Eva Herbst.

Tales and customs of the ancient Hebrews for young readers online

. (page 1 of 4)
Online LibraryEva HerbstTales and customs of the ancient Hebrews for young readers → online text (page 1 of 4)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook




















David, - - - 7

Story of Moses, - - - 46

Story of Ruth, - ... 73

Story of Joseph, - - - - - 91

David and Goliath, - - - - - 125

David and Jonathan, - ... 133



THIS little volume has grown out of the actual experience of
a practical, earnest primary teacher, who sees the place history
occupies in a course of study. It has been my pleasure to watch
the development of the "history notion" in our schools for the
past few years. While several topics have been worked out in
the grades, the subject of this volume seems to be the most
easily arranged for first year pupils.

Miss Herbst, while herself thoroughly familiar with her
subject, has submitted the manuscript to a careful Hebrew
scholar, who has verified its statements.

What she has so well done, others can also do. I commend
the work to primary teachers, and bespeak for it a large place
among such teachers.

Assistant Superintendent, Cincinnati Schools.


THE value of the comparative study of different peoples has
been so well demonstrated in recent years that it becomes
unnecessary to dwell on this feature, in introducing this little
volume. That such study will always be the more interesting to
children when in the form of narrative is self-evident to any
teacher. It has been the object of the writer so to weave into
story form the customs and manners of the Ancient Hebrews,
that the old familiar but always beautiful Hebrew stories will be
doubly interesting, and will also stimulate in the mind of the
child his innate longing for knowledge of other times and other

It has been the author's desire to make the language of
these stories sufficiently simple, so that they may be used by the
teacher for the first grade, and as a supplementary reader in the
second and third grades.

This work has been tested in the first grade of the Cincin-
nati schools with much profit and pleasure to pupils and
teacher alike.

The data used have been compiled from the best authorities
on Hebrew Archaeology, and where there is a conflict of opinion,
preference has been given to the more universally accepted view.

Many thanks are due to the kind friends who by advice and
suggestion have given this little work additional value.


TO-DAY, boys and girls, as we look
about us, and see how we live and
what we enjoy, let me tell you about
some people who lived almost three
thousand years ago. That seems a
long, long time, as we look back, but
there were many people on this earth
as long ago as that. Some of these
people were called Hebrews.

I am going to tell you how the
Hebrews lived, and what some of
them did. ISTow, you know, in all
times men must have food to eat, and
civilized people must have clothes to
wear. So many of these people were
shepherds and farmers. They raised



thousands of sheep, to use the wool
for "clothing. There were no factories
t!,o;i ; as tlinv are now, and so the
people themselves had to weave the
cloth for their clothes.

The men who took care of the sheep
were called shepherds. Among these
shepherds could be found persons of
every rank, from members of the
king's family down to the poorest peo-
ple. Even the daughters of the king
sometimes tended the flocks. Each
morning the shepherd led his sheep
into the open pastures. At night he
put them into a place surrounded by
a fence. This place was called the
fold. A rod was held up at the gate
of the fold, and as the sheep passed
under this they were counted, one by
one. The shepherd led them to the


wells to drink. These wells were
dug in the ground. They were cov-
ered, so that no one but the shepherd
who had dug them should know
where they were. The brim of the
well w r as underground, and steps led
down to it. The shepherd drew the
water from the well and poured it
into troughs for the flock.

In the country where the Hebrews
lived water was very scarce. There
was a wet and a dry season. During
the wet season, which was also the
cold or winter season, wells were
sometimes dug and filled with snow
and water. They were then covered
over until the next warm, dry season,
or summer. In the cold, wet season,
the flocks were taken down into the
valleys, and in the warm, dry season


they were led into the mountains.
The sheep were kept in the open air,
day and night. This made their wool
so much finer.

Sometimes the shepherds lived in
tents. Some of these tents were
small and were supported by three
poles. The larger ones had seven or
even nine poles to hold them up.
The tents were oblong. Over the
poles was a covering of cloth, made
of goat's hair. The tent was fastened
to the ground by means of cords and
pegs. The larger tents were often
divided into three parts. The women
and children had the inside room;
next came the men, and in the out-
side room were the servants and
the young animals.

