Gideon’s jar

I’ve looked at some pottery described in the Bible. Finally, here is the next installment. It is the type of jar used by the soldiers whom Gideon led to attack the camp of the Midianites (Judges 7:16-22). The vessel is called a כד (kad).
Here is the account from the book of Judges:

16 Dividing the three hundred men into three companies, he placed trumpets and empty jars in the hands of all of them, with torches inside.

17 “Watch me,” he told them. “Follow my lead. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do. 18 When I and all who are with me blow our trumpets, then from all around the camp blow yours and shout, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon.’”

19 Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands. 20 The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” 21 While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled.

22 When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. The army fled to Beth Shittah toward Zererah as far as the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath. New International Version

From this account a few things can be said about these jars. Even though it is not totally clear from the Hebrew text, it seems as if each man had a trumpet in one hand and a jar with a torch inside in the other. In any case, the jars needed to be small enough to be easily carried, but at the same time large enough to hide a torch. It is likely that these jars had handles to carry them.

Another account in which the כד (kad) jars are important is when Abraham’s servant went to seek a wife for Isaac. When he comes to a well, Rebekah not only gives him water to drink from her jar, but also gives water to his camels, using her jar to draw water. The account is in Genesis 24:12-46. I’ll just mention the central verses:

17 The servant hurried to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water from your jar.”

18 “Drink, my lord,” she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink.

19 After she had given him a drink, she said, “I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have had enough to drink.” 20 So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, ran back to the well to draw more water, and drew enough for all his camels. 21 Without saying a word, the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful. New International Version

The jar was clearly used to draw water from a well. That was its main purpose. It is repeated several times in the passage.

The next passage I have already mentioned in my article on the צַפַּחַת (zapahat) flask. It is in 1 Kings 17:7-16 when Elijah fled during a famine and finds temporary shelter with a widow at Zarephath. When he asks her to give him water and bread, she tells Elijah that she only has a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. Well, the jug was the צַפַּחַת (zapahat). The jar with flour is the כד (kad). Flour was not kept for long, but was often ground daily. It was the grain that was stored in large quantities. Flour would have been kept in smaller container, ready for this day’s use. The כד (kad) would have been a small to medium-sized jar. But if flour was kept in such a jar, it is likely that the opening was fairly large. The description may be somewhat in conflict with that of the jar to haul water from a well.

Only a chapter later we encounter a כד (kad) again. At Mount Carmel Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal. They prepared a sacrifice and were to ask Baal to send fire to burn the sacrifice. They weren’t able to do that. When Elijah prepared a sacrifice to the LORD, he instructed four jars of water to be poured over the sacrifice and the wood. They did this several times. After Elijah’s prayer the LORD sent fire to consume the sacrifice.
The key text is in 1 Kings 18:33 (verse 34 in Hebrew):

33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.” New International Version

However, in Hebrew I cannot find any mention of “large jars”. They were just כד (kad) jars, not even with the adjective “large”. Nevertheless, the context of the story indicates that these jars were large and a lot of water was poured over the sacrifice. Maybe we can imagine any jar used to haul water, rather than anything exceptionally large.

The final mention is in Ecclesiastes 12:6.

Remember him—before the silver cord is severed,
and the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
and the wheel broken at the well, New International Version

The pitcher that is shattered at the spring is the כד (kad). It confirms the primary meaning of כד (kad) as the vessel with which water was drawn. But it clearly also had other uses. Maybe the term also refers by extension to other mid-sized ceramic containers.
A jug that was used throughout the Iron Age is this form:
This jug is in the Israel Museum and was exavated at Shiloh in an 11th century BCE context. At Beth-Shemesh similar jugs have been found in the water reservoir and tests have shown that the breakage pattern of these jars conforms to being hauled by a rope from the reservoir and striking the side walls of the shaft.

Nevertheless, jars to collect water in early-20th-century Palestine were usually somewhat larger than these jugs. Maybe in Ancient Israel such sizeable jars were also used to collect water.

If כד (kad) refers to medium-sized jars in general, maybe the term also refers to small holemouth jars, which could have been used to for the short-term storage of flour.

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