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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

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The nail of Jael's tent with which she killed Sisera, is called יתד ; it was formed for penetrating earth, or other hard substances, when driven by sufficient force, as with a hammer, &c; it includes the idea of strength. The orientals, in fitting up their houses, were by no means inattentive to the comfort and satisfaction arising from order and method. Their furniture was scanty and plain; but they were careful to arrange the few household utensils they needed, so as not to encumber the apartments to which they belonged. Their devices for this purpose, which, like every part of the structure, bore the character of remarkable simplicity, may not correspond with our ideas of neatness and propriety; but they accorded with their taste, and sufficiently answered their design. One of these consisted in a set of spikes, nails, or large pegs fixed in the walls of the house, upon which they hung up the movables and utensils in common use that belonged to the room. These nails they do not drive into the walls with a hammer or mallet, but fix them there when the house is building; for if the walls are of brick, they are too hard, or if they consist of clay, too soft and mouldering, to admit the action of the hammer. The spikes, which are so contrived as to strengthen the walls, by binding the parts together, as well as to serve for convenience, are large, with square heads like dice, and bent at the ends so as to make them cramp irons. They commonly place them at the windows and doors, in order to hang upon them, when they choose, veils and curtains, although they place them in other parts of the room, to hang up other things of various kinds. The care with which they fixed these nails, may be inferred, as well from the important purposes they were meant to serve, as from the promise of the Lord to Eliakim: "And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place," Isaiah 22:23 . It is evident from the words of the prophet, that it was common in his time to suspend upon them the utensils belonging to the apartment: "Will men take a pin of it to hang any vessel thereon?" Ezekiel 15:3 . The word used in Isaiah for a nail of this sort, is the same which denotes the stake, or large pin of iron, which fastened down to the ground the cords of their tents. These nails, therefore, were of necessary and common use, and of no small importance in all their apartments; and if they seem to us mean and insignificant, it is because they are unknown to us, and inconsistent with our notions of propriety, and because we have no name for them but what conveys to our ear a low and contemptible idea. It is evident from the frequent allusions in Scripture to these instruments, that they were not regarded with contempt or indifference by the natives of Palestine. "Grace has been shown from the Lord our God," said Ezra, "to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place," Ezra 9:8; or, as explained in the margin, a constant and sure abode. The dignity and propriety of the metaphor appear from the use which the Prophet Zechariah makes of it: "Out of him cometh forth the corner, out of him the nail, out of him the battle bow, out of him every oppressor together," Zechariah 10:4 . The whole frame of government, both in church and state, which the chosen people of God enjoyed, was the contrivance of his wisdom and the gift of his bounty; the foundations upon which it rested, the bonds which kept the several parts together, its means of defence, its officers and executors, were all the fruits of distinguishing goodness: even the oppressors of his people were a rod of correction in the hand of Jehovah, to convince them of sin, and restore them to his service.

Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Nail'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​wtd/​n/nail.html. 1831-2.
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