IN THE SPRING of 1951, the author completed a thesis in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Arts in Religion, at Pasadena College, California, under the title, "A Study of Manners and Customs of Domestic Life in Palestine as Related to the Scriptures." Desire was expressed by certain members of the faculty that additional material be added to the thesis, and that a general textbook be written on Oriental manners and customs bearing on the Scriptures. As a result of this, the manuscript for this book was completed. Chapters 1 through 11 and 13 through 17, plus a small portion of Chapter 26, are substantially the original thesis, the other chapters having been added.
The author is indebted to Dr. G. Frederick Owen, Professor of Archaeology and Biblical Literature at Pasadena College, for his assistance in the project. Dr. Owen has spent several seasons in Palestine doing research work, and his suggestions and criticisms have been a help to the author in writing. With Dr. Owen's permission, some material derived from class notes in a course taught by him in the summer of 1950 on the subject "Manners and Customs of Bible Lands," was included in the thesis and appears in the present work.
It is hoped that the bibliography in the back of this book will be helpful to all those who desire to make a further study of the subject. Complete information about those books listed in the bibliography appears there, rather than in connection with any mention of them in the reference notes. But where books are referred to in the reference notes and are omitted from the bibliography, the full information about them appears in the reference notes.
Many months of research have been given to the preparation of this manuscript, and yet the result is not to be considered an exhaustive treatise on the subject. But the author will consider himself more than repaid for his efforts if, as a result of reading this book, Bible students will find in it real help in understanding and interpreting the Scriptures.
The author wishes to express his appreciation to the following publishers for their permission to quote from their copyrighted publications. Acknowledgment of the author quoted, and the name of the book and its publisher, are given in the reference notes.
The Warner Press, Anderson, Indiana: Palestine Speaks, by Anis C. Haddad, 1936.
The Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia, Pa.: The Life of the People in Biblical Times, by Max Radin, 1929.
Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, N.Y.: Abraham; Recent Discoveries and Hebrew Origins, by Sir Leonard Woolley, 1936.
THE BIBLE WRITTEN BY ORIENTALS. It is easy for Occidentals to overlook the fact that the Scriptures had their origin in the East, and that each one of the writers was actually an Oriental. Since this is so, in a very real sense the Bible may be said to be an Oriental Book. But many are quite apt to read into the Scriptures Western manners and customs, instead of interpreting them from the Eastern point of view.
Knowing Oriental manners and customs necessary to understand the Bible. Many passages of Scripture that are hard for the Westerner to understand, are readily explained by a knowledge of the customs and manners of Bible lands. On the other hand, to ignore this subject is to deprive one's self of a thorough mastery of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments.
A study of the manners and customs of Arabs of Bible lands invaluable. For many years the Arabs were the custodians of Palestine. In the seventh century, an army of Arabs broke away from Arabia and invaded the Near East. They brought with them the habits of life inherited from countless generations before them. Since they have lived in these lands ever since, they have largely become the conservators of the manners and customs of Bible times.
During the centuries, Arab customs largely unchanged. There 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 none 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. There are some exceptions to this rule, and most of those have to do with religious observances.
Sources of material about manners and customs of Bible-land Arabs. For information about the life-habits of the Arabs of the Near East we are indebted to natives of Bible lands, long time residents, missionaries, scholars, and travelers.
What about the customs of the Jews who have returned to the new nation of Israel? The customs of the Jews who are now returning from various parts of the world to the land of their fathers, will not be of great value for this study, because they are largely the customs of those lands from whence they have come, and in many cases that means Western customs. There may be a few of the returning Israelites and some of those who have lived long in the land, who have the old-time habits of life, especially religious observances, but those who do are very much in the minority.
Other sources of information about manners and customs of Bible times. Historians who have written about the time of CHRIST or of the Apostles have often given information about the manner of living of those days, and of even earlier days. Also the findings of archaeologists have been a valuable source of knowledge on this subject. Things unearthed by the spade, such as pottery, various articles of household furniture, remains of old houses, inscriptions, and the like, often reveal secrets of how men in the long ago lived and acted. Ancient civilizations lost to the world for centuries have been revealed to men by the work of excavators in Bible lands.