Manners & Customs: Lamps
Lamps and Lampstands in Ancient Bible Times
Biblical use of the word candle. The use of the word "candle does not carry the meaning of the word as we would be familiar with it, but rather with lamps. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Candles in Easton's Bible Dictionary
Heb. ner, Job 18:6; 29:3; Ps. 18:28; Prov. 24:20, in all which
places the Revised Version and margin of Authorized
"lamp," by which the word is elsewhere frequently
Hebrew word denotes properly any kind of candle or
torch. It is used as a figure of conscience (Prov.
20:27), of a
Christian example (Matt. 5:14, 15), and of prosperity
21:17; Prov. 13:9).
Candles in Fausset's Bible Dictionary
Lamp more accurately represents the original than candle.
Image of conscience, "the candle of the Lord, searching the
inward man" (Proverbs 20:27). Of prosperity; the sinner's
short candle soon goes out, the righteous shall shine as the
sun forever (Job 21:17; Job 18:5; Proverbs 13:9; Matthew
13:43). Of believers' bright example leading others to
spiritual light (Matthew 5:14). Of the gladdening influence of
a ruler (2 Samuel 21:17). Of the all-seeing accuracy with
which Jehovah will search out sinners, so that in no dark
grainer can they escape punishment (Zephaniah 1:12; Amos 9:3).
In beautiful contrast, as the woman in the parable "lit the
candle, swept the house, and sought diligently until she
found" the lost piece of silver, so God (Luke 15:8) searches
out His elect so that not one is lost, and takes each out of
the darkness of this world, and restores the divine image,
with a view to their salvation.
Candles in Naves Topical Bible
(Revised version and most commentators substitute "lamp" for
"candle" throughout the Scriptures)
Candles in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE
kan'-d'-l, kan'-d'-l-stik (ner; luchnos; menorah; luchnia):
(1) "Candle" is found in the Old Testament, the King James
Version, as the rendering of ner, and in the New Testament
for luchnos. In all places except Jer 25:10 and Zeph 1:12
(see margin) the Revised Version (British and American)
gives the more exact rendering "lamp." See LAMP. Candle, in
our sense of the term, was unknown to antiquity.
(2) "Candlestick" stands for what was a common and
indispensable article of ancient house furniture, a lamp-
stand (menorah). Accordingly we find it mentioned in a case
thoroughly representative of the furnishings of an oriental
room of the plainer sort, in the account of "the prophet's
chamber" given in 2 Ki 4:10. Here we find that the furniture
consisted of a "bed," a "table," a "seat," and a
"candlestick," or lamp-stand. The excavations of Petrie and
Bliss at Lachish (Tell el-Hesy, 104), not to mention others,
help to make it clear that a lamp-stand is meant in passages
where the Hebrew word, menorah, or its Greek equivalent
luchnia, is used. Accordingly throughout the New Testament,
the Revised Version (British and American) has consistently
rendered luchnia by "stand" (Mt 5:15; Mk 4:21; Lk 8:16;
(3) The "candlestick" of Dan 5:5 is rather the candelabrum
(nebhrashta') of Belshazzar's banqueting-hall. The "golden
candlestick" of the tabernacle and the temple requires
See CANDLESTICK, THE GOLDEN; TABERNACLE.
(4) Certain figurative uses of "candle" and "candlestick" in
the Bible demand attention. The ancient and still common
custom of the East of keeping a house lamp burning night and
day gave rise to the figure of speech so universally found
in oriental languages by which the continued prosperity of
the individual or the family is set forth by the perennially
burning lamp (see Job 29:3; "when his lamp shined upon my
head"; Ps 18:28 "Thou wilt light my lamp"). The converse in
usage is seen in many passages--(see Job 18:6; "His lamp
above him shall be put out"; 21:17: "How oft is it that the
lamp of the wicked is put out"; Prov 24:20; "The lamp of the
wicked shall be put out"; Jer 25:10; "Take from them ....
the light of the lamp"). The same metaphor is used in Rev
2:5 to indicate the judgment with which the church of
Ephesus was threatened: "I will move thy candlestick out of
its place." "The seven golden candlesticks" (Rev 1:20) which
John saw were "the seven churches," the appointed light-
bearers and dispensers of the religion of the risen Christ.
Hence, the significance of such a threat.
Candles Scripture - Zephaniah 1:12
And it shall come to pass at that time, [that] I will search
Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on
their lees: that say in their heart, The LORD will not do
good, neither will he do evil.
