BEARD / HAIR
Questions have arisen from time to time about the proper length of men’s hair and whether or not it is necessary for them to maintain a beard. Can a man have long hair? What about shaving the head? If Yahweh expects a beard, can it be trimmed? Or is it to grow without cutting? What about the long side curls seen on some Orthodox Jews? Are those from Scripture?
Manners and Customs of the Bible, James M Freeman –
Page 149, regarding II Samuel 20:9 – “To touch the beard of another was an insult, unless it was done as an act of friendship and a token of respect. Joab therefore showed the base treachery of his heart by coming to Amasa in the manner of a friend, thus entirely concealing his murderous intent. He inquired after his health, gently touched his beard as if to give a kiss, and then suddenly grasped it with his right hand and quickly stabbed the unsuspecting Amasa with the unnoticed sword which he held in his left.”
Page 93-94, regarding Leviticus 19:27 – “Among the ancients the hair was often used in divinations. The worshipers of the stars and planets cut their hair evenly around, trimming the extremities. According to Herodotus the Arabs were accustomed to shave the hair around the head, and let a tuft stand up on the crown in honor of Bacchus. He says the same thing concerning the Macians, a people of North Africa.”
“By the idolaters the beard was also carefully trimmed round and even. This was forbidden to the Jews.”
“The expression ‘utmost corners’ in Jeremiah ix, 26; xxv, 23; xlix, 32 refers not to any dwelling-place, but to the custom forbidden in Leviticus; and accordingly the margin reads, ‘cut off into corners, or having the corners [of their hair] polled’.”
Pages 46-47, regarding Genesis 41:14 – “Contrary to the custom of the Hebrews and other Orientals, the Egyptians shaved closely, only allowing the beard to grow as a sign of mourning; thus reversing the custom of the Hebrews, who shaved as a sign of mourning. Strange to say, the Egyptians, while so careful to shave the beard, sometimes fastened false beards to the chin. These were made of plaited hair, and were of different shapes and sizes, according to the rank of the wearer.”
“Joseph, while in prison, allowed his beard to grow; now that he is released, he shaves, according to the Egyptian custom, as it would have been a disgrace for him to appear with a beard in the presence of the king.”
Harper’s Encyclopedia of Bible Life, Madeleine S and J Lane Miller –
Page 52 – “The book of Leviticus prescribed (19:22) that ‘You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard’ – an ancient heathen practice for mourning the dead – and one of the requirements for such Nazirites as Samson and Samuel was that they never take a razor to their hair, but instead let it grow long, as an offering to God. Other Israelites were not forbidden to cut their hair, of course, but through most of the Old Testament period long hair was admired on men and women alike. Absalom cut his hair only once a year, and the amount he cut reportedly (2 Samuel 14:26) weighed two hundred shekels – or about five pounds!”
Page 86 – “The Assyrian and Babylonians perfumed their beards, and some Jews after the Exile probably did likewise. The male Jew wore his hair long, and his beard also, but not without an occasional grooming by the local barber. The Hebrews were forbidden by their Law to shave their heads entirely (Lev 19:27), and priests were enjoined not to make tonsures upon their heads (Lev 21:5). These prohibitions probably were in reaction to the practices of the priests of the pagan cults of the people among whom the Israelites settled in the Promised Land. To the prophets, artificial baldness was a figure of impending doom (e.g., Isa 15:2; Jer 48:37; Mic 1:16). Shaving the head was acceptable only under special circumstances as a sign of mourning (Job 1:20); at the termination of a Nazirite vow, so that the hair could be dedicated to the Lord (Num 6:9, 18); and when leprosy had been found on the head (Lev 13:33; 14:8-9). Long hair was much admired (2 Sam 14:25-26; Song of Solomon 5:11). The proscription of cutting the hair on the temples of males is still observed by strict Jews.”
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr, M.A., D.D., General Editor, Volume 1, page 418 –
“(1) – Western Semites in general, according to the monuments, wore full round beards, to which they evidently devoted great care. The nomads of the desert, in distinction from the settled Semites, wore a clipped and pointed beard (see Jer 9:26: ‘all that have the corners of their hair cut off, that dwell in the wilderness’; and cf 25:23; 49:32, etc).”
“(2) – Long beards are found on Assyrian and Babylonian monuments and sculptures as a mark of the highest aristocracy. It is not clear that it was ever so with the Jews. Yet it is significant that the Hebrew ‘elder’ (zaken) seems to have received his name from his long beard.”
“(3) – The view of some that it was customary among the Hebrews to shave the upper lip is considered by the best authorities as without foundation. The mustache (Hebrew sapham, ‘beard’), according to 2 Sam 19:24, received regular ‘trimming’.”
“(4) – In one case (1 Sam 21:13-14) the neglect of the beard is set down as a sign of madness: ‘[He] let his spittle fall down upon his beard. Then said Achish,… Lo, ye see the man is mad’.”
“(5) – It was common Semite custom to cut both hair and beard as a token of grief or distress. Isaiah (15:2), describing the heathen who have ‘gone up to the high places to weep,’ says ‘Moab waileth over Nebo, and over Medeba; on all their heads is baldness, every beard is cut off.’ Jeremiah (41:5), describing the grief of the men of Samaria for their slain governor, Gedaliah, says, ‘There came men from…Samaria [his sorrowing subjects] even four score men, having their beards shaven and their clothes rent,’ etc. And Amos, in his prophecy of the vision of the ‘basket of summer fruit,’ (8:1ff), makes Jehovah say to His people: ‘I will turn your feasts into mourning;…I will bring sackcloth upon all loins, and baldness upon every head’ (8:10). On the other hand it was even more significant of great distress or fear to leave the beard untrimmed, as did Mephibosheth, the son of Saul, when he went to meet King David in the crisis of his guilty failure to go up with the king according to his expectation: ‘He had neither dressed his feet, nor trimmed his beard, nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he came home in peace.’ (Cf 1 Sam 21:13-14; 2 Sam 19:24).”
“(6) – Absalom’s hair was cut only once a year, it would seem (2 Sam 14:26; cf rules for priests, Levites, etc, Ezek 44:20). But men then generally wore their hair longer than is customary or seemly with us. Later, in New Testament times, it was a disgrace for a man to wear long hair (I Cor 11:6-15). To mutilate the beard of another was considered a great indignity (see 2 Sam 10:4; cf Isa 50:6, ‘plucked off the hair’). The shaving of the head of a captive slave-girl who was to be married to her captor marked her change of condition and prospects (Deut 21:12; W R Smith, Kinship, 209).”
Volume 2, page 1320 –“…the dwellers on the Nile had their heads shaved in early youth, leaving but a side lock until maturity was attained, when this mark of childhood was taken away.”