These tents had no floors but the


bare ground. Carpets and mats were
laid down and on these the people
sat, as they had no chairs. They
had pots, kettles and cups made of
brass, and bottles made of leather.
In the middle of the tent a small
hole was dug in the earth-floor.
Around this three stones were placed
to form a triangle. Here the fire
was kindled and pots were placed
over it, resting upon the stones. In
this way their cooking was done.

In the tent-poles were driven nails,
on which the people hung their
clothing and their weapons. The
shepherds took their tents with them,
as they roved from place to place.
They carried them folded and laid
upon their camels, oxen or donkeys.

They also built tabernacles. The


four sides of a tabernacle were made
of branches of trees placed close-
together, upright in the ground.
The branches were bound together
at the top, and there was a covering
of leaves and branches over this x .
Sometimes over this covering flat
stones were laid. These tabernacles
were a protection against the heat
and cold.

What made the people think of
making these tabernacles ? Why,
Mother Nature gave them this idea.
They saw trees about them, with the
heavy foliage meeting and over-
lapping, and so they made their
places of shelter in the same manner.

There were robbers in those days,
and, so that the sheep could be
guarded, a watch-tower was built


near the tent. Some of the shep-
herds owned thousands of sheep.
They often had goats, also. Not
only was the wool of the sheep of
use to them, but they used the milk
of both sheep and goats for food.
At sheep-shearing time the people
had a great feast.

The shepherds were not always
men, for often young boys were sent
out to take charge of the sheep.
Now we shall hear of one of these
Hebrew shepherd boys. His name
was David. That was the only
name by which he was called.
He had been given this name
when he was eight days old,
for such was the Hebrew custom.
David watched the sheep in the
fields near the city of Bethlehem.


Bethlehem is across the sea, in the
Far East.

It would take us mauy weeks to
travel to the beautiful country in
which David lived. It was known
for its fertile fields and rich pastures.
Beautiful trees of many kinds grew
there: among them were the palm, fir,
cypress, fig, and olive. In the valley
the air was fragrant with the sweet
odor of flowers which were every-
where to be seen.

David was a handsome boy, with
bright eyes and long red hair. You
would think his dress very queer if
you could see him now. He wore a
white garment of linen, called a tunic.
It reached to his knees and w T as fast-
ened around his waist with a leathern
girdle. His arms, legs, and feet were


bare. His head also was bare, and he
carried in his hand a staff with a crook
at the end. Hanging from his girdle


was a shepherd's pouch, in which he
carried food and other things. This
pouch was made of kid's skin and had
a strap fastened to each end.


As David watched his sheep there,
day after day, out in the open air, he
grew to be a strong, healthy boy.
He was fond of using his sling, and
many and many a smooth pebble was
thrown from it. But do not think he
spent all of his spare time in this way.
He was never idle, but tried in many
ways to learn, and to improve himself.
He was alone among his flock, with
the blue sky above him and the olive
trees, with their green branches, about
on the hills. Around him were the
high mountains. All this beauty of
nature made David feel very happy.
So he sang and played upon his harp
(kinnor\ which he always carried with
him, and many hours of the day were
spent in this way.

David played and sang so well that


all people loved his music. It is said
that even the sheep listened to his
harp and followed their beloved leader
about. When he grew to be a man,
he also wrote beautiful songs, so that
to this day we hear of David as the
a Sweet Singer in Israel."

When David was about fourteen
years old, as he was one day watching
his sheep and playing upon his harp,
a man came running to him. "David,
come at once to your father's house,"
cried he. His father lived in Beth-

ISTow let us go to the city, and learn
why David has been sent for. See,
there is a man coming toward Beth-
lehem. Who is he ? He walks along,
driving a heifer. When he comes
near the wall, which surrounds and


protects the city , he sees many men
sitting at the gate. This is the meet-
ing-place of the judges. They are
talking about the affairs of the city.
When the man comes nearer, the
judges run to meet him. They wonder
why he has come, for the man is
Samuel, the great prophet.

