At the Feet of a Sage

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Jewish sages and their disciples were dependent upon the hospitality of the communities they visited.

Revised: 26-Dec-2012

Nearly all first-century sages practiced a trade. Despite having a profession, however, a sage was not always able to support himself as he traveled throughout the land. While traveling, a sage could not easily set up a shop due to the shortness of his stay in a given location. Nor would it have been fair when visiting smaller communities to take work away from a local resident in the same profession. Also, work could not readily be found for the large number of disciples who often accompanied a sage. Therefore the sage and his disciples were necessarily dependent upon the hospitality of the communities they visited.

An itinerant sage’s stay in a community might last from a few days to weeks or months. Although sages would not accept payment for teaching Torah, most would accept lodging, and usually food as well, for themselves and their disciples.

Jesus clearly felt that his disciples should be entirely supported by their hosts when out teaching. In one instance, he sent out disciples commanding them to take nothing with them, neither food nor money. “The laborer,” he said, “deserves his wages” (Luke 10:7).

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First-century ivory sandaled foot. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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  • David N. Bivin

    David N. Bivin

    David N. Bivin is founder and editor of Jerusalem Perspective. A native of Cleveland, Oklahoma, U.S.A., Bivin has lived in Israel since 1963, when he came to Jerusalem on a Rotary Foundation Fellowship to do postgraduate work at the Hebrew University. He studied at the Hebrew…
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