THE OUTER GARMENT, OR MANTLE
The outer garment which the Palestinian villager wears, is a large cloak which would serve the purpose of a Westerner's overcoat. It is made of wool or goat's hair and sometimes of cotton. It is dark brown and different shades with whitish perpendicular stripes. It serves as a shelter from the wind and rain, and as a blanket at night. It is a more or less common sight to behold a man walking on a hot day wearing his heavy cloak, and if he should be asked why he does so, his answer would be, "What keeps out the cold, keeps out the heat also."
It was this outer garment or mantle with which Elijah smote the waters of Jordan and crossed over with Elisha, and when he was taken up to Heaven this mantle became the property of Elisha (II Kings 2:8-13). The three young men who were cast into the fiery furnace were clad in their mantles as well as their tunics and other garb (Daniel 3:21).
The Law of Moses contained an explicit commandment regarding this outer garment. This is the way the law reads:
"If thou at all take thy neighbor's raiment to pledge, thou shalt deliver it unto him by that the sun goeth down: for that is his covering only, it is his raiment for his skin: wherein shall he sleep? And it shall come to pass, when he crieth unto me, that I will hear; for I am gracious" (Exodus 22:26, 27).
The need for this commandment is easily understood when it is known how the mantle is used at night. Going to bed at night is a very simple matter for the Bedouins or peasants. Mats, rugs, or mattresses are used to lie upon, but the host does not provide any covering. Each person provides his own which consists of his mantle. Being closely woven, it is warm, and if he sleeps out-ofdoors, this covering is even waterproof.
It was because this outer garment was a man's covering by night that the law did not allow anybody taking this as a pledge or security, for this would deprive him of his means of keeping warm while sleeping. Such a garment if taken at all had to be returned by sunset.
A knowledge of this law and its purpose is an aid in understanding certain statements of CHRIST. On one occasion He said: "Him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat [undergarment] also" (Luke 6:29). This order is understood easily, because the outer garment would be the one most easily seized by a robber. But on another occasion He said. "If any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat [undergarment], let him have thy cloak [outer garment] also" (Matthew 5:40). A Jewish court would not award an outer garment as judgment, because of the rule of the Law of Moses already referred to, but could award an undergarment. In such a case JESUS advocated going the "second mile" by giving the outer garment also.
Because of the fullness of the mantle it served as a means of carrying various things therein. The lap was often filled with grain or fruit. JESUS said, "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom" (Luke 6:38). Ruth could put six measures of barley into her mantle (Ruth 3:15). Thus the upper garment served many useful purposes. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]