Old Testament Significance. Appreciation for beauty is a consistent theme throughout the Bible. The Bible also has a full-orbed doctrine of beauty. Thus, beauty for beauty's sake is not addressed. The Old Testament Scriptures are particularly appreciative of nature. God announced that creation was good (Gen. 1). The psalms reveal an appreciation for God's handiwork ( Psalm 8 ; 19:1 ; 29 ; 104 ). God made his world good by causing the springs to gush forth in the valleys, the grass to grow for the cattle, and the moon to mark the seasons. The Hebrew mind that reflected on God's goodness in nature was in contrast to the pagan mind-set of the surrounding nations, which often went so far as to declare that the world was totally evil.
Human Attractiveness. Both women and men are described as attractive. Human beings at times used cosmetics to make themselves more beautiful ( Isa 3:18-24 ). Sarah ( Gen 12:11 ), Rebekah ( Gen 24:16 ), Abigail ( 1 Sam 25:3 ), Rachel, Abishag, Bathsheba, and Esther are singled out for their beauty. Yet physical beauty was secondary to piety and resourcefulness ( Prov 31:10-31 ; also see 1 Tim 2:9-10 ; 1 Peter 3:3-5 ). The writer of the Song of Solomon portrays his love for his bride as beautiful. Though the Hebrews did not exalt the human form as did the ancient Greeks, some men are referred to as exceedingly handsome: David ( 1 Sa 16:12 ), Absalom ( 2 Sa 14:25 ), Daniel ( Da 1:15 ), Joseph, Jonathan, and even Moses as a child ( Exod 1 ). Clothing also had esthetic appeal (see Gen 41:42 ; 45:22 ; Exod 26:36 ; 28:2 ; Rev 3:4 ).
Divine Descriptions Scripture presents an implicit theology of beauty as a concomitant of divine creativity and eschatological redemption. The Lord's favor is beautiful and his hopeful promises offer "beauty for ashes" for his people ( Psalm 90:17 ; Isa 61:3 ). God is a diadem of beauty for the faithful Israelite remnant ( Isa 28:5 ).
God is a God of glory, and his Shekinah glory is ever present among his people ( Exod 16:7 ; 24:16 ; 40:34 ; Lev 9:6 ; Num 14:10 ; Deut 5:24 ). The promised Messiah was prophesied to be a beautiful king ( Isa 33:17 ). Yet the prophet also said that the suffering Messiah would have "no beauty or majesty to attract us to him" ( Isa 53:2 ).
Johannine Significance It should hardly surprise us that beauty plays such an important role in the Bible's eschatological drama. The Book of Revelation avoids anthropomorphic representations of God. God is described in undeniable splendor. The concept of beauty thus is more significant than simple attractiveness. Beauty is similar, if not synonymous, with God's glory. The one who sits on the throne of the uerse "had the appearance of jasper and a rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne" ( Rev 4:3 ). The Holy City, the final estate prepared for God's people, is gloriously adorned as a bride for her husband ( Rev 21:2 ).
Pauline Significance In the present period, believers are exhorted to live in a manner that will make the teaching of the Lord beautiful and attractive before unbelievers ( Tit 2:10 ). Those who preach the gospel can be described as beautiful ( Rom 10:15 ).
David S. Dockery
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
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[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
Bibliography InformationElwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Beauty'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology".