XII. THE OUTSIDE: ADDING TO THE BODY, COSMETICS
Now I want to move on to another questionable topic. Is it acceptable to apply cosmetics if it is done with “moderation”? Or, is it altogether wrong to use cosmetics? Are there any examples of cosmetic use in the Bible? What principles do we find when we look to the Bible concerning the use of cosmetics?
I briefly return to my previous argument that Adam and Eve were perfect at creation and needed no further constructive work in the form of adding jewels or even painting. Our eyebrows and eyelashes were formed for a specific purpose. They are there to protect and shield the eye from small particles such as dust that would otherwise make its way into our eye. Yet females, for the most part, want to accentuate them and decorate themselves. What purpose is served in such a practice? Along with the eyebrows and eyelashes, there is the eye shadow itself for the surrounding eye socket. And then there is lipstick for the lips and rouge for the cheeks. How can we interpret all this effort to paint the face and highlight the eyes?
The eyes are a very significant part of the body. Obviously, they are our visual organs by which we can see, but the eyes are also capable of nonverbal communication. We transfer many thoughts and emotions through our eyes. We are all familiar with the raised eyebrow of inquiry or surprise, winking an eye which can have different meanings such as a friendly gesture or even flirtation depending upon the context of the action, and many other messages that can be communicated with the eyes. There is even significance in Scriptures placed on the eyes in Proverbs 6:24-26 “To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman. Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids. For by means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a piece of bread: and the adultress will hunt for the precious life.”
How can she “take thee with her eyelids”? The eyelids possess very little physical strength and no mental strength on their own. How can they “take” a man? “This verse makes it clear that the purpose of making the eyes stand out, is to get a man’s attention, and to break down his will” (Liberty Gospel Tracts). So there appears to be some mysterious power in the eyelids.
I return for the last time to the Book of Enoch, which I have quoted with a caution in previous sections. Here is a portion of chapter eight: “1 And Azazel [A fallen angel referred to by Enoch.] taught men to make swords, and knives, and shields, and breastplates, and made known to them the metals of the earth and the art of working them, and bracelets, and ornaments, and the use of antimony, and the beautifying of the eyelids, and all kinds of costly stones, and all 2 colouring tinctures. And there arose much godlessness, and they committed fornication, and they 3 were led astray, and became corrupt in all their ways” [Underlining added for emphasis.]. I used this same quote before when discussing jewelry and enchantments. At that point, I purposely did not call attention to the phrases that I now highlight. I wanted to save them for this section. According to Enoch, the fallen angels taught the practice of enhancing the face and eyes by painting up.
It is amazing how something so weak as an eyelid, when highlighted in a particular fashion to send a provocative message, can be stronger than a strong man’s will. “The alluring power of the wanton woman is conceived of as centered in her eyes” (International Bible Encyclopedia vol. 3). Apparently, there is a sort of “charming” effect upon the man who is taken by her eyelids. The writer of the Scriptures here, probably Solomon, cautions men to beware of this “evil woman” and to especially aware of her tongue [verbal messages], her beauty, and her eyelids [nonverbal messages].
Next we encounter a related verse in Proverbs 7:10 “And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtil of heart.” So what is the attire of a harlot? Well, according to Proverbs 6:26, a “whorish woman” was the one alluring men and she had done something to her eyelids to make them stand out. So I would expect this woman described as a harlot to have painted eyelids in order to enhance her objective of seducing a male subject. I would expect her to exhibit other identifying characteristics that I have presented in previous sections. Perhaps her hair was cut in an identifying style and her clothing as well would send the message that she was for sale.
Surely in today’s modern society, we have a stereotype of the harlot’s attire. She would be clad in tight, skimpy clothing (revealing), painted up (charming), and decked out with jewelry (seducing). “When a woman accents the features of her face with cosmetics or paints, adorns herself with gold and pearls and costly array in an effort to accent the feminine charms, seeking to be attractive, she is enticing” (Principles of Purity, Bill Burkett). Why then do so many females dress the role just described and do so in the context of a worshipping congregation calling themselves Christians? Is this Christ-like? These are the very characteristics that we have been admonished by Scriptures to avoid. Therefore those who would tell the world that they are Christian should avoid these practices.
Then there is the infamous Jezebel. We couldn’t discuss these matters concerning cosmetics and not make reference to her. Almost everyone knows what it means to be called a “Jezebel.” Not many, if any, daughters bear this name due to its very negative connotation. In II Kings 9:30 we find her at the end of her terrorizing reign decking herself out as was probably her common practice: “And when Jehu was come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it; and she painted her face, and tired her head, and looked out at a window.” According to Barnes’ Notes, painting her face means that she “put her eyes in antimony— i.e., dyed the upper and under eyelids, a common practice in the East, even at the present day. The effect is at once to increase the apparent size of the eye, and to give it unnatural brilliancy.” And, “to tire” the head is to adorn it (Easton’s Bible Dictionary). That sounds to me like broided hair which I discussed in a previous section.
Did Jezebel adorn herself in such manner to try to “charm” Jehu? Some say yes, others say no. “Jezebel in oriental fashion painted her eyebrows and eyelashes with black antimony, to heighten the splendour of the dark eyes, and so to present an imposing appearance to Jehu and die as a queen; not to charm him” (Fausset’s Bible Dictionary). I don’t think there was much hope for Jezebel and she knew it. It looks like she wanted to die as she lived, in a defying way.
Was Jezebel inherently wicked because of the way she painted her eyelids and the way she fixed her hair? No. She was wicked and rebellious and therefore purposely rebelled against modesty and flaunted herself through her makeup practices. Along with being known eternally for her wickedness, she will be known by, and associated with, her face painting. “Jezebel has stamped her name on history as the representative of all that is designing, crafty, malicious, revengeful, and cruel. She is the first great instigator of persecution against the saints of God. Guided by no principle, restrained by no fear of either God or man, passionate in her attachment to her heathen worship, she spared no pains to maintain idolatry around her in all its splendour” (Easton’s Bible Dictionary).
Bill Burkett gives three good reasons to avoid cosmetics from his writing Salt Guide to Practical Holiness Old Testament Ecclesiastes: 1. “To be cosmetically minded is to be artificial, to be phony. It is to make oneself look good by appearance from the outside, it is attraction to self.” 2. “ The cosmetics are a sensual practice to create attraction to self with erotic intent. It is sensual or it would not be so vital to and characteristic of prostitutes. It is the placing of importance on the sensual, visible self rather than upon the qualities of inner character.” 3. “Cosmetics are extravagant inasmuch as they are non-essential, and therefore a waste of time, substance and money. As God looks from heaven, He sees waste as a corporate thing. He can see the collective losses (in souls, progress, food and clothing) by such practices.”
There are many reasons then to be conservative and refuse to add to, or delete from, the body, based on Scripture and logic. Therefore these practices of painting up which have been discussed are not acceptable for those who call themselves Christian. So we have to ask, what is the basis for the desire to wear jewelry and pierce or paint the body when it clearly has no benefits whatsoever? I would group this desire under two broad headings: pride and rebellion. Of course, the two are related. Satan was first consumed with pride, which then lead to his rebellion. The process is often the same in mankind.
Lastly, there is nothing more beautiful than Holiness men and women, boys and girls, who adhere to a conservative appearance and lifestyle in an effort to please God. I want to conclude this section with a word from Adam Clarke’s Commentary: “Good works are the only ornaments with which women professing Christianity should seek to be adorned. The Jewish matrons were accustomed to cry to the bride: "There is no need of paint, no need of antimony, no need of braided hair; she herself is most beautiful.”