In our latest Bible study guide, “Body Language in the Bible,” we discuss the importance of apparel in ancient times. Clothing, jewelry, crowns, and even sandals sent a message about the social or political position of each individual.
In Old Testament times if you saw someone coming down the street in royal clothing, wearing a crown, and holding a scepter, you knew to treat that person with complete respect and honor. To do otherwise could literally be fatal.
As we study crowns in the Old Testament we see that they represent authority and power. You knew someone’s position by seeing a crown on their head. This seems obvious, but it really adds emphasis to verses like these in Proverbs:
A noble wife is the crown of her husband, but the wife who acts shamefully is like rottenness in his bones.
Proverbs 12:4 (NET)
Gray hair is like a crown of glory; it is attained in the path of righteousness.
Proverbs 16:31 (NET)
The nonverbal message sent by crowns in the New Testament is quite different. The word translated crown in the New Testament is one for a woven, or wreath-crown. These were crowns given to those who were conquers in battle, faithful in service, or victorious during the games. When you saw someone wearing a wreath-crown you immediately knew they had accomplished the objective and overcome the challenges.
This understanding helps us to appreciate verses like these that Paul wrote to encourage the early believers:
Do you not know that all the runners in a stadium compete, but only one receives the prize? So run to win. Each competitor must exercise self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.
1 Corinthians 9:24–27 (NET)
I have fought the good fight. I have finished the course. I have kept the faith. From now on, there is stored up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day; and not to me only, but also to all those who have loved his appearing.
2 Timothy 4:6–8 (WEB)
For more information on the significance of rewards and crowns in the New Testament, I recommend “Going for the Gold,” by Joe L. Wall. This book is available from amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/Going-Gold-Joe-L-Wall/dp/159781069X