(usually כּוֹס, kos, prop. a receptacle; N.T. ποτήριον, a drinking vessel) denotes originally a wine-cup (Ge 40:11-21), various forms of which, of different materials, are delineated on the Egyptian and Assyrian monuments. SEE WINE. The cups of the Jews, whether of metal or earthenware, were possibly borrowed, in point of shape and design, from Egypt and from the Phoenicians, who were celebrated in that branch of workmanship (Il. 23:743; Od 4:615, 618). Among the Egyptians the forms of cups and vases were very varied, the paintings upon the tombs representing many of most elegant design, though others are equally deficient in the properties of form and proportion. The forms used during the fourth and other early dynasties (1700 B.C.) continued to be common to a late date (Kenrick, Egyptians of Time of Pharaohs, Lond. 1857, p. 48). There are not any representations of cups like the head of an animal (Bonomi, Nineveh and its Palaces, 3d edit. p. 215, 216). Many of the Egyptian vases, cups, and bowls were of gold (Herod. 2:151) and silver (Ge 44:2; comp. Nu 7:84), some being richly studded with precious stones, inlaid with vitrefied substances in brilliant colors, and even enameled. In Solomon's time all his drinking vessels were of gold, none of silver (1Ki 10:21). Babylon is compared to a golden cup (Jer 51:7). Assyrian cups from Khorsabad and Nimroud were of gold and bronze (Layard, Nineveh. 2:236; Nin. and Bab. p. 161; Bonomi, Nineveh. p. 187), as well as of glass and pottery. They were perhaps of Phoenician workmanship, from which source both Solomon and the Assyrian monarch possibly derived both their workmen and the works themselves. The cups and other vessels brought to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar may thus have been of Phoenician origin (Da 5:2). SEE BANQUET. On the bas-reliefs at Persepolis many figures are represented bearing cups or vases, which may fairly be taken as types of the vessels of that sort described in the book of Esther (Es 1:7; Niebuhr, Travels, 2:106; Chardin, Voyages. 8:268, pl. 58). The great laver, or sea," was made with a rim like the edge of a cup (cos), "with flowers of lilies" (1Ki 6:26), a form which the Persepolitan cups resemble (Jahn, Arch. § 144). Similar large vases have been found represented at Khorsabad (Botta, pl. 76). The use of gold and silver cups was introduced into Greece after the time of Alexander (Athen. 6:229, 230; 11:446, 465; Birch, Anc. Pott. 2:109). The cups of the N.T. (ποτήρια) were often, no doubt, formed on Greek and Roman models. (See Smith, Dict. of Class. Antiq. s.v. Patera.) They were sometimes of gold (Re 17:4). — Smith, s.v.; Fairbairn, s.v. The common Eastern drinking-cup is of brass, and frequently has devices and sometimes sentences from the Koran engraved on the inside (Lane, Mod. Eg. 1:222). As the Moslem law, however, forbids the drinking of wine to good Mohammedans, the common beverage in its place is coffee, which is invariably offered to visitors. The coffee (kahweh. i.e. the drink) is made very strong, and without sugar or milk. The coffee-cup (which is called fingan) is small, generally holding not quite an ounce and a half of liquid. It is of porcelain or Dutch-ware, and, being without a handle, is placed within another cup (called zarf) of silver or brass, according to the circumstances of the owner, and both in shape and size nearly like an egg-cup. In a full service there are ten fingans and zarfs of uniform kinds, and often another fingan and zarf of a superior kind for the master of the house or for a distinguished guest. In the accompanying sketch, the coffee-pot (bekreg or bakrcag) and the zarfs and tray are of silver, and are represented on a scale of one eighth of the real size. Below this-set are a similar zarf and fingan, on a scale of one fourth, and a brass zarf, with the fingan placed in it. Some zarfs are of plain or gilt silver filigree, and a few opulent persons have them of gold. Many Moslems, however, religiously disallow all utensils of gold and of silver (Lane, Mod. Eg. 1:205). SEE CUP-BEARER.
