What does "a wineskin in the smoke" mean? (Psalm 119:83)

"Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke,
    I do not forget your decrees." (NIV)

Psalms 119:83

ESV - 83 For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, yet I have not forgotten your statutes.

Clarify Share Report Asked March 11 2021 My picture Jack Gutknecht

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Mini Tim Maas Retired Quality Assurance Specialist with the U.S. Army
Conditioning a wineskin for use by exposing or subjecting it to smoke would cause it to shrink, dry up, and become hardened. The psalmist is comparing that condition to the effects of his current situation on his heart (the seat of his spiritual being), but not in connection with any beneficial or useful sense or purpose.

Similarly in Psalm 22:15 (which describes a time of great distress in David's life), David describes his strength as having been "dried up like a potsherd".

March 11 2021 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

My picture Jack Gutknecht ABC/DTS graduate, guitar music ministry Baptist church
According to my Ryrie Study Bible, "like a bottle (wineskin) in the smoke” means black, shriveled, of no further use. The psalmist "felt like a dried-up wineskin that had been thrown aside as useless." (WWW)

83. bottle in the smoke—as a skin bottle dried and shriveled up in smoke, so is he withered by sorrow. Wine bottles of skin used to be hung up in smoke to dry them before the wine was put in them [MAURER].
--JFB (Jamieson, Fausett & Brown--Bible commentary)

119:83 like a wineskin in the smoke possibly expresses exhaustion or waiting. The psalmist may be portraying the dried-out nature of an old wineskin. -- Faithlife Study Bible 

The NIVSB says it best, "like a wineskin in the smoke" means this: "As a wineskin hanging in the smoke and heat above a fire becomes smudged and shriveled, so the psalmist bears the marks of his affliction."

March 12 2021 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Justin Hale
This is directly reminiscent of an important teaching of Christ:

“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.” (Mark 2:22).

Jesus had just addressed with certain religious ascetics why His disciples were not devoted to fasting as the followers of John the Baptist were. He called Himself the 'bridegroom' and explained that while He remained with His attendants there was no reason for them to fast. After He left however, they would have a reason to fast.

So what does this illustration about 'wineskins' have to do with Jesus physically leaving?

The 'smoke' might have been better translated 'smokey mist.' The Psalmist is referring to the use of tents filled with hot coals periodically cooled by fresh water, producing both steam and smoke using herbs and tree resins. This was done to 'refresh' wineskins when they were not in use. The more often this was done, the more 'aged' they were. 

These 'aged' wineskins were ideal for using with fully fermented and 'stable' wine because they took on all sorts of interesting scents and flavors, enhancing the wine itself. They 'matched up' with older wine.

The 'new' wineskins were more pliable and fresh, ideal for putting actively fermenting grape juice inside since the gasses would bloat out the skins and then finally settle when the wine was 'stable.'

If you take a 'well aged,' (very valuable old wineskin), and foolishly put actively fermenting grape juice inside, you will lose your valuable personal possession for all future wine-making along with your latest batch of new wine.

What a double tragedy!

So the Psalmist is saying that he is like a 'well aged and valuable wineskin inside GOD's special tent of wineskin maintenance,' yet despite his age and experience with divine things, he never forgets Yahweh's statutes. They remain just as important to him as ever and he takes nothing for granted.

Likewise, Jesus is saying, my disciples are like fresh wineskins filled with rapidly fermenting new grape juice. Why would I have them inside the 'special tent' already?

When it is time and they are better aged and more 'stable' I will be leaving them behind by themselves to face the world alone for a time, afterwards I will be with them in the Holy Spirit as they continue to age, mature and become ever more valuable to My holy work. 

That is when they will fast and pray 'in the smoke' of my specially made tabernacles, where, like Moses, they will meet with Me in Spirit and commune like spiritual adults, no longer like excitable children.

March 26 2023 3 responses Vote Up Share Report

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