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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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The combined arts of spinning and weaving are among the first essentials of civilized society, and we find both to be of very ancient origin. The fabulous story of Penelope's web, and, still more, the frequent allusions to this art in the sacred writings, tend to show that the fabrication of cloth from threads, hair, &c, is a very ancient invention. It has, however, like other useful arts, undergone a vast succession of improvements, both as to the preparation of the materials of which cloth is made, and the apparatus necessary in its construction, as well as in the particular modes of operation by the artist. Weaving, when reduced to its original principle, is nothing more than the interlacing of the weft or cross threads into the parallel threads of the warp, so as to tie them together, and form a web or piece of cloth. This art is doubtless more ancient than that of spinning; and the first cloth was what we now call matting, that is, made by weaving together the shreds of the bark, or fibrous parts of plants, or the stalks, such as rushes and straws. This is still the substitute for cloth among most rude and savage nations. When they have advanced a step farther in civilization than the state of hunters, the skins of animals become scarce, and they require some more artificial substance for clothing, and which they can procure in greater quantities. When it was discovered that the delicate and short fibres which animals and vegetables afford could be so firmly united together by twisting, as to form threads of any required length and strength, the weaving art was placed on a very permanent foundation. By the process of spinning, which was very simple in the origin, the weaver is furnished with threads far superior to any natural vegetable fibres in lightness, strength, and flexibility; and he has only to combine them together in the most advantageous manner. In the beautiful description which is given, in the last chapter of Solomon's Proverbs, of the domestic economy of the virtuous woman, it is said, "She seeketh wool and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands: she layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry," &c. Such is the occupation of females in the east in the present day. Not only do they employ themselves in working rich embroideries, but in making carpets filled with flowers and other pleasing figures. Dr. Shaw gives us an account of the last: "Carpets, which are much courser than those from Turkey, are made here in great numbers, and of all sizes. But the chief branch of their manufactories is the making of hykes, or blankets, as we should call them. The women alone are employed in this work, (as Andromache and Penelope were of old,) who do not use the shuttle, but conduct every thread of the woof with their fingers." Hezekiah says, "I have cut off like a weaver my life," Isaiah 38:12 . Mr. Harmer suggests whether the simile here used may not refer to the weaving of a carpet filled with flowers and other ingenious devices; and that the meaning may be, that, just as a weaver, after having wrought many decorations into a piece of carpeting, suddenly cuts it off, while the figures were rising into view fresh and beautiful, and the spectator expecting he would proceed in his work; so, after a variety of pleasing transactions in the course of life, it suddenly and unexpectedly comes to its end.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Weaving'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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