Manners & Customs
: Household Festivities
In the Orient, the harvest time is always a time of great festivity. To the Jews of Bible days, it was also a time of great joy. The prophet said, "They joy before thee according to the joy in harvest" (Isaiah 9:3). The law provided two feasts that were harvest festivals (Exodus 23:16). The first of these was called at one time The Feast of the Harvest, and later named The Feast of Pentecost. This feast was celebrated after the grain harvest. It was designated to express thanksgiving to GOD for the harvest that had been gathered. It was a time of rest from labor (Exodus 34:21). Also it was a time of feasting (Exodus 23:16). The second of these feasts was sometimes called The Feast of Ingathering, being held after all the grain, fruit, wine and oil had been gathered in. It, too, was a time of thanksgiving and joy over the harvest. It was also called the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:39-43), because they dwelt in booths to remind them of the wilderness days of the past. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Newly Built Homes
DEDICATION OF A NEWLY BUILT HOUSE
THAT THERE WAS a generally accepted custom among the Jews of dedicating a newly constructed dwelling is indicated from the words of the Mosaic Law: "What man is there that hath built a new house and hath not dedicated it" (Deuteronomy 20:5). No doubt the social and also the devotional elements entered into the occasion. A similar custom was in use in other ancient and in some modern lands of the East.
The title of the Thirtieth Psalm reads, "A Psalm; Song at the dedication of the house of David." This would seem to reveal that David celebrated the entering into his house with a special service or festivity of dedication. Spurgeon quotes Samuel Chandler as saying concerning this custom:
It was common when any person had finished a house and entered into it, to celebrate it with great rejoicing, and keep a festival, to which his friends are invited, and to perform some religious ceremonies, to secure the protection of Heaven. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Sheep Shearing Time
It would seem from two Bible references that sheep-shearing was another time of special festivity in the ancient Hebrew home. It was at a sheep-shearing time that the affair between David and wealthy Nabal took place (I Samuel 25:4).
Concerning Nabal's celebration Scripture says: "And Abigail came to Nabal; and, behold, he held a feast in his home, like the feast of a king" (I Samuel 25:36). The other example is the sheep-shearing feast of Absalom, at which time the murder of Ammon was perpetrated (II Samuel 13:23ff). These two examples of this sort of a feast would not by themselves indicate that it was anything but a time of festivity alone. But without doubt, in many pious homes it was a time of thanksgiving to GOD for the wool provided from the flocks.
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
WEANING OF A CHILD
The weaning of a child is an important event in the domestic life of the East. In many places it is celebrated by a festive gathering of friends, by feasting, by religious ceremonies, and sometimes the formal presentation of rice to the child.
Among the peasant Arabs of Israel, babies are often nursed for two years, and sometimes for four or even five years. When it is being weaned, various dainties are given the child to sweeten the gums and make it to forget the mother's milk4 (cf. Psalm 131:2).
The old time Hebrew mothers also weaned their infants late. One such mother said to her son: "My son, have pity upon me that carried thee nine months in my womb, and gave thee suck three years, and nourished and brought thee up unto this age" (II Maccabees 7:27). It was probably at this age of three, or possibly even later, that Hannah weaned Samuel and brought him to GOD's sanctuary, where offerings were made to GOD, and he was presented to the LORD (I Samuel 1:23). The Scriptural example of a weaning feast was the one celebrated for Isaac. Scripture says of it: "And the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned" (Genesis 21:8). It must have been a time of great rejoicing and dedication of the child to the LORD.
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
THE WEDDING FEAST
Every guest that attended the feast was required to wear a wedding garment (Matthew 22:12). The wedding banquet was presided over by the ruler of the feast (John 2:8,9). It was his duty to take care of the preparations, and during the feast he would get around among the guests, and see to it that they lacked nothing. He instructed servants in carrying out all the necessary details.
The expression, "children of the bridechamber", (Matthew 9:15), used by JESUS, simply means the guests at the wedding. The governor or ruler of the feast returned thanks at the dinner and pronounced benedictions at appointed times. He also blessed the wine. It was customary to tell riddles at these feasts like Samson did at his wedding (Judges 14:12-18). During the meal mirthfulness prevailed. and the guests were expected to exalt the bride.
There was no religious ceremony at the feast. In place of this were the benedictions of relatives and friends. The benediction of those who witnessed wedding arrangements for Ruth and Boaz is a good example of what would be included in such a benediction (Ruth 4:11). It corresponds to the well wishing of Western wedding guests. After the wedding feast was over the husband was escorted by his friends into the apartment where his wife had previously been conducted. These wedding festivities with relatives and friends lasted for a whole week (cf. Judges 14:17), but the entire number of what was called "the days of the marriage" was thirty. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
THE WEDDING PROCESSION
The bridegroom set out with the bride from the house of her parents, and there followed a grand procession all the way to his house. The streets of Asiatic cities were dark, and it was necessary that anybody venturing forth at night should carry a lamp or torch (cf. Psalm 119:105). Those invited guests, who did not go to the bride's home were allowed to join the procession along the way, and go with the whole group to the marriage feast. Without a torch or lamp they couldn't join the procession, or enter the bridegroom's house.
The Ten Virgins waited for the procession to arrive at the point where they were waiting; and five wise ones were able to proceed because they had a reserve supply of oil for their lamps; but the foolish virgins lacked that oil and so, not being ready, they were barred from the wedding feast (Matthew 25:1-13).
The lamps carried by these virgins have been described by Dr. Edersheim:
"The lamps consisted of a round receptacle for pitch or oil for the wick. This was placed in a hollow cup or deep saucer, . . . which was fastened by a pointed end into a long wooden pole, on which it was borne aloft.
In going from the bride's house to the groom's house, the bride allowed her hair to be loose and flowing, and she had her face veiled. Some of her own relations preceded her in the procession, and scattered ears of parched grain to the children along the way. There were demonstrations of joy all along the road to the destination. Part of the procession included men who played on drums or other musical instruments. And there was dancing along the way.
One of the punishments Jeremiah predicted for the Jews, because of their sins, was the taking away of wedding joys. "Then will I cause to cease from the cities of Judah, and from the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride" (Jeremiah 7:34).
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]