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Vessel Meaning In The Bible

The word vessel is often used in the Bible, and in English terms it translates to be either a container, such as a bowl or a jug, or either a ship or a boat. The biblical meaning denotes a person whom God calls and uses as a vessel. The metaphor of a leader as a useful vessel, refers to a person that is receptive.

Most of us wouldn’t think of ourselves as vessels. But if we want to know not only who God is but what His thoughts are concerning us, we must come to the Bible. It’s the Word of God that reveals God to us. And it also reveals that we human beings are created by God as vessels.

We’ll read some key verses, together with notes from the New Testament Recovery Version, that reveal this fundamental truth to us. Knowing the meaning and significance of being a vessel will greatly affect our Christian life.

Vessel Meaning In The Bible

 In 1 Samuel 21:5, however, the translation of the plural of keli by “vessels” is dubious. English Versions of the Bible evidently intended something in the nature of provision wallets, and the “holiness” of such objects finds partial parallels in Numbers 19:15; Leviticus 11:32-34, etc. But in 1 Samuel 21:8, in the immediate context of the verse above, keli certainly means “weapons,” and this translation is quite intelligible in 21:5 also. For war among the Hebrews was a holy function, calling for extreme ceremonial purity (Deuteronomy 23:9-14). See the commentaries. and especially RS2, 455-56. In addition, “vessel” appears in Isaiah 30:14 for nebhel, “jar”; in Matthew 13:48 for aggos, “vessels”; and in Sirach 21:14; Matthew 25:4 for aggeion, a diminutive form of aggos. A different use is that of The Wisdom of Solomon 14:1, where “vessel” represents ploion, “a boat,” while The Wisdom of Solomon 14:5,6 the King James Version has “weak vessel” for schedia, “raft” (so the Revised Version (British and American)). Vessels of all sorts and kinds and for all sorts of uses were so familiar as to make them natural illustrations for different sorts of human beings (Hosea 8:8; Isaiah 22:24; Jeremiah 22:28, etc.; see POTTER), and through Acts 9:15 the word “vessel” has passed into Christian theology as signifying simply a human being. But the figure of such “vessels” as (passively) filled with different contents is not Biblical. In 1 Thessalonians 4:4 “vessel” may be taken as a figure for either the man’s own body or for his wife. Between these possibilities the commentaries are almost equally divided.

The dictionary defines a vessel as an object that’s used to hold, or contain, something. It might be made of materials such as glass, metal, wood, stone, or clay. Things like a bottle, canister, or mug are all containers. Their purpose is to be filled with a particular substance.

For example, a mug is made specifically to be filled with a beverage like tea or coffee, and the tea or coffee needs the mug to contain it. 

Now that we’ve reviewed what a vessel is, let’s look at a few verses in the Bible that speak of us as vessels.

Use Me As A Vessel Meaning

2 Timothy 2:21 ESV / 330 helpful votes
Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV / 145 helpful votes
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

2 Corinthians 4:7 ESV / 111 helpful votes
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

2 Kings 4:1-7 ESV / 102 helpful votes
Now the wife of one of the sons of the prophets cried to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord, but the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.” And Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me; what have you in the house?” And she said, “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.” Then he said, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few. Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons and pour into all these vessels. And when one is full, set it aside.” So she went from him and shut the door behind herself and her sons. And as she poured they brought the vessels to her. …

1 Peter 3:7 ESV / 83 helpful votes
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

2 Timothy 2:20-21 ESV / 80 helpful votes
Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

James 4:7 ESV / 57 helpful votes
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 ESV / 55 helpful votes
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;

Luke 8:16 ESV / 55 helpful votes
“No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.

Jeremiah 18:4 ESV / 40 helpful votes
And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.

Colossians 3:23-24 ESV / 36 helpful votes
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Hebrews 2:14 ESV / 30 helpful votes
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,

Romans 9:22 ESV / 29 helpful votes
What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,

2 Timothy 2:20 ESV / 28 helpful votes
Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable.

Romans 9:21 ESV / 27 helpful votes
Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

Isaiah 64:8 ESV / 27 helpful votes
But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

Mark 11:16 ESV / 26 helpful votes
And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple.

Habakkuk 2:1-3 ESV / 26 helpful votes
I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint. And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

Numbers 19:15 ESV / 26 helpful votes
And every open vessel that has no cover fastened on it is unclean.

