Have you ever noticed in the epic battle movies how there are always flags along the front line? What a powerful image! Flags showed the enemy, and everyone else, who that people group represented or fought for. Flags and banners are not only used in battle, but also to identify possession of land or a territory. On a more positive note, they’re also used in celebration!
(still from Kingdom of Heaven)
Oftentimes, the words flag and banner are used interchangeably. However, this is not always accurate. In early days (more than 3,000-4,000 years ago), a banner, more accurately described, was closer to a metal or wooden pole with a carving on the top of it. In fact, the word banner in Hebrew is translated to mean distinguishing mark, signal, standard, warning. Let’s read Exodus 17:15 – Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Yahweh our Banner [YHWH-Nissi]. Here, the word “nissi” is from the Hebrew word “nês” meaning banner – a pole with an insignia attached.
It wasn’t until around 2,000 years ago that pieces of fabric or other material were added to the pole, looking more like the flags we’re familiar with today. Whether biblically or not, the colors found in flags have special meanings (visit our Color Meanings page for additional info).
Most mention of flags and banners in the bible was in military use. You can find more than three dozen references in the Word of God to banners, standards, flags, and ensigns. Each of these words was a different type of signal or mark. Ensign, for example, would have been something like a badge or similar to a signet ring. A signet ring was used heavily in those days as a type of signature that represented a family or a king and his kingdom. When the Pharaoh gave Joseph authority over Egypt, he gave Joseph his signet ring (Genesis 41:42) and with this, Joseph was able to go about his [the Pharaoh’s] duties through all the land of Egypt.
References to banners can be found in Exodus, Psalms, Song of Solomon, Numbers, Zechariah, Jeremiah, and Isaiah. In Exodus, the banner of victory is ascribed to God. In Song of Solomon, it says His banner over me was love. This reference is an image of celebration claiming possession in love over his bride – a foreshadowing of Jesus claiming His bride, the Church.
Even as I walk around my subdivision, I see flags at the entrance in order that people’s attention would be drawn to the neighborhood. Also, at the model home, there are three flags flying – an American flag, a state of South Carolina flag, and one for Eastwood Homes, the builder of the complex. With those flags, they are acknowledging their pride in this country, this state, and to let others know who is responsible for building in this territory.
Feel free to conduct your own search on the use of flags and banners in the bible and throughout history. Look around where you live and work and notice for yourself what flags are flying. What I’ve written here is only a mere introduction. You gain revelation from your personal study. Begin your own journey!
In His love,