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Hebrew Thoughts

shâchôr - שָׁחוֹר (Strong's #7838)
Black, dark

shâchôr 'black, dark' שָׁחוֹר (Strong's #7838)

"I am black, but comely" (Song of Songs 1:5, JPS)

Hebrew has several words to describe being dark or black, whether of face, skin, hair, mood or the weather. One such is שָׁחוֹר shâchôr "black" (Strong's #7838, x6) coming from שָׁחַר shâchar "to be black" (Strong's #7835, x1) which only occurs in Job 30:30, "My skin is black...burned with heat".

Hebrew's words for colours are not concrete chromatic colour charts but poetic terms derived from nature. Indeed, most ancient cultures lacked a word for blue at all. Even the biblical "blue" is more violet, somewhere between red and purple - תְּכֵלֶת tekhêleth "blue-violet" (Strong's #8504, x50).

Other words translated as "black" include: כָּמַר kâmar "black" (Strong's #3648, x4) from the idea of the heat of the sun, used in Lamentations 5:10; קָדַר qâdar "be dark, mourn" (Strong's #6937, x17) translated as "darken, blacken" sometimes and often used of moods, mourning, or the weather; another is סוֹחֶרֶת çôwchereth "black" (Strong's #5508, x1) used of a type of onyx black marble, only used in Esther 1:6.

שָׁחוֹר shâchôr is also related to another word spelled the same as שָׁחַר shâchar "to be black" which is "to seek early, earnestly" (Strong's #7836, x12). The similarity probably relates to an earlier affinity between the words meaning dawning of the sun, that period of darkness that begins to be illuminated, and indicates again that שָׁחוֹר shâchôr means tanned, darkened by the sun.

שָׁחוֹר shâchôr is used of the priests checking for leprosy, looking for "black" hairs in a scab (Leviticus 13:31,37) and of the black-haired chariot horses described in Zechariah's vision (Zech 6:2,6).

Song of Songs 5:10-11: "My beloved is white and ruddy...His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are curled, and black as a raven" - here, שָׁחוֹר shâchôr is used for hair that is "black as a raven" and צַח tsach "white" (Strong's #6703, x4) from צָחַח tsâchach "to glow whiter" (Strong's #6705, x1) is used of the beloved's visage, more his brightness, for he is also described as "ruddy" אָדם ’âdhôm "reddish" (Strong's #122, x9).

Song of Songs 1:5-6: "I am black, but comely...Look not upon me, that I am swarthy, for the sun has tanned me" - so render the JPS, NAS but the KJV has "black" and NKJ "dark", instead of "swarthy", the Hebrew in the first instance is שָׁחוֹר shâchôr but in the second, is the related שְׁחַרְחר shechar'chôr "blackish" (Strong's #7840, x1). The rendering "black but comely/beautiful" is slightly misleading for the Hebrew word translated as "but" is more commonly the word "and".


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'Hebrew Thoughts'

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