What Does the Color Purple Symbolize in the Bible

By Paul King •  Updated: 09/30/23 •  12 min read

The color purple holds significant symbolic meaning in the Bible, representing various concepts such as royalty, power, sovereignty, and wealth. It is mentioned multiple times in the Scriptures, highlighting its importance in biblical times.

In the Old Testament, the color purple was associated with royalty and nobility. In the book of Judges, we read about the valiant judge named Deborah, who was also a prophetess. She was known for her wisdom and leadership, and she sat under a palm tree called ‘the Palm of Deborah’ (Judges 4:5). Deborah’s authority and position as a judge were symbolized by the purple garment she wore (Judges 5:10).

Furthermore, the color purple was closely linked to the kingship of Israel. In the book of Esther, we learn about King Ahasuerus, who ruled over 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia. He held a great banquet and decorated the palace with purple and white linen (Esther 1:6). The use of purple in the royal palace emphasized the king’s authority and power.

Purple was also associated with wealth and luxury. In the book of Acts, we encounter Lydia, a wealthy businesswoman from Thyatira. She was a seller of purple goods, indicating her prosperity and status (Acts 16:14-15). Lydia’s occupation of selling purple fabric demonstrates the high value placed on this color in ancient times.

In addition to its symbolism of royalty, power, and wealth, the color purple holds spiritual and metaphorical implications. In the New Testament, Jesus’s crucifixion is described in the Gospel of Mark. The soldiers mockingly dressed him in a purple robe, symbolizing their mockery of his claim to be the King of the Jews (Mark 15:17-20). This event not only highlights the irony of Jesus’s kingship but also serves as a reminder of his sacrificial love for humanity.

The significance of the color purple in the Bible goes beyond its physical representation. It serves as a reminder of God’s sovereignty and authority. In the book of Revelation, the apostle John has a vision of heaven and describes the appearance of God on His throne. He writes, ‘The one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne’ (Revelation 4:3). The mention of jasper, ruby, and emerald conveys a vivid image of vibrant colors, including purple. This imagery portrays the majesty and glory of God, emphasizing His supreme reign over all creation.

In conclusion, the color purple in the Bible symbolizes royalty, power, sovereignty, and wealth. Its significance is deeply rooted in biblical times, where it represented the authority of judges and kings, the prosperity of wealthy individuals, and the sacrificial love of Jesus. The color purple serves as a reminder of God’s sovereignty and majesty, highlighting His supreme reign over all things.

Key Takeaways

Significance of Purple in Biblical Times

In biblical times, the color purple held significant symbolism and was associated with wealth, royalty, and power, as stated in the book of Exodus: ‘Moreover, you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen and blue and purple and scarlet yarns; you shall make them with cherubim skillfully worked into them’ (Exodus 26:1).

Purple garments were highly valued due to the rarity and expense of the purple dye, which was obtained from a mollusk found in the Mediterranean Sea. The process of extracting the dye was labor-intensive and time-consuming, making it a luxury item. This is evident in the story of Lydia, a seller of purple fabrics, mentioned in the book of Acts: ‘And a certain woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul’ (Acts 16:14).

The association of purple with wealth and power is also reflected in the story of the rich man and Lazarus, as narrated by Jesus in the book of Luke: ‘There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day’ (Luke 16:19). This description emphasizes the opulence and status of those who possessed purple garments.

Furthermore, the color purple is mentioned in the book of Esther, where Queen Esther herself is adorned in purple: ‘And when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won favor in his sight, and he held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter’ (Esther 5:2). This demonstrates how purple was associated with royalty and authority.

Purple as a Symbol of Royalty and Power

Purple, throughout biblical texts, has consistently been associated with royalty and power. This symbolism can be traced back to ancient times when purple dye was rare and expensive, making it a color accessible only to the wealthy and powerful. The significance of purple as a representation of royalty is reinforced by various biblical stories and verses.

One such story is found in the book of Esther. In this story, King Ahasuerus is depicted wearing a purple robe, highlighting his regal status. The book of Esther 8:15 describes how when the Jews were saved from destruction, ‘Mordecai left the king’s presence wearing royal garments of blue and white, a large crown of gold and a purple robe of fine linen.’ This passage not only emphasizes the association of purple with royalty but also demonstrates how it was seen as a symbol of authority and power.

Another significant mention of purple in the Bible is found in the New Testament. Before his crucifixion, Jesus is mockingly dressed in a purple robe by the soldiers. This event is described in the Gospel of Mark 15:17, which states, ‘They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him.’ This act of dressing Jesus in purple is a deliberate attempt to mock his claim to kingship. However, it also serves as a powerful reminder of the irony between worldly perceptions of power and Jesus’ true kingship.

The association of purple with royalty in these biblical stories goes beyond mere symbolism. It represents the authority and sovereignty of those in power. In the context of God’s sovereignty, purple takes on an even deeper significance. The book of Revelation 19:13 describes Jesus as wearing ‘a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called The Word of God.’ This imagery of a robe dipped in blood symbolizes both Jesus’ sacrifice and his ultimate kingship.

Purple as a Representation of God’s Sovereignty

The representation of purple as a symbol of God’s sovereignty is deeply rooted in biblical stories and passages. Throughout the Bible, purple is consistently associated with divinity and divine authority.

