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Dwelling. The dwellings of the poor in oriental lands are generally mere huts of mud or sun-burnt bricks. The earliest form of human habitation was probably a booth, though Cain built a city. Genesis 4:17. The patriarchs were chiefly dwellers in tents, a form of habitation invented or adopted by Jabal. Genesis 4:17-20. Of the various forms of dwellings common in early times, and alluded to in Scriptures, we may mention; 1. The booth. 2. The tent. 3. The cave dwellings. 4. The house of varied materials—wood, dried mud, brick, stone, etc. The fathers of the Israelitish nation for the most part dwelt in tents. They were, in the providence of God, pilgrims in a land which should be given as a settled home to their posterity; wholesome lessons being thus taught them, and their example being to be afterwards quoted for the confirmation of the faith of the church. Acts 7:4-5; Hebrews 11:8-10. Jacob indeed is said to have "built him a house at Succoth," Genesis 33:17; but the original word so rendered is of vague signification, and comprises almost every kind of erection, from the humblest hut or even tent to the gorgeous palace or sacred temple. After leaving Egypt, the Israelites inhabited tents in the wilderness; so that it was not till they occupied Canaan that they were domiciled in houses properly so called. In the cities which they took—the few excepted which they were commanded to destroy—they found houses ready to their hand. Deuteronomy 6:10-11; Joshua 24:13. Some of the material of these houses may be still existing in the massive dwellings of Bashan, altered from what they were when the victorious tribes took possession of them.

The Plan. Probably the houses of the ancient Israelites differed little from those inhabited by modern Syrians. We may well, therefore, derive our illustrations of such as are mentioned in the Bible from usages of the present day. 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, viz., 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 the people live on 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, or of tiles or flat stones, supported by beams of wood. 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 materials of the better class of houses were stone, marble, and other costly kinds, perhaps, porphyry, basalt, etc., 1 Chronicles 29:2. carefully squared, panelled, and fitted, Amos 5:11, cemented in Babylonia with bitumen. Genesis 11:3, with clay, or mortar composed of lime, ashes, and sand, straw being sometimes added. Inferior materials, and want of proper mixing, would make this mortar liable to crumble, Ezekiel 13:10-15, in rainy weather. Sometimes stones were fastened together with iron clamps or lead. Bricks, kiln-burnt, were probably also used. Other materials were timber, such as cedar, shittim (acacia), sycamore, olive, and in palaces algum and cypress. Exodus 26:15; 1 Kings 6:15-16; 1 Kings 6:32-34; 1 Kings 7:8; 1 Kings 7:12; 1 Kings 10:12; Isaiah 9:10. The precious metals and ivory were also employed for overlaying woodwork, etc., 1 Kings 6:35; 1 Kings 22:39; Amos 3:15.

A modern eastern house of the better class presents a dead wall to the street, with an interior court. There is a low entrance door with an inscription from the Koran, and over it a latticed window, or kiosk, sometimes projecting like our antique bay-windows; there may be also a few other small latticed windows high up in the wall. A passage from the outer door, which is attended to by the porter, John 18:16-17; Acts 12:13-14, leads into the first or outer court, but is so contrived that the entrance to the court is not exactly opposite to the external door; so that no view of the court is obtained from the street, nor any of the street from the court. The principal apartment looks into this court, and some of them are open to it. The court is occasionally shaded by an awning; and on the floor or pavement of it, rugs are spread on festive occasions; while in the centre there is often a fountain. Around the court, or part of it, a veranda runs, and over this, when the house has more than one story, there is often another balustraded gallery. In the corner of the court are the stairs to the upper apartments. Immediately opposite the side of entrance is the principal reception room, open to the court. It has a raised terrace or platform, and is richly fitted up with sofas (the divân) round three sides, and probably with a fountain in the centre. Here the master of the house receives his visitors, his place being the corner of the divân, and each person taking off his shoes before he steps upon the raised portion of the apartment. When there is no second floor, out more than one court, the women's apartments—hâreem, 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 most important apartment 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 latticed chamber. See "the chamber in the wall." 2 Kings 4:10-11. The "lattice" through which Ahaziah fell perhaps belonged to an upper chamber of this kind, 2 Kings 1:2, as also the "third story," from which Eutychus fell. Acts 20:9; comp. Jeremiah 22:13. Paul preached in such a room on account of its superior size 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 rooms specially for sleeping 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 brazier, or a fire of wood might be kindled in the open court of the house. Luke 22:55. It was in a house built after this manner, probably, that our Lord was arraigned before the high priest at the time when the denial of him by Peter took place. He "turned and looked" on Peter as he stood by the fire in the court, Luke 22:56; Luke 22:61; whilst he himself was in the "hall of judgment."

