Sun-tan, the delight of the modern woman, the most subtle feminine allurement, the triumph of sophisticated cosmetics â€” do you know how old it is? Look in the Bible. The beautiful Sulamith, the beloved of King Solomon, the heroine of the Song of Songs, exclaims: “I am dark but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem.” And her success with the much experienced and supremely wise king must have established the virtue of suntan for all ages.
Other modern fashions also had their counterpart in ancient biblical times. Rouge and powder, the permanent waves, wrap-around turbans of net, chiffon, or malineâ€”all the newest foibles of the hourâ€”the ladies of the far-away past were as conscious of them and their efficacy as the woman of today. You remember Jezebel, the evil queen? She painted her face, she “tired” her hairâ€”and “tired” is an archaic form of attired and means she dressed it and bound it with some costly materialâ€”and then she looked out of the window. But all her wiles were of no avail and she came to a bad end.
And if the ladies of biblical times were past mistresses in the art of beauty culture and feminine adornment, the men, too, took a very intelligent interest in all that pertained to the science of cosmetics. Legend credits King Solomon with being the inventor of the first depilatory. That happened when the Queen of Sheba came to visit him. She was surpassingly beautiful but it was remarked upon that she always covered her arms and legs with some lovely material and the rumor sprang up: “Bilkis has hair on her limbs.” King Solomon, in order to make certain, hid himself and had the queen conducted to a bath in which the water was simulated by shining mirrors. When she threw her garments off, the mirrors showed clearly that the exquisite limbs were marred by superfluous hairs. The King, then, sent one of his familiar spirits to a certain mountain to obtain from there a magic stone. With this stone the Queen rubbed her arms and legs and the disfiguring hairs disappeared and left her perfect.
But, valued as beauty and all the aids to beauty were, our remote ancestors knew very well that the graces of the mind were quite as desirable as the graces of the body and valued them, therefore, as something most precious. Another oriental legend proves this well. Our ancient moralist tells us: It is related that, when Adam was sent out of Palestine and down to earth by Almighty God, the Angel Gabriel went to him and said: “O Adam, God sends you here three qualities, so that you may select one of them for yourself and leave the others.” “What are they?” asked Adam. Gabriel replied “Modesty, Piety, and Intelligence.” “I choose Intelligence,” said Adam.
The Angel then told Modesty and Piety to return to Heaven because Adam had made choice of Intelligence. They answered: “We will not return.” “How?”, said Gabriel, “do you mean to disobey me?”
They replied: “We do not wish to, but our orders were never to quit Intelligence, wherever she may be.”
But, of course, you will have remarked that this story deals solely with Adam and makes no mention of Eve, and whether this omission is accident or design, you may decide for yourself.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.