Bookstore Glossary Library Links News Publications Timeline Virtual Israel Experience
Anti-Semitism Biography History Holocaust Israel Israel Education Myths & Facts Politics Religion Travel US & Israel Vital Stats Women
donate subscribe Contact About Home

Door and Doorpost

The Bible distinguishes between the term petaḥ, which is the entrance to a house (Gen. 43:19), and delet, which is a device for closing and opening the entrance. Thus, while petaḥ applies to both the entrance to a tent (Gen. 18:1) and a house, the term delet is used only in connection with a built house. The door has two main components: a fixed frame and a moving board or slab. The frame has two doorposts (Heb. mezuzot), which are its vertical sides; a lintel (Heb. mashqof), its upper horizontal side; and a sill or threshold (Heb. saf), its lower horizontal side. Wider doorways occasionally had a third vertical beam on which two doorleaves, as implied by the dual form of the word delata'im ("paired doors"; Isa. 45:1), one attached to each of the doorposts, converged when shut. The doorway was constructed as part of the wall in question, but the doorposts, lintel, and threshold were built in after the construction of the building was completed. Finally, the door itself was set into this framework. At the top and bottom of each doorleaf was added a projecting hinge of wood, metal, or other material, to be received within depressions in the lintel and threshold respectively (cf. I Kings 7:50). Doors generally opened inward; they were prevented from swinging outward by ledges, stops at the outer edges of the lintel, and the threshold. Other methods of placing hinges were to suspend the door on some pliable material, such as leather or rope – these were fixed between the door and the doorpost at two points and served as hinges to enable the movement of the doors back and forth – or sometimes to put up special metal hinges that joined the door to the doorpost. A number of excavations have revealed the remains of metal coverings on hinges and sockets that served to protect them from wear. Excavations in Palestine have frequently uncovered sockets carved into the lintel and the threshold.

The threshold was of stone, either cut to size and laid slightly higher than the floor or built up from smaller stones. It was built slightly higher than the level of the floor and the street in order to keep out water and dirt. Doorposts were made either of wood or stone. The term ʾammot in Isaiah 6:4 probably refers to stone doorposts standing at both ends of the threshold. Doorposts made of wood are implied by the law about the Hebrew slave (Ex. 21:6; Deut. 15:17), according to which a Hebrew slave who, when the time of his release arrived, preferred slavery to freedom was to be placed against a doorpost and have his earlobe and the doorpost pierced with an awl as a symbol of his enslavement for life. Similarly, the lintel might be made either of stone or wood and was placed horizontally across the doorposts. The size of a doorway was related to the size of the building. Doorways to private dwellings from the Israelite period preserved in the Negev were lower than man's height, while the entrances to large buildings, such as palaces and temples, were proportionately higher and wider. Very large doors were erected at the gates of fortified cities (Judg. 16:3). The doors of luxurious buildings were made of special, expensive wood (I Kings 6:31, 34) or were overlaid with metal, usually copper, or even gold, like the doors of the Temple. Descriptions from various places on cylinder seals or monuments show single or double doors set within a decorative framework (Frankfurt, The Art and Architecture… (1954), Fig. 83). An integral part of the door was its bar or bolt, a device used to lock the door from the inside or the outside. The bar consisted of a movable horizontal beam which, when slid into a slot in the doorpost, prevented the door from opening. The lock was somewhat more complex and could be operated for locking or unlocking from the outside (II Sam. 13:17, 18). Another way to lock the door from inside was to put an iron bar on the inner side in a fitting depression. It seems that the Hebrew term for it is bari'aḥ (cf. I Sam. 23:7). In the ancient world doorposts were marked in order to protect the people within the house from evil spirits and devils. That practice is reflected in Exodus 12:7, 22–23.

Sources:Pritchard, Pictures, 219, pl. 675; Y. Kaplan, Ha-Arkhe'ologyah ve-ha-Historyah shel Tel Aviv-Yafo (1959), 60, fig. 20, pls. 9–11; Y. Yadin et al., Hazor, 2 (1960), pl. 16:1.

[Ze'ev Yeivin]

Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.