Churning to make butter

Churning Butter

Churning Butter

When I was a kid in the rural south, churning was done in a heavy duty ceramic pot. Butter was made by moving the stick (which had a sort of paddle attached) up and down.  I did not live in Colonial times, but the churn we used looked very much like the one shown in the picture to the left. Ours was a bit taller, I think.

The practice of churning to make butter has been around for thousands of years. It is mentioned in the Wisdom Literature of the Bible.

For the churning of milk produces butter, And pressing the nose brings forth blood; So the churning of anger produces strife. (Proverbs 30:33 NAU)

The ESV consistently uses the word pressing, from the Hebrew mits, three times in that verse.

For pressing milk produces curds, pressing the nose produces blood, and pressing anger produces strife. (Proverbs 30:33 ESV)

The NET Bible probably best conveys the meaning of the text by the use of churning, punching, and stirring up.

For as the churning of milk produces butter and as punching the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife. (Proverbs 30:33 NET)

The photo below shows a pottery churn from Beersheba, now displayed in the Israel Museum. The sign associated with the churn says,

The churn, used for making butter from milk, first appeared in the Chalcolithic Period [6,500–5,500 years ago] and became an important symbol of the time. To speed up the churning process, a rope was tied to the handles, and the churn was rocked back and forth.

Chalcolithic pottery churn from Beersheba. Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Chalcolithic pottery churn from Beersheba. Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

During a visit to Petra, Jordan, in 2008, a group of people were portraying the costumes and activity of earlier Bedouin. Many of the customs portrayed are the same as those we read about in the Bible.

In the photo below the man is rocking a churn made from an animal skin.

Bedouin churning in an animal skin at Petra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Bedouin churning butter in an animal skin at Petra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Finally, here is a photo that I made at Haran in southeastern Turkey, once the home of Abraham (Genesis 11:31 – 12:4), showing a churn made from an animal skin.

Churn made from animal skin at Haran. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Churn made from animal skin at Haran. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

2 responses to “Churning to make butter

  1. I really enjoyed seeing the churns at the Israel Museum. They brought back many memories of churning butter with a hand churn. I wish that I had one on the rocker back then🙂.

  2. Dear Ferrel thanks for your interesting posts. I have enjoyed watching your perspective on biblical lands. I have published a number of articles, maps and other resources on biblical geography and can be visited at biblicalgeographic.com Shalom Avi

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