Jewelry is mentioned many times throughout the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments. Certain types of jewelry took on symbolic meanings and were used to represent concepts like beauty, wealth, status, purity, and God’s blessings. As Christians, studying the symbolism of jewelry in Scripture can help us better understand God’s Word and apply it to our lives today.
For Evangelical and Charismatic Christians who take the Bible as the inspired Word of God, understanding the symbolism and imagery used in Scripture is key to properly interpreting and applying God’s Word. Jewelry is one element that is repeatedly mentioned, with different gems, metals, and adornments carrying important symbolic meanings.
By exploring what different types of jewelry represented to the ancient biblical cultures, we can better comprehend the significance of these symbols. We can also consider how these concepts may translate into our modern context as Christians. Just as jewelry adorned and beautified people in biblical times, God’s Word can adorn and beautify our lives as Christians who seek to follow Christ.
- Jewelry in Scripture often symbolized beauty, wealth, status, purity, and God’s blessings
- Certain gems and metals carried symbolic meaning, like gold representing divinity
- Jewelry could represent righteousness, holiness, virtues, and closeness with God
- But jewelry could also represent pride, vanity, idolatry, and sin
- As Christians, we should focus on inner beauty over outward appearance
- The gems and jewels in New Jerusalem depict the glory, value, and splendor of heaven
Now, let’s explore some of the key passages about jewelry in the Bible and what they can symbolize for us as Christians today…
Jewelry as Symbols of Beauty and Wealth
Jewelry in the Bible often symbolized beauty, wealth, and adornment. Precious metals like gold and silver and gems like diamonds reflected great economic value. The more jewelry someone wore, the more beautiful, wealthy, and high-status they were considered.
For example, in Ezekiel 16, Jerusalem is depicted as an infant girl that God adopted and lavished with jewelry as she matured:
“I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms and a necklace around your neck, and I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears and a beautiful crown on your head.” (Ezekiel 16:11-12)
The excessive jewelry is meant to communicate God blessing Jerusalem with immense beauty and wealth.
Similarly, when describing the Beloved in Song of Songs, the woman sings, “His arms are rods of gold, set with topaz” (Song 5:14). The gold jewelry reflects the handsome Beloved’s divine nature.
As Christians, we should see past outward adornments and focus on inward beauty that comes from a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Pet 3:3-4). Outward jewelry and beauty will fade, but inward beauty will last.
Jewelry Representing Status and Position
Beyond just wealth, jewelry could also represent someone’s status, position, or role.
For instance, phas wore signet rings with official seals to authorize documents (Gen 41:42; Esth 8:2). And the Urim and Thummim worn by the High Priest were sacred jewels used for discerning God’s will (Ex 28:30).
In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the father said, “Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet” (Luke 15:22). The ring represented the son’s position in the family being fully restored.
As Christians, our true status comes from being made righteous through Christ – which is far more valuable than any earthly authority or privilege. Outward jewelry fades, but the “crown of righteousness” we receive from Christ is eternal (2 Tim 4:8).
Jewelry Symbolizing Purity and Righteousness
At times in Scripture, jewelry carries symbolic meaning relating to righteousness, holiness, and purity.
For example, Proverbs 25:12 says, “Like jewelry of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear.” The imagery represents how valuable and beneficial good counsel is.
Paul also tells Timothy to, “Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim 2:22). A pure heart is jewelry of immense worth.
1 Peter 3:3-4 similarly instructs, “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.”
As Christians, we should aim to cultivate inner purity and righteousness rather than focusing on outward appearances. Our spiritual condition before God is what truly matters.
Jewelry as Symbols of Sin and Idolatry
Although jewelry could represent positive qualities, Scripture also portrays jewelry as symbols of sin, idolatry, pride, and vanity.
For instance, when Aaron constructed the golden calf idol, “he took gold, and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf” (Ex 32:4). The jewelry became an object of sinful idol worship.
Likewise, Ezekiel 23 allegorically depicted Israel and Judah as two unfaithful sisters named Oholah and Oholibah who “dressed themselves in fine jewelry” but whose “beauty made them unfaithful” (Ezek 23:26,40). Their jewelry reflected their spiritual waywardness.
In 1 Timothy 2:9, Paul instructs, “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes.” Ostentatious jewelry could reflect pride and immodesty.
As Christians, we must ensure jewelry does not become an idol or point of vanity. Our focus should be on cultivating Christlike virtue, not flaunting expensive ornamentation. Moderation and modesty are key.
The High Priest’s Sacred Jewelry
One detailed example of sacred jewelry full of symbolic meaning is the sacred vestments worn by the High Priest in the Old Testament.
Exodus 28 describes the ornate priestly garments God commanded Moses to make for Aaron and his sons (Ex 28:1). These included a breastpiece, ephod, robe, tunic, turban and sash—all elaborately decorated with gold, precious stones, and other ornate jewelry (Ex 28:4-5).
