From the book “1001 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE BIBLE” #4

Bible Times


and Trivia


The Bible Lands


643. The Bible lands ceased to be the focal point for the ancient world in the five centuries between the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem and the birth of Jesus. New empires rose, this time in Europe. First the Greeks and then the Romans overran the Bible lands. The Near Eastern peoples watched their land become ravaged of trees and precious metals to supply their conquerors. What forests had survived were cut down. The wilderness gave way to fields, and wild beasts were largely replaced by domesticated animals.


644. Most rivers in the Bible lands dry up during the rainless summer, but not the Nile. Heavy rains and melting snow feed the tributaries that form the Nile River. The torrent of water reaches Egypt during the late summer and it overflows the banks, leaving a fresh layer of fertile moist soil along its banks.


645. The Holy Land is so small that a soaring eagle can see almost all of it at once on a clear day. From Dan to Beersheba is little more than 150 miles, roughly the same distance as from New York City to Albany. From east to west, the Holy Land is even narrower. At its widest point, a hundred miles lie between the Mediterranean coast and the Arabian Desert on the east. The land in which such great events took place is only a little larger than the state of New Jersey and smaller than Belgium.


646. This land that gave birth to our civilization is inconspicuous on a map of the world. But no other part of the world, square foot for square foot, has played such a historic role in human history.


647. The Holy Land's position at the crossroads of three continents makes it a meeting ground for species of plants and animals of different origins. Almost every kind of bird, for example, that inhabits northern Africa, southern Europe, and western Asia has been seen at one time or another in the Bible lands. The fauna comes from as far away as Central Asia (the horse), equatorial Africa (the crocodile), and western Europe (the stork).


648. The great variety of deserts, mountains, forests, grasslands, lakes, and seashores provides nearly every possible habitat in which plants and animals can find the exact living conditions they need. About 2,250 species of trees and shrubs and annual and perennial plants grow in the Holy Land; Egypt, although much larger, has only fifteen hundred. About seven hundred species of mammals, birds, and reptiles are found in the Holy Land.


649. The contrasts in the landscape are remarkable. Mount Hermon rises to 9,400 feet, and its summit is arctic in climate. A little over a hundred miles away, at the Dead Sea, the climate is tropical. In the same glance you can see snow-capped mountains and sun-baked deserts. Alongside cultivated fields are stark deserts that afford scarcely enough pasture for flocks. 


650. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho drops three thousand feet in only fifteen miles, and while fruit is growing on the farms around Jericho, it may be snowing in Jerusalem. The varied animals and plants, the many different landscapes, the abrupt changes in climate—all these realities were observed by the Bible's writers. And they put them to use to illustrate  spiritual teachings.


651. The Jordan Valley is part of the Great Rift that extends from Turkey deep into Africa for four thousand miles. The Great Rift is the deepest chasm on the face of the globe. Unlike the Grand Canyon, which was formed by the process of erosion, great swells and cracking of the earth's crust caused huge blocks of land to collapse, leaving deep valleys that were flooded. In the Holy Land this formed the Jordan River, Lake Huleh, the Sea of Galilee, and the Dead Sea.


652. The Jordan River is among the most rapid of any rivers in the world. In approximately two hundred winding miles, it drops from almost two thousand feet above sea level to the surface of the Dead Sea, which is nearly thirteen hundred feet below sea level.


653. The shore of the Dead Sea is the lowest place on the land surface of the earth. This sea is also the saltiest body of water in the world, and nine times saltier than the oceans! It is so salty that it is impossible for a human swimmer to sink in it. During the Roman siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, a Roman commander sentenced some prisoners to death by having them thrown into the Dead Sea. The condemned men were thrown in from a hill, but they did not drown. Several times they were pulled out and tossed in again, yet each time they bobbed to the surface. The commander was impressed by this seeming miracle, since he did not understand its cause, and he pardoned the prisoners.


654. Ancient Hebrews had an unlimited supply of salt. They formed brine pits called "salt-pans" along the Dead Sea's flat coastal area. The sun evaporated the water in the pits, leaving behind an abundant supply of mineral salts.


655. Salt was the chief economic product of the ancient world, and the Hebrews used it in a variety of ways: for flavoring foods, preserving fish, curing meat, and pickling olives and vegetables. Infants were rubbed in salt to insure good health before swaddling. Salt was also believed to have been an antidote for tooth decay. Salt was an ingredient in the sacred anointing oil and ritual sacrifices symbolizing God's perpetual covenant with Israel (Num. 18:19).


656. Cool streams, luxuriant pastures, and mountains shaggy with trees are often described in the Bible. Yet visitors today usually see a bleak and barren landscape with waterless flatlands and bare hills. Almost everywhere the rocky bones of the earth show through the soil. An ancient Hebrew legend states that God had two bags of rocks when he made the world. He scattered the contents of one bag over the entire earth—but all the other rocks in the other bag he dropped on the small area of the Holy Land. 


657. The face of the land looked very different than it does today. The first step toward agriculture was the cutting down of the forests. That is what Joshua told the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh to do when they complained about the lack of farmland in the areas assigned to them: "But the forested hill country [shall be yours] as well. Clear it, and its farthest limits will be yours" (Josh. 17:18). 


658. Mount Sinai, a solid block of reddish granite that rises steeply out of the desert, is only about three thousand feet high, not much in comparison to other mountains. It looms so dramatically out of the surrounding land, however, that the Israelites must have found it a fitting place for God to dwell.


659. Mari, dating back to the eighteenth century B.C., was unveiled as one of the great cities of the ancient world. A ziggurat was unearthed, and so were twenty thousand clay tablets of writing. Among other things, these clay tablets preserve ancient police records that refer constantly to threats of Semitic nomads who lived on the frontiers of the kingdom and raided the towns of Mari. 


660. Haran, a little mud-brick settlement, is one of the most important cities in the Near East. It was a key city connected by ancient trade routes to Ur. Nearly four thousand years ago, Abraham, his wife, Sarah, and his household set off with their herds and flocks on a historic journey to a Promised Land. Abraham's travels correspond to known migratory and commercial routes before Ur was conquered and abandoned in 1740 B.C. 


661. The city of Corinth was one of the most important cities in the Roman Empire during Paul's lifetime. A commercial bridge between East and West, it attracted merchants, traders, and visitors from all around the Mediterranean area, making it something like the "Times Square" of its day.


662. Solomon's ships sailed with metal and other items of trade from Eziongeber on the Gulf of Aqaba to a place known as "Ophir." Its location has been heavily disputed and it was even believed to be a legendary land until a discovery was made near the ancient port of Joppa (Jaffa) in Israel of a Phoenician storage jar inscribed with the words "gold of Ophir."


663. Ophir very well may have been located in India or Ceylon, because the Bible states that the round-trip voyage took three years and that the ships brought back "gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks" (1 Kings 10:22 KJV).


664. The ancient cities of the Near East were usually walled, and at night the gates were closed for protection against invaders. In case any of the citizens were unable to return before nightfall, one small opening was left in the gate, an opening known as "the needle's eye." It was so low and so narrow that a camel laden with riches could never fit through. Only when the owner unloaded the camel and left the load outside the gate could the camel, with its head bent low, squeeze through.


665. Jesus' teaching in Matthew 19 seized on the analogy of the camel making its way through "the needle's eye" and compared it to a rich man trying to leave the earth with riches to get into heaven. A rich man can enter the kingdom of heaven—but only if he first casts off his worldly goods and, like the camel squeezing through the needle's eye, bows his head in humility.


666. The civilization of the Egyptians was already an ancient one by the time Joseph arrived there some 3,650 years ago. The first pyramid was built about five thousand years ago. It is known as the Step Pyramid because it rises in a series of steps or terraces to a height of 250 feet, much like the ziggurats of Babylon.


667. The Great Pyramid of Cheops at Giza, built only a few hundred years after the Step Pyramid, was the tallest structure ever erected until the nineteenth century. It rises to a height of 481 feet, and its base is 756 blocks of stone, many blocks weighing as much as five thousand pounds. This pyramid was built with no other mechanical equipment than the lever and the roller, because at that time the Egyptians had not yet learned the use of the wheel.


