Following is a question I've come across only twice in my life, but it's a good one, emerging from a Western cultural perspective, and deserves a response. It has to do with Sarai (Sarah), the wife of Abram (Abraham). For context, you may want to take a look at Gen 12:10-16.
In Genesis 12:4 we read that Sarai is considered to be a beauty: "When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful." And yet she's in her mid-60s [Gen 12:4; 17:17]. How could she be beautiful enough for the Egyptians to notice her? (What—"Pharaoh swept of feet by sexagenarian supermodel"?)
As noted in the 28 April 2021 article on the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Genesis Apocryphon (1QapGen ar ix-20), though not part of the Bible, still sheds helpful light on ancient canons of beauty. This manuscript admires Sarah's good looks, with the following description:
- A nicely shaped face. The aesthetics of bone structure and facial geometry vary across cultures. (Consider the practice of cranial deformation, once common in various parts of the world—like the Americas, Australia, and Europe—leading to an "ideal" head shape that was decidedly unEuropean!)
- Attractive skin: Canons vary widely across the globe. Such considerations as markings, tattoos, colour, and fairness / darkness come into play. In numerous cultures, long ears are a mark of dignity and honour. And what about jewellery or other adornments? There's no single right or wrong here.
- Lovely hair. Was this about colour, body, sheen, length, or something else? (And men like me might reasonably ask, "Is bald beautiful?")
- Nice feet, nice palms, and long & supple fingers. An undergraduate Chinese History class amazed me: a century ago there were still people who esteemed bound feet! (In my opinion this was a cruel practice, but millions would disagree.) And is there a perfect hand size? What is "too large"? What is "too small"? Our assessments are subjective.
- Wisdom. Character and wisdom are rightly regarded as components of inner of beauty (1 Pet 3:4; Prov 31:30).
There may be other factors to consider. Is youth more attractive than maturity? How about one's manners, cheerfulness, family members, circle of friends, sense of humour, or breadth of experience? Older readers, are we to be disrespected (or ignored) just because the bloom of youth is past?
Such questions—and our answers—soon reveal cultural biases. When will our generation cast off the misguided prejudices of youth culture? Rather than idolising teens and twenty-somethings, shouldn't we (esp. as Christians) respect our elders, regardless of their age? Don't experience, graciousness, and wisdom far outweigh the fleeting attractiveness of youth? Think about it.