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An introduction to the critical study and knowledge of the Holy ..., Volume 3 online

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of clay and straw, slightly blended and kneaded together, and after^^
wards baked in the sun« Philo, in his life of Moses, says, that they
used straw to bind their bricks.* The straw still preserved its
original colour, and is a proof that these bricks were never burnt in
stacks or kilns.' Bricks were made in Egypt under the direction of
the king, or of some privileged person, as appears from the impres-
sions found on many of them.' Part of the bricks of the celebrated
tower of Babel (or of Belus, as the Greeks termed it,) were made of
clay mixed with chopped straw, or broken reeds, to compact it, and
then dried in the sun. Their solidity is equal to that of the hardest
stone.^ Among the ruins discovered on the site of ancient Nineveh,
are houses, built of sun-dried bricks, cemented with mud; and
similarly constructed dwellings were observed by Mr. Buckingham in
the village of Karagoosh, near Mousul in Mesopotamia.^ At this day
the town of Busheher (or Bushire), like most of the towns in Persia,
is built with sun-dried bricks and mud.^ There is an allusion to this
mode of building in Nahum iiL 14.

At first houses were small ; afterwards they were larger, especially
in extensive cities, the capitals of empires. The art of multiplying
stories in a building is very ancient, as we may conclude from the
construction of Noah's ark and the tower of BabeL The houses in

roads are full of small particles of straws extremely offensiTO to the eyes in a high
wind. They were, in short, engaged exactly as the Israelites used to be, making bricks
with straw; and for a similar purpose — to build extensive granaries for the bashaw;
treasure cities for Pharaoh.** Exod. 111. (Researches in the Mediterranean, p. 167.)

* Philonis Opera, tom. ii. p. 86. (edit. Mangey.)

« Shaw*s Travels, vol. i p. 250 Mr. Bclzoni, in his Researches in Egypt, found similar
bricks in an ancient arch which he discovered at Thebes, and which he has engraved
among the plates illustrative of his Researches in Egypt, Nubia, &c. Plate xliv. No.
S. In and near the ruins of the ancient Tentyra, Dr. Richardson also found hats
built of sun-dried brick, made of straw and clay. (Travels, vol. I pp. 185. 259 ) They
are thus described by the Rev. Wm. Jowett, as they appeared in February, 1819. —
Speaking of the remains of ancient buildings in that part of Egypt, he says, — ** Thcae
magnificent edifices, while they display the grandeur of former times, exhibit no less the
meanness of the present This temple, built of massive stone, with a pordco of twenty-
four pillars, adorned with innumerable hieroglyphics, and painted with beautiful colours,
the brightness of which in many parts remains to this day, is choked up with dusty
earth. Village after village, huHt ofunbwmt brick, crumbling into ruins, and giving place
to new habitations, have raised the earth, in some parts, nearly to the level of the snmmU
of the temple; and fragments of the walls of these mud huts appear, even on the roof of
the temple. In every part of Egypt, we find the towns built in this manner, upon the
rain% or rather the rubbish, of the former habitations. The expression in Jeremiah
XXX. 18. literally applies to Egypt, in the very meanest sense — The city shaU be buMed
vpon her own heap ; and the expression in Job. xv. 28. might be illustrated by many of
these deserted hovels — He dwdUth in deaolaie cities, and in ncmses which no nutn inhabttetk,
which are ready to become heaps. Still more touching is the allusion in Job iv. 19.; where
tiie perishing generations of men are fitly compared to habitations of the frailest m a teri als
built upon 5ie heap of similar dwelling-places, now reduced to rubbish — How muck kxs
in them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust ! ** (Jowett*8 Researches
Ih the Mediterranean, pp. 131, 132.)

* Sir J. G. Wilkinson's Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians (First Series),
vol ii. p. 97. "It is worthy of remark," he adds, *• that more bricks bearing the name of
Thothmes in." (whom he supposes to have been king of Egypt at the time of the
Exodus) ** have been discovered, than of any other period; owing to the many prisoners
of Asiatic nations employed by him, independent of his Hebrew captives." Ibid. pp.

* Sir R K. Porter^s Travels in Georgia, Persia, Babylonia, &c vol ii. pp. 829, 330.

* Buckingham's Travels in Mesopotamia, vol. ii. p. 71.

* Price's Journal of the British Embassy to Persia, part i p. 6. Lond. 1825. folvx

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On the DweUingt of the Jewt. 415

Babylon, according to Herodotus ^ were three and four stories high ;
and those in Thebes or Dion)olis'9 in Egypt, were four or five stories.
In Palestine they appear to have been low, during the time of Joshua ;
an upper story, though it may have existed, is not mentioned till a
more recent age. The houses of the rich and powerful in Palestine,
in the time of Christ, were splendid, and were built according to the
rules of Grecian architecture.'