“On the other hand, the Hebrew people, like their Babylonian neighbors affected long and well-cared-for, bush curls of hair as emblems of manly beauty. Proofs thereof are not infrequent in the Scriptures and elsewhere. Samson’s (Jgs 16:13, 19) and Absalom’s (2 S 14:26) long luxuriant hair is specially mentioned, and the Shulammite sings of the locks of her beloved which are ‘busy [RVm ‘curling’], and black as a raven’ (Cant 5:11). Josephus (Ant, VIII, vii, 3) reports that Solomon’s body-guard was distinguished by youthful beauty and ‘luxuriant heads of hair’.”
“It is well known that among the surrounding heathen nations the hair of childhood or youth was often shaved and consecrated at idolatrous shrines. Frequently this custom marked an initiatory rite into the service of a divinity. It was therefore an abomination of the Gentiles in the eyes of the Jew, which is referred to in Lev 19:27; Jer 9:26; 25:23; 49:32. The Syriac version of the latter passage renders, ‘Ye shall not let your hair grow long’ (ie in order to cut it as a religious rite in honor of an idol). It is, however, probable that among the Jews, as now among many classes of Mohammedans, the periodical cropping of the hair, when it had become too cumbersome, was connected with some small festivity, when the weight of the hair was ascertained, and its weight in silver was given in charity to the poor.”
“We may also compare the shaving of the head of the Nazirite to these heathen practices, though the resemblance is merely superficial. The man who made a vow to God was responsible to Him with his whole body and being. Not even a hair was to be injured wilfully during the whole period of the vow, for all belonged to God. The conclusion of the Nazirite vow was marked by sacrifices and the shaving of the head at the door of the sanctuary (Nu 6:1-21), indicative of a new beginning of life. The long untouched hair was therefore considered as the emblem of personal devotion (or devotedness) to the God of all strength.”
Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible, Herbert Lockyer, Sr, editor –
Page 140 – “Beard – the hair on a man’s face. In biblical times most adult males of Israel wore full beards. An oiled and well-kept beard was a mark of pride (Psa 133:2). The Law of Moses required Israelite men not to ‘disfigure the edges’ of their beards (Lev 19:27), a common practice of Israel’s pagan neighbors.”
“To shave or pull out part of the beard was a sign of grief (Jer 48:37-38), and to cut off someone’s beard was to insult him (2 Sam 20:4-5). Isaiah 7:20 pictures God’s judgment on Israel as a shaving of the nation’s beard, an intentional disgrace. The word beard does not appear in the New Testament.”
Page 973 – “Shaving – removal of the beard or other body hair, as with a razor. Among the Jewish people, beards were common, especially in early times when the Hebrews lived as wandering shepherds. But the Egyptians shaved their faces closely and preferred short hair. The Greeks and Romans also preferred the clean-shaven style.”
“Shaving was a part of the ritual by which a Levite was set apart for priestly service (Num 8:7). Shaving was also required for those unclean with plague (Lev 13:33) or leprosy (Lev 14:8). Refusing to allow a man-made instrument to touch their heads, a group of Hebrews known as the Nazirites kept their hair uncut until a particular vow had been fulfilled (Num 6:18; Acts 18:18). But if a Nazirite touched a dead body, he was required to cut his hair immediately (Num 6:9).”
“Although shaving the head was often a sign of mourning (Deut 14:1; Job 1:10), priests did not follow this practice (Lev 21:5).”
Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible, J I Packer, M C Tenney, editors,
Page 482 – “Hair Style – Hebrew men considered the hair to be an important personal ornament, so they gave much care and attention to it. Egyptian and Assyrian monuments show examples of elaborate hair arrangements in those cultures. The Egyptians also wore various types of wigs. But we see an important difference between Hebrew and Egyptian hair styles in Genesis 41:14, which says that Joseph ‘shaved himself’ before he was presented to the pharaoh. An Egyptian would have been content to comb his hair and trim his beard; but Hebrew men cut their hair much as modern Western men do, using a primitive kind of scissors (2 Sam 14:26). The word polled in this text means ‘to cut the hair from the head.’ The Jews also used razors, as we see in Numbers 6:5.”
“When a Jewish man made a religious vow, he did not cut his hair (cf Judg 13:5). The Israelites were not to shave their hair so closely that they resembled heathen gods who had shaved heads. Nor were they to resemble the Nazirites, who refused to cut their hair at all (Ezek 44:20). In the New Testament times, long hair on men was considered to be contrary to nature (I Cor 11:14).”
“Men often applied perfumed oil to their hair before festivals or other joyous occasions (Psa 23:5). Jesus mentions this custom in Luke 7:45, when He says, ‘My head with oil thou didst not anoint…’.
The Torah, A Modern Commentary, W Gunther Plaut, editor –
From page 898, regarding Lev 19:27-28 – “Other forbidden pagan practices were certain ways of cutting the hair, ‘destroying’ the beard, gashing oneself as a sign of mourning, tattooing (perhaps with heathen emblems). The wearing of side curls (peot) by extreme Orthodox Jews is an attempt to carry out strictly the law of verse 27.”
Page 1061 – “Hair. Throughout history the hair of the head has been important to people. Men and women have usually considered it as the crown of the visible self, the most malleable part of their external personality; they have beautified it; shaped or colored it, and have on occasion removed or hidden it. Already in biblical times, cutting a man’s beard against his will (as was done by the Nazis to Jews) or a woman’s hair as a punishment … represents the ultimate in public humiliation (2 Sam 10:4; Isa 3:17). Where hair was or is cut or shaved voluntarily, the act symbolizes consecration. And so does the reverse: a Nazirite, a medieval king, or a hermit set themselves aside for special purposes and their hair signified their status.”
“Frequently, hirsute appearance has symbolized personal integrity. In cultures favoring short hair, the growing of long hair may indicate a rebellious spirit or a different value system. Not long ago the expression ‘long hair’ meant classic or esoteric taste in the arts. To this day, the Jews observant of biblical tradition (Lev 19:27; 21:5) will not let a razor come upon the corners of his beard. Detailed halachic regulations govern the methods of trimming the beard, and a Chasid is distinguished by his earlocks (pe-ot). By their appearance, the observant aim to testify to membership in a people who, all of them, are consecrated to God. In light of these ancient identifications of hair with separateness and holiness, we can better understand the profound unease with which, in our century, young people’s preoccupation with short or (later) long hair was greeted by their elders, for more than mere appearance was at stake.”
Page 107, regarding Numbers 8:7 – “Their whole body with a razor. This is what certain physically afflicted people had to do (Lev 14:8), and it emphasizes that the Torah considers the Levites spiritually separated from the rest of the people, even as lepers and others were separated bodily. On the other hand, a Nazirite who had been defiled only shaved his head (Num 6:9). Egyptian priests shaved their bodies every second day for hygienic reasons, especially to avoid lice.”
Page 1483, regarding Deuteronomy 21:12 – “Trim her hair. Others, ‘shave her head.’ The procedure signifies a change in the woman’s status.
