Oil Lamps from the Times of the Bible (3,500 – A.D. 600)

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In the world of the Bible homes were lit by oil lamps. In the Early Bronze Age these took the early form of a bowl filled with olive oil with a wick laid on the side of the rim and then developed by the Middle Bronze Age to the form of a pinched bowl and then in the Late Bronze-Iron Ages to the form of a saucer with a pinched part to hold the wick (whether single or multiple). King David made an analogy to God’s Word with this kind of oil lap in view (Psa. 119:105).

In the Hellenistic (Greek) period it took the shape we identify as a lamp with a longer nozzle for the wick and by the Roman period (time of Jesus and the early Church) it had become a flatter, rounder, lamp with many variations and ornamentation. Jesus also illustrated being prepared for His return by the story of five wise and five foolish maidens who could only see when the bridegroom came if they had functioning oil lamps (Matt. 25:1-13). Oil lamps were commonly made of terracotta, but also were cast in bronze and even made of blown glass. Below are just a few items from our exhibit.

Saucer style oil lamps from Israel (Old Testament Period).
Late Roman bronze oil lamp with elongated spout and handle shaped like grape leaf with human head in center on stand. From Israel.
Assyrian stone oil lamp on stand with 13 spouts and central feeder ring (from ancient Near East). Ex. Ancient Resource.
Roman 10 spouted, bowl shaped oil lamp with raised stand and handle on top. Made from black clay. From Israel.


Herodian period square oil lamp with 10 wick holes in front with raised loop decoration and loop handle (rare and unusual piece). From Israel.


Byzantine ornamented oil lamps.