WHAT IS A “FULLER?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
“Fuller” is found five times in a King James Bible. We can use context clues to develop a sense of its definition.
- 2 Kings 18:17: “And the king of Assyria sent Tartan and Rabsaris and Rabshakeh from Lachish to king Hezekiah with a great host against Jerusalem. And they went up and came to Jerusalem. And when they were come up, they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is in the highway of the fuller’s field.”
- Isaiah 7:3: “Then said the LORD unto Isaiah, Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou, and Shearjashub thy son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller’s field;….”
- Isaiah 36:2: “And the king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh from Lachish to Jerusalem unto king Hezekiah with a great army. And he stood by the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller’s field.”
- Malachi 3:2: “But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap:…”
- Mark 9:3: “And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them.”
Firstly, relying on Kings and Isaiah, we ascertain a “fuller” is connected to pools and conduits (channels of water). Secondly, Malachi speaks of a “fuller” using soap. Finally, in Mark, a “fuller” is said to whiten raiment (clothes). Could it be any more apparent? A “fuller” is simply one who “fulls”—that is, bleaches or cleanses—laundry.
In Bible times, clothes were washed by beating them with a bat, or stomping on them, in a tub of water. Various alkaline substances were used as a crude “detergent.” While soap may have been employed (Malachi), natron or salt was equally helpful here (see “nitre” in Proverbs 25:20 and Jeremiah 2:22). Cimolite, a white clay, or chalk were used as “bleach” or whitening agents. As in Kings and Isaiah, fullers worked in a “field” outside the city of Jerusalem. They needed large spaces to air or dry the laundered articles. Also, since their work involved pungent and unpleasant odors, they were situated away from populated areas.
As touching the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark), and Christ’s clothing “being exceeding white as snow,” this was far beyond the work of any human or earthly launderer. It was a display of God’s purity or righteousness, a glimpse of His stunning kingdom glory to be revealed in the Earth one day. Actually, Malachi likens the Lord Jesus to fullers’ soap, returning to wash away the filthiness of sin!