The timber employed in building was the wood of the sycamore,
the palm tree, which served principally for pillars and beams, the fir
and olive tree ; but the most precious and costly was the wood of the
cedar, which was employed in the construction of the most beautiful
edifices. The box 'sv^TS (thasAour), mentioned in Isa. be. 13. and
so rendered in the Vulgate and Chaldee versions as well as in our
translation, is in the Syriac version and also by some Hebrew inter-
preters rendered Sherbin, that is, a species of cedar distinguished by
the smallness of its cones and the upward direction of its branches.^
The very precious wood brought in the time of Solomon from Ophir,
called almug-treesy and which was employed for the ornaments of his
palace and of the temple, has been conjectured to be what Euro-
peans now cajl Brasil - wood. It grew in India and Nigritia. But
modem interpreters, wilh more probability, understand by it the red
sandal wood (^Pterocarpns santaliorus Linn.), which grows in China
and the Indian Archipelago, and which is still used in India and
Persia for costly instruments and utensils.* The ivory palaces men-
tioned in Psal. xlv. 8., and the ivory house of Ahab (I Kings xxiL
39.), were probably cabinets ornamented with ivory, made in the form
of a house or palace ; just as the silver temples of Diana, mentioned
in Acts xix. 24., were shrines in the form of her temple at Ephesus ;
and as we now have models of Chinese pagodas or temples.

Of all modem travellers, no one has so happily described the form
and structure of the eastern buildings as Dr. Shaw, from whose ac-
count the following particulars are derived, which admirably elucidate
several interesting passages of Holy Writ.

** The streets of the cities, the better to shade them from the sun,
are usually narrow, sometimes with a range of shops on each side. If
from these we enter into any of the principal houses, we shall first
pass through a porch® or gateway, with benches on each side, where
the master of the family receives visits, and despatches business ; few
persons, not even the nearest relations, having admission bxlj farther
except upon extraordinary occasions. From hence we are received
into the court, which, lying open to the weather, is, according to the
ability of the owner, paved witli marble, or such proper materials, as

» Hcrodot. lib. L c 180. * Diod. Sic lib. L c 45.

. ' Jahn et Ackermann, Arclueol Bibl. § 33.

* Gesenius's Hebrew Lexicon, by liobinson, p. 1053. New York, 1836. 8vo.
» Ibid. p. 65.

• In Bengal, servants and others generally sleep in the verandah or porch, in front of
their master's bonse. (Ward's History, &c. of the Hindoos, vol ii. p. 323.) The Arab
servants in Egypt do the same. (Wilson's Travels in Egypt and the Holy Land, p. 56.)
In this way Uriah dept at the door of the king's house, with aU the servants qfhis lord, (2
Sam. zi. 9.)

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416 On the Dwelling$ of the Jeto$,

will carry off the water into the common sewers." Thb court corre-
sponded to the cava (sdium or itnpluvium of the Romans ; the use oi
which was to give light to the windows and carry off the rain. ** When
much people are to oe admitted, as upon the celebration of a mar-
riage, the circumcising of a child, or occasions of the like nature, the
company is seldom or never admitted into one of the chambers. The
court is the usual place of their reception, which is strewed accord-
ingly with mats or carpets, for their more commodious entertainment
The stairs which lead to the roof are never placed on the outside of
the house in the street, but usually at the gateway or passage room to
the court ; sometimes at the entrance within the court This court
is now called in Arabic el tooosty or the middle of the house, literally
answering to the to fjJaov of St Luke (v. 19.) In this area our
Saviour probably taught In the summer season, and upon all occa-
sions when a large company is to be received, the cotu*t is commonly
sheltered from the heat and inclemencies of tlie weather by a vellum
umbrella or veil, which, being expanded upon ropes from one side of
the parallel wall to the other, may be folded or unfolded at pleasure.
The Psalmist seems to allude either to the tents of the Bedouins, or
to some covering of this kind, in that beautiful expression of spread"
ing out tlie heavens like a veil or curtain.^ (PsaL civ. 2. See also
Isaiah xL 22.)^ The arrangement of oriental houses satisfactorily
explains the circumstances of the letting down of the paralytic into
the presence of Jesus Christ, in order that he might heal him. (Mark
ii. 4. ; Luke v. 19.) The paralytic was carried by some of his
neighbours to the top of the house, either by forcing their way through
the crowd by the gateway and passages up the staircase, or else by
conveying him over some of the neighbouring terraces ; and there,
after they had drawn away the {rriyrjv or awning, they let him down
along the side of the roof through the opening or impluvium into the
midst of the court before Jesus. XrAnj^ Dr. Shaw remarks, may with
propriety denote no less than tatlilo (the corresponding word in the
Syriac version), any kind of covering ; and, consequently, aTro<rri'
ya^eiv may signify the removal of such a covering. *E^opv^vTi9 is
in the Vulgate Latin version rendered patefadentes, as if further
explanatory of anrsariycurav. The same in the Persian version is
connected with Kpdfifiarov, and there implies making holes in it for
the cords to pass through. That neither airstrriyaaa^ nor i^pv^vrsf
imply any force or violence offered to the roof, appears from the
parallel passage in St Luke ; where, though Sia r&v KspapMv /ca0tiKa¥
auTov, per tegulas demiserunt illuniy is rendered by our translators,
theg let him doion through the tiling^ as if that had been previously
broken up, it should be rendered, tliey let him doum avety along the
side, or bg the way of the roof as in Acts ix. 25., and 2 Cor. xL 33.,
where the like phraseology is observed as in St Luke : &a is ren-
dered in both places iy, that is, along the side, or by the way of the
wall *E^pv^vT89 may express the plucking away or removing any
obstacle, such as the awning or part of a parapet, which might be

