Beauty and the Bible

This is a post I’ve been ruminating on for close to two months now, but as they say, “Better late than never!”

The wheels in my brain started turning when I heard a conversation between two of my lady friends, K and N (obviously not their real names :). N was going to her home country for a visit and was asking K for beauty tips–N would be seeing her husband for the first time in a year. K was really excited, and said something to the effect that married women should look physically stunning (I know for sure that she mentioned stiletto heels). At this point I jumped into the conversation, totally uninvited. I said that it wasn’t necessary for married women to undergo a complete transformation to the extent that the husband wonders “Who is this woman?” There were no men present to comment on my comment. There were two other ladies present, though, one of whom has been married over five years. I turned to her and asked her to verify my claim. She just smiled enigmatically. I continued doing what I’d been working on as K and N went into territory unfamiliar for me–my idea of dressing up is putting on earrings. But I wondered to myself what the Bible had to say about this issue of beauty.

Later that week or the next week, I don’t recall, I was listening to a message given at a women’s conference in which the speaker pointed out that any time beauty is mentioned in the Bible it is almost always associated with trouble (why didn’t I have that ammo to throw at K and N some days prior?).  I made a mental note to check out that statement, not so much to test its veracity as to learn firsthand.

My research yielded another message given at another women’s conference in which the speaker looked briefly at the lives of women in the Bible described as being beautiful. That meant I had only to look up the men, who were thankfully not many. So here follows my “research”, entirely from the Old Testament:

Eve: There isn’t a direct reference to her beauty; however Genesis 1:31 tells us that God looked at everything He had made, and it was very good. It can therefore be reasonably concluded that she was a belle. Trouble: she fell for Satan’s lie.

Sarah: Twice her husband passed her off for his sister, fearing that he’d otherwise be bumped off unceremoniously.( Gen 12:11-13, Gen 20:2)

Rebekah: She was very beautiful (Gen 24:15-16), and dutiful. Trouble: she played favourites with her children, and ended up deceiving her husband.

Rachel: Her sister Leah had weak/delicate eyes (whatever that means), but she was lovely in from and beautiful (Gen 29:17).

Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel were all beauteous– and barren.

Moses: His mother saw he was “a fine child” (Exodus 2:1-2). No word on whether he grew into a fine-looking man.

Saul: He is described as “an impressive young man…a head taller than any of the others” (1 Sam 9:2). Trouble: his pride got him booted out of the kingship.

David: “He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features.” (1 Sam 16:12) Trouble: Bathsheba, his children (see below).

Abigail: “She was an intelligent and beautiful woman.” (1 Sam 25:3) Brains plus beauty! Trouble: that husband of hers, Nabal.

Bathsheba: “She was very beautiful” (2 Sam 11:2-3). Trouble: she got caught up in King David’s schemes, which led to the deaths of her husband and child. However, it was her son, Solomon, who was chosen to succeed David as King.

Tamar: 2 Sam 13:1-21 records her story. Trouble: her half-brother Amnon lusted after her and raped her. Her brother Absalom kills Amnon.

Absalom: He was highly praised in all Israel for his appearance (2 Sam 14:25). Trouble: In addition to fratricide, he organised a coup against his father. He died a bizarre death when his hair got tangled in thick branches. He had a daughter named Tamar (like his disgraced sister),  and “she became a beautiful woman” (2 Sam 14:27).

Esther: She underwent twelve months of beauty treatment— she has my respect and admiration! Esther 2:17 says “Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women.”

The Shulammite woman in Song of Songs and her lover: Like any respectable lovebirds, they tell each other how beautiful/handsome the other is. A case of beauty being in the eye of the beholder? Maybe, maybe not…

And that’s it for the Old Testament.  Typing this out has taken longer than I thought, so next time I shall wrap things up, sharing some of what I learned from the aforementioned messages from women’s conferences.