Tap into Purple’s Biblical Significance & Meaning

The color purple has held spiritual symbolism and meaning since ancient times. Both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible contain rich references associating the color purple with wealth, royalty, and honor. But beyond material significance, purple also carries deeply symbolic spiritual meaning in Scripture.

By analyzing bible passages about the color purple, we can uncover a deeper understanding of its heavenly connections. From representing sacrifice and redemption to evoking images of divine judgment and the afterlife, purple permeates key moments in biblical history with spiritual resonance.

Purple Representing Wealth and Power in the Ancient World

In the ancient world, purple dye was extremely rare and expensive to produce, making it synonymous with nobility, royalty, and wealth. The rarity of purple cloth gave it incredible economic and symbolic value in antiquity.

1.1 Restricted Use of Purple in the Ancient Near East

The Phoenicians perfected the complex production of Tyrian purple dye extracted from Mediterranean sea snails, establishing a monopoly on its sale. Given the enormous effort required to create purple fabrics, only rulers, nobles, and the social elite could afford this vibrant luxury.

As such, ancient Near Eastern cultures including Egypt, Persia, Greece, and Rome adopted purple garments and household textiles as symbols of human majesty, prestige, and power endorsed by the gods. Biblical descriptions of purple must be interpreted against this ancient cultural backdrop.

1.2 Biblical Purple Pointing Beyond Status

The Old Testament contains over 50 references to the color purple demonstrating its secular association with material worth, riches, and elevated social status in the biblical period. But sacred texts use purple for more than conveying human nobility – it points towards the divine.

As God’s chosen people, Old Testament prophets and priests wore purple garments both symbolically and ceremonially. The Bible’s visual storytelling uses purple to represent spiritual concepts like atonement, sanctification, and Yahweh’s covenant with Israel. Purple points toward the coming Messiah and Christ’s sacrifice to redeem humanity.

Purple Garments in the Old Testament

Some of the most vivid descriptions of purple in the Old Testament center around the clothing of kings, nobles, and patriarchs demonstrating the color’s association with wealth and power. In the book of Esther, Mordecai leaves King Ahasuerus’s presence dressed in splendid “garments of blue and white, with a great golden crown and a mantle of fine linen and purple” (Esther 8:15).

2.1 Biblical Purple Demonstrating Favor and Blessing

The books of Kings, Chronicles, Exodus, and more describe King Solomon receiving luxurious purple items:

  • Royal purple linens
  • Purple garments
  • Expensive purple curtains

The Bible equates these purple textiles with Solomon’s wealth, national success, divine blessing, and privileged status in God’s eyes. Scripture utilizes purple as a visible emblem of legitimate earthly and heavenly power.

2.2 Ceremonial Purple Garments Prescribed by God

Beyond conveying material value, purple serves ceremonial and spiritual symbolic purposes in the Old Testament. God instructs Moses on crafting sacred vestments for Aaron and his priestly sons “of gold, blue, purple and scarlet yarn” (Exodus 28:5).

These vibrant garments visibly distinguished Israel’s spiritual leaders and assigned them divine authority. The colors held symbolic meaning — blue evoking Yahweh’s heavenly realm, purple signifying royalty, and crimson representing blood sacrifice for sin.

Purple Robes and Jesus’s Sacrifice in the Gospels

Echoing Old Testament prophecy, the color purple permeates the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. After brutally scourging Christ, Roman soldiers “stripped him and put a purple robe on him” (John 19:2) mocking his claim to Jewish kingship.

3.1 Soldiers Unwittingly Crown Jesus King

Ironically, their actions unwittingly portray Jesus as a monarch while foreshadowing his spiritual sovereignty as messiah. In Luke’s account soldiers additionally crown Jesus with thorns crying “Hail, king of the Jews!” (Luke 23:11).

The visual irony culminates when Jesus’ purple robe turns crimson, stained by the innocent sacrifice offered for humanity’s salvation. Jesus fulfils his role as sovereign priest and king through torture, suffering, death and resurrection.

3.2 Purple Representing Christ’s Passion and Redemption

In medieval theology, purple became closely associated with Jesus’ passion and sacrifice based on these gospel scenes. Liturgical churches display purple vestments and altar cloths during Lent and Advent season in somber anticipation of Christ’s suffering and crucifixion for mankind’s sins.

In modern times, melody from Handel’s “Messiah” proclaims Jesus “wore a robe of purple” that “looked like blood” as Christian music continues interpreting the color’s spiritual meaning.

A Heavenly Purple Throne in Revelation

Finally, the apostle John’s vision in Revelation constructs a rich, vibrant portrait of God’s throne room suffused with purple hues. The majestic scene represents divine judgment and salvation of his faithful followers.

4.1 An Emerald Rainbow and Purple Garments Before the Throne

John first describes “a rainbow around the throne, resembling an emerald…encircled the throne” alongside “twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads” (Revelation 4:3-4).

The gemstone green rainbow echoes God’s covenant with Noah after the flood, promising salvation and redemption. The elders’ white garments signify righteous deeds and purification through Christ’s sacrifice.

4.2 The Woman Clothed in Purple Foreshadowing Judgement

Purple reappears multiple times symbolically referencing extremity and the cosmic scale of God’s power: “A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Revelation 12:1).

This mysterious pregnant woman suffers labor pains and fleeing from the dragon Satan seeking to destroy her child. As events unfold, the women is finally carried to safety in the wilderness – a narrative foreshadowing spiritual persecution, tribulation, and ultimate divine rescue.

4.3 Purple Threads Binding Heavenly and Earthly Realms

Revelation interweaves purple with emerald, fine linen, and scarlet cloth into a tapestry binding heavenly and earthly realms. God sits enthroned judging between salvation and destruction, mercy and vengeance, structuring created order around his divine character and Christ’s sacrifice.

Applying Biblical Purple’s Meaning Today

Beyond representing luxury, prestige, wealth, and power, the color purple assumes a multidimensional symbolic character throughout Scripture culminating in Christ’s sacrifice and visions of final judgment and eternal life.

Meditating on biblical purple passages trains our minds to value the eternal over the temporary and reinforces that every human soul carries immeasurable worth in the eyes of our Creator. The color purple speaks truth to earthly power structures, calling Christ’s followers to live sacrificially serving others before themselves.

5.1 Purple Reminding Us of Our Eternal Destiny

In a world obsessed with self-promotion and gaining material advantages over others, biblical purple stands as a constant reminder that only humility, righteousness, justice and trust in God’s provision leads to salvation and an eternal hope.

As Apostle Paul writes: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Biblical purple reinforces this spiritual reality – our shared identity in Jesus supersedes all earthly categories and defines our eternal destiny.