The ephod included two onyx stones with the names of the sons of Israel engraved on them, symbolizing Aaron bearing their names before God as a memorial (Ex 28:9-12).
The sacred breastpiece, known as the breastplate of judgment, included 12 precious stones engraved with the names of the 12 tribes (Ex 28:15-21). It represented the High Priest bearing the judgment of Israel before God.
Attached to the breastpiece were the Urim and Thummim (Ex 28:30). Though their exact nature is uncertain, these sacred jewels were involved in discerning God’s will and making decisions.
The pomegranates, bells, and other decorations on the hem of the High Priest’s robe were meant to confer “beauty and splendor” as well as make noise when he entered God’s presence (Ex 28:33-35).
As Christians, this sacred High Priestly jewelry reminds us of Christ’s priestly role as our mediator and intercessor before God. It also points to the precious status believers have before God as those washed in Christ’s blood.
Jewelry in Prophecies and Eschatology
Jewelry also takes on symbolic meaning in passages concerning the future and end times prophecy.
For example, in Ezekiel 16:9-13 God adorns Jerusalem, as a newly adopted infant daughter, in lavish jewelry representing the blessings of the covenant. But later, the jewelry becomes part of Israel’s pride and idolatry judged by God (Ezek 16:17).
Ezekiel 23 similarly depicts Israel and Judah as two brides, Oholah and Oholibah, who become unfaithful. As judgment, God declares, “I will hand you over as loot in the hands of your lovers, and they will tear down your mounds and destroy your lofty shrines. They will strip you of your clothes and take your fine jewelry and leave you stark naked” (Ezek 23:26). The removal of jewelry signifies abandonment and desolation.
In contrast, eschatological promises of future blessing involve jewelry imagery. Isaiah 61:10 proclaims, “I delight greatly in the Lord… For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” The bridal jewelry represents salvation, righteousness, and restoration.
Revelation 21:9-21 also describes the New Jerusalem as a bride adorned with gold, pearls, and precious stones, depicting the city’s immense beauty, value, and the redeemed people dwelling there.
For Christians, jewelry in prophecy and eschatology reminds us of God’s righteous judgment of sin and pride, as well as His glorious restoration through Christ depicted by bridal adornment. Outward jewelry is temporary, but the precious gems awaiting us in heaven are eternal.
Key Passages About Jewelry in the Bible
Here are some other key passages about jewelry in Scripture and what they symbolize:
Genesis 24: When Abraham’s servant meets Rebekah, he gives her gold and silver jewelry, representing a bride gift and her new status as Isaac’s wife (Gen 24:22, 30).
Exodus 3: God instructs the Israelites to ask Egyptians for gold and silver jewelry before the Exodus, symbolizing backpayment for their labor (Ex 3:21-22).
Song of Songs: The lover describes the Beloved’s necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and belly chain, equating her jewelry with her beauty (Song 4:9, 7:1).
Isaiah 3: The “finery of anklets, headbands, crescent necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and veils” worn by the “women of Zion” represented pride God would judge (Isa 3:16-23).
1 Timothy 2: Paul says women should “adorn themselves…not with gold or pearls or expensive clothes” but with “good deeds” representing holiness (1 Tim 2:9-10).
James 2: James rebukes showing favor based on wearing “fine clothes” and “gold rings” rather than one’s character (James 2:2-4).
1 Peter 3: Peter says women’s beauty should come from inner virtues not “gold jewelry and fine clothes” which should instead reflect a “gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Pet 3:3-4).
Revelation 17-18: The vision depicts Babylon the prostitute adorned in gold, jewels and pearls, representing idolatry and sensuality deserving judgment (Rev 17:4, 18:16).
Applying the Symbolism of Jewelry to Our Lives
When we understand the rich biblical symbolism associated with jewelry, how might we apply these lessons to our Christian walks today?
Here are a few key applications to consider:
- We should value inner beauty over outward appearance. A beautiful Christlike character is far more precious than gold and gems.
- Jewelry can become an idol if we obsess over it or flaunt it pridefully. Moderation and modesty regarding jewelry are wise.
- As Christians, our true status and worth comes from being justified in Christ – not from earthly wealth, prestige, or privilege.
- We can remember Christ’s priestly role interceding for us. And we can live holy lives as those washed and redeemed by His blood.
- Looking forward to our heavenly inheritance helps us keep worldly jewelry and beauty in perspective. The precious gems awaiting us in New Jerusalem are eternal.
Jewelry in the pages of Scripture often carried symbolic meaning, representing concepts like beauty, wealth, status, purity, sin, pride, righteousness, and divinity. As Evangelical and Charismatic Christians seeking to interpret and apply the Bible, understanding these symbols provides valuable insight. Jewelry reminds us to pursue Christlike inner beauty over superficial outward adornment. It reminds us of the exceedingly great value of our redemption through Christ. And it points us ahead to the dazzling jewels and riches awaiting us for eternity in heaven.