Fuel for Fires
The fuel used. The peasant often uses dried dung as fuel for his fire. Some of the poorer classes use this themselves, and sell the sticks they find to those who can afford to buy them.28
A reference in the prophecy of Ezekiel indicates this use of fuel was common in Bible times (see Ezekiel 4:15).
In the Orient fuel is usually so scarce that dried grass and withered flowers are apt to be carefully gathered into bundles and used for making a fire.29 There are Bible indications that this was often done in those days of old. JESUS said: "The grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven" (Matthew 6:30; Luke 12:28).
Another popular fuel for fires in Israel is thorns. There are many kinds of thorny shrubs that grow there, and the people gather them and make good use of them. Bible passages indicating such use of them are numerous (II Samuel 23:6, 7; Psalm 118:12; Ecclesiastes 7:6; Isaiah 9:18; Isaiah 10:17; Isaiah 33:12; Nahum 1:10).
The widow of Zarephath was gathering sticks to build a fire (I Kings 17:10), but the fire built in the courtyard of the high priest's house, where Simon Peter warmed himself, was built of charcoal (John 18:18). JESUS cooked breakfast for His disciples on a charcoal fire (John 21:9).
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Character of the lamp. When the Children of Israel entered the Promised Land they adopted the lamp used by the Canaanites, which was an earthenware saucer to hold the olive oil, and a pinched lip to hold the wick. A thousand years later a Mesopotamian lamp was imported and used in some sections. This lamp had a closed tube for the wick, and thus could be carried about without spilling the oil so readily. In the fifth century B.C. Greek lamps of a beautiful black glazed variety were imported and became popular. By the third century B.C. the old saucer-type lamp had all but disappeared, but in the second century, the Maccabeans revived the use of that type of lamp, as being more in line with the old Jewish traditions. But when the Roman Empire began to dominate the land of Israel, the lamps in use were either imported, or made under foreign models. The Virgin's Lamp in use in the time of CHRIST was an improvement over the old saucer type, having sufficient covering to keep the oil from spilling. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Lamps in Easton's Bible Dictionary
(1.) That part of the candle-sticks of the tabernacle and the
temple which bore the light (Ex. 25:37; 1 Kings 7:49;
4:20; 13:11; Zech. 4:2). Their form is not described.
was generally burned in them (Ex. 27:20).
(2.) A torch carried by the soliders of Gideon (Judg.
20). (R.V., "torches.")
(3.) Domestic lamps (A.V., "candles") were in common
the Hebrews (Matt. 5:15; Mark 4:21, etc.).
(4.) Lamps or torches were used in connection with
ceremonies (Matt. 25:1).
This word is also frequently metaphorically used to
life, welfare, guidance, etc. (2 Sam. 21:17; Ps.
Lamps in Fausset's Bible Dictionary
(See CANDLE; CANDLESTICK.) The ordinary means of lighting
apartments. In Judges 7:16; Judges 7:20, lamps mean torches;
so John 18:3; Matthew 25:1. The terra cotta and bronze
handlamps from Nimrud and Koyunjik perhaps give a good idea of
the Bible lamp. The Egyption kandeel or common lamp is a small
glass vessel with a tube in the bottom in which is stuck a
wick of cotton twisted round straw. Water is poured in first,
then the oil. The usual symbols of the early Christian lamps
found at Jerusalem are the cross, the seven branched
candlestick, the palm (John 12:13; Revelation 7:9). The
rudeness of the lamps indicates the poverty of the early
saints at Jerusalem. The inscriptions that occur are "the
light of Christ shineth to all," and the initials I. X. TH.,
"Jesus Christ God."
Lamps in Naves Topical Bible
Miraculously appeared at Abraham's sacrifice
-For the tabernacle
-Kept burning at night in the tabernacle and cared for by
Ex 27:20,21; Le 24:2-4
Job 18:6; Ps 119:105; Pr 13:9; 20:20; Isa 62:1; Jer
Zep 1:12; Pr 13:9; 20:20; Isa 62:1; Jer 25:10; Zep
6:22; 2Pe 1:19; Re 21:23
Re 4:5; 8:10
Lamps in Smiths Bible Dictionary
1. That part of the golden candlestick belonging to the
tabernacle which bore the light; also of each of the ten
candlesticks placed by Solomon in the temple before the holy
of holies. Ex 25:37; 1Ki 7:49; 2Ch 4:20; 13:11; Zec 4:2 The
lamps were lighted every evening and cleansed every morning.
