The pillared house

Throughout the Iron Age – the period of the Old Testament – the pillared house was the dominant house form in Judah and Israel, both in cities and in rural settlements. It is also referred to as the four-room house or sometimes the three-room house. Essentially, it has one broad room at the back of the house, at times divided into two. The space at the front of the house is divided into three rooms, often separated by pillars, sometimes by walls. These rooms run longitudinally from the front of the house to the broad room at the back. The entrance of the house was in one of these longitudinal rooms. The smaller three-room house has only two longitudinal rooms. That does not necessarily mean that a house had only three or four rooms. At times the basic rooms were subdivided. And it is generally believed that most houses had a second storey. Whether it covered the entire house is not yet certain. Here’s an artist’s reconstruction of a house on Tell Halif in the 8th century, built against the city wall.

The central entrance room was probably used as a stable. The room to its left had weaving implements and was maybe used as a work-room of some kind. The long room to the right had various implements which indicate that wine-making took place here. The broad room at the back looks like a living room, and the broad room at the right was probably used for storage. The people probably slept either in the living room or in rooms on the upper level.

Note the roof roller on the flat roof. It was used to compact the roof regularly and repair any patches so that no drips would develop.

Illustration by Dylan Karges. Thanks to James W. Hardin for letting me use the illustration.

This entry was posted in Archaeology, Judah, Tell Halif. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The pillared house

  1. fiwl says:

    Here’s another artist’s rendering of the same on YouTube:


  2. fiwl says:

    I am appreciating your work!

  3. fiwl says:

    Can you give a reference in scripture that is one of these pillared houses?

    • Tim Frank says:

      There does not seem to be a direct reference to the pillared house in scripture. Rather, it is the house-type that was assumed.

      Some passages, such 2 Samuel 4:5-7 seem to refer to a typical house.
      “5 Now Rekab and Baanah, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, set out for the house of Ish-Bosheth, and they arrived there in the heat of the day while he was taking his noonday rest.
      “6 They went into the inner part of the house as if to get some wheat, and they stabbed him in the stomach. Then Rekab and his brother Baanah slipped away.
      7 They had gone into the house while he was lying on the bed in his bedroom. After they stabbed and killed him, they cut off his head. Taking it with them, they traveled all night by way of the Arabah. ”

      Also 1 Kings 22:24-25
      24 Then Zedekiah son of Kenaanah went up and slapped Micaiah in the face. “Which way did the spirit from[a] the LORD go when he went from me to speak to you?” he asked.

      25 Micaiah replied, “You will find out on the day you go to hide in an inner room.”

      But more than that we can know something about the living conditions of the people of the Bible through archaeology.

      • Tim Frank says:

        Forgot to mention, that there are several passages that refer to an upper room, giving a strong textual indication that these houses had upper storeys.

  4. Pingback: Pillar bases at Khirbet Summeily | Tim Frank – imagining the past: Archaeology and the Bible

  5. Pingback: House pillar | Imagining the past: Archaeology and the Bible

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