The practice of using clothing to make a statement regarding one’s status or position in society was just as prevalent in the biblical world as it is today. However, clothing styles did not change as rapidly in antiquity and so the effort to remain stylish was less hectic.

The exact meanings of may technical terms in the Bible describing specific articles of clothing and accessories remain lost; other terms are clearer. The basic wardrobe in biblical times included a long shirt-like undergarment (the tunic-e.g., John 19:23), an outer garment that could be decorated according to one’s status (the robe-e.g., 1 Sam 18:4), various girdles (loincloths, belts and sashes-e.g., Matt 3:4; Rev 1:13), headgear (e.g., 2 Sam 15:30; Zech 3:5), footwear (e.g., Ezek 24:17), and jewelry (e.g., Exod 32:2; Judg 8:24-26).

Fine clothing was worn by kings and priest (Exod 28:1-43; 39:1-31; Matt 11:8) or others worthy of status (Gen 37:3: Luke 15:22). Such clothing was a valued commodity (cp Josh 7:21) and made a precious gift (Gen 45:22; 2 Kings 5:5; Esther 6:8) but could lead to showiness (Isa 3:18-26). Believers are instead instructed to clothe themselves modestly so that their true, inward beauty might prevail (1 Tim 2:9; 1 Pet 3:3-5).

The outward adornment of clothing was used by the biblical writers to signal the inner spiritual nature of God’s people. Once elegantly adorned (Ezek 16:10-14), Israel sinned and became dressed in filthy rags (Isa 64:6; Zech 3:304; cp Rev 3:4). Those who become righteous are clothed in fine white robes (Zech 3:4-5; Rev 3:4-5; 7:9,13).

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