First Century Israelite Houses

Illustration of Houses in 1st Century Israel

This sketch contains homes in ancient Israel. The commoners house contained only one room for the whole family. They all lived happily on one hard mud floor (2 Samuel 12:3), they would raise the family, and sleeps through the night in this one room.

If one were to walk through the front door they might see a child lying in a hammock wrapped in swaddling clothes, and a woman seated at her hand-mill. Inside you might also find lamps, stoves, beds, fireplaces, and windows and chimneys. The animals were kept in an enclosed area on a slightly lower level with no roof, the ox, the ass, the goats and other animals. There were stairs leading outside to the roof.

PURPOSES OF THE HOUSE In Bible times men did not build houses with the idea in mind that most of their daily living would be spent inside them. Their first interest was in spending as much time as possible in GOD's out-of-doors. The house served as a place of retirement. For this reason the outside walls of the humble house were not inviting. There was no effort to attract attention to this place of retirement.3 The purpose of these dwellings is borne out by the meaning of the Hebrew and Arabic words for "house." Abraham Rihbany, who was born in Syria and spent his early life there, has made a very illuminative statement about the meaning and purpose of the Palestinian house: The Hebrew word bavith and the Arabic word bait mean primarily a "shelter." The English equivalent is the word "house." The richer term, "home," has never been invented by the son of Israel because he has always considered himself "a sojourner in the earth." His tent and his little house, therefore, were sufficient for a shelter for him and his dear ones during the earthly pilgrimage. Because the Palestinians lived out-of-doors so much, the sacred writers were fond of referring to GOD as a "shelter" or as a "refuge," rather than as a "home." Such expressions in connection with Deity are numerous in the Book of Psalm and also in the prophetic writings5 (cf. Psalm 61:3; Isaiah 4:6). [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

DEDICATION OF A NEWLY BUILT HOUSE THAT THERE WAS a generally accepted custom among the Jews of dedicating a newly constructed dwelling is indicated from the words of the Mosaic Law: "What man is there that hath built a new house and hath not dedicated it" (Deuteronomy 20:5). No doubt the social and also the devotional elements entered into the occasion. A similar custom was in use in other ancient and in some modern lands of the East. The title of the Thirtieth Psalm reads, "A Psalm; Song at the dedication of the house of David." This would seem to reveal that David celebrated the entering into his house with a special service or festivity of dedication. Spurgeon quotes Samuel Chandler as saying concerning this custom: It was common when any person had finished a house and entered into it, to celebrate it with great rejoicing, and keep a festival, to which his friends are invited, and to perform some religious ceremonies, to secure the protection of Heaven. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

"Houses of One Room AFTER ISRAEL had been in the land of Canaan many years and had settled down from the nomadic life to the more stable agricultural pursuits, houses began to take the place of tents as places of abode. The average home of the common people was a one-room dwelling . Dr. Thomson thinks that because the poor widow who entertained Elijah had an upper room in her house, it indicates she was not of the poorer class but was in straits only because of the terrible famine.2 (cf. I Kings 17:8-19)." [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

House in Easton's Bible Dictionary Till their sojourn in Egypt the Hebrews dwelt in tents. They then for the first time inhabited cities (Gen. 47:3; Ex. 12:7; Heb. 11:9). From the earliest times the Assyrians and the Canaanites were builders of cities. The Hebrews after the Conquest took possession of the captured cities, and seem to have followed the methods of building that had been pursued by the Canaanites. Reference is made to the stone (1 Kings 7:9; Isa. 9:10) and marble (1 Chr. 29:2) used in building, and to the internal wood-work of the houses (1 Kings 6:15; 7:2; 10:11, 12; 2 Chr. 3:5; Jer. 22:14). "Ceiled houses" were such as had beams inlaid in the walls to which wainscotting was fastened (Ezra 6:4; Jer. 22:14; Hag. 1:4). "Ivory houses" had the upper parts of the walls adorned with figures in stucco with gold and ivory (1 Kings 22:39; 2 Chr. 3:6; Ps. 45:8). The roofs of the dwelling-houses were flat, and are often alluded to in Scripture (2 Sam. 11:2; Isa. 22:1; Matt. 24:17). Sometimes tents or booths were erected on them (2 Sam. 16:22). They were protected by parapets or low walls (Deut. 22:8). On the house-tops grass sometimes grew (Prov. 19:13; 27:15; Ps. 129:6, 7). They were used, not only as places of recreation in the evening, but also sometimes as sleeping-places at night (1 Sam. 9:25, 26; 2 Sam. 11:2; 16:22; Dan. 4:29; Job 27:18; Prov. 21:9), and as places of devotion (Jer. 32:29; 19:13).

