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American Tract Society Bible Dictionary

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Is regarded by all oriental nations as one of the highest virtues. The following notices by modern travellers serve to illustrate very striking many passages of Scripture. Thus De la Roque says, "We did not arrive at the foot of the mountain till after sunset, and it was almost night when we entered the plain; but as it was full of villages, mostly inhabited by Maronites, we entered into the first we came to, to pass the night there. It was the priest of the place who wished to receive us; he gave us a supper under the trees before his little dwelling. As we were at the table, there came by a stranger, wearing a whit turban, who after have saluted the company, sat himself down to the table without ceremony, ate with us during some time, and then went away, repeating several times the name of God. They told us it was some traveller who no doubt stood in need of refreshment, and who had profited by the opportunity, according to the custom of the East, which is to exercise hospitality at all times and towards all persons." This reminds us of the guests of Abraham, Genesis 18:1-33 , of the conduct of Job, Job 31:17 , and of the frankness with which the apostles of Christ were to enter into a man's house after a salutation, and there to continue "eating and drinking such things as were set before them," Luke 10:7 . The universal prevalence of such customs, and of the spirit of hospitality, may help to explain the indignation of James and John against certain rude Samaritans, Luke 9:52-56 , and also the stern retribution exacted for the crime of the men of Gibeah, Judges 19:1; 20:48 .

Says Niebuhr, "the hospitality of the Arabs has always been the subject of praise; and I believe that those of the present day exercise this virtue no less than their ancestors did. When the Arabs are at table, they invite those who happen to come, to eat with them, whether they are Christians or Mohammedas, gentle or simple. In the caravans, I have often seen with pleasure a mule-driver press those who passed to partake of his repast; and though the majority politely excused themselves, he gave, with an air of satisfaction, to those who would accept of it, a portion of his little meal of bread and dates; and I was not a little surprised when I saw, in Turkey, rich Turks withdraw themselves into corners, to avoid inviting those who might otherwise have sat at table with them."

We ought to notice here also the obligations understood to be contracted by the intercourse of the table. Niebuhr says, "When a Bedaween sheik eats bread with strangers, they may trust his fidelity and depend on his protection. A traveller will always do well therefore to take an early opportunity of securing the friendship of his guide by a meal." This brings to recollection the complaint of the psalmist, Psalm 41:9 , penetrated with the deep ingratitude of one whom he describes as having been his own familiar friend, in whom he trusted, "who did eat of my bread, even he hath lifted up his heel against me."

Beautiful pictures of primitive hospitality may be found in Genesis 18:1-19:38 Exodus 2:20 Judges 13:15 19:1-9 . The incidents of the first two narratives may have suggested the legends of the Greeks and Romans, which represent their gods as sometimes coming to them disguised as travellers, in order to test their hospitality, etc., Hebrews 13:2 .

The primitive Christians considered one principal part of their duty to consist in showing hospitality to strangers, Romans 12:13 1 Timothy 5:10; remembering that our Savior had said, whoever received those belonging to him, received himself; and that whatever was given to such a one, though but a cup of cold water, should not lose it reward, Matthew 10:40-42 25:34-45 . They were, in fact, so ready in discharging this duty, that the very heathen admired them for it. They were hospitable to all strangers, but especially to those of the household of faith. Believers scarcely ever traveled without letters of communion, which testified the purity of their faith, and procured them a favorable reception wherever the name of Jesus Christ was known. Indeed, some supposed that the two minor epistles of John may be such letters of communion and recommendation.

Bibliography Information
Rand, W. W. Entry for 'Hospitality'. American Tract Society Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​ats/​h/hospitality.html. 1859.
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