Page images

The doors of eastern houses in exposed situations are often made so low, that a person cannot enter without stooping. Burkhardt saw many not above four feet in height. This is to keep out enemies; it explains Prov. xvii. 19. The mounted Arabs ride into a building, if practicable, when they attack the inhabitants.

[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

The markets were places of importance in ancient cities : they were, perhaps, at first generally close to the gates of cities: see Job xxix. 7; 2 Kings vii. 18; 2 Chron. xviii. 9; but afterwards within the walls. In Jerusalem, about the time of Christ, the markets were places of general resort, Matt. xxiii. 7; Mark xii. 38, etc. People of the same trade lived in streets by themselves, as in the eastern bazaars now: thus we read of the bakers' street, Jer. xxxvii. 21. These markets, or bazaars, are inclosed with walls; and have gates, which are shut at night: the shops are in streets or rows within them. The gates of the cities were the places of general resort, Gen. xxiii. 10; Ruth iv. 1; Judg. ix. 35; Job xxix. 7; Psa. cxxvii. 5. They often are towers or piles of building, which a traveller describes as pleasant for the shade, and the current of air through them.

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

The walls of rooms in the houses of the higher ranks were covered and adorned with hangings of cloth, silk, or leather, of various sorts and colours. The ceilings and walls were often ornamented with carving and painting, or gilding, which is alluded to Jer. xxii. 14; Hag. i. 4; or ivory, Amos iii. 15. At the present day, the walls are, in general, merely white-washed. The floors were mostly of tiles and plaster; but as chairs are seldom or never used in the east, they were covered with carpets. They are so at the present day; and the people sit cross-legged, or recline at length upon them. Many are in the habit of sitting upon their heels, their legs being under them. They sit so even in the open air, when they, of course, gather dust in their long garments, which they have to shake off when they arise, Isa. lii. 2. Along the walls were placed mattresses or couches, to recline upon, and pillows or bolsters, which are mentioned Amos vi. 4; Ezek. xiii. 18. Perkins saw nobles lolling with pillows under their arms.

[ocr errors]

One end of the room was raised higher than the rest; there the bed, or rather mattress, was placed: this may explain 2 Kings i. 4; Psa. cxxxii. 3; also, what is said of Hezekiah, 2 Kings xx. 2; and of Ahab, 1 Kings xxi. 4. They both appear to have turned their faces from their attendants, and towards the wall, though from very different motives: one that his earnest prayers might not be observed, the other to conceal his disappointment.

The furniture of houses in the east always was very simple, in general it still is so; it consists of but few articles. Chairs were not used: they usually sat on mats or skins;

these also served for bedding, while a part of their clothes was used for a covering. This explains why a man was to return his neighbour's garment before night: see Deut. xxiv. 12; Exod. xxii. 26. The bedding of the paralytic, Matt. ix. 6, and of the man at Bethesda, John v. 11, 12, probably was only mats. The rich had carpets, couches, and sofas, on which they sat, and laid, and slept. These couches were often very splen

did, and the frames ornamented, made of fine wood or ivory, Amos vi. 4; and the coverlids were often richly embroidered, Prov. vii. 16. But most of the beds are rolled up, and put away, in the day-time. In the latter times of the Jewish nation, they laid or reclined on couches while taking their meals; their heads towards the table, with their feet in a contrary direction, as represented on page 13. These particulars explain Amos. vi. 4; Luke vii. 36–38; John xiii. 23; and other passages.

The other articles of furniture were but few in number. The furniture of the prophets chamber, prepared for him by the Shunammite, 2 Kings iv. 10, probably was more



often mean,

than usual; but it was only a bed or couch upon the floor, a table, a stool, and a candlestick, or lamp. Lamps are constantly used in the east; they are of clay or metal, filled with oil or grease, with cotton or linen yarn wicks. The lamps alluded to in the parable of the ten virgins, Matt. xxv. perhaps were like those used in the East Indies now in marriage processions, a dish, or lamp, with old rags, and a pot of oil to pour on them from time to time. Others are like what formerly were called cressets in England, an iron frame, or basket, filled with flaming wood, or other fuel; these could be carried by watchmen. We give an engraving of these latter in the chapter on MARRIAGE.

Keys are mentioned, Judg. iii. 25 ; Rev. xxi. Sometimes they were large, so as to be rested upon the shoulder, Isa. xxii. 22. A recent traveller met a man with a wooden key hanging over his breast, and an iron one over his shoulder. He describes a door key as a piece of wood with pegs in it; this would be passed through a hole in the door, Cant. v. 4, and fit the notches of the bar within. The entrance, as already described, is very

and the

from the street made with turnings, so that a passer by does not see into the house. Buckingham describes the house of the governor of Damascus as appearing very mean on entering, but within there was a gorgeous display of wealth and luxury

Pots, pans, and dishes of earthenware or metal, with a few chests and boxes, supplied the place of many articles with which our houses are crowded. The mill was a very necessary article, but this will be mentioned in another place. The kneading-troughs, described Exod. xii. 34, like many of those used in the east in the present day, were small wooden bowls, or leathern bags. There were several sorts of earthenware vessels, of different shapes and sizes, from the smallest size, like the cruse of Saul, 1 Sam, xxvi. 12, or the pitchers of the wo- 6 man of Samaria and the water-bearer, John iv. 28, Mark xiv. 13, and Rebekah, Gen. xxiv. 15, to the large ones mentioned John ii. 6. When Dr. Clarke was at Cana, in Galilee, a few years since, he saw several large stone water-pots, like those just mentioned, which contained from eighteen to twenty-seven gallons each.

Paxton describes such jugs, or pots, at Beyrout, holding from two to four gallons each.

But the Jews, like the modern Arabs, often kept their water, wine, milk, and other liquors, in bottles, or rather bags, made of skins, which could be patched and mended when old. Such was the bottle given to Hagar, Gen. xxi. 14. Such were the bottles of the Gibeonites, Josh. ix. 4. This explains the allusion of our Lord, Matt. ix. 17; Mark ii. 22; Luke v. 37, 38; which texts have been objected to by some ignorant infidels, who think that what they daily see at home must resemble every thing in former times, and in other countries, If the new wine fermented after it was put into the leathern bottles, it is evident that an old worn skin would be more likely to burst than one which was new and strong. This was the sort of bottle opened by Jael, Judg. iv. 19.

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small]

Sometimes these bottles are made of the skin of a kid, or other animal, the head, and legs, and tail being cut off, and the openings sewn up; but more frequently they are square bags made of large pieces of leather, which will hold several gallons of any liquid: so that Abigail's two bottles, (or skins of wine,) 1 Sam. xxv. 18, were not out of proportion to the rest of her present, as two glass bottles of the present day would have been. Many of these leather bottles, or bags, are made of the skin of an ox, cut square, the edges sewn double, and the whole skin smeared with grease

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »