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“Make a lampstand of pure gold. Hammer out its base and shaft, and make its flowerlike cups, buds and blossoms of one piece with them. Six branches are to extend from the sides of the lampstand—three on one side and three on the other. Three cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms are to be on one branch, three on the next branch, and the same for all six branches extending from the lampstand. And on the lampstand there are to be four cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms. One bud shall be under the first pair of branches extending from the lampstand, a second bud under the second pair, and a third bud under the third pair—six branches in all. The buds and branches shall all be of one piece with the lampstand, hammered out of pure gold.

“Then make its seven lamps and set them up on it so that they light the space in front of it. Its wick trimmers and trays are to be of pure gold. A talent of pure gold is to be used for the lampstand and all these accessories.

EXE 25:31-39 NIV

Basic Information

A lamp is a portable light source that burns liquid fuel. The lamp itself is mostly a container for the liquid in which one or more fibrous wicks serve as points of ignition. Lamp fuel is typically an organic oil, either biological (such as animal fat or olive oil) or geological (such as paraffin or rock oil), fairly viscous and not volatile enough that it can be ignited without using a wick - more advanced versions, capable of maintaining a pressure seal, might use flammable gases or the vapour of more volatile fuels, but these are quite a small chapter in the history of lamp making. Wicks may be made of anything from plant fibre to asbestos, depending on the nature of the lamp and its fuel.

The earliest lamps seem to appear in the late stone age and consist of simple, bowl like, clay structures with a partially floating wick, often burning animal fat. The more familiar 'teapot' design, whether in clay or metal appears during the bronze age and survives into the 20th century, typically with a plant oil fuel. More modern designs are basically lanterns built around an oil lamp. For much of history, lamps and lamp stands were a significant piece of domestic furniture for cultures that used them and decent quality metal ones (especially decorative ones made from or with precious metals) could count as treasure.

In modern usage "lamp" may also refer to any non-directional light source including fluorescent 'bulbs' and LED based light sources. In the US it may even extend to large, directional light sources such as vehicle headlights ("headlamp") and floodlights ("floodlamp").


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Note the point about lamp oil - it is not the napalm like substance that so many RPGs seem to think it is. If it was, exploding lamps would be a major cause of death and injury.
    • Oil lamps were, historically, a fairly common cause of domestic fires, but usually because the oil soaked into some soft furnishings that acted like a giant wick, not because someone knocked them over and they went up like a Molotov cocktail.
    • Spirit lamps, running on alcoholic spirits, are more volatile, but were not that common historically speaking (as until fairly recently, distilled alcohol was expensive stuff).
  • These are not actually that practical as adventuring kit - being unsealed and full of liquid they have a nasty tendency to spill if not carefully handled. "Lanternised" versions may be more robust.
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