Hospitality (φιλοξενία). The practice of receiving strangers into one's house and giving them suitable entertainment may be traced back to the early origin of human society. It was practiced, as it still is, among the least cultivated nations (Diod. Sic. 5:28, 34; Caesar, Bell. Gall. 6, 23; Tacit. Germ. 21). It was not less observed, in the early periods of their history, among the (greeks and Romans. With the Greeks, hospitality (ξενια) was under the immediate protection of religion. Jupiter bore a name (ξένιος) signifying that its rights were under his guardianship. In the Odyssey (6, 206) we are told expressly that all guests and poor people are special objects of care to the gods. There were, both in Greece and Italy, two kinds of hospitality, the one private, the other public (see Smith's Dict. of Class. Antiq. s.v. Hospitium). The first existed between individual, the second was cultivated by one state towards another. Hence arose a new kind of social relation: between those who had exercised and partaken of the rites of hospitality an intimate friendship ensued, which was called into play whenever the individuals might afterwards chance to meet, and the right, duties, and advantages of which passed from father to son, and were deservedly held in the highest estimation (Potter's. Greek Antiquities, 2, 722 sq.).
But, though not peculiarly Oriental, hospitality has nowhere been earlier or more fully practiced than in the East. It is still honorably observed among the Arabs, especially at the present day. (See Niebuhr, Arabia, p. 46; Burckhardt, 1, 331, 459; 2:651, 739; Jaubert, Trav. p. 43; Russel's Aleppo, 1, 328; Buckingham's Mesopot. p. 23; Robinson's Researches, 2, 331, 335, 603; Prokesch, Ermin. 2:245; Harmer, 2, 114; Schultens, Excerpt. p. 408, 424, 454, 462; Layard's Nineveh, 2nd ser. p. 317 sq.; Hackett's Ill. of Script. p. 64 sq.) An Arab, on arriving at a village, dismounts at the house of some one who is known to him, saying to the master, "I am your guest." On this the host receives the traveler, and performs his duties, that is, he sets before his guest his supper, consisting of bread, milk, and borgul, and if he is rich and generous, he also takes the necessary care of his horse or beast of burden. Should the traveler be unacquainted with any person, he alights at any house, as it may happen, fastens his horse to the same, and proceeds to smoke his pipe until the master bids him welcome, and offers him his evening meal. In the morning the traveler pursues his journey, making no other return than "God be with you" (good-by) (Niebuhr, Reis. 2:431,462; D'Arvieux, 3:152; Burckhardt 1, 69; Rosenmüller, Morgenl. 6, 82, 257). The early existence and long continuance of this amiable practice in Oriental countries are owing to the fact of their presenting that condition of things which necessitates and calls forth hospitality. When population is thinly scattered over a great extent of country, and traveling is comparatively infrequent, inns or places of public accommodation are not found; yet the traveler needs shelter, perhaps succor and support. Pity prompts the dweller in a house or tent to open his door to the tired wayfarer, the rather because its master has had, and is likely again to have, need of similar kindness. The duty has its immediate pleasures and advantages, for the traveler comes full of news-false, true, wonderful; and it is by no means onerous, since visits from wayfarers are not very frequent, nor are the needful hospitalities costly. In later periods, when population had greatly increased, the establishment of inns (caravanserais) diminished, but did by no means abolish the practice (Josephus, Ant. 5:1, 2; Lu 10:34).
Accordingly, we find hospitality practiced and held in the highest estimation at the earliest periods in which the Bible speaks of human society (Ge 18:3; Ge 19:2; Ge 24:25; Ex 2:20; Jg 19:16). Express provision for its exercise is made in the Mosaic law. (Le 19:33; Dent. 14:29). In the New Testament also its observance is enjoined, though in the period to which its books refer the nature and extent of hospitality would be changed with the change that society had undergone (1Pe 4:9; 1Ti 3:2; Titus 1, 8; 1Ti 5:10; Ro 12:13; Heb 13:2). The reason assigned in this last passage (see Pfaff, Diss. de Hospitalitate, ad loc., Tübing. 1752), "for thereby some have entertained angels unawares," is illustrated in the instances of Abraham and Lot (Ge 18:1-16; Ge 19:1-3); nor is it without a parallel in classical literature; for the religious feeling which in Greece was connected with the exercise of hospitality was strengthened by the belief that the traveler might be some god in disguise (Homer, Odyss. 17, 484). The disposition which generally prevailed in favor of the practice was enhanced by the fear lest those who neglected its rites should, after the example of impious men, be subjected by the divine wrath to frightful punishments (Lelian, Animalia, 11, 19). Even the Jews, in "the latter days," laid very great stress on the obligation: the rewards of Paradise, their doctors declared, were his who spontaneously exercised hospitality (Schöttgen, Hor. Heb. 1, 220; Kype, Observ. Sacr. 1, 129).
