In recent days there have been a plethora of reports on a one day conference recently held in Jerusalem entitled “100 Years to Tekhelet Research”—honoring the anniversary of Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog’s doctoral dissertation, The Dyeing of Purple in Ancient Israel have appeared.
One very useful article, “Hidden secrets of Techelet holy blue dye discovered in Israel,” by Miriam Kresh, was published by the “Green Prophet” on December 31. It includes pictures of the “tassels” (tsitsit), the murex shell, a Roman coin depicting a murex shell, a page from the 1913 dissertation of Rabbi Isaac Herzog, conference participants, and the laboratory production of the dye. The Israel Antiquities Authority also has an announcement on the topic.
The purple dye was extracted (at great cost) from the murex shells that are found along the coast of Israel and Lebanon.
This purple dye (tekhelet, variously spelled), is mentioned at least 49 times in the Hebrew Bible. It was used for a variety of purposes—especially for priestly garments. However, each male Israelite was to include strands of this blue/purple woven into the “tassels” of their garment—indicating their special status in relationship to the divine.
Num. 15:37 The LORD also spoke to Moses, saying, 38 “Speak to the sons of Israel, and tell them that they shall make for themselves tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they shall put on the tassel of each corner a cord of blue. 39 “And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, so as to do them and not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot, 40 in order that you may remember to do all My commandments, and be holy to your God. 41 “I am the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt to be your God; I am the LORD your God.” (NASB)