Dress — (1.) Materials used. The earliest and simplest an apron of fig-leaves sewed together (Gen. 3:7); then skins of animals (3:21). Elijah’s dress was probably the skin of a sheep (2 Kings 1:8). The Hebrews were early acquainted with the art of weaving hair into cloth (Ex. 26:7; 35:6), which formed the sackcloth of mourners. This was the material of John the Baptist’s robe (Matt. 3:4). Wool was also woven into garments (Lev. 13:47; Deut. 22:11; Ezek. 34:3; Job 31:20; Prov. 27:26). The Israelites probably learned the art of weaving linen when they were in Egypt (1 Chr. 4:21). Fine linen was used in the vestments of the high priest (Ex. 28:5), as well as by the rich (Gen. 41:42; Prov. 31:22; Luke 16:19). The use of mixed material, as wool and flax, was forbidden (Lev. 19:19; Deut. 22:11).
(2.) Colour. The prevailing colour was the natural white of the material used, which was sometimes rendered purer by the fuller’s art (Ps. 104:1, 2; Isa. 63:3; Mark 9:3). The Hebrews were acquainted with the art of dyeing (Gen. 37:3, 23). Various modes of ornamentation were adopted in the process of weaving (Ex. 28:6; 26:1, 31; 35:25), and by needle-work (Judg. 5:30; Ps. 45:13). Dyed robes were imported from foreign countries, particularly from Phoenicia (Zeph. 1:8). Purple and scarlet robes were the marks of the wealthy (Luke 16:19; 2 Sam. 1:24).
(3.) Form. The robes of men and women were not very much different in form from each other.
(a) The “coat” (kethoneth), of wool, cotton, or linen, was worn by both sexes. It was a closely-fitting garment, resembling in use and form our shirt (John 19:23). It was kept close to the body by a girdle (John 21:7). A person wearing this “coat” alone was described as naked (1 Sam. 19:24; Isa. 20:2; 2 Kings 6:30; John 21:7); deprived of it he would be absolutely naked.
(c) An upper tunic (meil), longer than the “coat” (1 Sam. 2:19; 24:4; 28:14). In 1 Sam. 28:14 it is the mantle in which Samuel was enveloped; in 1 Sam. 24:4 it is the “robe” under which Saul slept. The disciples were forbidden to wear two “coats” (Matt. 10:10; Luke 9:3).
(d) The usual outer garment consisted of a piece of woollen cloth like a Scotch plaid, either wrapped round the body or thrown over the shoulders like a shawl, with the ends hanging down in front, or it might be thrown over the head so as to conceal the face (2 Sam. 15:30; Esther 6:12). It was confined to the waist by a girdle, and the fold formed by the overlapping of the robe served as a pocket (2 Kings 4:39; Ps. 79:12; Hag. 2:12; Prov. 17:23; 21:14).
Female dress. The “coat” was common to both sexes (Cant. 5:3). But peculiar to females were (1) the “veil” or “wimple,” a kind of shawl (Ruth 3:15; rendered “mantle,” R.V., Isa. 3:22); (2) the “mantle,” also a species of shawl (Isa. 3:22); (3) a “veil,” probably a light summer dress (Gen. 24:65); (4) a “stomacher,” a holiday dress (Isa. 3:24). The outer garment terminated in an ample fringe or border, which concealed the feet (Isa. 47:2; Jer. 13:22).
The dress of the Persians is described in Dan. 3:21.
The reference to the art of sewing are few, inasmuch as the garments generally came forth from the loom ready for being worn, and all that was required in the making of clothes devolved on the women of a family (Prov. 31:22; Acts 9:39).
Extravagance in dress is referred to in Jer. 4:30; Ezek. 16:10; Zeph. 1:8 (R.V., “foreign apparel”); 1 Tim. 2:9; 1 Pet. 3:3. Rending the robes was expressive of grief (Gen. 37:29, 34), fear (1 Kings 21:27), indignation (2 Kings 5:7), or despair (Judg. 11:35; Esther 4:1).
Shaking the garments, or shaking the dust from off them, was a sign of renunciation (Acts 18:6); wrapping them round the head, of awe (1 Kings 19:13) or grief (2 Sam. 15:30; casting them off, of excitement (Acts 22:23); laying hold of them, of supplication (1 Sam. 15:27). In the case of travelling, the outer garments were girded up (1 Kings 18:46). They were thrown aside also when they would impede action (Mark 10:50; John 13:4; Acts 7:58).