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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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and nose-jewels were favourite ornaments among the eastern females. Both are frequently mentioned in Scripture. Thus the Prophet Ezekiel: "And I put a jewel on thy forehead," or, as it should have been rendered, on thy nose. This ornament was one of the presents which the servant of Abraham gave to Rebecca, in the name of his master: "I put," said he, "the ear-ring upon her face;" more literally, I put the ring on her nose. They wore ear-rings beside; for the household of Jacob, at his request, when they were preparing to go up to Bethel, gave him all the ear- rings which were in their ears, and he hid them under the oak which was by Shechem. Sir John Chardin says, "It is the custom in almost all the east for the women to wear rings in their noses, in the left nostril, which is bored low down in the middle. These rings are of gold, and have commonly two pearls and one ruby between them, placed in the ring; I never saw a girl, or young woman in Arabia, or in all Persia, who did not wear a ring after this manner in her nostril." Some writers contend, that by the nose-jewel, we are to understand rings, which women attached to their forehead, and let them fall down upon their nose; but Chardin, who certainly was a diligent observer of eastern customs, no where saw this frontal ring in the east, but every where the ring in the nose. His testimony in supported by Dr. Russel, who describes the women in some of the villages about Aleppo, and all the Arabs and Chinganas, (a sort of gipsies,) as wearing a large ring of silver or gold, through the external cartilage of their right nostril. It is worn, by the testimony of Egmont, in the same manner by the women of Egypt. Two words are used in the Scriptures to denote these ornamental rings, נזם and עגיל . Mr. Harmer seems to think they properly signified ear-rings; but this is a mistake; the sacred writers use them promiscuously for the rings both of the nose and of the ears. That writer, however, is probably right in supposing that nezem is the name of a much smaller ring than agil. Chardin observed two sorts of rings in the east; one so small and close to the ear, that there is no vacuity between them; the other so large, as to admit the fore finger between it and the ear; these last are adorned with a ruby and a pearl on each side, strung on the ring. Some of these ear-rings had figures upon them, and strange characters, which he believed were talismans or charms; but which were probably the names and symbols of their false gods. We know from the testimony of Pliny, that rings with the images of their gods were worn by the Romans. The Indians say, they are preservatives against enchantment; upon which Chardin hazards a very probable conjecture, that the ear-rings of Jacob's family were perhaps of this kind, which might be the reason of his demanding them, that he might bury them under the oak before they went up to Bethel.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Ear-Rings'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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