Dye (אָדָם, adam, in the phrase "rams skins dyed red," Ex 25; Ex 26; Ex 35, etc., to be "ruddy," La 4:7, or "red," Na 2:3; Isa 1:8; Pr 23:31; חָמֵוֹ, chamets, brilliant in color as wine-stained garments, Isa 63:1). The art of dyeing is undoubtedly of great antiquity, and is, perhaps, nearly coeval with that of weaving. The Egyptians particularly excelled in the brilliancy of their dyed stuffs; and from them the Hebrews, while dwelling among them, learned the art of dyeing. This is evident from the curtains of the tabernacle and the sacerdotal robes which were manufactured in the desert (Ex 26:1; Ex 28:5-8). The skill of the Egyptian linen manufacturers in employing the metallic oxides and acids, or mordants, is placed beyond dispute by ocular proof. The various processes of dyeing and printing, or imparting the pattern, by blocks (the origin of calico printing), are exhibited in Rossellini's plates in all their minute details; and even the printing-blocks engraved with phonetic letters, and with the dye upon them, may be seen in the British Museum. Pliny's testimony is interesting as illustrating, though not wanted to corroborate the fact. "They dye cloth," he says, "in an extraordinary manner. It appears quite white before it is dipped; they then imbue it with drugs (mordants), which do not alter its appearance, but which absorb and retain a new and permanent color, varied according to the application of the drug."This is the modern process. Experimental investigation and chemical analysis have shown demonstratively that in the dyes which the linen and cotton manufacturers employed to produce certain results of which the relics are extant, they must have employed acetates of alum and of iron, and vegetable and mineral dyes, both substantive and adjective, as they are termed by the modern dyers. It is as easy as invidious to ascribe these applications to accident rather than to chemistry. Evidences drawn from all the other arts and trades prove that the Egyptians were good chemists. The long stripes of linen which the Hebrews worked in the desert for the tabernacle were separately blue, scarlet, and white (Ex 26:1). The last was probably the effect of bleaching; but the whole of the colors and cloth so dyed have been found, as well as the yellow, to evince chemical knowledge. It appears that the linen printers and dyers used the carthamnus tinctorius, which grows in Egypt, for red, woad for blue, and the reseda luteola, also a native of Egypt, for yellow. Now none of these operations could have been effected without a practical chemical knowledge. The system of bleaching now practiced in this country, but recently introduced, has been used from time immemorial in the East, and doubtless, therefore, in ancient Egypt, viz. by immersion in oxygenated muriate of lime, after subjection to the action of steam or boiling water. The three other colors, blue, red, and yellow, are adjective colors, i.e., fugitive without the use of mordants. They could not be fixed, as we find them fixed, without their proper mordants, namely, oxides of tin, arsenic, and iron. Occasionally the muslin, beautifully dyed and patterned, was interwoven with silver and gold thread, some specimens of which can be traced up to the early period of Thothmes I, and even of Osirtasen. Indeed, the richly painted walls and palaces, as well as the unmatched gilding, as fresh as when first laid on, show a perfect familiarity among the ancient Egyptians, not with mineral and vegetable colors only, but the perfect use of the metallic oxides in their composition.
The colors of the Egyptians were principally blue, red, green, black, yellow, and white. The red was an earthy bole; the yellow an iron ochre; the green was a mixture of a little ochre with a pulverulent glass, made by vitrefying the oxides of copper and iron with sand and soda; the blue was a glass of like composition with the ochreous addition; the black was bone or ivory black, and the white was a very pure chalk. They were mixed with water, and apparently a little gum, to render them tenacious and adhesive. With the Egyptians, the favorite combination of color was red, blue, and green; when black was introduced, yellow was added to harmonize with it; and in like manner they sought for every hue its congenial companion. They also guarded against the false effect of two colors in juxtaposition, as of red and blue, by placing between them a narrow line of white or yellow. They had few mixed colors, though purple, pink, orange, and brown are met with, and frequently on papyri. The blue, which is very brilliant, consists of fine particles of blue glass, and may be considered equivalent to our snialt; it seems to be the same that Vitruvius describes, which he supposes to have been first, made at Alexandria; and it also agrees with the artificial kyanus of Theophrastus, invented in Egypt, which he says was laid on thicker than the native (or lapis lazuli). The thickness of the blue on the ceilings in Belzoni's tomb confirms his remark. The green is also a glass in powder, mixed with particles of colorless glass, to which it owes its brightness (Wilkinson, Anc. Eg., abridgm., 2:292).
