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Silk; Silkworm

SILK; SILKWORM

silk'-wurm ((1) meshi (Ezekiel 16:10,13), perhaps from mashah, "to draw" "to extract" compare Arabic masa' of same meaning; Septuagint trichapton, "woven of hair"; (2) serikon (Revelation 18:12); (31 shesh; compare Arabic shash, a thin cotton material; (4) buts; compare Arabic 'abyad, "white," from bad; (5) bussos, "fine linen," later used of cotton and silk):

The only undoubted reference to silk in the Bible is the passage cited from Revelation, where it is mentioned among the merchandise of Babylon. Serikon, "silk," is from Ser, the Greek name of China, whence silk was first obtained. The equivalent Latin sericum occurs frequently in classical authors, and is found in the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) (Esther 8:15) for buts, "fine linen." For buts, bussos, and shesh English Versions of the Bible has nearly always "fine linen," but for shesh in Proverbs 31:22, the King James Version has "silk," and in Genesis 41:42 and Exodus 25:4, the King James Version margin has "silk" and the Revised Version margin has "cotton."

See LINEN; FINE.

There can be little doubt of the correctness of English Versions of the Bible "silk" for meshi in Ezekiel 16:10, "I girded thee about with fine linen (shesh), and' covered thee with silk (meshi)," and in the similar passage, Ezekiel 16:13.

Silk is produced by all Lepidoptera, butterflies and moths, but it is of great economic importance only in the Chinese silkworm, Bombyx mori, whose larva, a yellowish-white caterpillar from 2 to 3 in. long, feeds on the leaves of the mulberry (Morus). A pair of large glands on the two sides of the stomach secrete a viscous fluid, which is conveyed by ducts to an orifice under the mouth. On issuing into the air, the fine stream is hardened into the silk fiber, which the caterpillar spins into a cocoon. Within the cocoon the caterpillar is presently transformed into the chrysalis or pupa. The cocoons from which silk is to be spun are subjected to heat which kills the pupae and prevents them from being transformed into the perfect insects or moths, which would otherwise damage the cocoons as they made their exit.

The raising of silkworms, and the spinning and weaving of silk are now important industries in Syria, though the insect was unknown in Bible times. It was introduced to the Mediterranean region from China a few centuries after Christ. Coarse silk is produced from the Chinese oak silk-moth, Saturnia pernyi, and from the Japanese oak silk-moth, Saturnia yama-mai. The largest moth of Syria and Palestine is Saturnia pyri, from which silk has also been spun, but not commercially.

See, further, WEAVING.

Alfred Ely Day


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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'SILK; SILKWORM'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.