One notable example is found in the story of the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness. In Numbers 4:1-15, God commands Moses and Aaron to take a census of the Kohathite clan, which included the responsibility of transporting the sacred objects of the tabernacle. The Lord specifically instructs that these items, such as the Ark of the Covenant and the table of showbread, are to be covered with a purple cloth before being carried. This act highlights the significance of purple as a representation of God’s presence and authority.

Furthermore, in the book of Esther, we see the power and authority associated with purple. Queen Esther, chosen by God to save the Jewish people from destruction, is adorned in royal garments of purple and fine linen. This clothing not only signifies her regal status but also symbolizes her divine calling and authority to intercede on behalf of her people.

Another notable instance is found in the New Testament, in the Gospel of Mark. During the crucifixion of Jesus, the soldiers mockingly dress him in a purple robe, placing a crown of thorns on his head. Little did they know that in their cruel actions, they unwittingly acknowledged Jesus’ true identity as the King of Kings, the ultimate embodiment of God’s sovereignty.

Throughout these stories and others, the color purple serves as a visual representation of God’s sovereignty and divine authority. It reminds us of His presence and power, and the role He plays as the ultimate ruler over all creation.

As we delve deeper into the symbolism of purple in the Bible, we will uncover additional layers of meaning that reveal its significance as a symbol of wealth and prosperity as well.

Purple as a Symbol of Wealth and Prosperity in the Bible

Purple, a color associated with royalty and opulence, holds significant symbolic meaning in biblical narratives. It represents material abundance and prosperity, reflecting the wealth of those who possessed it. In biblical times, purple dye was extracted from certain mollusks found in the Mediterranean Sea, making it a rare and costly substance. The production process involved extensive labor and resources, making purple garments a symbol of extravagance and luxury.

One biblical example highlighting the significance of purple is found in the book of Esther. Queen Vashti is described as wearing a royal robe of purple, which serves as a clear indication of her regal position and social status. This imagery reinforces the idea that purple is a marker of wealth and power.

Moreover, the association of purple with prosperity is further exemplified through its connection to the merchant city of Tyre. Tyre was known for its affluent trade, including the trade of purple dye. In Ezekiel 27:16, Tyre is described as having ‘purple and embroidered work from Egypt’ among its valuable merchandise. This reference not only emphasizes the city’s wealth but also highlights the value placed on purple as a commodity.

To delve deeper into the symbolic meaning of purple in biblical prophecy, it is essential to explore relevant stories and verses. For instance, the story of Lydia in Acts 16 provides valuable insights. Lydia, a seller of purple fabrics, is described as a worshipper of God. Her trade in purple implies her financial prosperity and high social standing within her community. This demonstrates that purple held significance not only in terms of wealth but also in relation to one’s spiritual devotion.

The Symbolic Meaning of Purple in Biblical Prophecy

One of the main themes in biblical prophecy is the symbolic representation of purple as a marker of wealth and prosperity. This symbolism is deeply rooted in the holy scriptures of the Bible, providing a profound understanding of the significance of purple in biblical prophecies.

In the book of Exodus, we find a powerful story that exemplifies the association of purple with wealth and prosperity. When the Israelites were constructing the Tabernacle, a portable sanctuary for worship, they used various materials and colors to adorn it. One of these materials was purple fabric, specifically dyed from the shells of a mollusk called the Murex. This dyeing process was highly labor-intensive and expensive, making purple fabric a precious commodity reserved for the wealthy and elite.

In Exodus 26:1, the Lord instructs Moses on the construction of the Tabernacle, saying, ‘Moreover, you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen and blue and purple and scarlet yarns; you shall make them with cherubim skillfully worked into them.’ Here, we see the deliberate inclusion of purple as a symbol of opulence and abundance in the sacred space dedicated to worship.

Furthermore, the association of purple with royalty is reinforced throughout the Bible. In the book of Esther, we read about Queen Esther, who was adorned with purple garments as a sign of her royal position. Esther 8:15 describes the scene, stating, ‘Then Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal robes of blue and white, with a great golden crown and a robe of fine linen and purple.’ This vivid depiction highlights the regal nature of purple and its connection to power and authority.

In addition to wealth and royalty, purple is also associated with divine favor and blessings. In the Gospel of Mark, a woman suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years touches the cloak of Jesus in hopes of being healed. Mark 5:27-29 recounts the event, stating, ‘She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.’ Immediately her bleeding stopped, and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.’ The cloak of Jesus is often depicted as a purple garment, symbolizing his divine authority and the miraculous healing power associated with him.

Understanding the symbolic meaning of purple in biblical prophecy not only deepens our appreciation for the messages conveyed through this color but also reminds us of the divine promises of prosperity and blessings. It serves as a powerful reminder that God’s favor and abundance are available to all who believe in Him. As we reflect on the stories and verses that highlight the significance of purple, may we be inspired to seek a deeper understanding of God’s promises and embrace the blessings that await us.

Paul King

I post written versions of my powerful sermons exploring topics like prayer, praise, biblical truths, and more expressions of faith. My church has a deeply spiritual culture, which I try to convey through vivid storytelling and applications in our everyday life. I spread the Good Word with lots of conviction and passion.
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