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Symbolism used in the Bible

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In apocalyptic literature, color plays an important role in conveying symbolic meanings. For example, the colors blue, purple, and scarlet played prominent roles in the building of the wilderness tabernacle (Exodus 26:1; 27;16; 28:6). In Numbers 15:37-38, "The LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 'Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue'." The woman that John sees in the wilderness, however, sits on a scarlet beast and only wears purple and scarlet (Revelation 17:3-4) while the color blue is noticeably absent. Here purple and scarlet suggest that the woman has become affluent through evil means and not by the blessing of the Lord.

Below is a list of all the colors mentioned in the Bible with both their references and their meanings.

Color Meaning
Amber Symbolizes the Glory of God
Black One of the more commonly used colors in the Bible; describes the color of the middle of the night (Proverbs 7:9); diseased skin (Job 30:30); healthy hair (Song of Solomon 5:11; Matthew 5:36); corpes' faces (Lamentations 4:8); the sky (Jeremiah 4:28); the darkening of the sun and the moon (Joel 2:10); horses (Zechariah 6:2; Revelation 6:5); and marble (Esther 1:6).

The color black symbolizes sin, death, and famine.
Blue Used to describe the color of a wound, but may refer to the wound itself (Proverbs 20:30). It also describes the sky, Heaven, and the Holy Spirit.
Brown A dark, blackish color referred only to sheep (Genesis 30:32-33, 35, 40).
Crimson Crimson linen was used in the temple (II Chronicles 2:7, 14, 3:14); the color must have been indelible or permanet (Jeremiah 4:30), as crimson is used figuratively as sin. (Isaiah 1:18).

Often refers to blood atonement and sacrifice.
Gold As gold is the highest, most precious metal, so the divine nature is the highest nature, the only nature having immortality (Exodus 28:36; Psalm 21:3).
Gray Used only to describe the hair of the elderly (Genesis 42:38)
Green Normally describes vegetation; used of pastures (Psalm 23:2); herbage (II Kings 19:26); trees in general (Deuteronomy 12:2; Luke 23:31; Revelation 8:7); the marriage bed (in a figurative sense, Song of Solomon 1:16); a hypocrite compared to a papyrus plant (Job 8:16); and grass (Mark 6:39). A word meaning "greenish" describes plague spots (Leviticus 13:49, 14:37) as well as the color of gold.

Most often associated with the meaning of growth.
Purple The most precious of ancient dyes made from a shellfish found in the Mediterranean Sea. A total of 250,000 mollusks was required to make one ounce of the dye, which partly accounts for its great price. It was highly valued within the nation of Israel.

Used in several features of the tabernacle (Exodus 26:1, 27:16) and the temple (II Chronicles 2:14); the color of royal robes (Judges 8:26); the garments of the wealthy (Proverbs 31:22; Luke 16:19); the vesture of a harlot (Revelation 17:4); and the robe placed on Jesus (Mark 15:17, 20).

This color symbolizes kingship and royalty.
Red Describes natural objects such as Jacob's stew (Genesis 25:30); the sacrificial heifer (Numbers 19:2); wine (Proverbs 23:31); newborn Esau (Genesis 25:25); Judah's eyes (Genesis 49:12); the eyes of the drunkard (Proverbs 23:29); and the dragon (Revelation 12:3).

The color of blood, it often symbolizes life; it also suggests bloodshed in the carnage of war.
Scarlet Scarlet cord was tied around the wrist of Zerah (Genesis 38:28-30); used a great deal in the tabernacle (Exodus 25:4); the color of cord hung from Rahab's window (Joshua 2:18); a mark of prosperity (II Samuel 1:24; Proverbs 31:21); the color of the robe placed on Jesus (Matthew 27:28); though scarlet and purple were not always distinguished (Mark 15:17); color of the beast ridden by the harlot Babylon (Revelation 17:3) along with some of her garments (Revelation 17:4) and those of her followers (Revelation 18:16).

Often refers to blood atonement and sacrifice.
Silver Used to represent the truth. (Psalm 12:6)
White The color of animals (Genesis 30:35); manna (Exodus 16:31); both hair and pustules located in plague sores (Leviticus 13:3-39); garments (Ecclesiastes 9:8, Daniel 7:9); the robes of the righteous (Revelation 19:8); horses (Zechariah 1:8; Revelation 6:2, 19:11); forgiven sins (Psalm 5:7, Isaiah 1:8); a refined remnant (Daniel 11:35, 12:10); the beloved one (Song of Solomon 5:10); the white of an egg (Job 6:6); the shining garments of angels (Revelation 15:6) and of the transfigured Christ (Matthew 17:2); hair (Matthew 5:36); gravestones (Matthew 23:27); and the great throne of judgment (Revelation 20:11).

Portrays purity, righteousness, joy, light, and a white horse symbolizes victory.
Yellow Indicates the greenish cast of gold (Psalm 68:13) and the light-colored hair in a leprous spot (Leviticus 13:30,32)

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This teaching was written by David Holt Boshart, Jr.
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