roofs were repaired and rolled smooth to allow a better runoff of water.
The roofs were places of considerable activity in both peaceful and calamitous times. (Isa. 22:1; Jer. 48:38) From them announcements could be made or certain actions could quickly be brought to public notice. (2 Sam. 16:22; Matt.10:27) Flax was dried on the roofs (Josh. 2:6), and persons might converse there (1 Sam. 9:25), walk in the cool evening (2 Sam. 11:2), engage in true or false worship (Jer. 19:13; Zeph. 1:5; Acts 10:9), or even sleep there. (1 Sam. 9:26) During the Festival of Ingathering, booths were erected on the rooftops and in the courtyards of the houses.—Neh. 8:16.
Often a roof chamber or upper chamber was built on the housetop. This was one of the most pleasant and coolest rooms during the hot summer months and also served as a guest room. (Judg. 3:20; 1 Ki. 17:19; 2 Ki. 1:2; 4:10) Of course, some homes were two-story buildings with a regular upper story. In a large upper chamber, either a roof chamber or a room of an upper story, Jesus celebrated the last Passover with his disciples and instituted the commemoration of the Lord’s Evening Meal. (Luke 22:11, 12, 19, 20) And on the day of Pentecost, 33 C.E., some 120 disciples were apparently in an upper chamber of a house in Jerusalem when God’s spirit was poured out upon them.—Acts 1:13-15; 2:1-4.
Usually outside stairs or, in the poorer homes, ladders led from the courtyard to the roof. Therefore a person on the housetop could leave without having to go into the house itself. Since many homes were built close together, it was often possible to walk from rooftop to rooftop. These factors may have some bearing on the meaning of Jesus’ counsel at Matthew 24:17 and Mark 13:15. In the better homes an interior staircase gave access to the upper story.
THE LAW PROTECTED PROPERTY RIGHTS
It was Jehovahs purpose that his obedient people have the joy of living in their own houses. (Compare Isaiah 65:21.) For someone else to gain occupancy of the house of its builder was a calamity to fall upon disobedient ones. (Deut. 28:30; Lam. 5:2) And a man who had not yet inaugurated his new house was exempted from military service.—Deut. 20:5, 6.
Certain provisions of God’s law to Israel protected property rights. The Law condemned coveting another’s possessions, including his house (Ex. 20:17), and Jehovah, through his prophets, denounced the unlawful seizure of houses. (Mic. 2:2; compare Nehemiah 5:1-5, 11.) A creditor could not force his way into the house of his debtor and seize a pledge. (Deut. 24:10, 11) An Israelite who sanctified his house to Jehovah could buy it back by paying 120 percent of its estimated value to the sanctuary. (Lev. 27:14, 15) Also, those who had to sell their houses retained repurchase rights, at least for a time. Houses in unwalled villages could be bought back by their original owners and had to be returned to them in the Jubilee year. But houses in walled cities became the permanent property of the buyer if they were not bought back within the allotted one-year period during which the repurchase right continued in force. The right of repurchase was permanent in the case of houses located in walled Levite cities. If not bought back earlier, all houses formerly belonging to Levites had to be returned to their original owners in the Jubilee year.—Lev. 25:29-33.
A PLACE FOR SPIRITUAL INSTRUCTION
From earliest times the home functioned as a center for giving instruction in pure worship. God’s law to Israel specifically commanded fathers to teach their sons when sitting in the house, as well as at other times. (Deut. 6:6, 7; 11:19) Also, God’s law was to be written on the doorposts of their houses (Deut. 6:9; 11:20) and the home kept free from all appendages of idolatry. (Deut. 7:26) In view of the fact that the home was used for such a sacred purpose, houses infected with “malignant leprosy” were to be torn down. (See LEPROSY.) The law concerning leprous houses would have reminded the Israelites that they could live only in homes that were clean from God’s standpoint.—Lev. 14:33-37.
With the establishment of Christianity, preaching and teaching from house to house became a prominent part of true worship. (Acts 20:20) Jesus’ followers availed themselves of the hospitality accorded them by ‘deserving ones’ or ‘friends of peace,’ and stayed in the houses of such persons until completing their ministry in a particular city. (Matt. 10:11; Luke 10:6, 7) Often groups or congregations of Christians regularly met together in houses to consider God’s Word. (Rom. 16:5; 1 Cor. 16:19; Col. 4:15; Philem. 2) But any who turned away from the teaching of the Christ were not welcomed in private homes.—2 John 10.
HOUSE OF THE FOREST OF LEBANON
A part of the complex of government buildings erected by King Solomon during his thirteen-year building program after he had finished the temple at Jerusalem (1027-1014 B.C.E.). It was located S of the temple and the palace, between the summit of the Temple Hill and the low spur of the City of David. The building received its name either because it was constructed of cedar from Lebanon or because its many large cedar pillars reminded one of the forests there.
The House of the Forest of Lebanon was one hundred cubits (c. 146 feet or 44 meters) long, fifty cubits (c. 73 feet or 22 meters) wide and thirty cubits (c. 44 feet or 13 meters) high. It appears to have had stone walls (1 Ki. 7:9), with cedar beams the ends of which were laid into the walls and were additionally supported by four rows of pillars (“four” in the Hebrew text; “three” in the Septuagint Version). Above the pillars there were evidently cedar-paneled chambers. Some suggested reconstructions of this house have three tiers, or stories of chambers, above the pillars and these face an unroofed court in the middle of the building. The chambers were said to have “an illumination opening opposite an illumination opening in three tiers.” This seems to have meant that, looking out over the court, there were openings or large windows that faced corresponding windows in the chambers on the opposite side of the court. Or, it possibly meant that there was a window in each chamber facing the court and one facing the outside. The entrance (likely the doorways leading to the chambers and perhaps between them) “were squared as regards the lintel.” They were therefore not arch-shaped or vaulted. The windows were of like shape.—1 Ki. 7:1-5.
A problem arises in regard to the number of rows of pillars, as mentioned in the foregoing. For the Hebrew text says that there were four rows and later speaks of forty-five pillars, then says: “There were fifteen to a row.” (1 Ki. 7:2, 3) Some have thought that the text here applies to the chambers in three tiers, fifteen chambers to a row, and that there may have been a greater number of pillars placed in the four rows. Others prefer the Septuagint reading of “three” rows of pillars.
After Solomon finished the house, he placed in it two hundred large shields of alloyed gold, each overlaid with six hundred shekels of gold (worth $7,732.00) and three hundred bucklers of alloyed gold, each plated with three minas of gold (worth $1,933.00). This would make more than two million dollars’ worth of gold on the shields and bucklers. Besides this there was an unstated number of gold vessels used in the house.—1 Ki. 10:16, 17, 21; 2 Chron. 9:15, 16, 20.
These gold shields were carried away by Shishak king of Egypt during the reign of Solomon’s son Rehoboam. Rehoboam replaced them with shields of copper, which he committed to the control of the chiefs of the runners, the guards of the entrance of the king’s house. (1 Ki. 14:25-28; 2 Chron. 12:9-11)