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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Color

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Names of colors expressly mentioned as such in the Old Test. are: (a.)

לָבָן, laban', white; עִח, tsach; bright; חוָּר, chivvar', pale; שֵׂיב, seyb, gray; צָחֹר, tsachor', cream-colored; (b.) צָהוֹב, tsahob', yellow; יִרָק; yarak', green; (c.) אָדֹם, adom', red; שָׂרֹק sarok', fox-colored; תּוֹלִעִת שָׁנַי, tola'ath-shani' crimson שָׁשֵׁר, shasher', ochre-red; (d.) אִרְגָּמוֹן, argamo.'', purple, תּכלֶת; teke'th, violet; (e.) שָׁחֹר sliacho', black; חוּם, chum, brown; (f.) נָקֹד, nakod`, speckled; תָּלוּא, talu', spotted; בָּרֹד, bared', pie- bald; עָקֹר, striped. In the N.T. the colors mentionod are: λευκός, white; μέλας, black; πυῥῤός, red; χλωρός, green; πορφύρα, πορφύρεος, purple κόκκινος, scarlet. The following statements cover the whole subject in general.

The terms relative to color, occurring in the Bible, may be arranged in two classes, the first including those applied to the description of natural objects, the second those artificial mixtures which were employed in dyeing or painting. In an advanced state of art, such a distinction can hardly be said to exist; all the hues of nature have been successfully imitated by the artist; but among the Jews, who fell even below their contemporaries in the cultivation of the fine arts, and to whom painting was unknown until a late period, the knowledge of artificial colors was very restricted. Dyeing was the object to which the colors known to them were applied: so exclusively, indeed, were the ideas of the Jews limited to this application of color, that the name of the dye was transferred without any addition to the material to which it was applied. The Jews were not, however, by any means insensible to the influence of color: they attached definite ideas to the various tints, according to the use made of them in robes and vestments; and the subject exercises an important influence on the interpretation of certain portions of Scripture. (See DYE).

I. The natural colors noticed in the Bible are white, black, red, yellow, and green. It will be observed that only three of the prismatic colors are represented in this list; blue, indigo, violet, and orange are omitted. Of the three, yellow is very seldom noticed; it was apparently regarded as a shade of green, for the same term greenish (יְרִקְרִק ) is applied to gold (Psalms 68:13), and to the leprous spot (Leviticus 13:49), and very probably the golden (צָהֹב ) or yellow hue of the leprous hair (Leviticus 13:30-32) differed little from the greenish spot on the garments (Leviticus 13:49). Green is frequently noticed, but an examination of the passages in which it occurs will show that the reference is seldom to color. The Hebrew terms are raanan' (רִעֲנָן ) and yarak (יָרָק ): the first of these applies to what is vigorous and flourishing; hence it is metaphorically employed as an image of prosperity (Job 15:32; Psalms 37:35; Psalms 52:8; Psalms 92:14; Jeremiah 11:16; Jeremiah 17:8; Daniel 4:4; Hosea 14:8); it is invariably employed wherever the expression "green tree" is used in connection with idolatrous sacrifices, as though with the view of conveying the idea of the outspreading branches, which served as a canopy to the worshippers (Deuteronomy 12:2; 2 Kings 16:4); elsewhere it is used of that which is fresh, as oil (Psalms 92:10), and newly-plucked boughs (Song of Solomon 1:16). The other term, yarak, has the radical signification of putting forth leaves, sprouting (Gesenius, Thes. Heb. p. 632): it is used indiscriminately for all productions of the earth fit for food (Genesis 1:30; Genesis 9:3; Exodus 10:15; Numbers 22:4; Isaiah 15:6; comp. χλωρός, Revelation 8:7; Revelation 9:4), and again for all kinds of garden herbs (Deuteronomy 11:10; 1 Kings 21:2; 2 Kings 19:26; Proverbs 15:17; Isaiah 37:27; contrast the restricted application of our greens); when applied to grass, it means specifically the young, fresh grass (דֶּשֶׁא, de'she, Psalms 37:2) which springs up in the desert (Job 39:8). Elsewhere it describes the sickly yellowish hue of mildewed corn (Deuteronomy 28:22; 1 Kings 8:37; 2 Chronicles 6:28; Amos 4:9; Haggai 2:17); and, lastly, it is used for the entire absence of color produced by fear (Jeremiah 30:6; comp. χλωρός, Hom. Il. 10:376); hence χλωρός (Revelation 6:8) describes the ghastly, livid hue of death. In other passages "green" is erroneously used in the A.V. for white (Genesis 30:37; Esther 1:6), young (Leviticus 2:14; Leviticus 23:14), moist (Judges 16:7-8), sappy (Job 8:16), and unripe (Song of Solomon 2:13). Thus it may be said that green is never used in the Bible to convey the impression of proper color. (See GREEN).

