Manners & Customs: Tentmakers Tentmakers in the Ancient World
Patching and Enlarging
PATCHING A TENT AND ENLARGING THE QUARTERS
New tents are very seldom made among the Bedouins. About the only time this happens is when a young groom and bride set up housekeeping for themselves in a different location from that of the groom's parents, and this rarely happens. The usual procedure is to accumulate the goat clippings of a year or so, and with these make a new strip with which to repair the old tent. The women do this work. The section of the tent roof that is most worn is ripped out, and a new piece of the cloth replaces it. The old piece is then used for a side curtain. Each year new strips of cloth replace old ones and the "house of hair" is handed down from father to son without its being completely new or completely old at any one time.12
As the tent-dweller's family grows larger, or as he becomes richer and wishes to enlarge his tent, he does so by simply adding another section to his old tent, very much like the Occidental would build another room on to his house; but there is this difference: instead of building a new tent they just continue patching.
Isaiah had this process in mind when he compared the prophetic prosperity of Israel to a Bedouin tent. "Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes." Isaiah 54:2
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
The Bedouin's home is his tent, which is made of black goat's hair. He calls it beit sha'ar, i.e., "house of hair." It is made of coarse, heavy fabric, and serves to protect the family in winter from the cold winds; in the summer the sides are usually lifted, and the tent serves as a sunshade.3
This goat's hair cloth that is used in making these tents is porous when it is dry, but becomes waterproof after the first rains have shrunk it together.4 The Song of Solomon refers to these black goat's hair tents thus: "I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar" (Song of Solomon 1:5).
The material that makes up the Bedouin tent is the same as the sackcloth of Bible days. It must be remembered that this Oriental sackcloth is not at all like the Occidental burlap, but is rather a material made of prickly, coarse goat's hair.5
The Apostle John compares darkness to this sackcloth: "The sun became black like sackcloth of hair" (Revelation 6:12). In Bible times sackcloth was worn as a sign of sorrow (Genesis 37:34; II Samuel 3:31), as a sign of humility (I Kings 21:27; II Kings 19:1), or as a sign of repentance (Daniel 9:3; Jonah 3:5).
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Tentmaker in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE
tent'-mak-er (~skenopoios): Mentioned only once (Acts 18:3).
Paul's native province of Cilicia was noted for its goats'
hair cloth which was exported under the name of cilicium and
was used largely for tentmaking. We are told in the passage
mentioned that Paul dwelt with Aquila and Priscilla, and
worked with them at tent-making (compare Acts 20:34).
Because of the large use of tents by the Hebrew people, there has been a great demand for tentmakers. Besides the ordinary tent used as a dwelling, many portable tents were made for the use of travelers. In New Testament times it was the custom to teach every Jewish boy some trade. As JESUS was a carpenter, so Paul was a tentmaker. Paul practiced this trade in company with Aquila at Corinth (Acts 18:1-3). Rough goat's hair was used in making these tents, and Paul had learned to cut the cloth straight, even as he did the straight interpretation of GOD's word43 (cf. II Timothy 2:15).
Dr. Edersheim says: "In Alexandria the different trades sat in the synagogue arranged into guilds, and Paul could have no difficulty in meeting in the bazaar of his trade with the likeminded Aquila and Priscilla with whom to find a lodging." [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]