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Red in the Bible: Powerful Symbolism, Meaning and More

In this article, we will explore the wonderful color red in the Bible. We will dig deep into scripture and look at the spiritual, prophetic, and symbolic meaning.

If you have been around Think About Such Things you will know I love to geek out on Biblical symbolism. I find it so fascinating how God weaves a story within a story through symbols.

In proverbs 25:2 it says…

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter;
    to search out a matter is the glory of kings.

I love this verse because it shows that God hides things and we, as a royal priesthood, should seek them out!

And today we are going to seek what the Bible says about red. Out of all the colors mentioned throughout scripture, I think red is one of my favorites. As I studied, I was blown away that simple thing like the color red would have such deep symbolic meaning. It was actually a beautiful study. And I hope you enjoy it as well.

the color Red in the Bible

A Look at Red in the Bible

I really love doing topical studies in a way that is creative and fun, and that what I did with the color red. You will see more on that later in the post. I hope as I did this study on red in the Bible that it stirs your hunger to go deeper in God’s Word.

red in the Bible

How many times is the color red mentioned in the Bible?

The word, red occurs 53 times in 52 verses in the KJV. This is also including the term Red Sea.

Just to show the difference between a more modern translation. The NIV shows that red occurs 54 times in 53 verses.

What does red mean in the Hebrew?

In the Hebrew, we see various words that are used for our English word red.

The first mention of the color red is when Esua was born in Genesis 25:25. This was to describe his appearance as in his complexion or hair.

י ʼadmônîy, ad-mo-nee’; or (fully) אַדְמוֹנִי ʼadmôwnîy ; from H119; reddish (of the hair or the complexion):—red, ruddy.

The second Hebrew word is actually closely related to the first:

According to the Strong’s Concordance, this term was used to describe the following: red, ruddy (of man, horse, heifer, garment, water, lentils)

אָדֹםʼâdôm, aw-dome’; from H119; rosy:—red, ruddy.

As you can see, both words âdôm and admônîy come from H119 (this is just a Strong’s reference number). The root word is âdam….yup like the first man! This could be the connection we see between blood and red. More on this later…

אָדַםʼâdam, aw-dam’; to show blood (in the face), i.e. flush or turn rosy:—be (dyed, made) red (ruddy).

For the Red Sea, we see a completely unique thing. The word red there is describing the reeds or seaweed that gives the red sea its color. According to Smithsonian Science Center…

In Hebrew it is called Yam Suph, or Sea of Reeds, most likely due to the reeds of the Gulf of Suez, and in Egypt it is called “Green Space.” 

The Red Sea is the saltiest sea of all the seas that connect to the ocean without even one river meeting the sea.A popular hypotheses about the origins of the Red Sea’s name is that it contains a cyanobacteria called Trichodesmium erythraeum, which turns the normally blue-green water a reddish-brown. (source)

סוּף çûwph, soof; probably of Egyptian origin; a reed, especially the papyrus:—flag, Red (sea), weed. Compare H5489.

What does red mean in the Greek?

Now, let’s look at what the Greek has to say about red.

πυῤῥάζω pyrrházō, poor-hrad’-zo; from G4450; to redden (intransitively):—be red.

πυῤῥός pyrrhós, poor-hros’; from G4442; fire-like, i.e. (specially), flame- colored:—red.

These references are taken from the New Testament when Jesus talks about the moon during to blood and the red being used in the Book of Revelation.

