The Jars of Water. 6 Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim.
The gospel provides an interesting amount of detail: the number of jars, their composition, purpose and size. The half-dozen represented a good store of water for carrying out the kind of purification of which we read in Mark 7:1–4. Before the meal servants would have poured water over the hands of every guest. “Stone jars, in contrast to earthen jars, are free from the possibility of levitical impurity (Lev 11:33). The ‘rites of Jewish purification’ probably refers to the ritual cleansing of hands at meals (cf. John 3:25). Even taking into account the possibility of a large gathering at the wedding, the quantity of stone jars and their capacity is unusual. Everything about v. 6 is overdrawn, from the description of the jars to the amount of narrative space the Evangelist devotes to the description. The narrative technique mirrors the size of the jars in order to emphasize the extravagance of the miracle that is about to take place.” (O’Day, 537-38) Continue reading