(יוֹצֵר, yotser, a fiashioner; Chald. פֶּחָר, pechdr; κεραμεύς). This artificer, and the produce of his labors, are often alluded to in the Scriptures. The fragility of his wares, and the ease with which they are destroyed, supply apt emblems of the facility with which human life and power may be broken and destroyed. It is in this figurative use that the potter's vessels are most frequently noticed in Scripture (Ps 2:9; Isa 30:14; Jer 19:11; Re 2:27). In one place, the power of the potter to form with his clay, by the impulse of his will and hand, vessels either for honorable or for mean uses, is employed with great force by the apostle to illustrate the absolute power of God in molding the destinies of men according to his pleasure (Ro 9:21). The first distinct mention of earthenware vessels is in the case of the pitchers in which Gideon's men concealed their lamps, and which they broke in pieces when they withdrew their lamps from them (Jg 7:16,19). Pitchers and bottles are indeed mentioned earlier; but the "bottle" which contained Hagar's water (Ge 21:14-15) was undoubtedly of skin; and although Rebekah's pitcher was possibly of earthenware (24:14, 15), we cannot be certain that it was so. The potter's wheel is mentioned only once in the Bible (Jer 18:2); but it must have been in use among the Hebrews long before the time of that allusion; for we now know that it existed in Egypt before the Israelites took refuge in that country (Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt. 3, 165, large ed.). The art of pottery is one of the most common and most ancient of all manufactures. The modern Arab culinary vessels are chiefly of wood or copper (Niebuhr, Voy. 1, 188). The processes employed by the Hebrews were probably not in any way dissimilar to those of the Egyptians, from whom the use of the wheel may be supposed to have been adopted. They had themselves been concerned in the potter's trade in Egypt (Ps 81:6). The clay, when dug, was trodden by men's feet so as to form a paste (Isa 41:25; Wisd. 15:7) SEE BRICK; then placed by the potter on the wheel beside which he sat, and shaped by him with his hands. It consisted of a wooden disk placed on another larger one, and turned by the hand by an attendant, or worked by a treadle (Isaiah 459; Jer 18:3; Ecclus. 38:29, 30; see Tennant, Ceylon, 1, 452). The vessel was then smoothed and coated with a glaze, and finally burned in a furnace (Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt. 2, 108). We find allusions to the potsherds, i.e. broken pieces of vessels used as crucibles, or burst by the furnace, and to the necessity of keeping the latter clean (Isa 30:14; Isa 45:9; Job 2:8; Ps 22:16; Pr 26:23; Ecclus. 38:29). The materials, forms, and manufacture of earthenware vessels are still very similar throughout Western Asia, and are also the same which were anciently in use. This we know from the comparison of ancient paintings and sculptures with modern manufactures, as well as from the vast quantities of broken pottery which are found upon the sites of ancient cities. The ancient potters "frequently kneaded the clay with their feet, and after it had been properly worked up, they formed it into a mass of convenient size with the hand, and placed it on the wheel, which, to judge from that represented in the paintings, was of very simple construction, and turned with the hand. The various forms of the vases were made by the finger during the revolution; the handles, if they had any, were afterwards affixed to them; and the devices and other ornamental parts were traced with a wooden or metal instrument, previously to their being baked. They were then suffered to dry, and for this purpose were placed on planks of wood; they were afterwards arranged with great care on trays, and carried, by means of the usual yoke, borne on men's shoulders, to the oven" (Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt. it, 107 sq.; Birch, Hist. of Pottery, 1, 152; Saalschütz, Archaöl. d. Hebr. 1, 14, 11). For a description of pottery as now, and from ancient times, practiced in Palestine, see Thomson, Land and Book, 2, 281 sq. Earthen vessels were used, both by Egyptians and Jews, for various purposes besides culinary. Deeds were kept in them (Jer 32:14). Tiles with patterns and writing were common both in Egypt and Assyria, and were also in use in Palestine (Eze 4:1). There was at Jerusalem a royal establishment of potters (1Ch 4:23), from whose employment, and from the fragments cast away in the process, the Potter's Field perhaps received its name (Isa 30:14). Whether the term 'potter" (Zec 11:13) is to be so interpreted may be doubted, as it may be taken for "artificer" in general, and also "treasurer," as if the coin mentioned were to be weighed, and perhaps melted down to be recoined (Gesen. Thesaur. 1. 619). See CLAY.

Bible concordance for POTTERY.

Definition of potter

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

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