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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

Linen

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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 (Exodus 26:1); the hanging or screen closing the entrance to the Tabernacle (Exodus 26:36); the veil which divided the "Holy" from the "Holy of Holies" (Exodus 26:31); and the hangings of the court together with the curtain for the entrance to it (Exodus 27:9,16, and parallels). It was used also in the priests' vestments (Exodus 28:42, 39:27-29; Leviticus 16:4). According to 2 Chronicles 3:14 (comp. 2:14), a curtain of buẓ also divided the Holy of Holies ("debir") from the Holy in the Temple of Solomon; and from I Macc. (1:22, 4:51) and Josephus ("B. J." 5:5, §§ 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 Exodus 39:27-29, compared with Exodus 28:42 and Leviticus 16:4, it would appear that "bad" and "shesh," the latter being identified with Coptic "shens" and first mentioned in connection with Egypt (Genesis 41:42), 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. 2 Chronicles 2:14, 3:14, 5:12 with Exodus 25:4, 26:31, 28:42, etc.); in 1 Chronicles 15:27 it corresponds to "bad" in 2 Samuel 6:14. It may also be a different local name for the same fabric (comp. Ezekiel 27:7 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, 2:86; Thomson, "Mummy Cloths of Egypt," in "London and Edinburgh Philosophical Magazine," 3d series, vol. , 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 (Ezekiel 44:17), and that cotton is mentioned in the Old Testament under the name of "karpas" (Esther 1:6). 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 (Leviticus 19:19), and later tradition (Josephus, "Ant." 3:6, §§ 1 et seq.; 7, §§ 1 et seq.; idem, "B. J." 5:5, § 7; Philo, "De Vita Moysis," 2:151; idem, "Duo de Monarchia," 2:225 [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. 9:1; comp. also Ibn Ezra on Exodus 25:4). According to Josephus ("Ant." 20:9, § 6), Agrippa II. permitted the Levites also to wear linen garments (comp. 2 Chronicles 5:12; see SHA'AṬNEZ).

Bibliography:
  • John Braun, De Vestitu Sacerd. Hebr. , ch. , 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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Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Linen'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tje/l/linen.html. 1901.

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