Numbers 15:38
Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue:
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(38) That they make them fringes . . . —Better, That they make them tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the tassel of the corner (i.e., on each tassel) a thread (or cord) of blue. The tassels (zirith) appear to be the same as the gedilim (fringes) of Deuteronomy 22:12. The outer garment of the Jews was a fourcornered cloth, which was also used by the poor as a counterpane (Exodus 22:26-27). It appears to have been commonly used with a hole in the centre, through which the head was put, so that one-half covered the front and the other the back of the body. These tassels, or fringes (LXX. κράσπεδα—craspeda), were enlarged by the Pharisees to exhibit their punctilious fulfilment of the Law (Matt. xiii 5). Great sanctity was attached to these fringes or tassels, and for this cause the woman with the issue of blood desired to touch a kraspedon of our Saviour’s garment (Matthew 9:20).

Numbers 15:38. Fringes — These were certain threads, or ends, standing out a little farther than the rest of their garments, left there for this use. In the borders — That is, in the four borders or quarters, as it is, Deuteronomy 22:12. Of their garments — Of their upper garments. This was practised by the Pharisees in Christ’s time, who are noted for making their borders larger than ordinary. A riband — To make it more obvious to the sight, and consequently more serviceable to the use here mentioned. Of blue — Or, purple.

15:37-41 The people are ordered by the Lord to make fringes on the borders of their garments. The Jews were distinguished from their neighbours in their dress, as well as in their diet, and thus taught not to be conformed to the way of the heathen in other things. They proclaimed themselves Jews wherever they were, as not ashamed of God and his law. The fringes were not appointed for trimming and adorning their clothes, but to stir up their minds by way of remembrance, 2Pe 3:1. If they were tempted to sin, the fringe would warn them not to break God's commandments. We should use every means of refreshing our memories with the truths and precepts of God's word, to strengthen and quicken our obedience, and arm our minds against temptation. Be holy unto your God; cleansed from sin, and sincerely devoted to his service; and that great reason for all the commandments is again and again repeated, I am the Lord your God.That they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue - Reader that they add to the fringes of the borders (or corners) a thread of blue (compare the marginal references). These fringes are considered to be of Egypttian origin. The ordinary outer Jewish garment was a quadrangular piece of cloth like a modern plaid, to the corners of which, in conformity with this command, a tassel was attached. Each tassel had a conspicuous thread of deep blue, this color being doubtless symbolic of the heavenly origin of the commandments of which it was to serve as a memento. Tradition determined that the other threads should be white - this color being an emblem of purity (compare Isaiah 1:18). The arrangement of the threads and knots, to which the Jews attached the greatest importance, was so adjusted as to set forth symbolically the 613 precepts of which the Law was believed to consist. In our Lord's time the Pharisees enlarged their fringes Matthew 23:5 in order to obtain reputation for their piety. In later times howerer, the Jews have worn the fringed garment (tālı̂̄th) of a smaller size and as an under-dress. Its use is still retained, especially at morning prayer in the Synagogue. 38. bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments—These were narrow strips, in a wing-like form, wrapped over the shoulders and on various parts of the attire. "Fringe," however, is the English rendering of two distinct Hebrew words—the one meaning a narrow lappet or edging, called the "hem" or "border" (Mt 23:5; Lu 8:44), which, in order to make it more attractive to the eye and consequently more serviceable to the purpose described, was covered with a riband of blue or rather purple color; the other term signifies strings with tassels at the end, fastened to the corners of the garment. Both of these are seen on the Egyptian and Assyrian frocks; and as the Jewish people were commanded by express and repeated ordinances to have them, the fashion was rendered subservient, in their case, to awaken high and religious associations—to keep them in habitual remembrance of the divine commandments. Fringes were certain threads or ends of their garments, standing out a little further than the rest of their garments, left there for this use.

In the borders, i.e. in the four borders or quarters, as it is Deu 22:12. Heb. wings, which is oft used for borders or ends, as Ruth 3:9 1 Samuel 15:27 24:5, &c.

Of their garments, i.e. of their upper garment, or that wherewith they covered themselves, as is expressed Deu 22:12. This was practised by the Pharisees in Christ’s time, who are noted for making their borders larger than ordinary, Matthew 23:5; and by Christ himself, as may gathered from Luke 8:44.

A riband, to make it more obvious to the sight, and consequently more serviceable to the use here mentioned.

Of blue, or, of a purple colour, as the Jewish writers agree, whose opinion is the more considerable, because it was matter of constant practice among them.

Speak unto the children of Israel,.... Whom it only concerned, and all of them, except women and children; for priests, Levites, Israelites, proselytes, and freed servants, were bound to wear the fringes, but not Gentiles; nor might the Gentiles make them, what were made by them were not to be used (z), since it follows:

and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments, throughout their generations: the garments on which these fringes were put were such that were made either of linen or of woollen; no other were obliged to them by the law; but according to the Rabbins other garments were also, yet only square garments, which they call the Talith; and if that had not four skirts to it, it was free from them (a): on this square garment, and the four corners or skirts of it, were the fringes put; which were a sort of pendants or tassels, which hung down from it, which consisted of eight white woollen threads, sometimes four, sometimes eight or twelve fingers broad (b); there were four of them, one at each skirt or corner of the garment: they were, as another writer says (c), made of eight threads broad, each of them being knit to the middle with five knots, and of wool spun on purpose for this use; and these were to be wore by them throughout their generations until the Messiah came, and they seem to have been worn by him, Matthew 9:20 however, it is certain they were worn by the Pharisees in his time, Matthew 23:5; at present this four cornered garment is not any where in common use among the Jews, instead of which they wear, under their other garments, a kind of square frock, with the fringes or tassels fastened to it, and this they call Arbah Canfot; and in their schools, and at certain times of prayer, they put on a certain square woollen vestment, with the said pendants fastened at each corner, and this they call Talith (d):

