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What does brown mean in Bible?

What does brown mean in Bible?

Brown is a color that is mentioned several times throughout the Bible. The specific shades of brown discussed in Scripture often symbolize earthiness, humility, and service. Here is an overview of the symbolic meaning of the color brown in the Bible.


The natural brown hues found in dirt, sand, wood, and animals’ coats connect the color closely to the earth in biblical symbolism. Brown represents the dust from which God formed the first man Adam (Genesis 2:7). It also characterizes the curse that came upon Adam after the fall, forcing him into toil and labor that would return his body to the ground (Genesis 3:19).

This earthy quality of brown portrays the lowly, perishable nature of mankind apart from God. Yet as potters’ clay filled with the breath of life, the earthen “clay jars” (2 Corinthians 4:7) yield beautiful works of God’s craftsmanship and dwelling places for his Spirit.


The simple and common hue of brown expresses humility throughout Scripture. It points to the modesty ofPoor people wore brown clothes made from sackcloth, undyed wool, or goat’s hair.

Notable figures also wore plain brown garments to reflect humility. John the Baptist wore rough camel hair, tied with a simple leather belt (Matthew 3:4). The prophet Elijah wore humble brown attire as well (2 Kings 1:8). Jesus even instructed his traveling disciples to wear simple sandals and brown tunics, forgoing showy apparel (Mark 6:9).

This humble brown clothing bore witness to these men’s posture as servants of God, not seekers of men’s praise.


Brown in the Bible also represents diligent service and earthly toil. It characterizes the labor of shepherds and vineyard workers under the sun.

Jacob and Esau were born with ruddy, brown skin, befitting their future as hard workers tending flocks and fields (Genesis 25:25). David, a former shepherd, was also “ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance” (1 Samuel 16:12).

As a common color of workaday clothing, brown clothing appears repeatedly in Jesus’ parables as the attire of vineyard workers (Matthew 20:1-16), plowmen (Luke 17:7), and shepherds (Luke 15:1-7).

This industrious symbolism of humble brown garb carries over to the brown robes worn by monks and friars devoted to lives of service for God.


Natural brown earth produces fruit, drawing connections between the color and agricultural bounty in the Bible. The Promised Land was described as “a good land with streams of water, springs and fountains flowing in the valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines, fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of olive oil and honey” (Deuteronomy 8:7-8).

Jesus also used fruitfulness to illustrate faithfulness in ministry. Baskets of bread, grain, nuts, figs, grapes, and other produce were collected after Jesus miraculously fed the crowds (Matthew 14:20). This abundance from humble foods mirrors how God multiplies and sustains those who diligently serve him.


While brown points to fruitfulness, the withering and rotting of produce also connects it to decay and corruption. “They soon go to the place of the dead, where they descend into silence” (Job 21:13). God warns against rottenness setting into the “apple of your eye” (Zechariah 2:8).

Brown decay appears especially in God’s warnings against idolatry. False gods and their lifeless wooden and stone idols would rot away: “Its fruit rots before it ripens; it cannot even be eaten” (Nahum 1:14). But godly righteousness will bear everlasting fruit.


Brown also takes on ominous tones in the Bible as a backdrop for judgment. The plagues on Egypt included the Nile River turning blood-red along with reddish-brown sediment (Exodus 7:17-21). This echoed the earlier plague where Moses threw soot from a kiln into the air, causing festering boils and burns on the Egyptians (Exodus 9:8-12).

The sky also turned brown and obscured sunlight during the crucifixion, mirroring the darkness of Jesus’ suffering to atone for sin (Luke 23:44-45).

This use of brown to represent sin, corruption, and God’s judgment emphasizes the need for holiness and redemption through Christ.

Suffering and Grief

Brown signifies mourning and grief throughout Scripture. It points to the trials endured by Job after losing everything he had: “My skin turns black on me, and my bones burn with heat. My harp is tuned to mourning, and my pipe to the sound of wailing” (Job 30:30).

As part of their mourning customs, Israelites and Jews during biblical times wore sackcloth and ashes, rubbed dust on their heads, or refrained from washing themselves. Both Jacob and Tamar tore their brown garments and put on sackcloth in their deep distress (Genesis 37:34, 38:14).

The visible dirt and ashes worn on one’s body served as an external reflection of the inner grief, lament, and contrition of a mourning heart.


While the specific shades range from tan to deep chocolate hues, the color brown has rich biblical symbolism. It often represents the earthiness, humility, and diligent service of those who follow Christ. Brown illustrates mankind’s origins from dust and the subsequent curse on creation. But through the redemptive work of Christ, believers can bear everlasting spiritual fruit despite earthly decay. Brown ultimately reflects the trials and suffering faced by God’s people along the narrow way, keeping their eyes set on eternity with Christ.

Shade Symbolism Examples
Natural earthy browns Earthiness, human origins from dust Dirt, clay, sand, wood
Ruddy or tan skin Outdoor agricultural work and service Shepherds, farmers, vineyard workers
Plain, undyed brown garments Humility, repentance Sackcloth, undyed wool, leather
Rotting produce Decay, corruption Rotten figs or apples
Reddish brown God’s judgment Plagues, crucifixion darkness
Dark brown Grief, lament Ashes, torn clothes, unwashed bodies