Wycliffe translation consultant, Keith Patman, had not expected to see the word for “plum” right in the middle of 1 Peter 3:3, but there it was! The back translation into English read, “Wives, don’t try to be pretty like a market plum, by braiding your hair and putting on gold jewelry and beautiful clothes.”
Concerned for clear, natural and accurate translation, Keith asked the Gunu translation team, “Why did you use that?”
Their explanation made perfect sense. A favorite fruit in their area of Cameroon is the safou, or African plum. Sold in the local market, these plums, early in the day, look beautiful—all purple and shiny—and they taste great! But after a long day of sitting out in the warm West African sun, the plums still look pretty but they lose their freshness and they taste terrible!
So “pretty like a market plum” for the Gunu people is a metaphor for superficial beauty, and that’s exactly what Peter was talking about in 1 Peter 3:3. English translations of that verse refer to “outward adornment” or “outward beauty.”
“Don’t be concerned about outward beauty or fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” (1 Peter 3:3 NLT)
While the context is Peter writing to women, I hope you can see a clear connection to men, too—let’s not miss that! True inner beauty for men and women comes from what’s in our heart—what’s on the inside—not from what’s outside of us. If we have a gentle and quiet spirit on the inside it will most likely be evident on the outside. And this is pleasing (precious) to God, according to Peter.
When Samuel was asked to select a King for Israel, he took one look at Eliab and thought, “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance…the Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 16:6-7 NLT) Jeremiah says the Lord searches our hearts and examines motives giving rewards according to what our actions deserve. (Jeremiah 17:10 NLT)
Finally, Jesus said, “…the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you [not what you eat].” (Matthew 15:18 NLT)
Let’s honor God and each other with our words and deeds. Make every effort NOT to be pretty like a market plum in the afternoon sun—pretty on the outside but bitter on the inside.