I am looking at the word translated as 'potsherd' in Job 2:8 and was wondering if anyone came across any other OT evidence that suggests there is a deeper/symbolic meaning behind the fragment of pottery at any time in OT culture.

3 Answers 3


After reading the following:

APPENDIX - BDB entry for חֶרֶשׂ (cheres)

2 a fragment of earthenware, sherd Isaiah 30:14; Ezekiel 23:34; לְהִתְגָּרֵד ׳ח Job 2:8 a sherd to scrape himself; ׳חַדּוּדֵי ח Job 41:22 sharpest potsherds, figurative of sharp scales on belly of crocodile.

I conclude that in Job 2:8 we see a reference to a literal potsherd that Job used to scrape his sores and in Job 41:22 we see a figurative reference to a potsherd as representing the scales of the Leviathan described there.

And since after reading Is. 27:1, Psalm 74:14, and Rev. 12:3-12 (more about that here) I have concluded that God is speaking to Job about Satan in Job 41. I find the reference in Job 41:22 to a potsherd as representing Leviathan's scales to have a deeper meaning for me.

Shortly after the potsherd is mentioned in Job 2:8 we see Job's three friends arrive and though they initially pitied him, they ended up as being mere instruments in Satan's hands to further gouge his already afflicted soul.

So the deeper meaning of this potsherd in Job 2:8 I see as having both a literal and figurative application in the following way:

Job's physical sores that cause him so much physical pain and itching also cause him internal pain and he 'itches' to know why all this has happened to him. His friends then come to scratch his itching desire for meaning with their false theology (a misunderstanding of God's character inspired by Satan - scales of Leviathan).

In addition to the abovementioned meaning gathered, we have a statement in 2 Cor. 4:6,7 that says:

For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

So we see that it is whole vessels that carry treasure. That treasure is the light of the knowledge of the glory (character) of God in the face of Jesus Christ (a revelation of God's character through His Son).

Job's friends, as human beings with a wrong view of God's character because of their false theology were not whole earthen vessels but, as it were, shattered ones, pieces, potsherds. Through their theology they only gave a fragmented view of God that could only cause more pain. It is also important to note that it is not the vessel (broken or whole) that brings healing/soothing to the internal pain and 'itching' of those suffering without satisfactory answers, it is the treasure (knowledge of God's character as revealed through Christ) that does.

Finally, Job is a type of Christ to me in that he is 'a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief' but that through all of this succeeds in holding fast to his trust in God and thus conquers Satan (remember Satan's accusation of Job). Job's suffering, sorrows and triumph illustrate the greater reality that Christ came to endure in man's behalf and in doing so He revealed the unselfish character of God. In this sense Job's entire negative experience is a mini revelation of the glory (character) of God in the face of a type of Christ.

What Job's experience reveals about God's character can alone bring soothing answers to his heart that was 'itching' for meaning but this Job might not have known himself. We though are privileged to see and 'connect the dots' as it were, having all Scripture to shed so much light on the matter.


I am unsure what "deeper meaning" might entail other than an imaginative interpretation. The word involved is simply חֶרֶשׂ (cheres) which is used in just two ways among the 17 times it occurs in the OT - see the appendix below.

The choice of word simply described the then literal events narrated in the book of Job. Job 2:8 simply records the fact that a once wealthy, respected community leader, because of Satan's attacks, was reduced to sitting at the city rubbish dump scraping his pussy boils, in great personal, emotional and physical pain.

The purpose of the description is to emphasize the extreme contrast between the two stages of Job - before and after the attacks of Satan. Despite this, Job never blamed God (nor did he ever understand what had happened) and maintained his respect and love for God, including his personal integrity.

APPENDIX - BDB entry for חֶרֶשׂ (cheres)

חֶ֫רֶשׂ noun [masculine] earthenware, earthen vessel, sherd, potsherd, P and late (Late Hebrew חֶרֶס, Aramaic חֲרַס) — absolute ׳ח Leviticus 6:21 9t., חָ֑רֶשׂ Numbers 5:17 4t.; plural construct חַרְשֵׂי Isaiah 45:9; suffix חֲרָשֶׂיהָ Ezekiel 23:34. —

1 earthenware: ׳כְּלִיאח earthen vessel Jeremiah 32:14; especially P Leviticus 6:21; Leviticus 11:33; Leviticus 14:5,50; Leviticus 15:12; Numbers 5:17; without כְּלִי Proverbs 26:23; compare ׳בַּקְבֻּק יוֺצֵר ח Jeremiah 19:1; ׳לְנִבְלֵי ח Lamentations 4:2 they are reckoned as earthen vessels, simile of sons of Zion; חֶרֶשׂ אֶתחַֿרְשֵׂי אֲדָמָה Isaiah 45:9 a potsherd (perhaps = earthen vessel, see Proverbs 26:23 above) among earthen potsherds (of men, over against ׳י their potter); simile of dryness Psalm 22:16.

2 a fragment of earthenware, sherd Isaiah 30:14; Ezekiel 23:34; לְהִתְגָּרֵד ׳ח Job 2:8 a sherd to scrape himself; ׳חַדּוּדֵי ח Job 41:22 sharpest potsherds, figurative of sharp scales on belly of crocodile.

  • Thanks for the BDB ref in your answer. Noted and upvoted. ;)
    – user49416
    Apr 7, 2022 at 6:00

Shards of pottery would have been ubiquitous during ancient times. Dale Manor, a professor of archeology, writes, “In a sense, the ancient counterpart of plastic was pottery. Other than soil, the most prevalent component of typical Middle and Near Eastern archaeological sites is broken pottery pieces” (2021).

Symbolically, a shard of pottery can represent something or someone that is broken but not completely destroyed, that endures and may yet have purpose and value (cf Is 30:14, Jer 19:11).

Whose collapse is like the smashing of a potter’s jar,
So ruthlessly shattered
That a shard will not be found among its pieces
To take fire from a hearth
Or to scoop water from a cistern. – Is 30:14

In Job 2:8, Job used the rough edge of a shard to relieve the symptoms of his illness. That shard of pottery can be viewed as representative of Job's faith or Job himself who, at that point in the story, had been reduced to a fragment of his former self. He was sitting among the ashes as amid the ruins of his life, but his faith remained unshattered.

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold firm your integrity? Curse God and die!” 10 But he said to her, “You are speaking as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we actually accept good from God but not accept adversity?” Despite all this, Job did not sin with his lips. – Job 2:9-10

Job would not blame or curse God (Job 1:22, cf Is 45:9). Despite everything, his faith endured. In fact, it was his source of comfort in affliction.

  • Thanks for your answer. Noted and upvoted.
    – user49416
    Apr 11, 2022 at 3:29

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