Tzitzits are braided chains, not tassels or fringes

June 16, 2016
Mistranslations

Wrong translations lead to wrong applications and twisting of the truth. Wearing braided chains (Tzitzits) are an important precept because it reminds us on Yahuah's Instructions (Torah). Let's translate the word Tzitzit correctly into English to remove confusion. Tzitzit is not a translation, it's a transliteration. (The image is above is only to show that the pattern is a chain-like braid, not that we need to wear metal chains)

Incorrect application based on wrong translation

This guy was trying to be faithful to what he read in the scriptures and added his fringes with a blue thread to his clothes. See what a wrong translation can cause.

 

I agree that we should use free translations but we need to use our common sense too. The words "fringes" or "tassels" are the result of free translation without common sense and proper research. In my post titled Bible: the book lost in translation, and how to get it back I go into more details about proper translation principles.

"Tzitzit" means "bunch" or "chain"

We have two places in Yahuah's Instructions that require us to create braided chains for ourselves and to keep them on the four corners of our clothes. These are to remind us of Yahuah's fatherly Instructions. Most believers who observe Yahuah's Instructions call this a "tzitzit". While the first place in Scripture indeed reads "tzitzit" in Hebrew, the second reads "gedil". Let's look at these two verses and the meaning of both words.

The first instance reads "tzitzit":

Yahuah spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and tell them that they should make themselves fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put on the fringe of each border a cord of blue: and it shall be to you for a fringe, that you may look on it, and remember all Yahuah’s commandments, and do them; and that you not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you use to play the prostitute; that you may remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God. I am Yahuah your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am Yahuah your God.”

Numbers 15:37-41

The Hebrew word that is translated to tassels or fringes is

צִיצִת

transliterated to English as

tsiytsith or tzitzit

צִיצִת tsîytsith, tsee-tseeth'; feminine of H6731; a floral or wing-like projection, i.e. a fore-lock of hair, a tassel:—fringelock.

Strong's

So we could translate it "tzitzit" as "tassel", "fringe" or "lock" according to Strong's concordance.

Here's an image search for the word "tassel":

Credits: DuckDuckGo

Here's an image search result for the word combination "clothing fringe". First, I tried to search for "fringe" but only some sort of movie called "Fringe" came up. That's why I added the word "clothing" to the search term.

Credits: DuckDuckGo

Probably tassel is the closest to the real thing but still not particularly what tzitzits looks like...

But let's see where else this word is used to get more understanding on it's meaning in context.

He stretched out the form of a hand, and took me by a lock of my head; and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and the sky, and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem, to the door of the gate of the inner court that looks toward the north; where there was the seat of the image of jealousy, which provokes to jealousy.

Ezekiel 8:3

The word "lock" is a translation of the Hebrew word "tzitzit". I wonder why did they translate the Hebrew word "tzitzit" once as "lock" and once as "fringe" or "tassel"?

But let's look at this rather interesting second verse. It appears to me that the prophet Ezekiel was grabbed by a bunch of his hair. Imagine that Yahuah would grab you by your hair and lift you up.

‍I took a photo of myself to demonstrate this.

The word "bunch" is defined as:

group of things of the same kind that are held or tied together or that grow together

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

What we see from the story of Ezekiel is that that the word "tzitzit" means a "bunch". Putting it in context Yahuah tells us to put a bunch of threads tied together.

It would then read something like:

Yahuah spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and tell them that they should make themselves a bunch of threads tied together in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put on the bunch of threads tied together of each border a cord of blue: and it shall be to you for a bunch of threads tied together, that you may look on it, and remember all Yahuah’s commandments, and do them; and that you not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you use to play the prostitute; that you may remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God. I am Yahuah your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am Yahuah your God.”

Numbers 15:37-41

When a "bunch of tied together" events occur we refer to it as "chain of events". So we could also translate "tzitzit" as "chain" in this context. The expression "Bunch of threads" is probably not the best way to translate "tzitzit". A "Bunch of threads" is a "chain of threads" or simply "chain" made of threads. This would lead us to the following translation:

Yahuah spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and tell them that they should make themselves chains in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put on the chains of each border a cord of blue: and it shall be to you for a chains, that you may look on it, and remember all Yahuah’s commandments, and do them; and that you not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you use to play the prostitute; that you may remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God. I am Yahuah your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am Yahuah your God.”

