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Ancient Jewish Bridal Attire - an Introduction

Updated on October 5, 2013
Marilynn Dawson profile image

Born-again Christian single mother of two grown kids. PC Tech, and Author of 18+ books in the non-fiction, personal/spiritual growth genres

Torah Scroll Gift of Leon and Selma Cohen in memory of Morris and Mollie Cohen, 1990-190a
Torah Scroll Gift of Leon and Selma Cohen in memory of Morris and Mollie Cohen, 1990-190a | Source
Enactment of what a Roman Soldier might have looked like
Enactment of what a Roman Soldier might have looked like

Introduction to Jewish bridal attire, similarities to the Armour of God, and the Bride of Christ

Trying to come up with an introduction of the next series of research, proved to entail quite a bit of research of it's own. Understanding the bridal adornment in Ezekiel requires an understanding of everyday attire given in Isaiah. Thankfully, an extensive discussion on this was available over at the link on the right here. The discussion linked to here is not exhaustive by any means, but provided enough assistance that between the author's discriptions, viewing several passages of Scripture in parallel layout in e-Sword, and via use of the Strong's Concordance Hebrew Lexicon, I was able to come up with enough information to get a general overview of the typical kinds of clothing and ornamentation typically done in ancient Israel.

This understanding is important, because if we go with more modern definitions, we can miss what God was trying to say. The armour of God for example, has been paired with Medieval knights' trappings instead of the armour Paul observed on the Roman guards who stood over him every day while in prison. Understanding that Roman armour protected primarily the front of the soldier, and you get a better idea of what is meant in the passage in Ephesians.

For the comparative discussion desired between the Bride of Christ and the attire God uses to clothe His Bride in Scripture, some notes may be drawn between the occasional ancient attire and that of the Roman guard.

King Jehu of Israel bows before Shalmanezer III of Assyria.
King Jehu of Israel bows before Shalmanezer III of Assyria. | Source

Men and Women's Clothing

It was common in ancient times, just as it is now, for everyday folk to wear jewelry if they had it, plain, decorative or special-purpose belts and head coverings, etc. As is still custom in various Middle Eastern regions, the concept of male and female robes were very much in play in the ancient times. Different cuts and styles denoted male and female just as different cuts and styles today in western society denote a male or female pair of jeans. These differences were to be strictly enforced as part of the Levitical law that God gave to the Jewish people in the desert.

It is important then, to understand that a man's robe was not to be worn on a woman, and vice versa. Men's robes often went to the knee or to the mid-calf, with only official robes typically going to the ankle. Women's robes always went to the ankle, and their cloaks and mantels were wider and longer as well, and often sported a hood of sorts. Men's head scarves were often wrapped around their head similar to the concept of a turban, and even alluded to as such by the Young's Literal Translation calling the King James Version's "bonnett" a "head tire". I had to look up what was meant by tires, as "tires round like the moon" referred to a round pendant on a necklace, while "tire" or "tyre" referred to the wrapping of the headscarf around the head. This was in contrast to the woman's head scarf typically being allowed to fall down the back of her head. Some men wore their headscarves this way, and when they did, both genders used a strip of cloth or rope to tie around their head to keep the headscarf in place. Not all women wore such a headband, but when they did, it was often decorated the way women today decorate scarves with jewelry, necklaces, or plain and decorated cloth wound together.

Jewish Yeminite Bride
Jewish Yeminite Bride

Jewelry

Then as now, men and women wore jewelry, although the author of the mentioned article found that men wearing earings was a bit weird. Perhaps they have never seen men do that today, though this particular author has. Neck chains were worn by both genders, but only on special occasions, and the bridal neck chains were quite different from others a woman might wear at other times. Rings too were worn by both men and women. Men of noble stature usually wore them as a status symbol, while women of any status wore them for beauty, special occasions, or also to denote status. Just as jewelry can denote wealth today, it was no different back then. The wealthier you were back in ancient Israel, the more you could afford precious as opposed to semi-precious stones, and more detailed and more finely crafted jewelry. A bride's adornment then, was of the highest value a family could afford, and typically provided to her by her betrothed husband in the form of a dowry.

Pictured here is what that dowry looked like then, and now, on a Yemini Jewish bride. I first found this attire in an ancient artifact photo from the Israel Museum. The more research I did, the more I discovered this practice for young Jewish Yemeni brides continues to this day and has even been the focus of at least one Jewish post-holocaust novel about the headpiece, known to the young heroine's family as "The Bride Price". Such a title clearly describes the nature of the dowry displayed on this headpiece, and various descriptions state that it can weigh several kilograms.

Front cover for new book: "Dressed for Eternity" due out in 2014
Front cover for new book: "Dressed for Eternity" due out in 2014 | Source

Conclusion

This discussion on ancient Jewish bridal attire is now complete. Each of the links below go into each piece in more detail than was introduced here. Some of these discussions, either here, or in the coming book: "Dressed for Eternity", will include Scriptures where God speaks of various teachings that are compared to pieces of jewelry and why that comparison is made.

Hebrew Attire from Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Song of Solomon

Isaiah
Ezekiel
 
Ephesians
Average
Specifically given as special outfit
 
Armour
bonnets
broidered work
 
Standard
cauls
'badger''s skin'
 
boots
headbands
fine linen
 
belt
changeable apparel
silk
 
 
mantel
 
 
 
Vail
 
 
 
wimple
 
 
 
crisping pin
 
 
 
girdle
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Isaiah
Ezekiel
Song of Solomon
Ephesians
anklets
ornaments
 
helmet
ankle chains
bracelets
Rows of Jewels on cheeks
 
rings
chain/necklace
chains of gold/"a thousand bucklers"
breastplate/shield
crescent pendants
forehead jewel
 
 
earings
earings
 
 
chains/necklaces
crown
 
 
nose jewels
 
 
 
hand mirrors
 
 
 
Along with the armour description in Ephesians in the last column

© 2013 Marilynn Dawson

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