Eastern Hospitality

The Hebrews were a hospitable people, and were wont to welcome their guests with a feast, and dismiss them with another. Sometimes the host provided light, rich, loose robes for the company; and if so, the refusing to wear one was a gross insult. The guests relined around a table; water and perfumes were served to them, and after eating, the hands were again washed with possibly a servant pouring water over them. Various entertainments were provided, enigmas were proposed, music, hired dancers and often excessive drinking occupied the time.

Hospitality is regarded by all oriental nations as one of the highest virtues and held sacred. To this day among the Arabs, a fugitive is safe for a time if he gains the shelter of even an enemy's tent. The abuse of hospitality was a great crime.

The universal acceptance of such customs, and of the spirit of hospitality, may help to explain the indignation of James and John against those certain rude Samaritans of Luke 9.52-. The primitive Christians considered one particular part of their duty to consist in showing hospitality to strangers - whoever received those - received himself. It was and is felt to be a sacred duty to receive, feed, lodge, and protect any traveler who might stop at the door. The stranger was treated as a guest, and men who had thus eaten together were bound to each other by the strongest ties of friendship, which descended to their heirs, confirmed by mutual presents.

With the Greeks as well as the Hebrews hospitality was a sacred duty. "But the stranger that dwells with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." The spirit of Christian hospitality is taught in the New Testament.
[380, BD, Leviticus]

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