The Color Purple

“They must remove the ashes from the altar for sacrifices and cover the altar with a purple cloth.”  Numbers 4:13

I just love bright, vivid colors and although Numbers can be a dry book to read it is chock full of symbolism, much of it related to color.  When reading v.4:13 I was struck by the finality in the phrase “…cover the altar with a purple cloth.”  Specific, direct and succint.  Purple is a strong color symbolizing royalty and wealth.  Purple is also a mixture of blue and red.  In the Bible, blue is associated with law or commandment and red is associated with war, blood and judgment.  It is said that “When God appeared unto Noah after the flood, and placed a rainbow in the sky.  He did much more than show him a phenomenon.  In the seven colors, beginning with red and ending with purple, God was displaying a natural miracle that demonstrated the complete redemption of man.”  (Antipas/M.Stewart)  Throughout the Bible the color purple points to heaven, and was the symbol of revelation.  It symbolized Jesus’ royalty; believer’s royalty; majesty; wealth; power; penitence; the name of God; kingdom authority; dominion son-ship; the promises of God; inheritance; mediator; and priesthood.

Purple is translated from the Hebrew word “argaman” which means simply purple.  A use of the color is found to cross over throughout the Bible.

  • The curtain in the Tabernacle had purple thread used in its’ construction.  In this context the purple represents the royalty and Kingship of God.  The curtain itself symbolizes the separation of man from the most Holy things associated with God.
  • Purple is also associated with riches and finery, for example in the parable that Jesus told of the rich man, “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day.”  Luke 16:19
  • Purple speaks of the corruption and the corrupting influence of riches.  “Alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls!”  Revelation 18:16
  • Jesus was clothed in purple as a sign of royalty, but in mockery of His claim to be the promised Messiah and heir to the throne of David.   “And they clothed Him with purple; and they twisted a crown of thorns, put it on His head,…And when they had mocked Him, they took the purple off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him out to crucify Him.”  Mark 15:17,20

Jon Courson in his commentary writes about v.4:13, “Why was purple to cover the altar where sacrifices were made, where blood was shed?  Because the altar speaks of Jesus Christ.  And what was placed on Jesus before He offered Himself as a sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary?  A purple robe.”  Once again I am awestruck by the vision in the Old Testament of what is to come in the New Testament.


Mary Ann


3 thoughts on “The Color Purple

  1. Mary Ann,Wonderful exposition on the color purple! Isn't it amazing how God opens up even a little word like that? It reminds me of that verse in Matthew 5:18  "I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished."  It's as if God puts these little details like clues to a scavenger hunt – or in this case a treasure hunt – for us to discover.  Thank you for uncovering that one for us. It has been a blessing on this dreary rainy day.  G&PP.S. I just noticed I'm wearing purple today. 🙂

  2. Oh so good…yes T….a treasure hunt! I had never thought of purple being a mixture of red and blue…..the law and the blood. Very interesting…thanks MA!

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