Dream symbols: The colour brown and what it means

Have you ever wondered what the colour brown means as a dream symbol?

In this article we will take inspiration from the bible to investigate the spiritual meaning of brown in dreams, and what that means for us in practical terms.

We will explore its meaning in positive and negative contexts, with some real dream examples too!

I approach dream interpretation from a biblical perspective. My belief is that our dreams can come from God, and understanding them is best understood within the context of an ongoing relationship with Him.

The symbolic nature of dreams

Firstly, if you have just come across this post and are new to dream interpretation, it is worth mentioning that dreams are symbolic in nature. You might find it helpful to read Understand your dreams: A bible-based introduction to dream language to give you a foundation.

Secondly, remember that dreams are personal, so the meanings that I suggest may not apply to your specific dream. But please feel free to use my ideas as a springboard to thinking and praying about dreams yourself. Don’t take my ideas as gospel, but rather let them help you start to think metaphorically.

Picture of a puppy, autumn trees, brown chair and brown shoes

Introducing the colour brown!

Brown truly speaks of nature. It is stunning in the autumn, when a great variety of shades are displayed on the trees. It is the colour of the soil – a rich brown when it is freshly ploughed and ready for sowing. It is also displayed in the wonderful variety of skin tones of people around the world.

Brown is beautiful in its own way. It is popular in natural decor schemes, and in the abundance of wholefoods and natural products which are now available. It speaks of reliability, natural comfort, and being down-to-earth.

Brown can also be a negative colour – reminiscent of dirt and mud, and sometimes a bit drab.

There are so many different shades of brown: From red brown to beige; from dark brown to ochre; and from grey-brown to cream or off-white.

Consider the context

As with any dream symbol, each colour can potentially have both positive and negative meanings. The context, feeling and atmosphere of a dream will give us clues to help us determine whether to interpret it in a positive or negative way. 

Brown can seem a rather uneventful colour when compared to the more vibrant colours like red and yellow – but it is actually an extremely helpful colour when it appears in a dream!

So, let’s unpack what it could mean.

Positive and negative meanings of more colours:

Picture of layers of different shades of brown soil with text: There are many shades of brown in the natural world

Symbolism of brown in the bible

The bible is a great resource for dream interpretation as it contains so much symbolic language. I carried out a search for the word brown in the bible.

The King James Version (KJV) uses brown to describe the speckled sheep/goats in Genesis 30:32-40. This is a dark brown/black colour (Strongs H2345). The New International Version (NIV) has one mention of brown in Zechariah 1:8 which is a red brown colour of horses (Strongs H8320), sometimes translated as sorrel.

The word red is sometimes used in bible translations to refer to a ruddy colour, such as that which describes Esau in Genesis 25:25 and David in 1 Samuel 16:12. This is the Hebrew word admônîy, which is the reddish-brown colour of man’s skin (and the earth). The word adam refers to a similar colour.

  • Genesis 2:7 Then the Lord God formed a man (adam) from the dust of the ground (adamah) and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

So the bible confirms the association of varied shades of brown with the earth, with the natural world, and with humanity.

Positive context: Brown as humanity and humility

In a positive context, brown usually means humility.

HUMILITY: Someone who has humility is not proud and does not believe they are better than other people.

collinsdictionary.com/dictionary

The dictionary definition of humility focuses on not being proud or thinking more of yourself than you ought. This is a sentiment echoed in the bible. When we remember our origins as created beings we have a humble attitude towards each other and towards God.

  • 1 Peter 5:5 All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another…
  • Romans 12:3 Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment.

But a biblical understanding of humility goes further than that. It’s also about recognizing who we really are. It’s about evaluating ourselves honestly (i.e. having sober judgment); and not thinking any less of ourselves that we should either – and sometimes the latter is more of a challenge!

Picture of soil in hands with text: Psalm 103:14 He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.

Being at peace with who we are

There is freedom when we give ourselves permission to fail; when we can make mistakes but then get back up again; when we acknowledge our faults; when we admit our wrongdoings and are able to apologise when necessary; we don’t need to be arrogant or put others down to make ourselves feel better. True humility is being at peace with ourselves and who we are.

The good news is that God knows our weaknesses yet accepts us. He knows that we were formed from the brown, humble soil. He knows our sins and failures. But He still loves us!

  • Psalm 103:14…for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust…
  • Hebrews 14:15-15 (TPT) He understands humanity, for as a man, our magnificent King-Priest [i.e. Jesus] was tempted in every way just as we are, and conquered sin. So now we draw near freely and boldly to…discover the grace we urgently need to strengthenus in our time of weakness.

Moreover, when we recognise our need for God and partner with him – allowing Him to fill everything we do – then it is powerful! We receive grace and anointing from heaven. It is just like the little boy who brought the five loaves and two fish – that Jesus then used to feed 5000 people (Matthew 14:13-21).

“Your job is not to feed the 5000. Your job is just to provide the loaves and the fish.”

Dallas Jenkins – producer of The Chosen TV series (watch his amazing testimony on YouTube)
Picture of man in brown t-shirt with arms raised and text: True humility - knowing that we need God

Positive context of brown in a dream

This dream is about building with wood. Wood is normally used in dreams in the same way as the colour brown, to represent humanity.

