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 Ex. 26:1; 28:5-8), who
brought it to great perfection. In New Testament times Thyatira
was famed for its dyers (Acts 16:14). (See COLOUR T0000868.)
a city of Asia Minor, on the borders of Lydia and Mysia. Its
modern name is Ak-hissar, i.e., "white castle." Here was one of
the seven churches (Rev. 1:11; 2:18-28). Lydia, the seller of
purple, or rather of cloth dyed with this colour, was from this
city (Acts 16:14). It was and still is famous for its dyeing.
Among the ruins, inscriptions have been found relating to the
guild of dyers in that city in ancient times.
a rock, now es-Sur; an ancient Phoenician city, about 23 miles,
in a direct line, north of Acre, and 20 south of Sidon. Sidon
was the oldest Phoenician city, but Tyre had a longer and more
illustrious history. The commerce of the whole world was
gathered into the warehouses of Tyre. "Tyrian merchants were the
first who ventured to navigate the Mediterranean waters; and
they founded their colonies on the coasts and neighbouring
islands of the AEgean Sea, in Greece, on the northern coast of
Africa, at Carthage and other places, in Sicily and Corsica, in
Spain at Tartessus, and even beyond the pillars of Hercules at
Gadeira (Cadiz)" (Driver's Isaiah). In the time of David a
friendly alliance was entered into between the Hebrews and the
Tyrians, who were long ruled over by their native kings (2 Sam.
5:11; 1 Kings 5:1; 2 Chr. 2:3).
Tyre consisted of two distinct parts, a rocky fortress on the
mainland, called "Old Tyre," and the city, built on a small,
rocky island about half-a-mile distant from the shore. It was a
place of great strength. It was besieged by Shalmaneser, who was
assisted by the Phoenicians of the mainland, for five years, and
by Nebuchadnezzar (B.C. 586-573) for thirteen years, apparently
without success. It afterwards fell under the power of Alexander
the Great, after a siege of seven months, but continued to
maintain much of its commercial importance till the Christian
era. It is referred to in Matt. 11:21 and Acts 12:20. In A.D.
1291 it was taken by the Saracens, and has remained a desolate
ruin ever since.
"The purple dye of Tyre had a worldwide celebrity on account
of the durability of its beautiful tints, and its manufacture
proved a source of abundant wealth to the inhabitants of that
Both Tyre and Sidon "were crowded with glass-shops, dyeing and
weaving establishments; and among their cunning workmen not the
least important class were those who were celebrated for the
engraving of precious stones." (2 Chr. 2:7,14).
The wickedness and idolatry of this city are frequently
denounced by the prophets, and its final destruction predicted
(Isa. 23:1; Jer. 25:22; Ezek. 26; 28:1-19; Amos 1:9, 10; Zech.
Here a church was founded soon after the death of Stephen, and
Paul, on his return from his third missionary journey spent a
week in intercourse with the disciples there (Acts 21:4). Here
the scene at Miletus was repeated on his leaving them. They all,
with their wives and children, accompanied him to the sea-shore.
The sea-voyage of the apostle terminated at Ptolemais, about 38
miles from Tyre. Thence he proceeded to Caesarea (Acts 21:5-8).
"It is noticed on monuments as early as B.C. 1500, and
claiming, according to Herodotus, to have been founded about
B.C. 2700. It had two ports still existing, and was of
commercial importance in all ages, with colonies at Carthage
(about B.C. 850) and all over the Mediterranean. It was often
attacked by Egypt and Assyria, and taken by Alexander the Great
after a terrible siege in B.C. 332. It is now a town of 3,000
inhabitants, with ancient tombs and a ruined cathedral. A short
Phoenician text of the fourth century B.C. is the only monument
The subject of colours holds an important place in the
White occurs as the translation of various Hebrew words. It is
applied to milk (Gen. 49:12), manna (Ex. 16:31), snow (Isa.
1:18), horses (Zech. 1:8), raiment (Eccl. 9:8). Another Hebrew
word so rendered is applied to marble (Esther 1:6), and a
cognate word to the lily (Cant. 2:16). A different term, meaning
"dazzling," is applied to the countenance (Cant. 5:10).
This colour was an emblem of purity and innocence (Mark 16:5;
John 20:12; Rev. 19:8, 14), of joy (Eccl. 9:8), and also of
victory (Zech. 6:3; Rev. 6:2). The hangings of the tabernacle
court (Ex. 27:9; 38:9), the coats, mitres, bonnets, and breeches
of the priests (Ex. 39:27,28), and the dress of the high priest
on the day of Atonement (Lev. 16:4,32), were white.
