What does the color purple symbolize in the Bible (Symbolism and Meaning)?

The world’s obsession with race is proof that color is a crucial part of the human experience. Even my 2-year-old son is rarely interested in anything unless it’s colorful. Currently, his favorite color seems to be purple. It still fascinates me how he lights up when we gift him purple toys. Color represents different things to people, depending on the context. For ministering Christians like myself, certain colors carry a deeper meaning. So, what does the color purple symbolize in the Bible?

Purple is mentioned several times in the Bible. In various instances, purple has been used as a symbol of respect, as indicated in the book of Esther 8;15. Here, the King honors Mordecai with various gifts, among them a purple robe made of quality linen. The Bible also uses purple as a symbol of holiness. In the book of Exodus 28:4-5, God instructs that all the priests use purple wool to make their official priestly attire. Purple was also a sign of kingship and authority. Before His death, Jesus was severely mocked by the Roman soldiers. Since they named Him the king of the Jews, they tore Jesus’ clothes off and clothed him in a purple robe.

I invite you to tag along as we study the symbolism behind the color purple. This article will enlighten you on the meaning of the color purple in different biblical settings. We will discuss how it is used in the Old Testament and the New Testament. We will also get to know who wore purple in the Bible and why. Keep reading to learn a lot more about this versatile color.

How does the color purple appear in the Bible?

Theologians have determined that the color purple shows up 48 times in the Bible. Several scriptures positively use the color purple. The earliest mention of the color purple can be found in Exodus 26:31. God gave the Israelites detailed instructions during the construction of the Tent of the Lord’s Presence. As most believers know, there was a curtain dividing the holy place from the most holy place. The holiest place was where the Israelites were to store the covenant box. God asked them to use certain colors on the curtain material. These were purple, red, and blue.

How is the color purple used in the Old Testament?

As mentioned earlier, the Old Testament uses the color purple in making holy items, such as the great curtain in the Temple of the Presence of God. The purple thread was also woven into the clothes of the priest, as illustrated in the book of Exodus 28; God asks Moses to instruct the silk workers to make clothes for Aaron and his sons. God was specific in the color and fabric to be used in the making of priestly robes. Again, the colors were purple, red, and blue. According to scripture, these colors represented a new level of beauty and dignity. One might say that God wanted them to dress differently to set them apart due to their important role as priests. In the book of Judges 8, Gideon is gifted with many valuable items after winning a great war with few men. Among these gifts were fine purple garments that belonged to the King of Midian. This suggests that purple was regal color fit for a king. Purple is mentioned in the description of a virtuous woman in Proverbs 31. The Bible says that she wore well-made purple clothes. This also implies that purple material was rare and expensive.

How is the color purple used in the New Testament?

In the New Testament, we hear the mention of purple in the gospel of Mark and Luke. During the torture and subsequent crucifixion of Jesus, many people questioned His legitimacy and authority. Many claimed He was the ‘king of the Jews”. The Roman soldiers went as far as to make Him a crown of thorns. What’s more, they tore his clothes off and put a purple robe on Christ to mock him. In those times, purple was the color worn by royalty. You can find a detailed account of this incident in Mark 15:16. In the book of Luke 16:19, Jesus gives the story of a rich man and a poor man. The rich man had access to the finest food and, of course, the finest clothes in the form of fine purple linen.

What does the color purple symbolize in the bible?

What does the color purple symbolize in the Bible - Symbolism and Meaning
What does the color purple symbolize in the bible? Image source: Pixabay

The versatility of the color purple is evident in the Bible. The following are some of the symbolic meanings of the color purple.


In Exodus 26, God was keen to include purple in the curtain, separating the holy place from the most holy place. It was also mandatory for the priest to wear purple robes when working in the Tabernacle. One can assume that purple was a representation of holiness. It set Israel apart as God’s chosen people. Far ahead in the book of 2nd Chronicles 2:7, King Solomon infused various hues of purple in the magnificent temple he built for the worship of God.

Honor and Respect

On several occasions, purple was used to show gratitude to people who do good deeds in the Bible. A great example is Mordecai. His role in the Book of Esther is that of a surrogate father, mentor, and ultimate hero. He helped his niece, Esther, to stop a genocide against the Jews. Mordecai went to great lengths to hinder the assassination of King Xerxes. To show his gratitude, King Xerxes orders Harman (the villain) to provide Mortdecai with the finest clothes, Jewelry and purple robes. The same treatment is given to the young and brilliant Daniel, who impressed Belshazzar, the King of Babylon. According to Daniel 5:29, Daniel received a gold chain and purple garments. Various leaders in society were also dressed in purple during medieval times. These included magistrates, nobles, men, and priests.


