Manners & Customs
Biblical use of the word candle. The use of the word "candle does not carry the meaning of the word as we would be familiar with it, but rather with lamps. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Fuel for Fires
The fuel used. The peasant often uses dried dung as fuel for his fire. Some of the poorer classes use this themselves, and sell the sticks they find to those who can afford to buy them.28
A reference in the prophecy of Ezekiel indicates this use of fuel was common in Bible times (see Ezekiel 4:15).
In the Orient fuel is usually so scarce that dried grass and withered flowers are apt to be carefully gathered into bundles and used for making a fire.29 There are Bible indications that this was often done in those days of old. JESUS said: "The grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven" (Matthew 6:30; Luke 12:28).
Another popular fuel for fires in Israel is thorns. There are many kinds of thorny shrubs that grow there, and the people gather them and make good use of them. Bible passages indicating such use of them are numerous (II Samuel 23:6, 7; Psalm 118:12; Ecclesiastes 7:6; Isaiah 9:18; Isaiah 10:17; Isaiah 33:12; Nahum 1:10).
The widow of Zarephath was gathering sticks to build a fire (I Kings 17:10), but the fire built in the courtyard of the high priest's house, where Simon Peter warmed himself, was built of charcoal (John 18:18). JESUS cooked breakfast for His disciples on a charcoal fire (John 21:9).
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Character of the lamp. When the Children of Israel entered the Promised Land they adopted the lamp used by the Canaanites, which was an earthenware saucer to hold the olive oil, and a pinched lip to hold the wick. A thousand years later a Mesopotamian lamp was imported and used in some sections. This lamp had a closed tube for the wick, and thus could be carried about without spilling the oil so readily. In the fifth century B.C. Greek lamps of a beautiful black glazed variety were imported and became popular. By the third century B.C. the old saucer-type lamp had all but disappeared, but in the second century, the Maccabeans revived the use of that type of lamp, as being more in line with the old Jewish traditions. But when the Roman Empire began to dominate the land of Israel, the lamps in use were either imported, or made under foreign models. The Virgin's Lamp in use in the time of CHRIST was an improvement over the old saucer type, having sufficient covering to keep the oil from spilling. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
The lampstand. In early Bible times, lampstands were not in common use, and the lamps would be put on a place such as a stone projecting from the wall. In the days of CHRIST lampstands were in quite general use. They were tall and were usually placed on the ground. Archaeologists have unearthed some bronze lampstands fourteen inches high that had been used in palaces. They were made for holding bowls or lamps. The poor no doubt had a less expensive type.
If the family had no separate lampstand, the bushel placed on the ground upside down would serve for a lampstand, as well as a table from which the meal would be served. The lamp was to be put on the bushel and not under it (Matthew 5:15).
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Light in the House
The significance of light in a Palestinian house. A lamp is considered to be the Palestinian peasant's one luxury that is a necessity. When the sun sets in the West, the door of his house is shut, and then the lamp is lit. To sleep without a light is considered by most villagers to be a sign of extreme poverty. The Bible makes synonymous such terms as lamp, light, and life. A late traveler looks to see a light in a house, and then he knows there is life there. To wish that a man's light be put out would be to wish him a terrible curse.26 Concerning the wicked man, Bildad in the Book of Job said: "The light shall be dark in his tabernacle, and his candle [lamp] shall be put out with him" (Job 18:6). But the psalmist considered himself blessed of the LORD when he said of himself in relation to GOD, "For thou wilt light my candle [lamp]" (Psalm 18:28). It was to Orientals who appreciated the value of even a humble earthenware lamp in the dark of night, or even in the obscurity of a darksome house, that JESUS originally said, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
The prophet's reference to smoking flax. Isaiah's prophecy concerning the Messiah was that "the smoking flax shall he not quench" (Isaiah 42:3). Dr. Thomson tells of seeing ancient clay lamps in use illustrating this text. The wick was often made of a twisted strand of flax, and this was put into the olive oil in the shallow cup of the lamp. When the oil was almost used up it would give forth an offensive smoke. This was an indication it was time to replenish the supply of oil. The implication was that the quenching of the fire was sometimes done purposely. If the wick was well worn, the housewife would quench the fire, and then put a new wick in to take its place. GOD's servant would not thus treat the poor, weak, and despairing specimens of humanity. He would replenish the oil, trim the wick, and make the dimly burning flame to burn brightly. What a picture this is of our Saviour's desire to help the helpless and lift the fallen and save the lost. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]