I Dr. Sbaw*8 Trayels in Barbarj, &c toL L pp. 874—376. Sva edidon.

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On the Dwellings of the Jews,


in their way. Kxpofwi was fint used for a roof of tiles, but after-
wards came to signify any kind of roof.*

A, A, theftreet

B, the cmter porch.

C, C, C,thegaUei7.

D, the porch at the
entrance into the
main building.

The preceding diagram will perhaps give the reader a tolerably
accurate idea of the arrangement of an eastern house.

Now let it be supposed, that Jesus was sitting at D in the porch,
at the entrance into the main building, and speaking to the people,
when the four men carrying the paralytic came to the front gate or
porch, B. Finding the court so crowded that they could not carry
him in and lay him before Jesus, they carried him up the stairs at the
porch to the top of the gallery, C, C, C, and along the gallery round
to the place where Jesus was sitting, and forcing a passage by re-
moving the balustrade, they lowered down the paralytic, with the
couch on which he lay, into the court before Jesus. Thus we are
enabled to understand the manner in which the paralytic was brought
in and laid before the compassionate Redeemer.'

** The court is for the most part surrounded with a cloister, as the
cava (Bdium of the Romans was with a peristylium or colonnade, over
which, when the house has one or more stories (and they sometimes
have two or three\ there is a gallery erected of the same dimensions
with the cloister, naving a balustrade, or else a piece of carved or lat-

' Dr. Shaw's Travels in Barbaiy, &c voL I pp. a82 — 884. Valpjr's Gr. Test, on
Mai^ ii 4. ** If the circnmstanccs related hy the evangelist had happened in India,
nothing conld he easier than the mode of letting down the paralytic. A plank or two might
be staiied from the top balcony or veranda in the back court, where the congregation was
probably assembled, and the man [be] let down in his luunmock." Callaway's Oriental
Observations, p. 71.

' Mr. Hartley has dissented fircnn the interpretation above given by Dr. Shaw. ** When
I lived in .£gina " (he relates), ** I osed to look np not nnfreqnently above my head,
and contemplate the faciliw with which the whole transaction might take place. The
roof was coiistmcted in this manner: — A layer of reeds, of a large species, was placed
npon the rafters. On these a quantity of heather (heath) was strewed; upon the heather
earth was deposited, and beat down into a compact mass. Now what diiBcalty could
there be in removing, first the earth, then the heather, next the reeds? Nor would the
difficulty be increased, if the earth had a pavement of tiling {Ktpdixwv) laid upon it.
N'o inconvenience could result to the persons in the house from the rcuioval of the tiles
and earth: for the heather and reeds would intercept any thing which might otherwise
&]] down, and would be removed last of all** (Hartley's Researches in Greece, p. 240.)
VOL. Ill, B B

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418 On the Dtoellings of the Jews.

