Sunday, July 28, 2019

Lessons from a First-Century Waterpot (With a GIVEAWAY!)

The story in John 2 is a familiar one. Our Lord turned plain old water into wine, and the master of the feast, who didn’t know where the wine had come from, declared it the best he’d tasted at the feast. That story is packed with powerful truths, but for some reason the words that speak to me loudest are these:

“Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the waterpots with water.’ So they filled them up to the brim.” (John 2:6-7)

Pair of stone waterpots, circa 70 AD, excavated at the Burnt House in Jerusalem.
Photo credit: Amir Brener [
CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

No detail in the Bible is without meaning. So what are those waterpots doing on the page?

The question wouldn’t leave me alone. And digging into it showed me some fascinating things.

Why Were They Stone?

The fact that the waterpots were stone turns out to be significant. According to the Mosaic law, ceramic vessels that were rendered ritually unclean would have to be destroyed. But stone vessels could be cleansed and put back to use. Stone vessels represented a bigger upfront investment, but it made sense for a priestly or Pharisaical family that was concerned about ritual cleanliness. So the fact that this family possessed six of these vessels tells us something about them. This was a family of some standing. Can you imagine how embarrassing it would be for a family like that to run out of wine for their wedding guests?

There’s a second interesting point. Stone vessels like this were made using lathes from a single piece of stone. It was a manufacturing technique the Romans brought to the region. So... vessels like this were specific to that era. Their use in purification rituals was another detail someone who isn’t a Jewish person from that time and place would have been unlikely to know about. In other words, this is a period detail that a later writer would have been unlikely to engineer.

Here's something that really fascinates me! Very recently, a 2000-year-old manufacturing facility for vessels like this, using the Roman lathing technique, has been discovered. And it’s been discovered at a spot very close to Cana!

Stone vessels excavated at a first-century manufacturing facility near Cana
Here's another interesting point. Although the vessels were handsome, they weren’t on display for the guests. The vessels were in the kitchen, where the servants congregated, because their role was utilitarian. So while this was Jesus' first public miracle, it didn't take place in broad view. That’s why the “master of the feast” didn’t know where the wine came from.

Another interesting find occurred in 1970--the “Burnt House” in Jerusalem. It is believed to have been destroyed during the Roman conquest of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. 

And guess what they found there? Two large stone waterpots--the ones shown in the image at the top of this post. 

And guess where they found them? In the kitchen area.

My point? John knew the number, material, and size of the vessels because he was an eyewitness to the miracle. He was also intimately familiar with the specifics of how those vessels were used, and archaeology has confirmed that he recorded those specifics accurately.

That waterpot detail serves to validate that our Bible is an accurate first-hand account, not a fabrication from centuries later as many have claimed. 

I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that the waterpots are in the text, and that in the past decades, archeologists have “unearthed”—literally—a set of finds that validate that period detail's accuracy.

Show Up Empty

Of course, there’s a spiritual dimension to my waterpots as well. One of my Bible study buddies had a response that still rings in my ears. “If you want the Lord to fill you, you have to show up empty.”

Show up empty. Yikes! I’ve always been a “Type A” person ("Type A Plus Plus," as my husband says) who tends to show up pretty full. I place stock in my own competence, or failing that, at least in my ability to push through by dint of sheer determination.

But that isn’t how you get with the best wine. Only the Lord can accomplish that, and I’d be well advised to get myself out of His way!
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:10)
I’d better get over behaving as if I can accomplish anything worthwhile—anything worth doing is going to be His work through me.

If you’re familiar with my writing, you know I’m crafting stories set in the turbulent years after World War II. The current books revolve around Japanese characters and the war’s Pacific Theater. But, Lord willing, it's my intent that the series will eventually move to Israel. I’m eager to build stories around what I believe are the most pivotal events of our day—the Jewish people’s return to their homeland, which is a powerful fulfillment of Biblical prophecy, and which has enabled "knowledge to increase" (Dan 12:4) via discoveries like those in this post.

New news! My debut novel, which was inspired by a true WWII story, has recently been named a finalist in the Carol Awards :), as well as in the International Book Awards. I am so thrilled, and humbled, at where the Lord is taking this story!

GIVEAWAY: I've actually got two giveaways going this weekend I thought you might like to take part in. :)  

  1. I'm giving away a $10 Amazon gift certificate to a new subscriber to my Red Carpet Readers newsletter. To register for that drawing, please CLICK HERE. (If you're already a subscriber, either leave a comment below or enter your email in the form again and I'll include you in the drawing.)
  2. I'm also giving away a DVD, Unbroken: Path to Redemption, on THIS FACEBOOK GROUP. To enter, just comment on one of my posts headlined SWEETHEART SATURDAY from Saturday.

Should a war death be avenged? At what price? 

Convinced that American war hero Dave Delham was responsible for the bomb that snuffed out her brother's life, Miyako resolves to restore her honor by avenging him--even if it costs her own life. But the huntress soon becomes hunted in Osaka's treacherous underworld. Miyako must outmaneuver a ruthless brothel owner and outwit gangs with competing plans to profit by her--only to confront a decision that will change everything.

I stepped away from a marketing career that spanned continents to write what I love: stories of reckless faith that showcase God's hand in history. Please also feel free to check out my blog, Five Stones and a Sling, which hovers in the region where history meets Bible prophecy meets current events. It's rich ground--we live in a day when prophecies are leaping from the Bible's pages into the headlines!

I live outside Phoenix with my husband, a third-generation airline pilot who doubles as my Chief Military Research Officer. We share our home with our daughter, our son and daughter-in-law, a brand new grandson, and a small platoon of housecats. When I'm not writing, you'll find me rollerblading--yes, I know that makes me a throwback 😊--or catching a moonrise, or dreaming of my next trip. We recently returned from Israel and Wales.

Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate I may earn from qualifying purchases.


  1. Such an "insignificant" detail means so much when you dive into it! Thanks for sharing your research. And thanks for the gift card giveaway!

    1. Hi, Connie! Yes, always! Thanks for always being such an encouragement. Blessings!

  2. Congratulations. This is some wonderfully interesting information. Thank you for sharing
    I went to the FB posts and cant seem to find a place to put comments. Hmmm
    quilting dash lady at comcast dot net

    1. Hi, Lori! Thanks for your interest! It's a public FB group, so I thought anyone would be able to comment, but perhaps you can't if you haven't joined the group. No worries! I will include you in both drawings. :)

  3. interesting and I subscribed and joined the group! Thank you for sharing here with us.
    Linda Marie Finn
    Faithful Acres Books

    1. Hi, Linda! Thank you so much for your kind words and your support! And thanks so much for taking a minute to leave a comment. Blessings, Linda

  4. Hi, everyone! A quick announcement that Kim (w email address starting with che...) won the gift card! Thanks so much to all of you for the awesome encouragement! Blessings, Linda