In Joel the moon is mentioned as getting 'dark'.

The earth quakes before them; the heavens tremble. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining. (Joel 2:10, ESV)

Then at a later time in the vision is is said to be turned 'to blood'.

The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, ebefore the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. (Joel 2:31, ESV)

In some ways the Moon and Sun was made dark after an earthquake when Jesus died on the cross and then at the end of the world again the full Moon becames 'like blood.'

When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, ithere was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. (Rev 6:12)

The question is what does this refer to, and how is it different from the Moon simply turning dark?

  • I believe that it refers to a time when nations fight over the moon. God sets the limit for mans cruelty, arrogance and injustice. The days we fight over an object not of this plannet, the day a drop of blood is spilt on the moon is the day God brings his vengeance, wrath and deliverance to the world.
    – user3656
    Mar 7, 2014 at 18:07
  • To your point about the moon turning dark after the crucifixion, Peter quotes the Joel passage in Acts Ch 2. One possible read is that Peter saying the Joel passage had already been fulfilled.
    – Josh
    Mar 10, 2014 at 1:40
  • 1
    I have seen the moon turn close to blood red a couple of times. It is a common phenomenon at moon eclipses. So if the sun disappears completely, but the lesser light, the moon, turns red, then we are in an eclipse of the moon. Note also that in times of severe air-pollution the sun may turn red, but never the moon. The moon disappears completely in those conditions. Dec 10, 2020 at 23:59
  • Another thing in the text that points towards a lunar eclipse is the emphasis on “all” (όλη). Thus, it is “all the moon” that turns red, not just the “moon”. Dec 12, 2020 at 15:01

4 Answers 4


How are we to interpret the Moon turning into blood, in Joel 2:31 and Rev 6:12?

John in his vision sees terrifying events such as a great earthquake the blackening of the sun, and the moon turning to blood, John writes.

Revelation 6:12-13 (NASB)

The Sixth Seal: Terror

12 And I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became as black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind

Will anything happen to the literal sun, moon, and stars at that time? The answer is "NO". Why? When a similar prophecy by Ezekiel 32:7-8 against Israel's large neighbor Egypt was fulfilled, the literal heavens and the stars did not darken.

Ezekiel 32:7-8 (NASB) Emphasis [Pharaoh] inserted in the verse by me for clarification

7 And when I extinguish you,[Pharaoh] I will cover the heavens and darken their stars; I will cover the sun with a cloud And the moon will not give its light. 8 All the shining lights in the heavens I will darken over you And will set darkness on your land,” Declares the Lord God.

What happened was that Pharaoh and his armies were utterly destroyed,Pharaonic Egypt ceased to be a world power, and has since then been dominated by other nations.

The cataclysmic events in the prophecy of John mean that the wicked humankind alienated from - "the earth"-, the powers and governments -"the stars and the moon"-that rule over them face a black prospect similar to that of Egypt. No wonder they will say to the mountains and the rocks to fall on them and hide them from the Rider of the white horse.

Revelation 6:15-17 (NASB)

15 Then the kings of the earth and the eminent people, and the commanders and the wealthy and the strong, and every slave and free person hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; 16 and they *said to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the [a]sight of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; 17 for the great day of Their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”


It could simply be a physical description of what the moon looks like.

Have you ever seen the moon during a lunar eclipse (when the moon moves into the shadow of the earth)? It becomes red (or brown or yellow) because some of the sunlight passes through the earth's atmosphere and bends around the earth to reach the moon. The actual colour of the moon depends on what happens to be in the atmosphere at the time (recent volcano eruptions, etc.). The moon is also a lot darker than usual (because it's in the earth's shadow, of course).

I don't think the moon turning to blood is a lunar eclipse - there's too many other things going on when the sixth seal is opened in Rev 6:12. Nevertheless, we have evidence right now that the moon can become blood red in colour, so a literal interpretation is not unreasonable.

The trouble with a non-literal interpretation of this is that it can devolve into intellectual arguments about whether it has happened/is happening/will happen etc. But if you're standing on earth when that 6th seal is opened and it is a literal unfolding of what John saw, I don't think you'll need to start a discussion with your hermeneutics buddies about whether or not it is literal. This doesn't mean that a non-literal argument is incorrect, merely that we shouldn't discount a literal interpretation.


The heavens is often used to express powers of governments while the earth is the populations under them.

For example, long after the heavens and earth were literally established, God uses the same phrase in establishing Israel:

And I have put my words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of my hand, establishing the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to Zion, ‘You are my people. ’” (Isaiah 51:16, ESV)

Note: This was not clear to me at all until noticing it yesterday argued in depth in a sermon from John Owen entitled THE SHAKING AND TRANSLATING OF HEAVEN AND EARTH. (Owens Works, Volume 8, See page 254)

So the earthquake, disturbing the populace, and the loss of heavenly bodies for their usual public power on display, naturally means and overthrow of government powers under the wrath of God. Of course, erroneously through superstition, pagans would more or less also equate such disturbances to an overthrow of their gods, as these powers were at times associated with the gods directly in Emperor worship or indirectly under their favour.

Although God often works in secret, an overhaul of the entire world in which everyone in a given society lives, implied by such commotion a full public recognition of God's wrath. It is meant to rise above the everyday manifestation of Gods anger against sin and implies a long awaiting magnificent disturbance of all who are secure in their power and commotion among people watching in dismay. Furthermore as powers are usually meant to provide order and blessings from God, the darkness covering these happy lights clearly spells his disfavor and withdrawal of a happy countenance towards the earth.

Regarding why the end of the ages takes the image one step further and describes the moon as turning into blood is curious. It seems as a minimum to indicate a more final and extreme vengeance upon those powers that oppose the Messiah, so that their very light is not just toppled but they are made into blood as they perish absolutely.

It might be taking the image to far, but as the Moon is the light to speak of better things to come during the Day, the loss of the Sun mirrors the loss of gospel light, and the loss of Moon in higher abstraction indicates the loss of the light of the Law. In other words government powers actually exist in support of providing gospel and law, even without having any such intention. If we allow this more abstract image to hover over the obvious more certain image, we can say the Sun does not turn into blood but the moon, because the final judgment will actually be the Law taking vengeance on the sins of the world, while the gospel is no longer offered, for the age of repentance is no more.


An orange or red moon occurs when it is close to the horizon. The effect is exacerbated when there are thin clouds in front or behind the moon [1]. I've seen this effect many times, although never "blood" red.

A blood red moon, although scientifically explainable, will be a foreshadowing of the Lord's day of vengeance (Isaiah 63:4), when He returns with raiment red with the blood of His enemies (Isaiah 63:2-3) and His sword filled with blood. (Isaiah 34:6).

[1] http://curious.astro.cornell.edu/question.php?number=280

  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. We're a little different from other sites. We aren't a typical forum, we're a Q&A site, and we expect all posts to show their work. You've done a good job for the first part of the question, but how is it different from the Moon simply turning dark (the second part of the question)?
    – Dan
    Mar 10, 2014 at 3:27

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