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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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HOUSE . The history of human habitation in Palestine goes back to the undated spaces of the palæolithic or early stone age (see especially the important chapter on ‘Prehistoric Archæology’ in Vincent, Canaan d’après l’exploration récente , 1907, pp. 373 ff.). The excavations and discoveries, of the last few years in particular, have introduced us to the pre-historic inhabitants whom the Semitic invaders, loosely termed Canaanites or Amorites, found in occupation of the country somewhere in the third millennium before our era ( circa b.c. 2500). The men of this early race were still in the neolithic stage of civilization, their only implements being of polished flint, bone, and wood. They lived for the most part in the natural limestone caves in which Palestine abounds. In the historical period such underground caves (for descriptions and diagrams of some of the more celebrated, see Schumacher, Across the Jordan , 135 146; Bliss and Macalister, Excavations in Palestine , 204 270) were used by the Hebrews as places of refuge in times of national danger ( Judges 6:2 , 1 Samuel 13:6 ) and religious persecution ( 2Ma 6:11 , Hebrews 11:38 ). But it is not with these, or with the tents in which the patriarchs and their descendants lived before the conquest of Canaan, that this article has to deal, but with the houses of clay and stone which were built and occupied after that epoch.

1 . Materials . The most primitive of all the houses for which man has been indebted to his own inventiveness is that formed of a few leafy boughs from the primeval forest, represented in Hebrew history to this day by the booths of OT (see Booth). Of more permanent habitations, the earliest of which traces have been discovered are probably the mud huts , whose foundations were found by Mr. Macalister in the lowest stratum at Gezer, and which are regarded by him as the work of the cave-dwellers of the later stone age ( PEFSt [Note: Quarterly Statement of the same.] , 1904, 110). Clay in the form of bricks, either sun-dried or, less frequently, baked in a kiln (see Brick), and stone ( Leviticus 14:40 ff., Isaiah 9:10 etc.), have been in all ages the building materials of the successive inhabitants of Palestine. Even in districts where stone was available the more tractable material was often preferred. Houses built of crude brick are the ‘houses of clay,’ the unsubstantial nature of which is emphasized in Job 4:19 f., and whose walls a thief or another could easily dig through ( Ezekiel 12:5 , Matthew 6:19 f.).

The excavations have shown that there is no uniformity, even at a given epoch, in the size of bricks, which are both rectangular and square in shape. The largest, apparently, have been found at Taanach, roughly 21 inches by 15 3 / 4, and 4 3 /4 inches in thickness. At Gezer a common size is a square brick 15 inches in the side and 7 inches’ thick ( PEFSt [Note: Quarterly Statement of the same.] , 1902, 319). In the Mishna the standard size is a square brick 9 inches each way ( Erubin , i. 3).

The stone used for house building varied from common field stones and larger, roughly shaped, quarry stones to the carefully dressed wrought stone ( gâzith , 1 Kings 5:17 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ) or ‘hewn-stone, according to measure, sawed with saws’ (7:9), such as was used by Solomon in his building operations. Similarly rubble, wrought stone, and brick are named in the Mishna as the building materials of the time ( Baba bathra , i. 1). For mortar clay was the usual material, although the use of bitumen [wh. see] ( Genesis 11:3 RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] , EV [Note: English Version.] ‘slime’) was not unknown. Wood as a building material was employed mainly for roofing, and to a less extent for internal decoration (see below).

2 . General plan of Hebrew houses . The recent excavations at Gezer and elsewhere have shown that the simplest type of house in Palestine has scarcely altered in any respect for four thousand years. Indeed, its construction is so simple that the possibility of change is reduced to a minimum. In a Syrian village of to-day the typical abode of the fellah consists of a walled enclosure, within which is a small court closed at the farther end by a house of a single room. This is frequently divided into two parts, one level with the entrance, assigned at night to the domestic animals, cows, ass, etc.; the other, about 18 in. higher, occupied by the peasant and his family. A somewhat better class of house consists of two or three rooms, of which the largest is the family living and sleeping room, a second is assigned to the cattle, while a third serves as general store-room (AV [Note: Authorized Version.] closet ).

