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THE roofs of oriental houses are almost invariably flat. The small amount of rain that falls in that part of the world renders such a construction possible, and the heat of the climate renders it convenient. The roof is applied to various purposes of daily life. We may in the first place notice the well-known habit of using it as a promenade in the cool of the evenings, and spending the whole night on it in very hot weather. We read, for instance, that Samuel communed with

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Saul upon the top of the house” (1 Sam. ix. 25); “ And it came to pass in the evening-tide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king's house; and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon” (2 Sam. xi. 2); “They spread Absalom a tent on the top of the house” (2 Sam. xvi. 22); “So the people went forth and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house ” (Neh. viii. 16).

Modern travellers testify to the continuance of this practice :-“ At sunset the people (of Mosul) congregate on the roofs, where they spread their carpets, eat their evening meal, and pass the night.”—LAYARD's Nineveh, i. 144.

"As we passed through the town (Tiberias), we observed some of the inhabitants rising from their beds, which had been spread on the top of the house.” - Narrative of a Mission of Inquiry to the Jews, p. 295.

“A number of the houses at Beyrout have a kind of tent on the top, made of reeds, &c., in which the inhabitants sit, and I believe sleep.”—Paxton's Letters from Palestine, p. 7.

“The roofs of the houses in Persia are flat, and terraced over with earth. Stout timbers are first laid across the walls, about two feet apart.

These are covered over with small split sticks of wood, at intervals of perhaps three inches, on which are spread rush mats, like those I have mentioned as used on the floors. Then succeeds a thick layer of a rank thorny weed, which grows abundantly on the mountains, in a bushy globular form, a foot or two in diameter. This weed is so resinous as not soon to decay, --is an excellent article of light fuel, and is much used for burning brick, heating ovens, &c. It may be that' grass

of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven,' as mentioned by our Saviour. Upon the thick layer of this weed is spread a coat of clay mortar, and trodden down; and next, a stratum of dry earth, six



or eight inches deep, over which is plastered a layer of the mixed straw and mud. An occasional depression of the back edge of the roof, furnished with a spout a few feet long, conducts off the water. The soil is so tenacious in all parts of Persia, that there is little danger that a roof thus constructed will be pervious to the rain, if kept in a state of good repair. It should be annually plastered over with the straw and mud, which will be worn and washed off by the exposure of a season; and snow must be thrown off with a shovel as soon as it falls. These flat roofs are pleasant promenades for summer evening walks ; and the natives usually sleep upon them during the warm season, for the sake of the cool air and freedom from vermin. There is no danger in thus sleeping out, as there is no dew in Persia. The roofs should be secured with balustrades, that one family may not gaze upon the other's premises. Persian law sanctions the stoning, without trial or mercy, of all who are guilty of such an offence;

and the reader will recollect the sad misfortune and sin into which king David fell, in consequence of indulging an idle curiosity while walking upon the terrace.”—PERkins's Residence in Persia, &c., p. 155. The roof was also sought as a place for prayers

and private meditation. Peter, for instance, at Joppa, “ went up upon the house-top to pray,” and was there favoured with the vision which taught him that the Ger les were to be admitted into the

urch (Acts x. 9). Idolatrous worship was also carried on there, as described in the following passages :-“On the tops of their houses . . . every one shall howl (Is. xv. 3); " and the houses of Jerusalem shall be defiled as the place of Tophet, because of all the houses upon whose roofs they have burned incense unto all the host of heaven, and have poured out drink offerings unto other gods” (Jer. xix. 13); “I will cut off ... them that worship the host of heaven upon the house-tops” (Zeph, i. 5). “I have often,” writes the Rev. J. N.


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Allen, “been reminded by a venerable man with long beard and flowing garments, prostrate in prayer on the top of his house, of St. Peter's vision on the house-top of Joppa.”-Sinde and Afghanistan, pp. 183, 184.

Any public proclamation could be conveniently made from the house-top, and hence our Lord orders : What


hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the house-tops” (Matt. x. 27). In reference to this Mr. Jowett observes that:- “ The expression that preach ye upon the house-tops' appears nothing unnatural to those who daily see these houses. They are low and flat-roofed, and would give an opportunity to speak to many on the house, and many in the court below.” Researches in Syria, p. 95. Eusebius, also, in his Church History (ii. 23), tells us that the Pharisees who had a design upon the life of St. James, the brother of our Lord, and bishop of Jerusalem, persuaded him to preach to the people, when assembled at the passover, from the battlements of the temple : alluding to this custom of proclaiming from the housetop whatever was to be made known far and wide.

The roof was, again, an excellent place for commanding a view of any disturbance going on in the neighbourhood. Isaiah, referring to the conduct of the people at the time of the Assyrian invasion, asks:

“ What aileth thee now, that thou art wholly gone up to the house-tops?" (xxii. 1). The prophet thus describing a state of panic. Similarly, Mr. Hartley says,

- Accidental fires have ever been common in Turkish towns. It is customary in Turkey, on every alarm of fire, for all persons instantly to resort to the top of the house, in order from that elevation to discover the quarter in which the fire has made its appear

Very frequently, the cry, 'Fire !' startles the sleeping inhabitants of a town from their slumbers, and gives a practical illustration to the Scriptural language, “Why art thou wholly gone up to the house-tops ?

HARTLEY's Researches in Greece, p. 27.




The roof was also used for various domestic purposes, such as spreading flax, drying figs, &c. Thus we read :-“She (Rahab) had brought them (the spies) up to the roof of the house, and hid them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order upon the roof” (Josh. ii. 6). A modern writer tells us that: “ The custom of drying corn and other articles on the roofs of houses here (Saphet), appears to be as common as it was in the days of Rahab. The houses in the streets have their flat roofs so connected, that nothing could be easier or more natural, in case of any alarm, than to walk along the whole length of the street on the house-top without coming down. Indeed, there are some yet remaining, where the roofs of the lower row of houses form the pathway of the row above. This was very generally the case in Saphet before the earthquake, and in reference to it, a well-known story is current among the inhabitants. A camel-driver passing along the street, suddenly observed his camel sink down. It had been walking on the roof of a house, and the roof had given way. The owner of the house was filled with alarm and anger at seeing the animal descend into his apartment. He carried the case to the Cadi, claiming damages for the broken roof of his house. But he was met by the camel-driver claiming damages from him for the injury his camel had sustained by the fall, owing to the roof not being kept in good repair. We did not hear the decision of the Cadi in this difficult case.”—Mission of Inquiry to the Jews, pp. 274, 275.

Shaw also states that “s upon these terraces several offices of the family are performed, such as the drying of linen and flax, the preparing of figs and raisins; where, likewise, they enjoy the cool refreshing breezes of the evening, converse with one another, and offer up their devotions. In the feast of tabernacles, booths were erected upon them.”Barbary, i. 381.

An outside staircase or ladder conducted to the roof,

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