Sunday, August 08, 2010

Offering Jars--Fact or Fiction?

A few weeks ago, I checked my Amazon page for LMLK vol. 1, & noticed an intriguing recommendation in the auto-generated "Books on Related Topics" section:

"The Jar of David" by Katherine Sanborn

Published by Xulon Press in 2009, it's a 60-page children's story told by an 8-year-old boy named David living in Hebron during Solomon's reign. His uncle & friend's father are both potters, & we follow David on an adventure as his family travels to Jerusalem during the annual Festival of Booths.

I don't remember now which I discovered first, this book or the Potters of Hebron video (the subject of my previous blog entry), but it's like the stars were aligned or something! What an amazing coincidence!

The back-cover teaser floored me when I read it:

"Broken jar handle?" I asked, "How did you know it was a handle?"

Uncle answered, "There were impressions. These impressions were the kind they make on jars made especially for the Great Temple."

That's from Chapter 5, p. 38, as David's father recalls an unusual event he & "Uncle Dan" witnessed. Two robbers bumped into them, fleeing from a crime scene, causing them to drop a jar of loot--a very special offering jar from Solomon's Temple. The main plot focuses on David doing some interesting detective work, involving a princess visiting from a foreign land (1Kings 4:34), who lost a special gold ring.

Other outstanding snippets I enjoyed:

"I reached into the oven and pulled out the still warm jars, placing them on the shelf. ... Each had specific writing on the handles. I asked Joseph if he knew what it said. He rubbed his fingers on the inscription and exclaimed, ..." (p. 26)

"Do you still have the handle pieces?" (p. 39)

"We pushed more dirt aside to reveal a handle...with the same impression." (p. 44)

"Nervously, he took the broken jar handle pieces from his pocket, the ones he saved for so long." (p. 49)

"My father allowed me to carry one of the offering jars of grain." (p. 55)

The first 19 pages, where David introduces us to his family & friends, are available to read on the Google books website. Here's an alphabetical list:

Auntie Lydia
Ben (David's friend)
Beth (David's sister, age 3; Rebecca's twin)
Dad/Jonathan (David's father)
David (storyteller, age 8)
Jacob (Joseph's friend)
Joseph (David's older brother, age 12)
Mom/Miriam (David's mother)
Penny (David's pet goat)
Rebecca (David's sister, age 3; Beth's twin)
Ruben (Ben's father, a potter)
Ruthie (David's younger sister, age 6)
Uncle Dan (potter)

On pp. 52-3, Dan helps David make a 2-handled jar:

"Now..." Uncle bent down to get some more fresh clay, "The handles!" ... Together, we pushed them onto the sides of the jar. "One more thing, before we set it into the oven," he continued, "You want to make an impression, don't you?"


The back cover provides a brief bio of Mrs. Sanborn. You can imagine what a pleasant surprise it was for me to learn that she teaches a Sunday School class at a church only a few miles from where I live (Crenshaw Baptist Church)! I arranged to meet her today, & attend the morning service as her guest.

For me, this was the equivalent of David's adventure--getting to learn about the process that led to the book! In fact I even got to meet the boy whom she based the character of David on, her grandson (David is a pseudonym)!

As it turns out, she wasn't familiar with LMLK seals, which wasn't much of a shock since she didn't mention them explicitly in the book. And the jar photo on the cover is not a Type 484, but one provided by the publisher. I wonder if they smashed one just for this project?!?!

The idea for the book began several years ago when she lamented over the lack of decent Christian fiction books available for children. She decided to base the story around one of the annual Hebrew festivals, & learned about the seal impressions while reading books on ceramics, that mentioned Jewish artifacts.

One of the theories I emphasized in my book was that the seals marked 10% of the storage jars as part of a tithe-accounting system, but during Hezekiah's reign, not Solomon's. So I had to ask her how she happened to take the information from the ceramics book, & connect the jars to offerings brought to the Temple. She replied simply, "It's fiction!"

Chalk up another amazing coincidence!

But that wasn't the only one. During the worship service, led by Senior Pastor Kevin Leathers, when we came to the song just before the offering, Mrs. Sanborn leaned over & whispered with a surprised voice, "The song is The Potter's Hand! How about that!"

I'm running out of chalk!

G.M. Grena