ticed work going round about it, to prevent people from falling from
it into the court From the cloisters and gaUenes we are conducted
into large spacious chambers of the same length as the courts but
seldom or never communicating with one another. One of them fre-
quently serves a whole family, particularly when a father indulges his
married children to live willi him ; or when several persons join in
the rent of the same house. Hence it is that the cities of these coun-
tries, which are generally much inferior in size to those of Eurcqpe,
are so exceedingly populous, that great numbers of the inhabitants
are swept s^way by the plague, or any other contagious distemper.
In houses of better fashion, these chambers, from the middle of the
wall downwards, are covered and adorned with velvet or damask
hangings, of white, blue, red, green, or other colours. (Esth. i. 6.)
suspended upon hooks, or taken down at pleasure.^ But the upper
part is embellished with more permanent ornaments, being adorned
with the most ingenious wreathings and devices in stucco and fret-
work. The ceiUng is generally of wunscot, either very artfully
piunted, or else thrown mto a variety of panels, with gilded mould-
ings and scrolls of their Koran intermixed. The prophet Jeremiah
(xxii. 14.) exclaims against the eastern houses that were ceiled with
cedar, and painted with vermilion. The floors are laid with painted
tiles, or plaster of terrace. But as these people make little or no use
of chairs (either sitting cross-legged or lying at length), they always
cover and spread them over with carpets, which, for tiie most part,
are of the richest materials. Along the sides of the wall or floor, a
range of narrow beds or mattresses is often placed upon these carpets :
and for their farther ease and convenience, several velvet or damask
bolsters are placed upon these carpets or mattresses; indulgences
which seem to be alluded to by their stretching themselves ypan couches,
and 2>y the seioing of pillows to the armholesy as we have it expressed
in Amos vL 4. and Ezek. xiiL 18. At one end of the chamber there
is a little gallery, raised three, four, or five feet above the floor, with
a balustrade in the front of it, with a few steps likewise leading up
to it. Here they place their beds ; a situation frequentiy alluded to
in the Holy ^Scriptures; which may likewise illustrate tiie circum-
stance of Hezeldah's turning his face when he prayed towards the wall,
i e. from his attendants (2 Kings xx. 2.), that the fervency of his
devotion might be the less taken notice of and observed. The
like is relat^ of Ahab (1 Kings xxL 4.), though probably not upon
a religious account, but in order to conceal from his attendants the
anguish he felt for his late disappointments. The sturs are some-
times placed in tiie porch, sometunes at the entrance into die court.

* Similar coetlj hangings appear to have decorated the payilion or ttite tent of
Solomon, alluded to in Cant, i 5. ; the beaaty and elegance of which would form a
striking contrast to the black tents of the nonoadic Arabs. The state tents of modem
oriental sovereigns, it is well known, are very superb: of this gorgeous splendour, Mr.
Harmer has g^ven some instances from the travels of Egmont and Hayman. The tent ol
tlie Grand Seignior was covered and lined with silk. Nadir Shah had a venr superb one,
covered on the outside with scarlet broad doth, and lined within with violet-coloured
satin, ornamented with a great variety of animals, flowers, &c. formed entirely of pearla
and precious stones. (Harmer on SoL Song, p. 186.)

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On the Dwellings of the Jetoi. 419

When there is one or more stories, they are afterwards continued
through one comer or other of the galleir to the top of the house,
whither they conduct us through a Soot that is constantly kept shut
to prevent their domestic animals from daubing the terrace, and
thereby spoiling the water which fiills from thence into the cisterns
below the court This door, like most others we meet with in these
countries, is hung, not with hinges, but by having the jamb formed
at each end into an axle-tree or pivot, whereof the uppermost, which
is the longest, is to be received into a correspondent socket in the
lintel, while the other falls into a cavity of the same fashion in the
threshold."^ Anciently it was the custom to secure the door of a
house, by a cross-bar or bolt, which by night was fastened by a little
button or pin : in the upper part of the door was left a round hole,
through which any person from without might thrust his arm, and
remove the bar, unless this additional security were superadded. To
such a mode of fastening the bride alludes in Cant v. 4. *

** The top of the house, which is always flat, is covered with a
strong plaster of terrace, whence in the Frank language it has ob-
tained the name of the terraced This is usually surrounded by two
walls, the outermost whereof is partly built over the street, and partly
makes the partition with the contiguous houses, being frequently so
low that one may easihr climb over it The other, which may be
called the parapet wall, hangs immediately over the court, being
always breast high, and answers to what we render the battlements
in Deut xxiL 8. Instead of this parapet wall, some terraces are
guarded, like the galleries, with balustrades only, or latticed work.
Over such a lattice Ahaziah (2 Kings L 2.) might be carelessly
leaning when he fell down into the court below. For upon Ihoee
terraces several offices of the family are performed, such as the drying
of linen and flax (Josh. ii. 6.), the preparing of figs or raisins, where
likewise they enjoy the cool refreshing breezes of the evening, con-
verse with one another, and offer up their devotions."* At Tiberias,
we are informed that the parapet is commonly made of wicker- woric
and sometimes of green branches; which mode of constructing booths
seems to be as ancient as the days of Nehemiafa, when the people
wentforthy at the feast of tabernacles, and brought branches and made
themselves booths^ every one upon the top of his house. (Neh. viiL 16.)*
'^ As these terraces are thus frequently used and trampled upon, not
to mention the solidity of the materials with which tney are made,
they will not easily permit any vegetable substances to take root or

• Dr. Sbaw'f Trayeli in Barbarr, toI. i. pp. 874—379.