The prophet in those days was at the
head of all his people. Even the king
always consulted him about his affairs.
This prophet Samuel was an old man,
with white hair and a long beard. He
wore a long white woolen cloak over
his tunic. On his feet were sandals.
These were flat pieces of leather, bound
to the sole of the foot with a strap.
His head was covered with a band of
linen. He carried a staff, and a long
horn filled with oil.


The people asked Samuel why he
had come. He said it was for a sacri-
fice, and he told them to get ready for

I hear some one ask: "What is a
sacrifice ?" I will tell you. Whenever


the Hebrews wished to give thanks
to Grod for his goodness, they offered
to him whatever they thought the
most valuable of their possessions.
Sometimes they gave animals, as
sheep, goats and cows, and sometimes


fruit or grain. They gave them in
this way: I it were a sheep or goat
that was to be given, the man who
offered the sacrifice led the animal to
the altar. Here it was slain and
some parts of it were burnt. When
fruit or grain was offered it was laid
upon the altar and burnt in the same
manner. After the offering had been
made there was a feast.

So the prophet told the people to
go up on one of the hills near the
city, where they would sacrifice to
God. And this gave much joy to the

After Samuel had told the people
this, he went to the home of Jesse,
the father of David. Jesse was a
weaver of carpets. When Samuel
reached the place, he saw a square-


looking house of one story. It was
bnilt of stones which were cut in
squares. The house had no windows
in front. That seems strange to us,
but when I tell you how the house
was built you will understand how
this could be so.

There was a door, in the front, and
when the prophet knocked at it a
servant opened it from the inside, by
drawing back the wooden bolt. Jesse
came forth and warmly greeted Sam-
uel. As Samuel passed in to the
porch, he saw the usual inscription
on the door. This contained a prayer.
Here, on the porch inside the house,
the servant of Samuel sat on a seat
which was placed there for those
strangers who were not admitted any
farther into the house. Here, also,


the sandals were removed from Sam-
uel's feet. His feet were then washed
by Jesse. A guest's feet were usually
washed by a servant, but when so
great a man as a prophet came into
the house, the master of the house
thought it an honor to perform this
duty. The roads of the country were
dusty, and so it was necessary to wash
the feet often.

Samuel passed through another
door into the middle of the house.
This part was the court. It was a
large square place paved with marble.
One could walk around the sides of
the court under cover, and watch the
fountain playing in the center. If
you could have looked in here, on a
day when there was a large crowd
of people gathered together, for a


wedding or some other happy event,
you would have seen a covering
of cloth, held up by ropes, over the
whole court. This protected the
people from the sun. All around the
court were rooms, and you could have
seen into them through the windows
extending to the floor. The windows
in the back rooms looked upon a large
garden behind the house.

You would not have seen any glass
in these windows, as they were screened
only by a lattice of wood. When the
cold weather came, the people could
be seen putting up a sort of veil of
cloth before the windows. You may
wonder why their windows were left
open, but when I tell you that the
Hebrews at that time had no chimneys
in their houses, you will understand


that this had to be done, so that the
smoke from their fires could escape.
Do you think these people had
stoves for heating, as we have? Their
fireplace was a small space hollowed
out in the center of the paved floor.
In this was set a pot filled with
burning coal or wood, and, as I have
said before, the smoke escaped
through the windows. When the fire
burnt out, the heat was kept in the
fireplace by a covering of carpet laid
over a frame. In some houses there
was no fire at all, for the weather was
never very cold.

Do not these things seem strange
to us? Yet if David, the shepherd
boy, could come to our homes, our
ways would seem just as strange
to him.


When Samuel had gone into the
house with Jesse, he invited Jesse and
his sons to go with him to the sacrifice.
So they got ready at once. They took
off their dark woolen clothes. They
washed, and then rubbed their bodies
with oil. After this, they put on
their white robes. White was always
worn at a sacrifice, for white meant
cleanliness and purity.

