Street - Biblical Cyclopedia

Street

Street

(חוּוֹ, chuts, properly out of doors; רחוֹב, rechob, properly a wide place; שׁוּק, shuk, properly an alley; πλατεῖα, a broad place; ῥύμη, a passage) The streets of a modern Oriental town present a great contrast to those with which we are familiar, being generally narrow, tortuous, and gloomy, even in the best towns, such as Cairo (Lane, 1, 25), Damascus (Porter, 1, 30), and Aleppo (Russell, 1, 14). Their character is mainly fixed by the climate and the style of architecture, the narrowness being due to the extreme heat, and the gloominess to the circumstance of the windows looking; for the most part, into the inner court. As these same influences existed in ancient times, we should be inclined to think that the streets were much of the same character as at present. The opposite opinion has, indeed, been maintained on account of the Hebrew term rechob, frequently applied to streets, and properly meaning a wide place. The specific signification of this term, however, is rather a court yard or square. It is applied in this sense to the broad open space adjacent to the gate of a town, where public business was transacted (De 13:16), and, again, to the court before the Temple (Ezr 10:9) or before a palace (Es 4:6). Its application to the street may point to the comparative width of the main street, or it may perhaps convey the idea of publicity rather than of width, a sense well adapted to the passages in which it occurs (e.g. Ge 19:2; Jg 19:15; 2Sa 21:12). The street called "Straight" (q.v.) in Damascus (Ac 9:11) was an exception to the rule of narrowness; it was a noble. thoroughfare, one hundred feet wide, divided in the Roman age by colonnades into three avenues — the central one for foot passengers, the side passages for vehicles and horsemen going in different directions (Porter, 1, 47). The shops and warehouses were probably collected together into bazaars in ancient as in modern times. We read of the baker's bazaar (Jer 37:21), and of the wool, brazier, and clothes bazaars (ἀγορά) in Jerusalem (Josephus, War, 5, 8,1); and perhaps the agreement between Benhadad and Ahab that the latter should "make streets in Damascus" (1Ki 20:34) was in reference rather to bazaars (the term chuts here used being the same as in Jer 37:21), and thus amounted to the establishment of a jus commercii. A lively description of the bazaars at Damascus is furnished us by Porter (1, 58-60). The broad and narrow streets are distinguished under the terms rechob and chuts in the following passages, though the point is frequently lost in the A.V. by rendering the latter term "abroad" or "without," Pr 5:16; Pr 7:12; Pr 22:13; Jer 5:1; Jer 9:21; Am 5:16; Nahum, 2:4. The same distinction is apparently expressed by the terms rechob and shuk in Song 3:2, and by πλατεῖα and ῥύμη in Lu 14:21; but the etymological sense of shuk points rather to a place of concourse, such as a marketplace, while ῥύμη is applied to the "Straight" street of Damascus (Ac 9:11), and is also used in reference to the Pharisees (Mt 6:2) as a place of the greatest publicity; it is therefore doubtful whether the contrast can be sustained. Josephus describes the alleys of Jerusalem under the term στενωποί (War, 5, 8, 1). The term shuk occurs elsewhere only in Pr 7:8; Ec 12:4-5. The term chuts, already noticed, applies generally to that which is outside the residence (as in Pr 7:12, A.V. "she is without"), and hence to other places than streets, as to a pasture ground (Job 13:17, where the A.V. requires emendation). That streets occasionally had names appears from Jer 37:21; Ac 9:11. That they were generally unpaved may be inferred from the notices of the pavement laid by Herod the Great at Antioch (Josephus, Ant. 16, 5, 3) and by Herod Agrippa II at Jerusalem (ibid. 20, 9, 7). Hence pavement forms one of the peculiar features of the ideal Jerusalem (Tob. 13:17; Re 21:21). Each street and bazaar in a modern town is locked up at night (Lane, 1, 25; Russell, 1, 21), and hence a person cannot pass without being observed by the watchman. he same custom appears to have prevailed in ancient times (Song 3:3). See Thomson, Land and Book, 1, 38; Van Lennep, Bible Lands, p. 454; Hackett, Illust. of Scripture, p. 61. SEE ROAD.

Definition of street

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