314. Girdle Running Footmen

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1. The girdle is one of the most useful articles of Eastern costume, and frequently the most ornamental of them all. With the long loose dress of the Orientals it becomes a necessity, since it would be difficult to walk or run unless the dress were tightened. Hence Elijah “girded up his loins” as a preparation for running. See also 2 Kings 4:29; 9:129Then he said to Gehazi, Gird up thy loins, and take my staff in thine hand, and go thy way: if thou meet any man, salute him not; and if any salute thee, answer him not again: and lay my staff upon the face of the child. (2 Kings 4:29)
1And Elisha the prophet called one of the children of the prophets, and said unto him, Gird up thy loins, and take this box of oil in thine hand, and go to Ramoth-gilead: (2 Kings 9:1)
. Thus the Israelites prepared for their exodus (Ex. 12:1111And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord's passover. (Exodus 12:11)). It is also thought to give strength to the body while engaged in severe bodily labor or exercise, and hence the word is sometimes used figuratively to denote strength. See Job 40:77Gird up thy loins now like a man: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. (Job 40:7); Psalm 65:6; 93:16Which by his strength setteth fast the mountains; being girded with power: (Psalm 65:6)
1The Lord reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the Lord is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved. (Psalm 93:1)
Girdles are of various sizes, and are made of different materials, from calico to cashmere. The rich use silk or linen, and sometimes decorate their girdles with gold, silver, and precious stones. The poor have them of coarser materials, leather being very commonly used. Elijah’s girdle was of leather (2 Kings 1:88And they answered him, He was an hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins. And he said, It is Elijah the Tishbite. (2 Kings 1:8)), so also was that of John the Baptist (Matt. 3:44And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. (Matthew 3:4)).
Graham thus describes the mode of putting on the girdle. “The girdle is put on thus: your slave having folded it the right breadth, holds it at one end, while you take the other and lay it upon your side, and roll yourself round and round, as tight as possible, till you. arrive at the slave, who remains immovable. If you have no slaves, a hook or the branch of a tree will answer the same purpose” (The Jordan and the Rhine, p. 163). When running, the ends of the outer garment are tucked into the girdle.
2. It is still customary to do honor to a king by running before his chariot; and the same honor is conferred upon persons of less distinction. When Mohammed All came to Jaffa, some years ago, with a large army, to quell the rebellion in Palestine, he had his quarters inside the city, while the camp was on the sand-hills to the south. The officers in their passage from camp to headquarters “were preceded by runners, who always kept just ahead of the horses, no matter how furiously they were ridden; and in order to run with the greater ease, they not only girded their loins very tightly, but also tucked up their loose garments under the girdle, lest they should be incommoded by them” (Thomson, The Land and the Book, vol. 2, p. 227).