“The custom persists among some Orthodox women who cut off their hair prior to marriage.”
Biblical Literacy, by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin,
Page 548 – “Lev. 19:27 – In fulfillment of this commandment, many of the most traditional Orthodox men grow side-curls (peyot). Jewish law understands this prohibition as applying only to a hand razor, and permits men to use electric shavers.”
To Be A Jew, by Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin,
Pages 181-182 – “ ‘You shall not…destroy the corners of your beard’ (Lev. 19:27). The halakha (by relating this verse to Lev. 21:5) clearly understood this prohibition as one which prohibited the use of a razor blade or knife to shave the beard of one’s face. (Technically, it’s only the five corners that are thus forbidden: at the chin, in front of but just above and just below the ears.)”
“This law, as well as several others which forbid tattooing and other forms of self-mutilation, were directed against practices common to idolatry and associated with pagan customs. ‘It was the practice of pagan priests to destroy (shave) their beards. Therefore did the Torah forbid it… But one is not culpable for it unless it is done with a razor… therefore if one cut the beard of his face with scissors, one is not liable’ (Hil. Avodat Kochavim 12:7).”
“This prohibition had an obvious impact on the historical style of Jewish grooming; hence the traditional image of the Jew as a full-bearded person.”
“It is only since this past century when it became possible to use means other than a razor with which to remove facial hair that even observant Jews began to appear clean-shaven. At first, clippers (which operate on the principle of a scissors rather than a knife), powder and similar depilatories came into use. The modern electric shaver (which operates on the scissors principle rather than as a blade) was ruled permissible by religious authorities. This made it possible for even the pious Jew to be clean-shaven or partially bearded without violating the Torah law. Nevertheless, the bearded face probably still reflects an image of greater piety.”
“The first part of this same Torah sentence states ‘You shall not round the corners of your head…’ The reasons are still the same as given above. Because of this, it is not permissible to totally remove the sideburns. While halakhic rulings permit the use of scissors or clippers to trim the sideburns, the custom of refusing to take advantage of such rulings prevailed among Hasidic Jews and they do not touch the sideburns at all; hence their dangling side-curls (payos), most noticeable on the children and young boys whose beards are not yet fully grown.”
Mysteries of the Bible, Reader’s Digest Association, Inc, Alma E Guinness, editor –
From page 113 - 114 – “The Ammonites knew what they were doing when they mutilated the Hebrews beards. The cutting of a man’s beard was a deadly insult among the ancient Hebrews, a people to whom a full set of whiskers represented masculine dignity and honor and beautiful hair was a mark of male as well as female beauty: ‘the beauty of old men is their gray hair’ (Proverbs 20:29).”
“Although razors, shaving, and cutting the hair are mentioned on numerous occasions in the Bible, only a single passage in the Old Testament, Ezekiel 5:1, makes reference to barbers. And although barbers are not even mentioned in the New Testament, there is outside evidence of their existence. In the time of Herod the Great, there was a staff of barbers at the royal court, as indicated by the Jewish historian Josephus. In all probability, there were also Temple barbers, who administered the ritual shavings of Nazirites and Levite initiates.”
“Throughout the history of ancient Israel the shaving of all the hair either from the head or the face was a radical act that marked a time of great grief or suffering (Job 1:20 and Jeremiah 48:37).”
“In Leviticus 19:27, the Lord ordered Moses to tell the children of Israel: ‘You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard.’ The reason for these strictures is unknown; possibly it was to distinguish the Israelites from neighboring people. Thus, shaving the head and beard was not ordinarily permitted. The exceptions were ritual shavings performed during certain purification ceremonies.”
In modern times, “In Me’ah She’arim, the neighborhood just north of the Old City of Jerusalem, men and boys commonly wear pe’ot, or side locks, grown in accordance with the biblical prohibition: ‘You shall not round off the hair on your temples.’ Me’ah She’arim, like some neighborhoods in Brooklyn, New York, has a high concentration of Orthodox Hasidic families. It is, in fact, a common practice among many Orthodox and Hasidic Jews all over the world to wear pe’ot – a style that instantly identifies the wearer as Jewish. Yet there is no evidence that the ancient Hebrews wore pe’ot. The wearing of side curls did not become the custom until the sixteenth century, when it was started by the disciples of the philosopher Isaac Luria. It later became popular in central and eastern Europe.”
GENESIS 41:14 And Pharaoh sent and called Joseph; and they made him hasten from the dungeon. And he shaved and changed his clothing and came in to Pharaoh.
This event took place before Yahweh gave His law to the children of Israel. If Joseph took the time to shave and change before meeting Pharaoh, could it be that was part of his normal grooming routine? After all, the Pharaoh was waiting. It doesn’t say he was told to do so – possibly it was his custom.
LEVITICUS 14:8-9 8 – And he is to be cleansed shall wash his garments, and shall shave all his hair, and shall bathe with water, and shall be clean. And afterwards he shall come into the camp, and shall live on the outside of his tent seven days. 9 – And it shall be on the seventh day, he shall shave all his hair, his head, and his beard and his eyebrows; he shall even shave all his hair. And he shall wash his garments, and shall bathe his flesh with water, and shall be clean.
These are specific commands from Yahweh to a leper. It entails a lot more than just the hair on the head or the beard. This is part of his cleansing, or purification ritual.
LEVITICUS 19:27 You shall not round the corner of your head, nor mar the corner of your beard.
This is the verse most often used to support the doctrine of a beard on every man. But is that really what it says? Yahweh is describing a particular way of cutting and/or trimming the beard and hair. He is saying they are not to do it that way.
The word “round” is Hebrew #5362, nakaf, which means to strike with more or less violence (beat, fell, corrode); by implication (of attack) to knock together; i.e. surround or circulate. (Strong’s Hebrew-Greek Dictionary)
The Hebrew word for “mar” is #7843 shachat, meaning to decay, i.e. ruin – destroy, mar, waste. (Strong’s Hebrew-Greek Dictionary)
“Corner” is the Hebrew word #6285, peah, which means mouth in a figurative sense, i.e. direction, region, extremity. (Strong’s Hebrew-Greek Dictionary)
This has most often been understood that they were not to trim their hair and beard in a manner that framed their face with a circle. Note the last definition of round – to surround or circulate. Some of the pagans did this to honor the sun god. It defined them as sun-worshippers. It did not define a worshipper of Yahweh.
LEVITICUS 21:5 They shall not make their heads bald, and they shall not shave the edge of their beard…
Check the context. To whom does this apply? All the Israelite men? No, in this chapter the instructions are to the priests only.
Now, how many men did that affect? As stated in the first verse, all the Levites, right? No. The priests were only the family of Aaron. When these laws were given, that included only Aaron and his four sons (Numbers 3:2). The Levites were to work for and under Aaron (Numbers 3:6-9). They were not of the priesthood.
