Beauty May Be Only Skin Deep
EVE, the first and only woman created by God, was likely the most beautiful woman who ever lived. But she and her husband, Adam, rebelled against Jehovah. So Eve lost her close relationship with God and shared in bringing a terrible tragedy on the human race. Afterward, she was doubtless still beautiful, but her beauty was only skin deep.
Beauty is ultimately a gift of God, and some have inherited more of it than others. Some wish they were more beautiful—or handsome—than they are, and many spend a lot of time and money making the most of whatever good looks they possess. But as Eve’s example shows, beauty alone is worthless in the long run unless it is accompanied by other qualities. What other qualities? An experience back in the days of King Solomon helps us to answer that.
Something More Than Beauty
The Bible book Song of Solomon tells of a beautiful young country girl, a Shulammite, who was in love with a local shepherd boy. Her beauty attracted the attention of the king, and he had her brought to Jerusalem in hopes of making her his wife. What an opportunity for a young woman! There, she could exploit her good looks and gain a position of wealth, power, and influence in the kingdom. But the young girl resolutely spurned the flattering advances of the king. She turned her back on the glitter and wealth of Jerusalem and remained faithful to her shepherd boy. In her case, beauty was a lot more than skin deep. She was not shallow, opportunistic, or greedy. Rather, she had an inner beauty that her ancestress Eve lacked.—Song of Solomon 1:15; 4:1; 8:4, 6, 10.
The Snares of Physical Beauty
Physical beauty, while desirable, can lead to problems that inner beauty never provokes. Almost 4,000 years ago, for example, the patriarch Jacob had a daughter named Dinah who was doubtless very pretty. When she unwisely spent time fellowshipping with “the daughters of the land,” a young man named Shechem was so attracted to her that he violated her.—Genesis 34:1, 2.
Additionally, external good looks, if not matched by an inner beauty, can inflate their possessor’s self-evaluation. King David had a son named Absalom, of whom we read: “Compared with Absalom there proved to be no man so beautiful in all Israel as to be praised so much.” (2 Samuel 14:25) But Absalom’s physical beauty masked an inner ugliness: He was vain, ambitious, and ruthless. The young man artfully used his personal charm to build a following in Israel and then conspired against his royal father. Eventually he was killed but not before this very handsome man had plunged the kingdom into civil war.
As the case of Absalom shows, the Bible speaks of men as well as of women as being beautiful. An example of a man who was not ensnared by his masculine beauty was Joseph, the younger half brother of Dinah. (Genesis 30:20-24) When he was a young man, Joseph’s brothers out of jealousy sold him as a slave to be carried off to Egypt. There, he was bought by a military officer named Potiphar, and because of being honest and diligent, he came to be overseer of Potiphar’s household. Meantime, “Joseph grew to be beautiful in form and beautiful in appearance.”—Genesis 39:6.
Potiphar’s wife developed a passion for Joseph and shamelessly tried to seduce him. But the young man showed that he had inner beauty as well as physical attractiveness. He refused to sin against his master, Potiphar, and ran from the woman. As a result, he was clapped into jail. Why? The disappointed wife of Potiphar lyingly accused him of having tried to violate her! Even this bitter experience did not sour Joseph’s disposition, however, and his excellent example under extreme difficulty has encouraged righthearted people ever since.
As these examples show, inner beauty—a beauty of personality especially when it is based on faith in God—is far more important than physical good looks. Young people contemplating marriage need to be aware of this. Employers seeking workers should remember it. And all of us ought to bear in mind that whether we have been blessed with physical beauty or not, we can develop this far more important inner beauty. But what does this consist of? And how can we develop it? We will discuss this in the following article.