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A banquet was provided for our Lord by his friends in Bethany (Matt. 26:6; Mark 14:3; compare John 12:2). These meals were in the days of Christ usually called “suppers,” after the custom of the Romans, and were partaken of toward the close of the day. It was usual to send a second invitation (Matt. 22:3; Luke 14:17) to those who had been already invited. When the whole company was assembled, the master of the house shut the door with his own hands (Luke 13:25; Matt. 25:10).
The guests were first refreshed with water and fragrant oil (Luke 7:38; Mark 7:4). A less frequent custom was that of supplying each guest with a robe to be worn during the feast (Eccles. 9:8; Rev. 3:4-5; Matt. 22:11). At private banquets the master of the house presided; but on public occasions a “governor of the feast” was chosen (John 2:8). The guests were placed in order according to seniority (Genesis 43:33), or according to the rank they held (Prov. 25:6-7; Matt. 23:6; Luke 14:7).
As spoons and knives and forks are a modern invention, and were altogether unknown in the East, the hands alone were necessarily used, and were dipped in the dish, which was common to two of the guests (John 13:26). In the days of our Lord the guests reclined at table; but the ancient Israelites sat around low tables, cross-legged, like the modern Orientals. Guests were specially honored when extra portions were set before them (Genesis 43:34), and when their cup was filled with wine till it ran over (Ps. 23:5). The hands of the guests were usually cleaned by being rubbed on bread, the crumbs of which fell to the ground, and were the portion for dogs (Matt. 15:27; Luke 16:21).
Birthday banquets are mentioned (Genesis 40:20; Matt. 14:6). They were sometimes protracted, and attended with revelry and excess (Genesis 21:8; 29:22; 1 Sam. 25:2,36; 2 Sam. 13:23). Portions were sometimes sent from the table to poorer friends (Neh. 8:10; Esther 9:19, 22).