668. More than thirty major pyramids were built during the thousand years before Joseph. Each one guarded the body of a pharaoh entombed in a chamber deep inside the pile of stone blocks. However, no pyramids are mentioned in the Bible. Despite the fact that these structures would have certainly been the talk of the ancient world, the authors of the Bible didn't consider them worthy of note. They did not play a part in the unfolding of the biblical narrative.


Festivals and Holidays


669. Within the Hebrew calendar there are twelve months of the year, just like our modern calendar. However, the Hebrew calendar starts in Tishri (September). The other months of the year are Heshvan, Kislev, Tevet, Shevat, Adar, Nisan, Iyar, Sivan, Tammuz, Av, and Elul.


[THAT IS  THE  SECULAR  HARVEST  YEAR,  THE  RELIGIOUS  YEAR  STARTS  WITH  NISAN  OR  ABIB  -  MARCH/APRIL  -  Keith Hunt]


670. Rosh Hashanah is the first day of the Hebrew year and is celebrated as we celebrate New Year's Day. Numbers 29:1 and Leviticus 23:24 explain the celebration in detail; typically the holiday falls in mid-September.


[ IT  IS  THE  1ST  DAY  OF  THE  7TH  MONTH  ON  THE  RELIGIOUS  HEBREW  CALENDAR  -  Keith Hunt]


671. Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement and comes on the tenth day of Tishri (Lev. 16:29; 23:27). The day falls toward the end of September.


672. Succoth, or the feast of Tabernacles or Booths, is celebrated the week of the fifteenth to the twenty-second of Tishri, concluding with a solemn assembly (Lev. 23:34-36).


673. Solemn assembly comes on the twenty-second day of Tishri (Lev. 23:36) and falls in our month of October.


[IT  IS  THE  8TH  DAY  IN  LEVITICUS  23,  OR  AS  MANY  CALL  IT,  THE  LAST  GREAT  FEAST.  IT  FOLLOWS  THE  7  DAY  FEAST  OF  TABERNACLES  -  Keith Hunt]


674. Dedication (Hanukkah) is celebrated in the month of Kislev, on the twenty-fifth day (John 10:22).


[IT  IS  NOT  A  FEAST  OF  THE  LORD  PER  SE.  IT  IS  AN  HISTORICAL  EVENT  FEAST  -  Keith Hunt]


675. Purim is celebrated in the month of Adar on the fourteenth and fifteenth days. The month falls between February and March. Purim commemorates the events of the Book of Esther (Esther 9:18-22). Therefore, it is not mentioned in Leviticus.


676. Esther's triumph is celebrated in the Jewish festival of Purim, a joyous festival to commemorate the Jews' deliverance from Haman while they lived under Persian rule. Since the time of the exile, Jews have observed this feast in recognition of God's continued deliverance of his people. As the Book of Esther is being read, each time the name of Haman is read, the listeners yell out, "Let his name be blotted out!" The names of Haman's sons are all read in one breath, to emphasize the fact that they were all hanged at the same time.


677. The bitter herbs for the celebration of the Passover mentioned in Numbers 9:11 may have included chicory, wild lettuce, and several plants whose leaves were gathered for use in salads; but they were most likely dandelions. Though we find them invading lawns in many parts of the world, the dandelion's original home was in the lands bordering the Mediterranean.


678. Pesach, or Passover, is celebrated on the fourteenth day of Nisan, which falls on our Palm Sunday, and can be in March or April depending on the year. Exodus 12 and Leviticus 23 explain the commemorative reasons in more detail.


[IT  DOES  NOT  FALL  ON  PALM  SUNDAY;  THE  14TH  OF  NISAN  CAN  FALL  ON  A  NUMBER  OF  DIFFERENT  DAYS  OF  THE  WEEK  -  Keith Hunt]


679. The Feast of Unleavened Bread comes between the fifteenth and twenty-first days of the month of Nisan. This commemorates the Israelites' time in the desert and the food they were to eat—unleavened bread (Lev. 23:6).


680. The Waving of the Sheaf of Firstfruits celebrates the first-fruits of harvest (Lev. 23:10) and falls on the seventeenth day of Nisan, somewhere between March and April of our calendar year. It is just two days past the celebration called the Passover.


[WRONG  AGAIN,  IT  FALLS  ON  THE  SUNDAY  MORNING  DURING  THE  FEAST  OF  UNLEAVENED  BREAD;  THE  AUTHORS  DID  NOT  HAVE  MUCH  KNOWLEDGE  OF  THE  FEASTS  OF  GOD  -  Keith Hunt]


681. Shavuoth, or Pentecost, is held in the month of Sivan, on the sixth day. It is also known as the Feast of Weeks (Lev. 23:15).


[THIS  IS  THE  PHARISEE  TEACHING  -  WHICH  WAS  WRONG  -  AGAIN  MOST  CATHOLIC  AND  PROTESTANT  TEACHERS  KNOW  LITTLE  TO  NOTHING  ABOUT  GOD’S  FEASTS,  AS  THEY  DO  NOT  OBSERVE  THEM  -  Keith Hunt]


Family Life


The Husband and Wife


682. In the East, every company of travelers, every tribe, every community, every family must have "a father," who is head of the group. Jabal "was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ." Jabal was the "father of such as dwell in tents and …. have cattle" (Gen. 4:20-21 KJV). Easterners would not conceive of any band or group without somebody being "the father" of it.


683. Under the patriarchal system, the father is supreme in command. The authority of the father extends to his wife, his children, his children's children, his servants, and all his household. Many of the bedouin Arabs of today are under no government other than this patriarchal rule. When Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lived in tents in the Land of Promise, they were ruled by this same system.


684. Reverence of the children for their parents and especially the father is almost universal in the Bible lands. It is quite customary for a child to greet the father in the morning by kissing his hand and standing before him in an attitude of humility, ready to receive any order, or waiting for permission to leave. After this the child is often pulled up onto the lap of the father.


685. Women were confined to different roles than men. They never ate with the men, and the husband and brothers were served first. While walking, women followed at a respectful distance. The woman was closely confined and watched with jealousy; and when she went out she was veiled from head to foot.


[GARBAGE  TO  ALL  THAT,  JUST  NOT  SO  IN  ISRAEL  -  Keith Hunt]


686. The ancient Hebrew women did not have unrestrained freedom, but they did have power in their role and influences within the family. A woman had tremendous influence for good or ill over her husband, and in most cases he showed her great respect. Sarah was treated like a queen by Abraham, and in matters of the household, she ruled in many ways.


[DEPENDS  WHAT  YOU  THINK  IS  “UNRESTRAINED  FREEDOM”  -  PROVERBS  31  SHOWS  QUITE  A  DIFFERENT  STORY  OF  A  RIGHTEOUS  WIFE  -  Keith Hunt]


687. The tribute to the wife and mother in the Book of Proverbs indicates she was a person of great influence: "Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value" (31:11). "She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue" (31:26). "Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her" (31:28).


[YES,  BUT  NOTICE  THE  AUTHORS  NEVER  MENTIONED  SOMETHING  VERY  IMPORTANT….. SHE  BUYS  A  FIELD….. THAT  SAYS  A  LOT  RIGHT  THERE  -  THAT  IS  A  LESSON  IN  BIBLE  STUDY,  NEVER  JUST  TAKE  WHAT  SOMEONE  WRITES  -  CHECK  IT  OUT  AND  THE  CONTEXT  -  Keith Hunt]


688. Several cities mentioned in the Old Testament were built above underground springs. Megiddo and Hazor were two of these cities. In Hazor a woman would walk through the streets to a deep shaft. Then she descended thirty feet on five flights of stairs to the water tunnel, along which she proceeded to the water level to fill her large water jug. She needed considerable strength to climb back out of the watershaft with a heavy water jug. Gathering water was also a time for the women to socialize.