Black, applied to the hair (Lev. 13:31; Cant. 5:11), the
complexion (Cant. 1:5), and to horses (Zech. 6:2,6). The word
rendered "brown" in Gen. 30:32 (R.V., "black") means properly
"scorched", i.e., the colour produced by the influence of the
sun's rays. "Black" in Job 30:30 means dirty, blackened by
sorrow and disease. The word is applied to a mourner's robes
(Jer. 8:21; 14:2), to a clouded sky (1 Kings 18:45), to night
(Micah 3:6; Jer. 4:28), and to a brook rendered turbid by melted
snow (Job 6:16). It is used as symbolical of evil in Zech. 6:2,
6 and Rev. 6:5. It was the emblem of mourning, affliction,
calamity (Jer. 14:2; Lam. 4:8; 5:10).
Red, applied to blood (2 Kings 3;22), a heifer (Num. 19:2),
pottage of lentils (Gen. 25:30), a horse (Zech. 1:8), wine
(Prov. 23:31), the complexion (Gen. 25:25; Cant. 5:10). This
colour is symbolical of bloodshed (Zech. 6:2; Rev. 6:4; 12:3).
Purple, a colour obtained from the secretion of a species of
shell-fish (the Murex trunculus) which was found in the
Mediterranean, and particularly on the coasts of Phoenicia and
Asia Minor. The colouring matter in each separate shell-fish
amounted to only a single drop, and hence the great value of
this dye. Robes of this colour were worn by kings (Judg. 8:26)
and high officers (Esther 8:15). They were also worn by the
wealthy and luxurious (Jer. 10:9; Ezek. 27:7; Luke 16:19; Rev.
17:4). With this colour was associated the idea of royalty and
majesty (Judg. 8:26; Cant. 3:10; 7:5; Dan. 5:7, 16,29).
Blue. This colour was also procured from a species of
shell-fish, the chelzon of the Hebrews, and the Helix ianthina
of modern naturalists. The tint was emblematic of the sky, the
deep dark hue of the Eastern sky. This colour was used in the
same way as purple. The ribbon and fringe of the Hebrew dress
were of this colour (Num. 15:38). The loops of the curtains (Ex.
26:4), the lace of the high priest's breastplate, the robe of
the ephod, and the lace on his mitre, were blue (Ex. 28:28, 31,
Scarlet, or Crimson. In Isa. 1:18 a Hebrew word is used which
denotes the worm or grub whence this dye was procured. In Gen.
38:28,30, the word so rendered means "to shine," and expresses
the brilliancy of the colour. The small parasitic insects from
which this dye was obtained somewhat resembled the cochineal
which is found in Eastern countries. It is called by naturalists
Coccus ilics. The dye was procured from the female grub alone.
The only natural object to which this colour is applied in
Scripture is the lips, which are likened to a scarlet thread
(Cant. 4:3). Scarlet robes were worn by the rich and luxurious
(2 Sam. 1:24; Prov. 31:21; Jer. 4:30. Rev. 17:4). It was also
the hue of the warrior's dress (Nah. 2:3; Isa. 9:5). The
Phoenicians excelled in the art of dyeing this colour (2 Chr.
These four colours--white, purple, blue, and scarlet--were
used in the textures of the tabernacle curtains (Ex. 26:1, 31,
36), and also in the high priest's ephod, girdle, and
breastplate (Ex. 28:5, 6, 8, 15). Scarlet thread is mentioned in
connection with the rites of cleansing the leper (Lev. 14:4, 6,
51) and of burning the red heifer (Num. 19:6). It was a crimson
thread that Rahab was to bind on her window as a sign that she
was to be saved alive (Josh. 2:18; 6:25) when the city of
Jericho was taken.
