In this article, we will explore the color purple in the Bible. We will look into scripture and discover the symbolic and spiritual meaning behind the color. Grab you Bibles, it’s going to be fun!
As we have gone through the colors of the Bible we have now landed on the color purple! When you take primary colors, red and blue you come up with the wonderful color of purple. This means it’s a secondary color. In nature this color is quite rare, we usually see it within plants and a small amount of animals like mussels, snails, birds, and more.
When it comes to the Bible, we see the color purple strategically placed. This gives the color such a rich symbolic meaning. But before we dig into the symbolic and spiritual meaning of purple let’s take a look at the color in the Hebrew and Greek.
An In-depth Look at Purple in the Bible
Purple is found mostly in the book of Exodus. This is because purple thread and fabric was extensively used on the Tabernacle. This conveyed God’s royalty, wealth, power, and more. To create this purple dye they would use marine snails called murex mollusc. It was a tedious and long process, but more on that later…
The Hebrew and Greek Words for Purple
In the Hebrew we see argâmân used for the word, purple for all references except for one. In 2 Chronicles 2:7 we see a variation of the same word. Both clearly mean the color purple.
אַרְגָּמָןʼ argâmân, ar-gaw-mawn’; of foreign origin; purple (the color or the dyed stuff):—purple.
אַרְגְּוָןʼ argᵉvân, arg-ev-awn’; a variation for H713; purple:—purple.
In the Greek we see three different variations of the word purple used. This could be a way to distinguish certain shades of purple. As you can see ραporphýra mentions it’s a red-blue color, while porphyroûs is more of a bluish red.
πορφύ ραporphýra, por-foo’-rah; of Latin origin; the “purple” mussel, i.e. (by implication) the red-blue color itself, and finally a garment dyed with it:—purple.
πορφυροῦς porphyroûs, por-foo-rooce’; from G4209; purpureal, i.e. bluish red:—purple.
πορφυρόπωλις porphyrópōlis, por-foo-rop’-o-lis; feminine of a compound of G4209 and G4453; a female trader in purple cloth:—seller of purple.
In the Gospels of John, and Mark we the color purple noted as the robe they placed on Jesus when being mocked as the King of the Jews. But in Matthew 27:28 the robe is described as scarlet. Perhaps the robe was a reddish purple making it hard to describe the exact color.
How Many Times Is the Color Purple Mentioned in the Bible?
According to the KJV Bible we see that purple is mentioned 48 times; 39 times in the Old Testament and 9 times in the New Testament. You can click the books below and read the Bible verses on purple.
Old Testament Bible Verses on Purple
- Exodus (26)
- Numbers (1)
- Judges (1)
- 2 Chronicles (3)
- Esther (2)
- Proverbs (1)
- Song of Solomon (2)
- Jeremiah (1)
- Ezekiel (2)
New Testament Bible Verses on Purple
Who Wore Purple in the Bible?
Here are some key people who wore purple in the Bible.
- Holy garments for Aaron and High Priest – Exodus 39
- Jesus wore a purple robe – Mark 15.17
- A Rich man in the Book of Luke – Luke 16.19
- The Kings of Midian – Judges 8:26
- The Woman of Noble Character – Proverbs 31:22
- The Great Harlot – Revelation 17:4
The Symbolic and Spiritual Meaning of Purple
Purple, like red, and blue are rich in symbolism. I will note the purple seems to have a clearer meaning then the other two as purple was used mainly in fabric. Wearing purple in the Bible or in ancient times always expressed power, position, and wealth. Here are two simple example in scripture:
Lydia was known as a seller of purple…
Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. 15 And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So she persuaded us. – Acts 16:14-15
Her work with purple fabric brought her prosperity and wealth. The awesome part is that Lydia used her income and homes to further the gospel of Jesus! She embody being a Proverbs 31 women!
The second example is from the book of Esther when Mordecai was gifted a robe and crown from the King of Babylon.
So Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, with a great crown of gold and a garment of fine linen and purple; and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad. – Esther 8:15
|SPIRITUAL MEANING OF PURPLE||BIBLE REFERENCE|
|Royalty & High Position||Judges 8:26, Esther 8:15|
|Wealth & Luxury||Exodus 28:5, Luke 16:19, Daniel 5:29, proverbs 31:22, Revelation 18:16|
|Corruption of Wealth||Revelation 17:4|
Purple and Royalty
Throughout ancient history purple was associated with royalty. The cost of purple dye was extremely expensive not to mention time-consuming to make. To make this famous Tyrian purple, it would take marine snails that were boiled for days. This method helped create a chemical reaction which gave us that beautiful purple color.
They say that to produce just one 1 gram of Tyrian purple dye it takes approximately 10,000 marine snails. The highest quality Tyrian purple fabric was called dibapha. The fabric would be dipped in the dye twice. So, we can see why purple was heavily used within nobility since 950 BC.
Historically, it is said that after the fall of the Constantinople purple took a back seat and was replaced with scarlet ( A dark purplish red), but regained popularity in the 18th and 19th century. When some leading ladies…Queen Victoria and Catherine the Great decided to bring it on back!
I found this video that shares a little history of how purple dye was made and even crimson. This really brings clarity to why purple fabric was only reserved for the royal and wealthy.
About the Video….”Discover the animals which made the ancient world a more colourful place! How did sea snails give us the colour purple, and how did an unassuming sap-sucking insect supply us with luxurious crimson? This is the tale of Tyrian purple – fame of the Phoenicians – and kermes dye, extracted from murex shells and scale insects respectively. So next time you don purples or reds, spare a thought for the hapless invertebrates which provided those hues for history’s great civilizations.“
Here is another great video on Tyrian purple.
Discover More Colors in the Bible
Purple is just one color amid many beautiful colors that God created. If you are hungry to learn more about other colors, I then encourage you to check out my Ultimate Guide to Colors in the Bible. It’s so eye opening what certain colors represent. Red always blow my mind!
If you would like to check out individual colors, then click on the links below:
Dreaming of Colors?
Scriptures is clear that God uses dreams to speak to us. And sometimes in those dreams a color is emphasised. If you have ever wanted to learn what colors could mean in those dreams check out my article on The Biblical Meaning of Colors in Dreams.
Well, I sure hope you have enjoyed this study on the color purple in the Bible. it’s amazing how simple color can convey such rich spiritual and symbolic meaning. Feel free to leave me a comment below. I would love to hear from you!
Melissa is a passionate minister, speaker and an ongoing learner of the Bible. She has been involved in church and vocational ministry for over 18 years. And is the founder of Think About Such Things. She has the heart to equip the saints by helping them get into the Word of God and fall more in love with Jesus. She also enjoys family, cooking, and reading.
She has spoken in churches in California, Oregon, Texas, and Mexico and has been featured in Guidepost Magazine and All Recipes Magazine. Read More…