Family Dwellings


The Bet Ab (The House of the Father)

(From P. J. King and L. E. Stager, Life in Biblical Israel [2001])

The bet ab (pronounced bayit av) was a cluster of houses in a shared common space all belonging to the same family - generally extended family.  King and Stager give this description:

The joint family (bet 'ab, literally "father's house"), a multiple-family household consisting of blood relatives as well as the women connected through marriage, formed the basic unit of Israelite society.  It was the focus of the religious, social, and economic spheres of Israelite life and was at the center of Israel's history, faith, and traditions.  Each family had its own land inheritance (nahala).  Such a group of families with descent from the same paterfamilias and dwelling in the same region or village formed a bet ab.  ...

Besides the parents and unmarried children, the bet ab might include several generations of family members, depending on who is claimed as the paterfamilias, along with his wife or wives, sons and their wives, grandsons and their wives, the unmarried sons and daughters, slaves, servants, gerim ["client" usually translated "sojourner" or "stranger"], aunts, uncles, widows, orphans, and Levites who might be members of the household. (From P. J. King and L. E. Stager, Life in Biblical Israel [2001]pp. 39-40)



Pillared House

Typical pillared house of the Israelites, Iron Age I; with stables, storage, food processing, and cistern on ground floor.  The upper story is for sleeping, dining, and entertaining.  A man with a roof roller keeps the plastered roof intact. (From P. J. King and L. E. Stager, Life in Biblical Israel [2001] p. 29)