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Ornaments of Jewelry


Do you know what the Bible says
about jewelry, ornaments and
piercings (even tattoos)?
Should Christians wear jewelry?

By Ken Raggio

(I have created an imaginary story-line
here - based on scriptural facts - to give
a life-like context to this subject.
Nevertheless, I have tried very hard
to accurately present the true Biblical,
doctrinal essence. - KR)

From the earliest days, jewelry was a blessing from God

It was a beautiful bracelet he drew carefully out of the tapestry bag. Rebekah gasped at the sight of it, because somehow she instantly knew this stranger was going to give it to her. He respectfully took her wrist and lifted it with his left hand while he slid the bracelet smoothly over her hand. It was solid gold.

"Crafted in Syria," he explained, "and very valuable." She didn't need to be told. She had always admired her grandmother's jewelry, but only in her fondest dreams could she think of having any of her own.

Abraham's gifts to Rebekah were fine jewelry

While she studied it, she couldn't ignore the fact that Eliezer was still digging in the tapestry bag. When he produced another bracelet, identical to the first, she was dumbfounded. He placed it on her other wrist. And reached into the bag again. This time an exquisitely designed earring, a one-of-a-kind to be sure, was laid in her hand. It was fine gold, trimmed in a silver design, carefully inlaid with a ruby, an emerald and a diamond. It was gorgeous.

Her ears had been pierced since she was a baby, but all she ever wore in them was a pair of simple onyx studs. She nervously fumbled with each earlobe until she had the old piece out. Eliezer's compatriot thoughtfully pulled a looking glass from his camel pouch, and held it for her while she helped her donor place the new one in. It was hard to say what sparkled more, the jewels, or Rebekah's eyes. Suddenly, her subtle comeliness illuminated into stunning beauty.

Abraham was wealthy in silver and gold

Eliezer's whole entourage had been standing around all the while, quietly observing the presentation. Suddenly, there was a burst of cheers and applause as they uniformly acknowledged how well-suited she was to the elegant garnishings, and more importantly, at Eliezer's good fortune in finding such an obviously outstanding young woman for his master's son.

Little did she know that these were only tokens of a wealth of fine things that would eventually be bestowed upon her. Abraham was very rich, not only in his livestock, but also in much silver and gold. (Genesis 13:2). He would spare no expense in lavishing his wealth upon his only daughter-in-law. Abraham's generosity evidently reflected the very heart of God on these matters.

Joseph was rewarded in Pharaoh's court with Gold and Jewelry

Years later, Abraham's great-grandson, Joseph, was selected to be used of God. It was God Himself who instigated Joseph's rise to power in Pharaoh's court. His family had impudently denounced him as a dreamer. But through Sovereign arrangement, Joseph would inevitably wear Pharaoh's priceless ring and golden necklace: God's reward to Joseph for serving His purpose.

The fleeing Israelites spoiled the Egyptians of much precious jewelry

Two hundred years later, Israel's descendants numbered in the hundreds of thousands - even millions. But times had changed, and Egypt had been hard on them. Yet these were the people of God, and they were under an eternal directive. Their future prosperity was sealed in prophetic guarantees. "Moses, instruct all the women, that on the night before you flee the land, they are to take a spoil of all the jewelry of the Egyptian women. I want them to have great and valuable possessions when they go. Be sure they all understand that I am with them. The jewelry will be a sign to them that I am generous to my people" (see Exodus 11:2 and 12:36).

Afterward, a strange thing happened. Moses was called up into Mount Sinai, and for days, no one heard from him. Everyone expected him back shortly, but this was ridiculous. Nobody had seen or heard from Moses in weeks. What was going on? Moses carried unprecedented authority over these Hebrews. Aaron was beginning to wonder how he got by with it. As long as everybody did everything Moses said, fine. But if they didn't, Moses could be a monster. And at no time would it be more evident than the day he finally came down from the mountain, and found them partying, recklessly, with no thought or care about what God thought of their reveling.

Their jewelry became the idols of the Israelites

The most awesome thing they had done. The most valuable gifts God had given them, they had turned into idols! Those crazy people had already forgotten God and His fabulous mercy - bringing them across the Red Sea, feeding them with manna, and so many other miracles. Now, they had now molded a golden calf out of a large quantity of their jewelry, and were dancing around, having the time of their life, imagining that this golden calf had actually been their deliverance from Egypt. It was a morbid abomination.

The Holy Spirit was so utterly grieved at their foolishness that he must have literally gloated in Moses' fury toward them. In fact, if Moses hadn't mercifully intervened, God would have destroyed them then and there. Moses' righteous indignation flared, and he angrily forced them to grind the golden calf to dust, scatter the powder in water, and drink it! (Exodus 32:20). It was as if he was saying, "God's Spirit might have dwelled within you, but now you will be filled with your phony god! I hope you get sick!"

Not to be mocked, God then threatened to remove the presence of His Cloud by day, and Fire by night, warning them that if they didn't take off all their ornaments immediately, He just might come down and destroy them all. (Exodus 33:1-6). In a dramatic act of national repentance, all Israel quickly stripped themselves of all their jewelry. God was appeased.

The next related incident was that God instructed Moses to take up a free-will offering for the construction of the Tabernacle. At the top of the long list of suggested items: "GOLD!" He was not forcing it out of them, but the suggestion was conspicuously specific. They took the hint, because "every man that offered, offered an offering of gold unto the Lord." (Exodus 35:22). And not just portions of what they owned, but they brought "all jewels of gold" to the Lord (verse 22).

