The Color Brown

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Meaning of Colors in the Bible
Black    -    Blue    -    Crimson
Gray    -    Green    -    Purple    -    Red
Scarlet    -    Vermilion    -    White    -    Yellow
Where, in Scripture, is the color brown? What is its meaning? How did Jacob use it to outfox his relative and become incredibly wealthy?

The English word "brown" is recorded only four times in the King James Bible translation. All four of these occurrences are written in Genesis 30. They come from the Hebrew word chum (Strong's #H2345) which means "be warm, sunburnt or swarthy (blackish)."

I will pass through all thy flock to day, removing from thence all the speckled and spotted cattle, and all the brown cattle among the sheep, and the spotted and speckled among the goats: and of such shall be my hire.

So shall my righteousness answer for me in time to come, when it shall come for my hire before thy face: every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the sheep, that shall be counted stolen with me . . .

And he removed that day the he goats that were ringstraked and spotted, and all the she goats that were speckled and spotted, and every one that had some white in it, and all the brown among the sheep, and gave them into the hand of his sons . . .

And Jacob did separate the lambs, and set the faces of the flocks toward the ringstraked, and all the brown in the flock of Laban; and he put his own flocks by themselves, and put them not unto Laban's cattle (Genesis 30:32 - 33, 35, 40, KJV).

Although Laban, his employer, sought to cheat him at every turn, Jacob would ultimately become rich due to the color brown. He had worked for Laban for 14 years as payment to marry his daughters Leah and Rachel. During this work period he produced eleven sons and one daughter through both women. Then, finally, at the age of 91, came the time for him to leave his father-in-law and return to Canaan (Genesis 30:25 - 26).

Laban, however, who was a selfish but shrewd relative, knew that God had blessed him for Jacob's sake. Feigning generosity, he offers to pay him anything he wants in order to continue being his chief shepherd. Jacob responds with his own proposal that seems, on the surface, quite risky for him but a sure moneymaker for Laban.

Jacob proposes a simple and honest method of payment for his services. All the speckled and spotted cattle and goats, as well as the brown sheep, born to Laban's herd would become Jacob's property. These types of animals were generally quite rare. Any newborn animals who did not look this way would belong to Laban.

Laban agrees to the deal but then selfishly seeks to make it even harder for his son-in-law to become wealthy! He separates all the speckled, spotted and brown animals into their own herd and has his sons take them a significant distance away from Jacob. This means only the most common colored beasts are left to be herded.

Jacob, whom God continues to bless, is still able to produce a huge herd of speckled, spotted and brown animals (Genesis 30:43). He also manages to keep the strongest beasts for himself while the weaker ones become the property of Laban. He leaves for Canaan six years later a much wealthier man who thwarted a relative’s attempts to cheat him!

Appearances of the Color Brown

Chalcedony stones are one of the many gemstones found in the Bible. The most common colors found within this type of precious gems are white, gray, reddish or light brown, green and blue.

And the foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every precious stone: the first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald (Revelation 21:19, HBFV).

Jacinth (hyacinth) gems were used in the High Priest's breastplate (Exodus 28:19) and will be utilized in the New Jerusalem soon to be built by God (Revelation 21:20). These stones can manifest colors from yellow to brown.

Jaspers are considered an opaque variety of Chalcedony stones. They were used both in the High Priest's breastplate (Exodus 28:20) and were one of the gems God's used to decorate Lucifer upon his creation (Ezekiel 28:13). These stones are capable of displaying red, green, brown or yellow and they can appear flamed or striped.

More Info on Biblical Meaning of Brown

Traditionally, one of the challenges of translators is trying to determine what color is being referenced in the original language text.

"There are but few real color terms found in Biblical or traditional literature. Only white, and . . . red and green, are distinguished by name; while for blue and yellow distinct terms are entirely wanting . . . " (1906 Jewish Encyclopedia).

For example, in the King James the word brown appears four times (all within Genesis 30). In the Contemporary English Version, however, it shows up five times (all of which are not in Genesis 30)! The Living Bible has it showing up only once (1Peter 1:24). Many translations, such as the NASB, ASV, RV and others, do not have it recorded at all.

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