Cana: Why “stone” water jars?

Why “stone” water jars at the wedding in Cana of Galilee?

Travelling from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee we pass through Cana in Galilee where according to the New Testament Scriptures Jesus changed six “stone” jars of water to wine at the wedding.  What did they actually LOOK like and WHY does the Bible stipulate they were made out of “stone” rather than the usual clay pottery?

Stone water jars

Mention in John 2:1-6
Dear friends,  Many of heard about biblical stone water jars, but how many of actually SEEN one? We read about them in the New Testament in connection to a Jewish wedding  in Cana where Jesus changes  water to wine:  “On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee…  Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.” (John 2:1-6).

Biblical stone water jar discovered
Well, here’s the real McCoy, discovered in an excavation, some 15 feet below the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem.  The stone water jar was carved and polished by hand out of one chunk of limestone and stood inside a 7500 sq. foot palatial home and probably belonged to a wealthy Cohen (priestly) Jewish family who lived in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus – when the Temple was still standing.

Why made out of stone?
In Lev. 11:36 we read: “Only a spring and a [stone] pit… shall be clean”. In other words, only a stone water container is “clean” and doesn’t become ritually impure if it comes in contact with death (for example if a mouse is found dead in it):

Problem of ritual impurity
If on the other hand the water container was made of ceramic (rather than stone) it could be rendered ritually impure, as would the water itself AND the priest that used it!  This was no small matter, for in such a state of ritual impurity a priest (such as Zachariah, father of John the Baptist) couldn’t serve in the Jerusalem Temple or eat of the holy sacrifices and offerings that pilgrims brought!

Wedding hall where all could partake & celebrate
So getting back to the story of the “six stone water jars” mentioned in John 2, if you were a wedding hall owner in Galilee 2000 years ago and wanted your clients to be able to invite their priest friends to the reception, you’d invest in a set of expensive stone vessels (rather than cheaper ceramic).  Of course it would cost more, but hey, one doesn’t get married everyday (hopefully) and you’d want your wedding reception clients to be able to invite all of their friends.

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