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Discovery Magazine 8/1/2003

Staying in an Inn

It would have been nice for Mary and Joseph to have stopped at a Holiday Inn® or Ramada Inn® after their long, hard journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. A hot shower, a soft bed, and cartoons on cable television sure would have felt good. But, you and I both know that Joseph and Mary could not stop at one of these motels or hotels because they did not exist back then. Where did travelers stay during Bible times?

During Bible times, there were such things as public inns where travelers could stay. But they were not the nice places that we are used to in the United States. Many times, travelers had to supply their own food, and enough food to satisfy their animals as well. The inns were built near a good supply of clean water, which was one of the most important things that every traveler needed. Animals and humans need water to live, but it is heavy, and travelers often could not carry enough to get them to their destination. The inns were not clean like the ones we might stay in. There was no maid who came in each morning to tidy up the room. In many cases, the rooms were fairly clean, but the court where the animals stayed was covered in straw and animal manure.

In addition to the dirty areas around the inn, many of the innkeepers were dishonest and mean. Travelers were not always told at the beginning of their stay how much their rooms would cost. At the end of their stay, when they went to pay their bill, the innkeeper might charge them a huge price and force them to pay it. The innkeeper and his friends were often robbers and thieves, who tried to get money out of travelers anyway they could.

But inns were not the only place that travelers could stay. Many houses had extra rooms designed to take care of travelers. If you had a friend or relative in Jerusalem, who had one of these rooms, then you could stay there. It was not expensive like the inns, and the travelers did not have to put up with a mean innkeeper. Elishahad a room like this built for him in 2 Kings 4:8.

Finding a place to stay in Bible times was not always easy. That is why Joseph and Mary had to stay in a stable when Jesus was born. We should all be thankful to God for the many good places we get to stay today when we go on trips. And the next time you are enjoying a soft bed or a warm shower in a motel, remember how good you have it.



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