689. The hum of the handmill grinding grain would be one of the first sounds heard in the early morning of an Israelite village. For those who live in the Holy Lands, this sound is associated with home, comfort, and plenty. This task belonged to the women and began in the early morning because it would often take half the day to finish. When Jeremiah foretold judgment upon Israel for her sins, he said that God would "banish from them the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, the sound of millstones and the light of the lamp" (Jer. 25:10, emphasis added).


690. Making clothes for the family from the wool of their flocks was one of the responsibilities of Jewish women. Another task was the washing of clothing. The ancient women of Israel washed their clothes by going to nearby sources of water such as streams, pools, or watering troughs. Like Arab women, they dipped the clothes in and out of the water and then placed them on flat stones to beat them with a club. They carried the water in goatskins and had a vessel for rinsing.


691. Collecting water from a well or spring is another household task of the women. The same practice is used today in many places in the East just as it was done in Genesis: "it was toward evening, the time the women go out to draw water" (24:11). It is customary for Syrian women to carry the pitcher of water on their shoulders, although sometimes it is carried on their hip. Most Arabs of Palestine carry it on their heads. Scripture says that Rebekah carried her pitcher on her shoulder (Gen. 24:15).


692. “A man carrying a jar of water …” Carrying water was universally done by women. So when Jesus instructed two of his disciples, "Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him" (Mark 14:13), it was an easy way of identifying the man. However when larger supplies of water were needed, men used large skins of sheep or goats for carrying it.


693. The hard leather portable bucket with a rope is brought to the well in addition to the pitcher in order to let down the bucket to the level of the water. The Samaritan woman who Jesus met at Jacob's well had brought all this with her, but Jesus did not have anything with him. This is why she said to him, "Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep" (John 4:11 NRSV).


Bearing Children


694. Levirate marriage. The Israelites believed that it was very important for a man to have an heir. To preserve the property inheritance that God had given them, they had to convey it through family lines (Exod. 15:17-18). If a woman's husband died before she had borne an heir, the practice of levirate marriage (which was part of the Law of Moses) began. According to the law, when a woman was widowed, her dead husband's brother would marry her and the children of this marriage became heirs to the deceased brother. If a man refused to marry his widowed sister-in-law, he was publicly disgraced (Deut. 25:7-10).


[HE  DID  NOT  HAVE  TO  DO  THIS,  BUT  WENT  THROUGH  A  RITUAL,  IT  DID  NOT  HAVE  TO  BE  A  PUBLIC  DISGRACE  PER  SE  -  Keith hunt]


695. Many Israelite couples were unable to bear children. Today we know that couples may be childless due to either the husband's or wife's sterility, but in Bible times only the wife was blamed for the problem. Barrenness was more than a physical or social problem. Deep religious meanings were attached to the problem as well. Moses promised the people that if they obeyed the Lord, blessing would follow: "Thou shalt be blessed above all people: there shall not be male or female barren among you, or among your cattle" (Deut. 7:14 KJV). So barrenness was believed to be a result of disobeying God.


[NO  IT  WAS  NOT  PER SE  BUT  SOME  MAY  HAVE  THOUGHT  SO  -  JOHN  THE  BAPTIST’S  MOTHER  WAS  BARREN,  AND  SHE  WAS  MARRIED  TO  A  PRIEST.  OBEYING  GOD’S  PHYSICAL  LAWS  WOULD  FOR  ANCIENT  ISRAEL  BE  SUCH  A  BLESSING,  THERE  WOULD  BE  NO  BARRENNESS.  WE  HAVE  DEGENERATED  MUCH  FROM  THOSE  ANCIENT  TIMES,  AS  MUCH  OF  THE  WORLD  DOES  NOT  OBEY  THE  LAWS  OF  GOD  -  Keith Hunt]


696. A barren couple spent a good deal of time examining their past failures to see if any sin had been unconfessed. Childlessness became the main theme of the couple's prayers. Isaac begged the Lord to let his wife bear a child (Gen. 25:21). Hannah sobbed before the Lord and promised that if God would give her a son, she would dedicate him to the Lord's service (1 Sam. 1:11). When sin was ruled out as the cause of the problem, the wife would then inquire about different kinds of remedies.


[THERE  IS  NO  MENTION  OF  THIS  BEING  TIED  TO  “SIN”  IN  THE  BIBLE,  OVER  TIME  MAYBE  SOME  JEWS  LOOKED  AT  IT  THIS  WAY  -  Keith Hunt]


697. Modern excavations in Israel have produced many clay fertility figures. These were supposed to help a woman get pregnant by "sympathetic magic." Each figurine was molded to look like a pregnant woman. As the barren woman handled it and kept it near her, she hoped to take on the likeness of the pregnant figure. Women also wore amulets, an ornament or gem worn against the body, to insure fertility.


[THE  RIGHTEOUS  WOMEN  OF  GOD  DID  NO  SUCH  THING  -  Keith Hunt]


698. Adoption practices were common in ancient times. Adoption solved many problems. The adopted son would care for the couple in their old age, provide them a proper burial, and inherit the family property. However, if the couple had a natural son after one had been adopted, he would become the rightful heir. After Bilhah's baby was born, it was placed in Rachel's lap. This act was a central part of the adoption ceremony. Other biblical adoptions include Moses adopted by Pharaoh's daughter and Esther adopted by Mordecai.


699. Another ancient custom that continues in the East is the care for an infant child. Instead of allowing the baby the free use of his arms and legs, it is bound hand and foot by swaddling bands, quite like a mummy. At birth the child is washed and rubbed with salt, and with its legs together and its arms at its side, it is wound around tightly with linen or cotton strips, four to five inches wide and five or six yards long. The band is also placed under the chin and over the forehead. Not only does the Bible describe the baby Jesus as swaddled, but Ezekiel also mentions the custom of swaddling (Ezek. 16:4).


[I’VE  NO  IDEA  WHY  THIS  WAS  DONE;  I  HAVE  SEEN  SOME  MOTHERS  DOING  IT  TODAY  IN  THIS  MODERN  AGE  -  Keith Hunt]


700. It was considered a privilege and a duty for the Jewish mother to breastfeed her infant. But sometimes a mother was not physically able to do so. For these women, a wet nurse was secured. This wet nurse (usually unrelated to the baby) fed the baby her own breast milk. When Pharaoh's daughter found Moses floating among the reeds of the Nile, one of her first orders was to get a Hebrew woman who could nurse him.


701. The weaning of a child is an important event in the domestic life of the East. In many places it is celebrated by a festive gathering of friends, by feasting, religious ceremonies, and sometimes the formal presentation of rice to the child. Hebrew babies are often nursed for two years and sometimes for four or five. It was probably after age three that Hannah weaned Samuel and brought him to be presented to the Lord. A scriptural example of the weaning feast is found in Gen. 21:8, when Isaac was weaned and dedicated to the Lord.


[I  DO  REMEMBER  WAY  BACK  IN  THE  1960s  A  MOTHER  IN  THE  CHURCH  I  ATTENDED  NOT  WEANING  HER  CHILD  STILL  ABOUT  3  YEARS  OF  AGE  -  Keith Hunt]


702. Names were very important in the world of the Old Testament. Hebrew names usually carried meaning about the person's character, praise to God, or the location or circumstances surrounding the child's birth. Jewish people believed that they must first know a person's name before they could know the person. The name Jesus is a Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua, which means "salvation of Yahweh." The name was given by one or both parents. Scripture indicates that the mother usually named the infant.


703. Many cultures in the world today practice circumcision for hygienic reasons. Some primitive tribes perform the operation on infants and young boys, while others wait until the boys reach puberty or are ready for marriage. These traditions have remained unchanged for centuries. For the Israelites, circumcision signified that the infant was being taken into the covenant community. This ritual remains a hallmark of Judaism today. Flint knives were used until New Testament times when they were finally replaced by metal. Jewish boys were circumcised on the eighth day.


