There are three Hebrews words employed in the Old Test. which our translators have rendered "ceiled" or "ceiling."
1. חָפָה (chaphah´, to cover or overlay, as it is elsewhere rendered) occurs 2Ch 3:5, where it is said, "He ceiled the greater house with fir- tree."
2. סָפִן (saphan´, to wainscot or plank; elsewhere rendered "cover," once "seat," De 33:21) occurs Jer 22:14: " It is ceiled with cedar, and painted with vermilion." Houses finished in this manner were called "ceiled houses" (Hag 1:4). The "ceiling" of the walls itself is likewise spoken of (סַפֻּן, sippun´, 1Ki 6:15). In Eze 41:16, the word rendered "ceiled" is שָׁחַיŠ (shachiph´, from being hewed thin), a board simply, used for that purpose. These ceilings were adorned with ornaments in stucco, with gold, silver, gems, and ivory. Oriental houses appear to have been the reverse of such as we inhabit, the ceiling being of wood richly ornamented and painted, and the floor plaster or stucco, the walls being generally wainscoted. The Egyptian monuments, still exhibit elegant specimens of painted ceilings, no doubt greatly resembling those mentioned in the above texts (Wilkinson's Anc. Egypt. 2:125). According to Mr. Layard, in the ancient Assyrian houses also "the ceilings overhead were divided into square compartments, painted with flowers or with the figures of animals. Some were inlaid with ivory, each compartment being surrounded by elegant borders and mouldings" (Nineveh, 2:208). The following remarks are from Smith's Dict. s.v.: The descriptions of Scripture (1Ki 6:9,15; 1Ki 7:3; 2Ch 3:5,9; Jer 22:14; Hag 1:4) and of Josephus (Ant. 8:3, 2-9; 15:11, 5) show that the ceilings of the Temple and the palaces of the Jewish kings were formed of clear planks applied to the beams or joints crossing from wall to wall, probably with sunk panels (φατνώματα), edged and ornamented with gold, and carved with incised or other patterns (βαθνξύλοις γλυφαῖς), sometimes painted (Jer 22:14). It is probable that both Egyptian and Assyrian models were in this, as in other branches of architectural construction, followed before the Roman period. SEE ARCHITECTURE. The construction and designs of Assyrian ceilings in the more important buildings can only be conjectured (Layard, Nineveh, 2:265, 289), but the proportions in the walls themselves answer in a great degree to those mentioned in Scripture (Nin. and Bab. p. 642; Fergusson, Hand-book of Architecture, 1:201). Examples, however, are extant of Egyptian ceilings in stucco painted with devices of a date much earlier than that of Solomon's Temple. Of these devices, the principal are the guilloche, the chevron, and the scroll. Some are painted in blue, with stars, and others bear representations of birds and other emblems (Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt. 2:290). The excessive use of vermilion and other glaring colors in Roman house-painting, of which Vitruvius at a later date complains (7:5), may have been introduced from Egypt, whence also came, in all probability, the taste for vermilion painting shown in Jehoiakim's palace (Jer 22:14; Am 3:15; Wilkinson, 1:19). See also the descriptions given by Athenaeus (5:196) of the tent of Ptolemy Philadelphus and the ship of Philopator (ib. 206), and of the so-called sepulchres of the kings of Syria, near Tyre, by Hasselquist (p. 165). The panel-work in ceilings which has been described is found in Oriental and North African dwellings of late and modern time. Shaw describes the ceilings of Moorish houses in Barbary as of wainscot, either "very artfully painted, or else thrown into a variety of panels, with gilded mouldings and scrolls of the Koran intermixed" (Trav. p. 208). Mr. Porter describes the ceilings of houses at Damascus as delicately painted, and in the more ancient houses with "arabesques" encompassing panels of blue, on which are inscribed verses and chapters of the Koran in Arabic; also a tomb at Palmyra, with a stone ceiling beautifully panelled and painted (Damascus, 1:34, 37, 57, 60, 232; comp. De 6:9; see also Lane's Mod. Egypt. 1:37, 38; Thomson, Land and Book, 2:571). Many of the rooms in the Palace of the Moors at the Alhambra were ceiled and ornamented with the richest geometrical patterns. The ancient Egyptians used colored tiles in their buildings (Athen. 5:206; Wilkinson, 2:287). The like taste is observed by Chardin to have prevailed in Persia, and he mentions beautiful specimens of mosaic, arabesque, and inlaid wood-work in ceilings at Ispahan, at Koom in the mosque of Fatima, and at Ardevil. These ceilings were constructed on the ground, and hoisted to their position by machinery (Chardin, Voyage, 2:434; 4:126; 7:387; 8:40, plate 39; Olearius, p. 241). SEE HOUSE.