NUMBERS 6:5, 9, 18 5 – All the days of the vow of his separation, a razor shall not pass over his head; he shall be holy until all the days are fulfilled which he has separated to Yahweh, he shall allow the locks of the hair of his head to grow long. 9 – And if any man dies very suddenly beside him, and he defiles his consecrated head, then he shall shave his head on the day of his cleansing, on the seventh day he shall shave it. 18 – And the Nazirite shall shave the head of his separation at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall take the hair of the head of his separation and shall put it on the fire which is under the sacrifice of the peace offering.
These rules applied to the Nazirites and bring to mind a question – if the instructions were to keep a razor from his head, then was it okay at other times? Could other men shave their heads then? Think about it: if everyone had already been instructed not to shave the head or trim the beard, there would have been no need for these instructions.
NUMBERS 8:6-7 6 – Take the Levites from among the sons of Israel, and you shall cleanse them: sprinkle on them water of sin offering. 7 – And they shall cause a razor to pass over all their flesh and shall wash their garments and cleanse themselves.
Two points here:
- – This was specific to the Levites and
- – it was part of a cleansing or purification ritual.
DEUTERONOMY 14: 1 You are sons to Yahweh your Elohim; you shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead.
Wrong to shave your head and be bald? No, that is not what it says! There are two specific things here – “between the eyes” and “for the dead.” Apparently this was a custom of some of the people the Israelites either had or would encounter. It was a part of their religious tradition and Yahweh did not want them doing that. It was referring to only a specific shaving –it was for the purpose of honoring someone other than Yahweh.
At this point, we’ve checked the Torah. In it there are no direct commands for a man to have or not have a beard or for him to keep his hair either short or long. And, as we have seen, there are times that shaving the head is the proper thing to do.
II SAMUEL 10:4 And Hanun took David’s servants and shaved all half of their beards, and cut off their long robes in the center, to their buttocks; and he sent them away.
So what was the problem? They were most likely ashamed and humiliated because they had been caught and had their beards and robes cut. If they went home in that state, they would probably have faced taunting and teasing that they didn’t want to deal with. An insult to their manhood?
II SAMUEL 14:25-26 25 – And no man was handsome like Absalom in all Israel, to be so greatly praised. From the sole of his foot to his crown, there was not a blemish in him. 26 – And when he sheared his head – for it was at the end of days of days that he sheared it, because the hair was heavy on him, and he sheared it, he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred shekels by the king’s weight.
Notice where it says “it was at the end of days of days that he sheared it”. The Tanach translates that as “at the end of every year he would have his hair barbered.” Think how long a person’s hair can grow in a year’s time. Apparently letting it grow like that for a man was not a problem. And neither was cutting it off.
EZRA 9:3 And when I heard this thing, I tore my garments and my robe, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down stricken dumb.
“Plucked” is Hebrew #4803, marat, meaning to polish; by implication to make bald (the head). Shaving head and beard, as well as tearing of the clothes, was a sign of deep mourning. (Strong’s Hebrew-Greek Dictionary)
JOB 1:20 And Job rose up and tore his robe, and shaved his head.
Job was also mourning – the death of all his children.
SONG OF SOLOMON 5:11 His head is like refined gold; his locks are bushy and black as a raven.
“Bushy” certainly is not closely-cropped hair. It is the Hebrew #8534, taltal, meaning through the idea of vibration; a trailing bough (as pendulous). That would indicate longer hair than we had thought they wore. (Strong’s Hebrew-Greek Dictionary)
In Isaiah and Jeremiah there are several references to baldness or a razor on the head. We won’t go through all of those. Often it has to do with punishment or mourning.
JEREMIAH 25:23 Dedan; and Tema; and Buz; and all who cut the corners (of their beards).
There are a few verses phrased this way. But note that the words “of their beards” are in parentheses. They are not in the original Hebrew. So we could logically ask, corners of what? It does not clearly say here. This could refer to those who cut their beards and hair to copy a pagan style. Or it could be referring to something else altogether, such as a field.
JEREMIAH 48:37 For every head shall be bald, and every beard clipped. On all the hands shall be cuttings, and sackcloth on the loins.
“Clipped” is the Hebrew #1639, gara, meaning to scrape off; by implication to shave, remove, lessen or withhold. (Strong’s Hebrew-Greek Dictionary)
These verses are referring to those in Moab. It seems to describe someone in mourning. But in includes one thing Yahweh specifically condemned – cuttings. They are not to be a part of the customs of Yahweh’s people.
EZEKIEL 44:20 And they shall not shave their heads; and they shall not send forth long hair; they shall surely trim their heads.
Some jump on this Scripture as it is yet prophetic and apply it to themselves and others. But again, check the context. To whom is this referring? The priests, again – the sons of Zadok. Not the average man.
I CORINTHIANS 11:14 Or does not nature herself teach you that if a man indeed adorns the hair, it is a dishonor to him?
The word “adorns” here is the Greek #2863, komao. It means to wear tresses of hair; to have long hair. (Strong’s Hebrew-Greek Dictionary)
This is the only verse in the New Testament where anything is said regarding the length of men’s hair. The word beard does not even appear in the New Testament. There is no indication whether men of that time wore beards or were clean-shaven or whether it was their choice.
Based on the Scriptures examined, we cannot give anyone a specific “Thou shalt” or “Thou shalt not” when it comes to making a decision on whether or not to have a beard, to shave, or to maintain the hair short or somewhat longer. It does appear that men had a choice, unless they were of the priestly line or had a Nazirite vow. We can definitely say that the hair or beard should be clean and well groomed. It should not be grown or trimmed to copy the fashions that were or are used in religious worship. Yahweh does not want us to follow the ways of the heathen, whatever the century or the customs.
(The Scriptures quoted are from The Interlinear Bible, a literal translation by Jay P. Green, Sr., as general editor and translator, with the transliterated Hebrew names of the Father and Son, Yahweh and Yahshua - added.)
In many assemblies today, women can be seen with their heads covered with a variety of styles. Why? What is the purpose? Is it necessary? Does Yahweh expect it?
Usually there is a response that it is Yahweh’s instruction to be obeyed. Is it really? Yahweh’s Law is given in the first five books of the Bible. Where in that Torah is the command stated? No, they say it is in Paul’s writings. Are Paul’s writings a part of the Law? Are his writings the same as “Yahweh says”?
There are very few scriptures that even make reference to coverings and/or veils. We will take a look at each of them.
Genesis 24:65 For she (Rebekah) had said unto the servant, What man is this that walks in the field to meet us? And the servant had said, It is my master: therefore she took a vail, and covered herself.
Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, Robert Jamieson, A R Fausset and David Brown, volume 1,
Page 185 – “The veil is an essential part of a female dress. In country places it is often thrown aside; but on the appearance of a stranger it is drawn over the face, so as to conceal all but the eyes. But the text has “the Hebrew word for “the bridal veil -- in Syria and Persia of red silk -- which envelopes the entire person, and arrayed in which a bride is commonly led into the presence of her husband. It was in this attire, becoming her bridal character, that Rebekah was adorned when about to be introduced for the first time to Isaac. In a bride it was a token of her reverence and subjection to her husband.”
