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TANNER (βυρσεύς, G1114, tanner). The process known as tanning is not mentioned directly in the Bible. It is reported that Peter “stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon a tanner” (
Animal hides or skins are converted into leather by tanning. It is a process of preserving in good condition the “corium” structure of the hide which is between the “epidermis” and the “flesh.” In OT times this involved flaying the dead animal, beating the flayed hide in water to remove the dirt, then salting and soaking the hide in a tanning agent, and stretching the wet leather on a frame to dry properly.
The tanner was not a popular man because of the stench of the ingredients used in his trade and because he handled dead bodies. Sometimes the hides were put into dog’s dung for dehairing. Little is known of ancient tanning agents but they were prob. the same as in modern Syria and Egypt where the bark of certain Acacia trees, galls of the oak and the tamarisk and rinds of the pomegranate are used.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
The only references to a tanner are in
Pine bark is sometimes used for tanning in Lebanon. According to Wilkinson (Ancient Egypt, II, 186), the Arabs use the juice of a desert plant for dehairing and tanning skins. The skins for pouches are either tawed, i.e. tanned with a mineral salt like alum, or treated like parchment (see Parchment). About Hebron oak branches, chopped into small chips, are used for tanning the leather bottles or water skins. In this case the hair is not removed. The tanning is accomplished, after removing the fleshy matter, by filling the skin with oak chips and water, tying up all openings in the skins, and allowing them to lie in the open on their "backs," with "legs" upright, for weeks. The field near Hebron where they arrange the bulging skins in orderly rows during the tanning process presents a weird sight. These are the bottles referred to in the (the (British and American) "skins") (
Leather was probably used more extensively than any records show. We know that the Egyptians used leather for ornamental work. They understood the art of making stamped leather. The sculptures give us an idea of the methods used for making the leather into sandals, trimmings for chariots, coverings of chairs, decorations for harps, sarcophagi, etc. There are two Biblical references to leather, where leather girdles are mentioned (
See also CRAFTS, II, 17.
James A. Patch