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What does the Bible say about rose?

What does the Bible say about rose?

Roses have long been a symbol of love, beauty, and devotion. They are mentioned several times throughout the Bible, often used metaphorically to represent positive traits like righteousness, wisdom, joy, and God’s love for His people. Though the specific species of rose is never named, biblical rose references reflect the flower’s rich significance.

Old Testament References

In the Old Testament, roses are associated with righteousness, blessing, prosperity, and God’s favor. The desert will bloom with roses when the Messiah comes to restore Israel (Isaiah 35:1). Song of Solomon, an allegorical poem celebrating God’s love for His people, contains the most rose references. The beloved is compared to a rose – “I am the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valleys” (Song of Songs 2:1). Here, the rose represents beauty, while lilies represent purity. Roses blossom in the field, like the beloved blossoming into the lover’s life (Song of Songs 2:12). As they embrace, the scent of roses fills the air, implying the sweetness of their love (Song of Songs 2:10-13).

The wisdom of God’s Law is better than roses – “Like roses planted along the riverbank, so is wisdom implanted deep within the heart” (Ecclesiasticus 39:13). This compares gaining wisdom to stopping to appreciate the beauty of nature. King Solomon’s garden of delights contains beds of “all kinds of herbs, new and old, and roses and lilies” (Ecclesiasticus 50:8), suggesting abundance, variety, and royal splendor.

New Testament References

In the New Testament, roses signify joy, life, and Christ Himself. Jesus tells a parable of a man going on a journey, who asks his servants to care for his estate in his absence. On his return, they present him with the profits and fruits of his land – including roses (Luke 12:27). This reference implies that cultivating roses brings life and joy.

An angel came down from heaven to strengthen Jesus before His crucifixion (Luke 22:43). Early Christian legends expanded this story, saying the angel bore a wreath of roses to give Christ joy and courage. In one version, the roses became the crown of thorns. Though unbiblical, these stories inspired rose symbolism in Christian art and literature.

The brevity of life is compared to a rose blossoming then withering: “That which is planted or sown is not quickened, except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain….But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body” (1 Corinthians 15:36-38). Beauty and life are fleeting, but God can resurrect and restore.

Rose Symbolism in the Bible

Though the Bible does not ascribe symbolic meaning to the rose directly, based on the flower’s attributes and ties to other symbols, the rose can represent:

  • Love
  • Beauty
  • Brevity of life
  • Spiritual life, growth, and restoration
  • Fruitfulness
  • Wisdom and righteousness
  • Glory, supremacy, and dominion
  • Delight and joy

In ancient Greek and Roman culture, roses symbolized the gods and immortality. Pagan rituals often included garlands of roses. As Christianity transformed those cultures, the rose became identified with Christ and the Virgin Mary.

Christ as the Rose of Sharon

“I am the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valleys” (Song of Songs 2:1). In the original Hebrew, the speaker is male, so Christians interpret this verse as Christ describing Himself. Sharon was a fertile plain along the Mediterranean coast. Song of Songs paints word pictures of natural beauty to poetically represent the relationship between Christ, the groom, and the Church, His bride.

The rose of Sharon may refer to a crocus, meadow-saffron, or bulbous iris that bloomed prolifically across the valleys and coastal plain. Like Jesus, this rose was common yet unique. It thrived in adversity – in sandy, swampy areas inhospitable to other flowers. Christ left heaven to come down to the world’s worst conditions. He sacrificed His life for His people and now dwells within those who believe. As the Rose of Sharon, Jesus chooses to abide in the barren places of the heart to bring new life.

Mary as the Mystical Rose

The rose has long been a symbol of Mary. In medieval Europe, the rose stood for the Virgin Birth of Christ. The five petals represented the five joys of Mary – the Annunciation, Nativity, Resurrection, Ascension, and her Assumption into heaven. The red rose symbolized redemption through Christ’s blood.

Saint Dominic established the rosary, a prayer of petition counting out five decades on beads, each decade representing a mystery and virtue of Christ and Mary. Here, the rose was Miriam – Mary’s name in Hebrew meaning “bitterness.” The prayer of the rosary turns bitterness to joy. Eventually, the rosary prayer was associated with roses. When Mary appeared in Fatima, Portugal in 1917, she said she was “the Lady of the Rosary.” On her last appearance, she performed a miracle so that all who were present could see the sun “dancing” in the sky and whirling like a wheel of fire, flashing rose, emerald, blue, and violet lights.

Another title for Mary is the Mystical Rose, referring to her as the epitome of mystical love: God’s pure, perfect love that brought Christ into the world. Mary as the Mystical Rose also foreshadows the Second Coming of Christ when the Church as Mary’s children will rejoice with her.

The Rose Cross

The Rosicrucians, a medieval group shrouded in mystery and controversy, used the rose cross as their symbol. The cross honors Christ’s suffering, while the rose represents redemption. Hidden meanings connected the rose and cross to esoteric ancient wisdom, secret rituals, and occult mysticism. Some Catholics even considered the Rosicrucians and their rose cross blasphemous, a mockery of Christ’s cross. By the 19th century, Rosicrucianism had spread to Freemasonry.

Because of these negative occult associations, Christians are hesitant to use the literal “rose cross” today. However, the two individual symbols, the cross of Christ and the rose representing His love and redemption, have a solid biblical foundation.