704. Recent studies have confirmed that the safest time to perform circumcision is on the eighth day of life. Vitamin K, which causes blood to coagulate, is not produced in sufficient amounts until the fifth to seventh day. On the eighth day the body contains 10 percent more prothrombin than normal; prothrombin is also important in the clotting of blood.


705. Since all firstborns were God's possession, it was necessary for the Israelite family to redeem, or buy back, the firstborn infant from God. The redemption price was five shekels of silver, given to the priests when the child was one month old—possibly an amount of time to be certain the child would live (Num. 18:15-16). Scripture doesn't tell us about the redemption ceremony itself.


706. By rabbinic times the redemption ceremony took place in the child's home with a priest and other guests present. The rite began when the father presented the child to the priest. The priest would then ask the father, "Do you wish to redeem the child or do you want to leave him with me?" The father answered that he would redeem the child and handed the priest five silver coins. The priest would then declare, "Your son is redeemed!" After the priest pronounced a blessing on the child, he joined the invited guests at a banquet table.


Manners and Customs


707. Knowing the manners and customs of the East (those living in countries east of Europe) is necessary for a thorough understanding of the Bible. Westerners can easily misunderstand the motives and meanings of why our ancient Israelite forefathers and mothers did and said what they did in the Scriptures.


Clothing and Accessories


708. The manner of dress in the Eastern countries is largely the same as it was centuries ago. There is a prevalent view in the Bible lands that it is morally wrong to change anything that is ancient.


709. The inner garment. The tunic was a shirt worn next to the skin. It was made of leather, haircloth, wool, linen, or in modern times, usually cotton. The simplest style was without sleeves and reached to the knees or ankles. The well-to-do wore it with sleeves and it extended to the ankles. Both men and women wore this garment, although there was no doubt a difference in style and pattern in what was worn. The garment of Jesus for which the Roman soldiers cast lots was a tunic without seams.


[A  TUNIC  WITHOUT  SEAMS  WAS  LOOKED  UPON  AS  VERY  UNIQUE  AND  SO  THE  SOLDIERS  CAST  LOTS  FOR  JESUS’  GARMENT  -  Keith Hunt]


710. The garment Jacob gave to Joseph (Gen. 37:3), translated in the Septuagint and Vulgate Bible as the "coat of many colors," is the same expression used for the garment worn by Tamar, the daughter of King David. It is translated in Greek and Latin as "a sleeved tunic" (2 Sam. 13:18). For this reason, many Bible scholars believe it was a long undergarment with sleeves. The working classes usually wore a short tunic, whereas the aristocracy wore a long tunic with sleeves.


711. The girdle. If the tunic was ungirded (or untied) it would interfere with a person's ability to walk freely, and so a girdle was always worn when leaving home (2 Kings 4:29; Acts 12:8). There were and still are two types. A common variety is made of leather, usually six inches wide, with clasps. This was the kind worn by Elijah (2 Kings 1:8), and by John the Baptist (Matt. 3:4). The other, a more valuable type, is made of linen or sometimes silk or embroidered material. The girdle served as a pouch to carry money and other things, as well as to fasten a man's sword to his body.


712. The outer garment or "mantle." The outer garment that a Palestinian villager wears is a large cloak that serves as an overcoat. It is made of wool or goat's hair and serves as a shelter from the wind and rain, as well as a blanket at night. It was this outer garment or mantle with which Elijah smote the waters of the Jordan and crossed over. When Elijah was taken up to heaven this mantle was thrown down to Elisha (2 Kings 2:8-13).


[ELIJAH  WAS  TAKEN  UP  INTO  THE  FIRST  HEAVEN,  NOT  THE  HEAVEN  WHERE  GOD  LIVES  -  SEE  MY  STUDIES  UNDER  “DEATH,  LIFE  AND  RESURRECTION”  -  ELIJAH  IS  NOT  ALIVE  IN  THE  HEAVEN  OF  GOD  -  Keith Hunt]


713. Because the outer garment was a man's covering by night, the law did not allow anybody to take this as pledge or security on a loan because it would deprive him of his means of keeping warm while sleeping. When a garment was taken, it had to be returned by sunset (Exod. 22:26-27).


714. Hair. The Jews of the Bible gave much attention to the care of their hair. The young people loved to wear it long and curled (Song of Sol. 5:11), and they were proud to have thick hair (2 Sam. 14:25-26). Middle-aged men and priests would occasionally cut their hair, but not very often.


[WRONG,  IT  WAS  DONE  REGULARLY;  LONG  HAIR  WAS  ONLY  FOR  THOSE  UNDER  A  NAZORITE  VOW  -  NUMBER  6  -  Keith Hunt]


715. Baldness was scarce, and suspicion of leprosy was often attached to the condition. When the youth said to Elisha, "Go on up, you baldhead!" (2 Kings 2:23), he was using an extreme curse.


716. Baldness disqualified a man from the priesthood, as is demonstrated by Leviticus 21:5. Priests were not allowed to shave their heads or rip their clothes, or even to mourn a mother's or father's death (Lev. 21:10-11).


[SHAVING  THEIR  HEAD  WAS  TO  DO  WITH  PAGAN  CUSTOMS  STYLE  -  PRIESTS  WERE  NOT  AUTOMATICALLY  UNDER  A  NAZORITE  VOW  -  Keith Hunt]


717. Men allowed their beards to grow long and rarely if ever cut them.


[THAT  DEPENDED  ON  THE  CUSTOM  OF  THE  DAY;  THERE  IS  NOTHING  IN  THE  BIBLE  SAYING  MEN  HAD  TO  HAVE  A  BEARD  -  Keith Hunt]


718. Jews always wore a turban in public. At certain seasons of the year it is dangerous to expose the head to the rays of the sun. This turban was made of thick material that was wound several times around the head. Both Job and the prophet Isaiah mention the use of the turban as a headdress (Job 29:14).


[AGAIN  IT  WAS  NOT  A  LAW  OF  GOD  TO  WEAR  A  TURBAN  -  Keith Hunt]


719. Wearing what is appropriate. The Law of Moses forbade men to wear women's clothing or women to wear men's clothing (Deut. 22:5).


[THIS  IS  NOT  UNDERSTOOD  BY  THE  AUTHORS,  SEE  ADAM  CLARKE’S  BIBLE  COMMENTARY, ON  DEUT. 22:5.  BOTH  MEN  AND  WOMEN  WORE  FLOWING  OUTER  GARMENTS.  GOD  WOULD  BE  AGAINST  SO-CALLED  CROSS  DRESSING  AS  DONE  TODAY  BY  SOME  IN  A  TWISTED  MIND-SET  -  MEN  WEARING  PANTIES,  BRA,  AND  WANTING  TO  LOOK  LIKE  A  WOMEN;  AND  WOMEN  WANTING  TO  LOOK  LIKE  A  MAN.  WANTING  TO  CHANGE  SEX  TAKING  HORMONES  ETC.  IS  THE  EXTREME  PERVERSION  -  Keith Hunt]


720. The dress of women was different in detail from men's clothing rather than in style. They too wore a tunic and cloak, but in every case their dress was a little more elaborate. The veil was the distinctive female apparel. All females, with the exception of maidservants, women of low status, and prostitutes, wore a veil.


[NOT  SO  AT  ALL  IN  ANCIENT  ISRAEL…. FEMALES  DOD  NOT  HAVE  TO  WEAR  A  VEIL  -  Keith Hunt]


721. The headgear of Bethlehem women shed light on biblical customs. The headgear included a high cap on the front of which might have been sewn rows of gold and silver coins. There was also a veil, perhaps six feet long and four feet wide that covered the cap but left the coins showing. Some had embroidery work and some were nearly covered with needlework.


[WHAT  SOME  DID  AS  CUSTOM  HAS  NO  BEARING  ON  THE  WORD  OF  GOD.  THE  OLD  COVENANT  DID  NOT  STATE  THAT  WOMEN  OF  ISRAEL  HAS  TO  WEAR  A  VEIL  -  Keith Hunt]


722. Jewish men did not wear jewelry as a rule. They often carried a cane or staff with some ornamentation at the top. Certain men wore a ring on their right hand, or on a chain around their neck. This was the signet ring or seal and served as the personal signature of its owner.