DREAMINTERPRETATIONEXPLANATION
I dreamed that a friend (the mentor who trained me in dream interpretation) was building something potentially big out of WOOD. I said to him, ‘Humilty! Do what you can, with what you have, with HUMILITY.’This dream came during a difficult time of self-doubt and was my spirit speaking to myself. It was encouraging me to keep on writing about dreams. In one sense my blog was just human effort and seemed pathetic, but in God’s hands it could become something great!Wood is brown. This is brown in the best possible sense! This is humility. When we recognise our human effort for what it is and surrender it to God – it can become awesome in His hands!

Negative context: Brown as human weakness

Negative brown usually represents our human weakness – as in humanity without God. We might call this humanism  in the general sense (i.e. believing we don’t need God to succeed). But even those of us who desire to follow God can unintentionally do things our own way.

HUMANISM: a belief system based on the principle that people’s spiritual and emotional needs can be satisfied without following a God or religion.

Cambridge online dictionary

Brown as works of the flesh

The bible uses the phrase works of the flesh which is a good description of the negative aspect of what brown can mean in dreams. If you are unfamiliar with that phrase, here are some bible verses that use it clearly:

  • Romans 7:18 (TPT) For I know that nothing good lives within the flesh of my fallen humanity. The longings to do what is right are within me, but willpower is not enough to accomplish it.
  • Romans 8:7 (TPT) In fact, the mind-set focused on the flesh fights God’s plan and refuses to submit to his direction, because it cannot!
  • Romans 8:5 (TPT) Those who are motivated by the flesh only pursue what benefits themselves. But those who live by the impulses of the Holy Spirit are motivated to pursue spiritual realities.

So we can see that works of the flesh are all about doing things our own way rather than God’s way, in our strength rather than God’s strength, and with natural thinking rather than heavenly thinking.

And if you don’t believe in God, brown can still be helpful in revealing when you’re not thinking straight, or when something is not the best path for you.

If you don’t believe in God, the colour brown can still be helpful in revealing when you’re not thinking straight, or when something is not the best path for you.

Picture of people on beach with text:Romans 8:5 (The Passion Translation) Those who are motivated by the flesh only pursue what benefits themselves. But those who live by the impulses of the Holy Spirit are motivated to pursue spiritual realities.

The usefulness of brown in dreams

In the bible we are exhorted to fix our eyes on heavenly things, rather than earthly things:

  • Colossians 3:2 Yes, feast on all the treasures of the heavenly realm and fill your thoughts with heavenly realities, and not with the distractions of the natural realm.

Mostly when I dream of brown it is alerting me that I’m not doing that! In other words, I am operating out of my fallen humanity – apart from God. It means that my ideas have not come from heaven! This is a seemingly demoralising thing to hear, but actually it is extremely helpful.

I am often in a muddle and not sure whether I have made a good decision or heard from God right. I struggle to discern what is coming from God and what is from me. When I’m in this situation, God uses brown in a dream to indicate something coming from me, and blue to indicate something coming from Him.

BROWN = NATURAL / EARTHLY SOURCE

BLUE = HEAVENLY SOURCE

So brown appearing in our dreams – even in a negative way – can help us discern whether we are on the right path (or not!). Most of us would find that very helpful!

Additionally, when we realise what is happening – we can choose to seek God for His revelation and will, adjust our path, and become empowered by His Spirit. God always brings hope for change!

  • Romans 8:9 (TPT) But when the Spirit of Christ empowers your life, you are not dominated by the flesh but by the Spirit.

More examples of brown in dreams

I have sought out some of the different shades and types of browns that have appeared in dreams – and how God has used that to set me on the right path.