Thanks to science, colorful fabrics are plenty and easy to make, even purple. In ancient times, purple dye was extremely hard to come by. Those with resources would have to boil thousands of marine snails to get 1 gram of quality purple dye. As you can guess, only the extremely rich could afford the luxurious purple dye for their fine linens. Purple was a conspicuous symbol of affluence in those days. This is evident in the illustrations of the wealthy man in Luke 16: 19 and the diligent wife in Proverbs 31.


Purple has been recognized for centuries as a royal color. History suggests that Alexander the Great liked to wear purple. In the book of Jesus, scripture writes that the Midianite kings wore purple. The mocking of Jesus is another earth-shattering example of when the color purple was used to denote royalty. The Roman soldiers had no idea they were insulting the King of kings and the Lord of Lords.

Who wore purple in the Bible?

Many different people wore the color purple in the bible. As mentioned earlier, priests wore this color when performing their duties in the Tent of the Presence of The Lord. During this time, the priest would carry certain items, such as the Ephod, which had purple in it. Later in the book of Judges, we learn that purple linen was used to make garments for the kings of Midian. This is the reason why Jesus was the Roman soldiers forced Jesus to wear purple during His torturous journey before the cross.

The New Testament also shows that purple was a common color for wealthy individuals. Another notable character who wore people was Lydia. The book of Acts 16: 14-15 talks about a wealthy and God-fearing Woman whose business was to sell purple items. This exemplary woman was always dressed in fine purple linen. Lydia was an important fixture in the early church because she was among the first women to receive the gospel. She also used her wealth to push the gospel forward by helping the apostles. The book of Revelations 17: 4 also has a rather disturbing mention of the color purple. Here, Scripture talks about a notorious prostitute whose clothes were purple and reddish. In this case, purple may have been used to represent sensuality, even though it was the wrong kind.

What is the spiritual meaning of the color purple in the Bible?

What does the color purple symbolize in the Bible - Symbolism and Meaning
Spiritual meaning of the color purple in the Bible. Image source: Pixabay

The Bible uses purple to evoke certain emotions in the human spirit. Simple science classifies the color purple as a secondary. One has to mix blue and red to come up with purple. The time for boiling marine snails is long gone. Now, blue and red were heavily featured during the making of the first Tabernacle by the Israelites. It would be safe to say that the Bible uses purple to signify a culmination of power and authority. When the apostle Paul met Lydia in Acts 16, she wore purple and ran a business selling purple dye and other purple items. Her contribution to the earliest church places her in a respectable position in the Kingdom of God and the books of theological history. In her case, purple represents a spiritual and physical elevation of character. Back in the day, when a woman wore purple, it was easily noticeable because the fabric was rare and costly.

The infamous purple-lad prostitute in the book of Revelation 17 is the first sign of the spiritual corruption of the color purple. Scripture uses purple and scarlet to allude to her affluence and overly sexualized nature. Since she is a sinful and evil woman, the spirit of God tells John of her impending doom. The Bible states that Christ has already defeated her.

What does the color purple represent in modern religion?

Various religions adopted the purple theme Long after the Israelites left the desert. During Lent, the color purple is prominent in the Catholic Church. The church windows and altar are decorated with purple fabric to mourn the humiliation and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Catholics likewise use the color to remind believers of the Kingship of Jesus after conquering death. The Jews use purple as a sign of spiritual cleansing. Jews believe that red represents sin, while blue stands for God’s glory. The combination of both colors is a sign of redemption in Judaism.

What does it mean to dream about the color purple?

Dreams are like a window into the subconscious. For some reason, most people forget their dreams as soon as they wake up. However, some dreams stick with you all day. For instance, if you keep seeing a certain color in your dreams, it may be best to figure out what it means. Prayer is important in such situations.

Take the color purple. It usually represents authority. If you have a dream that prominently features the color purple, it could mean you may have a brush with authority. This might be positive or negative; it is up to you to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to understand the meaning behind the dream.

Still, there are assumptions that if a person in purple attacks you in your dreams. That could be a sign that you will be at odds with a powerful person soon. At times, you might wake from a dream where someone gifted you with a nice purple jacket or shoes. Here, it could mean that you may get a promotion in your spiritual life or workplace.

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