723. Jewish women did use ornaments, such as in elaborate braiding of their hair (which Peter and Paul spoke against in 1 Peter and 1 Timothy  -  NOT  UNDERSTOOD  AT  ALL  BY  THE  AUTHORS  -  SEE  MY  STUDIES  ON   THE  MATTER  -  Keith Hunt). Earrings were worn by women of Jacob's family (Gen. 35:4), and the gold earrings of the Israelite women contributed to the gold in Aaron's golden calf (Exod. 32:2). Abraham's servant had two bracelets ready to give Rebekah, and in the third chapter of his prophecy, Isaiah lists many feminine ornaments (Isa. 3:18-20).


724. Each society has its own standards of physical beauty. It is difficult to know just what the ancient Hebrews found beautiful. Most of the attractive women mentioned in the Bible are not described in detail. The writer usually notes simply that a woman was "beautiful." Some of the most important women in the Old Testament were said to be beauties: Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Bathsheba, Tamar, Abishag, and Esther.


725. What did Jesus wear? He must have worn the turban, [NOT  NECESSARILY  SO - Keith Hunt] worn by both the rich and poor alike. Under his turban his hair would be rather long and his beard uncut [NOT  SO  AT  ALL  -  Keith Hunt]. His tunic, the undergarment, was one piece without a seam. It was therefore of some value and had probably been given to him by one of the wealthier women who ministered to him. Over this he wore the mantle, loose and flowing. This cloak probably was not white, because we're told it turned white during the transfiguration. It was most likely a common blue or it may have been white with brown stripes. Jesus did have at the four corners of this mantle the tsitsith (fringe) [MAYBE  AND  MAYBE  NOT  -  Keith Hunt].


726. In Old Testament times practically all clothing was made from sheep's wool. We are accustomed to seeing sheep that have been bred for their white wool, but in biblical times most sheep had brown coats or were black and white.


727. The hair clipped from goats was woven into coarse cloth to make the black tents in which the nomads lived. The size of the tent depended on the wealth of the owner, but even the simplest tent was divided by curtains into a front room for entertaining and another room for cooking and housing the children.


Tents


728. Tents are one of the earliest family shelters mentioned in the Bible. The first reference to tent life in the Scriptures is found in Genesis 4:20, when Jabal is described as "the father of such as dwell in tents." Following the flood Japheth was said to have lived "in the tents of Shem" (Gen. 9:27 KJV). The patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, lived most of their lives in tents, in and around the land of Canaan. The children of Israel lived in tents during their forty years in the wilderness and for many years after entering the Promised Land. Hundreds of years later, in the days of David, it was said to the king, "The ark, and Israel, and Judah, abide in tents" (2 Sam. 11:11).


729. The bedouin's home is his tent, which is made of black goat hair. This is the same material as the sackcloth of Bible times. The main overhead portion is a large awning that is held up by poles. The ends of the tent are drawn out by cords tied to pegs and driven into the ground. It was one of these tent pegs that Jael used to drive into Sisera's head while he slept (Judg. 4:21).


730. The tent is usually oblong and divided into two and sometimes three rooms by goat-hair curtains. The entrance leads into the men's quarters where guests are received. Beyond this is the area for the women and children. Sometimes a third section is used for servants or cattle. The women in the inner section are screened from the view of those in the reception room, but they can hear what goes on. Remember Sarah overheard the angel and laughed (Gen. 18:10-15).


731. Bible time nomads were constantly on the move so their furnishings included only the necessities. Rugs covered the ground and bedding was brought out at night. They laid on mats or carpets and covered themselves with their outer garments worn during the day. In a nomad tent you would find bags of grain and a handmill and mortar with which to pound the grain. Hanging from the poles would be skin bags or bottles for water and other liquids; a leather bucket to draw water up from any well available; an earthen pitcher used by women to carry water; and a few pots, kettles, and pans. Serving dishes included mats, platters or larger dishes, and cups for drinking. For some, a primitive lamp was used at night. If the family had a camel, then the camelbags or saddle would have been used as seats.


732. Seeing new tents is and was out of the ordinary. Even today goat clippings are accumulated over the course of the year, and with these, the women make new strips to repair the old tent. The section that is most worn is ripped out and a new piece is sewn in. The old piece is then used for a side curtain. Each year new strips of cloth replace the old ones and the "house of hair" is handed down from father to son without it being completely old or new at any one time.


733. As the tent-dweller's family grows larger or he becomes richer, he adds on another section to his old tent. Isaiah had this process in mind when he compared the prophetic prosperity of Israel to a bedouin tent.


Enlarge the place of your tent,

stretch your tent curtains wide, 

do not hold back; 

lengthen your cords, 

strengthen your stakes. 

Isaiah 54:2


Houses


734. A life of agriculture took the place of the wandering life of nomads after Israel had been in the land of Canaan for many years and settled in. Houses began to take the place of tents. The average home of the common people was a one-room shelter. In Bible times, people spent as much time as possible in God's outdoors. The Hebrew word for house is bayith and means shelter. It served only as a place to rest after a day outside. The sacred writers referred to God as a "shelter" or a "refuge" (Ps. 61:3; Isa. 4:6).


735. The one-room houses were usually made of clay bricks dried in the sun (similar to adobe houses in Mexico), but sometimes they were made of rough, local sandstone and set with a mud mortar.n Only the palaces or houses of the wealthy were constructed of hewn stones, like the palaces of Solomon (1 Kings 7:9).


736. The roofs of these humble houses were made by laying beams across from wall to wall, then putting down a mat of reeds or thorn bushes and over it a coating of clay or mud. Sand and pebbles were then scattered over this and a stone roller was used to make it smooth enough to shed rain.


737. Earthy homes create challenges unfamiliar to westerners. It is not uncommon to see grass growing on the tops of the houses, as the Bible even references, "May they be like grass on the roof, which withers before it can grow" (Ps. 129:6; see also 2 Kings 19:26; Isa. 37:27). With a dirt roof, leaks often soak through after a heavy rain. The Book of Proverbs compares this dripping to a quarrelsome wife (Prov. 19:13; 27:15). Not only did dripping cause trouble, but snakes often crawled in through cracks, and thieves could dig through and get into the house. Job said, "In the dark they dig through houses, which they had marked for themselves in the daytime" (Job 24:16 KJV).


738. The houses with one room were in the villages and those with more than one room were in the cities. If a house with two rooms was to be built, the rooms weren't placed side by side. Rather the breadth of another room was left between the two rooms, and a wall was constructed between the ends to make an open court. If there were three or more rooms, a room would be substituted for the wall at the end of the court and there would be more rooms around the courtyard, making a secluded area from the street.


739. Cisterns were often built in the courtyards for water, and fires were built for warmth, as described by Simon Peter's experience in the courtyard of the high priest's house where Jesus was being tried (John 18:18). The courtyard was a place to eat and also a place to bathe. When David looked down from his palace rooftop and saw the beautiful Bathsheba bathing (2 Sam. 11:2), she was in the courtyard of her house, a protected place not visible to ordinary observation.


740. The roof of an Arab's house was and is used today for a large variety of purposes, much like it was used in the days of the prophets and the apostles. It is used for storage (Josh. 2:6), as a place to sleep (1 Sam. 9:26), a spot for gathering in times of excitement to see down the streets (Isa. 22:1), a place of public proclamations (Matt. 10:27), a place of worship and prayer (Zeph. 1:5; Acts 10:9), and as a way of escape in time of danger (Matt. 24:17; Mark 13:15; Luke 17:31).


741. Candles weren't a part of Bible life. The King James Version of the Bible frequently uses the word candle because candles were so widely used at the time that version was written. However, a literal translation of the original words would use lamp or light. Bible characters knew nothing about candles.


