In the time of the Ptolemies, came to Greece and Rome from the far east of China, etc., by the way of Alexandria, and was sold for its weight in gold. It sometimes came in the form of skeins, and was woven into a light and thin gauze. It is mentioned in Re 18:12, and probably in Eze 16:10,13. In Ge 41:42 and Pr 31:22, the word rendered silk in our version is the same that is elsewhere correctly rendered fine linen. It is not known how early or extensively the Jews used it.
Heb demeshek, "damask," silk cloth manufactured at Damascus, Am 3:12. A.V., "in the corner of a bed, and in Damascus in a couch;" R.V., "in the corner of a couch, and on the silken cushions of a bed" (marg., "in Damascus on a bed").
Silk was common in New Testament times (Re 18:12).
The English is derived by the change of r and l from sericum, the manufacture of the Chinese (Seres): Re 18:12. Aristotle in the fourth century B.C. is the first who positively mentions the import of the raw material to the island Cos in the Mediterranean (H. A. 5:19). In Pr 31:22 (shesh) translated "fine linen," not silk. The texture silk was probably known much earlier in western Asia, considering its intercourse with the far East by various routes, namely, from southern China by India and the Persian gulf, or across the Indus through Persia, or by Bactria the route of central Asia, for the SINIM (Isa 49:12) are the Chinese. Meshi, the other Hebrew term for silk, occurs in Eze 16:10,13, from maashah "to draw," fine drawn silk (Pliny 6:20; 11:26, describes the manner). The Bombyx mori, the caterpillar of a sluggish moth, feeding on the mulberry tree, produces the oval-yellow cocoon of silk wound around its own body.
The only undoubted notice of silk in the Bible occurs in
where it is mentioned among the treasures of the typical Babylon. It is however, in the highest degree probable that the texture was known to the Hebrews from the time that their commercial relations were extended by Solomon. The well-known classical name of the substance does not occur in the Hebrew language.
SILK, ???. As the word which is rendered "silk" in our version more probably meant cotton, or rather muslin, it is doubtful whether silk is mentioned expressly in the Scripture, unless, perhaps, in Isa 19:9, where we find the Hebrew word ??????, from ???, yellowish, tawny; which is generally the natural colour of raw silk; hence the Latin sericum: or it may be from the Seres, a nation whence the Greeks and Romans first obtained the article silk. Calmet remarks that the ancient Greeks and Romans had but little knowledge of the nature of silk. The Seres communicated their silk to the Persians, from whom it passed to the Greeks, and from them to the Romans. But the Persians and orientals for a long time kept the secret of manufacturing it among themselves. Silk was first brought into Greece after Alexander's conquest of Persia, and came into Italy during the flourishing times of the Roman empire; but was long so dear in all these parts as to be worth its weight in gold. At length the emperor Justinian, who died in the year 365, by means of two monks, whom he sent into India for that purpose, procured great quantities of silk worms' eggs to be brought to Constantinople, and from these have sprung all the silk worms and all the silk trade that have been since in Europe. See FLAX.