The Color Scarlet

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Meaning of Colors in the Bible
Black    -    Blue    -    Brown    -    Crimson
Gray    -    Green    -    Purple    -    Red
Vermilion    -    White    -    Yellow
What is the meaning of scarlet in God's word? How did a thread dyed in this color turn into a thread of destiny?

Scarlet has symbolized wealth and power, both politically and religiously, since ancient Bible times. Second only to purple, it was a status symbol in the mighty Roman Empire. Officers in Rome's army wore cloaks dyed in it as well as high-ranking non-military people. The flag carried by the Crusaders during the Middle Ages displayed a cross in scarlet.

Since the late 13th century Roman Cardinals, who are high-level religious leaders in the Catholic Church, use scarlet for their ecclesiastical clothing. This color also plays a prominent role both in the flag of the old Soviet Union and on the modern flag of China.

Egyptians obtained this pigment for dyeing from a shellfish while the Hebrews extracted it from an insect that infests oak trees. The color is so steadfast that it was one of the most difficult dyes to remove from clothing.

Appearances of the Color Scarlet

The English word "scarlet" is recorded 52 times in 52 King James translation verses. It is found the most in Exodus (26 times) followed by Leviticus (5) and then Revelation (4). 6 out of scarlet's 52 appearances occur in the New Testament.

The Hebrew words that together translate into this color's English name are tola (Strong's Concordance #H8438) and shaniy (#H8144).

And blue, and purple, and scarlet (tola shaniy), and fine linen, and goats' hair . . . (Exodus 25:4, KJV).

Moreover thou shalt make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet (tola shaniy): with cherubims of cunning work shalt thou make them (Exodus 26:1, KJV).

She (A virtuous woman) is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet (tola shaniy, Proverbs 31:21, KJV).

Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel with scarlet (tola shaniy), and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom (Daniel 5:29, KJV).

The Greek word in the New Testament is kokkinos (#G2847), which refers to the kernel shape of the insect from which this pigment is extracted.

And they stripped him (Jesus), and put on him a scarlet (kokkinos) robe (Matthew 27:28, KJV).

So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet colored (kokkinos) beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns (Revelation 17:3, KJV).

Its use in Scripture can represent royalty (Daniel 5:7,16, 29, Matthew 27:28, Mark 15:17, 20, John 19:2) or the power to rule like a king (Revelation 17:4). It can also mean a person's sins and sinfulness (Isaiah 1:18), prosperity (2Samuel 1:14, Proverbs 31:21, Lamentations 4:5, Revelation 18:12, 16) or dedication to opposing God (Revelation 17:3).

Scarlet was used extensively in God's wilderness tabernacle built by Moses (Exodus 25:4, 26:1, 31, 36, 27:16, 28:5 - 8, 15, etc.). It was also commonly found not only in Jerusalem's temple but also on the clothes worn to serve in it. It was an important part of the Temple rites that cleansed lepers (Leviticus 14) and in ceremonies of purification (Numbers19:6). Warriors also wore clothes of this color (Nahum 2:3).

The book of Matthew states that Pontius Pilate's soldiers placed a scarlet colored robe on Jesus in order to mock him. The Gospels of Mark (Mark 15:17, 20) and John (John 19:2, 5), however, in their parellel reference, state that the robe used to mock the Lord was purple.

More Info on Biblical Meaning of Scarlet

In the 38th chapter of Genesis we find a curious event involving a thread dyed with this color.

Briefly, a woman named Tamar, who was the daughter-in-law of Judah (one of the sons of Jacob), got pregnant through Judah by pretending to be a harlot. When it came time to give birth, Tamar's midwife discovered that twins would be born. When one of the babies stuck his hand out of the womb, and looked like he would be the firstborn, the midwife tied a special colored thread around his hand.

Anciently, a scarlet thread was commonly used to designate who was the firstborn. After receiving the thread, the baby quickly pulled his arm back in the womb! The other child to be born, also a boy, then came out of the womb completely! The child who had the thread around his hand received the name Zarah and his twin brother received the name Pharez.

. . . when she (Tamar) travailed, that the one (baby) put out his hand: and the midwife took and bound upon his hand a scarlet thread, saying, This came out first. And it came to pass, as he drew back his hand, that, behold, his brother came out: and she said, How hast thou broken forth? this breach be upon thee . . . (Genesis 38:28 - 29, KJV).

What is the meaning of all this in relation to prophecy? Judah was destined, according to the Bible, to be the royal tribe of Israel from which rulers would arise (Genesis 49:8 - 10). It is through Pharez's descendants (the child literally born first) that not only King David is born but also Jesus Christ as well!

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