Is there any previous scriptural basis for such a bridal veil? In fact, where is the basis for the marriage ceremony?
Genesis 38:14-15 14-And she (Tamar) put her widow’s garments off from her, and covered herself with a vail, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife. 15-When Judah saw her, he thought her to be a harlot: because she had covered her face.
Do you get that? He thought she was a harlot because of her covering!
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr, M.A., D. D., General Editor, volume 2,
Page 878 – “The ‘veil’ with which Rebekah and Tamar ‘covered themselves’ was most likely a large ‘mantle’ in which the whole body could be wrapped.”
Numbers 5:18 And the priest shall set the woman before Yahweh, and uncover the woman’s head, and put the offering of the memorial in her hands, which is the jealousy offering: and the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water that causes the curse.
Those championing the wearing of the head coverings say that if the priest were to bare the woman’s head, then it meant she wore a head covering. The word “bare” is the Hebrew #6544, pawrah, meaning to loosen; by impl, to expose. It doesn’t specify whether he is to loosen a covering or her hair. In the past, women have worn their hair up, in a bun, coiled or braided around their heads. As late as the first part of the last century, this was a custom among the married women, especially the older ones. Many of those women felt exposed with their hair loose and appeared that way only in the privacy of their homes. That was evident in the television series “Little House on the Prairie.” (Strong’s Hebrew-Greek Dictionary)
Though the word is not used in Numbers 5:18, the next word in Strong’s after pawrah is interesting. It is derived from pawrah, which is a root word. #6545 is pera, meaning the hair (as disheveled). (Strong’s Hebrew-Greek Dictionary)
The Illustrated Dictionary of Bible Life and Times, Readers Digest, Barbara J Morgan, Editor-in-Chief,
Page 166, article “Hair” – “Hair was considered an important component of feminine beauty, and by the first century AD rabbis decreed that a woman must shield her hair from public view as a sign of modesty. Unkempt hair was generally considered a mark of mourning or shame; a woman accused of adultery would have her hair disheveled by a priest (Num 5:18).”
Rather than loosening a head covering, the priest may have been simply loosening and tousling her hair.
But did you notice that something else in that last quote? It said “Rabbis decreed”, not Yahweh.
As far as I have found, this covers the scriptures in the Torah that discuss headcoverings/veils. We found no directive from Yahweh or any command that the women are to keep their heads covered. Keep that in mind.
All Scriptures given to me beyond that as proof on the subject are outside the five books of the Torah.
Isaiah 30:1, in the King James, it says, “Woe to the rebellious children, saith Yahweh, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin.”
Does that really refer to a woman wearing a headcovering? It speaks of coverings – by rebellious people. It does not specify females.
To see exactly to what this is referring, I will type the words of this verse from The Interlinear Bible, by J. P. Green, page 556, in bold print, adding some definitions in between.
“Woe to rebellious sons, states Yahweh, to make counsel, but not from Me, and to weave (#5258 - nawsak - “to pour out, especially a libation, or to cast [metal]; by analogy, to anoint a king -- cover, melt, [cause to] pour [out]), a web (#4541 - massaykaw - a pouring over, i.e., a fusion of metal [esp a cast image], by implication a libation; a league; a coverlet [as if poured out] -- covering, molten image, vail), but not by my spirit in order (#4616 - mahan - heed, purpose on account of [as a motive or an aim], in order that) to add sin (#2399 - khate - a crime or its penalty -- fault, offense) on sin (#2403 - khatawaw - an offense [sometimes habitual sinfulness] and its penalty, occasion, sacrifice of expiation).” (Strong’s Hebrew-Greek Dictionary)
Once again the words of the same verse, in bold, as another writer translates it.
Matthew Henry’s Commentary, volume 4,
Page 129 – “They felt no need to consult -- felt they were so right. ‘They take counsel among themselves, and from one another; but they do not ask counsel, much less will they take counsel of me. They cover with a covering (they think to secure themselves with one shelter or other, which may serve to cover them from the violence of the storm), but not of my spirit (not such as Elohim by his spirit, in the mouth of his prophets, directed them to), and therefore it will prove too short a covering, and a refuge of lies’.”
Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, Robert Jamieson, A R Fausset and David Brown, volume 3,
Page 655 – “And that cover with a covering – i.e., wrap themselves in reliances disloyal towards Jehovah. ‘Cover’ thus answers to ‘seek deep to hide their counsel from their Lord’. … But the Hebrew may mean ‘who pour out libations:’ as it was by these that leagues were made (Exod. xxxiv. 8; Zech. ix. 11). … The Greek idiom for making a covenant, is, similarly, to pour out a libation. The English version takes the Hebrew as if from sakah, ‘to cover,’ as it is in ch. xxx.7, ‘covering,’ instead of from nasak, ‘to pour.’ Thus the princes of Egypt are regarded as the covering under which the Jews were hoping to find protection.”
The only other scripture used as a basis that coverings are necessary are the words of Paul. Keep in mind who is speaking as we go through these next verses. Is it Yahweh? No, it is Paul. He does not say “Yahweh says......” To whom is he speaking? Gentile converts. Did you ever look into their lives or their customs? The society around a group of people can have a strong influence on what is said to them because of what may have been going on in that area, at that time.
I CORINTHIANS 11
I Corinthians 11:3-4 3-But I want you to know that Messiah is the head of every man, and the man is head of a woman, and Yahweh is the head of Messiah. 4-Every man praying or prophesying having anything down over his head shames his head.
In verse 4, the word “anything” does not appear in the Greek. The word “down” is the Greek #2596 kata, meaning down (in place or time), in varied relations (according to the case with which it is joined).
The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible,
Page 130 in the Greek dictionary – “In I Cor. 11:4 ‘having his head covered’ is, lit., ‘having (something) down the head’ signifying that hair that hangs down is too long for a man, and consequently hair that does not hang down on a woman is too short.”
I Corinthians 11:5 And every woman praying or prophesying with the head uncovered shames her head; for it is the same as being shaved.
“Uncovered” is the Greek #177 akatakaluptos, meaning uncovered. But it does not say she is to be covered with a veil. Looking at the verse above, could it be that she must have hair that hangs down to cover her head? (Strong’s Hebrew-Greek Dictionary)
I Corinthians 11:6 For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn, or to be shaved, let her be covered.
Meaning that if her hair is really short, she may as well have it shorn. If she doesn’t want it shorn or shaved, then she should allow it to grow out to be a covering on her head.
I Corinthians 11:7-9 7-For truly a man ought not to have the head covered, being the image and glory of Yahweh. But woman is the glory of man. 8-For man is not of the woman, but woman of the man. 9-For also man was not created through the woman, but woman through the man.
