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Leather has been made from the hides of animals since the most ancient times. The skins were made smooth and flexible by removing the hair and subjected to a process known as tanning, which gets its name from the use of tannin, or tannic acid, a widely-available natural substance in plants (i.e. oak bark is especially rich in tannin) that during the processing displaces water and strengthens the bonds of the fibers in the rawhide to transform it into leather ("sun tanning" by humans is similar only in that it eventually leaves skin dry and "leathery"). Leather was most-often used for items of clothing (Clothing In Bible Times), but in ancient times it was also used as a durable writing material (see Vellum) and for containers.

David Leather In Bible History

The Lord was the first leather-maker, covering the unclothed Adam and Eve after their innocence was lost:

"And The Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them." (Genesis 3:21 RSV)

The Israelites wore items of leather clothing, which could become contaminated along with any other type of clothing:

"When there is a leprous disease in a garment, whether a woolen or a linen garment, in warp or woof of linen or wool, or in a skin or in anything made of skin, if the disease shows greenish or reddish in the garment, whether in warp or woof or in skin or in anything made of skin, it is a leprous disease and shall be shown to the priest. And the priest shall examine the disease, and shut up that which has the disease for seven days; then he shall examine the disease on the seventh day. If the disease has spread in the garment, in warp or woof, or in the skin, whatever be the use of the skin, the disease is a malignant leprosy; it is unclean. And he shall burn the garment, whether diseased in warp or woof, woolen or linen, or anything of skin, for it is a malignant leprosy; it shall be burned in the fire." (Leviticus 13:47-52 RSV)

David defeated the giant Goliath with a leather sling and a stone:

"When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone, and slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine, and killed him; there was no sword in the hand of David." (1 Samuel 17:48-50 RSV)

Although they lived centuries apart, both Elijah, and John The Baptist, "the Elijah to come," wore similar leather garments:

"He wore a garment of haircloth, with a girdle of leather about his loins." And he said, "It is Elijah the Tishbite." (2 Kings 1:8 RSV)

"Now John wore a garment of camel's hair, and a leather girdle around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey." (Matthew 3:4 RSV)

Wine was sometimes kept in leather flasks:

"And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but new wine is for fresh skins." (Mark 2:22 RSV)

Fact Finder: What was the name of the leather-maker in Joppa who Peter stayed with?
See Simon The Tanner

This Week's Bible Quiz

Of these parents and children, which was the parent?

1. Esau or Isaac?

2. Dinah or Leah?

3. Benjamin or Rachel?

4. Lamech or Noah? (see The Flood)

5. Abraham or Terah?

6. Gershom or Moses?

7. Zipporah or Jethro?

8. David or Jesse?

9. Solomon or Bathsheba?

10. Samuel or Hannah?

For the answers to this September 24 2002 quiz, see the Bible Quiz Answers Page

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