The Rose as a Sign of Love

More than any other flower, the red rose symbolizes romantic love. As a sign of love, it also represents the love of Christ. The red rose’s origin traces back to the story of how the red rose first came into being. As the legend goes, a nightingale fell in love with a beautiful white rose and courted her day and night. But the rose was proud and paying no attention. In his heartache, the nightingale pierced his breast on the rose’s thorn. As his blood dripped on the white rose, it turned red and imbued the flower with symbolism of true love.

Saint Valentine strengthened ties between the red rose and love when he sacrificed his life in the name of Christian marriage. On the eve of his death, Valentine is said to have written his love a note and signed it “From your Valentine.”

The red rose can be viewed as a symbol of Christ’s passion – crimson red for the blood He shed, the thorns as the crown of thorns, the fragrance as the aroma of sacrifice. The rose begins as a tiny bud concealing magnificent beauty to unfold. We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

Rose Meanings in Various Colors

Roses come in a rainbow of colors, each with their own unique shade of meaning:

  • Red – True love, courage, passion
  • Pink – Grace, happiness, gentleness
  • White – Purity, humility, innocence, spirituality
  • Yellow – Friendship, joy, gladness
  • Orange – Energy, enthusiasm, desire
  • Lavender – Enchantment, splendor, love at first sight
  • Blue – Unattainable, mystery
  • Green – Balance, harmony, prosperity
  • Black – Death, farewell

The rainbow roses recall God’s promise in Genesis 9 – the rainbow as a sign of the covenant between God and the earth that He will never again destroy the world with a flood.

Significance of Numbers of Roses

The number of roses also has meaning:

  • 1 rose – Love at first sight, devotion
  • 3 roses – I love you
  • 6 roses – Infatuation, falling in love
  • 12 roses – Gratitude
  • 15 roses – Apology
  • 20 roses – Belief
  • 25 roses – Congratulations
  • 50 roses – Unconditional love
  • 99 roses – Everlasting love
  • 101 roses – Devotion

Numbers have significance in the Bible too. Twelve is the number of God’s people – the 12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles of Jesus. Forty signifies a time of testing – Jesus fasted for 40 days, the Israelites wandered for 40 years. Seven represents completion, as in the 7 days of creation.

The Rose of Resurrection and Eternal Life

The rose also ties to eternal life in heaven. A thorny crown of roses covered the martyr’s head at death then became a heavenly crown in paradise. Red roses blooming in winter foretold the Nativity and resurrection of Christ. Carvings and stained glass windows in gothic cathedrals depicted the Virgin Mary tending a rose bush or walled garden – the soul’s garden cared for by the spiritual Mother, who was the gate through which one entered heaven. Paradise was pictured as a rose garden where souls rejoiced in the presence of God.

In Dante’s Paradiso, he ascends into heaven and paradise with his beloved guide Beatrice. Here, the saints form flower patterns as living roses on the floral floor of heaven:

“And all those souls were plain to see as roses / on rose bushes, they were like rubies set / around a central gold in intricate displays / to make appropriate designs appear…” (Canto 31)

Revelation tells of the river flowing from the throne of God that nourishes the tree of life with leaves that “were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:1-2). Rose symbolism accords with the waters of life in paradise, preparing us to encounter Christ. As Dante visualized roses in heaven, the saints can be compared to roses blooming forever in the gardens of the new creation.

The Rose of Christian Art and Architecture

The rose has adorned Christian chapels, cathedrals, artwork, tapestries, vestments, and more as a symbol of paradise. Rose windows filter colored light into stone cathedrals in intricate stained glass patterns. The round window mirrors the shape of the sun, the wheel of fire extending to creation’s farthest limits. As light illuminates the interior, the rose window may represent Christ’s light radiating over the world through the Church.

Roses decorate Catholic cathedrals in architectural details, sculpture, frescos, inlaid floors, and metalwork. The five-sided rose shape echoes the five petals representing the five joys of Mary. Red and white roses intertwined represent Christ’s blood and purity. Golden roses symbolize the golden crown of heaven. In visual art, Mary and the Christ child are depicted holding roses representing eternal joy and the virgin birth of the Savior.

Rose Legends and Folklore

Legends and myths carry symbolic rose meanings:

  • King Midas whose touch turned objects to gold but when he touched his beloved roses, they became gold too.
  • Aphrodite emerging from sea foam and being crowned with roses.
  • Roman emperors filled swimming pools with rose petals for decadent displays of power.
  • Cleopatra carpeted the floor with 2 feet of rose petals to seduce Marc Antony.
  • A trail of roses sprang up with Aphrodite’s footprints when she wandered looking for Adonis.

The ancient Greek and Roman association of roses with romance and femininity carried over to Europe where medieval damsels sat in rose-covered bowers and slept on rose-scented sheets. Charming stories tell of knights and ladies exchanging roses before embarking on quests. However, the Christian Church condemned roses for their pagan, sensual history and denounced those who indulged too much in the pleasure of roses. Saints were said to mortify the flesh by sleeping on thorns.

By the late Middle Ages, the rose became identified with Mary instead of Venus, giving the flower a renewed place in Christian symbolism. Still a token of admiration and love, the beauty of the rose masked its thorns, showing a dynamic balance between grace and consequences for sin.


From thorns to blossoms lifting toward heaven, bouquet to paradise garden, the rose bears layers of meaning. More than a flower, the rose represents a spiritual unfolding. As we stop to appreciate its beauty and fragrance, we can catch sight of divine love. The rose delights senses with exquisite mysteries that spark reflection. Through this contemplation, the soul awakens to God’s Presence.