The only fundamental color of which the Hebrews appear to have had a clear conception was red; and even this is not very often noticed. They had, therefore, no scientific knowledge of colors, and we cannot but think that the attempt to explain such passages as Revelation 4:3, by the rules of philosophical truth must fail (see Hengstenberg, Comm. in loc.). Instead of assuming that the emerald represents green, the jasper yellow, and the sardine red, the idea intended to be conveyed by these images may be simply that of pure, brilliant, transparent light. The emerald, for instance, was chiefly prized by the ancients for its glittering, scintillating qualities (αἰγλήεις, Orpheus, De lap. p. 608), whence, perhaps, it derived its name (σμάραγδος, from μαρμαίρειν ). The jasper is characterized by John himself (Revelation 21:11) as being crystal-clear (κρυσταλλίζον ), and:ot as having a certain hue. The sardine, may be compared with the amber of Ezekiel 1:4; Ezekiel 1:27, or the burnished brass of Daniel 10:6, or, again, the fine brass, "as if burning in a furnace," of Revelation 1:15, each conveying the impression of the color of fire in a state of pure incandescence. Similarly the beryl, or, rather, the chrysolite (the Hebrew tarshish) may be selected by Daniel 10:6 on account of its transparency. An exception may be made, perhaps, in regard to the sapphire, in as far as its hue answers to the deep blue of the firmament (Exodus 24:10; compare Ezekiel 1:26; Ezekiel 10:1), but even in this case the pellucidity (לַבְנָה, libnah', omitted in A. V., Exodus 24:10) or polish of the stone (comp. Lamentations 4:7) forms an important, if not the main, element in the comparison. The highest development of color in the mind of the Hebrew evidently was light, and hence the predominance given to white as its representative (comp. the connection between λευκός and lux). This feeling appears both in the more numerous allusions to it than to any other color in the variety of terms by which they discriminated the shades from a pale, dull tint (כֵּהֶה, keheh', blackish, Leviticus 13:21 sq.) up to the most brilliant splendor (זֹהִר, zo'har, Ezekiel 8:2; Daniel 12:3) and in the comparisons by which they sought to heighten their ideas of it, an instance of which occurs in the three accounts of the Transfiguration, where the countenance and robes are described as like "the sun" and "the light" (Matthew 17:2), "shining, exceeding white as snow" (Mark 9:3), "glistening" (Luke 9:29). Snow is used eleven times in a similar way, the sun five times, wool four times, milk once. In some instances the point of the comparison is not so obvious, e.g. in Job 38:14, "they stand as a garment" in reference to the white color of the Hebrew dress, and in Psalms 68:13 where the glancing hues of the dove's plumage suggested an image of the brilliant effect of the white holiday costume. Next to white, black, or rather. dark, holds the most prominent place, not only as its opposite, but also as representing the complexion of the Orientals. There were various shades of it, including the brown of the Nile water (whence its name Sihor) the reddish tint of early dawn, to which the complexion of the bride is likened (Song of Solomon 6:10), as well as the lurid hue produced by a flight of locusts (Joel 2:2) and the darkness of blackness itself (Lamentations 4:8).