The practice of divining by means of a cup (גָּבִיע, gabi'a; Ge 44:2-17; a goblet, distinguished from the preceding or smaller cups used in drinking: rendered "pot" in Jer 35:5; spoken of the calix-form "bowls" of the golden candlestick, Ex 25:31-34; Ex 38:17-26) was a practice of great antiquity in the East. We read in early Persian authors of the mystical cup of Jemshid (Bonomi, Nineveh. 3d ed. p. 306), which was imagined to display all the occurrences on the face of the globe (Tieroff, De Scypho Josephi, Jen. 1657; Tittel, id. Tor. 1727). SEE DIVINATION. The bronze cup, with the sacred beetle engraved in the bottom, found by Layard among the ruins of Nimroud, may have been used for such a purpose (Nineveh and Babylon, p, 157). Κόνδυ, the word used in Genesis by the Sept., occurs in Hipparchus (up. Athen. p. 478, A), and is curiously, like the Indian kundi, a sacred Indian cup (Bohlen on Genesis 1). 403; Kalisch, Comment. p. 673). In Isa 22:24, the word translated "cup" is אֵגָּן (aggan', literally a trough for washing garments), and signifies a laver or basin (as it is rendered in Ex 24:6; "goblet," Song 7:2). The "cup of trembling" (סִŠ, saph, elsewhere "basin" or "bowl") signifies a broad convex dish, such as is easily made to rock or vibrate. The "cups" referred to in 1Ch 28:17, were the קשָׂווֹת (kesavoth'), or broad bowls for libation (elsewhere improperly rendered "covers," Ex 25:29; Ex 38:16; Nu 4:7). Such vessels appear in the hands of the Assyrian king on the monuments, apparently in festive or religious drinking after public exploits (Bonomi, Nineveh. p. 252). In the Apocrypha we find the sacred vessels of Jehovah called σπονδελα, goblets (1 Esdras 2:13. "In their cups" l. Esdras 3:22, is a rendering for ὅταν πίνωσι, when they drink). SEE BASIN; SEE BOWL; SEE DISH; SEE VASE; SEE VIAL, etc.
"The word 'cup' is used in both Testaments in some curious metaphorical phrases. Such are the cup of salvation (Ps 116:13), which Grotius, after Kimchi, explains as 'poculum gratiarum actionis,' a cup of wine lifted in thanksgiving to God (comp. Mt 26:27). That it alludes to a paschal libation cannot be proved; and that it was understood by the Jews to be expressive of gratitude we may see from 3 Maccabees 6:27, where the Jews offer 'cups of salvation' in token of deliverance. In Jer 16:7 we have the term 'cup of consolation,' which is a reference to the wine drunk at the περίδειπνα, or funeral feasts of the Jews (2Sa 3:39; Pr 31:6; Joseph. War, 2:1). In 1Co 10:16, we find the well-known expression 'cup of blessing' (ποτήριον τῆς εὐλογίας), contrasted (ver. 21) with the 'cup of devils.' The sacramental cup is called the cup of blessing because of the blessing pronounced over it (Mt 26:27; Lu 22:17; see Lightfoot Hor. Hebr. in loc.). No doubt Paul uses the expression with a reference to the Jewish 'cup of blessing' (כֹּס שֶׁל בּרָכָה), the third of the four cups drunk by the Jews at their Paschal feast (Schottgen, Hor. Hebr. in 1 Corinthians; Jahn, Bibl. Arch. § 353), but it is scarcely necessary to add that to this Jewish custom our Lord, in his solemn institution of the Lord's Supper, gave an infinitely nobler and diviner significance (Buxtorf, De Sacra Cana, § 46, p. 310). Indeed, of itself, the Jewish custom was liable to abuse, and similar abuses arose even in Christian times (Augustine, Serm. 132, de tempore; Carpzov, App. Critic, p. 380 sq.). SEE PASSOVER. In Ps 11:5; Ps 16:5, 'the portion of the cup' is a general expression for the condition of life, either prosperous or miserable (Ps 23:5). A cup is also in Scripture the natural type of sensual allurement (Jer 51:7; Pr 23:31; Re 17:4; Re 18:6). SEE BANQUET.
"But in by far the majority of passages, the cup is a 'cup of astonishment,' a 'cup of trembling,' the full red flaming wine-cup of God's wrath and retributive indignation (Ps 75:8; Isa 51:17; Jer 25:15; La 4:21; Eze 23:32; Zec 12:2; Re 16:19, etc.). There is, in fact, in the prophets no more frequent or terrific image; and it is repeated with pathetic force in the language of our Lord's agony (Mt 26:39,42; Joh 18:11; Mr 10:38). God is here represented as the master of a banquet, dealing the madness and stupor of vengeance to guilty guests (Vitringa in Isa 51:17; Wichmannshausen, De irce et tremoris Calice, in Thes. Nov. Theol. Philol. 1:906 sq.). The cup thus became an obvious symbol of death (ποτήριον . . . σημαίνει καὶ τὸν θάνατον, Etym. M.); and hence the Oriental phrase, to 'taste of death,' so common in the N.T. (Mt 16:28; Mr 9:1; Joh 8:52; Heb 2:9), in the Rabbis (Schottgen, Hor. Hebr. in Matthew 16), in the Arabian poem Antar, and among the Persians (Schleusner, Lex. N.T., s.v. ποτήριον; Jahn, Bibl. Arch. § 203). The custom of giving a cup of wine and myrrh to condemned criminals (Otho, Lex. Rabb. s.v. Mors) is alluded to in Mt 27:34; Mr 15:22." See Wemyss, Clavis Symbol. s.v.; Stier, Words of Jesus, 1:378 sq. SEE CRUCIFIXION.