742. A lamp was considered to be the Palestinian peasant's one luxury that was a necessity. When the sun set, the door of his house was shut, and then the lamp was lit. To sleep without a light was considered by most villages to be a sign of extreme poverty. When a late traveler saw a light in a house, he knew there was life there. To wish a man's light be put out was to wish on him a terrible curse.


743. Fuel is so scarce in the Holy Lands that peasants often burn dried dung and sell sticks that they gather. Dried grass and withered flowers are also carefully gathered into bundles and used for making a fire. This was done in the days of old as well. As Jesus said, "The grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven" (Matt. 6:30 KJV; Luke 12:28). Another popular fuel is thorns or thorny shrubs. The widow of Zarephath gathered sticks to build a fire (1 Kings 17:10), but the fire built in the courtyard of the high priest where Simon Peter warmed himself was built with charcoal (John 18:18 KJV).


Guests and Hospitality


744. A custom of sending double invitations to a special event has been observed in some parts of the East. Several examples of this custom are found in the Bible. At some time before the feast is to be served, an invitation is sent forth; then when the appointed time draws near, a servant is sent again to announce that everything is now ready. One example of this is in the parable of the great supper: "A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready'" (Luke 14:16-17).


745. “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full’” (Luke 14:23). In the East the one invited is expected to reject an invitation upon the first invite. He must be urged to accept. All the while he expects to attend, but he must allow the one inviting him the privilege of "compelling him" to accept.


746. Ancient banquets were usually held at night in brilliantly lighted rooms, and anybody who was excluded from the feast was said to be cast out of the lighted room into "the outer darkness" of the night. In the teaching of Jesus, the day of judgment is likened to being excluded from the banquet (Matt. 8:12). In the East a lamp is usually kept burning all night. Because of people's fear of the darkness, the Savior could have chosen no more appropriate words than "outer darkness" for the future punishment of the unrighteous.


747. Seats were uncommon in early Bible times, except in the king's circle or at other times of ceremony. The prophet Amos was the first of the biblical writers to refer to the custom of "stretch[ing] themselves upon their couches" when eating (Amos 6:4). By the time of Jesus the Romans were accustomed to reclining on couches at supper.


748. A triclinium was a common dining setup of the Romans. It included a short square table with three couches to surround three sides of the perimeter. The fourth side was left open so the servant could reach the table easily.


749. Guests of honor were held in special esteem when they were assigned to a room with a higher floor than the rest of the house. Many houses had such a room for special company.


750. Guests were also honored by being seated at the right of the host during meals. The next highest place was at the left of the host. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their insistence on having the highest places of distinction when they were invited to a banquet.


751. Dancing was often part of the entertainment at feasts. When the prodigal son returned home, there was music and dancing (Luke 15:24—25). Mainly the women and girls danced, although sometimes men did, too, as David did when the ark was brought into Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6:14). But there is no scriptural record that Jewish men danced with the women.


752. Sharing hospitality with others was an integral part of Israelite life. Men of the East believed guests were sent by God. Therefore providing for their hospitality became a sacred duty. When Abraham entertained three strangers who proved to be angels, [ONE  WAS  GOD  -  Keith Hunt] his enthusiasm seemed to indicate this same belief (Gen. 18:2-7). We typically think of guests as friends or business acquaintances. But in the East there are three types of guests: friends, strangers, and enemies.


753. Strangers as guests. An old Eastern proverb says, "Every stranger is an invited guest." Like Abraham, the bedouin Arab of today will sit in the entrance of his tent in order to be on the watch for a stranger and guest (Gen. 18:1). In the New Testament, when Paul taught the Roman believers to be "given to hospitality" (Rom. 12:13 KJV), he was referring to the same thing. The Greek word he used for hospitality is pronounced "fil-ox-en-ee-ah," which means "love to strangers."


754. Enemies as guests. One remarkable aspect of Eastern hospitality is that an enemy can be received as a guest. As long as he remains in that relationship, he is perfectly safe and is treated as a friend. Certain tribes of tent-dwellers live by the rule that an enemy who has "once dismounted and touched the rope of a single tent is safe."


755. Customs of hospitality and honor for guests are very important in the East. When a guest first enters a home, bowing between the guest and host will take place. An expressive custom is that of saluting with the head erect and the body inclined forward by raising the hand to the heart, mouth, and forehead. The symbolic meaning of this is to say, "My heart, my voice, and my brain are all at your service." On many occasions those who are used to this custom enter into a more complete bow afterward.


756. The greetings upon entering an Arab house or a bedouin tent go something like this: The host will say, "Salam alakum," which means "Peace be on you." The guest will then respond with the words "Wa alakum es-salam," meaning "And on you peace." The greeting is then followed with a kiss. The men will place their right hand on the other's left shoulder and kiss his right cheek, and then reverse the action. Scriptural examples of the kiss are found when Jacob kissed his father; Esau kissed Jacob; Joseph kissed his brothers; Aaron kissed Moses; Moses kissed Jethro; David and Jonathan kissed each other; and the father of the prodigal son kissed him when he returned home.


757. Guests take off their shoes before entering the main room of a house. This is necessary because they will sit on a mat, rug, or divan, with their feet beneath them. Shoes would soil the couch and their clothes. This led to the custom of removing shoes upon entering sacred places. At the burning bush the Lord told Moses, "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground" (Exod. 3:5).


758. The Eastern guest is offered water for washing his feet after the bowing, greeting, and kissing are completed. A servant will assist the guest by pouring water over the guest's feet above a copper basin, rubbing them with his hands, and wiping them on a towel. When Jesus was with his disciples, he took the place of the servant and washed their feet.


759. The custom of anointing guests is an ancient one among nations of the East. Olive oil is often used by itself, but sometimes it is mixed with spices. Simon the Pharisee was accused of being inhospitable because he didn't anoint Jesus (Luke 7:46). David memorialized this custom when he wrote in his shepherd psalm, "You anoint my head with oil" (Ps. 23:5).


760. Many accounts of anointing are found in the Bible, each carrying different meanings of the custom as a way of showing courtesy, respect, and devotion; for healing purposes; and as a symbol of the pouring out of God's Spirit.


761. One of the first beverages a guest is offered is a drink of water. This is to recognize him as a person worthy of peaceful reception. To give a drink of water is the simplest way to pledge friendship with a person. The words of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark (9:41) demonstrate this custom, "Anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward."


762. The sharing of food in Eastern cultures is a very special act of hospitality. It is a way of making a covenant of peace and fidelity. When Abimelech wanted a permanent covenant with Isaac, the confirmation of that covenant came when Isaac "made a feast for them, and they ate and drank" (Gen. 26:30).


763. “The guest while in the house is its lord.” This is a true statement of the spirit of Eastern hospitality. One of the first greetings a Palestinian host will give his guest is to say, "Hadtha beitak," meaning "This is your house." This phrase is repeated many times during the guest's stay. There was a similar attitude between Lot and his guests when he said, "My lords, please turn aside to your servant's house" (Gen. 19:2).


764. Defending to the death. In the lands of the East, when a host accepts a man as his guest he agrees to defend the guest from all possible enemies during the time of his stay, whatever the cost. The psalmist felt utterly secure, though he had enemies close to him, when he knew that God was his host. "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies" (Ps. 23:5).


765. Eastern people make mention of God in daily conversation. An astonished person will exclaim, "Mashallah," or "See what God has done!" which is the exact expression used by Balaam centuries ago (Num. 23:23). If a person is asked if he expects to do a certain thing, he will answer, "If God wills." Such an answer was recommended by James in his epistle (James 4:15).


766. The Eastern manner of speaking often includes picturing what is meant with figurative language and exaggerated expressions or even by demonstrating a concept. If John the Baptist had spoken like a westerner, he might have said, "Your pretense of virtue and good birth far exceed your actual practice of virtue." But being an easterner he said, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham" (Matt. 3:7-9).


