Free Online Bible Library | Potsherd

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POTSHERD (pot shurd, Heb. heres). A piece of earthenware. Job used a potsherd to scrape his body in his affliction (Job.2.8 kjv; niv “broken piece of pottery”). Potsherds are referred to in other places (Ps.22.15; Isa.45.9). There are many inscribed potsherds known as “ostraca” that furnish valuable data for the archaeologist. See Ostraca.

POTSHERD pŏt’ shûrd (חֶ֫רֶשׂ, H3084, earthen pot). Potsherds are the fragments of any broken pottery jar. Large ones were used to carry coals from one house to another or to dip up water from a spring or cistern (Isa 30:14). They were also used as lids for storage jars or cooking pots. Job used a potsherd as a strigil (Job 2:8).

Sherds from large storage jars were used for writing material. Such sherds are called ostraca. The famous Lachish ostraca were military correspondence between that city and its outpost. Some scholars believe that the Samaria ostraca were government tax receipts to those who had paid taxes in terms of produce. Others think they were ordinary receipts. Some of the messages referred to in the Bible were doubtless written on potsherds. Finally, potsherds were ground fine and added to the waterproof plaster used in lining cisterns.

Today potsherds serve as the best clue for dating Bible history. At times they are even better than coins, which often remain in use much longer.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

A piece of earthenware (Job 2:8; Ps 22:15; Isa 45:9). the Revised Version (British and American) renders the word in Pr 26:23, "an earthen vessel," and in Job 41:30 substitutes "sharp potsherds" for "sharp stones." Sirach 22:7 refers to the art of "gluing a potsherd (ostrakon) together."

See Harsith; Ostraca.

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