The difference between the homes of the wealthy and of the poor lay in the provision of a courtyard. At the lowest level this was simply an enclosure added onto the house. But the courtyard made immediate differences. Animals could be kept outside the house, cooking could be done in a corner, there would be no problems of security over access to the roof would come into the courtyard, windows could open onto the courtyard to let in more light, and the door of the enclosure could be kept shut. A cistern now became a possibility. People with greater wealth would build two or three rooms round the courtyard and rooms would sometimes be built to provide an upper storey (2 Kings 4:10; Mark 14:12-16; Acts 9:36-41). It was a home that was at once secluded and open to the sky-a flashback to the semi-nomadic experience of Abraham’s time.

Really wealthy people could add courtyards with buildings around them by providing a porchway through what was one of the original rooms of the house. Pillars supported the roof beams so that the size of the room could be extended. Pillars were built parallel to the walls of the buildings so that colonnades or verandas could be made. Decorations were added in the form of carved lintels, capitals, and doorpost bases. Walls could be plastered and decorated and floors covered with tiles, and later, mosaics of pebbles and of cut tiles. The courtyards themselves could be made into gardens.


A wealthy house looked tiny from the exterior because entry was through a single, locked cedar door that was often guarded by a porter. The lock was put on the inside of the gate, so that it was necessary for the arm to be put through a hole in the door before the key could be inserted. (Nehemiah 3:3; Song of Solomon 5:4). The key was a means of lifting up the pegs that held the wooden bar in place and the key was therefore rather large (Isaiah 22:22). Roman locks of a later time were much smaller and more complex.

The porter sat in a porch behind the gate and waited until he recognized the voice of the person wanting to come in. Rhoda took the place the porter and waited until she recognized the voice of Peter-but she still would not open the door until she had told the others who it was (Acts 12:13-14).

When Jesus said that he stood outside the door of the church at Laodicea and knocked, It implied that it was a wealthy church (Revelation 3:20).



Whereas the less wealthy managed a bed, table, and chairs (2 Kings 4:10), the wealthy had proper beds piled high with cushions (1 Samuel 19:15-15; Proverbs 7:16-17). Dining tables were to be found in the homes of the wealthy. Stools, together with backed chairs (1 Kings 10:18-19), were provided to rest the legs (Psalm 110:1).

Lighting was provided by large candelabra. There was no real limit to the facilities provided in the palaces of the day, but there were fewer rich people than there are today.

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