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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

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The girdle is an indispensable article in the dress of an oriental: it has various uses; but the principal one is to tuck up their long flowing vestments, that they may not incommode them in their work, or on a journey. The Jews, according to some writers, wore a double girdle, one of greater breadth, with which they girded their tunic when they prepared for active exertions: the other they wore under their shirt, around their loins. This under girdle they reckon necessary to distinguish between the heart and the less honourable parts of the human frame. The upper girdle was sometimes made of leather, the material of which the girdle of John the Baptist was made; but it was more commonly fabricated of worsted, often very artfully woven into a variety of figures, and made to fold several times about the body; one end of which being doubled back, and sewn along the edges, serves them for a purse, agreeably to the acceptation of ζωνη , in the Scriptures, which is translated purse, in several places of the New Testament, Matthew 10:9; Mark 6:8 . The ancient Romans, in this, as in many other things, imitated the orientals; for their soldiers, and probably all classes of the citizens, used to carry their money in their girdles. Whence, in Horace, qui zonam perdidit, means one who had lost his purse; and in Aulus Gellius, C. Gracthus is introduced, saying, "Those girdles which I carried out full of money when I went from Rome, I have, at my return from the province, brought again empty." The Turks make a farther use of these girdles, by fixing their knives and poinards in them; while the writers and secretaries suspend in them their ink-horns; a custom as old as the Prophet Ezekiel, who mentions "a person clothed in white linen, with an ink-horn upon his loins," Ezekiel 9:2 . That part of the ink-holder which passes between the girdle and the tunic, and receives their pens, is long and flat; but the vessel for the ink, which rests upon the girdle, is square, with a lid to clasp over it.

2. To loose the girdle and give it to another was, among the orientals, a token of great confidence and affection. Thus, to ratify the covenant which Jonathan made with David, and to express his cordial regard for his friend, among other things, he gave him his girdle. A girdle curiously and richly wrought was among the ancient Hebrews a mark of honour, and sometimes bestowed as a reward of merit: for this was the recompense which Joab declared he meant to bestow on the man who put Absalom to death: "Why didst thou not smite him there to the ground? and I would have given thee ten shekels of silver, and a girdle," 2 Samuel 18:11 . The reward was certainly meant to correspond with the importance of the service which he expected him to perform, and the dignity of his own station as commander in chief: we may, therefore, suppose that the girdle promised was not a common one of leather, or plain worsted, but of costly materials and richly adorned; for people of rank and fashion in the east wear very broad girdles, all of silk, and superbly ornamented with gold and silver, and precious stones, of which they are extremely proud, regarding them as the tokens of their superior station and the proof of their riches. "To gird up the loins" is to bring the flowing robe within the girdle, and so to prepare for a journey, or for some vigorous exercise.

Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Girdle'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​wtd/​g/girdle.html. 1831-2.
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