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Green in the Bible


“Unto the upright, there arises light in the darkness.” Psalm 112:4


 Greens are not all alike. As artists, our palettes usually have some form of this color in them—viridian, sap green, chrome, olive green, teal ... We train ourselves to choose deliberately the precise shade to evoke a specific mood or emotion we seek to convey.

So also in the Bible, there are specific words for green and their symbolism throughout the Scriptures is consistent. God's precision in His word fills me with awe!

Leaves of a tree
Breaking Forth, Detail, Acrylic, Sara Joseph

Green 1 :  'yereq'

The Hebrew word 'yereq' is one of the earliest words used for green. In Genesis, it describes the greenness of edible herbs. It is the color of food to be consumed—fresh, vibrant and life sustaining.

"And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein [there is] life, [I have given] every green herb for meat and it was so." Genesis 1:30

Green 2: 'āḇîḇ

In Leviticus, 'abiyb' is used to describe the greening of ears of corn. It was to be part of the first fruits offering—a seasonal offering to be made to God. The same word is used for the season of 'greening', or the onset of spring.

"And if thou offer a meat offering of thy firstfruits unto the LORD, thou shalt offer for the meat offering of thy firstfruits green ears of corn dried by the fire, even corn beaten out of full ears."  Leviticus 2:14

Green 3: deše'

This is used for the color of tender new shoots of grass. I suppose this would be a fresh, sprightly green. It is the word used to describe the green pastures that He leads us to in Psalm 23:2.

"He makes me to lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside the still waters."  Psalm 23:2

In those pastures I must trust Him and rest to have my fill of His provision.

Withdrawal of His provision is the dismal absence of green.

Imagine a world without green!

Isaiah prophesied precisely that for Moab—a time of utter desolation with drought and nothing green.

"For the waters of Nimrim shall be desolate: for the hay is withered away, the grass faileth, there is no green thing." Isaiah 15:6 KJV

Light through leaves
Breaking Forth, Detail, Acrylic, Sara Joseph

Green 4: raʿănān

This is the most frequently used green in the Old Testament, occurring 20 times, always indicating the greenness of the mature leaves of trees.

Imagine a tree thriving, not in the start of spring, but later, after it has weathered some storms and parched, dry seasons. This green is deeper and richer, the color of the leaves of towering, established trees that flourish year after year, with roots deep and wide, branches generous and spreading.

The very existence of this green seems to shout of life, with all its complexities of circumstance.

The green leaves of this tree is a powerful image of a righteous man, one who heeds the commandments of God.

"For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and [that] spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit." Jeremiah 17:8 KJV

Green 5: chlōros (Greek)

Poem titled Green
Green, Sara Joseph

In the New Testament the word for green is "chlōros." Chlorophyll, derived from that word is familiar to us, isn’t it ?

Another variation of the green of springtime, this color hints at the season's beginning. The verse below was the inspiration for the poem on the right.

"And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass." Mark 6:39 KJV

In Revelation, the word ‘chlōros’ is used to describe the ‘pale’ (greenish yellow pale) horse of Death.

How often have we flippantly used ‘green’ when speaking of being queasy, or even as the color of envy or jealously! That green is equated with the repulsive paleness of death.

Green: The Color to Remind You of Yahweh, NOT False Gods

Shady, mature trees with spreading branches were, sadly, the sites of pagan idol worship. A majority of the verses using the word raʿănān for green are found where God condemns rituals and false worship practiced under the leafy branches of majestic trees in high places.

The beauty, strength and vigor of mature trees should have been visible reminders of the greatness of Yahweh, not become sites for pagan worship. Humans seem to gravitate to worshiping creation, when the Creator’s personality is expressed in His wondrous creation. What a tragedy!

This proclivity provoked the following command to Israel:

“Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree: “ Deuteronomy 12:2KJV

Israel, chosen to remedy this idolatry, succumbed to the same folly, being no different from her pagan neighbors. Hence God referred her to as a harlot for her divided loyalty.

A tree should remind us that its green strength is still under God’s control and is only for a season. And so is man, in all his hubris and temporary glory.

"I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree.

Yet he passed away, and, lo, he [was] not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found." Psalm 37:36 KJV

"And all the trees of the field shall know that I the LORD have brought down the high tree, have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green tree, and have made the dry tree to flourish: I the LORD have spoken and have done [it]."Ezekiel 17:24 KJV

In conclusion, green in all its various shades and nuances, is the color of life—either vibrant, flourishing life, or the pale waning of life from living things. Green must also submit to the Master, as the seasons come and go, changing in nuance and vibrancy.

My favorite verse for this life affirming color is

"But I [am] like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever." Psalm 52:8


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