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Life in Bible Times

Jesus teaching His disciples


A brief survey of Bible people's clothes, work and homelife.



Life was not easy in Bible times and people worked very hard.  All their clothing had to be made by hand.  The men would shear the sheep and then the women would wash the wool and lay it out to dry in the sun.  Next, with a spindle, they spun the the wool into threads and then wove this into cloth on a hand loom.  The cloth would then be sewn by hand into clothes.

Mary, the mother of Jesus was a clever mother, because she wove him a one-piece garment that the soldiers gambled for at His crucifixion.   Jesus and all the people wore sandles made from leather with thongs to tie them onto the feet.


The main foods people ate were bread, olives, fruit, vegetables, milk, cheese, and fish.   Bread was the basic food, and had to be made fresh every day.   The women ground the grain into flour and then mixed this with water and a little dough saved from a previous baking to make the bread rise.  The dough was shaped into round, flat cakes which could be folded over cheese, olives or figs before baking in an oven.


Some men were shepherds like king David in his youth.  With their crooks and slingshots they would watch over the sheep and protect them from wolves and other animals, and ensure that none got lost.   Many farmers grew olives, while others had vineyards of grapes which were used for food, raisins, and wine.  And then there were farmers who grew wheat and barley grains needed for their food and bread making.


A number of men like the apostle Paul, were tent makers.  They would weave cloth and use it to make tents for shepherds and the Roman soldiers.  Other men were bricklayers or workers who hammered copper into trays, basins, dishes and other useful items.

Potters made clay pots, water jars and the storage jars that were used in every home.  He would put his wet clay onto a wheel which he then turned with his feet, while his fingers shaped the clay.  The jars were then baked in a kiln or furnace and sold in the market place.

Carpentry was an important craft.  Joseph was a carpenter and young Jesus learned this trade from him.  They made plowshares for the farmers to plow with, pulled by a team of oxen.  They also made wooden chests, tables, cradles, doors and roof beams for people's homes.


The traders who travelled with their caravans would sit and talk with the villagers while their camels rested from the journey.  Then they would unload their goods and sell them in the market place.  They showed people how to keep accounts on clay tablets and how to send letters.  They told of new ideas and customs in other lands and carried local ideas to other villages.

Other Work:

In those days, the scribes were important men who wrote on clay tablets and later on papyrus which was like paper, but made from reeds.   They were important as they wrote letters for businessmen, made copies of the law on scrolls, and explained to the people the meaning of all kinds of laws and rules.

Many men were fishermen, like Simon and Andrew, who were casting their nets for fish when Jesus called to them to follow Him, and become "Fishers of Men".  Fishermen in Bible times used baited hooks on lines to catch fish or otherwise used nets with small weights around the edges to make them sink into the water.  They would throw the net ahead of them or let it down into the water over the side of a boat.  After a time they would pull the edges and draw up many fishes - if they were lucky!

At Home:

In the evenings when work was done, each family and their friends would relax on the roof of their house.  In pleasant weather they could eat on the roof and watch the stars and enjoy the cool evening air after the heat of the day.  At night they would go into their houses, which usually had only one room.

The room was divided into two parts by a high platform, and the lower part of the room housed the family's animals.  The family slept above on the platform.  As the cooking fires in the centre of the room died down into embers, each member of the family would snuggle up in his bedroll for a sound night's sleep!

God bless.


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