Skin bottles and wineskins

Posted: January 6, 2012 in Christian living, encouragement and advice
Tags: , , ,

Skin bottles

“Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

Ancient skin bottles

The use of bottles made from the skins of animals is very ancient. Water or wine bottles were frequently made from animal skins (Joshua 9:4, 13; Judges 4:19; 1 Samuel 1:24; 10:3; 2 Samuel 16:1; Nehemiah 5:18; Job 32:19; Psalms 119:83; Mark 2:22; Luke 5:37). Such leather vessels are still popular among the Bedouin for their durability, portability, and accessibility since they are mostly pastoral nomads and animal herding is their main occupation.

The skins of goats were commonly taken for this purpose, and were usually fashioned to retain the figure of the animal. In preparing the bottle, the head and feet of the animal were cut off and the skin stripped whole from the body. The neck of the animal often made the neck of the bottle; in other cases one of the forelegs was used as an aperture through which the liquid was poured out. The thighs served as the handles, and by attaching straps to them the bottle could be fastened to the saddle or slung over the shoulder of the traveler. For a large party, and for long journeys across the desert, the skins of camels or of oxen were used. Two of these, when filled with water, made a good load for a camel. They were coated with grease to prevent leakage and evaporation.

Woman giving drink to a child from a skin bottle

The “bottle” that Hagar carried into the wilderness, and from which she gave Ishmael drink, was probably a kidskin. (Genesis 21:14.) A similar scene is represented in the engraving shown here from an ancient Assyrian sculpture. Skin bottles were also used for milk (Judges 4:19) and for wine (1 Samuel 16:20).

In our text-verse and its parallels, allusion is made to this use of skins. When the skin is green, it stretches with the fermentation of the liquid and retains its integrity. But when it becomes old and dry, the fermentation of the new wine soon causes the skin to burst. This expression is still used today to mean that it is often difficult, if not impossible, to put new things into old ways.

Freeman, J. M., & Chadwick, H. J. (1998). Manners & customs of the Bible (Rev. ed.].) (425–427). North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers.

  1. Mark says:

    Thank you for sharing this article with us. It is obvious you have been chosen by the Lord to enlighten our minds with this wonderful heretical application of Scripture. Obviously you are one of the modern elite Bible critics who has been given the AUTHORITY to remove the ancient landmark set by your fathers.

  2. Mark,

    Your spamming stops now.

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