In oriental dwellings, the roof is an important part. Its flat surface is made useful for various household purposes, as drying corn, hanging up linen and preparing figs and raisins. In forming the roof, twigs, matting, and earth are laid upon the rafters, trodden down and covered with a compost, hard when it is dry. But it is necessary carefully to roll it after rain. On such roofs weeds often grow, but are speedily dried up and wither. Psalms 129:6-7; Isaiah 37:27. These roofs were to be carefully protected by a battlement or parapet, lest accidents should occur. Deuteronomy 22:8. This towards the street is a wall, towards the interior court usually a balustrade. It may have been through this that Ahaziah fell. 2 Kings 1:2. The roof is reached by an external staircase, so that it is not necessary to go through any of the rooms in ascending or descending. Matthew 24:17. Many uses were and are made of these roof platforms. Linen and other articles were spread there to dry. Joshua 2:6. They were places of private conference, of recreation, and for sleeping. 1 Samuel 9:25-26; 2 Samuel 11:2; 2 Samuel 16:22; Job 27:18; Proverbs 21:9; booths were erected there at the feast of tabernacles, Nehemiah 8:16, and tents, 2 Samuel 16:22. In times of public calamity, lamentations were uttered there. Isaiah 15:3; Isaiah 22:1; Jeremiah 48:38. There, too, was private prayer made, and sometimes idolatrous rites performed. 2 Kings 23:12; Jeremiah 19:13; Jeremiah 32:29; Zephaniah 1:5; Acts 10:9.

Added particulars. Ceilings were made of cedar, and artistically colored. Jeremiah 22:14-15; Haggai 1:4. There were no chimneys; that so called, Hosea 13:3, was but a hole; indeed there were ordinarily no fires except in a kitchen, where, on a kind of brick platform, places were provided for cooking. Apartments were warmed when needed by fire-pans, Jeremiah 36:22; or fires were kindled in the court, Mark 14:54; Luke 22:55; John 18:18. Different rooms, too, as already mentioned in modern practice, were used in summer-time and in winter-time, Amos 3:15; and, whereas those for use in warm weather were open to the court, those for colder seasons were closed in with lattice-work, and curtains, and, probably for want of glass in the windows, with shutters. There were no rooms specially appropriated as bedrooms: just as it is common at the present day to sleep on the divan in the ordinary apartments. Hence the assassins would have easier access to Ish-bosheth. 2 Samuel 4:5-7. The various notices we meet with in Scripture will be easily understood if the previous descriptions be borne in mind. The chamber on the wall designed for Elisha, 2 Kings 4:10, was probably the room over the gate, with the projecting window. Perhaps, also, the summer parlor where Ehud found Eglon, Judges 3:20, was the same. The "guest chamber," where our Lord commanded his disciples to prepare for the last supper, Luke 22:11-12, was one of the large reception rooms in an upper story. The "upper room," where the disciples assembled after the ascension, Acts 1:13, was similar to the "guest chamber" mentioned above. The circumstances attending the cure of the paralytic, Mark 2:2-4; Luke 5:18-19, may thus be explained. Our Lord was perhaps in the veranda; while the people crowded the court and impeded the passage from the street. The bearers, therefore, went to the roof, and taking away part of the covering of the veranda, let the sick man down.

There were also houses constructed with particular reference to the seasons. Summer houses were built partly under ground, and paved with marble. The fountains which gush out in the courts, and the methods used for excluding heat, and securing currents of fresh air render modern eastern houses very refreshing in the torrid heat of summer. 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. It may be added that, when a man had built a house and had not dedicated it, he was free from military service. Deuteronomy 20:5. The use of the word in such passages as Exodus 2:21; 1 Samuel 3:12; 2 Samuel 3:1-39; 2 Samuel 1:1-27; 2 Samuel 7:11; Ezekiel 2:5, to easily understood.

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

Bibliography Information
Rice, Edwin Wilbur, DD. Entry for 'Dwelling'. People's Dictionary of the Bible. 1893.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, September 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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