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LINEN:

Cloth made of flax. The Biblical terms are "bad" (LXX. λίνεος A. V. "linen"), "shesh," and "buẓ" (LXX. β;ύσσος or βίσσινος; A. V. "fine linen"). In the construction of the Tabernacle linen was used for the inner cover (Ex. xxvi. 1); the hanging or screen closing the entrance to the Tabernacle (Ex. xxvi. 36); the veil which divided the "Holy" from the "Holy of Holies" (Ex. xxvi. 31); and the hangings of the court together with the curtain for the entrance to it (Ex. xxvii. 9, 16, and parallels). It was used also in the priests' vestments (Ex. xxviii. 42, xxxix. 27-29; Lev. xvi. 4). According to II Chron. iii. 14 (comp. ii. 14), a curtain of buẓ also divided the Holy of Holies ("debir") from the Holy in the Temple of Solomon; and from I Macc. (i. 22, iv. 51) and Josephus ("B. J." v. 5, §§ 4 et seq.) it can be seen that in the two succeeding Temples both the Holy and Holy of Holies were divided by curtains of byssus.

From Ex. xxxix. 27-29, compared with Ex. xxviii. 42 and Lev. xvi. 4, it would appear that "bad" and "shesh," the latter being identified with Coptic "shens" and first mentioned in connection with Egypt (Gen. xli. 42), are, if not identical, manufactural varieties of the same substance. "Buẓ," again, which occurs only in later books, is assumed to be a later equivalent of "shesh" (comp. II Chron. ii. 14, iii. 14, v. 12 with Ex. xxv. 4, xxvi. 31, xxviii. 42, etc.); in I Chron. xv. 27 it corresponds to "bad" in II Sam. vi. 14. It may also be a different local name for the same fabric (comp. Ezek. xxvii. 7 and 16).

The view of many modern exegetes that the Hebrew terms denote "linen" is supported not only by the Septuagint renderings of λίνεος and βύσσος, which latter generally means "linen" (comp., for instance, Herodotus, ii. 86; Thomson, "Mummy Cloths of Egypt," in "London and Edinburgh Philosophical Magazine," 3d series, vol. v., p. 355; Budge, "The Mummy," p. 190, Cambridge, 1893), but also by the facts that in the Temple of Ezekiel the priests, while ministering, wore linen garments (Ezek. xliv. 17), and that cotton is mentioned in the Old Testament under the name of "karpas" (Esth. i. 6). Still, as the ancients did not alwayssharply distinguish between linen and cotton, it is possible that both were used in the Sanctuary and that the terms designate in general "white stuff."

It was enacted that garments should be made of only one kind of stuff (Lev. xix. 19), and later tradition (Josephus, "Ant." iii. 6, §§ 1 et seq.; 7, §§ 1 et seq.; idem, "B. J." v. 5, § 7; Philo, "De Vita Moysis," ii. 151; idem, "Duo de Monarchia," ii. 225 [ed. Mangey]) and the Talmud have it that only wool (for the variegated ornaments) and linen entered into the textiles used in the Tabernacle and Temple (comp. Yoma 34b; Kil. ix. 1; comp. also Ibn Ezra on Ex. xxv. 4). According to Josephus ("Ant." xx. 9, § 6), Agrippa II. permitted the Levites also to wear linen garments (comp. II Chron. v. 12; see Sha'aṭnez).

Bibliography:
  • John Braun, De Vestitu Sacerd. Hebr. i., ch. vi., Amsterdam, 1680;
  • J. R. Forster, De Bysso Antiquorum, London, 1776;
  • Haneberg, Die Religiösen Alterthümer der Bibel, p. 536, Munich, 1869;
  • Tristram, Nat. Hist. pp. 440, 465, London, 1867;
  • Yates, Textrinum Antiquorum, London, 1843.
E. G. H. I. M. C.
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