Makeup and cosmetics have been used by women since ancient times for beauty and adornment. Even in biblical times, there are several references to the use of makeup by women. While makeup was used in bible times, opinions on its appropriateness differed between different groups and cultures. This article will examine the biblical evidence on who wore makeup in the bible and what the bible says about the practice.
- Makeup and cosmetics were commonly used by women in bible times, especially eye makeup and fragrances.
- References to makeup are found mainly in the Old Testament accounts of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, and Israel.
- Most makeup wearers were royal, noble, or wealthy women who could afford luxury items.
- Jezebel and Esther are two famous biblical women who wore makeup.
- The bible portrays excessive makeup negatively as a sign of vanity and improper motives.
- But moderate makeup use is not explicitly condemned, neither is beautifying oneself wrong according to scripture.
- Opinions differ on whether makeup use by Christian women today is acceptable.
- The bible emphasizes inner beauty over outward appearance. Any makeup use should reflect modesty and godly character.
Makeup Use in Ancient Biblical Cultures
The use of cosmetics and makeup originated thousands of years ago in ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, and India. People used nature-derived pigments and oils to create concoctions designed to enhance beauty and social status.
Archaeologists have found makeup kits and tools in the tombs of ancient Egyptian queens dating back to 3500 B.C. Egyptian women were known to line their eyes heavily with dark kohl eyeliner made from lead ore. Green eye shadow came from copper, and red lip color and rouge came from seaweed.
In ancient Persia, Greece, and Rome, makeup became associated with sexuality and prostitution. Only loose women wore much makeup. But noble and high-status women wore some cosmetics too.
During Old Testament bible times, we see several cultural influences on the use of makeup. As the Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Persian, Greek, and Roman empires rose and fell, they introduced new beauty practices to the region.
The biblical references we have to the use of makeup come from these cultures surrounding Israel at the time.
Makeup References in the Old Testament
Here are the key Old Testament passages that mention the use of makeup:
Genesis Chapter 38 – Judah’s daughter-in-law Tamar disguised herself as a shrine prostitute by covering her face with a veil and putting on eye makeup.
2 Kings Chapter 9 – The wicked queen Jezebel was known for enhancing her eyes with paint and adorning her hair before confronting Jehu.
Esther Chapter 2 – When selected to become queen, the young Jewish woman Esther underwent 12 months of beauty treatments with oil, perfumes, and cosmetics before going to the king.
Ezekiel Chapter 23 – The prophet Ezekiel compares the idolatry of Israel and Judah to a brazen prostitute painting her eyes and adorning herself with jewelry.
Jeremiah Chapter 4 – Jeremiah laments the vanity of Jerusalem’s women who adorn themselves with cosmetics and jewelry but neglect their inward condition.
The overall attitude toward heavy use of cosmetics in the Old Testament is negative. Excessive makeup is associated with deceit, prostitution, idolatry, and improper motives. However, beautifying oneself is not condemned outright when done in the proper context like marriage or special occasions.
The most infamous makeup wearer in the Old Testament was the evil queen Jezebel. Her painted eyes and styled hair symbolized her sinful pride and evil Schemes. Godly women like Sarah, Rebekah, and Ruth are never described as wearing makeup. Esther’s makeup was sanctioned for her role as queen. Judah’s daughter-in-law Tamar used makeup to deceive Judah into giving her a child, not for mere vanity.
So makeup itself was not prohibited in ancient Israel. But modesty and inward beauty were emphasized over outward adornment alone. Excessive makeup use for immoral purposes received condemnation.
Makeup and Beauty Practices in the New Testament Era
In the New Testament period, we get glimpses of the Greek and Roman cultural influences on beauty practices. The growing empire brought new sophistication to cosmetics and adornment.
Upper-class Roman women took great pride in their appearance and used expensive perfumes, jewelry, stylish hair, and white lead face powders. Prostitutes wore heavy makeup, so most respectable women used a lighter touch if any at all.
The Jews resisted and condemned the complete Romanization of their women. But some Greek and Roman makeup influences did spread through the empire.
Jewish sources outside the bible say little about cosmetics. They neither condemned nor endorsed the practice. Ritual cleanliness and modesty were emphasized more than outward appearance.
The New Testament gives us a clue into the Jewish perspective on elaborate self-adornment. In 1 Timothy 2:9-10, Paul instructs women to avoid braided hair, gold, pearls, and expensive clothing. They should focus on good works and holiness rather than externals.
Peter also warns that “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment such as braided hair or gold jewelry or fine clothes, but from the inner disposition of your heart, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:3-4).
So while outright condemnation of beautification and makeup is rare, the emphasis is on cultivating inner spirit over outward appearance. Any adornment or makeup use by Christian women should be modest, not distract from true godly beauty.
Should Christian Women Wear Makeup Today?
Among modern Christians, opinions differ on the appropriateness of makeup use by Christian women today. Some believers avoid makeup entirely as a sign of holiness and separation from the world. They cite the bible’s warnings against vanity and “painting the face” like Jezebel.
Other Christians see makeup in moderation as morally neutral and an issue of Christian freedom. They say we have motive and cultural context to consider. Makeup can reflect femininity and proper adornment when not used to sexualize or mislead.
Here are key considerations for Christian women today:
- Avoid excessive makeup that sexualizes or promotes vanity. Focus on cultivating inner beauty.
- Use makeup in moderation to enhance natural beauty without distracting from true Christlike character.
- Ensure makeup use is modest and does not break any workplace or church guidelines on appearance.
- Be mindful of motives and avoid improper deceit or sexualization. Makeup should reflect inner beauty.
- Focus more on living out biblical femininity in attitude and action over perfecting outward appearance.
- Show Christlike love and grace to other women who hold different convictions on appropriate makeup use.
The bible emphasizes godly character over outward appearance for men and women alike. So any adornment practices should align with living out Christian virtues. Makeup is neither mandated nor forbidden, so decisions of users come down to personal conviction, wisdom, and cultural context. The key is prioritizing inward holiness and Christlike character over outward beauty alone.
While the bible does not directly address the use of cosmetics and makeup, we get glimpses into ancient practices from the cultures surrounding Israel. Makeup was commonly used in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Persia, and Greece – especially by noble, wealthy, and royal women.
Some famous makeup wearers mentioned in the bible were Queen Jezebel and Queen Esther. The bible generally portrays excessive makeup negatively as symbolic of idolatry and improper motives. But moderate beautification and adornment are not inherently sinful.
The emphasis is on cultivating inner beauty, modesty, and godly character over perfecting outward appearance alone. Makeup should reflect inner holiness rather than replace it. Opinions differ among Christians today on whether any makeup use is appropriate. Personal conviction and wisdom should guide decisions.
Ultimately, we are called to focus on reflecting God’s glory from the inside out. Our lives should display the Lord’s beauty, goodness, and truth in how we treat others. This inner spirit will shine through brighter than any cosmetics we may use.