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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [1]

ארגמן ,  Exodus 25:4 , &c; πορφυρα ,  Mark 15:17;  Mark 15:20;  Luke 16:19;  John 19:2;  John 19:5;  Revelation 17:4;  Revelation 18:12;  Revelation 18:16 . This is supposed to be the very precious colour extracted from the purpura or murex, a species of shell fish; and the same with the famous Tyrian dye, so costly, and so much celebrated in antiquity. The purple dye is called in 1Ma_4:23 , "purple of the sea," or sea purple; it being the blood or juice of a turbinated shell fish, which the Jews call חלזון . ( See Scarlet . ) Among the blessings pronounced by Moses upon the tribes of Israel, those of Zebulun and Issachar are, "They shall suck of the abundance of the seas, and of the treasures hid in the sand,"  Deuteronomy 33:19 . Jonathan Ben Uzziel explains the latter clause thus: "From the sand are produced looking glasses, and glass in general; the treasures, the method of finding and working which, was revealed to these tribes." Several ancient writers inform us, that there were havens in the coasts of the Zebulunites, in which the sand proper for making glass was found. The words of Tacitus are remarkable: "Et Belus amnis Judaico mari illabitur, circa ejus os lectae arenae admixto nitro in vitrum excoquuntur." "The river Belus falls into the Jewish sea, about whose mouth those sands mixed with nitre are collected, out of which glass is formed." But it seems much more natural to explain "the treasures hid in the sand," of those highly valuable murices and purpurae which were found on the sea coast, near the country of Zebulun and Issachar, and of which those tribes partook in common with their Heathen neighbours of Tyre, who rendered the curious dyes made from those shell fish so famous among the Romans by the names of Sarranum ostrum, Tyrii colores. In reference to the purple vestment,   Luke 16:19 , it may be observed that this was not appropriately a royal robe. In the earlier times it was the dress of any of high rank. Thus all the courtiers were styled by the historians purpurati. This colour is more properly crimson than purple; for the LXX, Josephus, and Philo, constantly use πορφυραν to express the Hebrew ארגמן , by which the Talmudists understood crimson; and that this Hebrew word expressed, not the Tyrian purple, but that brought to the city from another country, appears from  Ezekiel 27:7 . The purple robe put on our Saviour,  John 19:2;  John 19:5 , is explained by a Roman custom, the dressing of a person in the robes of state, as the investiture of office. Hence the robe brought by Herod's or the Roman soldiers, scoffingly, was as though it had been the pictae vestes usually sent by the Roman senate. In   Acts 16:14 , Lydia is said to be "a seller of purple." Mr. Harmer styles purple the most sublime of all earthly colours, having the gaudiness of red, of which it retains a shade, softened with the gravity of blue.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [2]

The famous and costly Tyrian purple, the royal color of the ancients, is said to have been discovered by the Tyrian Hercules, whose dog having by chance eaten a shellfish called Purpura, and returning to his master with his lips tinged with a purple color, occasioned the discovery of this precious dye. Purple, however, is much more ancient than this, since we find it mentioned by Moses in several places. Two kinds of purple are mentioned in the Old Testament:

1. Argamon, rendered in our version "purple," denoting a reddish purple obtained from a species of muscle or shellfish found on the coasts of the Mediterranean.

2. Techieleth, rendered in the English Bible "blue." This was a bluish or cerulean purple, likewise obtained from another species of shellfish. The "scarlet" or "crimson," for the two words denote essentially the same color, was produced from the coccus in sect, coccus ilicis. All these were sacred colors among the Jews; and the latter was used for the highpriest's ephod, and for veils, ribbons, and cloths,  Exodus 26:1,4,31,36   28:31   Numbers 4:6-12   15:38 .

