PAINT. The Biblical references to paint and painting are comparatively few, in spite of the fact that the people of the Near E have always been fond of bright colors. Black paint was used to enlarge the eyes (2 Kings 9:30; Jer 4:30; Ezek 23:40). In Jeremiah 22:14, mention is made of painting a house with vermillion (sāsar, cf. Akkad.: šaršaru, šaršēre, red paste); in Ezekiel 23:14, of drawing pictures on the wall with the same material. The bright red pigment, “vermillion,” was either cinnabar (red mercuric sulphide) or minium (red oxide of lead).
Painting played a large part in the life of the ancients. It began with the decoration of pottery and of the body. The colors, taken from nature, usually had religious and magical meaning. There is hardly any information of the painter’s craft from Mesopotamia. In Egypt, however, most of the craftsmen seem to have done their own painting for centuries. Individual painters and even easel painting and its products can be traced as far back as 2600 b.c. A picture of an artist’s workshop dates to the Amarna period (R. J. Forbes, Studies in Ancient Technology, III , p. 241). The color schemes varied in different periods. Early wall paintings at Hierakonpolis show the use of yellow, red, green, white, and black. The ancients painted pottery, plaster, stone, wood, canvas, papyrus, ivory, and semi-precious stones or metals (Forbes, op. cit., p. 242). Fragments of paint have been found by archeologists in houses from the period of the monarchy in Pal., e.g., by W. F. Albright at Tell Beit Mirsim. See Architecture.
R. J. Forbes, Studies in Ancient Technology III (1956).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
(from Old French peinctre, frequentative of peindre, Latin pingo, "to paint"):
(1) From Hebrew verb mashach, "to smear," "to anoint," "to paint," describing the painting of interiors with vermilion, perhaps resembling lacquer: "ceiled with cedar, and painted with vermilion" (Jer 22:14). The shields of the Ninevite soldiers were red, presumably painted (Na 2:3).
(2) From noun pukh, "paint," "antimon," "stibium," "black mineral powder" used as a cosmetic, to lend artificial size and fancied beauty to the eye, always spoken of as a meretricious device, indicating light or unworthy character. Jezebel "painted her eyes, and attired her head" (2Ki 9:30, literally, "put pukh into her eyes"). To the harlot city Jerusalem, Jeremiah (4:30) says, "deckest thee ...., enlargest thine eyes with paint" (pukh). the renders "rentest thy face," as if the stain were a cut, or the enlarging done by violence.
(3) From verb kachal, "to smear," "to paint." Ezekiel says to Oholah-Oholibah (Judah-Israel), "didst wash thyself, paint (kachal) thine eyes," as the adulteress prepares herself for her paramour (Eze 23:40). The antimony, in an extremely fine powder (Arabic kuchl, from kachal), is placed in the eye by means of a very fine rod, bodkin, or probe, drawn between the edges of the eyelids. This distends the eye, and also increases its apparent size, the effect being increased by a line of stain drawn from the corner, and by a similar line prolonging the eyebrow.