House in Fausset's Bible Dictionary Known to man as early at least as Cain; the tent not until Jabal, the fifth in descent from Cain (Genesis 4:7; Genesis 4:17; Genesis 4:20). The rude wigwam and the natural cave were the abodes of those who, being scattered abroad, subsequently degenerated from the primitive civilization implied in the elaborate structure of Babel (Genesis 11:3; Genesis 11:31). It was from a land of houses that Abram, at God's call, became a dweller in tents (Genesis 12:1; Hebrews 11:9). At times he still lived in a house (Genesis 17:27); so also Isaac (Genesis 27:15), and Jacob (Genesis 33:15). In Egypt the Israelites resumed a fixed life in permanent houses, and must have learned architectural skill in that land of stately edifices. After their wilderness sojourn in tents they entered into possession of the Canaanite goodly cities. The parts of the eastern house are: (1) The porch; not referred to in the Old Testament save in the temple and Solomon's palace (1 Kings 7:6-7; 2 Chronicles 15:8; Ezekiel 40:7; Ezekiel 40:16); in Egypt (from whence he derived it) often it consisted of a double row of pillars; in Judges 3:23 the Hebrew word (the front hall) is different. The porch of the high priest's palace (Matthew 26:71; puloon, which is translated "gate" in Acts 10:17; Acts 12:14; Acts 14:13; Revelation 21:12) means simply "the gate." The five porches of Bethesda (John 5:2) were cloisters or a colonnade for the use of the sick. (2) The court is the chief feature of every eastern house. The passage into it is so contrived that the court cannot be seen from the street outside. An awning from one wall to the opposite shelters from the heat; this is the image, Psalm 104:2, "who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain." At the side of the court opposite the entrance was the: (3) guest chamber (Luke 22:11-12), Hebrew lishkah, from laashak, "to recline"; where Samuel received his guests (1 Samuel 9:22). Often open in front, and supported by a pillar; on the ground floor, but raised above the level. A low divan goes round it, used for sitting or reclining by day, and for placing beds on by night. In the court the palm and olive were planted, from whence the psalmist writes, "I am like a green olive tree in the house of God"; an olive tree in a house would be a strange image to us, but suggestive to an eastern of a home with refreshing shade and air. So Psalm 92:13, "those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God." Contrast the picture of Edom's desolation, "thorns in the palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses ... a court for owls" (Isaiah 34:13). (4) The stairs. Outside the house, so that Ehud could readily escape after slaying Eglon (Judges 3:23), and the bearers of the paralytic, unable to get to the door, could easily mount by the outside stairs to the roof, and, breaking an opening in it, let him down in the midst of the room where Jesus was (Mark 2:4). The Israelite captains placed Jehu upon their garments on the top of the stairs, as the most public place, and from them proclaimed "Jehu is king" (2 Kings 9:13). (5) The roof is often of a material which could easily be broken up, as it was by the paralytic's friends: sticks, thorn bushes (bellan), with mortar, and marl or earth. A stone roller is kept on the top to harden the flat roof that rain may not enter. Amusement, business, conversation...

