When people come to Israel and look at ruins and artifacts, often they immediately think of grand castles and fortresses and full towns as being the most exciting things to see, and there is no doubt that they are impressive. However there are other ruins that are often overlooked and are actually very important to the history of Israel and can help paint a picture of Biblical stories… Houses in Israel.
Houses In Israel During Abraham’s Time
During Abraham’s time, Israel was actually Canaan. Canaanite cities and towns employed city walls and buildings. You can see an example of this at “Abraham’s Gate”, an impressive city gate that was discovered in the Dan Ecological Preserve in northern Israel. It boasts an arched gate, which historians believed was a Roman invention until its discovery. This arch predates the earliest Roman ruins by 1500 years. It may very well be the first arch made anywhere in mankind.
Abraham is known to have visited this city, but he himself lived differently. The Israelites started out as nomads. They lived in tents and followed their flocks and moved from place to place. The tents would house a wife, and generally be split into two rooms. Since many at the time had multiple wives, the patriarch would keep his wives in their own tents with their own belongings and simply visit each tent. He possibly even had his own tent. Work would be done in one part, and sleeping in the other. Some archeologists theorize that they were influenced by the canaanites to start living in more permanent dwellings. Even then, they still kept the format of one room in the front and one in the back for the same purposes.
Houses in Israel During Jesus’ Time
Eventually through the time of King David and the Temples, life for the Israelites largely left the nomadic life unless you were a shepherd. Permanent homes became the normal way. The structure of these houses changed however. Instead of seeing the two room, tent format, you instead saw homes with courtyards and rooms coming off of the courtyard. The rooftops were used for work that needed light. Then small rooms were used for living, cooking, storing food, and sleeping. Most homes had very little furniture, mostly sitting on the floor eat and maybe having a stuffed mat to sleep on. Furniture was reserved for the very wealthy.
One example of the ruins of an ancient home that has been well preserved is the home of Peter’s mother-in-law in Capernaum. This house is well preserved under a unique Catholic church.
Due to the size and socio economic status of Nazareth, it is theorized by some that Joseph wasn’t a carpenter, but perhaps instead it should be translated to “craftsman” as there wouldn’t have been much need for a furniture builder. Perhaps he was instead a skilled builder.
In fact, some believe they have found the boyhood home of Jesus based on the idea that Joseph would have been a skilled builder. The 1st century home was found under the believed “Church of Nutrition” in Nazareth. It’s a normal home for the time, but it’s building techniques are more advanced than you see in other homes of the area. It is possible that Joseph built this home and perhaps he would travel to do work for wealthier people in other areas. The house does seem like it was built with more skill than befits the class of home.
Houses in Israel During Modern Times
Today, Israel is home to nearly 10 million people. It’s a true melting pots of lifestyles and dwellings. You will see very modern penthouses and estates built with every bell and whistle you can think of and pass a Bedouin shepherd on the road in his tent and flocks to get there! Many people in Israel live in apartments as the housing costs are very high. Others live in other multi-family situations, such as duplexes and cottages. Some still live in a single family home. It is not uncommon for some Arabic citizens to live in one home, but with different branches of the family having their own portion of the house.
We hope you will come visit us very soon as Israel is NOW OPEN TO TOURISM and make our home, your home! Talk to one of our very helpful tour operators about planning your future tour today!