The Canaanite houses, which the Hebrews inherited (Deuteronomy 6:10 ) and copied, are now known to have been arranged on similar lines (see the diagram of a typical Canaanite house in Gezer, restored by Mr. Macalister in his Bible Sidelights from Gezer [1906], fig. 25). As in all Eastern domestic architecture, the rooms were built on one or more sides of an open court ( 2 Samuel 17:18 , Jeremiah 32:2 etc.). These rooms were of small dimensions, 12 to 15 feet square as a rule, with which may be compared the legal definition of ‘large’ and ‘small’ rooms in the late period of the Mishna. The former was held to measure 15 ft. by 12, with a height, following the model of the Temple ( 1 Kings 6:2 ff.), equal to half the sum of the length and breadth, namely, 13 1 / 2 ft.; a ‘small’ room measured 12ft. by 9, with a height of 10 1 /2 ft. ( Baba bathra , vi. 4).

Should occasion arise, through the marriage of a son or otherwise, to enlarge the house, this was done by building one or more additional rooms on another side of the court. In the case of a ‘man of wealth’ (1 Samuel 9:1 RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ), the house would consist of two or even more courts, in which case the rooms about the ‘inner court’ ( Esther 4:11 ) were appropriated to the women of the family. The court, further, often contained a cistern to catch and retain the precious supply of water that fell in the rainy season ( 2 Samuel 17:18 ). For the question of an upper storey see § 4 .

3 . Foundation and dedication rites . In building a house, the first step was to dig out the space required for the foundation (cf. Matthew 7:24 ff.), after which came the ceremony of the laying of the foundation stone , the ‘ corner stone of sure foundation’ of Isaiah 28:16 (see, further, Corner-Stone). The ‘day of the foundation’ ( 2 Chronicles 8:16 ), as we learn from the poetic figure of Job 38:6 ff., was, as it is at the present day, one of great rejoicing (cf. Ezra 3:11 ).

With the exception of a passage to be cited presently, the OT is silent regarding a foundation rite on which a lurid light has been cast by the latest excavations in Palestine. It is now certain that the Canaanites, and the Hebrews after them, were wont to consecrate the foundation of a new building by a human sacrifice . The precise details of the rite are still uncertain, but there is already ample evidence to show that, down even to ‘the latter half of the Hebrew monarchy’ ( PEFSt [Note: Quarterly Statement of the same.] , 1903, 224), it was a frequent practice to bury infants, whether alive or after previous sacrifice is still doubtful, in large jars ‘generally under the ends of walls, that is, at the corners of houses or chambers or just under the door jambs’ ( ibid. 306). At Megiddo was found the skeleton of a girl of about fifteen years, who had clearly been built alive into the foundation of a fortress; at Taanach was found one of ten years of age; and skeletons of adults have also been discovered.

An interesting development of this rite of foundation sacrifice can be traced from the fifteenth century b.c. onwards. With the jar containing the body of the victim there were at first deposited other jars containing jugs, howls, and a lamp, perhaps also food, as in ordinary burials. Gradually, it would seem, lamps and bowls came to be buried alone, as substitutes and symbols of the human victim, most frequently a lamp within a bowl, with another bowl as covering. Full details of this curious rite cannot be given here, but no other theory so plausible has yet been suggested to explain these ‘lamp and bowl deposits’ (see Macalister’s reports in PEFSt [Note: Quarterly Statement of the same.] , from 1903 esp. p. 306 ff. with illustrations onwards, also his Bible Sidelights , 165 ff.; Vincent, Canaan , 50 f., 192, 198ff.). The only reference to foundation sacrifice in OT is the case of Hiel the Bethelite, who sacrificed his two sons for that such is the true interpretation can now scarcely be doubted his firstborn at the re-founding of Jericho, and his youngest at the completion and dedication of the walls and gates ( 1 Kings 16:34 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ).

