Abraham's servant is on a mission to find Isaac a wife, and he is blessed in that work. Upon Rebekah's fulfilling of the sign conditions of the servant's prayer to YHWH (Gen 24:12-20), the servant provides two immediate gifts to her in Gen 24:22 (NKJV, bold added):
So it was, when the camels had finished drinking, that the man took a golden nose ring weighing half a shekel, and two bracelets for her wrists weighing ten shekels of gold.
But translations vary on whether this was a ring for the ear, nose, or possibly otherwise:
- Ear ring: AKJV, Douay-Rheims, KJV, KJB2000, Webster's
- Nose ring: NET, NIV, NKJV, NLT, GWT, ISV
- Pendant (Not a ring at all): Jubilee
- Ring (uncommitted location): All other versions on that source page (as of the original posting of this question)
Now as I note in another question about earrings and idolatry, I am aware that the term used in this verse for the ring is:
נֶזֶם (nězěm), which may also mean merely ring or nose-ring, according to both Ludwig Koehler, Walter Baumgartner, M. E. J. Richardson, and Johann Jakob Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000) and Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977).
So linguistically, I grasp why there is variation in the translations. What I am curious to know is:
- The older English translations (KJV, Douay-Rheims) favored earring, whereas newer one's favor either nose ring or non-commitment in translation. Is there a documented reason for this shift in translating this passage?
- Based on current knowledge of the historical, cultural context regarding jewelry and marriage transactions, what is the most likely type of "ring" this would have been: a single earring (the word נֶזֶם is singular in the text), a nose ring, or some other type of ring (and if so, where would it have been worn—a neckless hoop, a head ring, etc.)?