As before, we have various heightening images, such as the tents of Kedar, a flock of goats, the raven (Song of Solomon 1:5; Song of Solomon 4:1; Song of Solomon 5:11), and sackcloth (Revelation 6:12). Red was also a color of which the Hebrews had a vivid conception; this may be attributed partly to the prevalence of that color in the: outward aspect of the countries and peoples with which they were familiar, as attested by the name Edom, and by the words adamah (earth) and adam (man), so termed either as being formed out of the red earth, or as being red in comparison with the fair color of the Assyrians and the black of the Ethiopians. Red was regarded as an element of personal beauty: comp. 1 Samuel 16:12; Song of Solomon 2:1, where the lily is the red one for which Syria was famed (Pliny 21:11); Song of Solomon 4:3; Song of Solomon 6:7, where the complexion is compared to the red fruit of the pomegranate; and Lamentations 4:7, where the hue of the skin is redder than coral (A. V. "rubies") contrasting with the white of the garments before noticed. The three colors, white, black, and red, were sometimes intermixed in animals, and gave rise to the terms צָחֹר tsahor', dappled (A.V. "white"), probably white and red (Judges 5:10); עָקֹר, akod', ringstreaked, either with white bands on the legs, or white-footed; נָקֹד, nakod', speckled, and טָלָא, tala', spotted, white and black; and lastly בָּרֹד, barod, piebald (A. V. "grizzled"), the spots being larger than in the two former (Genesis 30:32; Genesis 30:35; Genesis 31:10); the latter term is used of a horse (Zechariah 6:3; Zechariah 6:6) with a symbolical meaning: Hengstenberg (Christol. in loc.) considers the color itself to be unmeaning, and that the prophet has added the term strong (A. V. "bay") by way of explanation; Hitzig (Comm. in loc.) explains it, in a peculiar manner, of the complexion of the Egyptians. It remains for us now to notice the various terms applied to these three colors. (See each of the above words in its place.)

1. WHITE. The most common term is לָבָן, laban', which is applied to such objects as milk (Genesis 49:12), manna (Exodus 16:31), snow (Isaiah 1:18), horses (Zechariah 1:8), raiment (Ecclesiastes 1:8); and a cognate word expresses the color of the moon (Isaiah 24:23). צִה tsach, dazzling white, is applied to the complexion (Song of Solomon 5:10); חִוָּר, chivvar', a term of a later age, to snow (Daniel 7:9 only) and to the paleness of shame (Isaiah 29:22, חָוִר ); שַׂיב, sib, to the hair alone. Another class of terms arises from the textures of a naturally white color, as שֵׁשׁ, shesh, and בּוּוֹ, buts. These words appear to have been originally of foreign origin, but were connected by the Hebrews with roots in their own language descriptive of a white color (Gesenius, Thesaur. p. 190,1384). The terms were without doubt primarily applied to the material; but the idea of color is also prominent, particularly in the description of the curtains of the tabernacle (Exodus 26:1), and the priests' vestments (Exodus 28:6). Shesh is also applied to white marble (Esther 1:6; Song of Solomon 5:15); and a cognate word, שׁוֹשָׁן, shoshan', to the lily (Song of Solomon 2:16). In addition to these we meet with חוּר, chur (βύσσος, Esther 1:6; Esther 8:15), and כִּרְפִּס, karpas' (κάρπασος; A. V. green," Esther 1:6), also descriptive of white textures.

White was symbolical of innocence; hence the raiment of angels (Mark 16:5; John 20:12), and of glorified saints (Revelation 19:8; Revelation 19:14), is so described. It was also symbolical of joy (Ecclesiastes 9:8); and, lastly, of victory (Zechariah 6:3; Revelation 6:2). In the Revelations (6:2) the term λευκός is applied exclusively to what belongs to Jesus Christ (Wordsworth's Apoc. p.' 105). (See WHITE).

2. BLACK. The shades of this color are expressed in the terms שָׁחֹר, shachor', applied to the hair (Leviticus 13:31; Song of Solomon 5:11); the complexion (Song of Solomon 1:5), particularly when affected with disease (Job 30:30); horses (Zechariah 6:2; Zechariah 6:6): חוּם, chum, lit. scorched (φαιός, A. V. "brown," Genesis 30:32), applied to sheep; the word expresses the color produced by influence of the sun's rays: קָדִר, kadar', lit. to be dirty, applied to a complexion blackened by sorrow or disease (Job 30:80); mourner's robes (Jeremiah 8:21; Jeremiah 14:2; Malachi 3:14; Zechariah 6:2; Zechariah 6:6; see Plutarch, Pericl. 38; Mishna, Middoth, 5:3; comp. vestes fuscoe, Apulei, Metam. 2, p. 40, Bip.; see generally Gotze, De vestium nigrar. usu, Helmst. 1726); a clouded sky (1 Kings 18:45); night (Micah 3:6; Jeremiah 4:28; Joel 2:10; Joel 3:15); a turbid brook (whence possibly KEDRON), particularly when rendered so by melted snow (Job 6:16). Black, as being the opposite to white, is symbolical of evil (Zechariah 6:2; Zechariah 6:6, Revelation 6:5). (See BLACK).

