Introduction to Ancient Oil Lamps

Lamps in the Ancient World

oil-lamp-9.jpg During the time of the Bible lamps were used, in order to illuminate the house or any building there were lamps. The most ancient lamps that have been discovered in archaeology were actually made of stone, and people filled them with animal fat. They placed a floating wick inside the bowl which was made of plant fibers finely twisted.


John 8:12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."


Clay Pottery


As time progressed people started making their lamp bowls with pottery and used  olive oil for fuel and these were the lamps mentioned in the Bible.


Olive Oil


Olive oil was actually a very desirable fuel in the ancient Near East because it did not produce much smoke, it burned smoothly, and the smell was desirable which was not the case with other oils and animal fat.


Lamp Shapes


Throughout time lamp pottery changed from an open bowl to a more closed shape, sort of like a pear and a smaller end was used to contain the wick.




Inside the home lamps were burning all day and all night. It was very convenient when someone needed to light a fire.


Lamps were usually placed on a lampstand, or somewhere high to illuminate the house. Lampstands were usually very ornamental, sometimes made of wood, bronze, silver, or even gold as in the case of the Tabernacle and Temple. The seven branched menorah had bowls in the shape of flowers at the top of each branch, which  offered a wealth of symbolism for Israel reminding them of the coming Messiah who would be the light of the world and the desire of the ages.



There have been many thousands of lamps discovered from the ancient world in the land of Israel. Excavations of tombs, and even cities have uncovered myriads of lamps dating back to the time of Abraham  and throughout biblical history. Every age revealed different lamp shapes which helps archaeologists in dating various finds.


Archaeologists generally conclude that lamps began to develop around 2000 BC which was near the time of Abraham. They were handmade clay lamps which were bowl shaped with floating wick. After they were shaped like a saucer or pear and later with the nozzle, and then the ball was pinched closed with one end forming a spout.


The Bible often talks about lamps:


Psalms 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.



NOTE (This is part of the BKA Series)

BKA 280 Ancient Oil Lamps

Thank you for downloading BKA 280 Ancient Oil Lamps. This Bible Knowledge Accelerator program contains a brief overview of the subject of ancient oil lamps. You can download more detailed studies concerning various topics by visiting Free Bible.


The Bible Knowledge Accelerator series is brought to you by Free Bible.


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Welcome to Free Bible: Unearthing the Past, Illuminating the Present! Step into a world where ancient history and biblical narratives intertwine, inviting you to explore the rich tapestry of human civilization.

Discover the captivating stories of forgotten empires, delve into the customs and cultures of our ancestors, and witness the remarkable findings unearthed by dedicated archaeologists.

Immerse yourself in a treasure trove of knowledge, where the past comes alive and illuminates our understanding of the present.

Join us on this extraordinary journey through time, where curiosity is rewarded and ancient mysteries await your exploration.

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