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Tuesday, May 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Dictionaries
Purple

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

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ארגמן , Exodus 25:4 , &c; πορφυρα , Mark 15:17; Mark 15:20; Luke 16:19; John 19:2; John 19:5; Revelation 17:4; Revelation 18:12; Revelation 18:16 . This is supposed to be the very precious colour extracted from the purpura or murex, a species of shell fish; and the same with the famous Tyrian dye, so costly, and so much celebrated in antiquity. The purple dye is called in 1Ma_4:23 , "purple of the sea," or sea purple; it being the blood or juice of a turbinated shell fish, which the Jews call חלזון . ( See SCARLET. ) Among the blessings pronounced by Moses upon the tribes of Israel, those of Zebulun and Issachar are, "They shall suck of the abundance of the seas, and of the treasures hid in the sand," Deuteronomy 33:19 . Jonathan Ben Uzziel explains the latter clause thus: "From the sand are produced looking glasses, and glass in general; the treasures, the method of finding and working which, was revealed to these tribes." Several ancient writers inform us, that there were havens in the coasts of the Zebulunites, in which the sand proper for making glass was found. The words of Tacitus are remarkable: "Et Belus amnis Judaico mari illabitur, circa ejus os lectae arenae admixto nitro in vitrum excoquuntur." "The river Belus falls into the Jewish sea, about whose mouth those sands mixed with nitre are collected, out of which glass is formed." But it seems much more natural to explain "the treasures hid in the sand," of those highly valuable murices and purpurae which were found on the sea coast, near the country of Zebulun and Issachar, and of which those tribes partook in common with their Heathen neighbours of Tyre, who rendered the curious dyes made from those shell fish so famous among the Romans by the names of Sarranum ostrum, Tyrii colores. In reference to the purple vestment, Luke 16:19 , it may be observed that this was not appropriately a royal robe. In the earlier times it was the dress of any of high rank. Thus all the courtiers were styled by the historians purpurati. This colour is more properly crimson than purple; for the LXX, Josephus, and Philo, constantly use πορφυραν to express the Hebrew ארגמן , by which the Talmudists understood crimson; and that this Hebrew word expressed, not the Tyrian purple, but that brought to the city from another country, appears from Ezekiel 27:7 . The purple robe put on our Saviour, John 19:2; John 19:5 , is explained by a Roman custom, the dressing of a person in the robes of state, as the investiture of office. Hence the robe brought by Herod's or the Roman soldiers, scoffingly, was as though it had been the pictae vestes usually sent by the Roman senate. In Acts 16:14 , Lydia is said to be "a seller of purple." Mr. Harmer styles purple the most sublime of all earthly colours, having the gaudiness of red, of which it retains a shade, softened with the gravity of blue.

Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Purple'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​wtd/​p/purple.html. 1831-2.
 
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