You open your jewelry box and gaze at the beautiful necklace your grandmother gave you. As the light sparkles off the delicate chain and pendant, you can’t help but wonder – what does this necklace symbolize from a biblical perspective?
Necklaces and jewelry often carried deep meaning and symbolism in the Bible. As Christians, understanding these connections can help us appreciate the richness of Scripture and see how God uses everyday objects to convey spiritual truths. Join me on a fascinating exploration of the symbolic meanings behind necklaces in the Bible!
- Necklaces symbolized wealth, status and beauty in Bible times
- God adorns His bride, the church, with beautiful necklaces as symbols of love and commitment
- Necklaces could represent seduction and temptation away from God
- Breaking off necklaces depicted God disciplining and refining His people
- The high priest’s engraved necklace displayed Israel’s allegiance to Yahweh
Adorning the Bride
One of the most prominent symbolic uses of the necklace in Scripture revolves around God depicting Israel and the church as His bride. Just as a groom adorns his beloved bride with beautiful jewels on their wedding day, God lavishes necklaces upon His people as pledges of devotion.
For example, the prophet Isaiah proclaims God’s steadfast love for Zion by promising to adorn her as His bride, saying “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels” (Isaiah 61:10). The necklace God places around the neck of His bride signifies His eternal covenant love.
The Song of Solomon uses similar bridal imagery, declaring “How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride! … Your neck is like the tower of David, built with elegance; on it hang a thousand shields, all of them shields of warriors. Your two breasts are like two fawns, like twin fawns of a gazelle that browse among the lilies” (Song of Solomon 4:9-11). Here, the bride’s graceful neck displays not jewels but shields of warriors – symbolic of the strength and protection the bridegroom provides.
This metaphor of God’s steadfast love for His people culminates in the book of Revelation. When describing the New Jerusalem, John writes, “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God'” (Revelation 21:2-3). For all eternity, the church will finally experience the fullest expression of Christ’s love as His bejeweled bride.
Messages from the High Priest’s Necklace
In addition to the bridal necklace metaphor, the engraved necklace of the high priest also carried symbolic meaning for Israel. Exodus 28 details the elaborate vestments worn by Aaron and succeeding high priests, including “a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a woven tunic, a turban and a sash. They are to make these sacred garments for your brother Aaron and his sons, so they may serve me as priests” (Exodus 28:4).
Part of this official vestment was the ephod, a type of apron worn over the robe. Exodus specifies, “Then mount two onyx stones on the shoulder pieces of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. Aaron is to bear the names on his shoulders as a memorial before the LORD. Make gold filigree settings and two braided chains of pure gold, like a rope, and attach the chains to the settings” (Exodus 28:12).
The ephod was secured by two chains of gold that were attached to the ceremonial breastpiece over the high priest’s heart. These chains formed a necklace from which the breastpiece was suspended. Engraved on the breastpiece were twelve precious stones, each inscribed with one of the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.
When ministering before God in the tabernacle, the high priest literally bore the names of all Israel over his heart as a symbolic reminder to intercede for them before God. The necklace chains securing the breastpiece indicated that Israel was bound to the Lord through the covenant promises He made with them. They belonged to God, which the high priest represented through wearing their names engraved upon his shoulders and heart.
Necklaces as Symbols of Beauty and Wealth
During Old and New Testament times, necklaces functioned as fashionable accessories that displayed a woman’s beauty, status and wealth. Song of Solomon makes numerous references to necklaces enhancing the physical attractiveness of the bride, often pairing the necklace with other jewelry. For example, Chapter 1 verse 10 says, “Your cheeks are beautiful with earrings, your neck with strings of jewels.” Verse 11 continues, “We will make you earrings of gold, studded with silver.”
Later in Chapter 4, the bridegroom describes his bride’s appearance, saying “Your neck is like the tower of David, built with elegance; on it hang a thousand shields, all of them shields of warriors. Your two breasts are like two fawns, like twin fawns of a gazelle that browse among the lilies. Until the day breaks and the shadows flee, I will go away to the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense” (Song of Solomon 4:4-6). The necklaces and jewels complement the bride’s natural beauty.