House in Naves Topical Bible Built of Stone Le 14:40-45; Isa 9:10; Am 5:11 Brick Ge 11:3; Ex 1:11-14; Isa 9:10 Wood So 1:17; Isa 9:10 -Built into city walls Jos 2:15 -Used for worship Ac 1:13,14; 12:12; Ro 16:5; 1Co 16:19; Col 4:15; Phm 1:2 -"A man's castle," De 24:10,11 -ARCHITECTURE OF Foundations of stone 1Ki 5:17; 7:9; Ezr 6:3; Jer 51:26 Figurative Ps 87:1; Isa 28:16; 48:13; Ro 15:20; 1Co 3:11; Eph 2:20; 1Ti 6:19; Heb 6:1; Re 21:14 Cornerstone Job 38:6; Ps 144:12 Figurative Ps 118:22; Isa 28:16; Eph 2:20; 1Pe 2:6 Porches Jud 3:23; 1Ki 7:6,7 Courts Es 1:5 Summer apartment Jud 3:20; with Am 3:15; 1Ki 17:19 Inner chamber 1Ki 22:25 Chambers Ge 43:30; 2Sa 18:33; 2Ki 1:2; 4:10; Ac 1:13; 9:37; 20:8 Guest chamber Mr 14:14 Pillars Pr 9:1 With courts Ne 8:16 Lattice Jud 5:28 Windows Jud 5:28; Pr 7:6 Ceiled and plastered Da 5:5 Hinges Pr 26:14 Roofs, flat Jos 2:6; Jud 16:27; 1Sa 9:25; 2Sa 11:2; 16:22; Isa 15:3; 22:1; Mt 24:17; Lu 12:3 Battlements required in Mosaic law De 22:8 Prayer on Ac 10:9 Altars on 2Ki 23:12; Jer 19:13; 32:29; Zep 1:5 Booths on Ne 8:16 Used as place to sleep Jos 2:8; Ac 10:9 Used as dwelling place Pr 21:9; 25:24 Painted Jer 22:14; Eze 8:10,12 Chimneys of Ho 13:3 Texts of Scripture on doorposts of De 6:9 Laws regarding sale of Le 25:29-33; Ne 5:3 Dedicated De 20:5; Ps 30 -FIGURATIVE 2Sa 7:18; Ps 23:6; 36:8; Joh 14:2; 2Co 5:1; 1Ti 3:15; Heb 3:2

House in Smiths Bible Dictionary The houses of the rural poor in Egypt, as well as in most parts of Syria, Arabia and Persia, are generally mere huts of mud or sunburnt bricks. In some parts of Israel and Arabia stone is used, and in certain districts caves in the rocks are used as dwellings. Am 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 live in a raised platform, and, the cattle round them on the ground. 1Sa 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 plaster of mud and straw laid upon boughs or rafters; and 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 prevailing plan of eastern houses of this class presents, as was the case in ancient Egypt, a front of wall, whose blank and mean appearance is usually relieved only by the door and a few latticed and projecting windows. Within this is a court or courts with apartments opening into them. Over the door is a projecting window with a lattice more or less elaborately wrought, which, except in times of public celebrations is usually closed. 2Ki 9:30 An awning is sometimes drawn over the court, and the floor is strewed with carpets on festive occasions. The stairs to the upper apartments are in Syria usually in a corner of the court. Around part, if not the whole, of the court is a veranda, often nine or ten feet deep, over which, when there is more than one floor, runs a second gallery of like depth, with a balustrade. When there is no second floor, but more than one court, the women's apartments --hareems, 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 ka'ah forms the most important apartment, and thus probably answers to the "upper room," which was often the guest- chamber. Lu 22:12; Ac 1:13; 9:37; 20:8 The windows of the upper rooms often project one or two feet, and form a kiosk or latticed chamber. Such may have been "the chamber in the wall." 2Ki 4:10,11 The "lattice," through which Ahasiah fell, perhaps belonged to an upper chamber of this kind, 2Ki 1:2 as also the "third loft," from which Eutychus fell. Ac 20:9 comp. Jere 22:13 Paul preached in such a room on account of its superior rise 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 special bed-rooms 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 chafing-dish; or a fire of wood might be made in the open court of the house Lu 22:65 Some houses in Cairo have an apartment open in front to the court with two or more arches and a railing, and a pillar to support the wall above. It was in a chamber of this size to be found in a palace, that our Lord was being arraigned before the high priest at the time when the denial of him by St. Peter took place. He "turned and looked" on Peter as he stood by the fire in the court, Lu 22:56,61; Joh 18:24 whilst he himself was in the "hall of judgment." In no point do Oriental domestic habits differ more from European than in the use of the roof. Its flat surface is made useful for various household purposes, as drying corn, hanging up linen, and preparing figs and raisins. The roofs are used as places of recreation in the evening, and often as sleeping-places at night. 1Sa 9:25,26; 2Sa 11:2; 16:22; Job 27:18; Pr 21:9; Da 4:29 They were also used as places for devotion and even idolatrous worship. 2Ki 23:12; Jer 19:13; 32:29; Zep 1:6; Ac 10:9 At the time of the feast of tabernacles booths were erected by the Jews on the top of their houses. Protection of the roof by parapets was enjoined by the law. De 22:8 Special apartments were devoted in larger houses to winter and summer uses. Jer 36:22; Am 3:15 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. Jud 16:26

