From: Christopher Hutson (
Date: Wed Oct 06 1999 - 13:24:31 EDT

Jim West suggests "roofing thatch," wile Margaret Wilkins argues that Rahab
was preparing flax for spinning and weaving into cloth.

Margaret's explanation sounds more plausible to me. Jim, do we have
archaeological evidence for thatched roofs in early Iron Age Palestine? Is
there any archaeological or literary evidence that flax in particular was
used this way? As far as I know, houses were typically built with flat
roofs made of poles covered with mud and plaster. I never heard of a
thatched roof in ancient Palestine. But what do I know? Can anyone cite
evidence for thatched roofing?

In support of Margaret, I cite here the comments of another spinner and
weaver, Elizabeth Wayland Barber, who wrote the fascinating book _Women's
Work, The First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times_ (NY
& London: Norton, 1994). Here is an excerpt from page 190, part of a
chapter on linen production in Egypt:

"To obtain the fibers from the dried flax, one has to keep it wet or damp
just long enough to rot the fleshy part of the stem away from the tough,
usable fibers. Although we have no depictions in Egypt of this necessary
process, called retting, women in nearby Palestine spread their flax out in
great quantity on the fields or flat rooftops and retted it from the
dampness of the nightly dew, as we learn from a cloak-and-dagger scene in
the Old Testament: 'But she [Rahab] had brought [the fugitives] up to the
roof of the house, and hid them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid
in order upon the roof."

Barber also points out that Exodus 35-39 contains several references to the
production of linen cloth from spun flax.

So it appears to me that Margaret is on the right track with LINOKALAMHN in
the Rahab story.


Christopher R. Hutson
          Hood Theological Seminary
          Salisbury, NC 28144

>From: "Margaret Wilkins" <>
>To: Biblical Greek <>
>Date: Wed, 6 Oct 1999 14:38:47 +0100
>As a spinner I'm going to dare to take issue with Jim West over Rahab's
>LINOKALAMHN. What she hid the spies under were stalks of the flax plant
>laid out on her roof (EPI TOU DWMATOS, as the LXX says), perhaps to dry
>after they had been soaked to remove the outer layer of the stalk to reveal
>and soften the spinnable fibres inside.
>Not many people today spin flax for pleasure (I think I've only ever met
>person who's tried it) as the plants are messy to prepare and the fibres
>hard on the hands. But it does make very strong and durable cloth. Apart
>from her day job, so to speak, Rahab probably helped to support the family
>whose safety she was so concerned for, and my guess would be that like the
>woman in Proverbs 31 she spun and wove her flax to make clothes for them
>perhaps to sell too.
>Margaret Wilkins
>Walsall, UK

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