3. RED. אָרֹם, adom', is applied to blood (2 Kings 3:22); a garment sprinkled with blood (Isaiah 63:2); a heifer (Numbers 19:2); pottage made of lentiles (Genesis 25:30); a horse (Zechariah 1:8; Zechariah 6:2); wine (Proverbs 23:31); the complexion (Genesis 25:25; Song of Solomon 5:10; Lamentations 4:7). אֲרִמְדָם, adamdam', is a slight degree of red, reddish, and is applied to a leprous spot (Leviticus 13:19; Leviticus 14:37). שָׂרֹק, sarok', lit. fox-colored, bay, is applied to a horse (A. V. "speckled;" Zechariah 1:8), and to a species of vine bearing a purple grape (Isaiah 5:2; Isaiah 16:8): the translation "bay" in Zechariah 6:3, A. V. is incorrect. The corresponding term in Greek is πυῤῥός, lit. red as fire. This color was symbolical of bloodshed (Zechariah 6:2; Revelation 6:4; Revelation 12:3). (See RED).

II. ARTIFICIAL COLORS. The art of extracting dyes, and of applying them to various textures, appears to have been known at a very early period. We read of scarlet thread at the time of Zarah's birth (Genesis 38:28); of blue and purple at the time of the Exodus (Exodus 26:1). There is, however, no evidence to show that the Jews themselves were at that period acquainted with the art; the profession of the dyer is not noticed in the Bible, though it is referred to in the Talmud. They were probably indebted both to the Egyptians and the Phoenicians; to the latter for the dyes, and to the former for the mode of applying them. The purple dyes which they chiefly used were extracted by the Phoenicians (Ezekiel 27:16; Pliny 9:60), and in certain districts of Asia Minor (Hom. Il. 4:141), especially Thyatira (Acts 16:14). It does not appear that those particular colors were used in Egypt, the Egyptian colors being produced from various metallic and earthy substances (Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt. 3. 301). On the other hand, there was a remarkable similarity in the mode of dyeing in Egypt and Palestine, inasmuch as the color was applied to the raw material previous to the processes of spinning and weaving (Exodus 35:25; Exodus 39:3; Wilkinson, 3. 125). The dyes consisted of purples, light and dark (the latter being the "blue" of the A. V.), and crimson (A. V. "scarlet"): vermilion was introduced at a late period.

1. PURPLE (אִרְגָּמָן, argaman'; Chaldaic form, אִרְגְּוָנָא, argevana', Daniel 5:7; Daniel 5:16; πορφύρα; purpura). This color was obtained from the secretion of a species of shell-fish (Pliny 9:60), the Murex trunculus of Linnaeus, which was found in various parts of the Mediterranean Sea (hence called πορφύρα θαλασσία, 1 Maccabees 4:23), particularly on the coasts of Phoenicia (Strab. 16:757), Africa (Strab. 17:835) Laconia (Hor. Od. 2:18, 7), and Asia Minor. (See ELISHAH). The derivation of the Hebrew name is uncertain; it has been connected with the Sanscrit ragaman, "tinged with red;" and again with arghamana, "costly" (Hitzig, Comment. in Daniel 5:7). Gesenius, however (Thesaur. p. 1263), considers it highly improbable that a color so peculiar to the shores of the Mediterranean should be described by a word of any other than Shemitic origin, and connects it with the root רָגִם, ragam', to heap up or overlay with color. The coloring matter was contained in a small vessel in the throat of the fish; and as the quantity amounted to only a single drop in each animal, the value of the dye was proportionately high; sometimes, however, the whole fish was crushed (Pliny 9:60).

