Pitch is the rendering in the A. V. of two Hebrew words, ze'pheth, זפֶת, and ko'pher, כֹּפֶר. The former is from the root zuph, זוּפ, to flow, or be liquid (like the German Schmalz, from the verb schmelzen) (Ex 2:3; Isa 34:9; comp. Mishna, Schab. 2). The latter is from the root כָּפִר, to cover or smear, and is used in Ge 6:14, where the Sept. has ἄσφαλτον, the Vulg. bitumen. The word חֵמָר, chemar, rendered "slime" (Ge 11:3; Ge 14:10; Ex 2; Ex 3), likewise belongs here. The three Hebrew terms all represent the same object, viz. mineral pitch or asphalt, in its different aspects: zepheth (the zift of the modern Arabs, Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt. 2, 120) in its liquid state, chemâr in its solid state, from its red color, though also explained in reference to the manner in which it boils up (the former, however, being more consistent with the appearance of the two terms in juxtaposition in Ex 2:3; A.V. "pitch and slime"); and kopher, in reference to its use in overlaying wood-work (Ge 6:14). Asphalt is an opaque, inflammable substance, which bubbles up from subterranean fountains in a liquid state, and hardens by exposure to the air, but readily melts under the influence of heat. In the latter state it is very tenacious, and was used as a cement in lieu of mortar in Babylonia (Ge 11:3; Strabo, 16:743; Herod. 1, 179), as well as for coating the outsides of vessels (Ge 6:14; Josephus, War, 4, 8, 4), and particularly for making the papyrus boats of the Egyptians water-tight (Ex 2:3; Wilkinson, 2, 120). The Babylonians obtained their chief supply from springs at Is (the modern Hit), which are still in existence (Herod. 1, 179). The Jews and Arabians got theirs in large quantities from the Dead Sea, which hence received its classical name of Lacus Asphaltites. The latter was particularly prized for its purple hue (Pliny, 28:23). In the early ages of the Bible the slime-pits (Ge 14:10), or springs of asphalt, were apparent in the vale of Siddim, at the southern end of the sea. They are now concealed through the submergence of the plain, and the asphalt probably forms itself into a crust on the bed of the lake, whence it is dislodged by earthquakes or other causes. Early writers describe the masses thus thrown up on the surface of the lake as of very considerable size (Josephus, War, 4, 8,4; Tacit. Hist. 5, 6; Diod. Sic. 2, 48). This is now a rare occurrence (Rooinson, 1, 517), though small pieces may constantly be picked up on the shore. The inflammable nature of pitch is noticed in Isa 34:9. SEE APHALTUM; SEE BITUMEN.

Bible concordance for PITCH.

Definition of pitch

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

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