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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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The eastern bottle is made of a goat or kid skin, stripped off without opening the belly; the apertures made by cutting off the tail and legs are sewed up, and, when filled, it is tied about the neck. The Arabs and Persians never go a journey without a small leathern bottle of water hanging by their side like a scrip. These skin bottles preserve their water, milk, and other liquids, in a fresher state than any other vessels they can use. The people of the east, indeed, put into them every thing they mean to carry to a distance, whether dry or liquid, and very rarely make use of boxes and pots, unless to preserve such things as are liable to be broken. They enclose these leathern bottles in woollen sacks, because their beasts of carriage often fall down under their load, or cast it down on the sandy desert. These skin bottles were not confined to the countries of Asia; the roving tribes, which passed the Hellespont soon after the deluge, and settled in Greece and Italy, probably introduced them into those countries. We learn from Homer, that they were in common use among the Greeks at the siege of Troy; for, with a view to an accommodation between the hostile armies, the heralds carried through the city the things which were necessary to ratify the compact, two lambs, and exhilarating wine, the fruit of the earth, in a bottle of goat skin:

"Αρνε δυω , και οινον ευφρονα , καρπον αρουρης ,

‘Ασκω εν αιγειω .

Il. lib. v. 50. 246.

The bottle of wine which Samuel's mother brought to Eli. 1 Samuel 1:24 , is called נבל , and was an earthen jug. Another word is used to signify the vessel out of which Jael gave milk to Sisera: she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him drink, Judges 4:19 . This is called נאוכּ? which refers to something supple, moist, oozing, or, perhaps, imports moistened into pliancy, as that skin must be which is kept constantly filled with milk. This kind was usually made of goat skins. This word is also used to denote the bottle in which Jesse sent wine by David to Saul, 1 Samuel 16:20 . It is likewise employed to express the bottle into which the Psalmist desires his tears may be collected. Psalms 56:8; and that to which he resembles himself, and which he calls a bottle in the smoke, Psalms 119:83 , that is, a skin bottle, blackened and shrivelled. Beside the words already considered, another אבות , in the plural, is used, Job 32:19 . This signifies, in general, to swell or distend. On receiving the liquor poured into it, a skin bottle must be greatly swelled and distended; and it must be swelled still farther by the fermentation of the liquor within it, as that advances to ripeness. In this state, if no vent be given to the liquor, it may overpower the strength of the bottle, or it may penetrate by some secret crevice or weaker part. Hence arises the propriety of putting new wine into new bottles, which, being strong, may resist the expansion, the internal pressure of their contents, and preserve the wine to due maturity; while old bottles may, without danger, contain old wine, whose fermentation is already past, Matthew 9:17; Luke 5:38 .

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Bottle'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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