To say that was the end of the matter would be incorrect. For in the centuries to come, as surely as their military victories included the spoils of precious jewelry in great wealth, God strictly imposed upon them to bring it to Him. "Moses and Eliezer the priest took the gold of them, even all wrought jewels" (Numbers 31:51). Even though the men had taken these spoils, "every man for himself," they were collected, "what every man had gotten, of jewels of gold, chains, and bracelets, rings, earrings, and tablets" (perhaps gold beads) "to make an atonement for our souls before the Lord" (verse 50).

God Declared Jewelry an Abomination

Now, anyone should know that jewels can't buy salvation, so we must deduce that their offering was somehow intended to be a reprieve for their past idolatry of jewelry. God eventually verbalized His hatred for the sight of jewelry on his people. He forbade them to keep jewelry as spoils of war. "Thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein: for it is an abomination to the Lord thy God. Neither shalt thou bring an abomination into thine house, lest thou be a cursed thing like it: but thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a cursed thing" (Deuteronomy 7:25-26).

"Thou Shalt Utterly Detest It! Thou Shalt Utterly Abhor It!"

Even the kings were forbidden to accumulate personal collections of jewelry. In the eventuality that God would set up kings over Israel, each was instructed in advance not to "greatly multiply to himself silver and gold" (Deuteronomy 17:17). Solomon would later transgress, and it would cost him his relationship with God. In the next generation, Joshua pronounced the sentence of death by stoning and by fire upon Achan and his entire family. The charge: keeping in their possession precious gold and silver, instead of turning it over to the treasury of the Lord (Joshua 7:21).

Gideon sinned by desiring jewelry

Gideon was a mighty man of valor, greatly used of God, but in his latter years, Gideon made a request of the men of Israel: "that you would give me every man the earrings of his prey." They spread a garment, and threw in golden earrings, ornaments, collars, even the chains from the camels' necks. Gideon had a priestly vestment molded from it all, and "all Israel went a whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house" (Judges 8:24-27).

The Word of God consistently and repeatedly denounces the ownership and possession of jewelry

Every time Israel began to possess jewelry, it became an occasion for spiritual decline, through some form of vanity such as pride, sensuality or idolatry. It literally turned their hearts away from God. The evidence grows, that jewelry became increasingly offensive to God. Gideon had requested the jewels of the Ishmaelites. Note that "they had gold earrings because they were Ishmaelites." The strong implication is that the Jews didn't have earrings.

God never forgot the mockery associated with jewelry.

Ezekiel refreshed the issue, reminding them that God had girded them with fine linen, "and covered thee with silk. I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain upon thy neck. And I put a jewel upon thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thy head. Thus was thou decked with gold and silver" (Ezekiel 16, see also Hosea 2:13). God raged over the fact that they played the harlot, committing spiritual and physical whoredoms with them.

NOWHERE in the Old Testament did God ever give them permission to take back their jewelry, nor did He ever give them any indication that He had changed His mind and now approves of their having jewelry.

Did God drop his objections to jewelry in the New Testament?

Evidently not, since Paul for some reason admonished, "...that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair" (a hairstyle interwoven with jewels), "or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works." (I Timothy 2:9).

Are all ornaments undesirable?

The only ornaments we can be sure are allowed are spiritual in nature: "even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit which is in the sight of God of great price" (see I Peter 3:1-4). Peter confessed that "silver and gold, have I none" (Acts 3:6), while Paul stated, "I have coveted no man's gold or silver" (Acts 20:33). Jesus instructed the disciples to leave gold and silver out of their ministerial baggage in Matthew 10:9.

Here are several reasonable conclusions:

  • 1. God originally lavished jewelry upon those He favored.
  • 2. Israel consistently abused the privilege by idolizing their jewelry, or somehow turning it into an abomination before God.
  • 3. God turned against their ever owning it, with the sole exceptions of it being allowed with some restrictions in the treasury of the king's palace, and with no restrictions in the treasury of the Lord's house, where it belonged.
  • 4. God has consistently, ever since the golden calf debacle, objected to anyone having private possession of jewelry. Men have been condemned repeatedly for possessing jewelry.
  • 5. The New Testament carries the same spirit and attitude forward, of God's displeasure with ornaments, and His pleasure with spiritual virtue in their place.

The personal possession of jewelry or ornaments was shown to induce vanity, pride, sensuality and idolatry - vices that NO Christian should want - or ALLOW!

Alternately, we are offered the privilege of wearing the most beautiful of all ornamentation: the virtues of Godliness, which are many and multi-faceted. While the natural eye relishes outward garnishing, and criticizes comeliness and shamefacedness, the Spirit of the Lord scarcely acknowledges store-bought beauty, but lavishes praise on spiritual virtue.

While no one can deny the natural beauty of a fine piece of jewelry, nor berate its value in material terms, it is important to remember whose eyes we seek to please. The ornaments He thinks are beautiful have never been crafted by even the finest jeweler!

AFTERTHOUGHT: Maybe the same arguments also condemn body piercings (including EAR piercing), and even TATTOOS. "Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD," Leviticus 19:28.

A pierced ear with a golden earring is a double transgression against the holiness of God.

The modern epidemic of piercings and tattooing is the testimony of a generation that has sold itself to Satan, despises the laws of God, and gloats itself in being a billboard for every vain, carnal and worldly image. God hates it.

"What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's," 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

"Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are," 1 Corinthians 3:16-17.

It is flagrant hypocrisy for a Christian to defend the use of their body as a mannequin for all the world's fads and fashions, but vehemently deny God His right to use their body as HIS advertisement.

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God," Romans 12:1.

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