In response to a few of my recent articles I have been informed that, according to the Bible, Queen Esther wore make-up. I want to examine this charge against her to see if the Bible reveals whether or not this is so. Let’s examine the Scriptures that some individuals have used to “prove” that she wore make-up.
First, I will give you each reference in the King James Version and then in the English Standard Version. After we do that let’s look at the original language and find out what the words actually mean.
Cosmetics vs. Things For Purification
And let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, that they may gather together all the fair young virgins unto Shushan the palace, to the house of the women, unto the custody of Hege the king’s chamberlain, keeper of the women; and let their things for purification be given them:
And let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom to gather all the beautiful young virgins to the harem in Susa the capital, under custody of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women. Let their cosmetics be given them.
And the maiden pleased him, and she obtained kindness of him; and he speedily gave her her things for purification, with such things as belonged to her, and seven maidens, which were meet to be given her, out of the king’s house: and he preferred her and her maids unto the best place of the house of the women.
And the young woman pleased him and won his favor. And he quickly provided her with her cosmetics and her portion of food, and with seven chosen young women from the king’s palace, and advanced her and her young women to the best place in the harem.
Now when every maid’s turn was come to go in to king Ahasuerus, after that she had been twelve months, according to the manner of the women, (for so were the days of their purifications accomplished, to wit, six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with sweet odours, and with other things for the purifying of the women;)
Now when the turn came for each young woman to go in to King Ahasuerus, after being twelve months under the regulations for the women, since this was the regular period of their beautifying, six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and ointments for women—
Examining the Hebrew
So, verse 3 and verse 9 both have the same Hebrew word that is translated as cosmetics in the ESV and purification in the KJV. The word in Hebrew is tamru?q ??????? and from Strong’s Dictionary it states it means, “properly a scouring, that is, soap or perfumery for the bath; figuratively a detergent: – X cleanse, (thing for) purification (-fying).” So, the purpose of the application of “cosmetics” (ESV) was in order to purify or cleanse. This cosmetic that was used was not make-up instead its purpose was to purify or cleanse the body. The King James translators chose “things for purification” based upon the literal meaning of the Hebrew tamruq since it literally means “a scouring.”
The ESV translators chose the word cosmetics. This leads some people to believe that Esther put on make-up at this time. However, according to the context the book of Esther tells us exactly what cosmetics she “wore” or actually were used in order to beautify her. If you read in verse 12 you see that the cosmetics that were applied to her were “oil of myrrh and…spices and ointments for women.” Next, if we examine the word cosmetics we can see that though the ESV translators chose a somewhat confusing word they are technically correct. The word cosmetics according to Webster’s Dictionary is,
COSMETIC, a. s as z. [Gr., order, beauty.] Beautifying; improving beauty, particularly the beauty of the skin.
COSMETIC, n. Any preparation that renders the skin soft, pure and white, and helps to beautify and improve the complexion.
According to the actual meaning of cosmetics we can see that indeed oil of myrrh, spices and ointments are indeed cosmetics, but they are not the painting of the eyes as was characteristic of heathen women in Bible times.
We can confidently conclude that these verses do not at all teach us that Esther wore make-up. She went through a purification or cleansing process for one year in order to be made ready for her husband, the King. That purification process was done with bathing and the application of oil of myrrh, spices and ointments. She was not “purified” with make-up or with painting of her eyes. This does not fit the context of the Scripture at all. Those who are using this as proof that wearing make-up is Scripturally acceptable are twisting the meaning of cosmetics and the context of the Scriptures themselves.
The book of Esther does not tell us that she did not wear make-up, but it also does not tell us that she did. Remember, Queen Esther is not necessarily a great example for us. She hid her Jewish heritage from the King, she married a pagan, the Babylonian captivity was over and she could have returned to Israel, but she chose to stay behind and since she hid her heritage she was likely eating meats forbidden by the Mosaic Law. But not only that, at first she refused to help the Jews because she was scared for her own life. She made the right choice in the end, but she is not necessarily the model of Christian life that we want to follow, whether she wore make-up or not.
Both Paul (1 Timothy 2:9-10) and Peter (1 Peter 3:1-4) instruct the woman to be modest and to focus more on their character and godliness than on what they wear. More than focusing on our outward appearance we should focus on our inward life in Jesus Christ, the prayer relationship we have with him and with how we are impacting those around us. Then to let our outward appearance reflect the inward character.