Moreover they that work in fine flax, and they that weave networks, shall be confounded.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Moreover they that work in fine flax.—Another class also would find its occupation gone. The “fine flax” was used especially for the dress of the priests (Herod. ii. 81), and for the mummy clothes of the dead (1Kings 10:28; Ezekiel 27:7).
They that weave networks.—Better, white cloths, the cotton or byssus fabrics for which Egypt was famous.
They that work in short flax - Egypt was celebrated anciently for producing flax in large quantities, and of a superior quality (see Exodus 9:31; 1 Kings 10:28). The fine linen of Egypt which was manufactured from this is celebrated in Scripture Proverbs 7:16; Ezekiel 27:7. The Egyptians had early carried the art of manufacturing linen to a great degree of perfection. As early as the exode of the Hebrews, we find that the art was known by which stuffs made of linen or other materials were curiously worked and embroidered. 'And thou shalt make an hanging for the door of the tent, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine-twined linen, made with needlework' (Exodus 26:36; compare Exodus 27:16; Exodus 36:37). So Ezekiel 27:7 : 'Fine linen, with broidered work from Egypt.' So also Martial refers to embroidery with the needle in Egypt:
Haec tibi Memphitis tellus dat munera; victa est
Pectine Niliaco jam Babylonis acus.
Martial, xiv. Ephesians 50.
In regard to the "fineness" of the linen which was produced and made in Egypt, we may introduce a statement made by Pliny when speaking of the "nets" which were made there. 'So delicate,' says he, 'were some of them, that they would pass through a man's ring, and a single person could carry a sufficient number of them to surround a whole wood. Julius Lupus, who died while governor of Egypt, had some of those nets, each string of which consisted of 150 threads; a fact perfectly surprising to those who are not aware that the Rhodians preserve to this day, in the temple of Minerva, the remains of a linen corslet, presented to them by Amasis, king of Egypt, whose threads are composed each of 365 fibres.' (Pliny, xix. 1.) Herodotus also mentions this corslet (iii. 47), and also another presented by Amasis to the Lacedemonians, which had been carried off by the Samians: 'It was of linen, ornamented with numerous figures of animals, worked in gold and cotton.
Each thread of the corslet was worthy of admiration. For though very fine, every one was composed of 360 other threads, all distinct; the quality being similar to that dedicated to Minerva at Lindus, by the same monarch.' Pliny (xix. 1) mentions four kinds of linen that were particularly celebrated in Egypt - the Tanitic, the Pelusiac, the Butine, and the tentyritic. He also says that the quantity of flax cultivated in Egypt was accounted for, by their exporting linen to Arabia and India. It is now known, also, that the cloth used for enveloping the dead, and which is now found in abundance on the mummies, was "linen." This fact was long doubted, and it was until recently supposed by many that the cloth was made of cotton. This fact that it is linen was settled beyond dispute by some accurate experiments made by Dr. Ure, Mr. Bauer, and Mr. Thompson, with the aid of powerful microscopes.
It was found that linen fibres uniformly present a cylindrical form, transparent, and articulated, or jointed like a cane, while the fibres of cotton have the appearance of a flat ribbon, with a hem or border at the edge. In the mummy cloths, it was found, without exception, that the fibres were linen. Vast quantities of linen must, therefore, have been used. The linen of the mummy cloths is generally coarse. The warp usually contains about 90 threads in the inch; the woof about 44. Occasionally, however, very fine linen cloth is found, showing the skill with which the manufacture was executed. Sir John G. Wilkinson observes, that a piece of linen in his possession from Egypt had 540 (or 270 double) threads in one inch in the warp. Some of the cambric which is now manufactured has but 160 threads in the inch in the warp, and 140 in the woof. It is to be remembered, also, that the linen in Egypt was spun by hand, and without the aid of machinery (see, on this whole subject, Wilkinson's "Ancient Egyptians," vol. iii. pp. 113-142. Ed. Lond. 1837). The word rendered 'fine' here denotes, according to Gesenius, "combed or hatchelled." The word 'fine,' however, expresses the idea with sufficient accuracy. Fine linen was used for clothing; but was so expensive that it was worn chiefly by the rich and by princes Luke 16:19.