In the original creation, woman came “through man” when Yahweh used one of Adam’s ribs to create Eve.
I Corinthians 11:10 Because of this, the woman ought to have authority on the head, because of the angels.
The word “authority” is the Greek #1849, exousia. It means privilege, i.e., force, capacity, competency, freedom, or mastery, or delegated influence. (Strong’s Hebrew-Greek Dictionary)
But it does not mean veil or any kind of cloth covering.
I Corinthians 11:11-12 11-However, man is not apart from woman, nor woman apart from man, in the Master. 12-For as the woman is out of the man, so also the man through the woman; but all things from Yahweh.
In the following of Yahshua the Master, man and woman are not separated. They both have an equal chance to be a child of Yahweh. As for who is from or through whom, Yahweh is the one who made it so.
I Corinthians 11:13 You judge among yourselves: is it fitting for a woman to pray to Elohim uncovered?
“Fitting” is the Greek #4241, prepo, meaning to tower up (to be conspicuous), i.e. (by impl) to be suitable or proper. (Strong’s Hebrew-Greek Dictionary)
Would it be suitable or proper for a woman’s hair to be extremely short and not hanging down as a covering?
I Corinthians 11:14 Or does not nature herself teach you that if a man indeed adorns the hair, it is a dishonor to him?
“Adorns” in the King James reads as “have long hair.” The Greek word is #2863, komao, meaning to wear tresses of hair. (Strong’s Hebrew-Greek Dictionary)
Strong’s Concordance comments: “Komao signifies ‘to let the hair grow long, to wear long hair,’ a glory to a woman, a dishonor to a man (as taught by nature), I Cor 11:14, 15.” (Strong’s Hebrew-Greek Dictionary)
I Corinthians 11:15 But if a woman should adorn the hair, it is a glory to her, because the long hair has been given to her instead of a veil.
The word “adorn” is the same as in the verse above. Did you notice what this actually says? Long hair instead of a veil! The King James says “for a covering.” “For” is the Greek #473, anti, meaning opposite, i.e. instead of or because of. “Covering is the Greek #4018, peribolaion. It is something thrown around one, i.e. a mantle or veil. (Strong’s Hebrew-Greek Dictionary)
Verse 15 is the only place in verses 3-16 of this chapter where the word for veil or covering is found in the Greek. It is not necessary that a woman wear a hat, veil, cloth or scarf over her head. Yahweh has given her long hair to take the place of that type of covering. Isn’t what He created good enough?
I Corinthians 11:16 But if anyone thinks to be contentious, we do not have such a custom, nor the churches of Yahweh.
Based on this, one in Yahweh’s assemblies would be contentious if they insisted women could pray or prophesy with short-cropped hair or if they insisted that the women must have a veil or other covering. Paul said it was a custom, and was a custom with Pharisaical Judaism.
To Be A Jew by Rabbi, Hayim Halevy Donin,
Page 180 – “Though never legislated by the Sages, the custom of not going about bareheaded at any time -- at home, in the synagogue and outdoors -- extends back several thousand years in time. In many ways, it has today become a mark of Jewish piety.”
“To wear a headcovering was the ancient Roman stigma for a servant. Free men went bareheaded. The Jews adopted this practice in a House of God and in prayer or whenever God’s name was mentioned in blessings to emphasize that they were the servants of the Lord. Gradually, the practice was extended to wearing a headcovering also under the open skies. It became the Jewish way of showing reverence for God.”
TRADITIONS OF MEN
Is this a subject which can be taken so far that it borders on the ridiculous? There have been some customs in Judaism where the hair of a bride was shaved and she was to wear a wig instead. Don’t think so?
http://everything2.com/title/Sheitl -“Sheitl (also sheitel, shaytel or shaitel, depending on your preference) is not, as it might sound, a term of abuse, but a Yiddish word meaning wig. Generally, it is used to refer to the wigs worn by married Orthodox Jewish women.”
“The driving force behind a woman covering her head is modesty. The rabbis whose discussions form the Talmud explain how a woman’s hair is one of the most erotic parts of her body. … Essentially, it amounts to a woman saving a part of herself for her husband. However, there are other people able to see a married woman’s hair: her children, other women and perhaps her father or brothers.”
“In Numbers 5 (5.18) and Isaiah 3 (3.16-17) references to uncovering a woman’s head are related to instances of shame or humiliation; it was a punishment for adultery.”
“Apart from these references, it is in the Schulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 75) where it is laid out that married women should cover their heads.”
http://www.ahavat-israel.com/torat/kisui.php -“Women who are or have been married (widows and divorcees) are required to cover their hair. A woman who has never been married does not have to.”
“It is an explicit law (Schulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, Ch. 75) – and not only a custom – of the Torah that a married woman is to cover her hair, Kisui HaRosh.”
“The priest shall stand the woman before G-d and uncover her hair….’ BaMidbar (Numbers) 5:18’
“The source for this prohibition is from the above verse, which deals with the laws of a sotah – a suspected adulteress. Rashi provides two explanations in the Talmud, Ketuvot 72a: One, that from the fact that she is punished midah keneged midah (measure for measure) for exposing her hair, we see that this is prohibited. Two, from the fact that we expose her hair we see that under normal conditions a Jewish woman’s hair should be covered.”
“Moreover, from the great reward received for performing this mitzvah one can learn that there is great importance to fulfilling this law.”
“As the Zohar states (III, 126a) in Parshat Naso, (Mishnah Brurah, Laws of Kriat Shema, Ch. 75): ‘Her children will enjoy increased stature over other children; moreover, her husband shall be blessed with all blessings, blessings of above and blessings of below, with wealth, with children and grandchildren…’”
http://www.sichosinenglish.org/books/beautiful-within/20.htm - “The objection that wearing a sheitel was not made a condition of the match prior to the wedding, is not at all convincing. Does wearing a sheitel have anything to do with keeping one’s word? It should be worn because it brings true good fortune to the husband, the wife, to children and grandchildren.”
“In the past the custom was to cut off the hair. Later on the custom spread of wearing a sheitel. Wearing a sheitel is especially appropriate now, when one can obtain a sheitel in various shades, which looks even nicer than one’s own hair.”
http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=174%letter=W - “A covering for the head, consisting of false hair interwoven with or united to a kind of cap or netting. Wearing false hair on the head to supplement a scanty natural supply, or as an adornment, appears to have been a common custom among women in the Talmudic period. The Mishnah calls false hair ‘pe’ah nokrit’ (a strange lock), and declares that on Sabbath a woman may wear a wig in the courtyard but not in the street, the apprehension in the latter case being that she might remove the wig and carry it from private to public premises, which is forbidden (Shab.vi. 5, 64b). The husband may object to a wife’s vow if it involves shaving off her hair. One tanna thought she might wear a wig, but R. Meir said the husband might object to the wig on the ground of uncleanliness (Naz. 28b). The question is discussed whether or not a wig may be considered as a part of the body of the wearer (Sanh. 112a; ‘Ar. 7b).”
