This subject includes the following particulars:
Color and decoration;
Name, form, and mode of wearing the various articles;
Special usages relating thereto.
After the first "apron" of fig leaves, (Genesis 3:7) the skins of animals were used for clothing. (Genesis 3:21) Such was the "mantle" worn by Elijah. Pelisses of sheepskin still form an ordinary article of dress in the East. The art of weaving hear was known to the Hebrews at an early period, (Exodus 25:4; 26:7) and wool was known earlier still. (Genesis 38:12) Their acquaintance with linen and perhaps cotton dates from the captivity in Egypt, (1 Chronicles 4:21) silk was introduced much later. (Revelation 18:12) The use of mixed material, such as wool and flax, was forbidden. (Leviticus 19:19; 22:11)
Color and decoration: The prevailing color of the Hebrew dress was the natural white of the materials employed, which might be brought to a high state of brilliancy by the art of the fuller. (Mark 9:3) The notice of scarlet thread, (Genesis 38:28) implies some acquaintance with dyeing. The elements of ornamentation were:
(1) weaving with threads previously dyed, (Exodus 35:25)
(2) the introduction of gold thread or wire, (Exodus 27:6) ff; (3) the addition of figures. Robes decorated with gold, (Psalms 45:13) and with silver thread, cf. (Acts 12:21) were worn by royal personages; other kinds of embroidered robes were worn by the wealthy, (Judges 5:30; Psalms 45:14; Ezekiel 16:13) as well as purple, (Proverbs 31:22; Luke 16:19) and scarlet. (2 Samuel 1:24)
The names, forms, and modes of wearing the robes: The general characteristics of Oriental dress have preserved a remarkable uniformity in all ages: the modern Arab dresses much as the ancient Hebrew did. The costume of the men and women was very similar; there was sufficient difference, however, to mark the sex, and it was strictly forbidden to a woman to wear the appendages, such as the staff, signet-ring, and other ornaments, of a man; as well as to a man to wear the outer robe of a woman. (22:5) We shall first describe the robes which were common to the two sexes, and then those which were peculiar to women.
(1) The inner garment was the most essential article of dress. It was a closely-fitting garment, resembling in form and use our shirt, though unfortunately translate "coat" in the Authorized Version. The material of which it was made was either wool, cotton or linen. It was without sleeves, and reached only to the knee. Another kind reached to the wrists and ankles. It was in either case kept close to the body by a girdle, and the fold formed by the overlapping of the robe served as an inner pocket. A person wearing the inner garment alone was described as naked.
(2) There was an upper or second tunic, the difference being that it was longer than the first.
(3) the linen cloth appears to have been a wrapper of fine linen, which might be used in various ways, but especially as a night-shirt. (Mark 14:51)
(4) The outer garment consisted of a quadrangular piece of woollen cloth, probably resembling in shape a Scotch plaid, and you can find more about that here on st-takla.org on other commentaries and dictionary entries. The size and texture would vary with the means of the wearer. It might be worn in various ways, either wrapped round the body or thrown over the shoulders like a shawl, with the ends or "skirts" hanging down in front; or it might be thrown over the head, so as to conceal the face. (2 Samuel 15:30; Esther 6:12) The ends were skirted with a fringe and bound with a dark purple ribbon, (Numbers 15:38) it was confined at the waist by a girdle. The outer garment was the poor man's bed clothing. (Exodus 22:26,27) The dress of the women differed from that of the men in regard to the outer garment, the inner garment being worn equally by both sexes. (Song of Solomon 5:3) Among their distinctive robes we find a kind of shawl, (Ruth 3:15; Isaiah 3:22) light summer dresses of handsome appearance and ample dimensions,a nd gay holiday dresses. (Isaiah 3:24) The garments of females were terminated by an ample border of fringe (skirts, Authorized Version), which concealed the feet. (Isaiah 47:2; Jeremiah 13:22) The travelling cloak referred to by St. Paul, (2 Timothy 4:13) is generally identified with the Roman paenula. It is, however, otherwise explained as a travelling-case for carrying clothes or books. The coat of many colors worn by Joseph, (Genesis 37:3,23) is variously taken to be either a "coat of divers colors" or a tunic furnished with sleeves and reaching down to the ankles. The latter is probably the correct sense.
Special usages relating to dress:
The length of the dress rendered it inconvenient for active exercise; hence the outer garments were either left in the house by a person working close by, (Matthew 24:18) or were thrown off when the occasion arose, (Mark 10:50) or, if this were not possible, as in the case of a person travelling, they were girded up. (1 Kings 18:46; 1 Peter 1:13) On entering a house the upper garment was probably laid aside, and resumed on going out. (Acts 12:8) In a sitting posture, the garments concealed the feet; this was held to be an act of reverence. (Isaiah 6:2) The number of suits possessed by the Hebrews was considerable: a single suit consisted of an under and upper garment. The presentation of a robe in many instances amounted to installation or investiture, (Genesis 41:42; Esther 8:15; Isaiah 22:21) on the other hand, taking it away amounted to dismissal from office, and you can find more about that here on st-takla.org on other commentaries and dictionary entries. 2 Macc. 4:38. The production of the best robe was a mark of special honor in a household. (Luke 15:22) The number of robes thus received or kept in store for presents was very large, and formed one of the main elements of wealth in the East, (Job 22:6; Matthew 6:19; James 5:2) so that to have clothing implied the possession of wealth and power. (Isaiah 3:6,7) On grand occasions the entertainer offered becoming robes to his guests. The business of making clothes devolved upon women in a family. (Proverbs 31:22; Acts 9:39) little art was required in what we may term the tailoring department; the garments came forth for the most part ready made from the loom, so that the weaver supplanted the tailor.
* See also: Hem of Garment.
Main reference: Smith's Bible Dictionary (1860s)
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