Mike, I appreciate the comment about woolen clothing, I had not actually looked at it that way. Makes total sense, and not surprising like what Old John Gill wrote over 250 year ago….
which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves; for these “loved to go in long clothing”, Mar 12:38.
בטלית, in a garment which reached to the feet, and was made of the wool of sheep. The Babylonish garment Achan saw and stole, Rab says (r), was איצטלא דמילתא, a garment called “melotes”: which is the very Greek word the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews uses for sheep skins, persecuted saints wandered about in, Heb 11:37 and the gloss upon the place, in the Talmud referred to, says, that this was טלית של צמר נקי, “a talith”, or “garment of pure wool”; and Jarchi (s) says, that
“it was the way of deceivers, and profane men, to cover themselves, בטלי־תאם, “with their talith”, or long garment, “as if they were righteous men”, that persons might receive their lies.”
All which agrees very well with the Pharisees, who would have been thought to have been holy and righteous, humble, modest, and self-denying men; when they were inwardly full of hypocrisy and iniquity, of rapine, oppression, and covetousness; and, under a pretence of religion, “devoured widows’ houses”. Though, it seems, by what follows, that Christ has respect, at least also, to such, who bore his name, and came in his name, though not sent by him, and called him Lord, and prophesied, and cast out devils, and did many wonderful works in his name; who, that they might get the good will and affections of the people, clothed themselves, not in garments made of sheep’s wool, but in the very skins of sheep, with the wool on them, in imitation of the true prophets, and good men of old; pretending great humility, and self-denial, and so “wore a rough garment to deceive”, Zec 13:4 when they were inwardly greedy dogs, grievous wolves, of insatiable covetousness; and, when opportunity offered, spared not the flock to satisfy their rapacious and devouring appetites. The Jews speak of a “wolfish humility”; like that of the wolf in the fable, which put on a sheep skin.
“There are some men, (says one of their (t) writers,) who appear to be humble, and fear God in a deceitful and hypocritical way, but inwardly lay wait: this humility our wise men call ענוה זאבית, “wolfish humility”.”
Such is this our Lord inveighs against, and bids his followers beware of.
(r) T. Bab. Sanhedrim, fol. 41. 1. (s) In Zech. xiii. 4. (t) Abarbinel Nachalath Abot, fol. 192. 1.