In the Bible we read of two different types of royal headgear that was worn by Kings:
- Crowns (Greek: stephanos) and
- Turbans (Grek: diademas)
Which did the kings of IsraEl, such as David and Solomon, wear?
According to historians, most kings wore some sort of headgear on official occasions, which varied by time and by country. However, in ancient IsraEl and in other middle-eastern countries, it seems that kings didn’t usually wear crowns like those worn by Medieval European monarchs. No, instead they wore turbans set with gold and jewels.
This remained the custom throughout Jewish history.
Some pagan kings wore gold crowns with points added, representing ‘haloes’ of the Sun, to indicate their appointment by (the Sun) God. So faithful Jews considered this design to be idolatrous.
The first Bible reference to a gold crown worn by a king is found at 2 Samuel 12:30, where David took one from the head of the Ammonite king of RabBath, named Malchom, and then put it on his own head. However, it doesn’t look like wearing such things then became the custom of IsraElite kings. It seems that wearing Malchom’s crown just represented David’s victory.
Interestingly, at Revelation 12:3, other Bibles say that the ‘Dragon’ with seven heads has diadems on each head – which are usually portrayed as gold crowns in artwork. However, this is incorrect. They should actually be depicted as turbans! Why? Firstly, the Aramaic uses tagah which is also used for the headgear worn by priests (turbans), rather than using k’lila, which is the word that can mean a gold crown. The Greek version is the same – it uses the word diadéma (meaning through-wraps or turbans), not stephanos (crowns).
However, the Greek word stephanos has an additional meaning, and doesn’t always mean a gold crown. If you look up the dictionary meaning for stephanos, you’ll see that it also describes a victory wreath given to athletes who win a contest (a wreath made from olive leaves and sprigs, also called a kotinos)… so this is how we’ve translated the word in many cases.
You see, the Bible uses the words for crowns more often as a sign of victory than of kingship. It gives us a better understanding of the true meanings of these verses:
1 Corinthians 9:25:
‘And every fighter has to maintain full control just to win a garland that rots away.’
Obviously, the context is talking about winning in a fight, and gold crowns cannot rot away. So he must be referring to the victory garland.
‘So, my brothers that are loved and longed for (my joy and my victory garland); keep standing just as you are in the Lord, O loved ones!’
Rather than saying that the brothers were somehow his crown, he was victorious in winning these brothers to Christianity – so they were his reward, the victory garland.
1 Peter 5:4:
‘Then, when the Chief Shepherd is revealed, you’ll walk away with the enduring garland of glory!’
The word ‘enduring’ is literally ‘unfading.’ An unfading crown is likely referring to the victory garland, since a gold crown cannot fade away. But his victory will never fade.