A white seed fiber produced by certain plants and used to make fabric. The Hebrew word kar·pasʹ, which may refer to either fine cotton or fine linen, is similar to the Sanskrit word karpasa and the Greek karʹpa·sos. Many modern translations favor the rendering “cotton” at Esther 1:6. It is there mentioned as among the materials used for decorating the palace courtyard during King Ahasuerus’ seven-day banquet at Shushan. The growing of cotton in Persia and in India extends far back into ancient times. While linen seems to have been more widely used in Egypt and Palestine, evidence for the use of cotton there also exists from the first millennium B.C.E. on.
The cotton plant of the Bible account is thought to have been the type classified as Gossypium herbaceum. The bush grows to a height of about 1.5 m (5 ft), blossoms with yellow or sometimes pink flowers, and following the drying up of the flowers, produces the cotton bolls or seed capsules. When ripe, the bolls split open, allowing the fluffy cotton to push out. After the cotton has been collected, the seeds must be picked out, or combed out, by passing the cotton through a gin. The cotton fibers are then ready for final processing and for weaving. Some scholars suggest that the “white fabrics” of the loom workers of Egypt mentioned at Isaiah 19:9 were probably of cotton.—See CLOTH.