It is often said that a woman of faith should not at all be concerned with outer beauty (citing 1Peter 3:1-6), that inner beauty is all that matters. Any or excessive efforts at outer adornment are all vanity. But what kind of “beauty” is Peter referring to?
Peter uses Sarah as the example of beauty, and the one that all godly women should emulate. He mentions these things as regards women and ties them all to Sarah:
- Behavior as testimony to the unbelieving
- Outward beauty, adornment
- Inner beauty; quiet, gentle spirit
- Hope in God
- Doers of right (Torah observant)
- Not given to fear
In this passage, Peter also makes the statement that Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him master (or Lord) (1Pet 3:6). But, what does the one (beauty) have to do with the other (obedience)? Further, when we examine Abraham and Sarah’s relationship in the Bible, where do we see this “submissiveness” in the text? One of the very few places involves the three “men” who visit Abraham (Gen 18:2). On this occasion, he directs Sarah to prepare food for them (Gen 18:6).
But, more often than not, we see Abraham and Sarah functioning as partners. God even admonishes Abraham to “listen to (her)” in the matter of Ishmael's banishment (Gen 21:12). Sarah serves to provide us with an example of what Biblical submission really means. It is not subservience—but trust. This is Peter’s point—Sarah manifested “inner beauty” in her relationship with Abraham. Abraham was her only partner. She was devoted to him and to no other. She trusted God and she trusted Abraham. Peter tells godly women to be like Sarah, i.e., to trust God in their relationships with their husbands “and do not give way to fear” (1Pet 3:6). The Captive Woman Seminar sheds more light on this concept.
It is a blessing for a woman to appropriately display whatever physical beauty God has given her as well as the inner beauty of her character. A woman’s inner and outer beauty is celebrated every Friday night as we recite Eshet Chayil (“A Woman of Valor” from Proverbs 31) at our Sabbath dinner tables.
“She is clothed in fine linen and purple (v. 21) … She is clothed in strength and dignity (v.25). She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue (v. 26) … Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised! (v. 30).