2. A torch or flambeau, such as was carried by the
soldiers of Gideon. Jud 7:16,20 comp. Judg 15:4
The use in marriage processions of lamps fed with
oil is alluded to in the parable of the ten virgins. Mt 25:1
Modern Egyptian lamps consist of small glass vessels with a
tube at the bottom containing a cotton wick twisted around a
piece of straw. For night travelling, a lantern composed of
waxed cloth strained over a sort of cylinder of wire rings,
and a top and bottom of perforated copper. This would, in
form at least, answer to the lamps within pitchers of
Gideon. "The Hebrews, like the ancient Greeks and Romans, as
well as the modern Orientals, were accustomed to burn lamps
all night. This custom, with the effect produced by their
going out or being extinguished, supplies various figures to
the sacred writers. 2Sa 21:17; Pr 13:9; 20:20 On the other
hand, the keeping up of a lamp's light is used as a symbol
of enduring and unbroken succession. 1Ki 11:36; 15:4; Ps
132:17 " --McClintock and Strong.
Lamps in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE
lamp'-stand (nir, ner, lappidh, Phoenician lampadh, whence
lampas; luchnos is also used): Ner or nir is properly
"light" or "a light-giving thing," hence, "lamp," and is so
rendered in the Revised Version (British and American), but
often "candle" in the King James Version. Its use in
connection with the tabernacle and the temple (Ex 25:37 ff;
2 Ch 4:20 f), where oil was employed for light (Ex 35:14;
Lev 24:2), shows that this is its proper meaning. Lappidh is
properly "a torch" and is thus rendered generally in the
Revised Version (British and American), but "lamp" in Isa
62:1, where it is used as a simile. the King James Version
renders it "lamp" usually, but "torch" in Nah 2:3 f; Zec
12:6. In Job 12:5 the Revised Version (British and American)
renders it "for misfortune," regarding it as composed of the
noun pidh, and the preposition l-. Lampas in Greek
corresponds to it, but luchnos is also rendered in the
Revised Version (British and American) "lamp," while the
King James Version gives "candle," as in Mt 5:15 and
corresponding passages in the other Gospels.
1. Forms and History:
Lamps were in use in very remote times, though we have few
allusions to them in the early history of Egypt. There are
indications that they were used there. Niches for lamps are
found in the tombs of Tell el-Amarna (Archaeological Survey
of Egypt, Tell el-Amarna Letters, Part IV, 14). Lampstands
are also represented (ibid., Part III, 7). Torches were of
course used before lamps, and are mentioned in Gen (15:17
the Revised Version (British and American)), but clay lamps
were used in Canaan by the Amorites before the Israelites
took possession. The excavations in Israel have furnished
thousands of specimens, and have enabled us to trace the
development from about 2000 BC onward. The exploration
carried out at Lachish (Tell Hesy) and Gezer (Tell Jezer) by
the Israel Exploration Fund has given ample material for the
purpose, and the numerous examples from tombs all over
Israel and Syria have supplied a great variety of forms.
2. Figurative Use:
"Lamp" is used in the sense of a guide in Ps 119:105; Prov
6:23, and for the spirit, which is called the lamp of Yahweh
in man (Prov 20:27), and it of course often signifies the
light itself. It is used also for the son who is to succeed
and represent his father (1 Ki 15:4), and it perhaps is
employed in this sense in the phrase, "The lamp of the
wicked shall be put out" (Job 21:17; Prov 13:9; and perhaps
The early Canaanite or Amorite lamp was a shallow, saucer-
like bowl with rounded bottom and vertical rim, slightly
pointed or pinched on one side where the lighted end of the
wick was placed. This form continued into Jewish times, but
was gradually changed until the spout was formed by drawing
the rim of the sides together, forming a narrow open
channel, the remainder of the rim being rolled outward and
flattened, the bottom being also flattened. This was the
early Hebrew pattern and persisted for centuries. The open
bowl was gradually closed in, first at the spout, where the
rim of one side was lapped over the other, and finally...
Lamps Scripture - 2 Chronicles 13:11
And they burn unto the LORD every morning and every evening
burnt sacrifices and sweet incense: the shewbread also [set
they in order] upon the pure table; and the candlestick of
gold with the lamps thereof, to burn every evening: for we
keep the charge of the LORD our God; but ye have forsaken him.
Lamps Scripture - 2 Chronicles 4:21
And the flowers, and the lamps, and the tongs, [made he of]
gold, [and] that perfect gold;
Lamps Scripture - Daniel 10:6
His body also [was] like the beryl, and his face as the
appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and
his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and
the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude.
Lamps Scripture - Exodus 30:7
And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning: when
he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it.
