2 And, behold, six men came from the way of the upper gate, which lieth toward the north, every man with his weapon of destruction in his hand; and one man in the midst of them clothed in linen, with a writer's inkhorn on his side. And they went in, and stood beside the brazen altar.The bolded words are translated from קֶסֶת הַסֹּפֵר -- a term that also appears in verse 11 -- and means "simply a round vessel or cup for containing ink, which was generally worn by writers in the girdle. The word 'inkhorn' was used by the translators, because in former times in this country horns were used for containing ink." (Easton's Bible Dictionary) קֶסֶת is related to כּוֹס, the word for cup, so the phrase has the meaning of "scribe's cup".
3 And the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon it was, to the threshold of the house; and He called to the man clothed in linen, who had the writer's inkhorn on his side.
The practice of using inkhorns survives in Ethiopia, and may provide a model for ancient Hebrew scribal arts. See http://larkvi.com/mss/eth/production/index.php 2012-06-11.* Here are images from the site:
*Based upon an exhibit, Ethiopic Manuscript Production, at the John M. Kelly Library at the University of St. Michael's College in the University of Toronto. It arose from the thesis research of Sean Winslow, a doctoral candidate at the Centre for Medieval Studies, and was produced under the auspices of the Collaborative Program in Book History and Print Culture, directed by Professor David Galbraith.
|Frater Rufillus of Weissenau self-portrait in decorated initial from 12th Century manuscript shows a stand with four inkhorns.|
|Travelling inkwell German Ink horn pennner 18th century Photo 23 February 2009 by LessayCatus licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported|
I asked Benjamin Martin, an accomplished sofer stam (Torah Scribe) about horns being used in our tradition for ink pots. Here is his reply (2012-June-18):
I have never heard, or read of any Jewish use of inkhorns per se. The oldest Jewish inkwells I am aware of were found in the Judean desert and are made of terracotta. I suspect that the insides may have been sealed with pitch or wax to make them waterproof. These are from around the First Century.I also asked about the similarity between "shofar" and "sofer" and whether they had a link. His reply:
This appears to be the most ancient tradition. The word in Hebrew is qeset (quf, sin, tav). It is mentioned in the bible, see Sefer Yechezkel (Ezekiel) 9. 2-3: "With them was a man clothed in linen with the inkwell of a scribe at his side."
The word qeset itself seems to mean pot, or jug. It is also the word used for the vessels in which the various drink offerings were made in the Holy Temple, see Sefer Bamidbar (Numbers), 4.7: "Over the table of the Presence they are to spread a blue cloth and put on it the plates, dishes and bowls, and the jars for drink offerings; the bread that is continually there is to remain on it."
I use a variety of inkwells, most of them are made of glass or stone. I have one clay inkwell.
Most of the times the word horn, qeren, is mentioned in the Bible, it refers to a thing, an animal's, a person's, or even a country's glory. The one instance, that I can think of, of a horn being used as a vessel, is the case of the prophet Shmuel, who stored the anointing oil for the kings of Israel in a horn. I suspect this is because the horn is a symbol of exaltation as is the anointing.
Sofer comes from the word to count, probably because originally those who could write were employed to keep accounts. It may also come from the fact that sofrim count the verses, words and letters of the texts we write to ensure absolute accuracy.
The word shofar specifically means a ram's horn, it's probably related to the Assyrian word shapparu which means a wild goat.