In our world today, color may seem like a minor issue; one best relegated to the category of personal preference. But was that the case also in the ancient world? Details, like color, are sometimes overlooked in studies of the ancient world, but iconographic and textual studies have recognized their importance and begun to hint that colors may have been much more carefully chosen then might at first have been assumed. This appears to also be the case for studies related to the ancient Hebrew wilderness sanctuary. The instructions given for the construction of the Hebrew wilderness sanctuary are very detailed in some regards while details are completely left out in others. For example, the instructions for hanging the veil mention that it should be hung on hooks on four pillars but it doesn’t indicate how tall those pillars should be (Exod. 26:32; 36:36). Also, exact dimensions of both cloth covering layers for the tabernacle (linen and goats hair) are included in the instructions (Exod. 26:2, 8; 36:9, 15) but not the dimensions of the two outer layers (rams skin and tahas leathers–Exod. 26:14; 36:19). Another example is the size of the two compartments in the tabernacle. There are very detailed descriptions of the dimensions of the tabernacle itself (Exod. 26:15–25; 36:20–30), but where the veil should be hung inside the tabernacle was not mentioned and thus, there can be only guesses as to the exact dimensions of the two rooms. To form some conclusions in this matter, researchers have had to look at later temple-sanctuaries and extrapolate backward to the tent sanctuary, which is less than satisfying.1 And so, when details about the color of thread are found in the instructions, it begs the question, “What was so significant about these colors that they were specifically mentioned?” Many people have speculated on the meaning of the colors in the wilderness sanctuary, but is there any indication that colors were supposed to even have had meaning to the ancients at all? How were colors used in Egypt? And, how would someone who just came out of Egypt have experienced seeing those colors?



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