Special Blue Dye



Dr. John Hoole – April 28, 2013




For the last several weeks, we have been examining what the Bible tells us about Temple worship for the Jews. Along with that, we have looked at the preparations orthodox Jews are making today so they are ready for when Temple #3 is built.  Certain biblical instructions must be taken into account, like:


         •  Where the Temple is to be built.


         •  Training of the Priests.


         •  Reconstructing tools, instruments and furniture for the Temple.


         •  Finding a Red Heifer to sacrifice for the cleansing of the Temple Mount and priests.


         •  Preparing the priestly garments in accord with Scriptures.


In this latter point, we looked at the need for a specific “scarlet” color used in both the priestly garments and the veil in the Temple.  Today, we examine another color required for the garments of the priest and the Temple veil.  We read God’s instruction about this blue thread in Numbers 15.


Numbers 15:38-39 NKJV


38     "Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners.

39     And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined,


Here in the Torah, we see God giving the necessity of using a certain rare, blue dye to create the beautiful robes of the High priest.  And we read in Exodus 28:31, that the robe of the Ephod is all blue.  The Bible also records that many of the special garments, including the belt of the high priest must be dyed with this special blue dye.


The Hebrew word translated “tassel” is “TSITSIT.”  Tsitsit (feminine) and its plural Tsitsiyot is a kind of tassel.  So important is this command by Jehovah, that it is by some considered central to all commands.


Its importance is also seen in that it is the 3rd part of the Shema.  The Shema is the central prayer in the Jewish prayer-book.  It is often the first Bible passage a Jewish child learns.


Sh'ma Yis'ra'eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad.
Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.


While this statement is the most heard or well-known to Christians, there are actually three parts to the Shema.  The third and last part of the Shema has to do with the tsitsit.  The tsitsit is a specially knotted ritual fringes worn by observant Jews.  A tsitsit is attached to each of the four corners of the tallit (prayer shawl) as well as a cape, tunic or toga that have four corners.


It is customary for worshippers wearing a tallit (prayer shawl) to hold the Tsitsit in the left hand during the shema’s reciting.  At the end of reciting the Shema, they would then kiss the tsitsit.


Today, with clothing that is tailored, there are not many four-cornered garments.  So, to keep the commandment, a garment called a TALLIT KATAN is used.  It is a rectangular measure of cloth with a hole in the middle to place over one’s head.  It is worn between an undershirt and a normal outer shirt.


In the passage we just read, they were instructed to include in the Tzitzit at least one string of a special blue color.  The Hebrew word translated “blue” in the verses above is TEKHELET.  The tekhelet is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible 50 times, with 44 of them in regard to the priesthood or temple.


Most of you are probably aware that all languages evolve.  Most of us, including myself, would have great difficulty understanding Anglo-Saxon English.  Written languages also change over time.  Both modern Greek and Hebrew are difference from their Biblical counterparts.


There are several old or ancient Hebrew scripts that have been uncovered.  Quite often, ancient script were more pictorial.  Here is one early Hebrew script.



You can see the same 22 letters of the Hebrew, but the symbols for each is more picturesque.  And in the third column of each section, you will find the meaning of each letter.


 I don’t often look at ancient Hebrew script.  But I was reading an article on the internet about TEKHELET (blue), and it included some ancient Hebrew script uncovered concerning this blue.  In the text we read a moment ago – Num. 15:38 – Tekhelet is used - t@ólk#t  in biblical Hebrew.  But in the ancient Hebrew script, tekhelet is seen as:

The hand and staff represents the guidance and leadership of  Yeshuah, the Great Shepherd, surrounded by His signature, the cross.  I hope you find that as interesting as I.  In the Tekhelet, the blue thread, they would be reminded God is there to protect and empower them.


I have a question for you – Did Jesus wear a garment with tsitsiyot (tassels) attached to them.  I don’t know if I can prove one way or the other, but I hope to give you something to think about.


First, if the Pharisees were so picky as to complain to Jesus that His disciples did not wash their hands before they ate, would they not also question Jesus if He being a rabbi, did not wear the garments of a Rabbi?


Let me point out two New Testament passages of which many of you will be familiar.


