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In October 2018 I published a “picture” including a chart of disdained, disreputable, and disgusting occupations. Among these were tanners and fullers (or “launderers”). A fuller was like our modern-day dry cleaner. I’ll cover them in next week’s blog. But this week I’ll cover tanners.
WHY AND HOW MUCH TANNING WAS DISGUSTING
In the above-referenced chart,
List II has 3 trades which were certainly not considered dishonorable but were repugnant especially because of the foul smell connected with them. Dung-collectors and tanners went together since the former collected the dung needed for fulling and tanning. If anyone engaged in one of the three trades in this list, his wife had the right to claim divorce before the court, and to be paid the sum of money which had been assured her in the marriage
contract in case the marriage was dissolved or her husband died….
She could even claim a divorce if she knew when she married her husband that he was engaged in one of the 3 trades in question, and had married him on condition that he could continue in his trade. In this case, at least in the opinion of R. Meir (c. AD 150), she could explain: “I thought that I could endure it, but now I cannot endure it” …. Otherwise the wife, from the age of 13 years could only claim divorce if her husband demanded vows unworthy of her…or if the husband was afflicted…with leprosy or polypus; in all otherFrom Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus
casesthe right of divorce was exclusively on the husband’s side.
ACID WHEN TANNING
In case you’re new to my blogs you may be struck with the unfairness to women in the above quotation. Since I’ve been reading and writing about the culture of Bible times for a while now, I won’t add to this today. But I Googled why tanners would use dung. I came up with a website for modern-day tanning leather requiring battery acid. I also learned medieval peoples used urine because it’s normal for adults to pee 250-750 mg of uric acid in 24 hours. And aged manure has a pH of about 4.6-7.4 of acid.
THE NEED FOR TANNING
In Jerusalem, burnt offerings produced many, many pelts for tanning. Same with the peace/fellowship offerings (which also consisted of vow, thanksgiving, and freewill offerings). Parchments were one of their more durable and yet practical forms of paper, made from leather. Shoes, bags, clothes, goat skins for carrying water/wine—many things we use plastic for today.
THE STINK OF TANNING
But tanners and fullers had to be down-wind because of the smell, much like our smelly pulp and paper mill factories today. Although I’d like to, I’ll ever forget the pulp and paper mill near where I grew up. We lived up-wind from there, but there were days…. And Simon the Tanner lived in a leather-tanning area according to Acts 9:43, 10:6, 32.
SIMON THE TANNER
If you go to Israel on a guided tour with a local tour guide, one of the first stops you’re likely to make is at “Simon the Tanner’s house” as in this picture. After you get used to seeing broken down stone foundations from the first century, you might come to recognize this picture can’t be the real Simon the Tanner’s house. But this spot still reminds me that Simon Peter stayed with Simon the Tanner because Simon the Tanner likely became a believer.
Doesn’t it often seem like those that convert to Christianity are the unlovable that need most to be loved? Doesn’t this emphasize how much love wins people to the Lord more than clever arguments? Praise God for the love shown to me when I was a rebellious and hard-to-love sinner. And praise God for the love shown to you, too.