In the dark they dig through houses,.... Job 24:16
Besides the uses referred to, clay was the writing material of Assyria and Babylon. Job refers to the impression produced upon it by the seal or mold, and compares the relief design of the clay tablet to embroidered cloth (Job 38:14).
Clay bricks that were dried by the sun or in a fire were used extensively in building. Baked clay bricks are mentioned as early as the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:3. Clay bricks were used for houses, temples, cisterns, walls and fortresses, etc. At the present day in Syria, wherever building stone is scarce, houses are built of sun-dried brick except on the side or gables facing the western rainy quarter. The use of mud bricks in building explains the reference to thieves as people who “…dig through [the walls of] houses…” (Job 24:16).
(D) The Scripture illustrations drawn from pottery emphasize three important resemblances between it and the spiritual life.
(1) The subjection of the clay to the potter (Isa. 29:16, 45:9, 64:8; Jer. 18:4-11; Rom. 9:21). This teaches the possibilities of faith and the iniquity of rebellion against the will of God. An Arabic proverb says, “The potter can put the ear where he likes.”
(2) Its cheapness and insignificance. Common clay pitchers and water jars cost very little. This fact provides a graphic background for the humiliation of Zion described in Lamentations 4:2: “The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, how are they esteemed as earthen pitchers, the work of the hands of the potter!”
Fervent words from a wicked heart are compared to silver dross over an earthen vessel (Prov. 26:23). The earthen vessel can hold what is valuable without having any value of its own. Such is the condition of the Christian, who holds within himself the knowledge of the eternal Word of God (2 Cor. 4:7).
(3) Fragility. The pottery vessels are very easily broken and cannot be mended. Sometimes a small hole in a jar can be stopped up with mud, a rag, or dough, but usually the knock or fall that breaks one part breaks it altogether and instantaneously (Ps. 2:9, 31:12; Isa. 30:14; Jer. 19:11; Rev. 2:27). This frailty is alluded to in a familiar Arabic proverb, which teaches patience amid provocations: “If there were no breakages, there would be no potteries.”
David speaks of his strength as “…dried up like a potsherd…” (Ps. 22:15). Clay fragments lie about everywhere, exposed to all kinds of weather, and are practically indestructible. Archaeologists tell us that they often render a very important service. Similarly, the sorrows of God’s people have been as helpful as their songs.