Fringe (tassels) on garments (Numbers 15)

God’s command to affix tassels to the hems of Israelite garments carried rich symbolism in the ancient world. People perceived the hem of a garment to be an extension of the wearer’s person and status (cf. Ruth 3:9, 1 Samuel 24:11, 20, Matthew 9:9:21, 23:5; note that the connection in most of these references would have been understood by ancient Hebrews/Jews, although it may not be explicitly stated). So strongly did the hem represent the wearer’s identity that legally binding agreements were sealed by impressing the hem as a “signature” onto the wet clay tablet of a recorded contract.

In Israel, fringed hems with twisted cords of blue marked the weavers’ community as being consecrated to the Lord (Numbers 15:37-40). The prescribed blue colour of the tassels was reminiscent of the “sacred” blue textiles used to make tabernacle coverings and high priestly garments (Exodus 26:31, 28:31). Israelites affixed these tassels to their garments to jog their memories in terms of the commandments the keeping of which would make them holy. God’s people were to be set apart by dress and observance of the law as “a kingdom og priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6).

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