Vessels of honor and dishonor

In explaining to Timothy the importance of right living, Paul says,

Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. (2 Timothy 2:20-21 ESV)

The term vessel (Greek, skeuos) is used of literal vessels made of clay, gold, silver, or wood. It is also used by analogy of individuals as a vessel. I have chosen two photos to illustrate vessels of different value. The first shows vessels from Middle Bronze II Jericho made of clay. Vessels of this type were used throughout Bible times.

Middle Bronze II pottery from Jericho. Vatican Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Middle Bronze II pottery from Jericho. Vatican Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo shows several pieces of “mold-blown perfume vessels decorated with stylized motifs” on display at the Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv, Israel. These vessels are obviously more delicate and require more care than the ordinary clay vessels. For our time we might compare Melmac (if you are too young  to know, look it up!) and fine china.

Mold-blown perfume vessels. Erezt Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Mold-blown perfume vessels. Erezt Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Paul says to Timothy, and to us, “be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house.”

Peter uses a similar analogy in speaking of the husband’s responsibility to his wife.

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7 ESV)

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