Chains - Ancient Jewish Bridal Attire
Wearing Chains in Bible Times
Chains or necklaces are a huge part of the ancient Yemeni Jewish bridal outfit! So much so that you can't see her neck if you tried. They begin directly under her chin, attached to the headdress, and they layer down from there until they cover her entire chest area. Varying imagery of this outfit reveals these chains and necklaces in a multitude of styles, but all of either silver or gold in some fashion. In some images, at least half these chains bear coins on them, while in other images, at least half these chains carry filigree balls or bells on them.
The concept of wearing a silver or gold chain necklace has been around for at least 4,000 years or more judging from the myriad of archeological and historical evidence. If a person could afford it, they wore it. If a person could barely afford it, they reserved it for special occasions. But almost everyone had something special they pulled out at festivities to wear around their neck. It is interesting to observe in Scripture, how God likens to the obtaining of wisdom and sound teaching to that of a chain, and urges the reader to bind it around their neck. This suggests that in ancient times as now, there are people who will not be found without their favourite chain draped around their neck. Both men and women often have a favourite and they'll even wear it in the shower.
Coins and Shields
Thanks to a reference by Song of Solomon, we have an interesting tie-in here with the Armour of God as discussed by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians. Solomon mentions the two following statements:
Song of Solomon 1:10 Thy cheeks are comely with rows of jewels, thy neck with chains of gold.
Song of Solomon 4:4 Thy neck is like the tower of David builded for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men.
These statements have this author wondering if King Solomon was looking at ancient Yemenite Jewish bridal finery in these verses. If you've ever seen a Middle Eastern festive female outfit, or seen a camel or Arabian horse dressed up for a parade, you can't help but have noticed the number of coins attached to the headband, earings and necklaces. Similarly, the Yemenite Jewish bridal attire in some cases is also bedecked with coins attached to the headpiece and/or necklaces and chains. So much so that it's easy for this author to slip into poetic mode and easily agree with King Solomon that they could appear as scales or shields.
One of the items Paul encourages the believer to put on, is the Shield of Faith. The Roman soldier's shield was one of two designs. It was either small and roundish, or tall with a rounded rectangular shape meant to protect the entire body hidden behind it. The smaller shield was used by swordsmen to afford the blocking of the opponent's blows, while the larger was used by those who handled the bows and arrows, or the spears. Often times, this larger shield was carried not by the soldier, but by a buckler instead. Hence the various verses in Scripture where God says that He will be our buckler and our shield.
A second item Paul says to put on, is the Breastplate of Righteousness. Again, when you look at the ancient Yemeni Jewish bridal attire, you see the chains and necklaces completely covering her chest. The glory of God and His purity completely covers her heart and lungs. The comparison again to the breastplate the high priest wore in Temple worship must be brought back to mind at this time as well. See the introductory article on that here.
What does this mean for the Bride of Christ?
The implications for the Bride of Christ are amazing! Gold speaks of God's glory while silver speaks of His purity. God speaks of binding wisdom, discretion and knowledge like chains about our necks. Decorating the Bride of Christ in this manner then, says several things:
1) First, God is looking for a Bride with brains! Many like to attack Christianity by saying it is a brainless, non-thinking religion. But God to the contrary, asks that the thinking believer take what God has given him/her, and use it to make wise decisions as they go about their daily lives. The Bride of Christ is to be wise, is to be tactful or using discretion in how they interact with others and in what they choose to do when with what. The Bride of Christ is to be shreud, as one place in Scripture puts it, to be wise as serpants and harmless as doves, or as Christ puts it, to be strong yet gentle, to be meek.
2) Second, God has decided that the Bride of Christ is worth bedecking in a noble manner. In Jewish wedding customs to this day, the Bride and Groom are called King and Queen for a week surrounding the wedding. They are even to appear in public with escorts during this time. God says the Bride of Christ is worth decorating like that of a queen, as she will be given to the King of Kings, Jesus Christ Himself. The gold and silver spoken of in Ezekiel attests to this.
3) Third, The Bride of Christ is to look to God for her protection and not seek to provide it herself. This last point is perhaps the most challenging due to modern thought that we have to protect ourselves, that no one else is going to stand up for us. When we take a close look at the Armour of God, we realize that every single piece points to Christ being our Saviour, our protector, our Truth, the object of our faith, the object of the Gospel of peace, and the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit. Here in these chains of gold and silver, we see Him as our shield, even stronger than David' mighty men.
4) Fourth, The purity of heart found in the glory of God serves as protection over the heart of the believer. The breastplate of Righteousness can only be applied when the wearer is desiring to live a life pure and holy before God the Father. The jewelry that makes up the Yemeni Jewish bridal attire includes gold, silver, and in some cases red choral. Red as we know stands for the shed blood of Jesus Christ, the bride price paid to ransom the Church from the ravages of sin and wash her clean and white to present her to His Father.
It behooves the Bride of Christ to use her mind and will in a manner pleasing to God and by extension, pleasing to those around her. It is necessary that she not try to protect herself, but allow God to be her protector instead and to take security in that knowledge and position within His hand. It bears reminding that the Bride of Christ is royalty. Too often we can forget that as we go about our daily lives, but the Bride of Christ, the church, has been bought into a royal family and will one day rule and reign with Christ, at His side. Lastly, a theme that is developing as this research goes along, is that of holiness. The Bride of Christ should be setting herself apart from the world through submission and surrender to the Holy Spirit's work in and through her life. This goes for both men and women in the church body. When we put on the Armour of God, we are putting on the Righteousness of Christ, and the choice to engage in right-living will protect our heart from the attacks of the enemy.
Today we covered Chains
Specifically given as special outfit
Song of Solomon
chains of gold
Rows of Jewels on cheeks
"a thousand bucklers"
© 2013 Marilynn Dawson