Here by anticipation may be taken the rite of the formal dedication of a private house, which is attested by Deuteronomy 20:5 , although the references in Hebrew literature to the actual ceremony are confined to sacred and public buildings ( Leviticus 8:10 ff., 1 Kings 8:1 ff., 1 Kings 8:10 ff., Ezra 6:16 f., Nehemiah 3:1; Nehemiah 12:27 , 1Ma 4:52 ff.). It is not improbable that some of the human victims above alluded to may have been offered in connexion with the dedication or restoration of important buildings (cf. 1 Kings 16:34 above).

On the whole subject it may be said, in conclusion, that, judging from the ideas and practice of the Bedouin when a new tent or ‘house of hair’ is set up, we ought to seek the explanation of the rite of foundation sacrifice a practice which obtains among many races widely separated in space and time in the desire to propitiate the spirit whose abode is supposed to be disturbed by the new foundation (cf. Trumbull, Threshold Covenant , 46 ff.), rather than in the wish to secure the spirit of the victim as the tutelary genius of the new building. This ancient custom still survives in the sacrifice of a sheep or other animal, which is indispensable to the safe occupation of a new house in Moslem lands, and even to the successful inauguration of a public work, such as a railway, or as the other day in Damascus of an electric lighting installation. In the words of an Arab sheik: ‘Every house must have its death man, woman, child, or animal’ (Curitiss, Primitive Semitic Religion To-day ).

4 . Details of construction, walls and floor . The walls of Canaanite and Hebrew houses were for the most part, as we have seen, of crude brick or stone. At Tell el-Hesy (Lachish), for example, we find at one period house walls of ‘dark-brown clay with little straw’; at another, walls of ‘reddish-yellow clay, full of straw’ (Bliss, A Mound of Many Cities , 44). At Gezer Mr. Macalister found a wall that was ‘remarkable for being built in alternate courses of red and white bricks, the red course being four inches in height, the white five inches’ ( PEFSt [Note: Quarterly Statement of the same.] , 1903, 216). As a rule, however, the Gezer house walls consisted of common field stones, among which dressed stones even at corners and door posts are of the rarest possible occurrence. The joints are wide and irregular, and filled with mud packed in the widest places with smaller stones’ ( ibid. 215). The explanation of this simple architecture is that in early times each man built his own house, expert builders ( Psalms 118:22 ) or masons (see Arts and Crafts, § 3 ) being employed only on royal residences, city walls, and other buildings of importance. Hence squared and dressed stones are mentioned in OT only in connexion with such works ( 1 Kings 5:17; 1 Kings 7:9 ) and the houses of the wealthy ( Amos 5:11 , Isaiah 9:10 ). In the Gezer houses of the post-exilic period, however, ‘the stones are well dressed and squared, often as well shaped as a modern brick’ ( PEFSt [Note: Quarterly Statement of the same.] , 1904, 124, with photograph, 125). Between these two extremes are found walls of rubble, and quarry stones of various sizes, roughly trimmed with a hammer. Mud was ‘universally used as mortar .’

In ordinary cases the thickness of the outside walls varied from 18 to 24 inches; that of partition walls, on the other hand, did not exceed 9 to 12 inches ( ib. 118). In NT times the thickness varied somewhat with the materials employed (see Baba bathra , i. 1). It is doubtful if the common view is correct, which finds in certain passages, especially Psalms 118:22 and its NT citations, a reference to a corner stone on the topmost course of masonry (see Corner). In most cases the reference is to the foundation stone at the corner of two walls, as explained above.

