“Goats’-Hair Cloth and Bricks of Mud,” Friend, Jan. 1994, 38
During Old Testament times, home to children of the Bible lands was often a tent. Those who left Egypt with Moses to travel in the wilderness for forty years, for example, never had a permanent home while they were growing up. Abraham was also a nomad (a person who moves from place to place) for much of his life. And when Lehi and his family journeyed from Jerusalem to the sea, and after they reached the Promised Land, they lived in tents too.
These tents were probably much like the tents still used today by the nomadic peoples of the Middle East. When the goats were sheared, their hair was woven into cloth on a loom pegged out on the ground. Wooden rings for the poles that held the tent up were stitched into the cloth. There were usually three rows of poles, with the middle row being taller than the outer rows. Ropes were stretched from the poles on the outside walls of the tent to the ground, where they were pegged.
Most tents were divided into two sections. One formed a kind of open porch area and was used for receiving guests. The other section was curtained off and was usually used for the women’s quarters and for storing goods. The floor was often just dirt, but sometimes it was covered with woven mats. There was little or no furniture in these dwellings, and children and their parents slept on straw mats rolled out each night and put away each morning.
Those children whose families were able to stay in one place long enough lived in permanent homes. Generally the homes had only one room, not much bigger than the average tent, and they were made of mud bricks.
To make the bricks, a builder first dug a hole in the ground. Into this hole he put a mixture of dirt, water, chopped straw, palm fiber, and bits of shell and charcoal. Then he stomped on it until it became pliable. This mixture was poured into wooden molds to form the bricks, which were either left to dry in the sun or dried in a large oven called a kiln. The stronger, kiln-dried bricks were used for the foundations. Only those who were lucky enough to live near rock quarries or mountains were able to use roughly formed stones in their foundations, instead.
A mud mixture was used as mortar to hold the bricks in place and as a kind of plaster for the walls. When it rained, sometimes the water soaked through the mortar and the walls, making the home a very damp place. Because the roofs were formed by placing brushwood, dirt, and clay on top of wooden beams, the rain also caused grass to grow on them. Sometimes small animals were allowed to graze there!
Windows in these homes were few in number and small in size. In summer they were covered with a wooden lattice, and in winter with a heavy cloth covering.
As time went on, improvements were made in Old Testament housing, but many of the children who loved and followed the early prophets lived in goats’-hair tents or mud-brick homes.