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.
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.
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.
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