In Bible times this milk product was unlike that of the modern Western world, for instead of being solid it was in a semifluid state. (Job 20:17) Hence, the Hebrew word is defined as “sweet, new butter, still weak [soft].” (Koehler-Baumgartner Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libros, p. 308) The same Hebrew word is rendered “curdled milk” at Judges 5:25.
“The churning [literally, squeezing] of milk is what brings forth butter.” (Prov. 30:33) This was done by putting the milk in a skin bottle and rocking it upon the knees, or suspending it between poles and swinging it back and forth abruptly until the desired consistency was reached. To prevent the butterfat from turning rancid in the hot climate, natives of the East boil it over a slow fire and clarify it during the cooking with coarsely ground meal.
Butter, though considered a delicacy, has been eaten and enjoyed since patriarchal times. Abraham included it in the feast he spread for the angelic visitors (Gen. 18:8); David’s friends came to him with butter and other gifts of sustenance. (2 Sam. 17:29) The intrinsic value of butter made it a medium of exchange; Hittite laws set the price for butter. In Ur of the Chaldees butter was part of the religious offerings made to their gods.
A related word translated “butter” at Psalm 55:21 is figurative of the pleasant, smooth, oily words of a traitor.