What does a RAINBOW
symbolize in the Bible?
Q. What are the spiritual meanings of the colors of the rainbow?
A. Significantly, the rainbow appears essentially twice in the Bible: in the first book (Genesis 9:13-14), and on the last book (Revelation 4:3;10:1). In the Genesis account, the rainbow came in the wake of the great worldwide flood brought by God in order to remove sinful and evil-minded man from the earth. The rainbow symbolized the covenant God made with Noah (representing mankind) not to destroy the world in such a way again:
"I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: And I will remember my covenant, which [is] between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that [is] upon the earth. " (Genesis 9:13-16, KJV)
The cloud, in a way, pictures God, as verse 16 suggest and even more clearly in the Scripture that follows:
"And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night." (Exodus 13:21)
At the climatic time of Christ's return, (in the clouds again, Matthew 24:30) the cloud pictured by the great upheaval in the heaven and earth will be followed by the new covenant that the rainbow in the book of Revelation pictures:
"And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and [there was] a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. " (Revelation 4:3, KJV)
"And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow [was] upon his head, and his face [was] as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire:" (Revelation 10:1, KJV).
Undoubtedly, the rainbow pictures God's mercy and His covenant with men as prophesied:
"Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah--not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord.
"But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. " (Jeremiah 31: 31-33)
What about the colors of the rainbow? Do they have any significance? There are innumerable theories and views, some more impressive than others, but are they true? Rather than fantasize let's use the solid grounds of the Bible and be satisfied with what it reveals.
God's choice of colors is made quite evident in many Scriptures: Blue, Purple and Red (scarlet) were used in the tabernacle and in the temple later in ancient Israel's history. See Exodus 25:4; 26:1 and many other scriptures.
The color Blue is consistently the first of the three colors mentioned and is chosen as the color the Israelites were to carry as the symbol of their godly way of living. This can be found in Numbers 15:38-39:
"Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue:
"And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes . . . "
I have already mentioned three of the seven colors the human eye can detect (Blue, Purple and Red). The other four colors the human eye can see in the rainbow are Orange, Yellow, Green and Indigo. According to the scientific explanation of the rainbow colors, while it is traditionally believed that they are the seven colors mentioned above, the rainbow is actually a whole continuum of colors from Red to Violet and even beyond the colors that the eye can see. Sunlight is made up of the whole range of colors that the eye can detect.
Therefore, what our eyes can detect are not the only actual colors. This indicates that God has set colors (and symbols) from man's standpoint, and three of those are God's choice in His temple. There is no reliable indication, to my knowledge, of the symbolism of the other four colors. However, as Isaac Newton discovered in 1666, the range of the sunlight colors when combined produce the white color, indicating the sum total, completion. Significantly, this color pictures also God's truth and faithfulness:
"Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war." (Revelation 19:11)