VILLAGE. Villages were usually grouped around a fortified town to which the people could flee in time of war. Generally they were unwalled, but in northern Syria even today an agricultural village is often surrounded by a wall, sometimes coinciding with the backs of houses, which face inward; and the farmers walk out daily to their fields, some at quite a distance from the village. In the OT the word is often a translation of the Hebrew bath—i.e., “daughter,” as in 2Chr.28.18, “with their surrounding villages” (asv “towns”). The usual OT word (hātsēr) signifies an enclosure (Josh.13.23, Josh.13.28) and is frequently compounded to name a particular village, e.g., Hazar Addar. Its plural may represent a group of hamlets (“Hazeroth,” Num.11.35). Another frequent root word is from the verb kāphār, signifying shelter or protection, e.g., “Capernaum,” i.e., “Village of Nahum.” See also Town.

The ordinary word for village is כָּפָר, H4107, the root having the idea of cover, hence a place of protection (1 Chron 27:25), in contrast to cities (עָרִ֤ים) establishing the differences. Listed as locations of royal storehouses, indications are that arsenals and magazines were located in villages as well as in cities, and since taxes were frequently paid in goods or produce, store villages served as tax collection centers. (See Lev 25:29, 31; Deut 3:5; 1 Sam 6:18 for the distinction between city and village.)

This distinction is emphasized in the report of the spies sent out by Moses (Num 13:28). By contrast, the village was unwalled and easy prey for conquest. When threatened, the villagers thronged into the city, increasing the danger of famine (cf. 2 Kings 6:24-29). In time a village could grow to larger size, as in the time of Samuel (1 Sam 23:7). Though עִיר, H6551, “city,” is used, the modifiers, “gates and bars,” would be redundant if it were truly a city; hence, the word connotes a town, formerly unwalled.

In contrast to towns or cities, villages had no defensive facilities as moats, towers, or fortified gates (Ezek 38:11). Here the word is פְּרָזוֹת, H7252, open country habitations, characterizing the surrounding country. In Talmudic times a community was distinguished as a village if it did not have a synagogue. In the NT, villages, cities, and country were the object of Christ’s ministry (Mark 6:56), but it is not clear that only cities had synagogues. It is noteworthy, however, that James (Acts 15:21) ascribed synagogues to “every city” (polis), but this says nothing about them in villages.

Villages increased in number northward from the Negeb because of greater rainfall. In Chalcolithic times, the Middle Bronze era and the Iron Age, the Negeb was well-occupied and in the Nabatean-Byzantine era most intensively, when careful conservation of rainfall prevailed. From Hebron northward a gradual increase of villages occurred toward and beyond Jerusalem, with the greatest frequency in the territory of Zebulun of Lower Galilee where rainfall was greatest. In Rom. times the Rom. army made it a peaceful territory, where the people lived without fear and agriculture and industry flourished in its many villages. Upper Galilee was too broken and too wooded to support the agriculture necessary to village life. Trans-jordan was dotted with towns and villages before the 19th cent. b.c. and after the 13th cent. the villages were again mentioned in the record of the conquest. The raids of Genesis 14, as well at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, appear to be related to the hiatus in the record.

Local village government was administered through the elders who also acted as judges (Ruth 4:2), but the villages were under the larger jurisdiction of the towns (cf. Josh 15:20-62; 18:24, 28, etc.). The scene of these frequent functions was the city gate, at times provided with benches (Albright, Archaeology of Palestine [1951], 139).

The size of villages varied according to whether the country was farmed intensively or not. In the agricultural centers, grain was threshed within the confines of the villages. Activity increased at harvest time but numbers of the villagers would be away with the herds at other times. Villages were not to be belittled, for great men came from them, David and Christ coming from Bethlehem (Mic 5:2).


W. F. Albright, Archaeology of Palestine (1951); K. Kenyon, Archaeology in the Holy Land (1960); Y. Yadin, The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands (1963).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(qaphar, chawwoth, qatserim, banoth, perazoth; kome):

(1) The general term for a village, in common with Aramaic and Arabic is qaphar (So 7:11; 1Ch 27:25; kopher; 1Sa 6:18; kephir, Ne 6:2). This designation is derived from the idea of its offering "cover" or shelter. It is used in combination, and place-names of this formation became prominent in post-Biblical times, probably because the villages so named had then grown into towns. A well-known Biblical instance of such names is Capernaum.

(2) Chawwoth (always "town" in English Versions of the Bible; see Havvoth-jair) means originally a group of tents (Arabic chiwa’). These in settled life soon became more permanent dwellings, or what we understand by a village. The term, however, is applied only to the villages of Jair in the tribe of Manasseh (Nu 32:41; 1Ki 4:13).

(3) Chatserim likewise came from nomadic life. They were originally enclosures specially for cattle, alongside of which dwellings for the herdsmen and peasantry naturally grew up (see Hazar-addar; Hazor). They were unwalled (Le 25:31) and lay around the cities (Jos 19:8).

(4) Banoth is literally "daughters." The word is applied to the dependent villages lying around the larger cities, and to which they looked as to a kind of metropolis (Nu 21:25, etc.); the Revised Version (British and American) "towns" except in Nu 32:42.

(5) Perazoth means "the open country," but it soon came to mean the villages scattered in the open (Eze 38:11; Zec 2:4; Es 9:19). Some have sought to connect the Perizzites with this word and to regard them, not as a distinct people, but as the peasant class. Attempts have also been m

to connect perazon in Jud 5:7,11 with the same root, and the King James Version rendered it "inhabitants of the villages." the Revised Version (British and American), on the contrary, gives it the meaning of "rulers." The versions indicate a word meaning authority, and probably the text should be emended to read rozenim, "rulers." A similar emendation is required in Hab 3:14. "Village" in the Revised Version (British and American) of the New Testament invariably represents the Greek kome, but in 2 Macc 8:6 the Revised Version (British and American) Apocrypha has "village" for chora, lit. "country."

See City; Town.