A fine-grained, natural earthy material that is soft and pliable when wet but hard when dry, particularly if dried by fire. It is largely made up of hydrous aluminum silicates. The Hebrew word choʹmer is used to denote the “clay” of a potter (Isa 41:25), the “clay” under a seal (Job 38:14), the “clay” of the streets (Isa 10:6), the “mortar” between bricks (Ge 11:3), and, metaphorically, man as “clay” in the hands of his Former, Jehovah God (Isa 45:9; compare Job 10:9). In the Christian Greek Scriptures pe·losʹ signifies potter’s “clay” (Ro 9:21) and the moist “clay” Jesus used to cure a blind man (Joh 9:6, 11, 14, 15; see also BLINDNESS), while ke·ra·mi·kosʹ describes vessels made of potter’s “clay.”—Re 2:27.
In the lowlands of Israel there is an abundance of clay, and in Bible times it was used for making pottery and bricks. (Jer 18:4, 6; Ex 1:14; Na 3:14; see POTTER.) Due to its ability to receive an impression when moist and retain the same when dry, it was useful for making clay tablets and seal impressions on documents and letters. Clay was employed in sealing pottery used for wine or for the safekeeping of valuable records, such as the deed to Jeremiah’s property. (Jer 32:14) The preservation of the Dead Sea Scrolls was due in large measure to the clay jars in which they were found.
The earthy nature of clay is alluded to in expressions such as “the clay of the streets,” ‘man is made of clay,’ or man is ‘brought down to the clay.’ (Job 10:9; 30:19; 33:6; Isa 10:6) Another metaphoric significance attached to the saying that man is made of clay is the fact that Jehovah is the Potter. (Isa 29:16; 45:9; 64:8; Ro 9:21) Clay, even when baked hard, is not a strong material, and a mixture of iron and clay is worthless. (Da 2:33-35, 41-43, 45) Clay affords little or no protection. (Job 4:19; 13:12; Isa 41:25) Being a very common commodity, its commercial value is rather insignificant.—Job 27:16.