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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Hem of a Garment

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(שׁוּל , shul, Exodus 28:33-34; Exodus 29:24-26; elsewhere the "skirt" of a robe; κράσπεδον, Matthew 9:20; Matthew 14:30; elsewhere "border"). The importance which the later Jews, especially the Pharisees (Matthew 23:5), attached to the hem or fringe of their garments was founded upon the regulation in Numbers 15:38-39, which ascribed a symbolical meaning to it. We must not, however, conclude that the fringe owed its origin to that passage; it was in the first instance the ordinary mode of finishing the robe, the ends of the threads composing the woof being left in order to prevent the cloth from unraveling, just as in the Egyptian calasiris (Herod. ii, 81; see Wilkinson's Anc. Egyptians, ii, 90), and in the Assyrian robes as represented in the bas-reliefs of Nineveh, the blue ribbon being added to strengthen the border. The Hebrew word צַיצַת, tsitsith', "fringe" (Numbers 15:38-39), is expressive of the fretted edge: the Greek κράσπεδα .(the etymology of which is uncertain, being variously traced to κροσσός, ἄκρος πέδον, κρηπίς ) applies to the edge of a river or mountain (Xenoph. Hist. Gr. 3:2, § 16: 4:6, § 8), and is explained by Hesychius as τὰ ἐν τῷ ἄκρῳ τοῦ ἱματίου κεκλώσμένα ῥάμματα καὶ τὸ ἄκρον αὐτοῦ. The beged or outer robe was a simple quadrangular piece of cloth, and generally so worn that two of the corners hung down in front: these corners were ornamented with a "ribbon of blue," or, rather, dark violet, the ribbon itself being, as we may conclude from the word used, פָּתַיל, as narrow as a thread or piece of string. The Jews attached great sanctity to this fringe (Matthew 9:20; Matthew 14:36; Luke 8:44), and the Pharisees made it more prominent than it was originally designed to be, enlarging both the fringe and the ribbon to an undue width (Matthew 23:5). Directions were given as to the number of threads of which it ought to be composed, and other particulars, to each of which a symbolical meaning was attached (Carpzov, Apparat. p. 198). It was appended in later times to the talith more especially, as being the robe usually worn at devotions, whence the proverbial saying quoted by Lightfoot (Exercit. on Matthew 5, 40), "He that takes care of his fringes deserves a good coat" (see Hilder, De Hebraeor. vestib friimbriatis, Tü bingen, 1701). (See FRINGE).


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Hem of a Garment'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/h/hem-of-a-garment.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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