wool (tsemer; erion):
Wool and flax were the fibers most used by the ancient weavers. Wool was used principally for the outside garments (Leviticus 13:48; Proverbs 31:13; Ezekiel 34:3; Hosea 2:5,9). Syrian wool is found on the world's markets today, but it is not rated as first quality, partly because it is so contaminated with thorns, straw and other foreign matter which become entangled with the wool while the sheep are wandering over the barren, rocky mountain sides in search of food. Extensive pastures are almost unknown.
Two kinds of wool are sold:
(1) That obtained by shearing. This is removed from the animal as far as possible in one piece or fleece usually without previous washing. The fleeces are gathered in bales and carried to a washing-place, which is usually one of the stony river beds, with but a small stream flowing through it during the summer. The river bed is chosen because the rocks are clean and free from little sticks or straw which would cling to the washed wool. The purchaser of this washed wool submits it to a further washing with soap, ishnan (alkali plant), "soapwort", or other cleansing agent (see FULLER), and then cards it before spinning and weaving. The wool thus obtained is nearly snow white.
(2) The second supply of wool is from the tanneries where the wool is removed from the skins with slaked lime (see TANNER). This is washed in many changes of water and used for stuffing mattresses, quilts, etc., but not for weaving.
Gideon used a fleece of wool to seek an omen from God (Judges 6:37). Mesha, king of Moab, sent a large quantity of wool as a tribute to the king of Israel (2 Kings 3:4). Wool was forbidden to be woven with linen (Deuteronomy 2:11; compare Leviticus 19:19). Priests could not wear woolen garments (Ezekiel 44:17). Wool dyed scarlet with the qermes was used in the blood-covenant ceremony (Hebrews 9:19; compare Le 14; Numbers 19:6).
The whiteness of wool was used for comparison
(1) with snow (Psalms 147:16);
(2) with sins forgiven (Isaiah 1:18);
James A. Patch
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