(רָקִם, rakam', to variegate, Ex 35:35; Ex 38:23; elsewhere "needle- work," etc.; שָׁבִוֹ, shabats', to interweave, Ex 28:39; "set," Ex 38:20). SEE BROIDERED. If these passages are correctly rendered, the Israelites must have known the art of embroidery. In several passages, also, an equivalent expression is used — needle-work — and used so as to imply that not plain sewing, but ornamental work, was evidently meant (Ex 26:36; Jg 5:30; Ps 45:14, etc.). The Hebrew women were undoubtedly indebted to their residence in Egypt for that perfectness of finish in embroidery which was displayed in the service of the tabernacle, and in the preparation of the sacerdotal robes directed to be worn by the high-priest (Ex 28:29). The colored figures in the cloth of the Hebrews are thought by most authors to have been partly the product of the weaver in colors, whose art appears the superior, and partly that of the embroiderer in colors. The notices of Egyptian history, confirmed by the monumental remains, give reason for believing that at a comparatively early period they had made wonderful attainments in this line. For example, a corslet is mentioned by Herodotus as having been presented by Amasis, king of Egypt, to the Lacedaemonians, which was of linen, each thread composed of 360 finer threads, and ornamented with numerous figures of animals, worked in gold and cotton (Herod. 3:47). This was many centuries indeed after the Exodus; but its testimony reaches back to a much earlier time, as such a beautiful and elaborate piece of workmanship could not have been produced without ages of study and application to the art. Wilkinson says, "Many of the Egyptian stuffs presented various patterns worked in colors by the loom, independent of those produced by the dyeing or printing process; and so richly composed that they vied with cloths embroidered by the needle. The art of embroidery," he adds, "was commonly practiced in Egypt" (3:128) referring in proof, however, simply to passages in Scripture, and taking them in the sense put upon them in the authorized version, sanctioned by Gesenius and the rabbins. The Egyptian sails, says the same author, were some of them embroidered with fanciful devices, representing the phoenix, flowers, and other emblems. This, however, was confined to the pleasure-boats of the nobles and king. That this was done even in the early ages is evident from the paintings at Thebes, which show sails ornamented with various colors, of the time of Rameses III. The devices are various; the most common is the phoenix (Eze 27:7). The Egyptian ladies of rank wore splendid dresses of needle-work (Ps 45:13-14). (See Wilkinson's Ancient Egyptians, abridgm. 2:81; Gesenius, Hebrews Thesaur., s.v., ut sup.)
The art of embroidery became hereditary in certain families of the Israelites, but finally fell into desuetude (1Ch 4:21).
In later times, the Babylonians were the most noted of all the Asiatic nations for the weaving of cloth of different colors, with gold threads introduced into the woof. These Assyrian dresses are mentioned as an article of commerce by Eze 27:24, and occur even as early as the time of Jos 7:21. They formed, perhaps, the "dyed attire and broidered work" so often mentioned in Scripture as the garments of princes and the costly gifts of kings. The ornaments upon them may either have been dyed, worked in the loom, or embroidered with the needle (Jg 5:30) (See Layard's Nineveh, 1st series, 2:313.) SEE WOMAN; SEE WEAVING. (See further in Adam's Roman Antiquities, page 372; Miss Lambert's Hand-book of Needlework, London and New York, 1846.) SEE NEEDLEWORK.