Online Bible – Edersheim Sketches – Wight Manners

Two Studies of Life In Bible Times

We have many modules that have been developed for the Windows version of Online Bible that are not available on the Macintosh CD.

We plan to press a new Macintosh disc later this year and are in the process of converting more modules for the Mac. While studying some modules for inclusion on that disc,  I was intrigued by these two studies on what life was like during biblical times. Edersheim’s approach was from a Jewish historical perspective while Wight looked at contemporary rural Arab life and related this to Bible times.

Both of these modules are included on our Windows DVD but not yet on our Macintosh CDs. If you are a Macintosh user I would love to send you a link where you can download these to add to your Version 4.2.1 Application. Please send me an email at

Sketches of Jewish Social Life
by Alfred Edersheim

AlfredEdersheimThe object of this volume is the same as in Edersheim’s previous book on The Temple which we reviewed in an earlier blog. In both, he wished to transport us into the ancient land of Palestine and to show us the people and places of the time in which the events recorded in the New Testament were taking place.

He believed that, when we realize the way the world functioned then, we will not only understand many of the expressions and allusions in the New Testament, but also gain fresh evidence of how truthful it was to life in that society,

In Sketches, Edersheim has tried to take the reader into ordinary society, and to make you mingle with the men and women of that period, to make you see them in their homes and families, learn their habits and manners, and follow them in their ordinary life

Perhaps most importantly: to find how all this ties into the scripture, the Messiah, the law, sin, and salvation—to describe the character of literature, and to show the state of belief at the time of our Lord.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 4

It was the very busiest road in Palestine, on which the publican Levi Matthew sat at the receipt of “custom,” when our Lord called him to the fellowship of the Gospel, and he then made that great feast to which he invited his fellow-publicans, that they also might see and hear Him in Whom he had found life and peace. {Lu 5:29 } For, it was the only truly international road of all those which passed through Palestine; indeed, it formed one of the great highways of the world’s commerce.

At the time of which we write, it may be said, in general, that six main arteries of commerce and intercourse traversed the country, the chief objective points being Caesarea, the military, and Jerusalem, the religious capital. First, there was the southern road, which led from Jerusalem, by Bethlehem, to Hebron, and thence westwards to Gaza, and eastwards into Arabia, whence also a direct road went northwards to Damascus. It is by this road we imagine St. Paul to have travelled, when retiring into the solitudes of Arabia, immediately after his conversion. {Ga 1:17,18 } The road to Hebron must have been much frequented by priestly and other pilgrims to the city, and by it the father of the Baptist and the parents of Jesus would pass.

Secondly, there was the old highway along the sea-shore from Egypt up to Tyre, whence a straight, but not so much frequented, road struck, by Caesarea Philippi, to Damascus. But the sea-shore road itself, which successively touched Gaza, Ascalon, Jamnia, Lydda, Diospolis, and finally Caesarea and Ptolemais, was probably the most important military highway in the land, connecting the capital with the seat of the Roman procurator at Caesarea, and keeping the sea-board and its harbours free for communication. This road branched off for Jerusalem at Lydda, where it bifurcated, leading either by Beth-horon or by Emmaus, which was the longer way. It was probably by this road that the Roman escort hurried off St. Paul, {Ac 23:31 } the mounted soldiers leaving him at Antipatris, about twenty Roman miles from Lydda, and altogether from Jerusalem about fifty-two Roman miles (the Roman mile being 1,618 yards, the English mile 1,760). Thus the distance to Caesarea, still left to be traversed next morning by the cavalry would be about twenty-six Roman miles, or, the whole way, seventy-eight Roman miles from Jerusalem. This rate of travelling, though rapid, cannot be regarded as excessive, since an ordinary day’s journey is computed in the Talmud as high as forty Roman miles.

A third road led from Jerusalem, by Beth-horon and Lydda, to Joppa, whence it continued close by the sea-shore to Caesarea. This was the road which Peter and his companions would take when summoned to go and preach the gospel to Cornelius. {Ac 10:23,24 } It was at Lydda, thirty-two Roman miles from Jerusalem, that Aeneas was miraculously healed, and “nigh” to it — within a few miles — was Joppa, where the raising of Tabitha, Dorcas, “the gazelle,” {Ac 9:32-43 } took place.

Of the fourth great highway, which led from Galilee to Jerusalem, straight through Samaria, branching at Sichem eastwards to Damascus, and westwards to Caesarea, it is needless to say much, since, although much shorter, it was, if possible, eschewed by Jewish travellers; though, both in going to, {Lu 9:53,17:11 } and returning from Jerusalem, {Joh 4:4,43 } the Lord Jesus passed that way.

The road from Jerusalem straight northwards also branched off at Gophna, whence it led across to Diospolis, and so on to Caesarea. But ordinarily, Jewish travellers would, rather than pass through Samaria, face the danger of robbers which awaited them {Lu 10:30 } along the fifth great highway, {Lu 19:1,28 Mt 20:17,29 } that led from Jerusalem, by Bethany, to Jericho. Here the Jordan was forded, and the road led to Gilead, and thence either southwards, or else north to Peraea, whence the traveller could make his way into Galilee. It will be observed that all these roads, whether commercial or military, were, so to speak, Judaean, and radiated from or to Jerusalem.

