Saturday, October 28, 2023

The Symbolic Meaning of Colors in Biblical Texts, by Lottie Westfield

This guest post is by Lottie Westfield. Lottie spent seven years as teaching assistant before taking a step back to start a family.She has since rediscovered her love or writing and enjoys contributing to a range of publications, both in print and online.

Primary Colors: A Revelation of Hidden Symbolism In The Bible

Primary colors blue, yellow, and red are imbued with rich symbolism throughout the Bible. Blue is largely symbolic of heaven and God Himself, while yellow represents God’s glory. Red, on the other hand, is associated with blood and atonement. By studying color symbolism in the Bible, you’re opening your heart and mind up to a type of non-verbal communication from God. Colors are used to evoke emotion and convey messages regarding God’s promises and plan for salvation. Understanding colors symbolism can help you develop a stronger understanding of Scripture and provide greater guidance on your journey of faith. 

Blue: symbolic of heaven 

As the color of the open skies — also known as the gateway to heaven, or the first heaven — blue is symbolic of heaven and God Himself. In Exodus, for example, Moses travels up Mount Sinai, along with his older brother, Aaron, Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy elders of Israel. Here, they see God himself, with “a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself” appearing under His feet. Soon after, God gives Moses the Ten Commandments. Tekelet is the Hebrew word for light blue, with its most accurate translation actually being “the color of the sky.” In addition to blue, the sky comprises colors like pink, yellow, gold, lavender, and navy — all these colors can accurately be called tekelet. 

Tekelet was also the color of the Tabernacle in the wilderness — the portable tent in which God dwelt with the Israelite people. Here, it was a color included in curtains, sacred vessels, and priestly clothing (and particularly in their hems). In Luke 8:40-48, in particular, Jesus Christ heals a bleeding woman. Once the woman touches the edge of Jesus’ cloak, her bleeding stops. So, blue is also representative of God’s healing power and grace. 

Yellow: the glory of God 

Yellow is one of the most symbolic colors referenced in the Bible — it’s largely used to symbolize jubilation, faith, anointing, and God’s glory. Interestingly, you’ll often find yellow and gold are used interchangeably throughout the Bible. The Hebrew word “charuts” usually refers to gold the precious metal. For example, Jesus is gifted with gold at birth in Matthew 2:11, while the interior Solomon’s temple in the Old Testament was covered in pure gold. New Jerusalem is also described as being a city of pure gold in Revelation 21:18. In these contexts, gold represents God’s sovereignty. “Tsahob”, on the other hand, refers to the sallow color found either on skin or hair indicating it’s leperous (Leviticus 13:30, for example, deals with the issue with plague and infection with the underlying meaning that sin corrupts the spirit just as leprosy corrupts the body). 

The yellow butterfly is also rich in symbolism in the Bible. Yellow butterflies are representative of happiness, new beginnings, hope, and enlightenment. Fascinatingly, these insects complete a transformative process from caterpillar and cocoon to their new beginning as butterflies. In fact, this metamorphosis is similar to the journey of Christ from birth to death and resurrection, and symbolic of personal growth and spiritual transformation.  

Red: symbolizing blood and atonement

Red is primarily used to symbolize humanity, sin, and atonement throughout the Bible. Interestingly, the Hebrew word for red is “oudem”, which translates to “red clay”. You’ll also notice “oudem” isn’t a far cry from Adam — the first human being created by God from the dust of the ground. Esau also derives from “oudem” — one of Isaac’s sons described as red and hairy. “Oudem” is therefore the root of “mankind”. Yet, most obviously, red is the color of blood. In the New Testament, for example, blood imagery is featured heavily throughout Jesus’ sacrifice. In the Old Testament, atonement for sin is achieved through animal blood sacrifice (as in Leviticus 17:11). In Exodus 12:1-13, the Israelites also sacrificed a sacred Passover lamb to escape the Angel of Death. After killing the lamb, they applied its blood to the doorposts of their homes, therefore absolving their sins and escaping death. 

The symbolism of primary colors in the Bible is rich and illuminating. By familiarizing yourself with color symbolism, you’ll be able to better interpret the imagery used in prophecy and understand Scripture in greater depth.

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