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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Butter

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is taken in Scripture, as it has been almost perpetually in the east, for cream or liquid butter, Proverbs 30:33; 2 Samuel 17:29 . The ancient way of making butter in Arabia and Palestine was probably nearly the same as is still practised by the Bedoween Arabs, and Moors in Barbary, and which is thus described by Dr. Shaw: "Their method of making butter is by putting the milk or cream into a goat's skin turned inside out, which they suspend from one side of the tent to the other; and then pressing it to and fro in one uniform direction, they quickly separate the unctious and wheyey parts. In the Levant they tread upon the skin with their feet, which produces the same effect." The last method of separating the butter from the milk, perhaps may throw light upon a passage in Job of some difficulty: "When I washed my steps with butter, and the rock poured me out rivers of oil," Job 31:6 . The method of making butter in the east illustrates the conduct of Jael, the wife of Heber, described in the book of Judges: "And Sisera said unto her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water to drink, for I am thirsty: and she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him drink, and covered him." In the song of Deborah, the statement is repeated: "He asked water, and she gave him milk; she brought forth butter in a lordly dish," Judges 4:19; Judges 5:25 . The word חמאה , which our translators rendered butter, properly signifies cream; which is undoubtedly the meaning of it in this passage: for Sisera complained of thirst, and asked a little water to quench it;—a purpose to which butter is but little adapted. Mr. Harmer, indeed, urges the same objection to cream, which, he contends, few people would think a very proper beverage for one that was extremely thirsty; and concludes that it must have been butter-milk which Jael, who had just been churning, gave to Sisera. But the opinion of Dr. Russel is preferable,—that the hemah of the Scriptures is probably the same as the haymak of the Arabs, which is not, as Harmer supposed, simple cream, but cream produced by simmering fresh sheep's milk for some hours over a slow fire. It could not be butter newly churned, which Jael presented to Sisera, because the Arab butter is apt to be foul, and is commonly passed through a strainer before it is used: and Russel declares, he never saw butter offered to a stranger, but always haymak; nor did he ever observe the orientals drink butter-milk, but always leban, which is coagulated sour milk, diluted with water. It was leban, therefore, which Pococke mistook for butter-milk, with which the Arabs treated him in the Holy Land. A similar conclusion may be drawn concerning the butter and milk which the wife of Heber presented to Sisera: they were forced cream or

haymak, and leban, or coagulated sour milk, diluted with water, which is a common and refreshing beverage in those sultry regions. In Isaiah 7:15 , butter and honey are mentioned as food which, in Egypt and other places in the east, is in use to this day. The butter and honey are mixed, and the bread is then dipped in it.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Butter'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/wtd/b/butter.html. 1831-2.

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