Flax was grown in Pal. before the arrival of the Israelites, for Rahab (
Solomon congratulates a good wife who separates the fibers of the flax and makes fine linen (
It is obvious that the Egyptians knew about growing flax. Making linen for Pharaoh gave Joseph fine linen clothes, and after the Israelites had escaped from Egypt, and had “spoiled the Egyptians,” they were able to make fine linen priestly garments for Aaron and his sons.
Solomon knew the value of linen, and seems to have made it a state monopoly. Linen was used also as sails for yachts (
It is generally believed that the flax was Linum usitatissimum which grows two to four ft. high and bears beautiful blue flowers (there are occasionally white varieties). The plants were grown until they were ripe, when they were pulled up whole and laid out to dry. To lose a crop of flax was serious, and could be one of God’s punishments (
The capsules of flax are called “bols,” and the bolled flax is the mature flax, ready for harvesting and drying. Bundles of flax are soaked in water for three or four weeks. This causes what is called “retting”; i.e., the fibers separate, and it is only then that the threads can be combed.
Of course, the best linen was used for wrapping the body of our Lord, while “the church”—the bride of the risen Lord—is “arrayed in fine linen” (
Linen is the oldest of textile fibers, and was evidently graded into three types—(a) coarse (
Incidentally, the Talmud gives full instructions as to how orthodox Jews should harvest, bleach and prepare linen used by the rabbis.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
pesheth, also pishtah; linon (
(1) to the plant: "The flax was in bloom" (the
(2) the "stalks of flax," literally, "flax of the tree," put on the roof to dry (
(3) to the fine fibers used for lighting: the King James Version "tow," "flax," the
(6) The plural form pishtim is used in many passages for linen, or linen garments, e.g.
Flax is the product of Linum usitatissimum, a herbaceous plant which has been cultivated from the dawn of history. It is perennial and grows to a height of 2 to 3 ft.; it has blue flowers and very fibrous stalks. The tough fibers of the latter, after the decay and removal of the softer woody and gummy material, make up the crude "flax." Linseed, linseed oil and oilcake are useful products of the same plant.