CURDS (חֶמְאָה, H2772; KJV butter). Fresh milk, churned in goatskins or clay vessels, with residue from previous batches, formed curds which were part of the regular Near Eastern diet. The OT has several references to butter (cf. Gen 18:8; Judg 5:25; 2 Sam 17:29; Job 20:17; Prov 30:33; Isa 7:15), suggesting that people in the Biblical period were well acquainted with it. Later trs. have doubted the proper use of the word “butter,” and have substituted “curds” as a more accurate description. Since some adjacent countries knew and used butter (e.g., Hittites), and with their sheep, goats and cows were butter makers, it seems probable that the Hebrews also had it. The mere action of transporting milk from place to place would produce churned butter, and the churn-type vessels known from archeology would be ideal for the purpose.
Curds, in Arab., are leben, produced by churning somewhat fermented milk, resulting in a kind of butter and buttermilk. This is put into cloth bags, and the water is squeezed out, leaving the leben. Thick curds (Arab., rauba) may be made by boiling the leben and hardening it into granulated cakes, which may later be pounded up and mixed with water to reconstitute leben. This product is much used by desert Bedouin, during the non-milking season of the herds.
D. and P. Brothwell, Food in Antiquity (1969), 50-52; H. R. P. Dickson, The Arab of the Desert (1959), 41, 192, 402; M. and J. Miller, Encyclopedia of Bible Life (1944), 312.