Did You Know?

Since Israel has a long dry season, what strategies did its inhabitants in ancient times adopt to ensure their water supply?

Between October and April, rain falls in Israel and at times gushes down torrent valleys. In the summer, however, most of these “rivers” dry up, and there may be no rain for months. How did people in Bible times maintain a steady supply of water?

They resolved this problem by cutting channels into hillsides and directing winter rains into underground cavities, or cisterns. Rooftops were sufficiently sloped to direct rainwater into these cisterns. Many families had their own cistern, from which they could draw water to quench their thirst.​—2 Kings 18:31; Jeremiah 6:7.

The Israelites also took advantage of natural springs. In the highlands, winter rain seeps into the ground until it reaches impermeable layers of rock, along which it runs until it reappears in springs. That villages were often built near a spring (Hebrew, en) is suggested by such place-names as En-shemesh, En-rogel, and En-gedi. (Joshua 15:7, 62) At Jerusalem, a conduit was quarried through solid rock to bring springwater into the city.​—2 Kings 20:20.

Where there were no natural springs, a well (Hebrew, beʼerʹ), such as the one at Beer-sheba, was sunk to tap underground water. (Genesis 26:32, 33) Author André Chouraqui notes that “the technical solutions [the Israelites] found command admiration even today.”

What kind of house might Abram (Abraham) have lived in?

Abram and his wife lived in the prosperous Chaldean city of Ur. But at God’s direction, they left that city and began dwelling in tents. (Genesis 11:31; 13:12) Consider what a sacrifice this change may have involved for them.

Ur, in modern-day Iraq, was excavated by Leonard Woolley between 1922 and 1934. Among the buildings he found were some 73 houses built of brick. The rooms of many of these houses were arranged around a paved central courtyard. The courtyard sloped gently toward its center, where a drain eliminated waste water. In the larger houses, guest rooms had their own lavatories. Other rooms on the ground floor included kitchens with fireplaces and slaves’ sleeping quarters. The family lived on the upper level, which was accessed by a staircase. The stairs led to a wooden balcony that ran around the courtyard and permitted access to the doors of the upper rooms.

“A house . . . , with its paved court and neatly whitewashed walls, its own system of drainage, . . . of a dozen rooms or more, implies a standard of life of a really high order,” wrote Woolley. “And these are the houses . . . of the middle class, shopkeepers, petty merchants, scribes, and so on.”

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Cistern, Horvot Mezada, Israel

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© Masada National Park, Israel Nature and Parks Authority

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Drawing of a house from the time of Abraham

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© Drawing: A. S. Whitburn