The inside walls of stone houses received a ‘ plaister’ (EV [Note: English Version.] ) of clay ( Leviticus 14:41 ff., AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ‘dust,’ RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘mortar’), or, in the better houses, of lime or gypsum ( Daniel 5:5 ). The ‘untempered mortar’ of Ezekiel 13:11; Ezekiel 22:28 was some sort of whitewash applied to the outside walls, as is attested for NT times ( Matthew 23:27 , Acts 23:3 ‘thou whited wall’). In the houses of the wealthy, as in the Temple, it was customary to line the walls with cypress ( 2 Chronicles 3:5 , EV [Note: English Version.] ‘fir’), cedar, and other valuable woods ( 1 Kings 6:15; 1 Kings 6:18; 1 Kings 7:7 ). The ‘cieled houses’ of EV [Note: English Version.] ( Jeremiah 22:14 , Haggai 1:4 etc.) are houses panelled with wood in this way (Cieled). The acme of elegance was represented by cedar panels inlaid with ivory, such as earned for Ahab’s pleasure kiosk the name of ‘the ivory house’ ( 1 Kings 22:39 ) and incurred the denunciation of Amos ( Amos 3:15 ). We also hear of the panelled ‘ cielings ’ of the successive Temples ( 1 Kings 6:15 , 2Ma 1:16 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ).

The floors of the houses were in all periods made of hard beaten clay, the permanence of which to this day has proved to the excavators a precious indication of the successive occupations of the buried cities of Palestine. Public buildings have been found paved with slabs of stone. The better sort of private houses were no doubt, like the Temple ( 1 Kings 6:15 ), floored with cypress and other woods.

The presence of vaults or cellars , in the larger houses at least, is shown by Luke 11:33 RV [Note: Revised Version.] . The excavations also show that when a wholly or partly ruined town was rebuilt, the houses of the older stratum were frequently retained as underground store-rooms of the new houses on the higher level. The reference in 1 Chronicles 27:27-28 to wine and oil ‘cellars’ (EV [Note: English Version.] ) is to ‘stores’ of these commodities, rather than to the places where the latter were kept.

5 . The roof . The ancient houses of Canaan, like their modern representatives, had flat roofs , supported by stout wooden beams laid from wall to wall. Across these were laid smaller rafters ( Song of Solomon 1:17 ), then brushwood, reeds, and the like, above which was a layer of earth several inches thick, while on the top of all came a thick plaster of clay or of clay and lime. It was such a roofing (AV [Note: Authorized Version.] tiling , RV [Note: Revised Version.] tiles , Luke 5:19 ) that the friends of the paralytic ‘broke up’ in order to lower him into the room below ( Mark 2:4 ). The wood for the roof-beams was furnished mostly by the common sycamore, cypress ( Song of Solomon 1:17 ) and cedar ( 1 Kings 6:9 ) being reserved for the homes of the wealthy. Hence the point of Isaiah’s contrast between the humble houses of crude brick, roofed with sycamore, and the stately edifices of hewn stone roofed with cedar ( Isaiah 9:10 ).

It was, and is, difficult to keep such a roof watertight in the rainy season, as Proverbs 27:15 shows. In several houses at Gezer a primitive drain of jars was found for carrying the water from the leaking roof ( Ecclesiastes 10:18 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ) through the floor to the foundations beneath ( PEFSt [Note: Quarterly Statement of the same.] , 1904, 14, with illust.). In the Mishna there is mention of at least two kinds of spout or gutter ( 2 Samuel 5:8 AV [Note: Authorized Version.] , but the sense here is doubtful) for conveying the rain water from the roof to the cistern. Evidence has accumulated in recent years showing that even in the smallest houses it was usual to have the beams of the roof supported by a row of wooden posts, generally three in number, resting on stone bases, ‘from 1 foot 6 inches to 2 feet in diameter’ ( PEFSt [Note: Quarterly Statement of the same.] , 1904, 115, with photo.). The same method was adopted for the roofs of large public buildings (see Bliss, Mound of Many Cities , 91 f., with plan), and Mr. Macalister has ingeniously explained Samson’s feat at the temple of Dagon, by supposing that he slid two of the massive wooden pillars ( Judges 16:29 f.) supporting the portico from their stone supports, thus causing its collapse ( Bible Sidelights , 136 ff. with illust.).