Numbers 15:37-41

"Gedil" means "arrangement" or "braid"

The second instance about this commandment I was referring to reads "gedil":

You shall make yourselves fringes on the four corners of your cloak with which you cover yourself.

Deuteronomy 22:12

The Hebrew word that is translated to tassels or fringes is

צִיצִת

transliterated to English as

gedil

גְּדִל gᵉdil, ghed-eel'; from H1431 (in the sense of twisting); thread, i.e. a tassel or festoon:—fringe, wreath.

Strong's

So we could translate "gedil" as tassel, fringe or wreath.

But let's see where else this word is used to get more understanding on it's meaning in context.

There were nets of checker work, and wreaths of chain work, for the capitals which were on the top of the pillars; seven for the one capital, and seven for the other capital.

1 Kings 7:17

The word "wreath" is translated from the Hebrew word "gedil". I wonder why did they translate the Hebrew word "gedil" once as "wreath" and once as "fringe" or "tassel"?

It is apparent that the word "wreath" is in this verse inseparable from the word "chain". The word "wreath" is referring to the word "chain". They make up the expression "wreaths of chain" (gedil sharaherah). In the same verse the word "wreaths of chain" is explained. Seven chains were arranged together for one capital and another seven chains were arranged together for the other capital.

The word "wreath" is defined as:

an arrangement of leaves, flowers, fruits, etc., in the shape of a circle that is used for decoration

Merriam Webster Dictionary

Credits: DuckDuckGo

What we see from the story of 1 Kings is that that the word "gedil" means an arrangement of chains. This arrangement could be twisting, braiding or any other type of arrangement. Putting it in context Yahuah tells us to put arranged threads on the four corners of our clothes.

It would then read something like:

You shall make yourselves arranged threads on the four corners of your cloak with which you cover yourself.

Deuteronomy 22:12

The way chains are arranged is probably the closest to braiding. So we could translate "gidil" as "braid". This would lead us to the following translation:

You shall make yourselves braids on the four corners of your cloak with which you cover yourself.

Deuteronomy 22:12

"Gedil Tzitzit" means "braided chain"

Previously we came up with the following translations:

Yahuah spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and tell them that they should make themselves chains in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put on the chains of each border a cord of blue: and it shall be to you for chains, that you may look on it, and remember all Yahuah’s commandments, and do them; and that you not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you use to play the prostitute; that you may remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God. I am Yahuah your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am Yahuah your God.”

Numbers 15:37-41

You shall make yourselves braids on the four corners of your cloak with which you cover yourself.

Deuteronomy 22:12

Putting it all together, we can see that what we're looking at is a braided chain. Braided chain makes sense in English. It's a free translation to carry through the meaning of the original language.

Credits: DuckDuckGo

Especially, if we compare this to what the Karaite Jews (Faithful to Scripture Jews) use:

Credits: Karaite Corner

Putting it all together we could translate these verses as:

Yahuah spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and tell them that they should make themselves braided chains in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put on the braided chains of each border a cord of blue: and it shall be to you for braided chains, that you may look on it, and remember all Yahuah’s commandments, and do them; and that you not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you use to play the prostitute; that you may remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God. I am Yahuah your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am Yahuah your God.”

Numbers 15:37-41

You shall make yourselves braided chains on the four corners of your cloak with which you cover yourself.

Deuteronomy 22:12

Now this makes sense. The translation is applicable and leads to correct application. The word "tzitzit" can be translated, so we should translate it. The translation I'm proposing is "braided chains".

Barnabas Nagy
Barnabas Nagy

I’m Barnabas, a servant of Yahuah, who loves writing songs and blogging about the truth. Together with my lovely wife I run a small homestead where we raise free range organic chicken, ducks and turkey. We also have a garden where we grow seasonal vegetable. As you can tell, I'm keen on healthy living, self-expression and creativity. Continue reading