For the greater part of Hebrew history, from the settlement in Canaan (13th and 12th cents. BCE) until the 6th cent., domestic houses were all of much the same size and shape: two rooms up and two rooms down, with roofs of beams filled in with dried mud and brushwood. Animals might occupy the lower portion (1 Sam. 28: 24). A new house was to have a parapet as a safety precaution (Deut. 22: 8). In the 8th cent., as witnessed by the prophets, the rich enlarged their houses and tended to push the poor into segregated areas. By the NT era houses of the wealthy in Palestine resembled those of Hellenistic cities, with their own water supply. The palaces of Herod were elegant and comfortable, equipped with swimming pools and ventilation. The houses of the poor had roofs easily torn up (Mark 2: 4), evidently still constructed of matting and twigs. But in the sophisticated environment of Luke, the evangelist changes the construction of Mark's simple roof to tiling (Luke 5: 19) to make it comprehensible to his readers.

‘House’ is also used in the Bible to refer to a dynasty or tribe (Num. 1: 2) and 2 Sam. 7: 4–11 plays on the double meaning of house as building and as dynasty. A ‘house of God’ (Mark 2: 26) or ‘house of prayer’ (Mark 11: 17) was a place for worship, but in Heb. 3: 3–6 the Christian congregation is a ‘house of God’.