The roof was required by law to be surrounded by a battlement , or rather a parapet, as a protection against accident ( Deuteronomy 22:8 ). Access to the roof was apparently obtained, as at the present day, by an outside stair leading from the court. Our EV [Note: English Version.] finds winding stairs in the Temple ( 1 Kings 6:8 ), and some sort of inner stair or ladder is required by the reference to the secret trapdoor in 2Ma 1:16 . The roof or housetop was put to many uses, domestic ( Joshua 2:6 ) and other. It was used, in particular, for recreation ( 2 Samuel 11:2 ) and for sleeping ( 1 Samuel 9:25 f.), also for prayer and meditation ( Acts 10:9 ), lamentation ( Isaiah 15:3 , Jeremiah 48:38 ), and even for idolatrous worship ( Jeremiah 19:13 , Zephaniah 1:5 ). For these and other purposes a tent ( 2 Samuel 16:22 ) or a booth ( Nehemiah 8:16 ) might be provided, or a permanent roof-chamber might be erected. Such were the ‘chamber with walls’ ( 2 Kings 4:10 RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ) erected for Elisha, the ‘summer parlour ’ ( Judges 3:20 , lit. as RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ‘upper chamber of cooling’) of Eglon, and the ‘ loft ’ (RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘chamber’) of 1 Kings 17:19 .

Otherwise the houses of Palestine were, as a rule, of one storey. Exceptions were confined to the houses of the great, and to crowded cities like Jerusalem and Samaria. Ahaziah’s upper chamber in the latter city (2 Kings 1:2 ) may well have been a room in the second storey of the royal palace, where was evidently the window from which Jezebel was thrown ( 2 Kings 9:33 ). The same may be said of the ‘upper room’ in which the Last Supper was held ( Mark 14:15 ||; cf. Acts 1:13 ). It was a Greek city, however, in which Eutychus fell from a window in the ‘ third story ’ ( Acts 20:9 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ).

6 . The door and its parts . The door consisted of four distinct parts: the door proper, the threshold , the lintel ( Exodus 12:7 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ), and the two doorposts . The first of these was of wood, and was hung upon projecting pivots of wood, the hinges of Proverbs 26:14 , which turned in corresponding sockets in the threshold and lintel respectively. Like the Egyptians and Babylonians, the Hebrews probably cased the pivots and sockets of heavy doors with bronze; those of the Temple doors were sheathed in gold ( 1 Kings 7:50 ). In the Hauran, doors of a single slab of stone with stone pivots are still found in situ. Folding doors are mentioned only in connexion with the Temple ( 1 Kings 6:34 ).

The threshold ( Judges 19:27 , 1 Kings 14:17 etc.) or sill must have been invariably of stone. Among the Hebrews, as among so many other peoples of antiquity, a special sanctity attached to the threshold (see Trumbull, The Threshold Covenant, passim ). The doorposts or jambs were square posts of wood ( 1 Kings 7:5 , Ezekiel 41:21 ) or of stone. The command of Deuteronomy 6:9; Deuteronomy 11:20 gave rise to the practice, still observed in all Jewish houses, of enclosing a piece of parchment containing the words of Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Deuteronomy 11:13-21 in a small case of metal or wood, which is nailed to the doorpost, hence its modern name mezuzah (‘doorpost’).

Doors were locked (Judges 3:23 f.) by an arrangement similar to that still in use in Syria (see the illust. in Hastings’ DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] li. 836). This consists of a short upright piece of wood, fastened on the inside of the door, through which a square wooden bolt ( Song of Solomon 5:5 , Nehemiah 3:3 RV [Note: Revised Version.] , for AV [Note: Authorized Version.] lock) passes at right angles into a socket in the jamb of the door. When the bolt is shot by the hand, three to six small iron pins drop from the upright into holes in the bolt, which is hollow at this part. The latter cannot now be drawn back without the proper key . This is a flat piece of wood straight or bent as the case may be into the upper surface of which pins have been fixed corresponding exactly in number and position to the holes in the bolt. The person wishing to enter the house ‘puts in his hand by the hole of the door’ ( Song of Solomon 5:4 ), and inserts the key into the hollow part of the bolt in such a way that the pins of the key will displace those in the holes of the bolt, which is then easily withdrawn from the socket and the door is open.