It is difficult to state with precision the tint described under the Hebrew name. The Greek equivalent was, we know, applied with great latitude, not only to all colors extracted from the shell-fish, but even to other brilliant colors; thus the purple upper garment (ἱματίον πορφυροῦν ) of John 19:2 = the crimson cloak (χλαμὺς κοκκίνη ) of Matthew 27:28 (comp. Pliny 9:62). The same may be said of the Latin purpureus. The Hebrew term seems to be applied in a similarly broad sense in Song of Solomon 7:5, where it either = black (comp. v. 11), or, still better, shining with oil. Generally speaking, however, the tint must be considered as having been defined by the distinction between the purple proper and the other purple dye (A. V. "blue"), which was produced from another species of shell-fish. The latter was undoubtedly a dark violet tint, while the former had a light reddish tinge. Robes of a purple color were worn by kings (Judges 8:26), and by the highest officers, civil and religious; thus Mordecai (Esther 8:15), Daniel (A. V. "scarlet," Daniel 5:7; Daniel 5:16; Daniel 5:29), and Andronicus, the deputy of Antiochus (2 Maccabees 4:38), were invested with purple in token of the offices they held (comp. Xenoph. Anab. 1:5, 8); so also Jonathan, as high-priest (1 Maccabees 10:20; 1 Maccabees 10:64; 1 Maccabees 11:58). They were also worn by the wealthy and luxurious (Jeremiah 10:9; Ezekiel 27:7; Luke 16:19; Revelation 17:4; Revelation 18:16). A similar value was attached to purple robes both by the Greeks (Hom. Od. 19:225; Herod. 9:22; Strab. 14:648) and by the Romans (Virg. Georg. 2:495; Hor. Ep. 12, 21; Suet. Coes. 43; Nero, 32). Of the use of this and the other dyes in the textures of the tabernacle, we shall presently speak. (See PURPLE).

2. BLUE (תְּכֵלֶת, teke'leth; Sept. ὑάκινθος, ὑακίνθινος, ὁλοπόρφυρος, Numbers 4:7; Vulg. hyacinthus, hyacinthinus). This dye was procured from a species of shell-fish found on the coast of Phoenicia, and called by the Hebrews Chilzon (Targ. Pseudo-Jon. in Deuteronomy 33:19), and by modern naturalists Helix ianthina. The Hebrew name is derived, according to Gesenius (Thesaur. p. 1502), from a root signifying to unshell; but according to Hitzig (Comment. in Ezekiel 23:6), from כָּלִל, kalal', in the sense of dulled, blunted, as opposed to the brilliant hue of the proper purple. The tint is best explained by the statements of Josephus (Ant. 3. 7, 7) and Philo that it was emblematic of the sky, in which case it represents not the light blue of our northern climate, but the deep dark hue of the eastern sky (Opp. 1:536). The term adopted by the Sept. is applied by classical writers to a color approaching to black (Hom. Od. 6:231; 23:158; Theoc. Id. 10, 28); the flower, whence the name was borrowed, being, as is well known, not the modern hyacinth, but of a dusky red color (ferrugineus, Virg. Georg. 4:183; celestis luminis hyacinthus, Colum. 9:4, 4). The A. V. has rightly described the tint in Esther 1:6 (margin) as violet; the ordinary term blue is incorrect; the Lutheran translation is still more incorrect in giving it gelbe Seide (yellow silk), and occasionally simply Seide (Ezekiel 23:6). This color was used in the same way as purple. Princes and nobles (Ezekiel 23:6; Sirach 40:4), and the idols of Babylon (Jeremiah 10:9), were clothed in robes of this tint; the riband and the fringe of the Hebrew dress was ordered to be of this color (Numbers 15:38); it was used in the tapestries of the Persians (Esther 1:6). The effect of the color is well described in Ezekiel 23:12, where such robes are termed לְבֻשֵׁי מַכְלוֹל, robes of perfection, i.e. gorgeous robes. We may remark, in conclusion, that the Sept. treats the term תִּחִשׁ, tach'ash (A. V. "badger") as indicative of color; and has translated it ὑακίνθινος, hyacinthine (Exodus 25:5). (See BLUE).

