NEEDLE. The art of sewing and the use of needles seem to have been among man’s earliest accomplishments. Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together to cover their nakedness (Gen 3:7). The basic design of needles has not changed at all in the millennia they have been used. Needles made from sharp pierced bones have been found dating as far back as the sixth millennium b.c. In the days of Israel’s history needles were commonly made of bronze, either pierced or with a loop to form the “eye.” They have been found by archeologists in the dust of ancient cities, made from ivory, bone, bronze, and iron, from one and a half to five and a half inches in length. Highly skilled embroiderers are mentioned in Exodus 36:37; 39:29, who produced the curtains of the Tabernacle and beautiful garments of the high priest. It is interesting to note the most skilled of these artisans of the needle were men (Exod 35:34, 35). In the NT the Apostle Paul was trained as a tent-maker and worked at his trade in Corinth, sewing the strips of material together (Acts 18:3). The only place in the Bible a needle is actually mentioned is in Jesus’ proverb of a camel passing through the eye of a needle (Matt 19:24).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

The word "needle" occurs only 3 times, namely, in the reference to Christ’s use of the proverb: "It is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God" (Mt 19:24; Mr 10:25; Lu 18:25). This saying ought to be accepted in the same sense as Mt 23:24, "Ye blind guides, that strain out the gnat, and swallow the camel!" Christ used them to illustrate absurdities. A rabbinical parallel is cited, "an elephant through a needle’s eye." Some writers have attempted to show that rhaphis referred to a small gate of a walled oriental city. No evidence of such a use of the word exists in the terms applied today in Biblical lands to this opening. "Rich man" here has the connotation of a man bound up in his riches. If a man continues to trust in his earthly possessions to save him, it would be absurd for him to expect to share in the spiritual kingdom where dependence upon the King is a first requisite.

The fact that needles are not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible should not be taken to indicate that this instrument was not used. Specimens of bone and metal needles of ancient origin show that they were common household objects.

See Camel.

James A. Patch