VERMILION (Heb. shāshār). A red pigment used for painting walls of palaces (Jer.22.14 kjv, rsv) and for coloring the exotic clothing of the Chaldeans (Ezek.23.14 kjv, rsv). NIV has “red” both times.
VERMILION (שָׁשַׁר, H9266, etymology unknown; LXX μίλτος). A red pigment obtained from various sources, used in paints. Formerly derived from the kermes insect. It is derived also from cinnabar (also called red mercuric sulphide). Cinnabar is usually found in massive, granular, or earthy form of a bright red hue. It is also derived from hematite, an ore of iron (called also red ocher). It was used in the time of Jeremiah by the wealthy classes to paint the walls of their houses. The king was condemned by the prophet for being more concerned with adorning his palace than for justice (Jer 22:14). In an allegory related by Ezekiel, Oholibah, a harlot representing Jerusalem, “saw men portrayed upon the wall, the images of the Chaldeans portrayed in vermilion” (Ezek 23:14), which suggests that vermilion was used also in mural decorations. It was used also to paint idols that had been carved out by a carpenter (Wisd Sol 13:14).
The Greeks used it to make pottery. It was used also by the Romans. African tribes covered their bodies with it and used it as war paint (Herod. lv. 191, 194; vii. 69).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
See Colors, (3).