DREAMINTERPRETATIONEXPLANATION
I dreamed I was trying to see a film but struggling to find a cinema all night. I was holding a BROWN TEDDY BEAR and feeling a bit embarrassed about it.I was about to go through a difficult patch of not having clear vision, because I was holding onto my own familiar ideas without realising it.The cinema represented vision. The brown teddy represented my own ideas. Night indicated a difficult patch coming. This did happen, but I did eventually come through it.
I dreamed I was on holiday swimming in the sea. It was safe to swim in – except for a BIG BROWN PATCH (a bit like seaweed). I decided not to go in that bit!This was around the time I started this blog. It was encouraging me to go for it –  but at the same time warning me to watch out for all the information about blogging on the internet (which was not helpful to me).Sea usually represents people and the world – often social media. I was in danger of listening to all the adverts rather than God for my blogging strategy. This dream prepared me to stay vigilant.
I dreamed I saw a tree with a huge ORANGEY BROWN SNAKE sliding down it. The snake was nearly the full length of the tree.This was revealing a stubborn lie which had been my way of thinking for a long time – since an early age. God was going to reveal it and set me free from it. This did happen a few months later.Orange means something stubborn. A snake usually represents a lie. The orangey brown colour indicated the earthly origins of this lie: it seemed true to me – but it was not from God!
I dreamed a girl was trying to fit some new chairs into a room, but there were already some OCHRE CHAIRS there which were in the way. She reorganised the room without them.God was trying to show me a new way of approaching a difficult situation. I needed to let go of my own way of handling it – so He could reveal a better way. (The rest of the scenes in that dream helped me understand God’s solution).Yellow represents our mind. Ochre is a brownish yellow, indicating that my understanding was not quite right. I needed to let go of my own ideas so God could give me a better, heavenly solution – which he did.
I dreamed I was on an expedition where people often die. I had to climb down a very MUDDY area, but it got easier as we reached the bottom.I was about to go through a difficult patch with my blog where I would be confused about what I was meant to be doing. There was a danger that I would give up. (This happened and I wrote about it here).The brown mud represented both hard-going times (like walking through mud), but also lacking clarity and heavenly insight. My natural thoughts were all mixed up for a while.
I dreamed I was at sofa warehouse collecting my navy sofas. There was a CREAM SOFA too, which I didn’t remember ordering.This was at a time when God had been speaking to me about a lot of things. This was alerting me that I was mixing a few of my own ideas in with what God was showing me – so I could be aware and keep listening to Him.Navy is blue which represents revelation from heaven. Cream is a pale brown, indicating that there were still a few of my own ideas muddled in. This was very helpful as an indicator of where I was at.
I dreamed I was decorating a room white. We were spraying over some BEIGE coloured rice crispies that were stuck on the ceiling, but I knew I would have to pick them off at some point.This was alerting me that I was trying to ignore some of my faulty ideas and keep up appearances. At some point I was going to have to face up to them with God’s help. (At the time of dreaming I didn’t know what it was, but I did ask God to show me).White is the colour of God but also of religion – which is the appearance of being good, but not actually. It was around four months later that God helped me see what this was – and set me free so I could change.

Other potential uses of brown

Wood: Wood is typically brown. The presence of wood in a dream is invariably representative of humanity. In dreams, if something is made of wood, it is a very strong indicator that the thing it represents is people’s thoughts or ways– rather than God’s.

In the Old Testament temple, the arc of the covenant was made of wood overlaid with gold. This was a pre-representation of Jesus who was fully God and fully man. It is also a picture of mankind at its best: fully human yet filled with the power of Christ.

Flesh or fleshly: This is the biblical word for humanity trying to operate without God. This word fits well with the negative meaning of brown, so I have added it in brackets to a few of the definitions below.

Compassion: Just as God has compassion on us because He understands our humanity and weakness, so we also can have compassion on other people. This can be symbolised by the colour brown.

Pastor / pastoral nature: This links to having compassion.

Acceptance: God accepts us in our human weakness and failings, so we can accept others despite theirs.

Compromise: This is acceptance gone wrong. Brown can be compromise; when we ignore things and accept things that we shouldn’t.

Autumn: Autumn leaves are a wonderful brown colour. Autumn colours can represent a change of season in our lives – signalling something coming to an end.

Soil: Soil is brown but can also be symbolic of ploughing, planting, and harvest – and all the many illustrations based around the growing cycle. The context will indicate whether this is the main meaning.

Mud: We could be walking through muddy puddles or generally slipping and sliding around. This is basically about times when everything seems confusing, unclear or hard going.

Muddy water: Pure clear water is the Holy Spirit. Therefore muddy, brown or cloudy water is when things are muddled by our own thinking there’s a lot of humanity (flesh) mixed in – causing lack of clarity.

Beige or cream colour: Pure white would normally represent God. So off-white, dirty-white, beige or cream would normally mean that some humanity (flesh) is mixed in there. It’s a bit like muddy water – i.e. our own wrong ideas – and God is alerting us. This message could also be hidden in symbols like ice-cream, cream and creamer.

Other objects that are normally brown: If you dream of naturally brown objects such as a horse or bread, it’s worth asking yourself the following question: Is it in the dream because it is brown (i.e. brown is the main point), or is it is there for another reason and it just happens to be brown?

Picture of feet walking through mud with text: the colour brown - walking through mud

Conclusion

In a positive context brown represents humanity in combination with compassion and humility (when we accept ourselves for who we are – and are empowered by God’s Spirit).

In a negative sense brown usually represents humanity trying to do our own thing without God (i.e. works of the flesh); and natural thinking rather than heavenly thinking.

Here are a few closing thoughts:

  • The colour brown in a dream could represent any number of things. The above ideas should give you a good starting point. 
  • I believe that only God can tell us what the colour means in a specific dream, so you could try asking Him!
  • Consider the atmosphere and context of the dream to see whether the colour is being used in a positive or negative sense.
  • In addition to the meanings that I have shared, remember that it could mean something personal or culturally significant to you, that isn’t mentioned here.

I hope you have found this article helpful – so keep a lookout for brown in your dreams!

You could use the following song as a prayer.

So keep my heart pure and my ways true
As I follow you.
Keep me humble; I’ll stay mindful
Of your mercies Lord
.

Tim Hughes. Song lyrics – Day After Day

If you want to know more, do get in touch, or subscribe to my emails below to receive regular helpful dream interpretation tips.

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