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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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is the rendering in the A.V. of three very different Hebrew and one Greek word. The proper term is in the plur. מְרִאֲשֹׁת , meraashô th (Genesis 28:11; Genesis 28:18, elsewhere "bolster"), which denotes simply a place for laying the head. In that passage we read that "Jacob took of the stones of that place [Haran], and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep." The Hebrew word would be more properly rendered "towards the head." Similarly our Lord employed either the bench or possibly some cushion or rug upon it, when asleep upon the boat (προσκεφάλαιων, Mark 4:38). (See BED). The כֶּסֶת, ke'seth (also in the plur.), of Ezekiel 13:18; Ezekiel 13:20, however, designates a cushion or soft pad used in some way for magical enticement, perhaps one of the meretricious luxuries of the females alluded to. (See ARMHOLE). In 1 Samuel 19:13; 1 Samuel 19:16, the Heb. word is כְּבַיר, kebir, something braided or plaited, hence usually thought to be a quilt or mattress. (See BOLSTER).

What kind of pillows the Hebrews used we have no means of knowing, but the ancient Egyptians had pillows of wood formed to receive the head when resting on their couches, and these no doubt had a cushion stuffed with feathers, or other soft material. Specimens of these wooden pillows may be seen in the British Museum (Wilkinson, Anc. Egyptians, 1, 71). "Hardy travelers, like Jacob (Genesis 28:11; Genesis 28:18) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:6), sleeping on the bare ground, would make use of a stone for this purpose; and soldiers on the march had probably no softer resting-place (1 Samuel 26:7; 1 Samuel 26:11-12; 1 Samuel 26:16). Possibly both Saul and Elijah may have used the water-bottle which they carried as a bolster, and if this were the case, David's midnight adventure becomes more conspicuously daring. The pillow' of goats' hair which Michal's cunning put in the place of the bolster in her husband's bed (19:13, 16) was probably, as Ewald suggests, a net or curtain of goats' hair, to protect the sleeper from the mosquitoes (Gesch. 3, 101, note), like the canopy' of Holofernes." (See SLEEP).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Pillow'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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Pillsbury, Benjamin, d.d.
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