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The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia


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A fused mixture of metallic silicates, generally transparent or translucent. Its manufacture dates from the earliest times, glass-blowers being represented on tombs dating from the fifth dynasty in Egypt, of the fourth millennium B.C., as well as on the tombs of the Beni-Ha'san, c. 3500 (Wilkinson, "Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians," p. 240). Pliny's well-known story of the invention of glass-making by the Phenicians ("Historia Naturalis," 36:25) is merely a fable; but, next to Egypt, Sidon was the chief center of glass-manufacture in the Mediterranean world during Bible times.

—Biblical Data:

The only direct reference to glass in the Old Testament is that in Job 28:17, where it is declared that neither gold nor glass () can equal wisdom; from which it follows that glass, though known, was very expensive. Yer. Targ. to Deuteronomy 33:19 interprets the "treasures hid in the sand" as referring to the sands of the Belus, the scene of Pliny's fable. Glass bottles have been found in excavations in Palestine (Warren, "Underground Jerusalem," p. 518; Petrie, "Tell el-Hesy," pp. 52, 53). Also, a perfect lacrimatory or tear-bottle has been unearthed at Jerusalem (see illustration); it is therefore possible that the expression "Put thou my tears into thy bottle" (Psalms 56:8) may refer to the curious use of such vessels.

—In Rabbinical Literature:

By Talmudic times the Jews seem to have acquired the art of glass-blowing. It is referred to as being practised by them (Yer. Shab. 7:2), possibly because many Jews were settled near Belus, known for its sands. White glass was very dear (Ḥul. 84b; Ber. 31a): it is even stated that its manufacture ceased after the destruction of the Second Temple (Soṭah 48b; Suk. 4:6). The poorer classes used colored glass (Tosef., Peah, ). A remarkable number of articles were made wholly or partly of glass; e.g., tables, bowls, spoons, drinking-vessels, bottles (Kelim 30:1-4), beads (ib. 11:8), lamps, beds, stools, seats, cradles, and paper-knives and -weights (Tosef., Kelim, 3:7). These were sold by weight by Jewish merchants (B. B. 89a; B. Ḳ. 31a). Mirrors were usually of metal; but glass ones are referred to (Kelim 30b; Shab. 149a).

  • Hastings, Dict. Bible, s.;
  • Herzfeld, Handelsgeschichte, pp. 125, 193, 319.

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Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Glass'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

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