Vermilion, the red sulphuret of mercury, or cinnabar; a colour
used for drawing the figures of idols on the walls of temples
(Ezek. 23:14), or for decorating the walls and beams of houses
(1.) Materials used. The earliest and simplest an apron of
fig-leaves sewed together (Gen. 3:7); then skins of animals
(3:21). Elijah's dress was probably the skin of a sheep (2 Kings
1:8). The Hebrews were early acquainted with the art of weaving
hair into cloth (Ex. 26:7; 35:6), which formed the sackcloth of
mourners. This was the material of John the Baptist's robe
(Matt. 3:4). Wool was also woven into garments (Lev. 13:47;
Deut. 22:11; Ezek. 34:3; Job 31:20; Prov. 27:26). The Israelites
probably learned the art of weaving linen when they were in
Egypt (1 Chr. 4:21). Fine linen was used in the vestments of the
high priest (Ex. 28:5), as well as by the rich (Gen. 41:42;
Prov. 31:22; Luke 16:19). The use of mixed material, as wool and
flax, was forbidden (Lev. 19:19; Deut. 22:11).
(2.) Colour. The prevailing colour was the natural white of
the material used, which was sometimes rendered purer by the
fuller's art (Ps. 104:1, 2; Isa. 63:3; Mark 9:3). The Hebrews
were acquainted with the art of dyeing (Gen. 37:3, 23). Various
modes of ornamentation were adopted in the process of weaving
(Ex. 28:6; 26:1, 31; 35:25), and by needle-work (Judg. 5:30; Ps.
45:13). Dyed robes were imported from foreign countries,
particularly from Phoenicia (Zeph. 1:8). Purple and scarlet
robes were the marks of the wealthy (Luke 16:19; 2 Sam. 1:24).
(3.) Form. The robes of men and women were not very much
different in form from each other.
(a) The "coat" (kethoneth), of wool, cotton, or linen, was
worn by both sexes. It was a closely-fitting garment, resembling
in use and form our shirt (John 19:23). It was kept close to the
body by a girdle (John 21:7). A person wearing this "coat" alone
was described as naked (1 Sam. 19:24; Isa. 20:2; 2 Kings 6:30;
John 21:7); deprived of it he would be absolutely naked.
(b) A linen cloth or wrapper (sadin) of fine linen, used
somewhat as a night-shirt (Mark 14:51). It is mentioned in Judg.
14:12, 13, and rendered there "sheets."
(c) An upper tunic (meil), longer than the "coat" (1 Sam.
2:19; 24:4; 28:14). In 1 Sam. 28:14 it is the mantle in which
Samuel was enveloped; in 1 Sam. 24:4 it is the "robe" under
which Saul slept. The disciples were forbidden to wear two
"coats" (Matt. 10:10; Luke 9:3).
(d) The usual outer garment consisted of a piece of woollen
cloth like a Scotch plaid, either wrapped round the body or
thrown over the shoulders like a shawl, with the ends hanging
down in front, or it might be thrown over the head so as to
conceal the face (2 Sam. 15:30; Esther 6:12). It was confined to
the waist by a girdle, and the fold formed by the overlapping of
the robe served as a pocket (2 Kings 4:39; Ps. 79:12; Hag. 2:12;
Prov. 17:23; 21:14).
Female dress. The "coat" was common to both sexes (Cant. 5:3).
But peculiar to females were (1) the "veil" or "wimple," a kind
of shawl (Ruth 3:15; rendered "mantle," R.V., Isa. 3:22); (2)
the "mantle," also a species of shawl (Isa. 3:22); (3) a "veil,"
probably a light summer dress (Gen. 24:65); (4) a "stomacher," a
holiday dress (Isa. 3:24). The outer garment terminated in an
ample fringe or border, which concealed the feet (Isa. 47:2;
The dress of the Persians is described in Dan. 3:21.
The reference to the art of sewing are few, inasmuch as the
garments generally came forth from the loom ready for being
worn, and all that was required in the making of clothes
devolved on the women of a family (Prov. 31:22; Acts 9:39).
Extravagance in dress is referred to in Jer. 4:30; Ezek.
16:10; Zeph. 1:8 (R.V., "foreign apparel"); 1 Tim. 2:9; 1 Pet.
3:3. Rending the robes was expressive of grief (Gen. 37:29, 34),
fear (1 Kings 21:27), indignation (2 Kings 5:7), or despair
(Judg. 11:35; Esther 4:1).
Shaking the garments, or shaking the dust from off them, was a
sign of renunciation (Acts 18:6); wrapping them round the head,
of awe (1 Kings 19:13) or grief (2 Sam. 15:30; casting them off,
of excitement (Acts 22:23); laying hold of them, of supplication
(1 Sam. 15:27). In the case of travelling, the outer garments
were girded up (1 Kings 18:46). They were thrown aside also when
they would impede action (Mark 10:50; John 13:4; Acts 7:58).