In the larger houses it was customary to have a man (Mark 13:34 ) or a woman ( 2 Samuel 4:6 RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] , John 18:17 ) to act as a doorkeeper or porter . In the palaces of royalty this was a military duty ( 1 Kings 14:27 ) and an office of distinction ( Esther 2:21; Esther 6:2 ).

7 . Lighting and heating . The ancient Hebrew houses must have been very imperfectly lighted. Indeed, it is almost certain that, in the poorer houses at least, the only light available was admitted through the doorway (cf. Sir 42:11 [Heb. text], ‘Let there be no casement where thy daughter dwells’), in any case, such windows as did exist were placed high up in the walls, at least six feet from the ground, according to the Mishna. We have no certain monumental evidence as to the size and construction of the windows of Hebrew houses (but see for a probable stone window-frame, 20 inches high, Bliss and Macalister, Excavs. in Palest . 143 and pl. 73). They may, however, safely be assumed to have been much smaller than those to which we are accustomed, although the commonest variety, the challôn , was large enough to allow a man to pass out ( Joshua 2:15 , 1 Samuel 19:12 ) or in ( Joel 2:9 ). Another variety ( ’arubbah ) was evidently smaller, since it is used also to designate the holes of a dovecot ( Isaiah 60:8 EV [Note: English Version.] ‘windows’). These and other terms are rendered in our versions by ‘window,’ lattice , and casement ( Proverbs 7:6 AV [Note: Authorized Version.] and RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘lattice’). None of these, of course, was filled with glass. Like the windows of Egyptian houses, they were doubtless closed with wood or lattice-work, which could be opened when necessary ( 2 Kings 13:17 ). An obscure expression in 1 Kings 6:4 is rendered by RV [Note: Revised Version.] , ‘windows of fixed lattice-work.’ During the hours of darkness, light was supplied by the small oil lamp which was kept continually burning (see Lamp).

Most of the houses excavated show a depression of varying dimensions in the floor, either in the centre or in a corner, which, from the obvious traces of fire, was clearly the family hearth ( Isaiah 30:14 ). Wood was the chief fuel (see Coal), supplemented by withered vegetation of all sorts ( Matthew 6:30 ), and probably, as at the present day, by dried cow and camel dung ( Ezekiel 4:15 ). The pungent smoke, which was trying to the eyes ( Proverbs 10:26 ), escaped by the door or by the window, for the chimney of Hosea 13:3 is properly ‘window’ or ‘casement’ ( ’arubbah , see above). In the cold season the upper classes warmed their rooms by means of a brasier ( Jeremiah 36:22 f. RV [Note: Revised Version.] ), or fire-pan ( Zechariah 12:6 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ).

8 . Furniture of the house . This in early times was of the simplest description. Even at the present day the fellahin sit and sleep mostly on mats and mattresses spread upon the floor. So the Hebrew will once have slept, wrapped in his simlah or cloak as ‘his only covering’ ( Exodus 22:27 ), while his household gear will have consisted’ mainly of the necessary utensils for the preparation of food, to which the following section is devoted. Under the monarchy, however, when a certain ‘great woman’ of Shunem proposed to furnish ‘a little chamber over the wall’ for Elisha, she named ‘a bed and a table and a stool and a candlestick’ ( 2 Kings 4:10 ), and we know otherwise that while the poor man slept on a simple mat of straw or rushes in the single room that served as living and sleeping room, the well-to-do had not only beds but bedchambers ( 2 Samuel 4:7 , 2 Kings 11:2 , Jdt 16:19 etc.). The former consisted of a framework of wood, on which were laid cushions ( Amos 3:12 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ), ‘carpets’ and ‘striped cloths’ ( Proverbs 7:16 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ). We bear also of the ‘bed’s head’ ( Genesis 47:31 ) or curved end, as figured by Wilkinson, Anc. Egyp . i. 416, fig. 191 (where note the steps for ‘going up’ to the bed; cf. 1 Kings 1:4 ). Bolsters have rightly disappeared from RV [Note: Revised Version.] , which renders otherwise (see 1 Samuel 19:13; 1 Samuel 26:7 etc.); the pillow also from Genesis 28:11; Genesis 28:18 and Mark 4:38 (RV [Note: Revised Version.] here, ‘cushion’), and where it is retained, as 1 Samuel 19:13 , the sense is doubtful. Reference may be made to the richly appointed bed of Holofernes, with its gorgeous mosquito curtain ( Jdt 10:21; Jdt 13:9 ).

