387. The Court of the House

Esther 1:5; 1 Kings 7:8; 1 Kings 7:9; 1 Kings 7:12; Nehemiah 8:16; Esther 6:4-5; Job 9:6; Job 26:11; Psalm 52:8; Psalm 75:3; Psalm 92:12-13; Proverbs 9:1; Galatians 2:9; 1 Timothy 3:15
The “court” of an Oriental house is the open space around which the house is built. The outside of the building shows to the observer hardly anything but blank walls, the privacy of the people being such that the interior of their dwellings is completely hidden from public gaze. The ordinary houses have but one court, but houses of a better class have two or three, and some of the best houses in Damascus have seven courts. The palaces of kings had a number of courts.
The courts are sometimes laid out in beautiful gardens containing various fruits and flowers; and trees are often planted there: the palm, the cypress, the olive, the pomegranate. To this the Psalmist alludes when he says. “I am like a green olive tree in the house of God” (Psa. 52:88But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever. (Psalm 52:8)). Again, “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God” (Psa. 92:12-1312The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. 13Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. (Psalm 92:12‑13)). Sometimes the court is handsomely paved with marble (see verse 6), and has a fountain in the center. Cisterns are also built here. See note on 2 Samuel 17:18-1918Nevertheless a lad saw them, and told Absalom: but they went both of them away quickly, and came to a man's house in Bahurim, which had a well in his court; whither they went down. 19And the woman took and spread a covering over the well's mouth, and spread ground corn thereon; and the thing was not known. (2 Samuel 17:18‑19) (#281).
The court usually has a covered walk nine or ten feet wide projecting from the house. This walk is generally on the four sides of the court, though sometimes only on one side. If the house is over one story high, the roof of this covered walk forms a gallery, and is protected by a balustrade. This gallery is supported by pillars. Solomon is supposed to refer to this in Proverbs 9:11Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars: (Proverbs 9:1): “Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars.” See also Job 9:6; 26:116Which shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble. (Job 9:6)
11The pillars of heaven tremble and are astonished at his reproof. (Job 26:11)
; Psalm 75:33The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved: I bear up the pillars of it. Selah. (Psalm 75:3); Galatians 2:99And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. (Galatians 2:9); 1 Timothy 3:1515But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:15); but on this last text see note on Genesis 28:1818And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. (Genesis 28:18) (#49). On occasions of feasting, the guests are often assembled in the court, as is related in the text.
The rooms of the house open into the court. In some houses this opening is by means of doors; but in others the rooms are divided from the court by a low partition only. Where the house is more than one story in height the stairs to the upper apartments are usually, though not always, in one corner of the court.
The diagram on page 198 represents the ground-plan of an Oriental house.
In the left-hand corner, at the bottom, is the door, which opens directly into the porch or entrance-hall. To enter the court it is necessary to cross this hall and go through an adjacent room. It can thus be seen how one might enter the porch and yet have no view of the interior arrangements of the house. In the center of the court, at the place marked A in the diagram, is the fountain or cistern. The small circles around the court mark the positions of the pillars which support the gallery above; and the square and oblong spaces represent various apartments. The engraving on page 199 gives a representation of the court of a house with tesselated marble pavement, garden and fountain.