Worship


767. Canaanltes and Phoenicians worshiped many nature gods. Baal, who was regarded as master of the earth, had an arm that hurled bolts of lightning, and his voice caused thunder. The Israelites referred to Baal as Baal-zebul or Beelzebub, which means "lord of the flies," no doubt referring to the hordes of flies that buzzed around the animals sacrificed to this god. By New Testament times Beelzebub had become a title for Satan.


768. Mutual gods. Just as the Israelites were attracted to Canaanite gods, so were the Philistines. Their deities—Dagon, Ashtaroth, and Baal-zebub—were all related to Canaanite gods.


769. The father was the priest of the whole family in the days of the early patriarchs. This honor and responsibility was then passed down to the firstborn son after the father's death. This practice continued until the Law of Moses transferred the right to the tribe of Levi, who became the priests of the Hebrew nation.


770. The altar. Throughout the Old Testament many altars were built and described. After Abraham pitched his tent in the vicinity of Bethel, the Scripture says, "There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord" (Gen. 12:8). Altars served as monuments of holiness and provided an approach to God through sacrifice.


771. Clay figures called teraphim were household gods that served as guardian angels of the home in Babylonia. At the death of a father they were passed down to the eldest son. When Jacob left the home of Laban in Haran, Rachel stole the teraphim that belonged to her father (Gen. 31:19). This made Laban very upset, so he pursued Jacob's caravan. Even though Jacob told his family to get rid of the foreign gods and purify themselves, the teraphim appeared several times in later history of the Israelites.


772. Religious education in the family became a special mark of Judaism. The Law of Moses was very specific in its requirements that parents must train their children in the knowledge of God and his laws. The emphasis on this education in the family has contributed largely to the permanence of the Jews in history.


773. The pilgrimage made to the place of sanctuary was a very important part of Hebrew life. "Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Sovereign Lord, the God of Israel" (Exod. 34:23). The whole family could go, but the men and boys were required to go. Remember Joseph and Mary traveled a day's journey on their return from Jerusalem before discovering that Jesus was missing. Because clans traveled together, parents could go for hours without seeing their sons.


774. Jewish boys had to be able to recite "the Shema," a prayer, by the age of twelve. The prayer was the quotation of three passages from the Pentateuch that was repeated morning and evening by Jewish men. The three passages were from Deuteronomy 6:4—9; 11:13-21; and Numbers 15:37-41.


[THE  AGE  OF  12  IN  JEWISH  LIFE  AT  THE  TIME  OF  CHRIST,  WAS  ADULTHOOD;  JESUS  STAYED  BEHIND  AFTER  ONE  FEAST,  AND  HIS  MOTHER  HAD  TO  FIND  HIM;  HE  WAS  SITTING  WITH  THE  LEARNED  MEN  TALKING  ABOUT  THE  WORD  OF  GOD.  HIS  MOTHER  WAS  SOME  UPSET  AND  TOLD  HIM   SO;  JESUS’  REPLY  WAS  “I  MUST  BE  ABOUT  MY  FATHER’S  BUSINESS.”  SHE  KEPT  THOSE  WORDS  CLOSE  TO  HER  HEART,  REMEMBERING  SHE  WAS  CHOSEN  TO  BEAR  THE  VERY  SON  OF  GOD  -  Keith Hunt]


775. The idea of minyan is central to the spiritual life of Jewish people. While anyone can pray at any time, before an official prayer service can be held there must be at least ten men present. This group of ten men is called a minyan. It was stated in the law that whenever ten adult men were gathered together in the name of God, the Lord himself would actually be present in the room with them. Any room then became consecrated ground, a holy place where men could perform their religious rituals and worship God.


776. The early gathering place for Christian worship was in people's homes. The earliest excavation of a church by archaeologists, where a date has been assigned (dating back to the third century A.D.), is of a room within a house that was set apart for worship and furnished as a chapel. In the days of the apostles, believers also took seriously their responsibility to care for believers who came to their town. In a time of persecution, this refuge was very important to those who traveled to spread the gospel.


Food


777. A single large olive tree in biblical times provided an entire family with all of the oil it needed for food and lamps, as much as half a ton of it a year. The tree gave a year-round crop because both the unripe and the ripe fruit are edible. So the olive leaf in the dove's beak promised a rebirth of life to Noah and his family.


778. The ordinary food of the average Hebrew of Bible times was bread, olives, oil, buttermilk, and cheese from their flocks, fruits and vegetables from their orchards and gardens, and meat on rare occasions.


779. The eating of raw grain is a modern custom in Palestine that dates back to very ancient days. Contemporary Arabs often pick the heads of grain, rub them in their hands, and eat them. Some Pharisees approached Jesus and his disciples as they ate raw grain in the fields. "One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain-fields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels" (Luke 6:1).


780. When grain in the wheat field has passed the "milk stage" and begun to harden, it is called "fereek" and is considered delicious eaten raw. For centuries the unwritten law of hospitality has been that wayfarers may eat some of the wheat as they pass by or through a field, but they must not carry any away with them. The law of God allowed this same privilege in Deuteronomy 23:35.


781. Parched grain is another common food eaten in Bible times. It is prepared with grains of wheat that are not fully ripe. They are roasted in a pan or on an iron plate. The grain is eaten either with or without bread. Jesse sent some of it with David to his older sons in the army (1 Sam. 17:17). Abigail included some in her gift to David (1 Sam. 25:18), and David received some from friends after he had fled from Absalom (2 Sam. 17:28).


782. Besides wheat and barley, millet and spelt ("rie" in some translations) were also grown. Wheat was the first choice of people, with barley reserved for the poor. Spelt is actually a weak strain of wheat.


[THE  BARLEY  HARVEST  WAS  THE  FIRST  SPRING  HARVEST,  FOLLOWED  BY  WHEAT;  ALL  GATHERED  IN  BY  PENTECOST.  BARLEY  IS EXTREMELY  GOOD,  HENCE  THE  FIRST  HARVEST  OF  THE  SPRING  OF  THE  YEAR  -  Keith Hunt]


783. Bread is unquestionably the principal food of the East and is considered sacred. In some places of Palestine, there is such a reverence for bread that people will not rise to greet a guest if they are in the midst of breaking bread together. The guest will have to wait until they are finished. Everything about bread, from the sowing of grain to the baking, is done in the name of God.


784. The sacredness of the bread. There is a universal Eastern custom of breaking bread and not cutting it. To cut bread would be thought of as cutting life itself. Because Christ broke bread when he instituted the ordinance of the Lord's Supper, the expression "breaking of bread" came to refer to the practice of taking communion.


[NOPE  IT  DID  NOT;  THE  APOSTLES  NEVER  USED  THIS  TERM  “BREAKING  OF  BREAD”  TO  REFER  TO  THE  PASSOVER  OR  THE  NEW  TESTAMENT  MEMORIAL  OF  CHRIST’S  DEATH.  WHAT  SOME  DID  HUNDREDS  OF  YEARS  LATER,  HAS  NO  BEARING  ON  THE  TRUTH  OF  THE  MATTER  -  Keith Hunt]


785. The expression "eating bread" is often used in the Bible to mean eating a whole meal. When the Bible says, "The Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews" (Gen. 43:32 KJV), it means that they would likely not eat a meal with them. In Lamentations 4:4 we read: "The young children ask bread, and no man breaketh it unto them" (kjv) . The expression "breaking of bread" means the taking of a meal.


786. The Israelite's Egyptian diet included leeks, onion, and garlic, and the prophet Isaiah mentions a "garden of cucumber" (Isa. 1:8 KJV). Gourds were also used (2 Kings 4:39).


787. The two most widely used vegetables in Bible times, however, were beans and lentils. The most famous biblical use of lentils was, of course, the selling of Esau's birthright for a meal of lentil stew with bread (Gen. 25:34).


788. Fruits included olives and grapes, which were eaten fresh and also dried as raisins (1 Sam. 25:18) or made into wine. Pomegranates were grown for their juice, and it is possible, though not likely, that apples were grown as well. Both of the latter fruits are mentioned in Song of Songs.


