[b-hebrew] impure food

Lisbeth S. Fried lizfried at umich.edu
Wed Jun 15 08:46:07 EDT 2005

Thanks George,

I guess earthenware can be fired but unglazed, and that according to Milgrom

this is the only type  that need be broken. That must be rabbinic, it’s not in the text.

Also, I don’t understand why food that is wet becomes impure. What about soup?

They boiled the meat before the ark at Shiloh.

Lisbeth S. Fried, Ph.D.
Visiting Scholar
The Frankel Center for Judaic Studies
and the Department of Near Eastern Studies
University of Michigan
2068 Frieze Bldg
105 S. State St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1285


From: George F Somsel [mailto:gfsomsel at juno.com] 
Sent: Wednesday, June 15, 2005 3:24 AM
To: lizfried at umich.edu
Cc: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Leviticus 11:33


On Tue, 14 Jun 2005 18:24:57 -0400 "Lisbeth S. Fried" <lizfried at umich.edu> writes:
> Dear All,
> This probably is not strictly a question of the
> Hebrew, but what type of earthenware vessel is
> implied here (Lev. 11:33)?
> Milgrom (1991:675) says that the prohibition would
> not apply to glazed clay which does not absorb
> impurities or to unfired clay which would maintain
> its status as soil, and so cannot be contaminated.
> I don't understand what type of vessel is left
> then which must be broken.
> Thanks.
> Liz Fried

The _Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament_, ed. Harris, Archer & Waltke states s.v.


759     XR% (ḥrś). Assumed root of the following. 

759a     XeRe% (ḥereś) earthenware.

759b    XeReS (ḥeres) an eruptive disease (Deut 28:27).

759c     XRSWT (ḥrswt) (Kethib), XaR:SiYT (ḥarsı̂t) (Qere) potsherds (Jer 19:2).

This word, which occurs seventeen times, represents the potter’s product (Isa 45:9) which is dried and fired (Ps 22:15 [H 16]), or even glazed (Prov 26:23). Bottles (baqbūq), bowls (kĕlı̂), and pots/pitchers (nēbel) are made of it. It is in vessels made of ḥereś that documents were stored (Jer 32:14). ḥereś can apply generally to a vessel (Prov 26:23), or it can mean pieces of potsherd at least large enough to use to carry a coal from a hearth or dip water for a drink (Isa 30:14). Hence, ḥereś is the baked clay so commonly unearthed by archaeologists.

Being porous, it absorbed the fat of holy things and the uncleanness of unclean things. Thus it was to be broken when contacted by either holiness or uncleanness (Lev 6:28 [H 21]; Num 15:12). A clay vessel was to be used in the trial of jealousy (Num 5:17) and in leprosy purification rites, symbolizing man’s commonness before God. The Psalmist prophetically compares the Messiah’s strength to a dried up and baked piece of clay (potsherd, Ps 22:15 [H 16]). During the exile the “most precious” royalty of Israel became as valueless and common as clay pots (Lam 4:2). God reminds the people of their relative worthlessness and vulnerability by comparing them to clay vessels (Isa 45:9). Jeremiah (19:1) bought (and subsequently broke) an earthenware pot to symbolize how Israel had so absorbed sin that they had to be destroyed according to God’s law regarding polluted pottery (Lev 11:33).



It would appear that it does refer only to fired clay, but other than that, it doesn't seem to specify whether it is glazed or not.



More information about the b-hebrew mailing list