Samuel the prophet had been sent
by God to choose one of the sons of
Jesse to be the future king. So, at
the place of sacrifice up on the hill,
as the eldest son passed before the
prophet, he looked so strong and
manly that Samuel said to himself:
"Surely, he is the one." But no, he
was not the man to be chosen. Then,
as the next son came up, "Nor is he


the one," said the prophet. Nor was
the third or the fourth the one, and
at last, when the seven sons had
passed before the great man, not one
of them had been chosen as the king.

Then Samuel said to Jesse: "Have
you no other son?" "Oh, yes," an-
swered Jesse, "David, the beloved,
but lie is only a boy. He is tending
the flocks." "Send, and fetch him,"
said Samuel, "for we will not sit
down till he come hither." And
now we know why David had been
sent for.

David went at once, for he had
been taught as all Hebrew children
were taught- -to obey and respect his
parents, before all other duties. As
he passed along the road, here and
there, he saw the people sitting under


the fig trees, and he could hear the
merry shouts of the children playing
in the courts of the houses. As he
approached those who were awaiting
him, he was a "goodly sight to look
upon." With his bright face all
aglow, he stepped before the prophet.

Samuel knew at once that he had
found the one for whom he had been
sent. He said: "He is the one."
He took the horn, and poured the oil
on the head of David. Thus the boy
was anointed to be a future king.

And Jesse and his sons sat with
Samuel at the feast. After the feast,
Samuel went back to Ramah, his
home, and David continued to live
the life of a shepherd, just as before.

Now, when Jesse and his sons
went back to their home, it was


evening. They saw the new moon
rising above the hills. They knew by
this that the next day would be the
first day of the new month, and they
knew, too, that when the new moon
rose for the seventh month, they
would hear the trumpet blow to tell
the people a new year had begun.

As they came nearer to their
home, they met a stranger. They
took him home with them. He re-
mained with them for the night.
His beast of burden was taken care
of. The next morning, as the man
started on his journey, one of the
sons went with him for a short

When they entered the house,
after coming from the place of sacri-
fice, they saw the table spread for


the evening meal. What a strange
table it was, to be sure nothing but
a round piece of leather, spread up-
on the floor ! It had a cloth over it,
to keep it clean. In the middle of
this was a sort of stool. This stool
supported a platter.

The men of the family sat around
the table, with their legs crossed:
some were on pieces of carpet, and
some on cushions. There were no
knives, forks or spoons to be seen.
On the platter was the meat, which
had been boiled in a copper kettle.
Each person was given a piece of
meat, which was put on his bread;
thus the bread served as a plate. Of
course, as there were no forks, peo-
ple took up the meat and ate it
with their fingers. You know, they


always washed their hands before
sitting down to a meal. In the same
manner they ate beans, onions, lentils


and cucumbers. If we could have
eaten with them, we should have
tasted a bit of salt in all they ate.

There were also cakes, raisins, figs
and dates upon the table. A brass
cup w 7 as placed before each person.
Into this cup water was poured from
a leathern bottle.

Would you like to know how these


leathern bottles were made? They
were made by stripping off the skin
of a goat or kid, from the neck
downward. The skin was not ripped.
The four legs were cnt off. The


holes thus left were sewed up. The
hole left at the neck served as a
spout, and was tied up to close the

The meat eaten by the Hebrews
was the flesh of oxen, sheep and


goats. Pigeons and fish also were
used for food.

After the meal was over, David
went with his father, up a flight of
stairs, from the porch to the roof.
You are surprised to hear this, and
the roof, if we could have seen it,


would have seemed the strangest part
of the house to us. It was flat, so
that one could walk about on it. It
was a solid floor, made of coal, stones,


ashes and gypsum pounded together.
Often the roofs of these Hebrew
houses were so close together that
one could easily have stepped from
one to the next. Some were made of
earth, and here and there herbs and
spears of wheat and barley could be
seen springing up. The people did
not fall off, because there was a wall
built all around the roof. This was
built according to a law among the
Hebrews, and reached as high as a
man's chest. A small room, in one
corner of the roof, was used for the
servants. Think how queer it would
seem to us, to see people walking
about on the roofs of the houses !

