Sermon Illustrations

“In ancient history, tanning was considered a “smelly” trade and relegated to the outskirts of town, amongst the poor. Tanning by ancient methods is so foul smelling that tanneries are still isolated from those towns today where the old methods are used. The ancients used leather for waterskins, bags, harnesses, boats, armor, scabbards, boots and sandals.

Skins typically arrived at the tannery dried stiff and dirty with soil and gore. First, the ancient tanners would soak the skins in water to clean and soften them. Then they would pound and scour the skin to remove any remaining flesh and fat. Next, the tanner needed to remove the hair fibers from the skin. This was done by either soaking the skin in urine, painting it with an alkaline lime mixture, or simply letting the skin putrefy for several months then dipping it in a salt solution. After the hair fibers were loosened, the tanners scraped them off with a knife.

Once the hair was removed, the tanners would bate the material by pounding dung into the skin or soaking the skin in a solution of animal brains. Among the kinds of dung commonly used were that of dogs or pigeons. Sometimes the dung was mixed with water in a large vat, and the prepared skins were kneaded in the dung water until they became supple, but not too soft. The ancient tanner might use his bare feet to knead the skins in the dung water, and the kneading could last two or three hours. Depending on the type of dung used, the mixture might be rather acidic, causing irritation or minor burns during its prolonged contact with human skin.

It was this combination of animal feces mixed with decaying flesh that made ancient tanneries so smelly.

Children employed as dung gatherers were a common sight in ancient cities. Also common were ‘piss-pots’ located on street corners, where human urine could be collected for use in tanneries or by washerwomen.” And some of these exact same tanning methods are still used in third world countries to tan hides.


Do you get what I am saying? Folks, this was not a pretty trade to be in.

So, we know that tanners make some contribution to society. But people did not really like them or be near them. So, their contribution to society was unclear, undetermined.

Yet, what we can say about Simon the tanner is that (slide), “God Cares for Someone with an Undetermined Amount to Contribute to Society.”