The bed often served as a couch by day ( Ezekiel 23:41 , Amos 3:12 RV [Note: Revised Version.] see also Meals, § 3 ), and it is sometimes uncertain which is the more suitable rendering. In Esther 1:6 , for example, RV [Note: Revised Version.] rightly substitutes ‘couches’ for ‘beds’ in the description of the magnificent divans of gold and silver in the palace of Ahasuerus (cf. Esther 7:8 ). The wealthy and luxurious contemporaries of Amos had their beds and couches inlaid with ivory ( Amos 6:4 ), and furnished, according to RV [Note: Revised Version.] , with ‘silken cushions’ ( Amos 3:12 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ).

As regards the stool above referred to, and the seats of the Hebrews generally, it must suffice to state that the seats of the contemporary Egyptians (for illustt. see Wilkinson, op. cit. i. 408 ff.) and Assyrians were of two main varieties, namely, stools and chairs . The former were constructed either with a square frame or after the shape of our camp-stools; the latter with a straight or rounded back only, or with a back and arms. The Hebrew word for Elisha’s stool is always applied elsewhere to the seats of persons of distinction and the thrones of kings; it must therefore have been a chair rather than a stool, although the latter is its usual meaning in the Mishna (Krengel, Das Hausgerät in der Mishnah , 10 f. a mine of information regarding the furniture, native and foreign, to be found in Jewish houses in later times). Footstools were also in use ( 2 Chronicles 9:18 and oft., especially in metaphors).

The tables were chiefly of wood, and, like those of the Egyptians (Wilkinson, op. cit. i. 417 f. with illustt.), were ‘round, square, or oblong,’ as the Mishna attests. They were relatively much smaller and lower than ours (see, further, Meals, § 4 ).

The fourth article in Elisha’s room was a candlestick , really a lampstand , for which see Lamp. It would extend this article beyond due limits to discuss even a selection from the many other articles of furniture, apart from those reserved for the closing section, which are named in Biblical and post-Biblical literature, or which have been brought to light in surprising abundance by the recent excavations. Mention can he made only of articles of toilet, such as the ‘molten mirror ’ of Job 37:18 (AV [Note: Authorized Version.] looking-glass) , the paint-pot ( 2 Kings 9:30 ), pins and needles, of which many specimens in bone, bronze, and silver have been found; of the distaff, spindle, and loom (see Spinning and Weaving), for the manufacture of the family garments, and the chest for holding them; and finally, of the children’s cradle (Krengel, op. cit . 26), and their toys of clay and bone.

9 . Utensils connected with food . Conspicuous among the ‘earthen vessels’ ( 2 Samuel 17:28 ) of every household was the water-jar or pitcher ( kad ) the barrel of 1 Kings 18:33 , Amer. RV [Note: Revised Version.] jar in which water was fetched from the village well ( Genesis 24:15 , Mark 14:13 , and oft.). From this smaller jar, carried on head or shoulder, the water was emptied into the larger waterpots of John 2:6 . Large jars were also required for the household provisions of wheat and barley one variety in NT times was large enough to hold a man. Others held the store of olives and other fruits. The cruse was a smaller jar with one or two handles, used for carrying water on a journey ( 1 Samuel 26:11 f., 1 Kings 19:6 ), also for holding oil ( 1 Kings 17:12 ). (See, further, art. Pottery, and the elaborate studies, with illustrations, of the thousands of ‘potter’s vessels’ which the excavations have brought to light, in the great work of Bliss and Macalister entitled Excavations in Palestine , 1898 1900, pp. 71 141, with plates 20 55; also Vincent’s Canaan d’après l’exploration récente , 1907, pp. 296 360, with the illustrations there and throughout the book).