The Symbolic and Spiritual Meaning of Red

The color red is rich with symbolism and spiritual meaning. For the sake of this study we will look at the main symbolic meanings. We won’t dive into cultural meanings like passion, or love, but we will stick to what the Bible says about red.

spiritual meaning of red
SPIRITUAL MEANING OF REDBIBLE REFERENCE
Blood2 Kings 3:22
WarRevelation 6:4
Atonement and PurificationExodus 12:7, 1 Peter 1:18-19,
Hebrews 9:22, Leviticus 17:11,
1 John 1:7
Wealth2 Samuel 1:24, Proverbs 31:21
CovenantMatthew 26:28,
Hebrews 9:18, Exodus 24:8,
God/JesusRevelation 4:2-3, Rev 19:13–15
JudgementRevelation 6:12, Isaiah 63
Sin and Self-RighteousnessIsaiah 1:18, Isaiah 64:6 
The Color Red in the Bible

Red and the Blood of Christ

We can for sure say that red is symbolic of blood. Even though this can be taken broadly, meaning blood in general, we do see a connection to it representing the blood of Jesus. For example, the Passover lamb’s blood was placed on the doorpost. Rahab placed a scarlet thread outside her window which saved her household. And God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. All three of these symbolize blood atonement.

In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Hebrews 9:18

What is the Difference Between Scarlet and Red?

Red is a color and is used throughout scripture to describe that color. Scarlet is also red, but it’s actually a dye that was used for clothing. It is mentioned 25 times in the Old Testament.

The scarlet dye—known as shani in Hebrew—was used in the Holy Land during the biblical period. This dye was widely used for religious rituals in the second temple until the temple’s destruction in AD 70 (Feliks 1966). According to a source from the same period, only the best shani dye product should be used, and it should come “from the worm in the mountain area” (source)

The Scarlet Worm / The Crimson Worm

But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by everyone, despised by the people. – Psalm 22:6

Psalm 22 is known as a Messianic psalm and is even quoted by Jesus while on the cross. In verse 6 we see the word worm, which is Tola’ath, but it’s interesting to note that common word for worm in Hebrew is actually Rimmah. So, what is the difference between a tola’ath and a rimmah?

A tola;ath is actually a type of coccus ilicis or kermes ilicis; a scaled insect that is used to create red dye. This is where it gets the name crimson worm or scarlet worm. When a female crimson worm has children she will attache herself to a piece of wood like a tree trunk. She then creates a hard red shell.

This hard shell is permanently stuck to the wood and the crimson worm is unable to remove herself from it without killing herself. This makes for a safe place for her to lay her eggs. Once they hatch the larva is protected by this red shell and the mother provides them with food which is her body. She 100% sacrifices herself!

Once the mother dies she releases this scarlet colored dye. It stains the wood and her young children for life. They usually harvest the stained wood to make the scarlet dye. After three days the mother’s body loses it’s red color and turns into white color and falls to the ground.

It blows my mind how this little insect speaks of the sacrifice of Christ! Jesus died on a cross (tree) and bled, sacrificing Himself so that we can be God’s children. His blood covers us so that we are forgiven and have eternal life. And three days later Christ has risen and is sitting at the right hand of the Father. He has made our sins like scarlet to white as snow! (Isaiah 1:18)

Red Animals in the Bible

The Bible doesn’t mention many red animals. But there is a couple and that is cows and horses.

The Red Horse in the Apocalypse and Zechariah

During the night I had a vision, and there before me was a man mounted on a red horse. He was standing among the myrtle trees in a ravine. Behind him were red, brown and white horses. – Zechariah 1:8

When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword. – Revelation 6:3-4

This is where we see the red meaning war and bloodshed.

Red Heifer

The red heifer’s ashes were used in purification rituals of Tum’at HaMet. Which was done when an Israelite who had come into contact with a corpse.

Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “This is the ordinance of the law which the Lord has commanded, saying: ‘Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring you a red heifer without blemish, in which there is no defect and on which a yoke has never come. Numbers 19:1-2

Red Dragon

Even though the dragon isn’t a real animal. I figured I would place it in this section.

Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. – Revelations 12:3

Here is another picture of how red symbolizes evil, war, and the devil.

Red Clothing in the Bible

Red clothing in the Bible was expensive and used by the wealthy or those who were royal. This is because this dye which was known as Shani was made by a small insect.

