Blue: God's Favorite Color
Did you know that God has a favorite color? Yes, he does! Which color is it? Blue! This is the main color of the embroidery on Jewish prayer shawls (Hebrew: tallit), the interwoven threads of their fringes (Hebrew: tzitzit; H6734), and the modern Israeli flag. There is even more symbolism of blue in the Bible, especially in reference to God. Blue is the color of the sky and the pavement of sapphire around God's feet (Exod. 24:10). The prophet Ezekiel tells us that God's throne itself is blue, made from the finest of Lapis lazuli (1:26; 10:1). Blue was the color of the Law of Moses and the Levitical priesthood, similar in manufacture to the purple dye of royalty. Blue furnished the temple curtains and covered both the furniture and sacred utensils in transit. Interestingly, blue dye (Hebrew: techelet; H8504) came from Hexaplex trunculus, a non-kosher sea snail.
A Kingdom of Priests
In order for God to meet the Israelites during their exodus from Egypt, he told them to make the tent of meeting. They decorated it with blue, crimson (some translations read "scarlet"), and purple threads alongside furniture and utensils of gold. God wanted his priests, descendants from Aaron's son Levi, to wear blue ephods to undergird the breastplate with a stone for each of Israel's twelve tribes. The outer cover and retaining cables were always blue. Because the yarn was made of wool and the ephod and curtains from twisted linen (Exod. 25:4-39:29), God banned the Israelites from the other eleven tribes from wearing wool and linen together (Lev. 19:19; Deut. 22:11). Such a mixture was only for the temple and its holy things.
However, God did tell all Israelites to attach fringes to the four corners of their garments with a blue thread interweaving with the white ones. Symbolically, the small threads of blue reminded them of God and to obey his commandments (Num. 15:38). Israel served as God's kingdom of priests, a royal priesthood to the nations. They were a light to the nations (i.e., gentiles; from Latin gentilis, "people"). However, the Levites were the priests of Israel, meaning they alone could stand in God's presence and minister to him. The "royal priesthood" concept did not mean all Israelites were able to be civil and religious leaders. Perhaps this was the reasoning of Korah when he said, "You have gone too far! All the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. So why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?" (Num. 16:3). God decimated Korah and his co-conspirators in their rebellion against Moses and Aaron (Num. 16:23-50).
Scarlet Harlot, but No Blue
Much of Revelation revisits Old Testament themes, meaning the past is informing us of the present and the future. One of the things we Christians overlook is the colors provided in the description of the great harlot of Babylon. In contrast to the pattern and the golden utensils for the tent of meeting and the Jerusalem temple which featured blue, crimson, and purple, the great harlot only possesses scarlet and purple with a single golden cup (Rev. 17:4). Why does she lack blue? Because blue is the color of God and his moral law (cf. Luke 9:35; Rom. 1:4). This symbolism refers to the sky, which represents the heavenly covenant between God and all creation. Moreover, red is the color of earth and humankind (Hebrew: adam, "man"; H120; adom, "red"; H122; adamah, "earth"; H127; cf. Gen. 2:7); purple is royalty and kingdom (cf. Esth. 8:15; Dan. 5:7) and gold represents wealth (cf. Gen. 2:11-12).
All of the laws of morality and nature make up the sky, pointing to the ultimate reason, logic, and definition: Jesus as the divine Word of God (Greek: Logos; G3056; cf. John 1:1). Therefore, the great harlot is a church-like community of people that appear to be Christian, but they disobey God like every other unrepentant sinner. It is Satan's anti-church that follows his anti-messiah (i.e., antichrist), a corrupt antithesis of the church as the Bride of Christ (cf. Luke 5:34-35; Eph. 5:31-32). This is why Paul of Tarsus called the antichrist the "man of lawlessness" (2 Thess. 2:1). Scripture presents the pseudo-church as a harlot because she pretends to be faithful to God's law while committing adultery, idolatry, and fornication with malfeasance.
Royal Priesthood, Revisited
Simon Peter wrote in his first letter, "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (2:9). In this context, Peter included the Christian gentiles in Israel's royal priesthood. This does not mean the church exists without leadership, as God condemned Korah and his followers for rebelling against Moses and Aaron. Priesthood means that Jesus calls all believers to represent him and to minister to the world at large. As gentiles, we are wild and lawless branches the Holy Spirit grafts into the olive tree of Israel (Rom. 11:17-24). We enter into the body of Christ, made real through the incarnation of the only-begotten Son in human flesh and blood. Traditionally, many Christian artists illustrate Jesus in blue and red clothes to emphasize his divine and human natures, respectively. The church likewise encompasses the blue of heaven and the red of earth, combined with God's wealth of gold and royalty of purple. We represent the kingdom of heaven in the world, citizens of a nation which transcends the temporal boundaries of politics and culture.
Blessed are you, LORD our God, King of the universe, for you teach us in your Word to offer prayers and supplications and to give thanks for all people. We humbly ask you mercifully to receive our prayers. Inspire continually the universal church with the spirit of truth, unity, and concord; and grant that all who confess your name may agree in the truth, and live in unity and godly love. Amen.
The Book of Common Prayer. Huntington Beach, CA: Anglican Liturgy Press, 2019. p. 110. http://bcp2019.anglicanchurch.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/BCP2019.pdf.
It Is Written. "Colors in Bible Prophecy." November 9, 2010. Video, 4:15. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGGT5nNvuic.
Ngo, Robin. "What Color Was Tekhelet?" Biblical Archaeology. Washington, DC: Biblical Archaeology Society, 2020. https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/ancient-cultures/what-color-was-tekhelet.
Strong, James. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: Updated and Expanded Edition. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2007.
"Tekhelet: The Mystery of the Long-Lost Biblical Blue Thread." Chabad.org. Brooklyn, NY: Chabad-Lubavitch Media Center, 2020. https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/530127/Tekhelet-The-Mystery-of-the-Long-Lost-Biblical-Blue-Thread.htm.
Tumino, Melissa. "The Ultimate Guide to the Biblical Meaning of Colors." Think About Such Things (Blog). 2020. https://thinkaboutsuchthings.com/biblical-meaning-of-colors.
Tverberg, Lois. "What's So Wrong with Mixing Wool & Linen?" Our Rabbi Jesus. Holland, MI: Our Rabbi Jesus, 2013. https://ourrabbijesus.com/articles/whats-so-wrong-with-mixing-wool-linen.