During Jesus’ earthly ministry, He cautioned against outward displays of piety for the sake of appearing righteous before others. In the Sermon on the Mount, He warned, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full” (Matthew 6:16). Outward jewelry and ornamentation meant to flaunt wealth receives fleeting human praise rather than eternal reward from God.
True beauty flows from a gentle and quiet spirit reflecting the inner beauty of a heart redeemed by Christ. As Peter encouraged, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:3-4). Any necklace you wear should point others toward the ultimate treasure of Christ in your heart, not your own status or wealth.
The Seduction of Necklaces
Because ornate necklaces and jewelry could symbolize beauty, wealth and fertility, Scripture often depicts them as seducing Israel and Judah into idolatry and immorality as they trusted in outward riches rather than in God. The prophet Ezekiel, for example, confronted Jerusalem’s obsession with outward beauty this way:
Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen, silk, and embroidered cloth. You ate pastry of fine flour, honey, and oil. You were exceedingly beautiful, and succeeded to royalty. Your fame went out among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through My splendor which I had bestowed on you, says the Lord God. But you trusted in your own beauty, played the harlot because of your fame, and poured out your harlotry on everyone passing by who would have it (Ezekiel 16:13-15).
Rather than loving God, Jerusalem lavished herself with necklaces, fine clothing and sweet foods, trusting in fleeting human admiration while engaging in spiritual adultery. Through the prophet Hosea, God declared he would punish Israel’s idolatry, saying “I will punish her for the days she burned incense to the Baals; she decked herself with rings and jewelry, and went after her lovers, but me she forgot” (Hosea 2:13). Outward displays of beauty and wealth often seduced Israel into unfaithfulness.
Speaking through Ezekiel, God lamented, “They will throw their silver into the streets, and their gold will be treated as a thing unclean. Their silver and gold will not be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord’s wrath” (Ezekiel 7:19). While Israel trusted in material wealth, God yearned for them to repent and return to Him. True security comes not from necklaces or riches but from trusting in God’s steadfast love.
Removing Necklaces as Discipline and Refinement
Since idolatrous Israel had turned God-given necklaces and jewels into objects of pride and rebellion, the prophets frequently depicted God breaking off these necklaces to discipline and refine His people. Through Isaiah, God declared, “Because the daughters of Zion are haughty… the Lord will take away the finery of their anklets, headbands, crescent necklaces, earings, bracelets, veils, headdresses, ankle chains, sashes, perfume bottles, charms, signet rings, nose rings, festal robes, outer tunics, cloaks, money purses, hand mirrors, undergarments, turbans and veils” (Isaiah 3:16-23).
By removing these objects of beauty and status, God aimed to produce holiness and humility in Israel, turning their focus back toward Him. God told Ezekiel, “I adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your wrists, and a chain on your neck. And I put a jewel in your nose, earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown on your head. Thus you were adorned with gold and silver… But you trusted in your own beauty and played the harlot” (Ezekiel 16:11-15). Because Israel forgot God, He would break off her crown and strip away all outward adornment.
Through the prophet Hosea, God promised to allure Israel back into the wilderness where He would restore her as His bride, saying “I will give her back her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt. In that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.’ I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips; no longer will their names be invoked” (Hosea 2:14-17). Only by removing Israel’s idolatrous necklaces could God restore intimate relationship with His people.
So as you touch the beautiful necklace from your grandmother, remember that true beauty comes from within by the Spirit of Christ. Any outward adornment should reflect devotion to God rather than status, wealth, or temptation to sin. For when God graciously disciplines us, removing temporal treasures, He has an eternal purpose – to refine us as His bride for whom He paid the ultimate price. The truest necklace you can wear is the cross of Christ resting close to your heart.
What a fascinating journey into the multi-layered symbolism behind necklaces in the Bible! From expressing God’s covenant love for His bride, to displays of status and warnings against idolatry, necklaces carried a wealth of meaning. As modern believers, may these biblical insights give us wisdom and perspective to see earthly treasures like necklaces as God intends. May our deepest desire be to cherish Christ above all else as the pearl of great price and the true bridegroom of the church.