A ring or other ornament worn on the ear for purposes of adornment. The Hebrews do not appear to have had a specific word for “earring,” for one of the words they applied to this ornament (neʹzem) can be used for either a nose ring or an earring. (Pr 11:22; Ex 32:2) The context in which neʹzem appears in the Scriptures sometimes, though not always, makes it possible to determine whether an earring or a nose ring is meant. Probably in many cases earrings and nose rings varied little in shape. The Hebrew word ʽa·ghilʹ is also used to designate an earring and relates to a circular ornament.—Nu 31:50; Eze 16:12.
In many nations of antiquity men, women, and children all wore earrings. That they were worn by men of many lands is evident from representations of foreigners on Egyptian monuments. However, in Egypt it seems that it was not customary for men to wear earrings, and it is uncertain whether Israelite men customarily wore them or not. Earrings were worn by the Midianites, from whom the Israelites took them as part of the spoils of war. (Nu 31:1, 2, 50) When Aaron was about to make the golden calf in the wilderness, he instructed the Israelites: “Tear off the gold earrings that are in the ears of your wives, of your sons and of your daughters and bring them to me.”—Ex 32:1-4.
Common with Egyptian women were earrings consisting of large golden hoops, some being 4 to 5 cm (1.5 to 2 in.) in diameter, though others were even larger and were made of as many as six individual rings soldered together. Silver earrings were found at Thebes, some of them being merely studs. At times Egyptian earrings, like those of the Assyrians, were quite elaborately designed; some of them were cross-shaped. It was customary to attach the earring by passing the ring itself or a hook through a hole that had been pierced in one’s earlobe.
In ancient Egypt, persons of high station sometimes wore golden ear ornaments having the form of an asp, the body of which was studded with precious stones. Middle Eastern earrings at times consisted of rings to which jewels of some sort were attached as pendants. Some were called “eardrops” (Heb., neti·phohthʹ, from na·taphʹ [meaning “drip” or “drop”]). This term evidently relates to a drop-shaped ornament or pendant. “Eardrops” could have been pearls or spherical beads of silver or gold, but they are not described in the Bible. (Jg 8:26) They were among the things Jehovah said he would take away from the haughty “daughters of Zion.”—Isa 3:16, 19.
Faithful Hebrews and Christians did not wear earrings as amulets, though others of ancient times did so. While the Bible does not specifically say that “the earrings” possessed by Jacob’s household had been viewed as amulets, Jacob buried both “the foreign gods” and “the earrings” of his household under the big tree near Shechem. (Ge 35:2-4) “The ornamental humming shells” possessed by the haughty “daughters of Zion” were charms of some type that may have been suspended from necklaces or worn on the ears.—Isa 3:20.
When Israel was granted the privilege of making contributions for the tabernacle, willinghearted persons donated various articles, including earrings. (Ex 35:20-22) Centuries later, Jehovah told Jerusalem that, among other things, he had shown her love by placing earrings on her ears. (Eze 16:1, 2, 12) And Solomon used a gold earring illustratively when he said: “An earring of gold, and an ornament of special gold, is a wise reprover upon the hearing ear.”—Pr 25:1, 12.