The Bible is full of symbols, and though it took me years to understand the meaning behind some of the most common words and phrases, I now appreciate the hidden meaning behind them. Cotton, for example, is mentioned a few times in the Old Testament. So, what does cotton symbolize in the Bible?
Cotton, better known as linen in the Bible, carries a positive meaning, and it’s believed to represent spiritual awakening. It’s also deemed a symbol of blessings sent from the Divine. In several verses in the Bible, cotton is associated with purity and God’s laws. The use of cotton was used in the Bible to describe the laws set by God, and through the laws set by God, cotton and holiness represented God’s plan.
In this article, I’ll share insights into everything you should know about cotton and its symbolism, who was allowed to wear cotton garments, and the Biblical take on mixing garments and its implications. Read on to learn more.
What does cotton represent in the Bible?
Cotton or linen represents holiness, so while there were rules against wearing some kinds of fabrics, the high priest, specifically the Ephod of the high priest, and all church leaders were permitted to wear linen and wool. No one else was allowed to wear any of these high-quality garments, and this was set as a rule because this law was meant to remind the Israelites about how holy God was, truly. This is suggested in Exodus 28:6-8 and Exodus 39:4-5. The thread used was dyed and made of wool and linen. So, while there was a rule against wearing garments made of different fabrics, prohibition wasn’t a moral law. Only the holy people were allowed to wear the best cotton/ linen and woolen garments because they were meant to represent God’s holy presence.
It’s worth noting that as suggested in Joshua 2:6, linen was processed from the stalks of the flax plant, and despite there being no evidence of cotton being cultivated in ancient Israel, its use in fabric making and garments is mentioned widely in the Book of Leviticus.
What does the Bible say about wool and cotton?
In God’s commandments to Israelites regarding what they could or couldn’t do, as implied in Deuteronomy 22:9-11, the Israelites were warned against planting two different seeds in their vineyards. They were also advised against wearing garments woven with linen (cotton) and wool. While it’s believed that this prohibition had nothing to do with material or morality, this rule was put out there to encourage the Israelites to live purely and perhaps not to mix with the unholy.
That said, the Israelites were allowed to wear outer garments made of wool and inner garments made of linen as long as the materials were made of separate materials.
4 symbolic meanings of cotton in the Bible
Truths from the divine
Linen or cotton garments are considered truths from the Divine thanks to the belief that any garment made using pure linen represented the whitest, purest, and most lustrous thing on earth. It was also believed that the Divine truth was represented by garments that were that white and lustrous.
The reasoning behind this could be that the shining whiteness and the luster of the heavens from the light or the Lord represents the light of the divine truth. Ezekiel 16:10, 16:13; also suggests that the fine linen/ cotton and all garments made of fine linens were considered symbols of truth from the Divine.
Ezekiel 27:7 denotes that the fine linen and the garments made of the finest linen signified the knowledge of the truth and good, as per the ancient Church. Linen signified truth from the memory knowledge, not to mention that they externally represented the church.
Symbol of the Divine or God
During Jesus’ transfiguration in the presence of James, John, and Peter, Jesus’ garments are said to have appeared very bright and light, as white as snow and glistening. This event is believed to have been the Divine Truth in the human form. The radiance of garments that Jesus wore radiated from the heavens and is believed to represent God’s interior truths while also symbolizing the resplendence of His Face.
Therefore, it’s believed that by saying that Jesus Christ was clothed in the finest linen, it is an external symbol of the truth that comes from the celestial spirit and the Lord. Mark 9:3, Matthew 17:2, Luke 9:29.
The righteousness of the Saints
It’s implied in Revelation 19:7; 8 that fine linen represents the righteousness of the saints, and this is believed to be true because the saints and all who lead in the Divine truth are led into the path of the Lord’s righteousness and where the garments, they will be wearing will be all white and shining. It’s also believed that these individuals were taken up to heaven because of their righteousness. So, wearing the fine white linen means they had become righteous beings.
Spiritual and Celestial Beings
Fine linen is also an external symbol of righteousness, significant truth, the Divine, and all things spiritual or celestial. These meanings come from the fact that the finest linen was used on Aaron’s garments and even in the ark. The use of linen in these situations was believed to show the world just how little about the celestial and spiritual world people understood. The linen or cotton represented that there would be no other holiness than that which appears in the Bible.
Linen being a sign of the celestial beings is suggested in Revelation 19:13-14, where it’s implied that the angels, who are symbols and beings from the Divine, are clothed in fine linen.
Bible Verses about Cotton
There are several bible verses about cotton and linen in the Bible including:
- Revelation 19:7-8 – This verse gives a guideline about the garments to be worn during the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. It suggests that in addition to praising and giving God glory, the bride would be clothed in the finest linen that was bright and pure because fine linen represented the ideal garments worn by the those whose deeds were righteous, just like the saints.
