What Does Petra Mean in the Bible?


Petra is a word that has piqued the interest of many Bible enthusiasts and scholars alike. It holds significant meaning both historically and scripturally. In order to fully understand the importance of Petra in the Bible, one must delve into the linguistic origins of the term and explore the accounts and prophecies that involve this fascinating location. This article aims to provide an in-depth understanding of Petra in the context of the Bible, its significance in biblical history, and its role in the fulfillment of God’s divine plan.

Before we delve into the various aspects of Petra, it is crucial to have a clear understanding of the word’s meaning and origins. The term “Petra” is derived from the Greek word “πέτρα,” which translates to “rock” or “stone.” In the context of the Bible, Petra holds a dual significance – it refers to both the ancient city in modern-day Jordan and the metaphorical rock that represents the foundation of the Christian faith.

Key Takeaways

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  • Petra, meaning “rock” or “stone,” is an ancient city with biblical significance.
  • The city of Petra is mentioned in the Old Testament as a place of refuge for God’s people.
  • Jesus referred to Peter as “Petra,” representing the foundation of the church.
  • The Apostle Paul used the term “Petra” to emphasize Christ as the spiritual rock of the believers.
  • Biblical prophecies foretell the role of Petra in the end times.
What Does Petra Mean in the Bible?

Petra as an Ancient City

Historical Background

Petra, located in modern-day Jordan, was the capital city of the Nabatean Kingdom. This ancient civilization flourished in the region from the 4th century BC until its annexation by the Roman Empire in the 2nd century AD. The city is famous for its rock-cut architecture, which includes temples, tombs, and other significant structures.

Biblical Significance

In the Old Testament, Petra is referred to as “Sela,” which also means “rock” in Hebrew (2 Kings 14:7). According to biblical accounts, the city served as a place of refuge for the people of Israel during times of distress. For instance, the prophet Obadiah prophesied that the Edomites, who inhabited the region surrounding Petra, would provide sanctuary for the Israelites during their exile (Obadiah 1:3-4).

The Edomites and Petra

The Edomites were descendants of Esau, the twin brother of Jacob (Genesis 36:1). They resided in the mountainous region southeast of the Dead Sea, which included the city of Petra. Although the Edomites and Israelites shared a common lineage, their relationship was often marked by hostility and conflict. Despite these tensions, God used the Edomites and the city of Petra to protect and preserve His chosen people.

Petra as a Metaphorical Rock

Peter, the Foundation of the Church

In the New Testament, Jesus referred to His disciple Simon Peter as “Petra” (Matthew 16:18). By renaming him Peter, which is derived from the Greek word “petros,” Jesus emphasized the foundational role that Peter would play in the establishment of the Christian church. This passage highlights the importance of faith and unity among believers, as the church is built upon the confession of faith in Jesus Christ as the Messiah and the Son of God.

Christ, the Spiritual Rock

The Apostle Paul also made use of the term “Petra” to emphasize the spiritual significance of Jesus Christ. In 1 Corinthians 10:4, Paul referred to Christ as the “spiritual Rock” that accompanied the Israelites during their journey through the wilderness. This metaphor illustrates the life-giving sustenance and guidance that Christ provides for believers, even in the most perilous circumstances.

The Chief Cornerstone

In Ephesians 2:20, Paul identified Jesus as the “chief cornerstone” of the church, emphasizing the essential role that Christ plays in the foundation of the Christian faith. The metaphor of Petra as a solid and unshakable foundation is further reinforced in 1 Peter 2:6, which refers to Christ as the “chief cornerstone, elect, precious” upon which believers are built as a spiritual house.

Petra in Biblical Prophecies

The Place of Refuge

In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah foretold a time when Petra would once again serve as a place of refuge for God’s people (Isaiah 16:1-4). This prophecy is believed to be fulfilled during the end times when the remnant of Israel will seek protection from the Antichrist in the wilderness, with Petra as their primary sanctuary.

The Destruction of Edom

The Book of Obadiah contains a prophecy concerning the ultimate destruction of Edom, the nation that once inhabited the region surrounding Petra. This prophecy has both historical and eschatological implications, as it foreshadows the eventual judgment of all nations that stand against God and His chosen people.

The Second Coming of Christ

Some biblical scholars theorize that Petra may play a role in the Second Coming of Christ. They believe that Jesus will return to the Mount of Olives, and then proceed to Petra to gather the remnant of Israel before establishing His millennial kingdom in Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:4-5).


In conclusion, Petra holds a multifaceted significance in the Bible. As an ancient city, it served as a refuge for the people of Israel during times of distress and fulfilled prophetic roles outlined in the scriptures. As a metaphorical rock, Petra symbolizes the foundation of the Christian faith, with Jesus Christ as the spiritual rock that sustains and guides believers.

The dual nature of Petra’s biblical significance reminds us of the unshakable foundation of our faith in Jesus Christ. As the world continues to face unprecedented challenges, believers can find solace and strength in the knowledge that our spiritual rock, Jesus Christ, remains steadfast and unmovable. As we continue to study the Bible and seek a deeper understanding of God’s divine plan, the significance of Petra serves as a powerful reminder of God’s faithfulness and His unwavering commitment to the protection and preservation of His people.

The city of Petra, located in the southern part of modern-day Jordan, is one of the world’s most beloved ancient archaeological wonders. With its sandstone cliffs, elaborate tombs, and stunning carved structures, it has inspired generations of travelers, archaeologists, and Bible scholars since it was rediscovered in 1812. But what does Petra mean in the Bible?

In the Bible, Petra is described as a city of refuge, which is a place of protection and safety. Petra is mentioned several times in both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, it is mentioned as a city of refuge that was part of the territory assigned to the tribe of Judah. The Book of Isaiah also references the city of Petra in a description of God’s faithfulness. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul also mentions Petra as a safe place of protection.

The etymology of the word Petra is derived from the Greek word petra, meaning “rock.” This explains Petra’s unique geological structure, as well as its location nestled against numerous cliffs of sandstone. The city of Petra in the Bible is described in terms of its awe-inspiring beauty. The Prophet Isaiah in particular describes it as an awesome and verdant place—a place of fortification and refuge.

In addition to its Biblical importance, Petra also has a rich history in other lore and mythologies. It is said to have been the home of the Egyptian god Thoth, the god of wisdom and learning. It is also associated with the Greek gods Zeus and Hera, as well as the Canaanite god Baal.

Overall, Petra in the Bible is described as a city of refuge and awe-inspiring beauty. Its name is derived from the Greek word petra, which means rock, and its rich history can be traced back to Biblical times. Moreover, its other associations with Greek and Canaanite gods expresses the importance of Petra in ancient times, and still today.

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