David walked with his father, to
and fro, upon the roof, to enjoy the
air. Jesse wished to talk to him



alone. Crowds
narrow street
nounced to
the m that
he would
next day
have a
splendid feast
people. After

were passing in the
below. Jesse an-



an oblong iron

at his home for the
praying to Grod up
here, Jesse and
David returned
to their rooms

It was night.
The lamp was
burning in the
room where
David slept.
This lamp was
vessel, which had a


round opening in the middle into
which olive oil was poured. At one
end was a small hole for the linen
wick, and at the other end was a

Now the thick mattresses were
taken from a box along the wall,
where they were kept during the day.
They were placed upon the floor and
used as beds. The floors were clean,
for you know the sandals were not
worn in the house.

The Hebrews had, too, a sort of
bed resembling a sofa. Sometimes
this was ornamented with ivory, on
the sides and back. Upon this bed
were placed pillows stuffed with wool.

After all had lain down upon their
beds, a dim light could still be seen,
during the whole night.


Where was the mother of David
all this time? The women of those
days did not as a rule take their
meals in the same room with the
men, unless there was some great
feast. So David's mother was with
the other women of the home, in a
room in the rear of the house.

Here, in these back rooms, we
might have seen the women busily
spinning, dyeing, weaving and sewing.
For all the clothing was made in the
home. The Hebrew home was a
"hive of industry," among the rich
and poor alike. Even the children
were taught to be active and busy.

The women dressed in very much
the same way as the men. But their
dresses were fuller and longer, and
made of finer material, and their


under-garments had sleeves. The
women were fond of bright colors,
and a dress of scarlet was commonly
worn. The girdle, too, was of fine
woven stuff. The Hebrew women
wore turbans on their heads. They
did not go out in public often, but
when they did, they always wore a
veil to cover the face. Gold and
silver rings, bracelets and necklaces
were worn by them. Just think of
it we have even read of women
wearing rings around their ankles.

Besides the making of clothing,
there was other work to be done in
the home. For there the wheat and
barley were ground into flour, and
there the bread was baked.

Each family had its own mill.
This was made by placing two round



stones one above the other. The
lower one was so fixed in the floor



that it did not move around. It was
higher in the center, and this high
place fitted into a hollow place in the


upper stone. There was a hole
through the upper one, and into this
hole the grain was poured. By
means of a wooden handle, the upper
stone was turned around on the
lower one.

Thus the grain was broken up and
ground into meal. As David went
back and forth through the city, he
could hear the noise of these mills in
the houses. They were used every
morning and evening, except on the

Now, since you know how the flour
was made, would you like to know
how the Hebrews made their bread ?
The people of that time did not have
all the different kinds of food that we
have to-day, but in all ages people
have eaten bread in some form.


To make the bread the flour and
water were mixed in a wooden tray.
Of course, each family owned an
, oven, where the bread was baked.
Sometimes, this oven was only a hol-
low made in the earth. The bottom
was paved with stones. When the
oven was warmed, the fire was re-
moved. Then the bread or cakes
were placed on these hot stones, and
the mouth of the oven was closed.

They also had a movable oven
made of brick, smeared with clay on
the inside. The dough was put on
, the outside, like a plaster, and thus
baked. The women of the household
did most of this work.

Up to this time, you have heard
nothing about the schools for the
children. Well, there were no schools,


outside of their homes. Do yon think
they learned nothing on this account ?
No, indeed, for the parents considered
it a dnty to teach the children them-

The girls, until they were married,
spent all of their time with their
mothers. They were not idle, bnt

1 3 4

Online LibraryEva HerbstTales and customs of the ancient Hebrews for young readers → online text (page 1 of 4)