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A Typical Israelite House

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This is a modern house in the country of Jordan, not far from the Nabatean city of Petra (200 BC-AD 200) in the ancient territory of Moab.  As archaeological excavations have shown, in terms of construction and appearance it is very similar to Israelite houses from the period of the Judges (1200 BC) through the New Testament era.  There would typically be three or four rooms with an area outside used for cooking. Construction was of stone, which is plentiful in most of the area of Palestine, or of a combination of stone and adobe-style mud bricks. Internal stone or wooden pillars and wooden beams supported the roof (Song 1:17; note Judges 16:26f).

Biblical accounts mention various parts of such structures, especially the roof. The flat roof was often used for sleeping in order to escape the heat (1 Sam 9:25, 2 Sam 16:22).  It is also mentioned as a place of relaxation and as cool retreat during the heat of the day (Judges 3:20ff, 2 Sam 11:2, Dan 4:29).  It was also a convenient place for storing grain and other items.  Joshua 2:6 tells us that Rahab hid the Hebrew spies on her roof among sheaves of grain:

2:6 She had, however, brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax that she had laid out on the roof.

After the return from exile, Israelites used the flat roof as a place to construct "booths" for the celebration of the festival of Succoth (Neh 8:16).  However, Jeremiah tells us that the Israelites also used the roofs of the houses as a  place to offer sacrifices to other gods (Jere 19:13, 32:39; Zeph 1:5, 2 Kings 23:12). 

The friends of the paralytic who could not get to Jesus because of the crowd removed part of  this type of flat roof in order to let the man down into the inner rooms (Mk 2:4f, Lk 5:19f). We also read in Acts (10:9) that Peter used the roof as a place of prayer.

-Dennis Bratcher, Copyright © 2011, Dennis Bratcher - All Rights Reserved
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