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Bible Dictionaries

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary

House


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Israel’s conquest of Canaan under Joshua led to a new way of life for the Israelite people. One feature of this new way of life was a change in their domestic accommodation. Instead of being a wandering people who lived in tents and other temporary shelters, they were now a settled people who lived in houses (cf. Numbers 24:5; see TENT).

The Israelites built some of these houses themselves, but others they took over from the Canaanites. Often the houses were grouped together in villages or towns, where a surrounding wall protected them against attack. Farmers went out of the town and farmed their fields during the day, and returned to the safety of their homes at night (Judges 9:42-45; 1 Samuel 6:18; 1 Chronicles 27:25).

The Israelite house

An ancient Israelite house was usually rectangular in plan, two storeyed, made of either stones or bricks, and covered on the inside walls with plaster (Leviticus 14:40-42; cf. Exodus 5:7). The house had to be built on a solid foundation, and the whole structure was held together by being built into huge stones at the corners of the building (Isaiah 28:16; Matthew 7:24-27; Matthew 21:42; see CORNERSTONE).

Outside the house, steps led up to the roof, which was a flat area used as a place to relax, sleep, pray and worship (Jeremiah 32:29; Mark 2:4; Mark 13:15; Acts 10:9). A railing or low wall around the edge of the roof prevented people from accidentally falling off (Deuteronomy 22:8).

Inside the larger houses was a central courtyard where women did much of the cooking, washing and other household work. Water pots, jars and household utensils were usually kept in this courtyard (Isaiah 44:16; Jeremiah 25:10; Ezekiel 24:3-5; Mark 7:4; Luke 22:55). People stored their family food and valuable possessions in the house, along with their farm tools and, at times, food for their animals (Judges 19:21). Windows were usually covered with lattice for security (Song of Song of Solomon 2:9).

The upper floor of a house may have consisted of one large room or may have been divided into several smaller rooms. This upper floor was used for sleeping, for accommodating guests, or for holding large gatherings (Luke 22:12; Acts 1:12; Acts 20:8). In most houses furniture was simple, consisting only of those articles that were necessary (2 Kings 4:10). The houses of the rich, by contrast, were furnished lavishly (Amos 3:15; Amos 6:4-6).

Making good use of the house

God’s people are expected to use their houses, as they should use all things, for the glory of God (Colossians 3:17). The house should, above all, be a home, where children and adults can live together in a healthy and enjoyable family life (1 Timothy 3:4; 1 Timothy 3:12; 1 Timothy 5:14; see FAMILY).

But Christians must not use their houses solely for their own benefit. Their houses should be places where other Christians can enjoy fellowship (Acts 2:46; Acts 16:15; Acts 16:34; Acts 21:8) and perhaps have regular meetings (Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15). They should use their houses to practise hospitality at all times – not just in entertaining friends, but in providing generous help and friendship to the lonely, the poor and the needy (Isaiah 58:7; Matthew 25:35; Hebrews 13:2; see HOSPITALITY).


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Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'House'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/bbd/h/house.html. 2004.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, November 27th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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