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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Woollen And Linen

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(i.e., linsey-woolsey). Among the Mosaic laws against unnatural mixtures is found one to this effect, "A garment of mixtures (שִׁעִטְנֵז, shaatnez) shall not come upon thee" (Leviticus 19:19); or, as it is expressed in Deuteronomy 22:11, "thou shalt not wear shaatnez, wool and flax together." Our version, by the help of the latter passage, has rendered the strange word shaatnez in the former, "of linen and woollen;" while in Deuteronomy it is translated "a garment of divers sorts. "In the Vulgate the difficulty is avoided; and κίδηλος, spurious" or "counterfeit," the rendering of the Sept., is wanting in precision. In the Targum of Onkelos the same word remains, with a slight modification to adapt it to the Chaldee; but in the Peshito-Syriac of Leviticus it is rendered by an adjective, "motley," and in Deuteronomy a "motley garment," corresponding in some degree to the Samaritan version, which has "spotted like a leopard." Two things only appear to be certain about shaatnez that it is a foreign word, and that its origin has not at present been traced. Its signification is sufficiently defined in Deuteronomy 22:11.

The derivation given in the Mishna (Kilaim, 9:8), which makes it a compound of three words, signifying "carded, spun, and twisted," is in keeping with rabbinical etymologies generally. Other etymologies are proposed by Bochart (Hieroz. part 1, b. 2, c. 45), Simonis (Lex. Heb. ), and Pfeiffer (Dub. Vex. cent. 2, loc. 11). The last-mentioned writer defended the Egyptian origin of the word, but his knowledge of Coptic, according to Jabllonski, extended not much beyond the letters, and little value, therefore, is to be attached to the solution which he proposed for the difficulty. Jablonski himself favors the suggestion of Forster, that a garment of linen and woollen was called by the Egyptians shaatnez, and that this word was borrowed by the Hebrews, and written by them in the form shaatnez (Opusc. 1:294). (See LINEN).

The reason given by Josephus (Ant. 4:8, 11) for the law which prohibited the wearing a garment woven of linen and woollen is, that such were worn by the priests alone (see Mishna, Kilaim, 9:1). Of this kind were the girdle (of which Josephus says the warp was entirely linen, Ant. 3:7, 2), ephod, and breastplate (Braunius, De Vest. Sac. Hebr. pages 110, 111) of the high-priest, and the girdle of the common priests (Maimonides, Cele ham- Mikdash, 108). Spencer conjectured that the use of woollen and linen inwoven in the same garment prevailed among the ancient Zabii, and was associated with their idolatrous ceremonies (De Leg. Heb. 2:33, 3); but that it was permitted to the Hebrew priests, because with them it could give rise to no suspicion of idolatry. Maimonides found in the books of the Zabii that "the priests of the idolaters clothed themselves with robes of linen and woollen mixed together" (Townley, Reasons of the Laws of Moses, page 207). By "wool" the Talmudists understood the wool of sheep (Mishna, Kilairu, 9:1). It is evident from Zephaniah 1:8, that the adoption of a particular dress was an indication of idolatrous tendencies, and there may be therefore some truth in the explanation of Maimonides. (See DIVINE).


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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Woollen And Linen'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/w/woollen-and-linen.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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