The Life of Jesus in Harmony
A simple oil-burning vessel used for lighting houses and public buildings in
Bible times. Pottery lamps either had lips or were completely enclosed, with a
hole in the middle, or a spout in the rim, for the wick. Such lamps were often
decorated, and many had handles for convenient carrying.
Jewish lamps were decorated with the symbol of the MENORAH, the seven-branched
lampstand. Christian lamps were decorated with Christian symbols such as
crosses, fish and the alpha and omega. The typical Palestinian lamp in Christ's day
was plain and round, with a filling hole for oil and a spout for the wick
Lamps could be held by hand or placed on a support, like a shelf or a
lampstand. More light was provided by additional wicks. Lamps with up to seven spouts
have been discovered by archaeologists. Some lamps were made of metal.
Lamps burned olive oil or fat. Those with a single wick would burn from two to
four hours. Occasionally the flax wick would have to be trimmed.
The lamp became a symbol of understanding (2 Sam 22:29), guidance (Prov 6:23),
and life (Job 21:17). John
was "the burning and shining lamp" in whose light the Jews of his day
rejoiced (Jn 5:35). In Jesus' parable
of the wise and foolish virgins (Mt 25:1-13), they were to take enough oil to
keep the lamps burning. Not taking enough oil to keep the lamps burning
represented disobedience to Christ