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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

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Bed, Couch
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BED.—The word ‘bed’ (κλίνη, κράββατος, κοίτη) is found in the Gospels only in Matthew 9:2; Matthew 9:6, Mark 2:4-12; Mark 4:21; Mark 7:30, Luke 5:18; Luke 8:16; Luke 11:7; Luke 17:34, John 5:8-12. There is little here to indicate the kind of bed, or beds, that were in use among the Hebrews in the time of Christ. Among the ancient Hebrews, however, as among other Oriental peoples of that day, the bed usually consisted of a wadded quilt, or thin mattress, to be used, according to the season, or the condition of the owner, with or without covering (cf. Exodus 22:27 ‘For that [the outer garment worn in the daytime] is his only covering: it is his garment for his skin: wherein shall he sleep?’). The very poor often made their bed of the skins of animals, old cloaks or rugs, or slept in their ordinary clothing on the bare ground floor, as they do to-day in the East.

The bedding ordinarily in use among Orientals now is, doubtless, much the same as it was in Christ’s day: a mat made of rushes or straw to be laid down first; sheep or goat skins, or a quilt stuffed with hair or vegetable fibre, or both, to lie upon; and a covering consisting often only of the ‘cloak,’ or outer garment, of the poor man, but sometimes in summer of some light stuff in addition, or in winter of skins, or some heavier quilted stuff.

Various allusions are made in the Gospels to beds that could be carried: ‘Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house’ (Matthew 9:6); ‘Rise, take up thy bed, and walk’; ‘And immediately the man … took up his bed, and walked’ (John 5:8-9); ‘Behold men bringing on a bed a man that was palsied’ (Luke 5:18 Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885). St. Luke and St. Mark tell us that on this occasion, when, because of the crowd in the house, the four men could not reach Jesus with the paralytic, they took him up on the house-top, broke through the roof, and ‘let him down through the tiling with the couch (κλινίδιον; in Luke 5:18, however, the word κλίνη, ‘bed,’ is used) into the midst before Jesus’ (Luke 5:19), or, as St. Mark puts it, ‘let down the bed (κράββατος) wherein the sick of the palsy lay’ (Luke 2:4).

For ordinary use at night the bed was laid on the floor, generally on the mat, which served to keep it off the ground, frequently on a light portable frame of wood which served a like purpose; but sometimes on a more elevated bedstead (‘under the bed,’ Mark 4:21 Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885). In the morning the bedding was all rolled up, and, after being aired and sunned, was put aside on the raised platform, or packed away for the day in a chest or closet. A bedstead of any pretensions was rare among the Hebrews, and was looked upon as a luxury; the nearest approach to it being in general the raised platform on the side of the room. The richness of beds and of bedsteads among some of the Asiatic peoples, however, was at least equal to that of the Greeks and Romans (cf. Proverbs 7:18; Proverbs 7:17, 1 Samuel 28:23). The degree of richness would depend, of course, upon the wealth of the family and the style of the house or tent, as it does to-day among the Bedawîn.

Usually a room was set apart as a bedroom, where the whole family slept. ‘My children are with me in bed, I cannot rise and give thee’ (Luke 11:5-8). Among the poorest a portion of the single room occupied by the family was set apart for sleeping, and, generally, this was raised above the level of the floor. When the house was of two storeys, the beds were laid in one of the rooms of the upper storey, or, during the summer, preferably, on the flat roof. See, further, art. Couch.

Geo. B. Eager.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Bed'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdn/​b/bed.html. 1906-1918.
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