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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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.)?

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