Lamps Scripture - Exodus 35:14
The candlestick also for the light, and his furniture, and his
lamps, with the oil for the light,
Lamps Scripture - Exodus 40:25
And he lighted the lamps before the LORD; as the LORD
Lamps Scripture - Exodus 40:4
And thou shalt bring in the table, and set in order the
things that are to be set in order upon it; and thou shalt
bring in the candlestick, and light the lamps thereof.
Lamps Scripture - Ezekiel 1:13
As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance
[was] like burning coals of fire, [and] like the appearance of
lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures; and the
fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning.
Lamps Scripture - Judges 7:16
And he divided the three hundred men [into] three companies,
and he put a trumpet in every man's hand, with empty pitchers,
and lamps within the pitchers.
Lamps Scripture - Judges 7:20
And the three companies blew the trumpets, and brake the
pitchers, and held the lamps in their left hands, and the
trumpets in their right hands to blow [withal]: and they
cried, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon.
The lampstand. In early Bible times, lampstands were not in common use, and the lamps would be put on a place such as a stone projecting from the wall. In the days of CHRIST lampstands were in quite general use. They were tall and were usually placed on the ground. Archaeologists have unearthed some bronze lampstands fourteen inches high that had been used in palaces. They were made for holding bowls or lamps. The poor no doubt had a less expensive type.
If the family had no separate lampstand, the bushel placed on the ground upside down would serve for a lampstand, as well as a table from which the meal would be served. The lamp was to be put on the bushel and not under it (Matthew 5:15).
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Light in the House
The significance of light in a Palestinian house. A lamp is considered to be the Palestinian peasant's one luxury that is a necessity. When the sun sets in the West, the door of his house is shut, and then the lamp is lit. To sleep without a light is considered by most villagers to be a sign of extreme poverty. The Bible makes synonymous such terms as lamp, light, and life. A late traveler looks to see a light in a house, and then he knows there is life there. To wish that a man's light be put out would be to wish him a terrible curse.26 Concerning the wicked man, Bildad in the Book of Job said: "The light shall be dark in his tabernacle, and his candle [lamp] shall be put out with him" (Job 18:6). But the psalmist considered himself blessed of the LORD when he said of himself in relation to GOD, "For thou wilt light my candle [lamp]" (Psalm 18:28). It was to Orientals who appreciated the value of even a humble earthenware lamp in the dark of night, or even in the obscurity of a darksome house, that JESUS originally said, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Olive Oil in Bible Times
The wide use of olive oil in Bible lands. Olive oil was considered to be one of the great sources of wealth in the days of King Solomon (cf. I Kings 5:11; II Chronicles 2:10). Solomon gave to Hiram each year in return for services rendered by his men, among other things, twenty thousand baths of oil, one bath being about seven and one-half gallons.
The prophets Ezekiel and Hosea make mention of the exporting of oil to other lands (Ezekiel 27:17; Hosea 12:1). Oil has been used for a great variety of purposes in the Orient. It largely took the place of butter in eating, and for cooking purposes it was used in place of animal fat.
Ezekiel mentions three important items of diet of which oil is one, and flour and honey are the other two (Ezekiel 16:13). And olive oil was used almost exclusively for light in lamps. The most famous example of this is "the ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom" (Matthew 25:1). Also oil is used today in Bible lands in the manufacture of soap, and it is quite likely that it was so used in Bible days. And oil was often used for anointing the body.
Naomi told Ruth, "Wash thyself therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee, and get thee down to the floor" (Ruth 3:3).
Then oil was many times used in various religious ceremonies. It formed a part of the meal offering (Leviticus 2:1). The prophet was anointed with oil when he took over his duties (I Kings 19:16). The priest was also anointed with oil when he took over his duties (Leviticus 8:12). And the king was anointed either by a prophet or by the priest (I Samuel 16:13; I Kings 1:34).
In New Testament times the sick were anointed for the healing of their bodies (Mark 6:13; James 5:14).
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
The prophet's reference to smoking flax. Isaiah's prophecy concerning the Messiah was that "the smoking flax shall he not quench" (Isaiah 42:3). Dr. Thomson tells of seeing ancient clay lamps in use illustrating this text. The wick was often made of a twisted strand of flax, and this was put into the olive oil in the shallow cup of the lamp. When the oil was almost used up it would give forth an offensive smoke. This was an indication it was time to replenish the supply of oil. The implication was that the quenching of the fire was sometimes done purposely. If the wick was well worn, the housewife would quench the fire, and then put a new wick in to take its place. GOD's servant would not thus treat the poor, weak, and despairing specimens of humanity. He would replenish the oil, trim the wick, and make the dimly burning flame to burn brightly. What a picture this is of our Saviour's desire to help the helpless and lift the fallen and save the lost. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
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