(גָּג, gag, δῶμα), the flat roof of an Oriental house, for such is usually their form, though there are sometimes domes over some of the rooms. The flat portions are plastered with a composition of mortar, tar, ashes, and sand, which in time becomes very hard, but when not laid on at the proper season is apt to crack in winter, and the rain is thus admitted. In order to prevent this, every roof is provided with a roller, which is set at work after rain. In many cases the terrace roof is little better than earth rolled hard. On ill-compacted roofs grass is often found springing into a short-lived existence (Pr 19:13; Pr 27:15; Ps 129:6-7; Isa 37:27; Shaw, p. 210; Lane, 1, 27, Robinson, 3, 39,44,60). SEE GRASS.
In no point do Oriental domestic habits differ more from European than in the use of the roof (Hackett, Illustra. of Scripture, p. 71 sq.). Its flat surface is made useful for various household purposes (Jos 2:6), as drying corn, hanging up linen, and preparing figs and raisins (Shaw, p. 211; Burckhardt, Trav. 1, 191; Bartlett, Footsteps of our Lord, p. 199). The roofs are used almost universally as places of recreation in the evening, and often as sleeping-places at night (2Sa 11:2; 2Sa 16:22; Da 4:29; 1Sa 9:25-26; Job 27:18; Pr 21:9; Shaw. p. 211; Russell, 1, 35; Chardin, 4:116; Layard, Nineveh, 1, 177). They were also used as places for devotion, and even idolatrous worship (Jer 32:29; Jer 19:13; 2Ki 23:12; Zep 1:5; Ac 10:9). At the time of the Feast of Tabernacles booths were erected by the Jews on the tops of their houses, as in the present day huts of boughs are sometimes erected on the housetops as sleeping-places, or places of retirement from the heat in summer time (Ne 8:16; Burckhardt, Syria, p. 280). As among the Jews the seclusion of women was not carried to the extent of Mohammedan usage, it is probable that the house-top was made, as it is among Christian inhabitants, more a place of public meeting both for men and women, than is the case among Mohammedans, who carefully seclude their roofs from inspection by partitions (Burckhardt, Trav. 1, 191, compare Wilkinson, 1, 23). The Christians at Aleppo, in Russell's time, lived contiguous, and made their house-tops a means of mutual communication to avoid passing through the streets in time of plague (Russell, 1, 35). In the same manner, the housetop might be made a means of escape by the stairs by which it was reached without entering any of the apartments of the house (Mt 24:17; Mt 10:27; Lu 12:3). Both Jews and heathens were in the habit of wailing publicly on the housetops (Isa 15:3; Isa 22:1; Jer 48:38). The expression used by Solomon, "dwelling upon the housetop" (Pr 21:9), is illustrated by the frequent custom of building chambers and rooms along the side and at the corners of the open space or terrace which often constitutes a kind of upper story (Hackett, ut sup. p. 74). Or it may refer to the fact that booths are sometimes constructed of branches and leaves upon the roof which, although of cramped dimensions, furnish a cool and quiet retreat, not unsuitable as a relief from a clamorous wife (Pococke, Travels, 2, 69). It is obvious that such a place would be convenient for observation (Isa 22:1), and for the proclamation of news (Lu 12:3; comp. Thomson, Land and Book, 1, 51). SEE ROOF.
Protection of the roof by parapets was enjoined by the law (Dent. 22:8). The parapets thus constructed, of which the types may be seen in ancient Egyptian houses, were sometimes of open work, and it is to a fall through or over one of these that the injury by which Ahaziah suffered is sometimes ascribed (Shaw, p. 211). To pass over roofs for plundering purposes, as well as for safety, would be no difficult matter (Joel, 2:9). In ancient Egyptian, and also in Assyrian houses, a sort of raised story was sometimes built above the roof, and in the former an open chamber, roofed or covered with awning, was sometimes erected on the house-top (Wilkinson, 1, 9; Layard, Mon. of Nin. 2, pl. 49, 50). — Smith. SEE HOUSE.