Manners & Customs: Tanners
Tanners and Dyers in the Ancient World
Oriental dyeing. The Orientals have some very fine dyes. Their favorite color is a bright crimson, and the dye they use to make this color comes from a worm or grub that feeds on oak and other plants. Indigo is made from the rind of pomegranate. Purple is made from the murex shellfish which can still be found on the beach at the city of Acre.
Luke tells of Lydia, "a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira" (Acts 16:14). She was a merchant who sold the purple dye to tanners, weavers, and others. This business of dyeing with which she was connected, had long been centered in the city of Thyatira. Inscriptions have been discovered that refer to "a guild of dyers" that was located in that vicinity. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Goatskins are used largely for the making of bottles for carrying water or other liquids. Except for the neck, legs, and tail, the goatskins are stripped off whole. the holes where the legs and tail were located are sewn up, and the end where the neck was, becomes the mouth of the bottle. These goatskins when laid out in rows for the sun to cure them, look much like pigs with head and legs missing. Sheepskins are treated in a similar way and made soft, and then they are dyed a yellow or red color when used in the making of shoes. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Sheepskins are sometimes used for making shoe leather, although goatskin leather is generally considered to be superior to that made from sheepskins. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Tanner in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE
tan'-er (burseus, from bursa "a hide"): The only references
to a tanner are in Acts 9:43; 10:6,32. The Jews looked upon
tanning as an undesirable occupation and well they might,
for at best it was accompanied with unpleasant odors and
unattractive sights, if not even ceremonially unclean. We
can imagine that Simon the tanner found among the disciples
of Jesus a fellowship which had been denied him before.
Peter made the way still easier for Simon by choosing his
house as his abode while staying in Joppa. Simon's house was
by the seashore, as is true of the tanneries along the
Syrian coast today, so that the foul-smelling liquors from
the vats can be drawn off with the least nuisance, and so
that the salt water may be easily accessible for washing the
skins during the tanning process. These tanneries are very
unpretentious affairs, usually consisting of one or two
small rooms and a courtyard. Within are the vats made either
of stone masonry, plastered within and without, or cut out
of the solid rock. The sheep or goat skins are smeared on
the flesh side with a paste of slaked lime and then folded
up and allowed to stand until the hair loosens. The hair and
fleshy matter are removed, the skins are plumped in lime,
bated in a concoction first of dog dung and afterward in one
of fermenting bran, in much the same way as in a modern
tannery. The bated skins are tanned in sumach (Arabic
summak), which is the common tanning material in Syria and
Israel. After drying, the leather is blackened on one side
by rubbing on a solution made by boiling vinegar with old
nails or pieces of copper, and the skin is finally given a
dressing of olive oil. In the more modern tanneries degras
is being imported for the currying processes. For dyeing the
rams' skins red (Ex 25 ff) they rub on a solution of qermes
(similar to cochineal; see DYEING), dry, oil, and polish
with a smooth stone.
Pine bark is sometimes used for tanning in Lebanon.
According to Wilkinson (Ancient Egypt, II, 186), the Arabs
use the juice of a desert plant for dehairing and tanning
skins. The skins for pouches are either tawed, i.e. tanned
with a mineral salt like alum, or treated like parchment
(see PARCHMENT). About Hebron oak branches, chopped into
small chips, are used for tanning the leather bottles or
water skins. In this case the hair is not removed. The
tanning is accomplished, after removing the fleshy matter,
by filling the skin with oak chips and water, tying up all
openings in the skins, and allowing them to lie in the open
on their "backs," with "legs" upright, for weeks. The field
near Hebron where they arrange the bulging skins in orderly
rows during the tanning process presents a weird sight.
These are the bottles referred to in the King James Version
(the Revised Version (British and American) "skins") (Josh
9:4,13; Hos 7:5; Mt 9:17; Mk 2:22; Lk 5:37).
Leather was probably used more extensively than any records
show. We know that the Egyptians used leather for ornamental
work. They understood the art of making stamped leather. The
sculptures give us an idea of the methods used for making
the leather into sandals, trimmings for chariots, coverings
of chairs, decorations for harps, sarcophagi, etc. There are
two Biblical references to leather, where leather girdles
are mentioned (2 Ki 1:8; Mt 3:4).
Tanner Scripture - Acts 10:32
Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname
is Peter; he is lodged in the house of [one] Simon a tanner by
the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee.
Tanner Scripture - Acts 10:6
He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea
side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.
Tanner Scripture - Acts 9:43
And it came to pass, that he tarried many days in Joppa with
one Simon a tanner.
TANNERS AND DYERS
The tanning business. This has always been an important business in Bible lands. Peter stayed at the house of Simon the tanner when he was at Joppa (Acts 9:43). In recent years the important tanneries have been located at Hebron and at Jaffa.
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Tanning in Naves Topical Bible
General scriptures concerning
Ac 9:43; 10:5,6
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