I’m continuing my series of discussing some biblical pottery terms, as they may relate to the ceramic finds in archaeological excavations. While some terms are used quite often in the Bible, others only have a very rare mention. The פך (pak), for example, is only mentioned three times and in only two different accounts. Both of those accounts have to do with anointing a king, first Saul, then King Jehu.
Here’s the first short passage:
Then Samuel took a flask פך (pak) of oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, “Has not the LORD anointed you leader over his inheritance?
1. Samuel 10:1
Then the command to anoint Jehu
1 The prophet Elisha summoned a man from the company of the prophets and said to him, “Tuck your cloak into your belt, take this flask פך (pak) of oil with you and go to Ramoth Gilead. 2 When you get there, look for Jehu son of Jehoshaphat, the son of Nimshi. Go to him, get him away from his companions and take him into an inner room. 3 Then take the flask פך (pak) and pour the oil on his head and declare, ‘This is what the LORD says: I anoint you king over Israel.’ Then open the door and run; don’t delay!”
2. Kings 9:1-3
That’s all we’ve got to work with. But before we do that, we have to note another aspect in these accounts of anointing: Saul and Jehu were not the only kings that were anointed in Israel and Judah. There were others, but no פך (pak) is mentioned in their anointing. The most famous of them all is David. But Samuel used a horn קֶרֶן (qeren) to carry the oil to anoint David (1. Samuel 16:1-13). Solomon was also anointed with oil from a horn קֶרֶן (qeren) (1. Kings 1:39). In other instances we’re not told how the oil was poured over the anointed’s head.
I think that the association of קֶרֶן (qeren) with the “horn” is well established. Whether this was a real horn or a ceramic one, is not sure. Over millenia the rhyton, a horn-shaped vessel, was used in Greece and the Ancient Near East. Ceramic rhyta were not common during the Iron Age in Israel.
I would suggest that the flasks פך (pak) that were used for anointing may have been a somewhat similar size and also fairly narrow. The most common form found in Iron Age contexts that would be suited to hold small amounts of liquid is the juglet. It is found in a variety of shapes, made from different clays and with different surface treatments. Most of them seem to have been made very quickly . Potters seem to have shaped them one after the other from a large lump of clay, rather than forming them from individual clay balls. This process is suggested by a twist in the base found inside most of the juglets.
The juglet bodies are usually higher than they are wide. The height varies between 10 and 25 centimetres. They have been found in contexts where there are strong indications that they were used in the household to take oil out of larger jars. In other words, they were dipped into larger jars to take out liquids and are therefore described as dipper juglets. The relatively narrow neck of the juglets also allows them to be easily sealed, so that they could be taken on the road. Even though it was a very utilitarian vessel, I think it would also have served well for carrying anointing oil.
Another juglet form, though somewhat less common, is the “black juglet”. These juglets are smaller, more rounded, have a narrow neck, thin walls, and a black appearance. They are finished to a higher quality. It has often been suggested that these small juglets were used for cosmetics and scented oils.
Maybe these “luxury” juglets would have been seen as more dignified for the anointing of a king.
Whatever it may have been, the many juglets we find in Iron Age contexts best relate to the description of פך (pak) in the limited occurrences we have in the Bible.