Galatians 5:19-21 ESV / 24 helpful votes
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Ephesians 2:10 ESV / 23 helpful votes
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

2 Corinthians 4:4 ESV / 19 helpful votes
In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Romans 6:23 ESV / 18 helpful votes
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Acts 5:29 ESV / 18 helpful votes
But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.

Hosea 8:8 ESV / 17 helpful votes
Israel is swallowed up; already they are among the nations as a useless vessel.

Acts 9:15 ESV / 16 helpful votes
But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.

Daniel 1:2 ESV / 15 helpful votes
And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god.

1 Timothy 6:11 ESV / 14 helpful votes
But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.

Acts 10:11 ESV / 14 helpful votes
And saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth.

Jeremiah 51:34 ESV / 14 helpful votes
“Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon has devoured me; he has crushed me; he has made me an empty vessel; he has swallowed me like a monster; he has filled his stomach with my delicacies; he has rinsed me out.

Genesis 43:11 ESV / 14 helpful votes
Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry a present down to the man, a little balm and a little honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds.

Galatians 5:4 ESV / 13 helpful votes
You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.

Acts 9:1-19 ESV / 13 helpful votes
But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. …

Jeremiah 33:10 ESV / 13 helpful votes
“Thus says the Lord: In this place of which you say, ‘It is a waste without man or beast,’ in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man or inhabitant or beast, there shall be heard again

Proverbs 25:4 ESV / 13 helpful votes
Take away the dross from the silver, and the smith has material for a vessel;

1 Samuel 21:5 ESV / 13 helpful votes
And David answered the priest, “Truly women have been kept from us as always when I go on an expedition. The vessels of the young men are holy even when it is an ordinary journey. How much more today will their vessels be holy?”

Romans 9:21-23 ESV / 12 helpful votes
Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—

Acts 9:16 ESV / 12 helpful votes
For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

Jeremiah 27:19 ESV / 12 helpful votes
For thus says the Lord of hosts concerning the pillars, the sea, the stands, and the rest of the vessels that are left in this city,

Revelation 2:27 ESV / 11 helpful votes
And he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father.

1 John 1:9 ESV / 11 helpful votes
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 Corinthians 6:18 ESV / 11 helpful votes
Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.

Ezekiel 4:9 ESV / 10 helpful votes
“And you, take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and emmer, and put them into a single vessel and make your bread from them. During the number of days that you lie on your side, 390 days, you shall eat it.

1 Peter 5:8 ESV / 9 helpful votes
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Isaiah 30:14 ESV / 9 helpful votes
And its breaking is like that of a potter’s vessel that is smashed so ruthlessly that among its fragments not a shard is found with which to take fire from the hearth, or to dip up water out of the cistern.”

1 Peter 1:7 ESV / 8 helpful votes
So that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

2 Timothy 2:19-21 ESV / 8 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

Human Vessel Meaning

Matthew 25:4 ESV / 8 helpful votes
But the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.

Esther 1:1-22 ESV / 8 helpful votes
Now in the days of Ahasuerus, the Ahasuerus who reigned from India to Ethiopia over 127 provinces, in those days when King Ahasuerus sat on his royal throne in Susa, the citadel, in the third year of his reign he gave a feast for all his officials and servants. The army of Persia and Media and the nobles and governors of the provinces were before him, while he showed the riches of his royal glory and the splendor and pomp of his greatness for many days, 180 days. And when these days were completed, the king gave for all the people present in Susa the citadel, both great and small, a feast lasting for seven days in the court of the garden of the king’s palace. …

Revelation 1:1 ESV / 7 helpful votes
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,

Hebrews 11:1 ESV / 7 helpful votes
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV / 7 helpful votes
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

1 Corinthians 1:1-31 ESV / 7 helpful votes
Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— …

Haggai 2:16 ESV / 7 helpful votes
How did you fare? When one came to a heap of twenty measures, there were but ten. When one came to the wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were but twenty.

Jeremiah 48:11 ESV / 7 helpful votes
“Moab has been at ease from his youth and has settled on his dregs; he has not been emptied from vessel to vessel, nor has he gone into exile; so his taste remains in him, and his scent is not changed.

Jeremiah 22:28 ESV / 7 helpful votes
Is this man Coniah a despised, broken pot, a vessel no one cares for? Why are he and his children hurled and cast into a land that they do not know?

Proverbs 30:25 ESV / 7 helpful votes
The ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer;

Psalm 31:12 ESV / 7 helpful votes
I have been forgotten like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel.