• Bp. Percy'B TraiulAtioo of Bolomon's Song, p. 76.

* On thete terraoea, the inhabitaots of the Eatt sleep in the open air daring the hot aea-
son. See instances, illnstrating Tarions passages of the Scriptnres, in the Travels of Ali
Bey, ToU iL p. 298. Mr. Kinneir's Trarels in Aimenia, &c p. ISi. Mr. Moriers Second
Joomey in Persia, p. 230., where a wood-cut is given explanator/ of this practice ; and
Mr. Ward's History, &c of the Hindoos, voL ii. p. 823.

* Thus we read that Samuel communed with Saol upon the house-top (1 Sam. iz. 25.);
David walked upon the roof of the king's house (2 Sam. zi 2.); and Peter went up upon
the house-top to pray. (Acts x. 9.)

» Madden's Travds in TuAey, Bgypt, Ac. vol il p. 314.

SB 2

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420 On the Dwellings of the Jew$.

thrive upon them ; which perhaps may illustrate the prophet Isaiah^s
comparison of the Assyrians to the arass upon the house^^ops. (Isaiah
xxxvii. 27.) When any of these cities are built upon level ground,
one may pass along the tops of houses from one end of them to the
other> without coming down into the street."^ In the mountainous
parts of modem Palestine these terraces are composed of eitrth,
si)read evenly on the roof of the house^ and rolled hard and flat On
the top of every house a large stone roller is kept, for the purpose of
hardening aird flattening this layer of rude soil, to prevent the rain
from penetrating ; but upon this surface, as may be supposed, grass
and weeds grow freely. Similar terraces appear to have been an-
ciently constructed in that country: it is to such grass that the
Psalmist alludes as useless and bad — Let them be as Hie grass upon
the house-tops, which toithereth afore it groioeth up, (PsaL cxxix. 6.)
These low and flat-roofed houses aflbrd opportunities to speak to
many on the house as well as to many in the court-yard below : this
circumstance will illustrate the meaning of our Lord's command to
his apostles, What ye hear in the ear that preach ye upon the house^
tops. (Matt X. 27.)* On these terraces incense was anciently burnt
(Jer. xix. 13., xxxiL 29.), and the host of heaven was wordiipped.
(Zeph. L 5.)

In Barbary, the hills and valleys in the vicinity of Alters are
beautified with numerous country seats and gardens, whither the
opulent resort during the intense heats of summer. In all probability,
the summer-houses of the Jews, mentioned by the prophet Amoe
(iii 15.), were of this description; though these have been supposed
to mean different apartments of the same house, the one exposed to
a northern and the other to a southern aspect

During the Rev. Mr. Jowett's residence at Hdvali, in May, 1818,
he relates that the house in which he abode gave him a correct idea
of the scene of Eutychus's falling from the upper loft, while Paul
was preacliing at Troas. (Acts xx. 6 — 12.) " According to our idea
of houses," he remarks, " the scene of Eutychus's falling from the
upper loft is very far from intelligible ; and, besides this, 2ie circum-
stance of preacning generally leaves on the mind of cursory readers
the notion of a chureL To describe this house, which is not many
miles distant from the Troad, and perhaps, from the unchanging chiik-
racter of oriental customs, nearly resembles the houses then built,
will fully illustrate the narrative of Saint Luke.

^^ On entering my host's door, we find the ground floor entirely
used as a store : it is filled with large barrels of oil, the produce of the
rich country for many miles round: this space, so far frx>m being
habitable, is sometimes so dirty with the dripping of the oil, that it is
difficult to pick out a clean footing from the door to the first step of

«,.' ?^*!L " P*rti«nlM"ly the awe at Aleppa (Irby'B and Mangles* Trayela, p. 238.
Shaw 8 Trarelfl. voL i. pp. 880. 881.) Also in the dwelUngs of the Drases on Mount

Online LibraryThomas Hartwell HorneAn introduction to the critical study and knowledge of the Holy ..., Volume 3 → online text (page 60 of 114)