CRIMSON WORM , biblical tola’at shani (Heb. תּוֹלַעַת שָׁנִי), which yields a dye, called in the Bible shani, tola, karmil, and in rabbinic literature zehorit, which was extracted from the body of the “crimson worm” (carmine), the Kermes biblicus. A brilliant, beautiful, and fast red dye, it was used for dyeing the curtains of the Tabernacle (Ex. 26:1) and the garments of the high priests (ibid., 39:2); in the purification rites of a leper (Lev. 14:4–6) and of a house affected by leprosy (ibid., 51–52); and it was added to the ashes of the red heifer (Num. 19:6).

Crimson-dyed clothes were costly (Lam. 4:5). The Tyrians were experts in the art of crimson dyeing (ii Chron. 2:6). Neither the Bible nor rabbinic literature describes the insect from which the crimson dye was extracted. The Tosefta (Men. 9:16) merely states that the best kind of crimson comes from “a mountain worm.” Its color is “neither red nor yellow … it is crimson” (Source)

Other Mentions of Red in the Bible

We can’t finish up our study without taking a look at blood moons and the red sea!

Blood Moons

A blood moon is when the moon turns red. This natural phenomenon is total lunar eclipse. A lunar eclipse happens when the moon moves into the Earth’s shadow. Blood moons are understood as end-times prophecy and studied in eschatology. They always represent a time of judgement. You can check out Bible verses on blood moons here.

blood moon in the bible verse joel 2:3

The Red Sea

When looking at scripture, the word red is seen every where because of the red sea. But the actually Hebrew name of this sea is Yam Suph.

According to the Easton Bible Dictionary we learn a why it’s called the Red Sea.

The Hebrew name generally given to this sea is Yam Suph . This word suph means a woolly kind of sea-weed, which the sea casts up in great abundance on its shores. In these passages, Exodus 10:19 ; 13:18 ; Exodus 15:4 Exodus 15:22 ; 23:31 ; Numbers 14:25 , etc., the Hebrew name is always translated “Red Sea,” which was the name given to it by the Greeks.

The origin of this name (Red Sea) is uncertain. Some think it is derived from the red colour of the mountains on the western shore; others from the red coral found in the sea, or the red appearance sometimes given to the water by certain zoophytes floating in it. In the New Testament ( Acts 7:36 ; Hebrews 11:29 ) this name is given to the Gulf of Suez.

The Words of Jesus in Red

When opening ancient texts or a dead sea scroll, you will not be seeing the words of Christ in Red. The origins of the Red-Letter Bible is quite interesting. The first New Testament published with 1899.

This idea came about from Lous Klopsch, the editor of Christian Herald Magazine. Had a passion for people to read and understand the Bible. Especially the words of Jesus Christ. When he read Luke 22:20, the idea to write Jesus’ words in red came to life. This is what he said in his Explanatory Note,” in The Holy Bible: Red Letter Edition 1901.

Modern Christianity is striving zealously to draw nearer to the great Founder of the Faith. Setting aside mere human doctrines and theories regarding Him, it presses close to the Divine Presence, to gather from His own lips the definition of His mission to the world and His own revelation of the Father. . . . The Red Letter Bible has been prepared and issued in the full conviction that it will meet the needs of the student, the worker, and the searchers after truth everywhere.

Discover More Colors in the Bible

Red is only one color out of many colors mentioned in scripture. If you are hungry to learn more about these colors, I then encourage you to check out my Ultimate Guide to Colors in the Bible.

Spiritual meaning of colors in the Bible

If you would like to check out individual colors, then click on the links below:

Dreaming of the Color Red?

Taking a slightly different turn here and let’s talk about colors in dreams. I’ve talked about how God speaks in dreams and sometimes He will use certain colors to convey things to us. If you are interested in learning about colors in dreams, please check out my article on, The Biblical Meaning of Colors in Dreams.

dreaming in color

I hope you have enjoyed this study on red in the Bible! Don’t forget to check out the other colors in the Bible as well!

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James Gordon

Friday 19th of August 2022

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