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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Fig. 95—Animal skin carried by yoke

Natural objects, it is obvious, would be the earliest things employed for holding and preserving liquids; and of natural objects those would be preferred which either presented themselves nearly or quite ready for use, or such as could speedily be wrought into the requisite shape. The skins of animals afford in themselves more conveniences for the purpose than any other natural product. The first bottles therefore were probably made of the skins of animals. Accordingly we learn from Herodotus that it was customary among the ancient Egyptians to use bottles made of skins; and this is confirmed by the monuments, on which such various forms as the above occur. The above figure is curious as showing the mode in which they were carried by a yoke; and as it balances a large bottle in a case, this skin may be presumed to have contained wine.


Fig. 96—Jugs and skins

In the figure (figure 96) to the left, the jug on the right is such a skin of water as in the agricultural scenes is suspended from the bough of a tree, and from which the laborers occasionally drink. The next figure on the right (figure 97) represents two men with skins at their backs, belonging to a party of nomads entering Egypt. This party has been with some plausibility supposed to represent the sons of Jacob.

Skin-bottles doubtless existed among the Hebrews even in patriarchal times; but the first clear notice of them does not occur till Joshua 9:4, where it is said that the Gibeonites, wishing to impose upon Joshua as if they had come from a long distance, took 'old sacks upon their asses, and wine-bottles old and rent and bound up.' Age, then, had the effect of wearing and tearing the bottles in question, which must consequently have been of skin. Our Savior's language (Matthew 9:17; Luke 5:37-38; Mark 2:22) is thus clearly explained: 'Men do not put new wine into old bottles, else the bottles break and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish;' 'New wine must be put in new bottles, and both are preserved.' To the conception of an English reader who knows of no bottles but such as are made of clay or glass, the idea of bottles breaking through age presents an insuperable difficulty; but skins may become 'old, rent, and bound up;' they also prove, in time, hard and inelastic, and would in such a condition be very unfit to hold new wine, probably in a state of active fermentation. Even new skins might be unable to resist the internal pressure caused by fermentation.

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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Bottle'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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