The bucket of Numbers 24:7 , Isaiah 40:15 was a water-skin, probably adapted, as at the present day, for drawing water by having two pieces of wood inserted crosswise at the mouth. The main use of skins among the Hebrews, however, was to hold the wine and other fermented liquors. The misleading rendering bottles is retained in RV [Note: Revised Version.] except where the context requires the true rendering ‘ skins ’ or ‘ wine-skins ’ ( Joshua 9:4; Joshua 9:13 , Matthew 9:17 ). For another use of skins see Milk. ‘After the water-skins,’ says Doughty, ‘a pair of mill-stones is the most necessary husbandry in an Arabian household,’ and so it was among the Hebrews, as may be seen in the article Mill.

No house was complete without a supply of baskets of various sizes and shapes for the bread ( Exodus 29:23 ) and the fruit ( Deuteronomy 26:2 ), and even in early times for the serving of meat ( Judges 6:19 ). Among the ‘vessels of wood’ of Leviticus 15:12 was the indispensable wooden howl, which served as a kneading-trough ( Exodus 12:34 ), and various other bowls , such as the ‘lordly dish’ of the nomad Jael ( Judges 5:25 ) and the bowl of Gideon ( Judges 6:38 ), although the howls were mostly of earthenware (see Bowl).

As regards the actual preparation of food, apart from the oven (for which see Bread), our attention is drawn chiefly to the various members of the pot family, so to say. Four of these are named together in 1 Samuel 2:14 , the kiyyôr , the dûd , the qallachath , and the pârûr , rendered respectively the pan , the kettle , the caldron , and the pot . Elsewhere these terms are rendered with small attempt at consistency; while a fifth, the most frequently named of all, the sîr , is the flesh-pot of Exodus 3:16 , the ‘great pot’ of 2 Kings 4:38 , and the ‘caldron’ of Jeremiah 1:13 . In what respect these differed it is impossible to say. The sîr was evidently of large size and made of bronze ( 1 Kings 7:45 ), while the pârûr was small and of earthenware, hence ben-Sira’s question: ‘What fellowship hath the [earthen] pot with the [bronze] caldron?’ ( Sir 13:2 , Heb. text). The kiyyôr , again, was wide and shallow, rather than narrow and deep. Numerous illustrations of cooking-pots from OT times may be seen in the recent works above referred to. The only cooking utensils known to be of iron are the baking-pan ( Leviticus 2:5 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ), probably a shallow iron plate (see Ezekiel 4:3 ), and the frying-pan ( Leviticus 2:7 ). A knife , originally of flint ( Joshua 5:2 ) and later of bronze, was required for cutting up the meat to be cooked ( Genesis 22:6; Genesis 22:10 , Judges 19:29 ), and a fork for lifting it from the pot ( 1 Samuel 2:13 EV [Note: English Version.] fleshhook [wh. see]).

In the collection of pottery figured in Bliss and Macalister’s work one must seek the counterparts of the various dishes, mostly wide, deep howls, in which we read of food being served, such as the ‘ dish ’ from which the sluggard is too lazy to withdraw his hand ( Proverbs 19:24 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ), and the chargers of Numbers 7:13 , though here they are of silver (see, further, Meals, § 5 ). In the same work the student will find an almost endless variety of cups , some for drawing the ‘cup of cold water’ from the large water-jars, others for wine flagons , jugs, and juglets. The material of all of these will have ascended from the coarsest earthenware to bronze ( Leviticus 6:28 ), and from bronze to silver ( Numbers 7:13 , Jdt 12:1 ) and gold ( 1 Kings 10:21 , Esther 1:7 ), according to the rank and wealth of their owners and the purposes for which they were designed.

A. R. S. Kennedy.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'House'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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