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Smith's Bible Dictionary
House. The houses of the rural poor in Egypt, as well as in most parts of Syria, Arabia and Persia, are generally mere huts of mud or sunburnt bricks. In some parts of Palestine and Arabia, stone is used, and, in certain districts, caves in the rocks are used as dwellings. Amos 5:11. The houses are usually of one story only, namely, the ground floor, and often contain only one apartment.
Sometimes, a small court for the cattle is attached; and, in some cases, the cattle are housed in the same building, or they live in a raised platform, and, the cattle round them on the ground. 1 Samuel 28:24. The windows are small apertures high up in the walls, sometimes grated with wood. The roofs are commonly, but not always flat, and are usually formed of a plaster of mud and straw laid upon boughs or rafters; and upon the flat roofs, tents or "booths" of boughs or rushes are often raised, to be used as sleeping-places in summer.
The difference between the poorest houses, and those of the class next above them, is greater than between these and the houses of the first rank. The prevailing plan of eastern houses of this class presents, as was the case in ancient Egypt, a front of wall, whose blank and mean appearance, is usually relieved only by the door and a few latticed and projecting windows. Within this, is a court or courts with apartments opening into them. Over the door is a projecting window with a lattice more or less elaborately wrought, which, except in times of public celebrations, is usually closed. 2 Kings 9:30.
An awning is sometimes drawn over the court, and the floor is strewed with carpets on festive occasions. The stairs to the upper apartments are, in Syria, usually in a corner of the court. Around part, if not the whole, of the court is a veranda, often nine or ten feet deep, over which, when there is more than one floor, runs a second gallery of like depth, with a balustrade. When there is no second floor, but more than one court, the women's apartments - hareems, harem or haram - are usually in the second court; otherwise, they form a separate building within the general enclosure, or are above on the first floor.
When there is an upper story, the ka'ah forms the most important apartment, and thus, probably, answers to the "upper room," which was often the guest-chamber. Luke 22:12; Acts 1:13; Acts 9:37; Acts 20:8. The windows of the upper rooms often project one or two feet, and form a kiosk or latticed chamber. Such may have been "the chamber in the wall." 2 Kings 4:10-11. The "lattice," through which Ahasiah fell, perhaps belonged to an upper chamber of this kind, 2 Kings 1:2, as also the "third loft," from which Eutychus fell. Acts 20:9. Compare Jeremiah 22:13.
Paul preached in such a room on account of its superior rise and retired position. The outer circle in an audience in such a room sat upon a dais, or upon cushions elevated so as to be as high as the window-sill. From such a position, Eutychus could easily fall. There are usually no special bed-rooms in eastern houses. The outer doors are closed with a wooden lock, but, in some cases, the apartments are divided from each other by curtains only. There are no chimneys, but fire is made, when required, with charcoal in a chafing-dish; or a fire of wood might be made in the open court of the house. Luke 22:65.
Some houses in Cairo have an apartment open in front to the court with two or more arches and a railing, and a pillar to support the wall above. It was in a chamber of this size to be found in a palace, that our Lord was being arraigned, before the high priest, at the time when the denial of him, by St. Peter, took place. He "turned and looked" on Peter as he stood by the fire in the court, Luke 22:56; Luke 22:61; John 18:24, whilst he himself was in the "hall of judgment."
In no point do Oriental domestic habits differ more from European than in the use of the roof. Its flat surface is made useful for various household purposes, such as drying corn, hanging up linen, and preparing figs and raisins. The roofs are used as places of recreation in the evening, and, often, as sleeping-places at night. 1 Samuel 9:25-26; 2 Samuel 11:2; 2 Samuel 16:22; Job 27:18; Proverbs 21:9; Daniel 4:29. They were also used as places for devotion and even idolatrous worship. 2 Kings 23:12; Jeremiah 19:13; Jeremiah 32:29; Zephaniah 1:6; Acts 10:9.
At the time of the Feast of Tabernacles, booths were erected by the Jews, on the top of their houses. Protection of the roof by parapets was enjoined by the law. Deuteronomy 22:8. Special apartments were devoted in larger houses to winter and summer uses. Jeremiah 36:22; Amos 3:15. The ivory house of Ahab was probably a palace largely ornamented with inlaid ivory. The circumstance of Samson's pulling down the house by means of the pillars may be explained by the fact of the company being assembled on tiers of balconies above each other, supported by central pillars on the basement; when these were pulled down, the whole of the upper floors would fall also. Judges 16:26.
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Smith, William, Dr. Entry for 'House'. Smith's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/sbd/h/house.html. 1901.
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26