House in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE hous (bayith; oikos, in classical Greek generally "an estate," oikia, oikema (literally, "habitation"), in Acts 12:1, "prison"): I. CAVE DWELLINGS II. STONE-BUILT AND MUD/BRICK-BUILT HOUSES 1. Details of Plan and Construction (1) Corner-Stone (2) Floor (3) Gutter (4) Door (5) Hinge (6) Lock and Key (7) Threshold (8) Hearth (9) Window (10) Roof 2. Houses of More than One Story (1) Upper Chambers and Stairs (2) Palaces and Castles 3. Internal Appearance III. OTHER MEANINGS LITERATURE I. Cave Dwellings. The earliest permanent habitations of the prehistoric inhabitants of Israel were the natural caves which abound throughout the country. As the people increased and grouped themselves into communities, these abodes were supplemented by systems of artificial caves which, in some cases, developed into extensive burrowings of many adjoining compartments, having in each system several entrances. These entrances were usually cut through the roof down a few steps, or simply dropped to the floor from the rock surface. The sinking was shallow and the headroom low but sufficient for the undersized troglodites who were the occupiers. II. Stone-built and Mud/Brick-built Houses. There are many references to the use of caves as dwellings in the Old Testament. Lot dwelt with his two daughters in cave (Gen 19:30). Elijah, fleeing from Jezebel, lodged in a cave (1 Ki 19:9). The natural successor to the cave was the stone-built hut, and just as the loose field-bowlders and the stones, quarried from the caves, served their first and most vital uses in the building of defense walls, so did they later become material for the first hut. Caves, during the rainy season, were faulty dwellings, as at the time when protection was most needed, they were being flooded through the surface openings which formed their entrances. The rudest cell built of rough stones in mud and covered a with roof of brushwood and mud was at first sufficient. More elaborate plans of several apartments, entering from what may be called a living-room, followed as a matter of course, and these, huddled together, constituted the homes of the people. Mud-brick buildings (Job 4:19) of similar plan occur, and to protect this friable material from the weather, the walls were sometimes covered with a casing of stone slabs, as at Lachish. (See Bliss, A Mound of Many Cities.) Generally speaking, this rude type of building prevailed, although, in some of the larger buildings, square dressed and jointed stones were used. There is little or no sign of improvement until the period of the Hellenistic influence, and even then the improvement was slight, so far as the homes of the common people were concerned. 1. Details of Plan and Construction: One should observe an isometric sketch and plan showing construction of a typical small house...

The Bible mentions a lot concerning "Houses"

1 Chronicles 29:2 - Now I have prepared with all my might for the house of my God the gold for [things to be made] of gold, and the silver for [things] of silver, and the brass for [things] of brass, the iron for [things] of iron, and wood for [things] of wood; onyx stones, and [stones] to be set, glistering stones, and of divers colours, and all manner of precious stones, and marble stones in abundance.

Deuteronomy 7:26 - Neither shalt thou bring an abomination into thine house, lest thou be a cursed thing like it: [but] thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it [is] a cursed thing.

1 Kings 8:64 - The same day did the king hallow the middle of the court that [was] before the house of the LORD: for there he offered burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings: because the brasen altar that [was] before the LORD [was] too little to receive the burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings.

Ezekiel 40:48 - And he brought me to the porch of the house, and measured [each] post of the porch, five cubits on this side, and five cubits on that side: and the breadth of the gate [was] three cubits on this side, and three cubits on that side.

Ezekiel 43:11 - And if they be ashamed of all that they have done, shew them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the laws thereof: and write [it] in their sight, that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them.