and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a riband of blue; or a blue lace, a piece of blue tape, which bound and kept the fringe tight and close, and being of a different colour, the fringe being white, made it the more conspicuous: the reason why this colour was used, the Jews say (e), was, because it was like the sea, and the like the sky, and the sky like the throne of glory: this blue, hyacinth, or purple colour, as the Jews generally take it to be, was of a peculiar dye; the manner of making which is now unknown to them, and therefore they use only the white (f).

(z) Sepher Alphes, par. 1. fol. 439. 2. & 442. 1. Schulchan Aruch, par. 1. c. 14. sect. 1.((a) Schulchan ib. c. 9. sect. 1. & c. 10. sect. 1. & c. 24. 1.((b) Buxtorf. Synagog. Jud. c. 9. p. 160. (c) Leo Modena, History of the present Jews, par. 1. c. 5. sect. 7. (d) lb. sect. 9. (e) T. Bab. Sotah, fol. 17. 1.((f) Maimon. in Misn. Menachot, c. 4. sect. 1.

Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue:
38. that they make them tassels upon the corners of their garments] This is commanded (with different words for ‘tassels’ and ‘garments’) in Deuteronomy 22:12. No statement is there made as to the reason for the observance. It was probably a very ancient custom, dating from a time when such tassels were superstitiously worn as magical charms. Here, however, it has been invested with a higher religious significance. The practice is referred to in the N.T., Matthew 14:36, Mark 6:56 (E.V. ‘border of his garment’); and it continues among the Jews to this day. In the synagogue all males over thirteen years of age wear a special garment called a tallith, which ‘consists of an oblong cloth with a tassel at each corner. The head is passed through a hole in the middle of the cloth, which hangs over the breast and back.’ See art. ‘Fringes’ in Hastings’ DB. ii.

upon the tassel of each corner a thread of violet] in order to fasten it to the garment.

Verse 38. - Bid them that they make them fringes. צִיצִת, probably tassels. It seems to signify something flower-like and bright, like the blooms on a shrub; the word צִיצ. is applied to the shining plate of gold upon Aaron's head-band (Exodus 28:36). In Jeremiah 48:9 it seems to mean a wing, and in Ezekiel 8:3 צִיצִת is a lock of hair. The exact meaning must be gathered from the context, and on the whole that suggests a tassel rather than a fringe. The word גְּדִלִיס, used in the parallel passage Deuteronomy 22:12, seems to have this meaning. The Septuagint renders it by κράσπιδα, which is adopted in the Gospels (see on Matthew 23:5). In the borders of their garments. Literally, "on the wings," ἐπὶ τὰ πτερύγια. The outer garment (בֶּגֶד here, כְּסוּת in Deuteronomy 22:12) was worn like a plaid, so folded that the four corners were dependent, and on each of these corners was to be hung a tassel. It was also used as a coverlet by the poor (Exodus 22:27). That they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue. Rather, "that they put a string (or thread) of hyacinth-blue upon the tassel of the wing." Septuagint, κλῶσμα ὑακίνθινον. This may have been a blue string with which to fasten the tassel to the corner of the garment, as if it were the stalk on which this flower grew; or it may have been a prominent blue thread in the tassel itself. The later Jews seem to have understood it in this sense, and concerned themselves greatly with the symbolical arrangements of the blue and other threads, and the method in which they were knotted together, so as to set forth the whole law with all its several commandments. The later Jews, however, have always contrived, with all their minute observance, to break the plain letter of the law: thus the modern talith is an under, and not an upper, garment. Numbers 15:38(cf. Deuteronomy 22:12). The command to wear Tassels on the Edge of the Upper Garment appears to have been occasioned by the incident just described. The Israelites were to wear ציצת, tassels, on the wings of their upper garments, or, according to Deuteronomy 22:12, at the four corners of the upper garment. כּסוּת, the covering in which a man wraps himself, synonymous with בּגד, was the upper garment, consisting of a four-cornered cloth or piece of stuff, which was thrown over the body-coat (see my Bibl. Archol. ii. pp. 36, 37), and is not to be referred, as Schultz supposes, to the bed-coverings also, although this garment was actually used as a counterpane by the poor (see Exodus 22:25-26). "And upon the tassel of the wing they shall put a string of hyacinth-blue," namely, to fasten the tassel to the edge of the garment. ציצת (fem., from ציץ, the glittering, the bloom or flower) signifies something flowery or bloom-like, and is used in Ezekiel 8:3 for a lock of hair; here it is applied to a tassel, as being made of twisted threads: lxx κράσπεδα; Matthew 23:5, "borders." The size of these tassels is not prescribed. The Pharisees liked to make them large, to exhibit openly their punctilious fulfilment of the law. For the Rabbinical directions how to make them, see Carpzov. apparat. pp. 197ff.; and Bodenschatz, kirchliche Verfassung der heutigen Juden, iv. pp. 11ff.
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