What Does Purple Represent In The Bible

Purple is associated with royalty, mystery, and piety throughout history. In the Bible, purple is a distinct and powerful symbol of holiness and finery. It is connected to the idea of holiness and spiritual worth, as in the 12 Tribes of Israel, and the color appears prominently throughout both the Old and New Testaments.

According to scholars, the color purple in the Bible is typically used to describe something that bears the characteristics of wealth, power, and grandeur. Biblical figures adorn themselves in purple-dyed garments, crowns, linens, and cloaks, linking the color to the wealthy and powerful. Throughout the Bible, references to purple are used interchangeably with blue, a color often associated with piety, spiritual power, and holiness.

In ancient times, dyeing fabrics a deep, rich purple was an arduous and expensive process. This process made purple an indicator of religious authority and wealth, for only those with the financial means could acquire purple fabrics, ornaments and robes. In the Bible, the color primarily appears in contexts focusing upon the impious, indicating either their spiritual profanity or their transfer to holiness. For example, when the Prodigal Son returns to his father, his father clothes him in a brilliant purple robe to indicate his newfound holiness.

The rarity of purple dyes and fabrics lends itself to a wider connotation in the Bible, as is becomes a symbol of distinction and aristocracy. In 1 Kings 10:28, King Solomon is praised for his rule, as he owned large amounts of purple dyed clothing, fabrics, and textiles. This, in turn, connected him to royalty and authority over his people. In addition, purple is also overtly linked to the Jewish Priesthood.

One of the most significant figures in the Bible wearing a purple garment is Jesus, who alludes to his wealth when he says, “the children of the bridechamber mourn as longs as the bridegroom is with him, but when the bridegroom is taken away, they will fast no longer.” (Matthew 9:15). In this passage, he not only references the presence of a marriage party, but he also emphasizes his own wealth, as purple was often the fabric of choice for Jewish bridal garments. Jesus also wears a purple robe during his crucifixion, tying his life to his wealth and essence as a divine figure.

In conclusion, the color purple in the Bible calls to an image of wealth and grandeur that could only be achieved through devotion to a spiritual or religious code. As such, it unites the pious with the profane and serves as a reminder of the everlasting luxury that awaits the righteous.

Divine Celebration

The luxurious symbolism of the color purple is abundantly evident in the Bible with events of divine celebration. Jesus is celebrated with a purple garment in the parable of the wedding feast (Matthew 22:1-14). The servants of the Father are ordered to bring in “the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind” to the feast, and they are offered fine clothing including a purple garment. In addition, John the Baptist’s garments and Elijah’s cloak are both adorned with purple (Matthew 11:7-9, Matthew 17:1-3). These events demonstrate the prominent use of purple to represent holiness, royalty and sacred intimacy.

The use of purple lies in its ability to imbue garments and textiles with a sacred presence. In other words, purple ensconces the wearer in a spiritual garb—one meant to distinguish them from locals as a religious leader. For example, in the Old Testament, Aaron and his sons had to don a robe of pure purple when they officiated the Tabernacle (Exodus 28:31-35). This robe represented their sacred position in the faith, as it symbolized their connection to God.

Throughout the Bible, the luxurious symbolism of the color purple is prominent in events of spiritual importance. From the robes of Aaron’s sons to the lavish dressings of Jesus, the connection between purple and holiness is clear. The extravagance of the color is indicative of the degree of solemnity of each of these events, each of which serves to remind us of the power and grandeur of faith.

Regal Authority

Purple is clearly associated with the regal authority of kings and priests throughout the Bible. It is a reflection of authority, wealth and power, and appears in passages such as the Levitical service proclaiming, “They shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons to serve me as priests; they shall receive gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine linen” (Exodus 28:2-3). Here, the power of the Vestments of the High Priest are made clear — Aaron was to make special robes of purple, blue, and scarlet thread intended to symbolize his spiritual influence.

Another example of regal authority is provided in 1 Kings 10:21-25 which states, “All King Solomon’s drinking vessels are of gold, and all the vessels of the House of the Forest of Lebanon are of pure gold; none were of silver — it was accounted as nothing in the days of Solomon. For the king had at sea a navy of Tarshish with the navy of Hiram. Once every three years the navy of Tarshish came — gold, silver, ivory, apes, and monkeys. So King Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom.” This section of text is a reminder of regal authority, as the vessels and wealth are compared side by side. In essence, King Solomon’s wealth is directly linked to the grandeur of purple, as it was the most costly of dyes and fabrics in his time.

The symbolic language within the Bible is often overlooked, yet its significance is unmistakable. The color purple is indicative of the wealth and power of certain individuals and serves to solidify their spiritual influence over their people and kingdom. When used in the context of religious authority, purple garment and cloth become a tangible reinforcement of divine providence, as they are only available to those whose spiritual worth has been tested and proven.

