Leather Working

LEATHER WORKING. The first clothes worn by man were made of skins with the animal hair left on (Gen 3:21). Later leather was used. Even when textiles largely replaced leather as clothing, it was still used for some articles. The most common items were caps, hats, capes, skirts, aprons, and girdles. Elijah (2 Kings 1:8) and John the Baptist (Matt 3:4) were true men of the wilderness with the wide belt worn by all shepherds. The Persians wore leather breeches before luxury turned them to fabrics. Sandals, shoes and slippers were always of leather.

It was the army, esp. the Assyrians, that appreciated leather. It used the corselet with or without mail. Some soldiers wore leather kilts. Many helmets were of leather although the best were of coarse metal with a leather undercap. Frequently the soldier’s boot made of leather came halfway up the leg. The dagger and the sword were carried in a sheath made of leather. The common foot soldier carried a leather shield, the archer a leather quiver and the slinger a leather sling. Tents and the cordage used on the march were often of leather. Individual soldiers crossed rivers on inflated skins and baggage went on rafts supported in the same way. Riding saddles and pack saddles were of leather. Chariots used much leather including the tires as well as the harness and whips.

Leather was used for tents. Egyptian royalty used such tents for state occasions and mummy display. The Tabernacle of the Israelites was covered with tanned goatskins (Exod 36:19) and Egyp. walls, ceilings, and doors might be leather covered. Leather was a fine upholstery used on chairs, thrones and beds.

The ancients had few materials for containers to hold dry materials such as grain, and fewer still for liquids. Pottery and leather were their only ordinary containers. Goatskins were the containers for water in dry areas and also for carrying large quantities of water in the cities. Wine skins also were of leather (Matt 9:17).

The rich women of the city carried leather hand bags as vanity cases with toilet articles. The desert shepherd carried his food in a leather pouch. Ropes and thongs of many kinds were made of leather. Most percussion instruments used a high grade of leather.

The most important of all uses for leather, as the Bible student sees it, was the leather scroll upon which MSS were copied. The finest of all were parchments (2 Tim 4:13).