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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia


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The Authorized Version (partly after the example of the Vulgate, which uses "lagena," 1 Samuel 10:3; "laguncula," Lamentations 4:2) introduced the incorrect translation "bottle" for various words that in reality signify "skins for holding liquids" ("ḥemet," Genesis 21:14 et seq., for water; "nod," Judges 4:19, for milk; 1 Samuel 16:20, Joshua 9:4,13, for wine; Psalms 56:8 [Hebr. 9], for water; "ob," Job 32:19, for wine; "nebel," 1 Samuel 1:24, 10:3, etc., for wine). The R. V. corrects this only sporadically; compare 1 Samuel 10:3, margin; Psalms 119:83; while in Jeremiah 13:12 the marginal reading substitutes "jar."

The various words in all these passages have reference to the skin, usually of a goat, sometimes of a sheep, in exceptional cases of an ox. The animal is skinned without making a hole in the body; the four holes where the lower legs have been cut off are closed by being sewn together, while the hole caused by the cutting of the head is bound together and serves as an aperture. The hairy side is frequently the inside, though in other cases it is left outside. To keep the skin tight it is greased or smeared with pitch. (On the habit of smoking it (Psalms 119:83) see WINE.) The mending, patching, and tying up, necessary with bursting skins, are referred to in Joshua 9:4,13: "bottles old, and rent, and bound up." The easy bursting ascribed to new skins with wine (Job 32:19) is, evidently, due to an error of the text (compare the N. T. saying, Matthew 9:17 et seq.). The further reading is: "like skins filled with new wine, it is about to burst" (see Budde's commentary, ad loc.).

The skin is the most practical vessel for wandering nomads, who were probably the first to use it. However, it was in very general use among the classical nations. Its employment still survives to some extent in Spain and Greece, while the custom in the Mohammedan world has in nowise diminished.

It is questionable whether the translation of the Authorized Version is correct in the case of the "bottle [margin for "vessel"] of potters" (Isaiah 30:14). The expression "nebel" (rendered "[earthen] pitcher," Lamentations 4:2) seems to refer in this passage toa large earthen jar holding perhaps as much as an ordinary skin. From the present knowledge of the vessels for storing wine among the various ancient nations the form of a bottle is certainly excluded. In Jeremiah 19:1 (compare 10), "a potter's earthen bottle," the word "baḳbuḳ" (Syriac, bagbug, perhaps from a root signifying "to gurgle") seems to mean a vessel with a narrow neck. In 1 Kings 14:3 (A. V., "cruse," margin "bottle") it is used for honey. The Septuagint renders this word, however, by βῖκόç (a broad jar with handles and narrow neck) and by σταμνός (jar). On the other hand, the Greek and Latin words for bottle (λάγηνος, lagena, etc.) seem to be of Semitic origin. Moreover, the bottle-form, for which glass is specially suitable, was never much used in antiquity, least of all in the Orient. The specimens of Egyptian and Phenician glass bottles that have been found seem, on account of the costliness of glass (compare Job 28:17; "crystal," A. V., parallel with "gold"), all to have been intended for perfumes. No Biblical mention of them is known.

  • Nowack, Hebr. Archäologie, pp. 145, 282;
  • Benzinger, Arch. p. 94.
J. Jr.
W. M. M.

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

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