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The colour כחול is not mentioned in Tanach. Given it's 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
    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
    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
    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
    Mar 5, 2019 at 12:50
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    I humbly suggest taking a look at this article I wrote on the topic of "blue" in Tanakh: blogs.timesofisrael.com/pekudai-the-true-blue it doesn't directly address your question, but is quite germane to the discussion. Apr 16, 2019 at 11:46

3 Answers 3

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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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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"

  2. 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
    Mar 5, 2019 at 14:38
  • The Mishna uses Techeiles,lavan,and karti
    – sam
    Mar 5, 2019 at 14:46
  • יהללך זר ולא פיך
    – kouty
    Mar 5, 2019 at 20:11
  • According to the other answer, it is mentioned in Tanach in several places.
    – DonielF
    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
    Mar 6, 2019 at 7:59
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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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