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The colour כחול is not mentioned in Tanach. Given its wide usage in later hebrew texts, why does it never feature in Tanach? Do any sources pick up on this?

(There is a different debate about what colour 'Techelet' actually was, ranging from red, purple, green to blue. But in Tanach the colour כחול is never used.)

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    Are all other colors mentioned? I don't see this word's lacking as notable at all, if it even existed and if תכלת doesn't already mean blue
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 12:20
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    @DoubleAA Actually, Guy Deutscher, in his seminal book "Through the Language Glass" points out that not only is blue missing in Tanakh, it's missing in every other txt of the same period - up until and including the Romans! So yes, it is significant.
    – TheAsh
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 12:44
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    @TheAsh on the contrary that shows it's not significant since we shouldn't expect it in the Torah if no other period works mention it
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 12:49
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    @TheAsh I didn't claim it isn't significant as much as that the question doesn't give any reason to think it is.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 12:50
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    See an article: calcalist.co.il/local/articles/0,7340,L-3524269,00.html
    – Al Berko
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 13:51

4 Answers 4

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In fact it is mentioned according to the Ramban Bereishis 49: 12 the word חכלילי means כחל. Also the word כחלת is mentioned in Yecezkel 23:40 which means painting of the eyes. Rashi:כחלת. מין צבע ושמו כחול וצובעות בו עיניהם אוקליר"א בלע"ז: It seems its more of a blackish color or dark color,which fits with many descriptions of the dye of techeiles (before its exposed to light).

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I think the answer to this question is that there are very few abstract words for colors in the Tanach altogether. Rather words are used to describe objects or processes that produce certain colors.

There's no word for purple in the abstract, but there is a word for purple dye: ארגמן

There's no word for blue in the abstract, but there is word for sky-colored dye: תכלת

There's no word for green in the abstract, but there is a word for green vegetables: יָר֣וֹק

And even words that had already taken on an abstract meaning in the times of Tanach, the root of word reveals its original source as a description of an object or process. Red is אָדֹם, like blood. White is לבן, to clean.

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A very interesting question!

First, it's hard to answer a question "Why there's no X in the Torah" in general, but according to the WIKI (in Hebrew), our ancestors didn't name the colors but instead refer to the similar substances.

The question is based on our "optical illusion" - כחול wasn't so important and wasn't in "wide usage" as it is to us. The connection of the "legendary" תכלת" with the color "blue" is very late and questionable. Also, the color is not natural, not common in everyday life (AKA Mishnah) and difficult to manufacture. So I don't see a serious reason to mention it in our sources.

This article (למה אין כחול בתנ"ך shows that the phenomenon is common to other cultures, incl. the Greeks, that didn't have a name for "blue".


Appendix:

I have two hints:

  1. enter image description here

According to Even Shoshan dictionary, כחול as a color (blue) was used only in the contemporary Hebrew (hence the circle), in the Mishnaic Hebrew it does not refer to the color blue but to the substance (dyes) used to color the garments or for women's makeup.

That's also what the wiki says: "רוב האזכורים לצבעים במקרא הם בעיקר לשמות של חומרי צבע"

  1. Interestingly, the word תכלת used for Tzitzis is not a color either, it stands for the dye also, as the Targum does not translate it as a color (like in "וְעֹרֹת אֵילִם מְאָדָּמִים" - "וּמַשְׁכֵי דְדִכְרֵי מְסַמְקֵי") but as of a substance -

"עַל־צִיצִת הַכָּנָף פְּתִיל תְּכֵלֶת׃" -
"חוּטָא דִתְכֶלְתָּא" - thread OF Techelet, not "A Tchelet thread"

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  • If I'm not mistaken, Talmud Brachot mentions kachol when describing the earliest time for the Shacharit Shema. Or, do they use the word "techelet"?
    – DanF
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 14:38
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    The Mishna uses Techeiles,lavan,and karti
    – sam
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 14:46
  • יהללך זר ולא פיך
    – kouty
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 20:11
  • According to the other answer, it is mentioned in Tanach in several places.
    – DonielF
    Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 0:17
  • @donielf you mean it's hinted in several places. The word does not appear, is a fact. Many try to interpret, but those are mere speculations!
    – Al Berko
    Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 7:59
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Because in Truth there's only four colors.

In the Holy T. Zohar and Zohar it's brought

  • White and red are Rachamei and Din It even gives concrete examples white stones are kindness, red din.
  • Green/yarok and black, the Tzaddik Center Pillar and Malkhut

Also mentions this for people's skin colors and maybe hair. So for example Yarok/"green" skin people (i.e. olive yellow tan?) are prone and apt to attach to the Tzaddik. Maybe this applies to the hair that's blondish dirty blond brownish as that would be yarok? Don't remember

And then Tekhelet includes all the colors, lashon Kol.. that might be closest to "blue" so to speak well look at the sea and the sky. That's Tekhelet. One we call Blue (blue means cyan, light blue by the Classicists) one Indigo in the foreign concept ROYGBIV. Likewise in some foreign languages like Russian you have two different words for blue, Sinii (cognate cyan?) light blue Goluboy dark blue, it's like they see two colors of blue and we English speakers see one! Some say language shapes thought so .. when in doubt actually l'chatchila bring it back to the Torah and Chazal and the True Tzaddikkim and their advice and b"ehy all the "supernal colors will shine for you" (a phrase in the Z.) and all should be clear for us.

Update: here are search results where you can read more about Rashbi and friends' holy teachings on the four primary colours (and they correspond to YKWK, many other things that are four, so discern) which are the root of all the other (many, infinite) "giwwunim"/colors.

The terms you want are

חִוָּור סוּמָק יָרוֹק אוּכָּם

Chiwwar Su-mak Ya-rok U-kam

"White Red Yellow-green-tan-whatever-lightish Black"

Remember this is also Supernal things first up above and not just physical light down below.

https://he.m.wikisource.org/w/index.php?search=%D7%97%D7%95%D7%95%D7%A8+%D7%99%D7%A8%D7%95%D7%A7+%D7%AA%D7%99%D7%A7%D7%95%D7%A0%D7%99+%D7%96%D7%95%D7%94%D7%A8&title=%D7%9E%D7%99%D7%95%D7%97%D7%93%3A%D7%97%D7%99%D7%A4%D7%95%D7%A9&ns0=1&ns106=1&ns108=1&ns110=1&ns112=1

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  • Please provide a source that the Zohar says that there are only four colors.
    – bondonk
    Commented Jul 2, 2023 at 8:43
  • תיקוני זהר יב ב לְבוּשִׁין דְּאוֹרַיְיתָא, מְרַקְמָן מִכָּל גַּוְונָא דְנוּרָא, חִוָּור וְסוּמָק וְיָרוֹק וְאוּכָּם, וּמִנְּהוֹן אִתְפָּרְשָׁן לְכַמָּה גַוָּונִין. וְכֻלְּהוּ... The clothing of the Torah are knit from all(four) colors of fire, White Red Yellow and Black, and from them they spread out to many colors .. Commented Jul 2, 2023 at 13:09
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    So many to list and each one is a whole world of Wisdom here are a search result you can check out .. so I'll stand corrected there are infinite colors let's say but they stem from four .. he.m.wikisource.org/w/… Commented Jul 2, 2023 at 13:11
  • Thanks, it would be good to provide the source as a link in the answer so that people can read it.
    – bondonk
    Commented Jul 3, 2023 at 8:19
  • oki doki did it NN Commented Jul 3, 2023 at 16:50

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