Easton's Bible Dictionary
The art of dyeing is one of great antiquity, although
no special mention is made of it in the Old Testament. The Hebrews probably learned
it from the Egyptians (see Exodus
26:1 ; 28:5
), who brought it to great perfection. In New Testament times Thyatira was famed
for its dyers ( Acts
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
Smith's Bible Dictionary
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
di, di'-ing (me'oddam, hamuc, tebhul, cebha'):
Four different Hebrew words have been translated "dyed": the King James
|(a) me'-oddam, found in Exodus 25:5 ; 26:14 ; 35:7 ; 36:19
; 39:34 ;
(b) hamuts (the Revised Version, margin "crimsoned") (Isaiah 63:1);
(c) tebhul (Ezekiel 23:15). Tebhul is probably more correctly rendered "flowing
turban" as in the Revised Version (British and American) of the above verses (Brown-Driver-Briggs'
(d) gebha', "dyed" is so translated in the American Standard Revised Version of
Judges 5:30 (BDB); compare Arabic sabagh.
The above references and other color words mentioned elsewhere (see COLOR) indicate
that the Israelites were acquainted with dyed stuffs, even if they themselves
did not do the dyeing. An analysis of the various Biblical references shows but
four colors which were produced on cloth by dyeing, namely, purple, blue (violet),
crimson and scarlet. Of these, purple is the one best known because of the many
historical references to it. It was the symbol of royalty and luxury. Because
of its high price, due to the expensive method of obtaining it, only royalty and
the rich could afford purple attire. One writer tells us that the dyestuff was
worth its weight in silver. Probably it was because of its scarcity, and because
it was one of the very limited number of dyes known, rather than for any remarkable
beauty of color, that the purple was so much sought after. If Pliny's estimate
is to be accredited, then "in the dye the smell of it was offensive and the color
itself was harsh, of a greenish hue and strongly resembling that of the sea when
in a tempestuous state."
1. Purple and Blue:
The purple and blue dyes were extracted from shellfish. The exact process used
by the ancients is still a question in spite of the attempts of early writers
to describe it. Tyre and Sidon were noted as the suppliers of these colors, hence,
the name "Tyrian purple." The inhabitants of these cities were at first simply
dealers in the purple (Ezekiel 27:7 , 24), but they afterward became the manufacturers,
as the heaps of the emptied shells of the Murex trunculus, which still exist in
the vicinity of these cities, testify. The pigment was secreted by a gland in
the lining of the stomach. The shell was punctured and the fish removed in order
to secure the dye. The juice, at first whitish, changed on exposure to yellowish
or greenish and finally to red, amethyst or purple, according to the treatment.
A modified color was obtained by first dipping the textile in a cochineal bath
and then in the purple, Tyrian purple was considered most valuable when it was
"exactly the color of clotted blood and of a blackish hue" (Pliny). See also LYDIA;
THYATIRA. Besides the shellfish above mentioned, several other species are noted
by different writers, namely, Murex branderis, Murex erinaceus, Murex buccinum
(purpura haemastoma). This latter species is still used by the dwellers on the
shores where it is found. Various species of the murex are found today at Haifa
(Syria), about the Greek isles and on the North coast of Africa. The purple color
has been produced from them by modern chemists, but it is of historical interest
only, in the light of the discovery of modern artificial dyes with which it could
not compete commercially.
Two words have been used in the Hebrew Bible to describe the colors from shellfish:
|(a) 'argaman (Greek porphura). This has been translated
(b) tekheleth which was probably a shade of violet, but has been translated "blue"
in both the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American).
2. Crimson and Scarlet:
As indicated elsewhere (See COLORS), three Hebrew words have been rendered crimson
|(a) karmil (compare Arabic kirmiz and English "carmine"),
(b) tola', and
We know nothing further about the method of producing these colors than that they
were both obtained from the kermes insect which feeds on a species of live oak
growing in Southern Europe and Turkey in Asia. The modern dyer can obtain several
shades from the cochineal insect by varying the mordants or assistants used with
the dye. Pliny mentions the same fact as being known by the ancient Egyptians.
Some of the Syrian dyers still use the kermes, commonly called dud ("worms"),
although most of them hove resorted to the artificial European dyes which they
indiscriminately call dud frangy ("foreign worms").
The "rams' skins dyed red" mentioned in Exodus are still made in Syria. After
the ram's skin has been tanned in sumac, it is laid out on a table and a solution
of the dye, made by boiling dud in water, is rubbed on. After the dye is dry,
the skin is rubbed with oil and finally polished. No native product is more characteristic
of the country than the slippers, Bedouin shoes, and other leather articles made
from "rams' skins dyed red" (see TANNER).
3. Other Dyes Probably Known:
Other dyes probably known were:
In Judges 10:1, we read that "after Abimelech there arose to save Israel Tola
the son of Puah." These were probably names of clans. In the Hebrew they are also
color words. Tola' is the scarlet dye and pu'ah, if, as is probable, it is the
same as the Arabic fuwah, means "madder." This would add another dyestuff. Until
the discovery of alizarin, which is artificial madder, the growing of fuwah was
one of the industries of Cyprus and Syria. It was exported to Europe and was also
used locally for producing "Turkey red" on cotton and for dyeing dull reds on
wool for rug making (see THYATIRA). It was the custom near Damascus for a father
to plant new madder field for each son that was born. The field began to yield
in time to support the boy and later become his inheritance. Madder is mentioned
in the Talmud and by early Latin writers. A Saracenic helmet and a shield of similar
origin, in the possession of the writer, are lined with madder-dyed cotton.
Another dye has been discovered among the Egyptian mummy cloths, namely, indigo.
Indigo blue was used in weaving to form the borders of the cloths. This pigment
was probably imported from India.
(3) Yellows and Browns.
Yellows and browns of doubtful origin have also been found in the Egyptian tombs.
The Jews acquired from the Phoenicians the secret of dyeing, and later held the
monopoly in this trade in some districts. A Jewish guild of purple dyers is mentioned
on a tombstone in Hieropolis. In the 12th century AD Jews were still dyers and
glass workers at Tyre. Akhissar, a Jewish stronghold in Asia Minor, was famous
as a dyeing city.
See also ATTIRE; DYED ATTIRE.
See "Crafts" especially in Wilkinson, Perrot and Chipiez, Jew Encyclopedia, and
James A. Patch
bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, define, dye