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The Hebrew words occuring all over the latter parts of Exodus:

שֵׁשׁ מָשְׁזָר

mean some sort of fancy fabric. Is it reasonable to think of this as silk? I was thinking this might be derived from "six" (shesh) for a while, but now I think it is probably an onomatopoiea, meaning a cloth that makes the sound "shesh-shesh" when it rubs against itself. This might be any finely woven cloth, like silk or satin, but I don't know how old these materials are.

I should add that "Mash-zar" is something like "strange-feel", so this is a "strange-feeling shesh-shesh cloth" or else a sixfold cloth of strange-feel. I translated it (wrong, wrong, wrong) as "sixfold wrought cloth" which I then suspected, but I am now sure, is totally wrong, as it implies an extremely coarse fabric, where the other interpretation is as a fine fabric.

What is this stuff? Is there consensus? Could it be silk?

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I am aware that "silk" is not the best interpretation considering that it is used for drapes, but perhaps a finely woven canvas? I just want an idea of what this could be. –  Ron Maimon Apr 1 '12 at 6:03
1  
Silk is extremely old; they have been making it in China for thousands of years. –  Kazark May 23 '12 at 16:54

1 Answer 1

up vote 5 down vote accepted
+50

Definitions

שֵׁשׁ (shesh; Strong's 8336) comes from שַׁיִשׁ (shayish; Strong's 7893), meaning to bleach or whiten. Thus shesh can indicate white/bleached clothe (byssus/linen), or white stone (alabaster/marble). מָשְׁזָר (mashzar) is hophal of שָׁזַר (shazar; Strong's 7806) and means twisted:

Gesenius on *shazar*

Translation Examples

Shesh occurs alone in Exodus 28:5:

Have them use gold, and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and fine linen. (NIV)

So give them fine linen cloth, gold thread, and blue, purple, and scarlet thread. (NLT)

And they shall take gold, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen. (KJV)

Mashzar occurs alone in 39:24:

They made pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen around the hem of the robe. (NIV)

They made pomegranates of blue, purple, and scarlet yarn, and attached them to the hem of the robe. (NLV)

And they made upon the hems of the robe pomegranates of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and twined linen. (KJV)

They occur together in 39:2:

They made the ephod of gold, and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and of finely twisted linen. (NIV)

Bezalel made the ephod of finely woven linen and embroidered it with gold and with blue, purple, and scarlet thread. (NLT)

And he made the ephod of gold, blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen. (KJV)

The NLT scores on precision in the translation of these terms!

Summary

The consensus seems to be that shesh mashzar is fine woven/twisted linen/byssus; I prefer fine woven linen (NLT) after my investigation. It is almost certainly not silk.

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@JonEricson You may notice how keen I am on picking up your bounties... ;) –  Kazark May 23 '12 at 18:31
    
I'll keep offering them if you keep picking them up! (In 5-ish hours, I'll award it. I'm not sure this answer completely answers Ron's question, but it's good enough for me.) –  Jon Ericson May 23 '12 at 18:49
    
@JonEricson Thanks. I sometimes forget to reread the question after answering...edited a bit to answer more directly. –  Kazark May 23 '12 at 19:09
2  
Nicely done. (So much for tonight's research project. :-) ) –  Gone Quiet May 23 '12 at 20:57
    
Fantastic, +1 and accepted, and I am impressed at the persuasive research. I knew the accepted translations, but I couldn't find the roots corresponding, and this does it. –  Ron Maimon May 27 '12 at 5:41

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