Diverse (כַּלאִיַם, of two sorts, heterogeneous, Le 19:19; De 22:9) kinds of materials, animals, or products, the Jews were forbidden to bring together (comp. Joseph. Ant. 9:8, 20), as being "confusion," i.e., unnatural hybridization. Among such commingling of incompatible or incongruent things are specified:
1. Not to wear garments which were woven of two kinds of stuff, particularly of wool and linen (linsey-woolsey);
2. Not to sow a field partly with one kind of seed and partly with another, SEE AGRICULTURE;
3. Not to yoke an ox and an ass together to the plow (q.v.);
4. Nor to pair different species of animals in breeding (e.g. to procure no mules). A legal impediment is attached, it is true, to only the second of these ordinances, namely, the rendering the produce of the field unmerchantable (De 19:9); but a similar result is doubtless to be understood as applying to each prohibition, and to all other amalgamations. There is also some ambiguity in the statute itself, e.g. whether the "field" (שָׂדֶה) of the passage in Leviticus be tantamount to the "vineyard" (כֶּרֶם) of the parallel in Deut., and also in the sense of the commingling of the "seed" (זֶרִע); but the laxity of Hebrew idiom authorizes a liberal and comprehensive construction of the enactment, as designed to interdict any combination of crops (whether in separate rows or commingled broadcast) upon the same piece of tilled ground, orchard, etc.; and such was the interpretation of the Jews (Mishna, Kilaim, 4-7). SEE SEED. The design of these prescriptions was doubtless to effect a still greater distinction between the chosen people of God and the heathen, who practiced all these and other sorts of promiscuous unions, and also to engender and cultivate a nicer sense of propriety and purity in the Jewish mind, as in the case of many other apparently nice discriminations relating to daily life. SEE CLEAN and SEE UNCLEAN, etc. Another reason has been thought to be the idea that Jehovah, as the author of nature, had a jealous regard to the preservation of its varied features intact and distinct (see Philippson, Pentat. page 631). The Talmud contents itself (Mishna, Kilaim, 1:4) with giving detailed regulations upon each of the ordinances in question; of these, in connection with Josephus, it will be sufficient to notice only the most important.
(a.) With regard to the prohibition of hybridizing animals (as the ass and the horse, the sheep and the goat; such only as belong to the same genus are capable of this), Josephus (Ant. 4:8, 20) and Philo (Opp. 2:307) imply that it had its ground in the moral effect of such irregular license upon the human beings, who were in danger thereby not only of trampling upon the Creator's ordinances (which fix a natural barrier between different species), but also of being incited to bestial commerce and unnatural appetites (comp. also the Rabbinical citations in Hottinger, Juris Hebraeorum leges, page 374 sq.). Mules (q.v.) may have been imported from other countries (Ewald even imagines that these were not included in the prohibition, Israel. Alterth. Page 222), since the Jews were only forbidden the rearing, not the use of them.
(b.) Respecting the coupling of the ox and the ass as beasts of draught (Frisch, De vero sensu legis De 20:10, Lips. 1744, absurdly includes this under the foregoing rule), Josephus (ut sup.) bases the prohibition on the ground of humanity, as also Philo (Opp. 2:370; so Schwabe, in the Kirchenzeitung, 1834, No. 20, on account of their inequality in strength). Michaelis (Mos. Recht, 4:347), on the other hand, thinks it refers to some antique notions relating to beasts of burden; but later (Bertholdt's Journ. 4:353) he inclines to the opinion which refers it to the analogy of the copulation of the horse and ass. According to the Mishna (Kilaim, 8:3), the offense of yoking together different animals (so it extends the law, ib. 2 sq.) was punished with forty blows!
(c.) As to the interdict of clothing composed partly of wool, Josephus (Ant. 4:8, 11) gives as its ground that such garments constituted the priestly costume; but this is open to doubt, although the Mishna (Kilaim, 9:1) assigns the same reason. The Talmud has many regulations and restrictions concerning this precept. "Wool," according to this authority, is only sheep's wool; to weave camel's hair and linen together was permitted (ib. 9:1). Towels, grave-clothes, blankets for asses, and the like — in short, whatever was merely laid on, but not worn — are interpreted as not coming within the province of the law. On the other hand, weavers and fullers must put their manufacturer's mark in cloths only by means of colors of the same kind (ib. 9:10). The whole enactment would probably receive a clearer light were the meaning of the word שִׁעִטנֵז (shadtnez' [q.v.], rendered "linen and woolen" in Le 19:19; "garment of divers sorts" in De 22:11; Sept. κίβδηλον, i.e. adulterated, not genuine) well understood; but its etymology is obscure; that proposed by Bochart (Hieroz. 1:486), and that of Buxtorf (Lex. Talm. col. 2483), both of whom seek the origin in the Shemitic languages, have little probability; nor is that entirely satisfactory (see Gesenius, Thes. Hebrews page 1456) which is suggested by Jablonsky (Opusc. 1:294, ed. Te Water) and by Forster (De bysso AEgypt. c. 95), who refer it back to the Coptic word shoutnes, i.e., fibrous byssus (see Rosenmüller, Scholia in loc. Levit.). SEE LINEN. The Jews at Muscat, in Arabia, disregard this law (Niebuhr, Beschr. page 157).