Adorning our bodies with colorful cosmetics, glittering jewelry, and luxurious clothes reveals inner pride and vanity, which are destructive to ourselves and to others. We have found this truth brought out implicitly by several negative examples and explicitly by the apostolic admonitions of Paul and Peter. Isaiah reproves wealthy Jewish women for their pride shown by adorning their bodies from head to foot with glittering jewelry and expensive clothes. They seduced the leaders, who eventually led the whole nation into disobedience and divine punishment (Is 3:16-26).
Jezebel stands out in the Bible for her determined effort to seduce the Israelites into idolatry. The inner corruption of her heart is revealed by the attempt she made even in her final hour to look her seductive best by painting her eyes and adorning herself for the arrival of the new king, Jehu (2 Kings 9:30). But the king was not fooled, and she died an ignominious death. Because of this her name has become a symbol of seduction in Biblical history (Rev 2:20).
Ezekiel dramatizes the apostasy of Israel and Judah through the allegory of two women, Oholah and Oholibah, who, like Jezebel, painted their eyes and decked themselves with ornaments to entice men to commit adultery with them (Ezek 23). In this allegory again we find cosmetics and ornaments associated with seduction, adultery, apostasy, and divine punishment.
Jeremiah also uses the allegory of a seductive woman dressed in scarlet, with painted eyes and decked with jewelry, to represent the politically abandoned Israel, who is vainly trying to attract her former idolatrous allies (Jer 4:30). Here again cosmetics and jewelry are used to seduce men into adulterous acts.
The prophetic portrayal of apostate Israel as an adulterous woman bedecked, bejeweled, and whoring after heathen gods recurs in John the Revelator’s description of the great harlot “arrayed in purple and scarlet, and bedecked with gold and jewels and pearls” (Rev 17:4). This impure woman, who represents the end-time apostate religious-political power, lures the inhabitants of the earth to commit spiritual fornication with her. By contrast, the bride of Christ, who represents the church, is attired modestly in pure and fine linen without outward ornaments (Rev 19:7-8).
In both the Old and New Testaments we have found a consistent pattern of the use of colorful cosmetics, glittering jewelry, and eye-catching clothes to accomplish seductive purposes. Such a pattern implicitly reveals God’s condemnation of their use. What is taught implicitly through negative examples is reiterated positively by the two great apostles, Paul and Peter, in their condemnation of the use of jewelry and luxurious clothes.
We have found that both apostles contrast the appropriate adorning of Christian women with the inappropriate ornaments of worldly women. Both apostles give us essentially the same list of inappropriate ornaments for the Christian woman. They include eye-catching hair styles, glittering jewelry, and costly clothing (1 Tim 2:9-10; 1 Pet 3:3-4). Both apostles recognize that the outward ornaments of the body are inconsistent with the appropriate inward ornaments of the heart, the quiet spirit and benevolent deeds.