See also Color
COLOR, COLORS. No word occurs in Heb. for the abstract idea of color. It is possible that overshadowing effects of the first commandment inhibited many types of artistic efforts among the Israelites including the extensive employment of color. On the other hand, the colors of the Tabernacle hangings were prescribed by God, and likewise also the vestments of the high priest. But it was prob. after contact developed with the Phoenicians that colors became more emphasized in Israelite culture. Words designating color have basic meanings differing from the concept of color.
1. עַ֫יִנ֒, H6524, (
2. פַּסִּֽים (
3. פּוּכְ׃֙ “background for precious gems” (
5. טָל֗וּא, descriptive of patch-colored sheep and goats (
6. זִיו, H10228, Aram. (Assyr. zîmu?) splendor of idol (
Real colors appear principally as dyes (see specific color) among the Jews, the most lavish use being seen in the Tabernacle (q.v.) and on a reduced scale in Solomon’s Temple (q.v.). Colors were extracted principally from plants or mollusks, and the resulting product was rather impure and often unstable. The most expensive was the purple of the murex which required 250,000 mollusks per ounce! Hence the implication of great wealth in the saying, “born to the purple.”
Color derivation processes were mostly family secrets passed from father to son, and many formulas have been lost. Having only crude controls, constancy of color quality was impossible to obtain. The most important dyes were the reds and purples.
In early times colors prob. had little allegorical meaning. Philo (Life of Moses, II, 17) makes white a symbol of the earth and purple the sea. The NT makes white the symbol of righteousness (
Bibliography F. E. Wallace, “Color in Homer and in Ancient Art,” Smith Col. Class. Studies (1927); A. Guillamont, “La Designation des Couleurs en Hebreu et en Araméan,” in I. Meyerson, ed., Problèms de la Couleur (1957), 339-348.