Luxuriant Wealth

The rare and expensive material of purple fabric is indicative of a higher spiritual domain. The prophet Elisha is described in 2 Kings 2:14 as wearing “a new garment of purple”, signifying his enthronement as the Prophet of Israel. The luxurious price tag of purple dye material vestments emphasizes the importance of spiritual sovereignty, as Elisha had to pay a high price in order to join a higher spiritual level. Later, in 2 Kings 9:3, Jehu is presented in royal purple garments and ushered into Israel’s royal court, indicating his divine ascent and connection to God.

In the New Testament, purple becomes an explicit indicator of wealth. The woman caught in adultery is identified as a wealthy woman by Jesus, who said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more.” (John 8:11). He then further states, “for the right thing to do would be to give her in marriage to such a one as became her; and this might have been done by the magistrates, had they judged her as they ought to have done” (John 8:11). This passage makes it clear that the woman was wearing a purplish garment, known to be a sign of wealth. As such, Jesus is gently reminding her that her wealth necessitates a certain degree of moral responsibility.

Throughout the Bible, purple is directly linked to wealth, power, and religious authority. Its limited production and expense has made it a commodity, but it also invites a spiritual realm. From the vestments of Aaron’s sons to the regal robes of Jesus and Elijah, it is clear of the luxury of purple and its many meanings in the Bible.

Spiritual Progression

Purple also serves as a symbol of spiritual progression in the Bible. In Genesis 37, Joseph is gifted with a striking purple robe by his brothers, who attempt to atone for their sins and mask the prophecy of Joseph’s ascendancy. Later, in the Gospel of John, the woman caught in adultery is wrapped in a purple garment and pardoned by Jesus. Both instances are symbolic of spiritual progression, as the color links them to a state of divine acceptance and holiness.

Purple is also indicative of spiritual advancement in some of the most powerful and moving moments in the Bible. When Jesus approaches his crucifixion, he is wrapped in a cloth of deep purple and significant sadness, further emphasizing the importance of his death. In The Book Of Mark, upon Christ’s resurrection, Mary Magdalene is recognized by Jesus only after she wears a “purple garment.” This majestic piece of cloth becomes the marker of Mary’s spiritual recognition as a witness to Jesus’s resurrection and a leader of the early church.

In various passages of the Bible, purple serves to remind us of the ongoing progress of faith and spiritual journey. Whether it is Mark 2:21 or John 8:11, purple sheds light on the movement of the Scripture and its characters’ attempts to ascend spiritually and reach divine acceptance. This color is full of majesty and awe, and serves as a reminder of our eternal search for God and His ever-present power in our lives.

Unifying Luxury

The luxurious symbolism of purple in the Bible serves as a unifying element between the profane and the pious. This color serves as a reminder of their interconnectedness despite their differences in faith. This is evidenced by King Ahab, whose embrace of unrighteousness allowed Jezebel to introduce the worship of Baal to Israel. Despite his moral decline, he is also forever remembered for his passion for cloth and linens of purple. His feast decontaminates these garments and they become “divine by association”. In this way, purple is an apt symbol of the unifying power of love, hospitality, wealth and the cross.

In addition, the color purple is present in the stories of tenacious and persevering women such as Rahab and the Samaritan woman — women of great strength who willingly threw their lives away to chance, and skillfully maneuvered societal expectations in order to regain their identity. Symbolically, there is a layer of dignity and spiritual power in purple that serves to remind them of the country’s past and the grandeur of grace.

Purple is a unifying color throughout the Bible. The profane and the pious are united through this single commonplace and, in some ways, become one. Scholars assert that all of humanity regardless of culture, ethnicity or creed, is linked together by our innate need for comfort and luxury, which purple helps to provoke.

The Promise of Grace

Ultimately, the color purple in the Bible denotes the promise of grace and spiritual fulfillment. It is present in all contexts—from the streets of Jerusalem to the feast of Ahab—inviting us to recognize and obey our destinies. The prophets and priestesses of the Bible were draped in purple to emphasize their potential of fulfilling divine will, while those who failed to adhere to their calling were garbed

Marcos Reyna is a Christian author and speaker. He is dedicated to helping create disciples of Christ through spreading the power of the gospel to others. He has written several books and articles on a variety of theological topics, including matters of faith, worship, biblical studies, practical ethics, and social justice. A trained theologian and devotee of spiritual writing, Marcos has a mission to spread Christian love everywhere. He lives with his family in Nashville, TN where he spends his days encouraging others to seek Christ's grace in all things.

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