Bible Study Resource: Women of the Bible
Clothing: fabric production
Clothing in ancient Israel was usually
Wool was easier to work with, and it took dyes better. It was also waterproof to some extent, giving better protection against the weather. Linen was finer and more expensive.
Women were largely responsible for production of clothes. They
Their work was by no means finished. When the flax had been harvested they
'Widows were apparently set apart by wearing special clothing, such as in Gen- 38.14, where Tamar ". . . put off her widow's garments, put on a veil, wrapped herself up, and sat down at the entrance to Enaim . . ." in an effort to appear like a prostitute when she seduced her father-in-law Judah. Upon leavng Judah, she took off her veil and put on her widow's clothes once more (Gen. 38.19).
be similar to garments worn by women who were in mourning for other
reasons; 2 Sam. 21.10 records that Rizpah, Saul's concubine, prepared sackcloth for herself to wear in mourning after her sons were
handed over to the Gibeonites.Although we cannot guess the color of a
widow's garments, it seems that they were made of rougher material than was
typically used to make clothing.'
Both women and men wore a loincloth, the equivalent of underpants. This
was a long thin strip of cloth which was wound around the waist and then
between the legs, with the end tucked in at the waist. Women probably wore
some sort of binding around their breasts.
The halug could be gathered up in a bunch at the shoulders,
either with a clip or a tip-loop, or it could be tucked up at the waist if
heavy work was being done.
Halugs made of fine linen or wool could be draped to fall
If it was part of her dowry, it would be worn conspicuously, especially on festival days when prospective suitors might be visiting the village.
For more about clothing, try Bible archaeology: All about clothes
For pictures of some fabulous ancient jewelry, go to Archaeology: Jewels
were used by women at all levels of society. We know that women in ancient
times manicured their nails, tweezed superfluous hair, and outlines their
eyes in colors including black, green, aqua, terracotta and charcoal.
Make-up, especially for the eyes, was popular.
We have a good idea of clothing in New Testament times because of a discovery made in Israel in 1960. Bedouin tribesmen found many artifacts in a cave near En-gedi on the Dead Sea, which were dated to the Bar Kokhba War in 132CE.
It appears that during the Bar Kokhba War a group of 17 people, including six children, were trapped in the cave. They starved to death there, rather than surrender to the Roman soldiers who were camped immediately above the entrance to their cave.
A range of textiles was found with their skeletons. There were women’s cloaks, a child’s linen shirt, and skeins and balls of unspun purple wool.
Laboratory analysis showed that three basic dyes had been used to obtain 34 different colors of thread (the three dyes were saffron yellow, indigo blue and alazarin red).
Among the artifacts found in the cave were pieces of jewelry, a box for powder and a brass mirror in a wooden frame.
For more about clothing, try Bible archaeology: ancient clothing
There were two types of dwelling in ancient Israel:
Tents were used by
The tents used were larger than modern tents. They had two sections:
The tents were made from goats’ hair, woven in strips on large looms. Women wove the fabric for the tents, stitched them together, kept them in good repair, set them up when the camp was established, and folded and stowed them when it was time to move on. It would seem heavy work to us, but the Israelite women were strong and skilled, and they were used to working as a group.
The size of the rooms was limited by the fact
that rooms could only be as wide as the beams that supported the
roof. Beams, usually wooden, reached from one wall to the other, and
were covered with a mixture of woven branches and clay, which was
smoothed with a stone roller.
A wooden ladder or a set of stairs led to the roof, which was used as an outdoor room partly shaded by matting or a tent-like superstructure. Because the inside rooms tended to be small and dark, the courtyard and the roof were important parts of the house, and were used for tasks that needed a good light, for example spinning and weaving, and food preparation. The flat roof area might also be used for sleeping, working and drying food or textiles (see the story of Rahab the prostitute in Joshua 2:6).
In the courtyard you might find
As you can imagine, this area was crowded with people, animals and activity at almost any time of the day. There is several reconstructions of this type of dwelling at Bible architecture: Houses.
By modern standards, the houses of ancient people
were sparsely furnished, with only necessities such as a table, stools and
lamps. People often sat on cushions or mats on the floor. Joseph, the
husband of Mary of Nazareth, was probably a builder rather than a
carpenter, since a small village wouldn't need much furniture.
Dozens of extra ideas at Activities for Bible Study Groups and Schools
Read about the fascinating women of the Bible