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Reference: Cuttings


Le 19:28; "ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for (in behalf of) the dead, nor print any mark upon you." And (Le 21:5) the priests "shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the grainer of their beard, nor make any cuttings in their flesh." The prohibition was directed against the pagan self inflicted mutilation or baldness which was supposed to propitiate the manes of the dead; probably a milder substitute (Homer, Iliad 23:141) for the human sacrifices offered over the dead, as the 12 Trojans immolated by Achilles at Patrochus' burial (Homer, Iliad 23:171,176), and as among the ancient Seythians (Herodotus, 4:71) and modern Africans (e.g. in Dahomey) at the death of chiefs both men and animals are sacrificed. The cuttings also expressed excessive grief, death being to the pagan a dark blank future (contrast 1Th 4:13).

Self mutilation and cuttings were also supposed to propitiate the idols at other times (1Ki 18:28). The Syrians (Lucian de Des Syr., 2:658,681; compare Eze 8:14), the neighbors of Israel in Canaan, not the Egyptians from whose land Israel had come, practiced these self cuttings, expressive of excited feeling. Tattooing also, in mark of allegiance to a deity, as soldiers and slaves indicated their devotion to those over them, is hereby forbidden. Voluntary disfigurement of the person is an outrage on God's workmanship (Speaker's Commentary, Le 19:28). This explains the "mark in the right hand or in the forehead" (Re 13:16; 17:5; 19:20). God signs His people with His own name on their forehead mystically (the most conspicuous, highest part of the body, whereon the helmet "the hope of salvation" is worn; implying open compression on their part as well as on His): Re 14:1-9; 22:4.

Paul's bodily sears, suffered for Jesus' sake, were God's own marks that Paul was His, in contrast to the circumcision marks in the flesh of their followers in which the Judaizing teachers gloried (Ga 6:17,13-14; Col 1:24; Re 7:3). Isa 44:5, "another shall subscribe his hand unto the Lord," Lowth explains, shall write upon his hand, I am Jehovah's; as soldiers punctured their hands in token of devotion to their commander. Brahmins bear similar marks on their foreheads. Cuttings of the flesh, the beard, whiskers, and hair of the head expressed extreme grief (Jer 41:5; 47:5; 48:37; compare Isa 15:2). In spite of the prohibition the Jews often practiced it in Jeremiah's time (Jer 16:6).

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