on 1-peter 3 :3
Whose adorning - Κοσμος. See the note on Hebrews 9:1, where the word κοσμος, world or ornament, is defined; and also the note on Genesis 2:1.
Plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold - Plaiting the hair, and variously folding it about the head, was the most ancient and most simple mode of disposing of this chief ornament of the female head. It was practised anciently in every part of the east, and is so to the present day in India, in China, and also in Barbary. It was also prevalent among the Greeks and Romans, as ancient gems, busts, and statues, still remaining, sufficiently declare. We have a remarkable instance of the plaiting of the hair in a statue of Agrippina, wife of Germanicus, an exact representation of which may be seen in a work of Andre Lens, entitled Le Costume de Peuple de I' Antiquite, pl. 33. Many plates in the same work show the different modes of dressing the hair which obtained among the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Persians, and other nations. Thin plates of gold were often mixed with the hair, to make it appear more ornamental by the reflection of light and of the solar rays. Small golden buckles were also used in different parts; and among the Roman ladies, pearls and precious stones of different colors. Pliny assures us, Hist. Nat., l. ix. c. 35, that these latter ornaments were not introduced among the Roman women till the time of Sylla, about 110 years before the Christian era. But it is evident, from many remaining monuments, that in numerous cases the hair differently plaited and curled was the only ornament of the head. Often a simple pin, sometimes of ivory, pointed with gold, seemed to connect the plaits. In monuments of antiquity the heads of the married and single women may be known, the former by the hair being parted from the forehead over the middle of the top of the head, the latter by being quite close, or being plaited and curled all in a general mass.
There is a remarkable passage in Plutarch, Conjugalia Praecept., c. xxvi., very like that in the text: Κοσμος γαρ εστιν, ὡς ελεγε Κρατης, το κοσμουν· κοσμει δε το κοσμιωτεραν γυναικα ποιουν· ποιει δε ταυτην ου χρυσος, ουτε σμαραγδος, ουτε κοκκος, αλλ' ὁσα σεμνοτητος, ευταξιας, αιδους εμφασιν περιτιθησιν· Opera a Wyttenb., vol. i., page 390. "An ornament, as Crates said, is that which adorns. The proper ornament of a woman is that which becomes her best. This is neither gold, nor pearls, nor scarlet; but those things which are an evident proof of gravity, regularity, and modesty." The wife of Phocion, a celebrated Athenian general, receiving a visit from a lady who was elegantly adorned with gold and jewels, and her hair with pearls, took occasion to call the attention of her guest to the elegance and costliness of her dress, remarking at the same time, "My ornament is my husband, now for the twentieth year general of the Athenians." Plut., in vit. Phoc. How few Christian women act this part! Women are in general at as much pains and cost in their dress, as if by it they were to be recommended both to God and man. It is, however, in every case, the argument either of a shallow mind, or of a vain and corrupted heart.
on 1-peter 3 :3
Whose adorning - Whose ornament. The apostle refers here to a propensity which exists in the heart of woman to seek that which would be esteemed ornamental, or that which will appear well in the sight of others, and commend us to them. The desire of this is laid deep in human nature and therefore, when properly regulated is not wrong. The only question is, what is the true and appropriate ornament? What should be primarily sought as the right kind of adorning? The apostle does not condemn true ornament, nor does he condemn the desire to appear in such a way as to secure the esteem of others. God does not condemn real ornament. The universe is full of it. The colors of the clouds and of the rainbow; the varied hues of flowers; the plumage of birds, and the covering of many of the animals of the forest; the green grass; the variety of hill and dale; the beauty of the human complexion, the ruddy cheek, and the sparkling eye, are all of the nature of ornament. They are something superadded to what would be merely useful, to make them appear well. Few or none of these things are absolutely necessary to the things to which they are attached; for the eye could see without the various tints of beauty that are drawn upon it, and the lips and the cheeks could perform their functions without their beautiful tints, and the vegetable world could exist without the variegated colors that are painted on it; but God meant that this should be a beautiful world; that it should appear well; that there should be something more than mere utility. The true notion of ornament or adorning is that which will make any person or thing appear well, or beautiful, to others; and the apostle does not prohibit that which would have this effect in the wife. The grand thing which she was to seek, was not that which is merely external, but that which is internal, and which God regards as of so great value.
Let it not be that outward adorning - Let not this be the main or principal thing; let not her heart be set on this. The apostle does not say that she should wholly neglect her personal appearance, for she has no more right to be offensive to her husband by neglecting her personal appearance, than by a finical attention to it. Religion promotes neatness, and cleanliness, and a proper attention to our external appearance according to our circumstances in life, as certainly as it does to the internal virtue of the soul. On this whole passage, see the notes at 1 Timothy 2:9-10.
Of plaiting the hair - See the notes at 1 Timothy 2:9; Compare the notes at Isaiah 3:24. Great attention is paid to this in the East, and it is to this that the apostle here refers. "The women in the eastern countries," says Dr. Shaw, (Travels, p. 294,) "affect to have their hair hang down to the ground, which they collect into one lock, upon the hinder part of the head, binding and plaiting it about with ribbons. Above this, or on the top of their heads, persons of better fashion wear flexible plates of gold or silver, variously cut through, and engraved in imitation of lace." We are not to suppose that a mere braiding or plaiting of the hair is improper, for there may be no more simple or convenient way of disposing of it. But the allusion here is to the excessive care which then prevailed, and especially to their setting the heart on such ornaments rather than on the adorning which is internal. It may not be easy to fix the exact limit of propriety about the method of arranging the hair, or about any other ornament; but those whose hearts are right, generally have little difficulty on the subject. Every ornament of the body, however beautiful, is soon to be laid aside; the adorning of the soul will endure forever.
And of wearing of gold - The gold here particularly referred to is probably that which was interwoven in the hair, and which was a common female ornament in ancient times. Thus, Virgil says, crines nodantur in aurum. And again, crinem implicat auro. See Homer, Iliad, B. 872; Herod. i. 82; and Thucydides i. 6. The wearing of gold in the hair, however, was more common among women of loose morals than among virtuous females - Pollux iv. 153. It cannot be supposed that all wearing of gold about the person is wrong, for there is nothing evil in gold itself, and there may be some articles connected with apparel made of gold that may in no manner draw off the affections from higher things, and may do nothing to endanger piety. The meaning is, that such ornaments should not be sought; that Christians should be in no way distinguished for them; that they should not engross the time and attention; that Christians should so dress as to show that their minds are occupied with nobler objects, and that in their apparel they should be models of neatness, economy, and plainness. If it should be said that this expression teaches that it is wrong to wear gold at all, it may be replied that on the same principle it would follow that the next clause teaches that it is wrong to put on apparel at all. There is really no difficulty in such expressions. We are to dress decently, and in the manner that will attract least attention, and we are to show that our hearts are interested supremely in more important things than in outward adorning.
Or of putting on of apparel - That is, this is not to be the ornament which we principally seek, or for which we are distinguished. We are to desire a richer and more permanent adorning - that of the heart.
on 1-peter 3 :3
3:3 Three things are here expressly forbidden: curling the hair, wearing gold, (by way of ornament,) and putting on costly or gay apparel. These, therefore, ought never to be allowed, much less defended, by Christians.