Monday, July 27, 2009

Broken Potsherd

And he shall break it as the breaking of the potters' vessel that is broken in pieces; he shall not spare: so that there shall not be found in the bursting of it a sherd to take fire from the hearth, or to take water withal out of the pit. Isaiah 30:14

"This picture, which means little or nothing to our minds, was full of beauty to those who first heard it spoken. Pitchers and jars of earthenware are the usual means of carrying water from the well to the home. These jars are very easily broken. A woman stumbles or falls on her way to the well, the vessel crashes from her head to the ground and there lies in pieces.

Frugality is one of the Eastern woman’s virtues. Even these broken pieces of pottery (sherds) may be turned to service. She selects two of the largest: one she places by the side of the well or water pit; the other she takes home and places beneath the hearth. The piece by the well side will serve some day for the thirsty traveler to stoop down and scoop up the cool waters out of the pit. The sherd by the hearth will be used to carry glowing embers to light another fire, perhaps in a neighbor’s home.

Now we see the full vividness and force of Isaiah’s analogy, which depicts the utter ruin of rebellious and faithless Israel. "

(Bowen, Barbara M., Strange Scriptures that Perplex the Western Mind, WM B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1944, pgs 56-57)


  1. Well, I guess you need to break it into little pieces so that it can be scattered better...

  2. I found it interesting that one of the pieces would go to a traveler, or one who was out of the local region, so they could scoop up water out of the pit. If we look at the water as the Word of the Lord, and a traveler as someone not from Jerusalem, it could possibly have another reference to Ephraim (in the Americas) and the restoration. This event also is the commencement of the gathering. I would assume she would put the biggest piece at the well first before going back home, so there is sequential plausibility with this also.

    Similarly, bringing the other piece home could represent Judah, which we know will be given the light of the gospel at some future time. Hence, it would occur after the first piece being placed (restoration) and may signify the "finish" of the scattering because she has performed her service in full of putting both pieces in their proper place so they can fulfill their proper function.

    Interesting how something like the broken potsherd that shows the ruin of Israel can also symbolically depict its return.