Psalm 3:1-8 ESV / 7 helpful votes
A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son. O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, “There is no salvation for him in God.” Selah But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. …

Numbers 3:31 ESV / 7 helpful votes
And their guard duty involved the ark, the table, the lampstand, the altars, the vessels of the sanctuary with which the priests minister, and the screen; all the service connected with these.

1 John 3:3 ESV / 6 helpful votes
And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

1 John 1:7 ESV / 6 helpful votes
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

2 Corinthians 7:1 ESV / 6 helpful votes
Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

2 Corinthians 6:14 ESV / 6 helpful votes
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?

1 Corinthians 6:19 ESV / 6 helpful votes
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,

Romans 1:17 ESV / 6 helpful votes
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

John 3:16 ESV / 6 helpful votes
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Jeremiah 32:14 ESV / 6 helpful votes
‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware vessel, that they may last for a long time.

Psalm 23:5 ESV / 6 helpful votes
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

2 Timothy 2:16 ESV / 5 helpful votes
But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness,

1 Thessalonians 4:4 ESV / 5 helpful votes
That each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor,

1 Corinthians 7:2 ESV / 5 helpful votes
But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.

1 Corinthians 2:5 ESV / 5 helpful votes
So that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Acts 17:10-11 ESV / 5 helpful votes
The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

Acts 4:31 ESV / 5 helpful votes
And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

Luke 17:10 ESV / 5 helpful votes
So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”

Matthew 13:48 ESV / 5 helpful votes
When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad.

Matthew 5:1-48 ESV / 5 helpful votes
Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. …

Isaiah 22:24 ESV / 5 helpful votes
And they will hang on him the whole honor of his father’s house, the offspring and issue, every small vessel, from the cups to all the flagons.

Psalm 2:9 ESV / 5 helpful votes
You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

Deuteronomy 23:24 ESV / 5 helpful votes
“If you go into your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes, as many as you wish, but you shall not put any in your bag.

Numbers 19:17 ESV / 5 helpful votes
For the unclean they shall take some ashes of the burnt sin offering, and fresh water shall be added in a vessel.

Numbers 5:17 ESV / 5 helpful votes
And the priest shall take holy water in an earthenware vessel and take some of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle and put it into the water.

Numbers 4:16 ESV / 5 helpful votes
“And Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest shall have charge of the oil for the light, the fragrant incense, the regular grain offering, and the anointing oil, with the oversight of the whole tabernacle and all that is in it, of the sanctuary and its vessels.”

2 Corinthians 4:1 ESV / 4 helpful votes
Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.

Acts 2:1-4 ESV / 4 helpful votes
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Mark 14:36 ESV / 4 helpful votes
And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Mark 2:1-28 ESV / 4 helpful votes
And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” …

Matthew 25:1-46 ESV / 4 helpful votes
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. …

Matthew 9:17 ESV / 4 helpful votes
Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”

Isaiah 66:20 ESV / 4 helpful votes
And they shall bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to the Lord, on horses and in chariots and in litters and on mules and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the Lord, just as the Israelites bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord.

Isaiah 42:6 ESV / 4 helpful votes
“I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations,

Deuteronomy 23:9-14 ESV / 4 helpful votes
“When you are encamped against your enemies, then you shall keep yourself from every evil thing. “If any man among you becomes unclean because of a nocturnal emission, then he shall go outside the camp. He shall not come inside the camp, but when evening comes, he shall bathe himself in water, and as the sun sets, he may come inside the camp. “You shall have a place outside the camp, and you shall go out to it. And you shall have a trowel with your tools, and when you sit down outside, you shall dig a hole with it and turn back and cover up your excrement. …

Acts 13:22 ESV / 3 helpful votes
And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’

Jeremiah 19:11 ESV / 3 helpful votes
And shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: So will I break this people and this city, as one breaks a potter’s vessel, so that it can never be mended. Men shall bury in Topheth because there will be no place else to bury.

1 Kings 17:10 ESV / 3 helpful votes
So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.”

Judges 7:16 ESV / 3 helpful votes
And he divided the 300 men into three companies and put trumpets into the hands of all of them and empty jars, with torches inside the jars.

Numbers 7:1 ESV / 3 helpful votes
On the day when Moses had finished setting up the tabernacle and had anointed and consecrated it with all its furnishings and had anointed and consecrated the altar with all its utensils,

Numbers 4:15 ESV / 3 helpful votes
And when Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sanctuary and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, as the camp sets out, after that the sons of Kohath shall come to carry these, but they must not touch the holy things, lest they die. These are the things of the tent of meeting that the sons of Kohath are to carry.

Acts 2:4 ESV / 2 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

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