Bowing to a Guest
Bowing. When a guest is received into an Orient home, bowing between the guests and host is quite apt to take place. In Western lands such bowing would be of the head only, but in the East there is a more expressive custom of saluting with the head erect and the body a little inclined forward, by raising the hand to the heart, mouth, and forehead. The symbolic meaning of this action is to say something like this: "My heart, my voice, my brain are all at your service."
But those who are used to this custom on many occasions enter into a more complete bow. They do not wait to do this only for royalty, but when they want to express thanks for a favor, or supplicate for a favor, and at many other times of meeting they often fall on their knees, and then incline the body touching the ground with their head, and kissing the lower part of the other person's clothing, or his feet, or even the dust at his feet. To those not acquainted with such manners, it would seem that one person was worshiping the other like he would worship GOD; but ordinarily, worship of this sort is not involved in the action.
Cornelius is said to have worshiped Peter: "And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him" (Acts 10:25). Of course Peter rejected this lest it might involve divine worship. Concerning the enemies of the Philadelphian church, the Book of Revelation records these words of our LORD: "I will make them of the synagogue of Satan . . . I will make them to come and worship before thy feet" (Revelation 3:9). The Revisers have a marginal note in explanation of the word "worship" in both of these Scriptures: "The Greek word denotes an act of reverence, whether paid to a creature or to the Creator." There are many examples in the Bible of this Eastern custom of bowing in varying degrees of intensity (cf. Genesis 18:2,3; 23:7, 12; Matthew 18:26; Revelation 19:10).
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
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