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Faith & Wisdom

Meaning Of Rainbow In The Bible: Interpreting The Symbol Of Hope

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If you live in Italy, Canada, the UK, Spain, or the U.S., you may have participated in the viral trend where people hung rainbow flags and art in their windows in the first few months of the pandemic

Although this viral craze created thousands of gorgeous photographs, it wasn't a public art project. Instead, the people who participated meant for the rainbows to inspire hope in anyone who saw them.

While we often associate rainbows with children's toys, their hopeful message dates back to the Book of Genesis. In this article, we want to help you understand that history better. Specifically, we'll explain God's design for rainbows, what rainbows symbolize to Christians, and why God shows us rainbows.

What is a rainbow?

Rainbows are optical illusions that form when white light from the sun refracts off raindrops as if they were prisms. As the light bounces from the water droplet in an arc or circular bow shape, our eyes see different colors within the refraction. 

Interestingly, rainbows aren't semi-circles but full circles. They look like semi-circles because the end of the rainbow hits the ground, but if you saw a rainbow from a plane, it'd look circular. 

Generally, most people agree that rainbows include red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet (which you can remember with the acronym "ROY G BIV"). However, some people only see six colors as their eyes process blue and indigo as the same. 

Ultimately, it doesn't matter whether people see six or seven colors in the rainbow — as they actually include over a million colors. We can't see these colors because our eyes can't process them.

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What does the rainbow mean in the Bible?

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The first appearance of a rainbow in the Bible occurs during the worldwide flood. 

This flood is covered in Genesis 6, which explains that God flooded the Earth by making it rain for 40 days and nights. The worldwide flood killed everyone except Noah, his family, and the animals on Noah's ark. 

After the flood, God stopped the rain and dried up the Earth. It's here, in Genesis 8:2, that the Bible's first rainbow appears. 

We can understand rainbows better by looking at the first rainbow's symbolism. 

Genesis explains this symbolism in God's promise to Noah in Genesis 9:12-14, which reads: "and God said, "this is the token of the covenant which I make between Me and you and every living creature that's with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my rainbow 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 rainbow shall be seen in the cloud."

In these verses, God explains that the rainbow represents His promise to Noah and humankind. As our Creator and our King, God casts a rainbow on the Earth to remind us to be hopeful for the future and grateful for the gifts He provides us. 

The rainbow also has a special meaning for Noah in Genesis — as it's a symbol of Noah's hope for renewal, good luck, and a better life.

Bible quotes about rainbows

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Although our modern understanding of rainbows as God's symbols comes from Genesis, rainbows also appear in other Bible verses. 

For example, in Revelation 10:1, a rainbow appears over the head of an angel from Heaven: "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." Here, the rainbow symbolizes promise and hope — as the angel who wears it brought the message of God's salvation. 

In Ezekiel 1:28, Ezekiel sees a rainbow in the sky when he encounters God: "as the appearance of the rainbow that's in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness roundabout. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard the voice of the One who spoke." In this passage, the rainbow symbolizes renewal and God's glory as it describes the moment that Ezekiel truly accepted God as his Creator. 

Finally, in Revelation 4:2-3, John's spirit sees a rainbow around God's throne: "and immediately I was in the spirit, and behold, a throne was set in Heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He that sat thereon was to look upon like a jasper and a sardius stone; and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in appearance like unto an emerald." 

What does seeing a rainbow mean?

Though we all see the world through different eyes, rainbows symbolize several critical things to Christians. 

As rainbows represent the glory of God on Earth, they are symbols of hope and a reminder for the person viewing the rainbow to uplift themselves spiritually and emotionally. Rainbows also appear right after rain, meaning they are a sign of renewal and growth. 

You can understand the symbolism of rainbows by looking at how we use the word "rainbow." For example, we use "rainbow baby" to describe a baby born after the parents suffer a miscarriage or lose a child prenatally or in infancy.

In Irish folk law, hope also lies at the end of a rainbow in the form of a pot of gold left there by Leprechauns. 

What does seeing a double rainbow mean?

A double rainbow occurs when two rainbows appear in the sky at the same time. Double rainbows may be stacked beside each other or facing one another. 

As double rainbows are rarer than single rainbows, they carry special meaning. They're symbols of transformation, so when you see one, you should ask yourself: "what's God trying to transform about my life?"

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The colors of the rainbow and what they represent

Our interpretation of colors can be tied to our faith, birth country, and culture. For example, red symbolizes luck and happiness in China (and thus, many Chinese brides wear it). In the United States, red often symbolizes romantic love, anger, or seduction.

Despite the differences in how we view colors, many Christians associate the rainbow's colors with angels and what they represent: 

  • Blue = Angel Michael (power / protection)
  • Yellow = Angel Jophiel (thoughts / wisdom)
  • Pink = Angel Chamuel (love / relationships)
  • White = Angel Gabriel (purity / harmony)
  • Green = Angel Raphael (healing / prosperity)
  • Red = Angel Uriel (service / energy)
  • Purple = Angel Zadkiel (mercy / transformation)

Many Christians also relate Noah's seven basic rules for life to the colors of the rainbow. 

Specifically, they believe that:

  • Red symbolizes "thou shalt not worship idols" 
  • Orange symbolizes "thou shall not blaspheme"
  • Yellow symbolizes "thou shall not murder" 
  • Green symbolizes "thou shall not have immoral relationships"
  • Blue symbolizes "thou shall not steal"
  • Indigo symbolizes "thou shall respect all living creatures"
  • Violet symbolizes "thou shall set up courts of law"

Of course, you may also apply your own meanings to rainbow colors based on your life experiences. 

For example, if your grandmother always wore lavender colors, you may associate the violet in the rainbow with a reminder to love your friends and family unconditionally. While these associations aren't strictly Biblical, they are still important signs from our Father — as everything we see, feel, and touch is put there by God for a reason.

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The rainbow: a sign of the covenant between God and us

Since the beginning of time, God has cast rainbows over the Earth as a sign of his power and a reminder to His children. When you see a rainbow, God is asking you to find hope, cultivate gratitude, look for renewal in your life, and appreciate the beauty of His Earth. 

To learn more about the meaning of the rainbow in God's world, listen to our series "Biblical Sagas." You can also listen to more content from Pray by downloading our app from the iOS app store or the Google Play store.

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