“The wearing of the hair loose and exposed in the street was forbidden to women as disorderly and immoral. A married woman who disobeyed this Jewish ordinance (‘dat Yisra’el’) established a legal cause for divorce and forfeited her dowry (Ket. Vii. 6, 72a). This ordinance came to be scrupulously observed, and a married woman could be distinguished by her hair being entirely covered; if one went with uncovered head it was taken as evidence that she was a virgin (Sifre 11). For a woman, during the reading of the ‘Shema’, to leave visible hair which usually is covered is considered an impropriety (Ber. 24a). In the Middle Ages married women scrupulously cut or shaved off their hair, covering their heads with kerchiefs. Some women wore on the forehead a silk band resembling in color that of the hair. During the sixteenth century R. Judah Katzenellenbogen and R. David ha-Kohen of Corfu permitted a wig to be used under a cover (David ha-Kohen, Responsa, No. 90). Moses Alashkar permitted the side hair to be partly exposed (Responsa, No. 35). During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries rich women wore wigs in various styles, more or less exposed. The ‘pe’ah nokrit’ in the Mishnah was pointed out to prove the early custom, but the opponents of the innovation explained that the wig was covered, not exposed. R. Moses Sofer and his disciple Akiba Joseph were decidedly opposed to the wig (‘Leb ha-‘Ibri,’ pp. 129, 189, Lemberg, 1873).”
It is interesting that they will take something fake and think Yahweh will honor that while they destroy what He gave them as a part of their body. When he created the human bodies, He said “It is good.” But not good enough for them?
All these quotes are examples of what opinions of men can do to the laws of Yahweh. Were they adding things or changing things to suit their own beliefs and ideas? Are Yahweh’s people to be following the traditions of men?
There is only one question to be considered here. If headcoverings are as important as the proponents proclaim, why was Yahweh so silent about it? He said we are to obey HIS laws – and headcoverings are nowhere to be found in them.
WHAT YAHWEH DID SAY
Deuteronomy 4:2 You shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall you diminish ought from it, that you may keep the commandments of Yahweh your Elohim which I command you.
Deuteronomy 12:21 What thing soever I command you, observe to do it; you shall not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
KIPPAH / YARMULKE
(The Scriptures quoted are from The Interlinear Bible, a literal translation by Jay P. Green, Sr., as general editor and translator, with the transliterated Hebrew names of the Father and Son, Yahweh and Yahshua - added.)
Many Jewish men are seen wearing something on their heads, some of them all the time, others only when they go to worship or pray. It is a small, circular covering that lays against the head. They may be plain or colorful or have designs on them. These are known as a kippah (kippot in the plural) or as a yarmulke in Yiddish.
Should we as Yahweh’s people be wearing one? Are they in the Scriptures? If so, where? If not, where and when did it originate?
Journey Through Judaism, Alan D Bennett, editor,
Page 26-27 – “Another practice shrouded in mystery is the wearing of a head covering, or kipah, a custom that was not enshrined as law until the sixteenth century, when Joseph Karo declared in the Shulchan Aruch that a man is not permitted to walk four cubits (about 72 inches) with head uncovered.”
“In biblical times bareheadedness among men was customary. The stories of Samson (Judges 13-16) and of Absalom (2 Samuel 14:26) speak of their hair as a crown of glory, indicating that their heads were uncovered. The priests covered their heads as a sign of dignity, and the High Priest wore a golden diadem on his miter inscribed with the words ‘Holy unto the Lord’.”
“The wearing of a head covering during worship might have been influenced by the practice of Roman priests, who offered sacrifices with covered heads. Muslims, too, worship with heads covered. The Talmud speaks of the desirability of covering one’s head as a sign of fearing God. In one passage, Rabbi Huna, son of Rabbi Joshua, would not walk four cubits bareheaded, saying: ‘The Shechinah (Divine Presence) is above my head’ (Kiddushin 31a).”
“According to the Talmud (Berachot 60b), the morning blessing, ‘Blessed art Thou, O Lord … who crownest Israel with beauty,’ was written to add sanctity to the act of covering the head. But the practice of wearing a head covering never fully gained acceptance in the talmudic period, remaining a status symbol and a sign that a man was married.”
“Centuries passed before the head covering was accepted as a religious symbol. As late as the thirteenth century, it was not customary in France for Jews to cover their heads during worship; yet during the same period in Spain the opposite was true. But by the sixteenth century it became a Jewish law, capturing the imagination of the Jewish people and gaining universal Jewish acceptance. Elijah of Vilna (1720-1797), known as the Vilna Gaon, acknowledged that the practice is based on custom.”
The First Jewish Catalog, Richard Siegel, Michael Strassfeld, and Sharon Strassfeld,
Page 49 – “Throughout Jewish history, the attitude toward covering the head has varied. Drawings from the third century C.E. depict Jews without hats. In the Middle Ages, many Jews wore hats only during prayer and study. Gradually it became a binding custom to wear hats at all times.”
“The use of a kipah – skullcap or yarmulka – instead of a hat is of post-talmudic origin. Lately, kippot have become a symbol for Jewish identification and are often worn for that reason alone.”
Jewish Literacy, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin,
Pages 662-663 – “In Jewish tradition, covering the head conveys the wearer’s sense that there is a force in the universe above him.”
“The head covering generally worn today is much smaller than a hat. Known in Hebrew as a kippah, it is usually made of cloth and is several inches in diameter.”
“Although the kippah might symbolize to many non-Jews a high level of Jewish religiosity, wearing one is a custom, not a law. Nowhere does either the Torah or Talmud mandate that a Jewish male wear a head covering.”
Sacred Origins of Profound Things, Charles Panati,
page 18 – “The earliest Jewish reference to a head covering exists in Exodus 28:4, which lists the vestments that set the priest apart from the congregation: ‘a breastplate, an ephod [a richly embroidered outer garment], a robe, a brocaded tunic, a miter [turban or headband], and a sash’.”
“The miter was called a mitznefet and was the tonsorial crown of the priest’s wardrobe. Whereas several biblical references view a head covering as a sign of mourning the dead, the Talmud associates headgear with the concept of reverence toward God and a gesture of respect by the faithful.”
To Be A Jew, Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin,
Pages 180-181 – “ ‘It is a custom not to walk under the heavens bareheaded’ (Orach Hayim 2:6). Though never legislated by the Sages, the custom of not going about bareheaded at any time – at home, in the synagogue and outdoors – extends back several thousand years in time. In many ways, it has today become a mark of Jewish piety.”
“To wear a headcovering was the ancient Roman stigma for a servant. Free men went bareheaded. The Jews adopted this practice in a House of God and in prayer or whenever God’s name was mentioned in blessings (such as during meals which are preceded and followed by blessings) to emphasize that they were the servants of the Lord. Gradually, the practice was extended to wearing a headcovering also under the open skies. It became the Jewish way of showing reverence for God. ‘Cover your head, so that the reverence of Heaven be upon you’ (Shabbat 156b).”
