During Bible times, as today, the facilities for sleeping varied in type, style, and structure, according to the people’s wealth, status in life, and customs. The bare ground, sometimes cushioned with a pad or pallet, often sufficed for the poor, the herdsman, and the traveler; very costly and ornate furnishings were used by rulers and the rich in their permanent dwellings.
The common Hebrew term for “bed” is mish·kavʹ, from the root sha·khavʹ (lie down). (Ge 49:4; Le 26:6) The usual Greek term is kliʹne, from kliʹno (incline). (Mt 9:2; Lu 9:58, Int) Another Greek term for “bed,” koiʹte, which basically denotes a place to lie down (Lu 11:7), is also used to refer to the “marriage bed” (Heb 13:4) and “illicit intercourse” (Ro 13:13); by metonymy it refers to conceiving a child. (Ro 9:10) Other Hebrew terms for places for lying down are mit·tahʹ (couch), ʽeʹres (divan), and ya·tsuʹaʽ (lounge). The Greek kraʹbat·tos refers to a cot. (Mr 2:4) Bible writers did not always make a distinction between these various terms and frequently used two or more of them for the same thing, calling a bed a divan (Job 7:13), a bed a cot (Mt 9:6; Mr 2:11), a couch a divan (Ps 6:6), a bed a lounge (Ge 49:4). These were used by those sleeping at night or taking a siesta (2Sa 4:5-7; Job 33:15), by those sick, by ones having intercourse (Ps 41:3; Eze 23:17), and as a resting-place for the dead in a grand tomb (2Ch 16:14). The custom of reclining at a meal required couches. (Es 7:8; Mt 26:20; Lu 22:14) A couch especially designed to carry one about in regal style was called a litter.—Ca 3:7-10; see LITTER.
Certain accessories are usually associated with beds, for example, a pillow. Jesus, when crossing the Sea of Galilee, fell asleep “upon a pillow” in the stern of the boat. (Mr 4:38) During the colder season a “woven sheet” or other covering was used (Isa 28:20), but it was common to sleep in everyday garments; hence the Mosaic Law forbade keeping another person’s garments after sunset: “It is his only covering. . . . In what will he lie down?”—Ex 22:26, 27.
The Oriental bed was often a simple mat made of straw or rushes, with perhaps quilting or a mattress of some sort for added comfort. When not in use, these were rolled up and stored away. A more permanent arrangement employed a wooden frame or bedstead that elevated the sleeper off the ground or floor. (Mr 4:21) These served as couches or divans upon which to sit during the daytime. The simplest cotlike beds were lightweight, easily picked up and carried about.—Lu 5:18, 19; Joh 5:8; Ac 5:15.
The wealthy had beds draped with elegant decorations of rich embroidery. “With coverlets I have bedecked my divan, with many-colored things, linen of Egypt. I have besprinkled my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon,” the seductive prostitute declared. (Pr 7:16, 17) Like the “couches of gold and silver” of a Persian palace, so also “a splendid couch,” “a Damascene divan,” and “couches of ivory,” were described by the prophet as the furnishings of rebellious Israel.—Es 1:6; Am 3:12; 6:4.
Also in a figurative sense, beds, couches, and lounges are referred to in the Scriptures. The state of the dead, for example, is as those lying in a bed. (Job 17:13; Eze 32:25) Jehovah’s loyal ones “cry out joyfully on their beds,” in contrast with wayward ones who keep howling and scheming what is bad while lying in bed. (Ps 149:5; Ho 7:14; Mic 2:1) Unlike Reuben, who with reckless license had relations with his father Jacob’s concubine and in this sense profaned his father’s bed (Ge 35:22; 49:4), Christians must not defile the sacred marital arrangement, “the marriage bed,” in any way.—Heb 13:4.Bed