Lighting and Large Families

Last year, after several storms of biblical proportions in my area, we went through a long string of days without electricity. Lacking camping equipment, I had to make do with candles in my house. I was astounded by how dark nighttime really is. Electricity has bamboozled those of us who have grown up in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries into believing that evenings aren’t all that different from daytime hours. But the darkness is truly impenetrable once the sun sets. There is a kind of pitch black to which your eyes don’t grow accustomed. Candles can’t stand up to the all-consuming power of it. You need a lot of candles to light the room enough to be able to read, even a little, for example.


Of course, in biblical times they did not have candles. They weren’t invented yet. They had lamps, usually made of pottery, with a linen wick, which burned olive or other oil. If they could afford it, they let one lamp burn through the night.

But you can imagine the heavy darkness that blanketed their world come sunset. A few lamps hardly made a dent. That’s probably why they often had such large families. Everyone looked attractive in that lighting, which is why when you want a romantic atmosphere, you dim the lights and light candles. Besides, there wasn’t much else to do. There were no reruns of Matlock, and Arthur Conan Doyle hadn’t written Sherlock Holmes yet. People went to bed early and woke up early, either with the rising of the sun, or just before (another reason I am glad I wasn’t born then.)

To avoid fires, they placed these lamps on lampstands if they could afford one. The common folk simply over-turned a bushel and used that as a lampstand. That’s why Jesus said people don’t light a lamp and put it under a bushel; that lamp gives light to all in the house. (Matthew 5: 14 -16) It would have struck the people living in biblical times as an absurd picture to put your lamp under your bushel basket. In the same way, Jesus says that His followers are the light of the world, and they must burn bright like a lamp that lightens the community around them.

7 responses to “Lighting and Large Families”

  1. Addie miller says:

    thank you I never knew this or at least putting the lamp on the basket part. I always think of candles when I read this passage. thank you for all your research and information to certify things for us.

  2. Mandy says:

    Thanks for this information. It is really helpful when reading scripture. My Bible study group and I are reading through 1 Kings and I’ve been looking for ways to explain the differences of that world and this.

  3. Patricia says:

    Great research! I’ll use it for my Bible Study this Sunday. Thanks so much!

  4. Ben says:

    “When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately He spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I! Do not be afraid!” Peter replied to Him, “Lord, if it is [really] You, command me to come to You on the water.” He said, “Come!” So Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw [the effects of] the wind, he was frightened, and he began to sink, and he cried out, “Lord, save me!””
    ‭‭MATTHEW‬ ‭14:26-30‬ ‭AMP‬‬

    Can you imagine peter walking on a large deep vast of body of water and having no light other than the light of the world to guide him in the darkness upon the sea. The Lord is so amazing.

  5. Sangeetha says:

    That is why in Hinduism today we still follow the old tradition of lighting a wick in oil during morning and evening in from of God

  6. Diedra says:

    Actually, candles HAD been invented…they may not have had any in Biblical times….but as early as 3000 BC candles were used in Egypt. Candle stands invented I. 400 BC and by 200 BC the Chinese were using candles.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.