What Is A Tanner In The Bible

The Bible is an ancient source of religious scriptures that are followed by many and witnessed by all Christian groups around the world. Christians follow it as a living faith, as such, it’s important for many to understand what is a ‘tanner’ in the Bible in order to gain a clearer understanding of the faith. The answer to this question can be found in the Old Testament, specifically, in the book of Joel.

The phrase “tanner” is both a noun and a verb, the noun form meaning someone who tans animal hides and the verb meaning the action of turning the hides into tanned leather. In the Bible’s context, the word tanner is a term used to describe a job or trade—someone who tans animal hides and makes them into leather. We can see this in Joel’s writings, where he uses the phrase, “And the tanner in his smoky house.” Rather than being a spiritual figure or a person of religious importance, a tanner in the bible was simply a worker in the leather trade, known for their smoky houses.

“Being a tanner in the bible was a dangerous profession. During that time, tanners would be exposed to animal parts and toxic substances as they processed the hides. They also had to deal with strong-smelling and polluting substances, as well as living among vermin and pests. This occupational hazard was considered to be a form of divine punishment,” said Rebecca Watson, an Old Testament expert at the University of California, Riverside.

Watson pointed out that tanners were often in the lower rungs of society due to their trade and the stigma that was associated with it. “Tanners and their trade were considered to be unclean by many in Bible times. As such, they were not allowed to go to the temple or participate in certain aspects of Jewish, or religious, life. They were also not allowed to intermingle with other people,” said Watson. She added that while there was some marginalization of tanners in the Bible, they were still recognized as important members of society in the Old Testament.

“In the book of Amos, it mentions the ways in which God would punish the Israelites for their idolatry and other wrongdoings. Exiled among the wicked and sinful, tanners were considered to be outsiders who were punished for their immoral and unethical practices,” said Thomas Weimar, a professor of Old Testament literature at the University of Toronto. Weimar added that the punishment for being a tanner was linked to the fact that God desired for the Israelites to remain faithful and to obey his commandments. Thus, by being part of a profession associated with sin and filth, tanners were further away from God.

It is important to note that the biblical references to tanners are largely metaphorical. The trade was used to symbolize a state of spiritual uncleanliness and decline. This is something that still rings true in modern times as many see tanners as spiritual outsiders or as people who feel they’re outside of God’s protection. This understanding helps to provide clarity as to what is a tanner in the Bible.

What Was A Tanner’s Work In The Bible?

According to Professor Watson, a tanner in the Bible was a leather worker who used various processes to cure animal hides and create leather goods. They typically worked in the leather industry, but the exact work that the Bible speaks of is unclear due to the lack of concrete historical descriptions. Here, it is clear that tanning was a type of craft or trade; one crucial factor to many cultures during that time and that was well-respected in the Bible.

Tanners in the Bible were often hired by those who were wealthy, as well as the poor. They were well known for their skill set and were seen as “skilled craftsman” of their time. It’s been said that tanners in the Bible were responsible for creating a variety of items such as shoes, sandals, garments, and also religious items like sacrifices. Interestingly, some believe that tanners in the Bible could also be responsible for making items like shields, horseshoes, and even weapons.

Professor Weimar pointed out that the skills of tanners usually allowed them to acquire a certain degree of admiration and respect for the time period. “Despite the stigma that came with being a tanner in the Bible, there was still a great level of appreciation for the skills they provided. This is reflected in the fact that they would often be hired by kings or anyone else who could afford them,” said Weimar.

It is also important to note that the term “tanner” in the Bible is often used to describe a man of humble means or status. Therefore, those who were wealthy and respected in society, such as the Prophet Jeremiah, would not be referred to as tanners, even though they may have worked in the leather industry.

What Is The Relevance Of The Tanner In The Bible Today?

Today, we don’t often hear about leather workers or tanners in relation to the Bible. However, there is much to be learned about being a tanner in the Bible and the metaphor it represents today. For instance, many of the issues and the stigmas that tanners faced during Bible times remain relevant today.

“The Bible speaks of tanners in relation to moral issues, from avoidance of sin to maintaining relationships with family and friends. In this way, we can still find relevance in the Biblical references to tanners today, and it can give us insight into how we should live our lives, too,” said Weimar. He added that understanding the relevance of being a tanner in the Bible allows us to be conscious of our actions and how they may affect our relationship with God, as well as our communities.

It is important to note that the Bible is relevant today and its teachings are still applicable in many areas in our lives. Therefore, it is important to understand what is a tanner in the Bible and to appreciate the insights it has to offer about being a moral and faithful person amid difficult times.


In conclusion, the term “tanner” in the Bible refers to a leather worker who tanned animal hides to make leather goods. While tanners were often seen as unclean and sinful, their skill set and craft was well-respected in their time. Through Biblical references to tanners, we can learn about moral teachings and the consequences of our deeds, even in modern times. It is clear that tanners in the Bible were a reflection of a deeper message: sinning will bring divine punishment, and being true to one’s faith requires being mindful of right and wrong.

Marcos Reyna is a Christian author and speaker. He is dedicated to helping create disciples of Christ through spreading the power of the gospel to others. He has written several books and articles on a variety of theological topics, including matters of faith, worship, biblical studies, practical ethics, and social justice. A trained theologian and devotee of spiritual writing, Marcos has a mission to spread Christian love everywhere. He lives with his family in Nashville, TN where he spends his days encouraging others to seek Christ's grace in all things.

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