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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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Instances of ancient hospitality occur frequently in the Old Testament. So in the case of Abraham, Genesis xviii, where he invites the angels who appeared in the form of men to rest and refreshment, "And he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat." "Nothing is more common in India," says Mr. Ward, "than to see travellers and guests eating under the shade of trees. Even feasts are never held in houses. The house of a Hindoo serves for the purposes of sleeping and cooking, and of shutting up the women; but is never considered as a sitting or a dining room." "On my return to the boat," says Belzony, "I found the aga and all his retinue seated on a mat, under a cluster of palm trees, close to the water. The sun was then setting, and the shades of the western mountains had reached across the Nile, and covered the town. It is at this time the people recreate themselves in various scattered groups, drinking coffee, smoking their pipes, and talking of camels, horses, asses, dhourra, caravans, or boats." "The aga having prepared a dinner for me," says Mr. Light, "invited several of the natives to sit down. Water was brought in a skin by an attendant, to wash our hands. Two fowls roasted were served up on wheaten cakes, in a wooden bowl, covered with a small mat, and a number of the same cakes in another: in the centre of these were liquid butter, and preserved dates. These were divided, broken up, and mixed together by some of the party, while others pulled the fowls to pieces: which done, the party began to eat as fast as they could: getting up, one after the other, as soon as their hunger was satisfied." "Hospitality to travellers," says Mr. Forbes, "prevails throughout Guzerat: a person of any consideration passing through the province is presented, at the entrance of a village, with fruit, milk, butter, fire wood, and earthen pots for cookery; the women and children offer him wreaths of flowers. Small bowers are constructed on convenient spots, at a distance from a well or lake, where a person is maintained by the nearest villages, to take care of the water jars, and supply all travellers gratis. There are particular villages, where the inhabitants compel all travellers to accept of one day's provisions: whether they be many or few, rich or poor, European or native, they must not refuse the offered bounty."

"So when angelic forms to Syria sent

Sat in the cedar shade, by Abraham's tent, A spacious bowl th' admiring patriarch fills

With dulcet water from the scanty rills;

Sweet fruits and kernels gathers from his hoard, With milk and butter piles the plenteous board; While on the heated hearth his consort bakes Fine flour well kneaded in unleavened cakes,

The guests ethereal quaff the lucid flood, Smile on their hosts, and taste terrestrial food;

And while from seraph lips sweet converse spring, They lave their feet, and close their silver wings. DARWIN.

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

Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Hospitality'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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