Christian Churches of God

No. 197z


The Origin of the Wearing of Earrings and Jewellery in Ancient Times

(Edition 1.1 19970405-20010215)


There are many traditions associated with the use of cosmetics and jewellery generally that deny their legitimate use within Christianity or see in them a non-scriptural basis. Some of the words used concerning earrings in the Bible involve mistranslation in the English and convey an incorrect meaning.





Christian Churches of God





(Copyright ã 1997, 2001 Wade Cox)

(Summary Ed. Wade Cox)


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Earrings and Jewellery in Ancient Times

At the time of Christ there was a view that the use of make-up and jewellery was of demonic origin. See the Ethiopic Book of Enoch (Knibb, Oxford Clarendon, 1982, Vol. 2, pp. 79-86).

1Timothy 2:9-10 and 1Peter 3:3-6 are used as examples against the use of make-up and jewellery. However, this view is one of seemly behaviour and the orderly government of the family and the Church. The dress of a Christian is to be without suggestion of association with idolatrous practices or superstition.

Despite the view of those who would condemn jewellery, the Bible has specific application, uses and terms that identify what was and what was not permitted. The translations have obscured the true meaning of the texts.

According to the ERE, it is possible that bracelets, anklets and rings may have at one time been amulets. The practice of wearing amulets seems to have originated in the animistic beliefs and practices, which attribute power and influence to the spirit world.

Anklet is a word for fetters of the feet. The sense is one of bondage or subjection. Isaiah 3:18 refers to them as tinkling ornaments about the feet. They were in common usage all over Palestine and many have been recovered.

Abraham’s servant gave a ring (translated as earring) to Rebekah when he sought her as a wife for Isaac (Gen. 24:22). However, at verse 47 it appears that it was in fact a forehead jewel as it was placed on her face. So we can say the patriarchs condoned the use of a forehead jewel.

From Genesis 35:4 we see that the wearing of earrings was common and was part of the worship of strange gods. They were handed over to Jacob and he hid them by burial under the oak at Schechem. It appears that earrings were symbols of the ancient polytheist practices, which derived from the original Animism of Chaldea and specifically Babylon.

The Bible uses the term ring (Heb. nezem) followed by the term in the ears for earrings at Genesis 35:4 and Exodus 32:2-3. The practice of wearing amulets among the Hebrews was suppressed and thereby removed from open display on areas such as the ears and nose. They were placed under the garments by the superstitious to hide them from public view.

Moses destroyed the calf and dispersed its gold. He appears to have completed the elimination of this form of amulet by collecting such decorations and melting them down to construct the Tabernacle (see Ex. 35:22). However, the gold used in the calf was not used for the Tabernacle.

The use of the word earring in the KJV is misleading. Job was given an earring of gold by each of his companions (Job 42:11). However, this appears to be the general term for ring.

The book of Judith shows that she wore earrings (Judith 10:4) using the Greek word ’enõtia.

Nose rings appear to have been to protect the nose from entry of spirits. Judging from the context of the original term in Ecclesiastes 10:11, the original lehashim may have been charms in the form of serpents. Isaiah lists the Saharon or little moon or crescent. Those crescent shaped bands are still worn around the necks of camels today and stem from the association with the moon god.

Ears were seen as the means of entry and exit of spirits (Frazer, The Golden Bough, Vol. III, p. 31), and also as the seat of intelligence. So they were protected by means of ring amulets in the form of serpents or moons. Blood drawn from the ear by piercing may have been used as a ritual penance prior to the conferring of the amulet. The wearing of jewellery generally appears to have stemmed from the same practice as that of earrings –as amulets against the spirits.

The concept of a single earring in one ear showing availability in the modern sense, is related to the perversion of homosexuality.

The differentiation between males and females wearing earrings appears to have occurred from an early date. Frazer refers to the practice of a woman’s bracelet and earrings being worn by a man who had been stung by a scorpion as some sort of healing talisman.

The wearing of the dress of the opposite sex is forbidden by the Bible as an abomination and may well stem from the suppression of animistic practices. The practice of wearing earrings seems certainly to derive from them.

The earliest condemnation of cosmetics as a face adornment is associated with Jezebel where she adorned the eyes and eyelids (2Kings 9:30). This is because Jezebel was notorious in the worship of Baal. Jeremiah uses the concept of Israel as an adulterous woman and the use of eye make-up and face paint is found in that context (Jer. 4:30). The same concept appears in Ezekiel 23:40 where the idolatry and harlotry of Israel is condemned. The fault seems to have been in the presentation and the attitude behind the fact.

It could be argued that this is the process adopted by an adulterous woman, but not all women who use make-up do so in this context.

Anointing oils and perfumes were permitted and used in ancient Israel. However, the special compounds used in the Tabernacle were not to be used for everyday purposes. (see Ex. 30:22-38). The sons of the priests made these holy ointments and perfumes (1Chron. 9:30).

The use of ointments and spices and dressings was common. Hezekiah had a store of these ointments and precious spices for general use in his treasury before the captivity (2Kings 20:13; Isa. 39:2). Proverbs 27:9 says ointment and spices rejoice the heart. Christ had such ointment poured upon him on more than one occasion (Mat. 26:7 ff). The Bible has no specific injunction against the use of preventative cosmetics or oils or spices in the daily life of the people (Eccl. 9:8).

The use of charms and amulets is forbidden and is associated with idolatry. In this way, decorative items of dress are restricted and amulets or such ornamentation are forbidden. The attitude to attire is an appeal to sober and modest dress, being decorated by good deeds.

God declares that He adorned His chosen Jerusalem and symbolically, all of the elect (Ezek. 16:8-22). Even so Jerusalem turned away from God and became apostate. They fell to an even worse state than Samaria and Sodom had before them. Yet God will restore all of these systems under His new covenant (Ezek. 16:55-63). It is our task to remember the spiritual adornments that have been given to us by God and not to be concerned with the physical or material substance as is this world.