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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

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Pembroke, Anne
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Penal Laws
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(עֵט, et, Job 19:24; Psalms 45:1; Jeremiah 8:8; Jeremiah 17:1; and חֶרֶט, cheret, Isaiah 8:1) properly means a style or reed. The instruments with which characters were formed in the writing of the ancients varied with the materials to be written upon. The proper pen was made of reed, calamus, hence a reed pen (Jeremiah 36:4; 3 John 1:13). This was perhaps the most ancient pen for writing on soft materials; and it is still used by the Turks, Syrians, Persians, Abyssinians, Arabs, and other Orientals, as their languages could not be written without difficulty with pens made like ours from quills. Upon tablets of wax a metallic pen or stylus was employed. In engraving- upon hard substances, such as stone, wood, or metallic plates, "an iron pen," or graver of iron or copper, was employed (Job 19:24). (See INK); (See REED); (See WRITING). From the size and general appearance of some of the ancient reeds, as preserved in pictures found at Herculaneum, we may perceive how easily the same word (שבט, shebet) might denote the scepter or badge of authority belonging to the chief of a tribe, and also a pen for writing with. For although the two instruments are sufficiently distinct among us, yet, where a long rod of cane, or reed perhaps, was (like a general's truncheon. or baton, in modern days) the ensign of command, and a lesser rod of the same nature was formed into a pen and used as such, they had considerable resemblance. This may account for the phraseology and parallelism in Judges 5:14 :

"Out of Machir came down governors (legislators); Out of Zebulun they that hold the shebet of writers."

The ancients also used styles to write on tablets covered with wax. The Psalmist says (Psalms 45:1), "My tongue is the pen of a ready writer." The Hebrew signifies rather a style, which was a kind of bodkin, made of iron, brass, or bone, sharp at one end, the other formed like a little spoon, or spatula. The sharp end was used for writing letters, the other end expunged them. The writer could put out or correct what he disliked, and yet no erasure appear, and he could write anew as often as he pleased on the same place. On this is founded that advice of Horace, of often turning the style, and blotting out, "a Sape stylum vertas iterum, quae digna legi sint scripturus." Scripture alludes to the same custom (2 Kings 21:13), "I will blot out Jerusalem as men blot out writing from their writing tablets." I will turn the tablets, and draw the style over the wax, till nothing appear-not the least trace. Isaiah (Isaiah 8:1) received orders from the Lord to write in a great roll of parchment, with the style of a man, what should be dictated to him. It is asked, What is meant by this style of a man? It could not be one of these styles of metal; they were not used for writing on parchment. It is probable that the style of a man signifies a manner of writing which is easy, simple, natural, and intelligible. For generally the prophets expressed themselves in a parabolical, enigmatical, and obscure style. Here God intended that Isaiah should not speak as the prophets, but as other men used to do. Jeremiah says (Jeremiah 8:8) the style of the doctors of the law is a style of error; it writes nothing but lies. Literally, "The pen of the scribes is in vain." They have promised you peace, but behold war. He says, "The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron and with the point of a diamond. It is graven upon the table of their heart," or engraven on their heart, as on writing tablets. The Hebrew says, a graver of shamir.

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Pen'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​p/pen.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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