Ezekiel 48:21 - And the residue [shall be] for the prince, on the one side and on the other of the holy oblation, and of the possession of the city, over against the five and twenty thousand of the oblation toward the east border, and westward over against the five and twenty thousand toward the west border, over against the portions for the prince: and it shall be the holy oblation; and the sanctuary of the house [shall be] in the midst thereof.

2 Samuel 15:35 - And [hast thou] not there with thee Zadok and Abiathar the priests? therefore it shall be, [that] what thing soever thou shalt hear out of the king's house, thou shalt tell [it] to Zadok and Abiathar the priests.

2 Chronicles 3:11 - And the wings of the cherubims [were] twenty cubits long: one wing [of the one cherub was] five cubits, reaching to the wall of the house: and the other wing [was likewise] five cubits, reaching to the wing of the other cherub.

Exodus 20:17 - Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that [is] thy neighbour's.

2 Kings 8:5 - And it came to pass, as he was telling the king how he had restored a dead body to life, that, behold, the woman, whose son he had restored to life, cried to the king for her house and for her land. And Gehazi said, My lord, O king, this [is] the woman, and this [is] her son, whom Elisha restored to life.

Numbers 18:1 - And the LORD said unto Aaron, Thou and thy sons and thy father's house with thee shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary: and thou and thy sons with thee shall bear the iniquity of your priesthood.

1 Kings 12:27 - If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, [even] unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah.

Deuteronomy 22:2 - And if thy brother [be] not nigh unto thee, or if thou know him not, then thou shalt bring it unto thine own house, and it shall be with thee until thy brother seek after it, and thou shalt restore it to him again.

2 Chronicles 3:12 - And [one] wing of the other cherub [was] five cubits, reaching to the wall of the house: and the other wing [was] five cubits [also], joining to the wing of the other cherub.

Jeremiah 33:11 - The voice of joy, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that shall say, Praise the LORD of hosts: for the LORD [is] good; for his mercy [endureth] for ever: [and] of them that shall bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD. For I will cause to return the captivity of the land, as at the first, saith the LORD.

1 Chronicles 22:8 - But the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars: thou shalt not build an house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in my sight.

Ezekiel 37:16 - Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and [for] all the house of Israel his companions:

1 Kings 7:2 - He built also the house of the forest of Lebanon; the length thereof [was] an hundred cubits, and the breadth thereof fifty cubits, and the height thereof thirty cubits, upon four rows of cedar pillars, with cedar beams upon the pillars.

1 Kings 21:29 - Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: [but] in his son's days will I bring the evil upon his house.

Ezekiel 41:19 - So that the face of a man [was] toward the palm tree on the one side, and the face of a young lion toward the palm tree on the other side: [it was] made through all the house round about.

Nehemiah 1:6 - Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father's house have sinned.

Job 38:20 - That thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof, and that thou shouldest know the paths [to] the house thereof?

2 Chronicles 10:16 - And when all Israel [saw] that the king would not hearken unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? and [we have] none inheritance in the son of Jesse: every man to your tents, O Israel: [and] now, David, see to thine own house. So all Israel went to their tents.

Isaiah 63:7 - I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, [and] the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he hath bestowed on them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses.

Psalms 135:20 - Bless the LORD, O house of Levi: ye that fear the LORD, bless the LORD.

1 Kings 12:16 - So when all Israel saw that the king hearkened not unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? neither [have we] inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house, David. So Israel departed unto their tents.

Daniel 5:23 - But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath [is], and whose [are] all thy ways, hast thou not glorified:

2 Samuel 3:19 - And Abner also spake in the ears of Benjamin: and Abner went also to speak in the ears of David in Hebron all that seemed good to Israel, and that seemed good to the whole house of Benjamin.

Deuteronomy 28:30 - Thou shalt betroth a wife, and another man shall lie with her: thou shalt build an house, and thou shalt not dwell therein: thou shalt plant a vineyard, and shalt not gather the grapes thereof.

1 Chronicles 29:7 - And gave for the service of the house of God of gold five thousand talents and ten thousand drams, and of silver ten thousand talents, and of brass eighteen thousand talents, and one hundred thousand talents of iron.