789. Figs, though mentioned often enough and thought of largely as food by contemporary sources, were grown for medicinal purposes as well as general consumption in Bible times.


790. Wine was the most common alcoholic drink. It is mentioned throughout the Bible. The vineyard and the process of making wine are common examples in Jesus' teachings, most likely because they were familiar analogies for people since the beverage was so common.


791. Beer was brewed in Egypt and Mesopotamia, and perhaps the Israelites were familiar with this beverage also. Also brewed in these two areas was a wine made of figs.


792. Milk was considered a substantial food for all ages in Bible times. The Promised Land was often called "a land flowing with milk and honey" (Exod. 3:8; 13:5; Josh. 5:6; Jer.ll:5). A form of milk that is commonly used among the Arabs today is called "leben," which means "white." It is like our sour milk curds. It was probably this that Abraham gave to his guests (Gen. 18:8) and also that Jael gave to Sisera (Judg. 4:19; 5:25).


793. Butter and cheese were made from the rich cream and curds (Prov. 30:33; Job 10:10). As the Hebrews didn't eat meat often, these would have served as a protein source for the people.


794. Meat was only eaten on special occasions, such as when a stranger or guest was entertained, or when a feast was made. Kings and wealthy men, on the other hand, ate meat often. The daily menu of four kinds of meat for King Solomon's court is given in Scripture: beef, mutton, game, and fowl (1 Kings 4:23).


795. Nuts also count as a protein source, and though meat was rare, nuts weren't. Almonds and pistachios are mentioned in Genesis 43:11.


796. Numerous references to honey and honeycomb in God's Word are proof that the Holy Land abounded with the sweet stuff. Many scriptural citations indicate that wild honey was very common, being found in cavities of trees, such as when Jonathan discovered and ate some honey (1 Sam. 14:25-27). It is also mentioned as being found in the holes of rock, where it was often extracted (Ps. 81:16), and even in the dried carcasses of animals, as when Samson ate honey from the carcass of the lion (Judg. 14:8-9).


797. Honey is used in the poetic books of the Hebrew Bible to make many comparisons. The judgments of God are compared to it (Ps. 19:10). Pleasant words are likened to it (Prov. 16:24), as are knowledge and wisdom to the soul (Prov. 24:13-14). And the bride and bridegroom of Solomon's Song speak of honey (Song of Sol. 4:11; 5:1).


798. easoning most often refers to salt (Job 6:6). However, other types of spice, such as dill ("anise" in the KJV), mint, cumin, and coriander are also mentioned.


799. What is "kosher"? Many people, Jew and Gentile alike, commonly ask if something is kosher, loosely using the term to mean "permissible" or "okay." Kosher is a Yiddish word for "proper" that derives from the Hebrew word kashrut. Although in the modern sense we commonly associate "kosher" with only dietary laws, the notion of what is "proper" covers a broad range of items that must be done in accordance with the law.


800. Hand washing was very important to the Israelites. They were careful to wash their hands before each meal. Water was poured (most often by a servant) over the hands to be washed as they were held over a basin. Because the Hebrew people did not eat with silverware, washing was a necessity. Elisha poured water over the hands of Elijah in 2 Kings 3:11. As Elijah's servant, this was an important part of Elisha's duties.


801. Meals were eaten on a mat spread on the ground (like a picnic blanket), or at a low table when the diners were commoners. The Hebrew word pronounced "Shool-khawn," usually translated "table," has as its root meaning "a skin or leather mat spread on the ground." While eating, people would sit on the floor with their legs folded under them or in the position of kneeling.


802. A blessing was said by each person after the master of the house said it, such as "In the name of God," or "God be praised." Only after all had said the blessing did they begin to eat by dipping or scooping with their bread in a common serving bowl. The only dishes used were those in which the food was placed on the table; there were no individual dishes for those dining. Gideon put the meat in a basket, and the broth in a pot (Judg. 6:19). Meat was generally eaten with the fingers.


803. A prayer of thanks was said at the end of the meal. Deuteronomy 8:10 states: "When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you." It was customary for one of the guests to give the thanks in a loud voice, and for the rest to say, "Amen."


804. The Hebrew families looked to the promise God originally gave to them about health for their bodies throughout their wilderness experiences and after they were in the Promised Land. "If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you" (Exod. 15:26). Health was promised if they were obedient to the law of God.


Sickness and Death


805. Sickness could be expected when God's law was disobeyed, according to the law. The twenty-eighth chapter of Deuteronomy lists many curses that would come upon the children of Israel because of disobedience. Therefore the Israelites would grow up believing that health was a reward for obedience and sickness came as punishment. The ancient Hebrews did not go to physicians when they were ill. There are surprisingly few references to doctors in the Old Testament times, and it's possible that those mentioned were foreigners (2 Chron. 16:12; Job 13:4; Jer. 8:22).


806. Multitudes of sick people in the land are described in the New Testament Gospel records. Many were brought to Jesus to be healed. In the days before the British occupied the land and before the modern Jews brought in scientific medical skills, the land of Israel was overrun with all kinds of afflicted people. While traveling through the land, one would hardly be out of sight of blind beggars, crippled people, or lepers.


807. The Jews of the New Testament lacked knowledge of medicine, so they would seek help from the most pious man for healing power, rather than the most educated. They believed sickness was punishment for the sin of the sick person or a relative. Concerning the blind man, the disciples asked Jesus, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (John 9:2).


[SICKNESS  IS  REALLY  THE  RESULT  OF  BREAKING  GOD’S  HEALTH  LAWS  -  OUR  BODIES  ARE  PHYSICAL  MATTER,  HOW  WE  LOOK  AFTER  THEM  MOST  OF  THE  TIME,  DETERMINES  OUR  SICKNESS  OR  HEALTH  -  Keith Hunt]


808. Mark adds an interesting fact in his account of Christ healing the woman with an issue of blood. He says that she "had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had" (Mark 5:26). One scholar of the Talmud of Babylon suggests that some of the rabbis posed as physicians and some prescribed very queer remedies for a woman with this type of ailment. If one procedure didn't succeed, another one was suggested.


809. As soon as a death took place, a wail was raised to announce to all the neighborhood what had happened. This was a sign for the relatives to begin their grieving. The death wail is described as a sharp, shrill, ear-piercing shriek. This shriek is followed by prolonged wails. This death wail was referred to in connection with the death of all the firstborn in Egypt. "Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead" (Exod. 12:30).


810. Relatives and friends continued their laments from the time the death wail was heard until the burial. The prophet Micah compared it to the cry of wild beasts or birds. During these lamentations, loved ones exclaimed their sorrow, repeating words over and over as David did when he mourned the death of Absalom: "O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!" (2 Sam. 18:33).


811. Professional mourners, who were called in at the time of sorrow to express mourning for the dead, are mentioned by the Hebrew prophets: "Call for the mourning women, that they may come; . . . And let them make haste, and take up a wailing for us (Jer. 9:17-18 KJV). Professional wailers were hired like singers would be for a Western funeral.


812. Sackcloth was worn, and they often tore their garments in order to let people know the depth of their grief (2 Sam. 3:31). Even today mourners will cry freely and beat their breasts to express sorrow. It is interesting to note, however, that priests were not allowed to rip their clothes even to mourn a parent's death.


813. Burial follows death quickly, usually the same day. The people of these regions have a primitive idea that the spirit of the one who dies hovers near the body for three days after death. Mourners believe this spirit is able to hear the wailing calls of grief. Martha, no doubt, thought it would be hopeless to think of reviving her brother's body, because he had been dead four days (John 11:39).


814. Three classes of Arabs are found in Palestine. The nomad or bedouin Arabs are shepherds who live in tents. The peasant or fellahin Arabs are farmers and usually live in villages in one-room houses. City or belladin Arabs do business in the larger cities. The belladin Arabs have come in contact with Western civilization and their manners and customs have undergone many changes. The peasant farmers, however, have changed customs very little and the bedouins have adopted almost no changes.

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TO  BE  CONTINUED