the Fifth Week of Lent
Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible
FRINGES . In Numbers 15:37 ff. the Hebrews are commanded to ‘make them fringes (Heb. tsÃ®tsÃ®th ) in the borders [but RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ‘tassels in the corners’] of their garments throughout their generations.’ The same ordinance, somewhat differently expressed, is found in the earlier legislation of Dt.: ‘Thou shalt make thee fringes (lit., as RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] , ‘twisted threads’) upon the four quarters (RV [Note: Revised Version.] borders ) of thy vesture wherewith thou coverest thyself’ ( Deuteronomy 22:12 ). The ‘vesture’ here referred to is the plaid-like upper garment of the Hebrews, as is evident from Exodus 22:27 , where ‘vesture’ (RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘covering’) is defined as the simlah , the upper ‘garment’ (RV [Note: Revised Version.] ) in question, as described under Dress, Â§ 4 ( a ).
The ‘fringes’ to be made for this garment, however, are not a continuous fringe round the four sides, like the fringes which are a characteristic feature of Assyrian dress, but, as RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] , tassels of twisted or plaited threads, and are to be fastened to the four corners of the simlah . It was further required ‘that they put upon the fringe of each border a cord of blue’ ( Numbers 15:38 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ), the precise meaning of which is uncertain. It is usually taken to mean that each tassel was to be attached by means of this cord of blue, or rather of blue-purple, to a corner of the simlah .
That this ordinance was faithfully observed by the Jews of NT times is seen from the references to the tsÃ®tsÃ®th or tassel of our Lord’s upper garment, disguised in EV [Note: English Version.] under the ‘ hem ’ (AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ) of Matthew 9:20; Matthew 14:36 , and ‘ border ’ of Mark 6:56 , Luke 8:44 . RV [Note: Revised Version.] has ‘border’ throughout. These tassels are still worn by the Jews, attached to the tallith or prayer-shawl, and to the smaller tallith, in the shape of a chest-protector, now worn as an undergarment, but without the addition of the blue thread. (For the somewhat complicated method by which the tassels are made, the mode of attachment, and the mystical significance assigned to the threads and knots, see Hastings’ DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] ii. 69 a; for illustration see i. 627 a .) In the passage in Nu, it is expressly said that the object of this ordinance was to furnish the Hebrews with a visible reminder of the obligation resting upon them, as Jâ€³ [Note: Jahweh.] ’s chosen people, to walk in His law and to keep all His commandments. It does not necessarily follow, however, that the practice of wearing such tassels was unknown before the date of the Deuteronomic legislation. On the contrary, the representations of Asiatics on the walls of tombs and other Egyptian monuments show that tasselled garments are of early date in Western Asia (see plate ii b of Wilkinson’s Anc. Egyp. vol. i., where note that the tassels are of blue threads). Hence it is altogether probable that the object of the Hebrew legislation is ‘to make a deeply rooted custom serve a fitting religious purpose’ (G. B. Gray, ‘Numbers’ [ ICC [Note: CC International Critical Commentary.] ], 183f.).
A. R. S. Kennedy.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Fringes'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdb/​f/fringes.html. 1909.