The "purple" of the ancients seems to have included many different tints derived originally from the shellfish, and modified by various arts in which the Tyrians excelled. As each fish yielded but a few drops of coloring matter, the choicest purple bore a very high price. Purple robes were worn by the kings and first magistrates of ancient Rome, and Nero forbade their use by his subjects under pain of death. Our Savior was clothed with a royal robe of purple, in mockery of his title, "The King of the Jews"  John 19:2,5 . Compare also  Judges 8:26   Esther 8:15   Proverbs 31:22   Daniel 5:7   Luke 16:19 . Moses used much wool dyed of a crimson and used much wool dyed of a crimson and purple color in the work of the tabernacle, and in the ornaments of the high priest,  Exodus 25:4   26:1,31,36   39:1   2 Chronicles 3:14 . The Babylonians also clothed their idols in robes of a purple and azure color,  Jeremiah 10:9   Ezekiel 23:15   27:7,16 .

Webster's Dictionary [3]

(1): ( n.) A disease of wheat. Same as Earcockle.

(2): ( n.) Any shell of the genus Purpura.

(3): ( n.) Hence: Imperial sovereignty; royal rank, dignity, or favor; loosely and colloquially, any exalted station; great wealth.

(4): ( n.) A cardinalate. See Cardinal.

(5): ( a.) Exhibiting or possessing the color called purple, much esteemed for its richness and beauty; of a deep red, or red and blue color; as, a purple robe.

(6): ( n.) Cloth dyed a purple color, or a garment of such color; especially, a purple robe, worn as an emblem of rank or authority; specifically, the purple rode or mantle worn by Roman emperors as the emblem of imperial dignity; as, to put on the imperial purple.

(7): ( n.) A color formed by, or resembling that formed by, a combination of the primary colors red and blue.

(8): ( v. t.) To make purple; to dye of purple or deep red color; as, hands purpled with blood.

(9): ( n.) Any species of large butterflies, usually marked with purple or blue, of the genus Basilarchia (formerly Limenitis) as, the banded purple (B. arthemis). See Illust. under Ursula.

(10): ( a.) Imperial; regal; - so called from the color having been an emblem of imperial authority.

(11): ( a.) Blood-red; bloody.

(12): ( n.) See Purpura.

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [4]

 Song of Solomon 7:5 (c) In this passage the color of our Lord's hair is purple. In the fifth chapter it is black, while in re1it is white. These three colors of His hair represent three wonderful characteristics of our Lord.

  • the black hair tells us that He is a young King upon His Throne, with mighty power, vigor, vision and activity.
  • the purple hair reminds us that He is the King of kings, Lord of lords, and the sovereign of eternity. He is part of the royal family. He has a right to wear the purple because of His majestic greatness.
  • the white hair reminds us of His ageless life. He was from the past eternity through the coming eternity. He is the Ancient of days. He has wisdom, knowledge, discretion and understanding. He has experience of every kind. He is the Eternal One.

 John 19:2 (c) The purple was placed upon our blessed Lord in mockery. He had claimed to be their King, but the Romans derided His claim, and in order to insult Him and show their hatred they clothed Him in mockery with the royal garments. Thus they exposed the wickedness of their hearts. (See also  Mark 15:17).

 Revelation 17:4 (c) The royal color on this woman represents apostate Christendom. It indicates that she takes the place of being a royal ruler, even as the Roman Catholic church does today. This church exercises sovereign and supreme power in many countries. Her gorgeous robes, her magnificent processions, her priceless images and idols, her marvelous temples, her cruel power, her secret procedures all tell the story of a church that seeks to be king of kings, and lord of lords in the place of our Lord Jesus Christ One day she will be utterly destroyed, as this chapter reveals.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [5]

A — 1: Πορφύρα (Strong'S #4209 — Noun Feminine — porphura — por-foo'-rah )

originally denoted the "purple-fish," then, "purple dye" (extracted from certain shell fish): hence, "a purple garment,"  Mark 15:17,20;  Luke 16:19;  Revelation 18:12 .

B — 1: Πορφυροῦς (Strong'S #4210 — Adjective — porphureos — por-foo-rooce' )

"purple, a reddish purple," is used of the robe put in mockery on Christ,  John 19:2,5; in  Revelation 17:4 (in the best texts; some have No. 1); 18:16, as a noun (with himation, "a garment," understood).