3. SCARLET (CRIMSON, Isaiah 1:18; Jeremiah 4:30). The terms by which this color is expressed in Hebrew vary: sometimes . שָׁנַי, shani', simply is used, as in Genesis 38:28-30; sometimes תּוֹלִעִת שָׁנַי, tola'ath shani',as in Exodus 25:4; and sometimes תּוֹלִעִת, otola'ath, simply, as in Isaiah 1:18. The word כִּרְמַיל, carmil' (A. V. "crimson;" 2 Chronicles 2:7; 2 Chronicles 2:14; 2 Chronicles 3:14) was introduced at a late period, probably from Armenia, to express the same color. The first of these terms (derived from שָׁנָה, shanah', to shine) expresses the brilliancy of the color; the second, תּוֹלִעִת, tola'ath, the worm, or grub, whence the dye was procured, and which gave name to the color occasionally without any addition, just as vermilion is derived from vermiculus. The Sept. generally renders it κόκκινον, occasionally with the addition of such terms as κεκλωσμένον (Exodus 26:1), or διανενησμένον (Exodus 28:8); the Vulgate has it generally coccinum, occasionally coccus bis tinctus (Exodus 28:8), apparently following the erroneous interpretation of Aquila and Symmachus, who render it βίβαφος, double-dyed (Exodus 25:4), as though from שָׁנָה, to repeat. The process of double-dying was, however, peculiar to the Tyrian purples (Pliny 9:39). The dye was produced from an insect, somewhat resembling the cochineal, which is found in considerable quantities in Armenia and other Eastern countries. The Arabian name of the insect is kermez (whence crimson); the Linnaean name is Coccus ilicis. It frequents the boughs of a species of ilex: on these it lays its eggs in groups, which become covered with a kind of down, so that they present the appearance of vegetable galls or excrescences from the tree itself, and are described as such by Pliny, 16:12. The dye is procured from the female grub alone, which, when alive, is about the size of a kernel of a cherry, and of a dark amaranth color, but when dead shrivels up to the size of a grain of wheat, and is covered with a bluish mould (Parrot's Journey to Ararat, p. 114).

The general character of the color is expressed by the Hebrew term חֲמוּוֹ, chamuts' (Isaiah 63:1), lit. sharp, and hence dazzling (compare the expression χρῶμα ὀξύ ), and in the Greek λαμπρά (Luke 23:11), compared with κοκκίνη (Matthew 27:28). The tint produced was crimson rather than scarlet. The only natural object to which it is applied in Scripture is the lips, which are compared to a scarlet thread (Song of Solomon 4:3). Josephus considered it as symbolical of fire (Ant. 3. 7, 7; comp. Philo, 1:536). Scarlet threads were selected as distinguishing marks from their brilliancy (Genesis 38:28; Joshua 2:18; Joshua 2:21), and hence the color is expressive of what is excessive or glaring (Isaiah 1:18). Scarlet robes were worn by the luxurious (2 Samuel 1:24; Proverbs 31:21; Jeremiah 4:30; Lamentations 4:5; Revelation 17:4; Revelation 18:12; Revelation 18:16); it was also the appropriate hue of a warrior's dress from its similarity to blood (Nahum 2:3; comp. Isaiah 9:5), and was especially worn by officers in the Roman army (Pliny 22:3; Matthew 27:28). (See SCARLET).

The three colors above described, purple, blue, and scarlet, together with white, were employed in the textures used for the curtains of the tabernacle, and for the sacred vestments of the priests. The four were used in combination in the outer curtains, the vail, the entrance curtain (Exodus 26:1; Exodus 26:31; Exodus 26:36), and the gate of the court (Exodus 27:16), as also in the high-priest's ephod, girdle, and breastplate (Exodus 28:5-6; Exodus 28:8; Exodus 28:15). The first three, to the exclusion of white, were used in the pomegranates about the hem of the high-priest's robe (Exodus 28:33). The loops of the curtains (Exodus 26:4), the lace of the high-priest's breastplate, the robe of the ephod, and the lace on his mitre, were exclusively of blue (Exodus 28:28; Exodus 28:31; Exodus 28:37). Cloths for wrapping the sacred utensils were either blue (Numbers 4:6), scarlet (8), or purple (13). Scarlet thread was specified in connection with the rites of cleansing the leper (Leviticus 14:4; Leviticus 14:6; Leviticus 14:51), and of burning the red heifer (Numbers 19:6), apparently for the purpose of binding the hyssop to the cedar wood. The hangings for the court (Exodus 27:9; Exodus 38:9), the coats, mitres, bonnets, and breeches of the priests, were white (Exodus 39:27-28). The application of these colors to the service of the tabernacle has led writers both in ancient and modern times to attach some symbolical meaning to them (see Philo and Josephus, ut sup.). The subject has been followed up with a great variety of interpretations, more or less probable (see Krause, De colore sacro, Vit. 1707; Creuzer, Symbolik, 1:125 sq.; Bahr, Symbolik, 1:335 sq.; Friederich, Symbol. d. Mlos. Stifts-hiltte, Lpz. 1841; Stud. u. Krit. 1844, 2:315 sq.). Without entering into a disquisition on these, we will remark that it is unnecessary to assume that the colors were originally selected with such a view; their beauty and costliness is a sufficient explanation of the selection. (See CRIMSON).

