B. Michaelis’ Attempted Identification of the Tekhelet-hillazon with Sepia loligo

The first attempt at an identification of the hillazon shel Tekhelet seems to have been made by Michaelis. Following Maimonides’ description of the Tekhelet hillazon, Michaelis identifies the species with sepia or more precisely Sepia loligo. So sure is he of the identity that he ventures in fact to explain on that basis the etymology of Tekhelet, the sepia on being pursued ejects its ink-like secretion. This derivation for Tekhelet, needless to say, has little plausibility even on the assumption of the correctness of the identification. Whatever may be thought of the value of Michaelis’ hypothesis it must be owned that it marks an appreciable progress in the scientific study of the question, attempting as it does to rediscover the Tekhelethillazon in living nature as distinct from the dead book.

Gesenius following the direction pointed to by his distinguished predecessor in the study of Hebrew philology, likewise tries to identify the “hillazon-shel-Tekhelet” with a known species, but not content with interpreting Jewish tradition alone, he attempts to combine the data supplied by the latter with the statements of Pliny regarding the purple mollusca.


 “The “buccini” species found in the open Mediterranean Sea, clinging to rocks, with its shell of a violet hue, a dark violet color, as described by Forskalius.” “שחלת = תכלת buccini species in mari mediterraneo uperta, petris adherens, circa scopulosque lecta, testa violacio, color obscure violaceus ut ait Forskalius.”1




  1. Pliny, ibid., IX, p. 127. Hebraeorum, Amsterdam (1680), v.L chs. XIII-XIV.