SACKCLOTH is a texture of great antiquity. In Hebrew it is called sak, a word which means both sack and sackcloth. It was generally made of the hair of goats or of camels, was of a dark color, and very coarse, rough, and thick. It was used for tents, sacks, and strainers, besides being worn as a badge of mourning. When used for mourning, it was sometimes worn next to the skin, which it must have chafed by its harshness, sometimes it was put on over the outer garments, or instead of them, and sometimes spread under one upon the ground.

The cut at the head of this article gives us some idea of a person's appearance when clothed in an outer garment of sackcloth. This garment is simply a sack with holes for the head and arms. A girdle of similar material confines its loose folds at the waist. When thus clothed, it is the custom to sprinkle ashes upon the head and face. 

When Joseph's brethren brought his coat of many colors to their father, and he thought that Joseph had been devoured by wild beasts, Jacob put on sackcloth and mourned many days. Job, in his great affliction, sewed sackcloth upon his skin, and mourned and wept before God.

Sackcloth and ashes were not only used when mourning, but were used to denote humility and self-abasement. When Jonah came to the city of Nineveh with the cry, "Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown," the king commanded that man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God.

When word came to King Ahab, through the prophet Elijah, that the Lord was displeased with his course, and that punishment would surely follow, "he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly."

Joel, in speaking of the judgments of God, commands the people to gird themselves, and lament, and the ministers to "lie all night in sackcloth." As the wearing of sackcloth denoted humility, Joel brings this custom down to our time by using it in a figurative sense, that when the Lord sends judgments upon his people, they must humble themselves, that peradventure the Lord will turn from his anger.

V. A. M.