4. VERMILION. (שָׁשִׁר, shashar'; Sept. μίλτος; Vulg. sinopis). This was a pigment used in fresco-paintings, either for drawing figures of idols on the walls of temples (Ezekiel 23:14), for coloring the idols themselves (Wisdom of Solomon 13:14), or for decorating the walls and beams of houses (Jeremiah 22:14). The Greek term μίλτος is applied both to minium, red lead, and rubrica, red ochre; the Latin sinopis describes the best kind of ochre, which came from Sinope. Vermilion was a favorite color among the Assyrians (Ezekiel 23:14), as is still attested by the sculptures of Nimroud and Khorsabad (Layard, 2:303). (See VERMILION).

III. Hebrew Symbolical Significance of Colors. Throughout antiquity color occupied an important place in the symbology both of sentiment and of worship. Of the analogies on which these symbolical meanings were founded, some lie on the surface, while others are more recondite. Thus white was everywhere the symbol of purity and the emblem of innocence; hence it was the dress of the high-priest on the day of atonement, his holy dress (Leviticus 16:4; Leviticus 16:32); the angels, as holy (Zechariah 14:5; Job 15:15), appear in white clothing (Mark 16:5; John 20:12; and the bride, the Lamb's wife, was arrayed in white, which is explained as emblematical of the δικαιώματα τῶν ἁγίων (Revelation 19:8). White was also the sign of festivity (Ecclesiastes 9:8; comp. the albatus of Horace, Sat. 2:2, 6) and of triumph (Zechariah 6:3; Revelation 6:2; see Wetstein, N.T. in loc.) As the light-color (comp. Matthew 17:2, etc.) white was also the symbol of glory and majesty (Daniel 7:9; comp. Psalms 104:2; Ezekiel 9:3 sq.; Daniel 12:6 sq.; Matthew 28:3; John 20:12; Acts 10:30). As the opposite of white, black was the emblem of mourning, affliction, calamity (Jeremiah 14:2; Lamentations 4:8; Lamentations 5:10; comp. the atratus and toga pulla of Cicero, in Vatin. 13); it was also the sign of humiliation (Malachi 3:14) and the omen of evil (Zechariah 6:2; Revelation 6:5). Red indicated, poetically, bloodshed and war (Nahum 2:4 [A. V. 3]; Zechariah 6:2; Revelation 6:4).

Green was the emblem of freshness, vigor, and prosperity (Psalm 92:15; 52:10; 37:35). Blue, or hyacinth, or coerulean, was the symbol of revelation; it was pre-eminently the celestial color, even among heathen nations (comp. e.g. Jeremiah 9:10, of the idols of Babylon, and what Eusebius says, Prep. Evang. 3. 11, of the δημιουργός Κνήφ, and the Crishna of the Hindoo mythology); and among the Hebrews it was the Jehovah color, the symbol of the revealed God (comp. Exodus 24:10; Ezekiel 1:26). Hence it was the color predominant in the Mosaic ceremonial; and it was the color prescribed for the ribbon of the fringe in the border of the garment of every Israelite, that as they looked on it they might remember all the commandments of Jehovah (Numbers 15:38-39). With purple, as the dress of kings, were associated ideas of royalty and majesty (Judges 8:26; Esther 8:15; Song of Solomon 3:10; Song of Solomon 7:5; Daniel 5:7; Daniel 5:16; Daniel 5:29; comp. Odyss. 19:225, the pallium purpureum of the Jupiter Capitolinus at Rome, the purpurea vestis of Phoebus [Ovid, Metam. 2:1, 23], the χλαμύδες πορφύραι of the Dioscuri [Pausan. 4:27], the πορφυρογέννητος of the Byzantines, etc.). Crimson and scarlet, from their resemblance to blood (probably), became symbolical of life; hence it was a crimson thread which Rahab was to bind on her window as a sign that she was to be saved alive when Jericho was destroyed (Joshua 2:18; Joshua 6:25), and it was crimson which the priest was to use as a means of restoring those who had contracted defilement by touching a dead body (Numbers 19:6-22). From its intensity and fixedness this color is also used to symbolize what is indelible or deeply engrained (Isaiah 1:18). The colors chiefly used in the Mosaic ritual were white, hyacinth (blue), purple, and crimson. It is a superficial view which concludes that these were used merely from their brilliancy (Braun, De Vest. Sa. Heb.; Buhr, Sym. d. Mos. Cult.). See further below.

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Color'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/c/color.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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