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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Sackcloth

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SACKCLOTH.—A coarse, dark-coloured cloth, made of goat’s or camel’s hair (Gr. σάκκος, Heb. שַׂק), used in ordinary life for sacking, sieves, strainers, and the like, but in the Gospels twice named in connexion with prevalent mourning customs (Matthew 11:21, Luke 10:13), coupled with ‘ashes’ (wh. see) as an expression of penitential grief. The mourner wore the sackcloth garment, sometimes next the skin; and because of the garment’s coarseness it became a constant reminder of his grief, its irritation being a sort of penance; sometimes it was worn as an outer garment as a visible expression of mourning. Closely related to this use of sackcloth was the use of it by ascetics and prophets (cf. later use by pilgrims). So John the Baptist wore a garment of camel’s hair (Matthew 3:4, Mark 1:6) as the expression of a certain austerity of life, and as a rebuke to the love of ease and luxury which characterized the age.

E. B. Pollard.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Sackcloth'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/s/sackcloth.html. 1906-1918.

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