The chief garments of the Hebrews were the tunic or inner garment, and the mantle or outer garment. These seem to have constituted a "change of Rainment," Jg 14:13; 19; Ac 9:39. The tunic was of linen, and was worn next to the skin, fitting close to the body; it had armholes, and sometimes wide and open sleeves, and reached below the knees; that worn by females reached to the ankles. The tunic was sometimes woven without seam, like that of Jesus, Joh 19:23. The upper garment or mantle was a piece of cloth nearly square, and two or three yards in length and breadth, which was wrapped round the body, or tied over the shoulders. A man without this robe on was sometimes said to be "naked," Isa 20:2-4; Joh 21:7. This could be so arranged as to form a large bosom for carrying things; and the mantle also served the poor as a bed by night, Ex 22:26-27; Job 22:6. See BOSOM and BED.
Between these two garments, the Hebrews sometimes wore a third, called me-il, a long and wide robe or tunic of cotton or linen, without sleeves.
The head was usually bare, or covered from too fierce a sunshine, or from rain, by a fold of the outer mantle, 2Sa 15:30; 1Ki 19:13; Es 6:12. The priests, however, wore a mitre, bonnet, or sacred turban; and after the captivity, the Jews adopted to some extent the turban, now so universal in the East. Women wore a variety of plain and ornamented headdresses. Veils were also an article of female dress, Isa 3:19. They were of various kinds, and were used alike by married and unmarried women; generally as a token of modesty, or of subjection to the authority of the husband, Ge 24:65; 1Co 11:3-10; but sometimes for the purpose of concealment, Ge 38:14.
As the Hebrews did not change the fashion of their clothes, as we do, it was common to lay up stores of rainment beforehand, in proportion to their wealth, Isa 3:6. To this Christ alludes when he speaks of treasures, which the moth devours, Mt 6:19; Jas 5:1-2. But though there was a general uniformity in dress from age to age, no doubt various changes took place in the long course of Bible history; and at all times numerous and increasing varieties existed among the different classes, especially in materials and ornaments. In early ages, and where society was wild and rude, the skins of animals were made into clothing, Ge 3:21; Heb 11:37. Spinning, weaving, and needlework soon began to be practiced, Ex 35:25; Jg 5:30. A coarse cloth was made of goats' or camels' hair, and finer cloths of woolen, linen, and probably cotton. Their manufacture was a branch of domestic industry, Pr 31:13-24.
The great and wealthy delighted in white rainment; and hence this is also a mark of opulence and prosperity, Ec 9:8. Angels are described as clothed in pure and cheerful white; and such was the appearance of our Savior's rainment during his transfiguration, Mt 17:2. The saints, in like manner, are described as clothed in white robes, Re 7:9,13-14; the righteousness of Christ in which they are clothed is more glorious than that of the angels.
The garments of mourning among the Hebrews were sackcloth and haircloth, and their color dark brown or black, Isa 50:3; Re 6:12. As the prophets were penitents by profession, their common clothing was mourning. Widows also dressed themselves much the same. The Hebrews, in common with their neighbors, sometimes used a variety of colors for their gayer and more costly dresses, Jg 5:30. So also according to our version, Ge 37:3,23; 2Sa 13:18; though in these passages some understand a tunic with long sleeves. Blue, scarlet, and purple are most frequently referred to, the first being a sacred color. Embroidery and fine needlework were highly valued among them, Jg 5:30; Ps 45:14.
The dress of females differed from that of males less than is customary among us. Yet there was a distinction; and Moses expressly forbade any exchange of apparel between the sexes, De 22:5, a custom associated with immodesty, and with the worship of certain idols. It is not clear for what reason clothing in which linen and woolen were woven together was prohibited, De 22:11; but probably it had reference to some superstitious usage of heathenism. In Isa 3:16-23, mention is made of the decorations common among the Hebrew women of that day; among which seem to be included tunics, embroidered vests, wide flowing mantles, girdles, veils, caps of network, and metallic ornaments for the ears and nose, for the neck, arms, fingers, and ankles; also smelling-bottles and metallic mirrors. In Ac 19:12, mention is made of handkerchiefs and aprons. Drawers were used, Ex 28:42, but perhaps not generally. See GIRDLES, RINGS, and SANDALS.
Presents of dresses are alluded to very frequently in the historical books of Scripture, and in the earliest times. Joseph gave to each of his brethren a change of rainment, and to Benjamin five changes, Ge 45:22. Naaman gave to Gehazi two changes of rainment; and even Solomon received rainment as presents, 2Ch 9:24. This custom is still maintained in the East, and is mentioned by most travelers. In Turkey, the appointment to any important office is accompanied with the gift of a suitable official rove. In the parable of the wedding garment, the king expected to have found all his guests clad in roes of honor of his own providing, Mt 22:11.
Several words are used both in the O.T. and in the N.T. for raiment, clothing, or apparel, without defining what particular garments are alluded to; and when a single garment is intended it is variously translated in the A.V. In the East few garments were needed, and they were probably much the same as those worn there at present by the natives.
1. The inner garment is the kethoneth, a long tunic worn by men and women. It was made of wool, cotton, or linen. This was the garment God made of skins for Adam and Eve, and what Jacob made of many colours for Joseph. Ge 3:21; 37:3,23-33. It formed part of the priests dress. At times another is worn over it. The bride said she had put off her 'coat' for the night, which was probably the outer one, though the Hebrew word is the same. Cant. 5:3. The kethoneth answers to the ????? of the N.T., mostly translated 'coat.' The disciples were not to take two when the Lord sent them out. Mt 10:10. It was this garment of the Lord's that was woven in one piece, Joh 19:23; and the word is used of the coats made by Dorcas. Ac 9:39.
2. The other principal garment was the simlah, a cloak, or wide outer mantle, worn by men and women, and in which they wrapped themselves at night. This might be of any texture according to the season, and according to the station in life of the wearer. The peasants often wear such, called an 'abba' of camels' or goats' hair. This garment if taken in pledge had to be returned in the evening, for without it 'wherein shall he sleep?' Ex 22:26-27; cf. De 24:13. The simlah is the garment that was rent in grief. Ge 37:34; 44:13; Jos 7:6. This corresponds to the ??????? in the N.T. It is translated 'cloak ' in Mt 5:40; Lu 6:29; and it is the robe of purple with which the soldiers mocked the Lord. Joh 19:2,5. It is the 'garment' the edge of which the woman touched, Mt 14:36; and the 'garments' of which the scribes and Pharisees enlarged the borders. Mt 23:5. It is otherwise used for 'garments' in general, as in Mt 27:35; Joh 19:23-24; and is often translated 'raiment' and 'clothes.'
3. Another prominent article of apparel and one often richly ornamented was the GIRDLE. These three, with sandals, and a handkerchief or other covering for the head, constituted the usual dress in the East.
Besides the above we read of 'changeable suits of apparel' for women. Isa 3:22.
Also 4. The MANTLE, or ROBE meil, described as 'a large tunic, worn over the common one, but without sleeves.' It was worn by priests, Ex 28:31; 1Sa 28:14; Ezr 9:3,5; by kings and princes, 1Sa 18:4; 24:4,11; by men of rank, Job 1:20 Job; 2:12: and by women, 2Sa 13:18.
5. The WIMPLE or VEIL, a wide upper garment or shawl, which covered the head and part of the body. Ruth was able to carry in such a veil six measures of barley. Ru 3:15; Isa 3:22. There are four other Hebrew words translated 'veils.'
6. The STOMACHER, apparently a wide ornamented girdle. The word occurs only in Isa 3:24.