But the sixth and great road, which passed through Galilee, was not at all primarily Jewish, but connected the East with the West — Damascus with Rome. From Damascus it led across the Jordan to Capernaum, Tiberias, and Nain (where it fell in with a direct road from Samaria), to Nazareth, and thence to Ptolemais. Thus, from its position, Nazareth was on the world’s great highway. What was spoken there might equally re-echo throughout Palestine, and be carried to the remotest lands of the East and of the West.

Chapter 1: Palestine Eighteen Centuries Ago
Chapter 2: Jews and Gentiles in “The Land”
Chapter 3: In Galilee at the time of our Lord
Chapter 4: Travelling in Palestine: Roads, Inns, Hospitality, Custom-House Officers, Taxation, Publicans
Chapter 5: In Judaea
Chapter 6: Jewish Homes
Chapter 7: The Upbringing of Jewish Children
Chapter 8: Subjects of Study
Chapter 9: Mothers, Daughters, and Wives in Israel
Chapter 10: In Death and After Death
Chapter 11: Jewish Views on Trade, Tradesmen, and Trades’ Guilds
Chapter 12: Commerce
Chapter 13: Among the People, and with the Pharisees
Chapter 14: The “Fraternity” of Pharisees
Chapter 15: Relation of the Pharisees to the Sadducees and Essenes, and to the Gospel of Christ
Chapter 16: Synagogues: Their Origin, Structure and Outward Arrangements
Chapter 17: The Worship of the Synagogue
Chapter 18: Brief Outline of Ancient Jewish Theological Literature
Appendix 1: Massecheth Middoth (Measurements of the Temple)
Appendix 2: Extracts from the Babylon Talmud

Manners and Customs
by Fred H Wight

One Room House In 1951, Wight completed a thesis that partially fulfilled of the requirements for a Master of Arts in Religion, at Pasadena College, California, called, “A Study of Manners and Customs of Domestic Life in Palestine as Related to the Scriptures.”

Wight proposed that study of the life of Arabs in Bible lands is valuable in understanding Scripture. In the seventh century, an army of Arabs left Arabia and invaded the Near East. They brought with them the habits of life inherited from countless generations before them. During the centuries, Arab customs largely remain unchanged.

Oriental CourtyardThere are three classes of Arabs in these lands. First, there is the Nomad or Bedouin Arab, who is a shepherd and lives in tents. Second, there is the Peasant or Fellahin Arab, who is a farmer and usually lives in a village one-room house. Third, there is the City or Belladin Arab, who as a rule engages in business in the larger cities. The Belladin Arab has come in contact with western civilization more than the other classes, and therefore his manner of life has undergone a certain amount of change. On the other hand, the Peasant Arab has changed his customs very little, and the Nomad Arab practically not at all. Through the centuries the Arabs have for the most part considered it to be morally wrong to change their ancient customs. For this reason the manners and customs of Bible-land Arabs are very much the same as the Jews of Bible times.

Here is a very short excerpt from chapter 3.

The Upper Room

The upper room or chamber is a well-known part of many Oriental houses today, and is frequently referred to in the Bible (2Ki 1:2; 2Ki 23:12; Ac 9:37; 20:8, etc.). Those who cannot afford such a room are content with booths or arbors on the roof of their houses. But when it is possible to do so they construct a room. It provides a place of coolness in the hot weather, a place of retreat, and a distinguished guest is given accommodations there. If more than one room is built on the roof, it is called a summer house, in contrast with the winter house which is downstairs.

The most famous upper room of Old Testament times was the prophet’s chamber built for Elisha, that he might have a place of retirement suited to a man of prayer. There was doubtless an outside stairway leading to it, so that the prophet might come and go without disturbing the people in the house. The furnishings of the room included a bed, a table, a stool and a lampstand (2Ki 4:10).

In the New Testament there are several notable uses of the upper room. Jesus sent two disciples to secure the use of a guest chamber for the Passover meal. A large upper room was put at their disposal. With thousands of Jews from all over Palestine in Jerusalem to celebrate the feast, it was expected that anybody having such a room would gladly let it be used for that purpose. (Mr 14:12-16; Lu 22:7-13). And then the prayer meeting that preceded Pentecost was held in an upper room (Ac 1:13). The Revisers translate it “the upper room” rather than “an upper room.” Perhaps it was the same room where Jesus had celebrated the Passover with them. At any rate, it had come to be their fixed place for meeting. Weymouth’s translation reads: “They went up to the upper room which was now their fixed place for meeting.” Upon the death of Dorcas, Luke says her body was washed and placed in an upper chamber, according to the custom of those times. The miracle of her being raised from the dead followed Peter’s going up into that upper room (Ac 9:36-41).

The book contains 31 short chapters with line drawings.

Tent Dwellings
Houses of One Room
Houses of More Than One Room
Foods and Their Preparation
Customs at Mealtime
Special Suppers and Banquets
The Sacred Duty of Hospitality
Daily Program of Activities
Dress and Ornamentation
Parental Position in the Home
Birth and Care of Children
Education of Youth
Religion in the Home
Marriage Customs
Special Events of Domestic Festivity
Sickness in Bible Lands
Death in Oriental Lands
Shepherd Life: The Care of Sheep
Growing and Harvesting Grain
Care of Vineyards
Olive and Fig Tree Culture
Trades and Professions
Vocal and Instrumental Music
The Oriental Town or City
Customs Regarding Property
Domestic Animals
Traveling on Land and Sea
Palestine Water Supply
Raids and Blood Avenging
Slavery in Bible Times
Greek and Roman Sports

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