SILK (Heb. meshî, drawn, Gr. sērikon, silken). The word “silk” is mentioned four times in the KJV of the OT (Prov.31.22; Ezek.16.10 Ezek.16.13). It is doubtful if the passages refer to silk as we know it. The NIV translations “fine linen,” “costly garments,” and “costly fabric” are probably more accurate. But Rev.18.12 does refer to actual silk. The Greek word is sēr, the Greek name for China, from which silk came.

SILK, SILKWORM, appears as the tr. in KJV and ASV for several terms. It is doubtful that the woven thread of the Chinese silkworm (Bombyx mori) was known in the Near E in OT times. Heb. מֶ֫שִׁי, H5429, (Ezek 16:10, 13) was prob. a costly type of cotton or linen from Egypt. Heb. שֵׁשׁ, H9254, only in Proverbs 31:22, refers to an alabaster—(CaCO3) like substance as in Esther 1:6.

The Gr. term appears only in Revelation 18:12. It is derived from a Hel. term for China, Σηρες, σηρικός. However, the Greeks were uncertain as to its origin (Pausanius VI, 26. 6ff.). But by the 1st cent. b.c. Chinese silk was known in Asia Minor.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

See Linen; Fine.

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