Bible Dictionary

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Traditionally, not much furniture was required in Middle Eastern homes because people usually squatted or sat cross-legged on the ground or on a mat or cushion. Even in a palace the furniture of a room consisted only of a few mats or rugs, the divan or row of cushions against the wall, and some low, moveable tables. At the entrance there was usually a fountain at which guests could wash off dust. In a humbler house, instead of the fountain there was a basin and ewer, while instead of rugs and cushions there were mats and shawls. In our Lord’s time the Roman practice had come in of lying on couches at meal times, supported on one elbow, with a cushion under the arm to relieve the pressure. When the company was large the couches would be arrayed in the form of a horseshoe. The occupants reclined with their heads near the edge of the table and their feet sloping outwards, so that the feet might be washed without the table being disturbed (Luke 7:38). Except in winter people freely slept in the open air, but raised bedsteads were also found in most houses (Mark 4:21).