“The head covering that is usually worn, especially indoors, is a skullcap known in Yiddish as a yarmulke and in Hebrew as a kippah. No religious significance is attached to this particular type of headcovering.”
http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/Kippah.html - “KIPPAH (YARMULKE) Wearing of a head covering (yarmulke, skullcaps, kippah [pl. kippot] for men was only instituted in Talmudic times (approximately the second century CE). The first mention of it is in Tractate Shabbat, which discusses respect and fear of God. Some sources likened it to the High Priest , who wore a hat (Mitznefet) to remind him something was always between him and God. Thus, wearing a kippah makes us all like the high priest and turns us into a “holy nation.” The head covering is also a sign of humility for men, acknowledging what’s “above” us (God).”
http://www.templesanjose.org/JudaismInfo/faq/kippah.htm - “The kippah is a head-covering. It is also called a yarmulke in Yiddish and often rendered "skullcap" in English. The Torah does not mandate a head-covering. Hence it is not a mitzvah (commandment) and there is no berakhah (blessing) recited upon putting it on one's head. It is likely that the custom of covering one's head derives from the attire of the High Priest in the days when the Temple in Jerusalem stood. The High Priest garb included a head-covering. When the Pharisees democratized Judaism and taught that each person is like a priest to God and each table an altar, the custom of wearing a head-covering was transferred to ordinary people as a means of expressing awareness of, and respect for, God throughout one's day.”
“The term "yarmulke" has been explained as yireh melekh (fear or awe of the King). The custom of covering one's head. It would seem that the custom of wearing a head-covering grew slowly, over time. Originally, the kippah was worn for prayer, religious study, and while eating. By the 1500's, it was universally accepted among Jews as the proper dress throughout the day. Today, some Jews cover their heads throughout the day (except when bathing and swimming); others while praying, studying sacred texts, and eating; others not at all. In liberal synagogues, both men and women will cover their head or not, as is the custom. In Orthodox synagogues, only men are required to cover their heads.”
Harper’s Encyclopedia of Bible Life, Madeleine S and J Lane Miller –
From page 86 -- “Headdress – Apparently, Jewish men wore a headdress for special occasions (Isa 61:3), on holidays, or in times of mourning (2 Sam 15:30). We first see the headdress mentioned in Exodus 28:40, as a part of the priest’s clothing.”
“Hebrew men probably used a head covering only on rare occasions, though Egyptian and Assyrian men wore them often. Some ancient headdresses were quite elaborate, especially those worn by royalty. The common Egyptian man wore a simple headdress consisting of a square cloth, folded so that three corners hung down the back and shoulders. This may have been the type used by the Hebrews.”
From page 485 – “bonnet – a bonnet was worn by the ordinary priest. This bonnet was made of fine linen (Exod 39:28). The Hebrew word (migbaoth) from which bonnet was translated means ‘to be lofty’.”
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Judaism, Rabbi Benjamin Blech,
Pages 307-308 -“Headcoverings come in all shapes and sizes. They can be regular hats or cloth, velvet or satin kippot – the Hebrew word for small round headgear. Jews usually end up with large collections because they’re invariably given out as ‘favors’ at special occasions like weddings or Bar or Bat Mitzvahs.”
“How did a custom that originated long after the close of the Bible gain such acceptance? For one thing, its symbolic meaning appeals to many. It’s a way of acknowledging that there is someone ‘above us.’ The kippah (singular of kippot) as a symbol of God, also implies by its position that God is smarter than we are. Finally, in the absence of tefillin, which used to be worn all the time on the head and identified the wearer as Jews, the kippot is a substitute symbol for a biblical law we no longer consider ourselves worthy of fulfilling.”
There are a few Scriptures we can look at regarding the covering of the head of the men.
EXODUS 28:36-38 36 – And you shall make a plate of pure gold. And you shall engrave on it the engravings of a signet: Holiness to Yahweh. 37 – And you shall put a ribbon of blue on it, and it shall be on the miter, to the front of the miter it shall be. 38 – And it shall be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall bear the iniquity of the holy things which will sanctify the sons of Israel to all their holy gifts. And it shall be on his forehead continually, for the acceptance of them before the face of Yahweh.
“Miter” is the Hebrew #4701, metsnefet, defined as a tiara, i.e. official turban (of a king or high priest); diadem, mitre. (Strong’s Hebrew-Greek Dictionary)
The miter was a special item. It was to be worn only by the high priest. No one else was to wear it.
EXODUS 28:40 – And you shall make tunics for the sons of Aaron; and you shall make girdles for them; and you shall make bonnets for them, for glory and for beauty.
The word “bonnet” is Hebrew 4021, migba’ah, meaning a cap (as hemispherical). (Strong’s Hebrew-Greek Dictionary)
Bonnets were made for the other priests, the sons of Aaron. Not for all the Levites – just for the descendants of Aaron.
II SAMUEL 15:30 And David was going up in the ascent of the olives, going up and weeping, and his head was covered, and he was going barefooted. And all the people who were with him each had covered his head, and had gone up, going up and weeping.
This event occurred after a death. This was a part of their mourning procedures. What did he cover his head with? Probably the cloak that he wrapped around himself.
I CORINTHIANS 11:4 Every man praying or prophesying, having anything down over his head shames his head.
Interesting. All Jewish men have their heads covered when they pray, either by a kippah, a tallit, or the black hat the Orthodox wear. But, of course, they do not read the writings of Paul!
Also, if you use the scriptures by Paul here to insist that a woman wear a headcovering, then it would be totally wrong to ignore this one and have the men put a headcovering on. What would be the purpose? Wouldn’t that be hypocritical?
There are times the people of Israel probably did have their heads covered – with the cloak they wore. It would protect them from the glaring sun, from the cold, from the wind, from blowing sand, show they were in mourning, etc.
- There is no mention of a miter, bonnet, kippah or such in Scriptures for the average Israelite man, outside the priesthood.
- The kippah is not mentioned in the Torah or the Talmud.
- Custom and tradition are the basis of the kippah, not any law of Yahweh.
- The kippah has no religious significance.
- Until the second century C.E., the kippah did not become a widespread practice.
There have been a few suggest that since we will someday be priests of Yahweh (I Peter 2:9; Revelation 5:10) then we should be wearing bonnets and priestly clothes now.
Why? Based on what? Certainly not on Scripture. We are probably not of the descendants of Aaron. We will not be of the Levitical priesthood, but of Melchizedek. We have no idea what we will be expected to wear. It may not include anything on the head. The clothing may be completely different from what the family of Aaron wore. Wouldn’t it be presumptuous of us to take that decision on ourselves? Wouldn’t it be best to wait and see what Yahweh Himself has in mind?