarterly Statement of the same.] ; Petrie’s Tell el Hesy; Bliss’s Mound of Many Cities; Excavations in Palestine , by Bliss, Macalister, and Wünsch, etc.

Petrie distinguishes three periods of ancient pottery. 1 . Amorite , pre-historic, where the shape and markings of the vessels seem to show that they were moulded on the old leathern vessels. 2 . PhÅ“nician , rough and porous in character, often with painted ornamentation, of which possibly metal vessels furnished the models. This may be dated from b.c. 1400 to 1000. 3. Jewish , in which Amorite and PhÅ“nician styles are blended; this apparently belongs to the time of the later monarchy. On many jar handles are legends stamped in characters resembling those of the Siloam inscription. Along with the Jewish, Greek types of pottery are found, ‘chiefly ribbed bowls, and large amphoræ with loop handles. The red and black figured ware was also imported’ (Bliss, in Hastings’ DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] iv. 27).

Where pottery of the Seleucid age, with Greek names stamped on the handles, or Roman pottery, ‘ribbed amphoræ, and tiles stamped with the stamp of the tenth legion,’ or Arab glazed ware, is found, sites may be dated with approximate accuracy. But for these and older times, data furnished by remains of pottery must be used with caution. Thus certain jars found at a great depth below the surface at Jerusalem, undoubtedly belonging to a comparatively early time, closely resemble some of those in use at the present day (Nowack, Heb. Arch . i. 265ff.).

W. Ewing.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Potter, Pottery'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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