- Revelation 18:16 – This verse is about the Great City of Babylon, which was said to be clothes in fine linen, among other luxurious purple and scarlet garments adorned with pearls and jewels. This further alludes to the importance of fine linen in the Bible.
- Exodus 28:39 – For Aaron’s consecration and for him to lead Israel under God’s guidance, God instructed the people of Israel to weave Aaron a coat and turban made of the finest linen. Aaron was required to wear the linen garments throughout for him and his people to be accepted before God.
- Exodus 39:27 – To minister to the people and to be considered Holy, Aaron and his sons were required to wear coats woven using the finest linen. It’s suggested in this verse that this is one of the commandments that Moses received from God, and it further points to the importance of linen in God’s kingdom.
- Ezekiel 27:7 – Here, it’s suggested that God gave instructions on the Lament for Tyre and ordered that the ship sails be made of fine linen. It’s further implied that the fine embroidered linen was to be obtained from Egypt for use as sails and to serve as banners.
- Ezekiel 16:10; 13 – These bible verses also imply that God wrapped his faithless servant in fine linen and silk, and by doing this, the bride became exceedingly beautiful and considered royalty. It’s suggested that God declared that the bride was perfect after wearing the finest of linen, silk, silver, and gold.
- Luke 23:53, Matthew 27:59, & Mark 15:46 – These verses infer that Jesus Christ was wrapped in a shroud made of linen after he was taken down from the cross by Joseph, the laid in the tomb made of stone.
- Mark 14:51-52 – This scripture gives an account of a young man who fled after following Jesus for some time. It’s implied that this young man was cloth in linen cloth wrapped around his body, but when he fled, he left behind the linen cloth, running away naked.
- John 20:5-7 – After the resurrection of Jesus, Peter and Simon Peter had gone to visit Jesus’ tomb, and it’s implied that they say Jesus’ linen cloths lying on the floor of the tomb and that Jesus wasn’t there anymore.
- Revelation 15:6 – Here, it’s implied that the seven angels carrying the seven plagues were clothed in bright and pure linen, and they had golden sashes around their chests.
- Revelation 18:12 – This verse is about the fall of Babylon, and it implies that people would mourn for her because no one would buy her cargo, which included fine linen.
- Genesis 41:42 – This bible verse suggests that Pharaoh took his signet ring, then put it on Joseph’s hands, and he clothed him in the finest linen.
- Luke 16:19 is about a rich man clothed in the best purple clothes and the finest of linen while living a luxurious life daily.
- Luke 10:34 – this verse in the Bible suggests that a good Samaritan took pity on a wounded man. He cleaned and covered the wound in clean linen.
- Luke 2:7 implied that Jesus was born and wrapped in linen before he was put in the cattle’s manger to sleep.
Why does the Bible say not to wear mixed fabrics?
Deuteronomy 22:11 and Leviticus 19:19 suggest that wearing garments made of mixed fabric is wrong. This is believed to have been part of the nation of Israel’s civil code, and the reason why the mixing of fabrics was prohibited was that these verses were seen as a way through which God guided and instructed his people to pursue a pure, quality life. Not mixing fabrics was God’s way of encouraging believers to lead a pure life and to pursue a life in a godly manner.
It’s believed that these prohibitions were meant to keep the Israelites pure and to stop them from imitating the religious or superstitious practices of the pagans and the surrounding pagan nations.
Does the Bible say not to wear cotton?
The Bible doesn’t forbid people from wearing cotton or linen, but according to the Mosaic Laws, it was forbidden to wear garments made of different kinds of fabrics, and so wearing blended linen and woolen garments was forbidden, although people could wear garments made of plain fabrics. While blended fabrics are worn all around today, wearing blended fabric garments was forbidden then.
That said, there were no prohibitions regarding wearing garments made of cotton/ linen. The prohibition only applied to blended fabrics with linen or wool.
What Does the Bible Say About Mixing Fabric?
According to the Bible, the Israelites were not permitted to wear garments made of mixed fabrics. While wearing blended fabrics wasn’t against the Mosaic law, it was ideal or preferred to wear garments made of a single fabric, perhaps to denote purity or holiness. However, it was permitted to wear different garments made of individual fabrics rather than blends.
The people could wear clothes made of different fabrics, but only the high priest’s Ephod was required to wear wool or linen only. This was meant to create distance between the common people and the high priest while reminding the people of Israel of God’s holiness.
They say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, right? Being raised by Christians significantly impacted my life since I started professing Christ from a young age. My passion for the Christian faith made me pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology. I am a believer and pastor dedicated to spreading the word of God. I have been in the Christian ministry for over a decade and am currently ministering in Life Christian Church. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Please check the About Us Page for more details.