Morrish Bible Dictionary [6]

A colour often mentioned with blue and scarlet in connection with the tabernacle.  Exodus 25:4 , etc. Among the spoils taken from the Midianites under Gideon was "purple raiment that was on the kings," and it is used as a symbol of royalty.  Judges 8:26 . In derision the soldiers put a crown of thorns and a 'purple' robe on the Lord, as king of the Jews.  Mark 15:17,20;  John 19:2,5 . The rich man in  Luke 16:19 was clothed in purple; and papal Rome is seen as a woman clothed in purple and scarlet, royalty and splendour.   Revelation 17:4;  Revelation 18:12,16 .

King James Dictionary [7]

PUR'PLE, a. L. purpureus purpura, a shell from which the color was obtained.

1. Designating a color composed of red and blue blended, much admired, and formerly the roman emperors wore robes of this color. 2. In poetry, red or livid dyed with blood.

I view a field of blood,

And Tyber rolling with a purple flood.

PUR'PLE, n. A purple color or dress hence, imperial government in the Roman empire, as a purple robe was the distinguishing dress of the emperors.

1. A cardinalate.

Pur'Ple, L purpuro. To make purple, or to dye of a red color as hands purpled with blood.

When morn

Purples the east.

Reclining soft in blissful bowers,

Purpled sweet with springing flowers.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [8]

Purple.  Exodus 25:4. The purple dye so famous among the orientals of ancient days was produced from a species of shellfish peculiar to the Mediterranean Sea. As each fish yielded but a few drops of coloring matter, the choicest purple bore a very high price. Purple robes were worn by the kings and first magistrates of ancient nations.  Esther 8:15. Comp.  Luke 16:19.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [9]

Argan . Obtained by the Tyrians from the shell fish Μurex Purpura , and Μurex Conchylium . ( Exodus 25:4;  Exodus 35:25;  Judges 8:26;  Proverbs 31:22).

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [10]

See Colours.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [11]

Purple . See Colours, § 5 .

Holman Bible Dictionary [12]


Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [13]

( אִרְגָּמָן , Aryaman , from the Sanscrit Raga , Red; see (esen. Thes. s.v.; Chald. אִרְגְּוָן , Ayrevdn , from the same root, in  2 Chronicles 2:7;  Daniel 5:7;  Daniel 5:16;  Daniel 5:29; Sept. and Greek Test. Πορφύρα ; Vulg. Purpura ) occurs in <

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [14]

pûr´p ' 50 ( ארגּמן , 'argāmān  ; Chaldaic ארגּון , 'argewān (  2 Chronicles 2:7 ); compare Arabic 'urjuwân , and Persian 'arghawân  ; πορφύρα , porphúra , πορφύπεος , porphúreos Septuagint and New Testament)):

Purple dye was manufactured by the Phoenicians from a marine mollusk, Murex trunculus . The shell was broken in order to give access to a small gland which was removed and crushed. The crushed gland gives a milky fluid that becomes red or purple on exposure to the air. Piles of these broken shells still remain on the coast at Sidon and Tyre. The purple gland is found in various species of Murex and also of Purpura .

Purple cloth was used in the furnishings of the tabernacle ( Exodus 25:4 , etc.) and of Solomon's temple ( 2 Chronicles 2:14;  2 Chronicles 3:14 ); in the palanquin of Solomon ( Song of Solomon 3:10 ); and in the hangings of the palace of Ahasuerus ( Esther 1:6 ). The kings of Midian had purple raiment ( Judges 8:26 ); the worthy woman of  Proverbs 31:22 has clothing of fine linen and purple. Mordecai was clothed with purple by Ahasuerus (  Esther 8:15 ); Jesus by the Roman soldiers ( Mark 15:17 ,  Mark 15:20;  John 19:2 ,  John 19:5 ). The rich man of  Luke 16:19 and the scarlet woman of   Revelation 18:12 ,  Revelation 18:16 were arrayed in purple. In   Song of Solomon 7:5 the bride has hair like purple. Purple is in the merchandise of Babylon (  Revelation 18:12 ). It is surprising that Ezekiel speaks of the Tyrians as obtaining purple from the isles of Elisha ( Ezekiel 27:7 ) and from Syria ( Ezekiel 27:16 ). See Colors; Dye , Dyeing .