They that weave networks - Margin, 'White-works.' According to Gesenius the word הורי hôrây means "white linen" - that which is fully bleached. The word הוד hôd means "a hole or cavern," but is not applied to cloth. The parallelism seems rather to require that the word should mean 'white,' or that which would correspond to 'fine,' or valuable; and it is not known that the Egyptians had the art of working lace from linen. Saadias supposes that "nets" are meant, as being made with holes or meshes; but it is evident that a finer work is intended than that.
networks—rather, white cloth (Es 1:6; 8:16).That work in fine flax; that make fine linen, which was one of their best commodities; of which See Poole "1 Kings 10:28", See Poole "Proverbs 7:16", See Poole "Ezekiel 27:7". 1 Kings 10:28 but now would have no flax to work, that being withered and gone which was sown by the sides of the brooks, Isaiah 19:7 and no linen cloth or yarn to sell, and consequently in great confusion and distress, as they are here represented (l). The Targum renders the whole verse thus,
"they shall be confounded which work flax, which they comb, and of it weave nets;''
and so Jarchi and Kimchi interpret it, not of persons that wrought in flax, to make yarn or linen of it; but who combed it, to make nets of it, as follows:
and they that weave networks shall be confounded: because they would have no sale for their nets, the fishermen having no use for them, the rivers being dried up. The word for "networks" signifies "holes", because nets are made with holes large enough to let the water through, and so small that the fishes may not get out. Some render the word "white works" (m), white linen, white cloth, of which white garments are made, such as nobles and princes formerly wore; hence, in the Hebrew language, they are called by a name of the same root and signification; but the former sense seems best.
(l) is by us rendered "fine"; and so, Ben Melech says, in the Arabic language the best and finest linen is called and so says Kimchi in Sepher Shorash.; with which Schindler agrees, Arab. sericum or "muslin"; but it is a question whether this is of so early a date, and especially not fit to make nets of. De Dieu and Bochart think it denotes the colour of the linen, which was yellow, that being the best; but others render it "combed". (m) "et textores alborum operum", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.Moreover they that work in fine flax, and they that weave networks, shall be confounded.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)9. Textile manufactures, linen and cotton, flourished greatly in ancient Egypt. fine flax] combed flax (R.V.). For networks read white-stuffs, probably cotton.Verse 9. - They that work in fine flax. Linen of great fineness and delicacy was woven in Egypt, for the priests' dresses, for mummy-cloths, and for corselets. Solomon imported "linen yarn" from his Egyptian neighbors (1 Kings 10:28), and the Phoenicians a linen fabric for their sails' (Ezekiel 27:7). In the general decline of Egyptian prosperity, caused by the circumstances of the time, the manufacturers of linen would suffer. They that weave networks; rather, they that weave while clothes. Cotton fabrics are probably intended. Shall be confounded; literally, shall blush, or be ashamed. Isaiah 9:10). The people once so shrewd are now at their wits' end; their spirit is quite poured out נבקה, with the reduplication removed, for נבקּה, according to Ges. 68, Anm. 11 - as, for example, in Genesis 11:7; Ezekiel 41:7), so that there is nothing left of either intelligence or resolution. Then (and this is also part of the judgment) they turn for help, in counsel and action, where no help is to be found, viz., to their "nothings" of gods, and the manifold demoniacal arts, of which Egypt could boast of being the primary seat. On the names of the practisers of the black art, see Isaiah 8:19; 'ittim, the mutterers, is from 'âtat, to squeak (used of a camel-saddle, especially when new), or to rumble (used of an empty stomach): see Lane's Lexicon. But all this is of no avail: Jehovah gives them up (סכּר, syn. הסגּיר, συγκλείειν to be ruled over by a hard-hearted and cruel king. The prophecy does not relate to a foreign conqueror, so as to lead us to think of Sargon (Knobel) or Cambyses (Luzzatto), but to a native despot. In comparing the prophecy with the fulfilment, we must bear in mind that Isaiah 19:2 relates to the national revolution which broke out in Sais, and resulted in the overthrow of the Ethiopian rule, and to the federal dodekarchy to which the rising of the nation led. "Kingdom against kingdom:" this exactly suits those twelve small kingdoms into which Egypt was split up after the overthrow of the Ethiopian dynasty in the year 695, until Psammetichus, the dodekarch of Sais, succeeded in the year 670 in comprehending these twelve states once more under a single monarchy. This very Psammetichus (and the royal house of Psammetichus generally) is the hard ruler, the reckless despot. He succeeded in gaining the battle at Momemphis, by which he established himself in the monarchy, through having first of all strengthened himself with mercenary troops from Ionia, Caria, and Greece. From his time downwards, the true Egyptian character was destroyed by the admixture of foreign elements;
(Note: See Leo, Universalgesch. i. 152, and what Brugsch says in his Histoire d'Egypte, i. 250, with regard to the brusques changements that Egypt endured under Psammetichus.)
and this occasioned the emigration of a large portion of the military caste to Meroe. The Egyptian nation very soon came to feel how oppressive this new dynasty was, when Necho (616-597), the son and successor of Psammetichus, renewed the project of Ramses-Miamun, to construct a Suez canal, and tore away 120,000 of the natives of the land from their homes, sending them to wear out their lives in forced labour of the most wearisome kind. A revolt on the part of the native troops, who had been sent against the rising Cyrene, and driven back into the desert, led to the overthrow of Hophra, the grandson of Necho (570), and put an end to the hateful government of the family of Psammetichus.
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