The recent bad activities of Jerusalem (Ezek 23:40-23:42)

“They even sent

For men

To come from far away.

A messenger

Was sent.

They came.

You bathed yourself

For them.

You painted your eyes.

You decked yourself

With ornaments.

You sat

On a stately couch.

You had a table

Spread before it.

You had placed

My incense

With my oil

On it.

The sound

Of a raucous multitude

Was around you.

Many of the rabble

Were brought in drunk

From the wilderness.

They put bracelets

On the arms

Of the women.

They put beautiful crowns

Upon their heads.”

Yahweh, via Ezekiel, seemed to be aiming these remarks at the people of Jerusalem for their recent behavior. She, Jerusalem, had sent messengers to invite men from far away to come to Jerusalem. In order to get ready for them, Jerusalem bathed herself, painted her eyes, and put on her colorful ornaments. She sat on a stately couch with a table before it. She placed Yahweh’s incense and oil on this table. Then one could hear the sound of a loud raucous mob that had gathered around her. Many of these drunkard rabble rousers from the wilderness put bracelets on her arms and beautiful crowns on her head. This seems to be an allusion to an invitation for drunken foreigners to come to Jerusalem to take advantage of her.

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Gifts of jewelry (Ezek 16:11-16:13)

“I adorned you

With ornaments.

I put bracelets

On your arms.

I put a chain

On your neck.

I put a ring

On your nose,

I put earrings

In your ears.

I put a beautiful crown

Upon your head.

You were adorned

With gold.

You were adorned

With silver.”

Yahweh gave young Jerusalem all kinds of jewelry. He gave her bracelets for her arms. He put a chain on her neck. He also put a ring in her nose. See, rings in the nose are ornamental. He also put earrings in her ears with a beautiful crown on her head. She was all adorned with gold and silver. This young girl had all this fine jewelry to wear.

Yahweh takes away the feminine beauty items (Isa 3:18-3:24)

“In that day,

Yahweh will take away

The finery of the anklets,

The headbands,

The crescents,

The pendants,

The bracelets,

The scarves,

The headdresses,

The armlets,

The sashes,

The perfume boxes,

The amulets,

The signet rings,

The nose rings,

The festal robes,

The mantles,

The cloaks,

The handbags,

The garments of gauze,

The linen garments,

The turbans,

And the veils.

Instead of perfume

There will be rottenness.

Instead of a girdle,

There will be a rope.

Instead of well-set hair,

There will be baldness.

Instead of a rich robe,

There will be a girding of sackcloth.

Instead of beauty,

There will be shame.”

One of the ways that Yahweh reacted to the proud Jerusalem women was to take away their beauty items. What is surprising to me is to see how many different items there were. Some are common, but some are also exotic. The list includes the following items: anklets, headbands, crescents, pendants, bracelets, scarves, headdresses, armlets, sashes, perfume boxes, amulets, signet rings, nose rings, festal robes, mantles, cloaks, handbags, gauze, linens, turbans, and veils. There would be reversal of some things, like rottenness instead of perfume, rope instead of fine girdles, baldness instead of fine hair, sackcloth instead of rich robes, and shame instead of beauty. I do not know how these women reacted to this oracle.

Judith dresses up to go to General Holofernes (Jdt 10:1-10:5)

“When Judith had stopped crying out to the God of Israel, as she had ended all these words, she rose from where she lay prostrate. She called her maid. She went down into the house where she lived on the Sabbath and on her festal days. She removed the sackcloth that she had been wearing. She took off her widow’s garments. She bathed her body with water. She anointed herself with precious ointment. She combed her hair and put on a tiara. She dressed herself in the festive attire that she used to wear while her husband Manasseh was living. She put sandals on her feet. She put on her anklets, bracelets, rings, earrings and all her other jewelry. Thus she made herself very beautiful, to entice the eyes of all the men who might see her. She gave her maid a skin of wine and a flask of oil. She filled a bag with roasted grain, dried fruit cakes, and fine bread. Then she wrapped up all her dishes. She then gave them to her maid to carry.”

This is a glimpse into what a beautiful woman of the 3rd to 1st century BCE did to look beautiful as the details are very specific. Judith got up from her prayer tent and went into her house. She took off her sackcloth and widow garments. It is interesting to note that there was special clothing just for widows, thus the custom of women in mourning wearing black. In Genesis, chapter 38, there is the story of Judah’s daughter-in-law Tamar who took off her widow garments and enticed her father-in-law as a prostitute to have sex with her that produced the lineage for Judah through the twin boys of Perez and Zerah. Judith bathed and anointed her body. It is interesting to note that despite the shortage of water, she was able to take a water bath. She combed her hair and put on a tiara, as if a princess or queen. She put on festive attire, with anklets, bracelets, rings, earrings, and other fine jewelry. She wanted to look enticing. Then she had her maid servant carry her food and dishes.