Vermilion (שָׁשֵׁר [in pause שָׁשִׁר],shasher, accord. to Gesen. from its versicolor, but red accord. to Fürst, who compares the Sanscr. har), prob. red ochre (Vulg. sinopis, i.e. rubrica Sinopensis, which was the best [Pliny, Hist. Nat. 35:5,13]; Sept. μίλτος, which in Homer is i.q. rubrica), or (according to the Heb. interp.) cinnabar. This well-known metallic paint was first brought into use by the Phoenicians, who imported large quantities of it in the form of a reddish sand from their colonies in Northern Africa. Its bright-red color recommended vermilion to those who were engaged in decorating temples (Jer 22:14); hence, whenever it was mentioned in Scripture, it was usually associated with idolatry. Thus, Ezekiel, reproving the apostasy of his times, declares that Aholibah "added to her idolatries, for she saw men portrayed upon the wall, images of Chaldaeans portrayed with vermilion, girded with girdles upon their loins, exceeding in dyed attire upon their heads, after the manner of the Babylonians, even of Chaldnea" (Eze 23:14). He adds, "and she doted upon them as soon as she cast her eyes on them." These were, in fact, the representations of the Chaldaean idols, which many of the Jews were seduced into worshipping. The author of the apocryphal Book of Wisdom also alludes to this custom: "The carpenter taketh the very refuse of his timber, being a crooked piece of wood, and full of knots, and carving it diligently when he had nothing else to do, and fashioning it into the image of a man, or like some wild beast, laying it over with vermilion and with paint, coloring it red, and covering every spot therein" (Wisd. 13:14). The accuracy of the prophet is corroborated by the recently exhumed Assyrian monuments. M. Botta noticed several figures on the walls of Khorsabad yet retaining a portion of the vermilion (Bonomi, Nineveh, p. 206). There is in the British Museum, among the marbles sent from Nimrud by Mr. Layard, a large slab with a figure of the king standing, holding in his right hand a staff, and resting his left on the pommel of his sword, still having the soles of his sandals colored red. SEE COLOR.

Bible concordance for VERMILION.

Definition of vermilion

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

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