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highest roof at hand, and lifts up his voice in a long-drawn call upon all faithful subjects to give ear and obey. He then proceeds to announce, in a set form, the will of their master, and demand obedience thereto.
It is plain that the roofs were resorted to for worship, both true and idolatrous. We read, in Zeph., i. 5, of those who worshiped the hosts of heaven on the house-tops; and from Acts, x. 9, we learn that Peter at Joppa went up to the roof to pray about the sixth hour.
All this is very natural. The Sabeans of Chaldea and Persia could find no more appropriate place for the performance of their idolatrous worship of the heavenly bodies than these open terraces, with the stars shining down upon them so kindly. And, as very few Oriental dwellings have closets into which the devout can retire for prayer, I suppose Peter was obliged to resort to the roof of Simon's house for this purpose; and when surrounded with battlements, and shaded by vines trained over them, they afford a very agreeable retreat, even at the sixth hour of the day—the time when Peter was favored with that singular vision, by which the kingdom of heaven was thrown open to the Gentile world.
Our Lord says, Let him that is on the house-top not come down to take any thing out of his house. Is it a correct inference from this that the stairway landed on the outside of the house? Outside of the house, but within the exterior court. It
i Matt. xxiv. 17.
would not be either agreeable or safe to have the stairs land outside the inclosure altogether, and it is rarely done, except in mountain villages, and where roofs are but little used. They not unfrequently end in the lewan, but more commonly in some part of the lower court. The urgency of the flight recommended by our Lord is enhanced by the fact that the stairs do lead down into the court or lewan. He in effect says, though you must pass by the very door of your room, do not enter; escape for your life, without a moment's delay.
No traveler in Syria will long need an introduction to the sparrow on the house-top. There are countless numbers of them about you.
They are a tame, troublesome, and impertinent generation, and nestle just where you don't want them. They stop up your stove and water pipes with their rubbish, build in the windows and under the beams of the roof, and would stuff your hat full of stubble in half a day if they found it hanging in a place to suit them. They are extremely pertinacious in asserting their right of possession, and have not the least reverence for any place or thing. David alludes to these characteristics of the sparrow in the 84th Psalm, when he complains that they had appropriated even the altars of God for their nests. Concerning himself, he says, I watch, and am as a sparrow upon the housetop. When one of them has lost its mate—a matter of every-day occurrence—he will sit on the house-top alone, and lament by the hour his sad bereavement. These birds are snared and caught in great numbers, but, as they are small and not much relished for food, five sparrows may still be sold for two farthings; and when we see their countless numbers, and the eagerness with which they are destroyed as a worthless nuisance, we can better appreciate the assurance that our heavenly Father, who takes care of them, so that not one can fall to the ground without His notice, will surely take care of us, who are of more value than many sparrows. 1 Psalm cii. 7.