The guest, whoever he might be, was, on his appearing, invited into the house or tent (Ge 19:2; Ex 2:20; Jg 13:15; Jg 19:21). Courtesy dictated that no improper questions should be put to him, and some days elapsed before the name of the stranger was asked, or what object he had in view in his journey (Ge 24:33; Odyss. 1, 123; 3, 69; Iliad, 6, 175; 9, 222; Diod. Sic. 5, 28). As soon as he arrived he was furnished with water to wash his feet (Ge 18:4; Ge 19:2; 1Ti 5:10; Odyss. 4, 49; 17, 88; 6, 215); received a supply of needful food for himself and his beast (Ge 18:5; Ge 19:3; Ge 24:25; Ex 2:20; Jg 19:20; Odyss. 3, 464), and enjoyed courtesy and protection from his host (Ge 19:5; Jos 2:2; Jg 19:23). SEE SALT, COVENANT OF. The case of Sisera, decoyed and slain by Jael (Jg 4:18 sq.), was a gross infraction of the rights and duties of hospitality. On his departure the traveler was not allowed to go alone or empty-handed (Jg 19:5; Waginseil, ad Sot. p. 1020, 1030; Zorn, ad Hecat. Abder. 22; Iliad, 6, 217). This courtesy to guests even in some Arab tribes goes the length (comp. Ge 21:8; Jg 19:24) of sacrificing the chastity of the females of the family for their gratification (Lane, Modern Eg. 1, 443; Burckhardt, Notes on the Bedouins, 1, 179). As the free practice of hospitality was held right and honorable, so the neglect of it was considered discreditable (Job 31:32; Odyss. 14, 56); and any interference with the comfort and protection which the host afforded was treated as a wicked outrage (Ge 19:4 sq.). Though the practice of hospitality was general, and its rites rarely violated, yet national or local enmities did not fail sometimes to interfere; and accordingly travelers avoided those places in which they had reason to expect an unfriendly reception (compare Jg 19:12). The quarrel which arose between the Jews and Samaritans after the Babylonian captivity destroyed the relations of hospitality between them. Regarding each other as heretics, they sacrificed every better feeling (see Joh 4:9). It was only in the greatest extremity that the Jews would partake of Samaritan food (Lightfoot, p. 993); and they were accustomed, in consequence of their religious and political hatred, to avoid passing through Samaria in journeying from one extremity of the land to the other. The animosity of the Samaritans towards the Jews appears to have been somewhat less bitter; but they showed an adverse feeling towards those persons who, in going up to the annual feast at Jerusalem, had to pass through their country (Lu 9:53). At the great national festivals, hospitality was liberally practiced as long as the state retained its identity. On these festive occasions no inhabitant of Jerusalem considered his house his own; every home swarmed with strangers; yet this unbounded hospitality could not find accommodation in the houses for all who stood in need of it, and a large proportion of visitors had to be content with such shelter as tents could afford (Helon, Pilgrim. 1, 228 sq.). The primitive Christians considered one principal part of their duty to consist in showing hospitality to strangers (1Pe 4:9; 1Ti 3:2;. Titus 1, 8; compare Ac 2:44; Ac 6:15,15). They were, in fact, so ready in discharging this duty that the very heathen admired them for it. They were hospitable to all strangers, but especially to those of the household of faith (see Ambrose, De Abrahamo, 5; De Offic. 2, 21; 3:7; Augustine, Epist. 38, n. 2; Tertullian, Apologet. 39). Even Lucian praises them in this respect (De morte peregrin. 2, p. 766). Believers scarcely ever traveled without letters of communion, which testified the purity of their faith, and procured for them a favorable reception wherever the name of Jesus Christ was known. Calmet is of opinion that the two minor epistles of John may be such letters of communion and recommendation. (On the general subject, see Unger, De ξενοδοκί5 ejusque ritu untiquo, in his Annal. de Cingulis, p. 311 sq.; Stuck, Antiq. Conviv. 1, 27; De Wette, Lehrbuch der Archäologie; Scholz, Handb. der Bibl. Archäologie; Deyling, Observ. 1, 118 sq.; Jahn, Archäologie, I, 2:227 sq.; Küster, Erläuterung, § 202 sq.; Laurent, in Gronov. Thesaurus, 9, 194 sq.; Otho, Lex. Rabb. 283.) SEE CARAVAN; SEE ENTERTAINMENT; SEE GUEST.