Matthew 9:20-21 NKJV


20     And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment.

21     For she said to herself, "If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well."


When verse 20 speaks of the HEM of His garment, could that be a tsitsit?  Before answering that, let’s look at another New Testament passage.


Matthew 14:34-36 NKJV


34     When they had crossed over, they came to the land of Gennesaret.

35     And when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent out into all that surrounding region, brought to Him all who were sick,

36     and begged Him that they might only touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched it were made perfectly well.


Before examining the word “hem” in these two verses, let me ask:  Where are they physically in this Passage?  Immediately preceding these verse, you read about Peter walking on the water to his Master.  Do you know where Gennesaret is located?  Let me show it in a couple of photos.


Now, I want to examine the Greek word translated “hem.”  It is KRASPEDON in both verses, a word found five times in the Gospels.  I make note of this word because when the Greek translation of the Old Testament – the Septuagint – was written, in all cases, the Hebrew word “tsitsit” is translated “kraspedon” in Greek.  That is probably not enough to prove Christ wore a garment with tassels.


A moment ago we read Matthew 9:20 in the New King James Version.  Let’s read the same verse in the New American Standard.


Matthew 9:20 NASU


20     And a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak;


In this translation, the word “fringe” is used, but it has a footnote on its use.  The footnote reads: “i.e, tassel fringe with a blue cord.”  The Living Bible says the woman “touched a tassel of His robe.”  In my Bible software, I have 6 other translations that read, “fringe.”  And three actually read “tassel.”


I don’t want to belabor the point, but before leaving this thought, let’s look at one more passage.  It’s a passage where Jesus is speaking and pointing out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.


Matthew 23:5 NIV


5       "Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long;


The Greek word translated “tassels” in this verse is Kraspedon, the same word translated “hem” in the previous passages we examined.  In all the translations I have, 11 of them this verse as “tassels.”  Seven others translate it as “fringe.”


Now let’s return to the special blue dye (tekhelet).  Not only is the special blue color used in the tsitsit – there are other places where the same dye is required.


Exodus 28:31-33 NKJV


31     "You shall make the robe of the ephod all of blue.

32     There shall be an opening for his head in the middle of it; it shall have a woven binding all around its opening, like the opening in a coat of mail, so that it does not tear.

33     And upon its hem you shall make pomegranates of blue, purple, and scarlet, all around its hem, and bells of gold between them all around:


The Bible and the Mishneh Torah both emphasize the necessity of using a certain rare blue dye to create the beautiful robes of the high priest.  Many of the special garments, including the avnet-belt of the high priest, must be dyed with a special blue dye known as Techelet.  But since the days of the Second Temple, crucial ingredients of the dye have been lost.


The Talmud teaches that the source of the special blue dye is the KHILLAZON.  Translated into English, the word becomes SNAIL (Murex Trunculus).  The location of where this mollusk was found was the eastern Mediterranean.  The Talmud also forbids the use of any other source for this blue dye.


Several manuscripts were written by Jewish scholars, including the late chief rabbi Isaac Herzog, about the lost dye and the seeming impossibility of resuming authentic Temple worship due to the absence of the required dye.  The correct shade of blue was feared lost and had not been seen since A.D. 70.  Throughout history Rabbis have discussed and wondered what shade of blue is required.  For many centuries, it was feared the snail from which to extract the Tekhelet was extinct.  Because of this, down through the years, many rabbis wore only white Tzitzits (tassels).


But, in the 1990s, the snail from which the dye was extracted began all of a sudden showing up in the same place along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. primarily the coastal region from Haifa, Israel to Tyre, Lebanon.  And currently, they showing up in great numbers.  God’s timing is impeccable.


A thick liquid is extracted from a gland in the mollusk to produce the rich blue dye.  The Temple Institute in Jerusalem has created a supply of the blue dye, which are being used to create the garments required in Temple worship.  The unspun wool for the priestly robe is dipped in this liquid, turning the wool a bright green. When the now green wool is exposed to light, it takes on a rich blue color.  Once it is dyed, the wool is spun by craftsmen into a blue thread that is incorporated into the garments worn by the high priest.


Garments for other priests with the special blue-purple dye (tekhelet),used in the priestly Tsitsit (fringes on the prayer shawl), have been prepared and readied for use.