The chief garments of the Hebrews were the tunic or inner garment, and the mantle or outer garment. These seem to have constituted a "change of Rainment," Judges 14:13 19:1-30 Acts 9:39. The tunic was of linen, and was worn next to the skin, fitting close to the body; it had armholes, and sometimes wide and open sleeves, and reached below the knees; that worn by females reached to the ankles. The tunic was sometimes woven without seam, like that of Jesus, John 19:23. The upper garment or mantle was a piece of cloth nearly square, and two or three yards in length and breadth, which was wrapped round the body, or tied over the shoulders. A man without this robe on was sometimes said to be "naked," Isaiah 20:2-4 John 21:7. This could be so arranged as to form a large bosom for carrying things; and the mantle also served the poor as a bed by night, Exodus 22:26,27 Job 22:6. See BOSOM and BED.
Between these two garments, the Hebrews sometimes wore a third, called me-il, a long and wide robe or tunic of cotton or linen, without sleeves.
The head was usually bare, or covered from too fierce a sunshine, or from rain, by a fold of the outer mantle, 2 Samuel 15:30 1 Kings 19:13 Esther 6:12. The priests, however, wore a mitre, bonnet, or sacred turban; and after the captivity, the Jews adopted to some extent the turban, now so universal in the East. Women wore a variety of plain and ornamented headdresses. Veils were also an article of female dress, Isaiah 3:19. They were of various kinds, and were used alike by married and unmarried women; generally as a token of modesty, or of subjection to the authority of the husband, Genesis 24:65 1 Corinthians 11:3-10; but sometimes for the purpose of concealment, Genesis 38:14.
As the Hebrews did not change the fashion of their clothes, as we do, it was common to lay up stores of rainment beforehand, in proportion to their wealth, Isaiah 3:6. To this Christ alludes when he speaks of treasures, which the moth devours, Matthew 6:19 James 5:1,2. But though there was a general uniformity in dress from age to age, no doubt various changes took place in the long course of Bible history; and at all times numerous and increasing varieties existed among the different classes, especially in materials and ornaments. In early ages, and where society was wild and rude, the skins of animals were made into clothing, Genesis 3:21 Hebrews 11:37. Spinning, weaving, and needlework soon began to be practiced, Exodus 35:25 Judges 5:30. A coarse cloth was made of goats’ or camels’ hair, and finer cloths of woolen, linen, and probably cotton. Their manufacture was a branch of domestic industry, Proverbs 31:13-24.
The great and wealthy delighted in white rainment; and hence this is also a mark of opulence and prosperity, Ecclesiastes 9:8. Angels are described as clothed in pure and cheerful white; and such was the appearance of our Savior’s rainment during his transfiguration, Matthew 17:2. The saints, in like manner, are described as clothed in white robes, Revelation 7:9,13,14; the righteousness of Christ in which they are clothed is more glorious than that of the angels.
The garments of mourning among the Hebrews were sackcloth and haircloth, and their color dark brown or black, Isaiah 50:3 Revelation 6:12. As the prophets were penitents by profession, their common clothing was mourning. Widows also dressed themselves much the same. The Hebrews, in common with their neighbors, sometimes used a variety of colors for their gayer and more costly dresses, Judges 5:30. So also according to our version, Genesis 37:3,23 2 Samuel 13:18; though in these passages some understand a tunic with long sleeves. Blue, scarlet, and purple are most frequently referred to, the first being a sacred color. Embroidery and fine needlework were highly valued among them, Judges 5:30 Psalms 45:14.
The dress of females differed from that of males less than is customary among us. Yet there was a distinction; and Moses expressly forbade any exchange of apparel between the sexes, Deuteronomy 22:5, a custom associated with immodesty, and with the worship of certain idols. It is not clear for what reason clothing in which linen and woolen were woven together was prohibited, Deuteronomy 22:11; but probably it had reference to some superstitious usage of heathenism. In Isaiah 3:16-23, mention is made of the decorations common among the Hebrew women of that day; among which seem to be included tunics, embroidered vests, wide flowing mantles, girdles, veils, caps of network, and metallic ornaments for the ears and nose, for the neck, arms, fingers, and ankles; also smelling-bottles and metallic mirrors. In Acts 19:12, mention is made of handkerchiefs and aprons. Drawers were used, Exodus 28:42, but perhaps not generally. See GIRDLES, RINGS, and SANDALS.
Presents of dresses are alluded to very frequently in the historical books of Scripture, and in the earliest times. Joseph gave to each of his brethren a change of rainment, and to Benjamin five changes, Genesis 45:22. Naaman gave to Gehazi two changes of rainment; and even Solomon received rainment as presents, 2 Chronicles 9:24. This custom is still maintained in the East, and is mentioned by most travelers. In Turkey, the appointment to any important office is accompanied with the gift of a suitable official rove. In the parable of the wedding garment, the king expected to have found all his guests clad in roes of honor of his own providing, Matthew 22:11.
These dictionary topics are from American Tract Society Bible Dictionary published in 1859. Public Domain, copy freely.
Rand, W. W. "Entry for 'GARMENTS'". "American Tract Society Bible Dictionary".