The following statements are more in detail. There are many kinds of hues, both natural alid artificial, mentioned in the Bible as fashionable or known among the Hebrews; besides white (לָבָן) and black (שָׁחֹר or חדּם), there were:
1, principally red (אָדָם, brownish-red), crimson (שָׁנַי, כִּרמַיל), purple or violet red (אִרגָּמָן), orange or vermilion (שָׁשִׁר);
2, next green (יָרָק);
3, pale yellow (יִרקרִק);
4, azure or hyacinthine (purplish) blue (תּכֵלֶת);
5, brown or fox-colored (שָׁרֹק).
Many of these are no doubt properly, or at least originally, the designation of the coloring materials. SEE CRIMISON; SEE VERMIILION; SEE PURPLE. It is evident that each of these principal colors had a special significance among the Israelites, according to which it would be selected whenever there was an option; and it could not but be that some colors would be preferred to others, e.g. white garments as the clothing of the respectable (as among us black is the clerical color), but dignitaries were arrayed in purple (Jg 8:26; Es 8:15; Da 5:7,16,29; comp. Song 7:6), which hue was probably so appropriated on account of its costliness (comp. the purple sails of the Syrian ships, Eze 27:7). SEE APPAREL. Bright, dazzling colors (חָמוּוֹ) further indicated, as might naturally be supposed, hilarity and joy (2Sa 1:24; comp. Jer 4:30), while dark (black) and dull hues were expressive of grief and dejection (Mal 3:14; Zec 6:2,6; comp. Plutarch, Pericl. 38; Mishna, Middith, 5:3; Apulei Metam. 2, page 40 Bip.; see generally Gotze, De vestium nigrar usu, Helmst. 1726). Youth and age also constituted a distinction in this respect. White, moreover, was assumed as the color of whatever form came from heaven (as being that of the purest light); hence angels were clad in glittering white robes (Mr 16:5; Joh 20:12, etc.). 1. The symbolical use of colors is clearly exhibited in the prophetic visions. In Re 6:2 sq., the rider upon the white horse is emblematical of one bringing prosperity like victorious champions, the red horse signifies bloodshed, the black denotes the distress of dearth and scarcity, the pale one (χλωρός) death. So when (Re 12:3) the great dragon (Satan) is depicted red, it appears altogether congruous with the character of the originator of death and of every ruin (Isa 1:18; comp. ver. 18; see Bihr, Symbol. 1:335 sq.; also Re 17:3). More difficult of interpretation are the colored steeds of Zec 1:8; Zec 6:2 sq., which passages certainly served as a model to the revelator. In matters of worship (Krause, De colore sancto, Viterb. 1707), color symbols take a wider range (Creuzer, Symbol. 1:125 sq.). The priests in general wore white vestments, to indicate the purity of the divine Beinr whom they served. When idols were painted with vermillion (Wisd. 13:14; Eze 23:14; see Plutarch, Quaest. Rom. 98), this color was not only selected for its brilliancy, but as that with which even the Romans, in early times, decorated their triumphant warriors (Plin. 33:36). Hence purple robes were used for robing the statues of the gods (Jer 10:9; Creuzer, Symbol. 1:126; 2:358). In the Israelitish cultus the four principal colors occur: dark (or purplish) blue, purple-red, crimson, and white (the three essential colors, white, blue, and red, also occur in Re 18:16); they appear connectedly in the decorations (tapestry and veils) of the tabernacle (Ex 25:4; Ex 26:1,31,36; Ex 35:6 sq.; 36:8 sq.), and in the sacerdotal garments (Ex 28:5 sq., 15; 39:1). Moreover, scarlet and deep blue cloths are prescribed for the transportation of the sacred furniture (Numbers 4), and scarlet wool for certain purificatory purposes (Le 14:4,6,51 sq.; Nu 19:6); and the tassels to the four corners of the covering, which had a religious significance, were to be made of dark blue materials (Nu 15:38). Perhaps these four colors were selected not merely on account of their beafity and costliness (God demands the best that man has), but with reference to their special mystical import, which in the last instance (the ritual of purification) is more evident. Philo (Opp. 1:536; 2:148) and Josephus (Ant. 3:7, 7) too have already an explanation of the four sacred colors (comp. Stud. u. Krit. 1844, 2:315 sq.). See Friederich, Symbol. d. mos. Stifftshutte (Leipz. 1841). SEE COLOR.