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Reference: Scarlet


A color much prized by the ancients, Ex 25:4; 26:1,31,36. It is assigned as a merit of Saul, that he clothed the daughters of Israel in scarlet, 2Sa 1:24. So the diligent and virtuous woman is said to clothe her household in scarlet, Pr 31:21. The depth and strength of the color are alluded to in Isa 1:18; and it is used as a symbol of profligacy in Re 17:3-4. This color was obtained from the Coccus Ilicis of Linnaeus, a small insect found on the leaves of a species of oak, the Quercus Cocciferus, in Spain and the countries on the eastern part of the Mediterranean, which was used by the ancients for dyeing a beautiful crimson or deep scarlet color, and was supposed by them to be the berry of a plant or tree. It is the Kermez of the Materia Medica. As a dye it has been superseded in modern times by the cochineal insect, Coccus Cactus, which gives a more brilliant but less durable color. See PURPLE.

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This dye was obtained by the Egyptians from the shell-fish Carthamus tinctorius; and by the Hebrews from the Coccus ilicis, an insect which infests oak trees, called kermes by the Arabians.

This colour was early known (Ge 38:28). It was one of the colours of the ephod (Ex 28:6), the girdle (Ex 28:8), and the breastplate (Ex 28:15) of the high priest. It is also mentioned in various other connections (Jos 2:18; 2Sa 1:24; La 4:5; Na 2:3). A scarlet robe was in mockery placed on our Lord (Mt 27:28; Lu 23:11). "Sins as scarlet" (Isa 1:18), i.e., as scarlet robes "glaring and habitual." Scarlet and crimson were the firmest of dyes, and thus not easily washed out.

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argaman, the purple juice of the Tyrian shell fish, Murex trunculus. (See PURPLE; TYRE.) Shani tolaath, an insect color from the cocci or semiglobular bodies as large as a split pea, black but dusted with a grey white powder, on evergreen oaks and other trees. The insect is of the order Homoptera, the females have a mouth able to pierce and suck plants. The Arabs call them kermes, from whence come our "caroline" and "crimson". The full grown larva has the dye in greatest abundance. They yield their dye by infusion in water. The dye is fixed by a mordant, anciently alum, now solution of tin.

The double dipping is implied in shunt, differently pointed in Hebrew: Isa 1:18, "though your sins be as scarlet (double dyed, deeply fixed so that no tears can wash them away; blood-colored in hue, i.e. of deepest guilt, Isa 1:15; the color of Jesus' robe when bearing them, Mt 27:28) they shall be as white as snow" (Ps 51:7) (See ATONEMENT, DAY OF.) Rahab's scarlet thread was the type (Jos 2:18). Scarlet was also used in cleansing the leper (Le 14:4). The Mishna says a band of twice dyed scarlet wool tied together the living bird, the hyssop, and the cedar, when dipped into the blood and water. Kurtz makes the scarlet wool symbolize vital health; but Isa 1:18 gives a contrary sense. A glaring, gorgeous color (Na 2:3); that of the spiritual whore or corrupt church, conformed to that of the beast or God-opposed world power on which she rides (Revelation 17; 18).

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The word most frequently translated 'scarlet' is shani, and this is often accompanied by the word tolaath, 'worm or grub,' apparently intimating that the colour was obtained from some insect, as it is now from the cochineal. Scarlet was much used in the needlework and hangings of the tabernacle, in conjunction with blue and purple; but there it apparently refers to some fabric of the colour of scarlet. If the purple be taken as symbolical of royalty and universal dominion, the scarlet may signify earthly grandeur and Israelitish royalty. Ex 39:1-29; Jos 2:18,21; 2Sa 1:24; Pr 31:21; Cant. 4:3; Isa 1:18. In the N.T. they clothed the Lord in a scarlet robe, ????????, Mt 27:28 (it is 'purple' in Mark and John: it may have been an old faded robe that could be called either). Scarlet is also employed with purple to point out the earthly grandeur of Papal Rome. Re 17:3-4; 18:12,16.

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SCARLET, ?????, Ge 38:28; Ex 25:4. This tincture or colour expressed by a word which signifies worm colour, was produced from a worm or insect which grew in a coccus, or excrescence of a shrub of the ilex kind, which Pliny calls "coccus scolecius," the wormy berry, and Dioscorides terms "a small dry twig, to which the grains adhere like lentiles:" but these grains, as a great author observes on Solinus, "are within full of little worms or maggots, whose juice is remarkable for dying scarlet, and making that famous colour which we admire, and with which the ancients were enraptured. We retain the name in the cochineal, from the opuntia of America; but we improperly call a mineral colour "vermilion," which is derived from vermiculus, a little worm. The shrub on which the cochineal insect is found is sometimes called the "kermez oak," from kermez, the Arabic word both for the worm and the colour; whence "carmasinus," the French "cramoisi." and the English "crimson."

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