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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Firkin

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FIRKIN (μετρητής, John 2:6 only).—An Attic liquid measure, which is generally regarded as the equivalent of the Hebrew bath (cf. LXX Septuagint 2 Chronicles 4:5), and is therefore ‘able to contain seventy-two sextaries’ (Josephus Ant. viii. ii. 9), accurately 71, 28 pints, or approximately 9 English gallons. ‘Firkin’ (Authorized Version and Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885)—the fourth part of a barrel containing from 32 to 36 gallons—as a translation is sufficiently exact for ordinary purposes.

Previously emptied for the ablutions of the guests, the water-pots are filled afresh. Their character and contents prove the reality of the miracle. Very effective is the touch added by the expression ἕως ἄνω, ‘up to the brim,’ if only in presenting a sure basis for calculating the quantity of this wedding gift. The lowest estimate of the quantity of wine must be over 12 firkins or 108 gallons; yet, had the vessels been larger they had been filled; had there been more vessels, more wine. To such lavishness there need not be imputed indiscretion. Our Lord did not give simply to meet a pressing need, or even for future use, but rather to exemplify the illimitable power of the Giver. ‘It is His first miraculous sign … it must become the type of the fulness of grace and joy and strength which the only-begotten Son brings to the earth’ (Godet on John 2:6).

Literature.—Art. ‘Weights and Measures’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible, iv. 911–913; Encyc. Bibl. iv. col. 5294 f.

Alex. A. Duncan.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Firkin'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/f/firkin.html. 1906-1918.

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