The Jewish men, except Nazarites, Nu 6:5,9, and cases like that of Absalom, 2Sa 14:26, cut their hair moderately short, 1Co 11:14, and applied fragrant ointments to it, Ex 30:30-33; Ps 23:5; Ec 9:8. In mourning they wholly neglected it, or shaved it close, or plucked it out by handfuls, Jer 7:29. Women prized a fine head of hair, and plaited, perfumed, and decked it in many ways, Isa 3:18,24; 1Co 11:15, so much as to call for apostolic interdictions, 1Ti 2:9; 1Pe 3:9. "Hair like women's" characterized the locusts of antichrist, Re 9:8. Lepers when cleansed, and Levites, on their consecration, shaved the whole body, Le 13; 14:8-9.
(1.) The Egyptians let the hair of their head and beard grow only when they were in mourning, shaving it off at other times. "So particular were they on this point that to have neglected it was a subject of reproach and ridicule; and whenever they intended to convey the idea of a man of low condition, or a slovenly person, the artists represented him with a beard." Joseph shaved himself before going in to Pharoah (Ge 41:14). The women of Egypt wore their hair long and plaited. Wigs were worn by priests and laymen to cover the shaven skull, and false beards were common. The great masses of hair seen in the portraits and statues of kings and priests are thus altogether artificial.
(2.) A precisely opposite practice, as regards men, prevailed among the Assyrians. In Assyrian sculptures the hair always appears long, and combed closely down upon the head. The beard also was allowed to grow to its full length.
(3.) Among the Greeks the custom in this respect varied at different times, as it did also among the Romans. In the time of the apostle, among the Greeks the men wore short hair, while that of the women was long (1Co 11:14-15). Paul reproves the Corinthians for falling in with a style of manners which so far confounded the distinction of the sexes and was hurtful to good morals. (See, however, 1Ti 2:9; 1Pe 3:3, as regards women.)
(4.) Among the Hebrews the natural distinction between the sexes was preserved by the women wearing long hair (Lu 7:38; Joh 11:2; 1Co 11:6), while the men preserved theirs as a rule at a moderate length by frequent clipping.
Baldness disqualified any one for the priest's office (Le 21).
Elijah is called a "hairy man" (2Ki 1:8) from his flowing locks, or more probably from the shaggy cloak of hair which he wore. His raiment was of camel's hair.
Long hair is especially noticed in the description of Absalom's person (2Sa 14:26); but the wearing of long hair was unusual, and was only practised as an act of religious observance by Nazarites (Nu 6:5; Jg 13:5) and others in token of special mercies (Ac 18:18).
In times of affliction the hair was cut off (Isa 3:17,24; 15:2; 22:12; Jer 7:29; Am 8:10). Tearing the hair and letting it go dishevelled were also tokens of grief (Ezr 9:3). "Cutting off the hair" is a figure of the entire destruction of a people (Isa 7:20). The Hebrews anointed the hair profusely with fragrant ointments (Ru 3:3; 2Sa 14:2; Ps 23:5; 45:7, etc.), especially in seasons of rejoicing (Mt 6:17; Lu 7:46).
Shaved closely by men, worn long by women, in Egypt. The Hebrew wore long beards; the Egyptians only in mourning did so. At the same time the Hebrew kept the distinction of sexes by clipping the hair of men (though hardly so much as we do; Le 10:6; Hebrew: "let not loose (the hair of) your heads," not "uncover," etc.), but not of women (1Co 11:6, etc.; Lu 7:38). The law forbad them to "round the corners of their heads, or mar the cornners of the beard"; for the Arabs in honour of the idol Orotal cut the hair from the temples in a circular form, and in mourning marred their beards (Le 19:27; Jer 9:26 margin, Jer 48:37). Baldness, being often the result of leprosy, disqualified for the priesthood (Le 21:20, Septuagint). (See BALDNESS.)
Absalom's luxuriant hair is mentioned as a sign of beauty, but was a mark of effeminacy; its weight perhaps was 20, not 200 shekels, the numeral resh (r) having by a copyist's error been substituted for kaph (k) (2Sa 14:26). Nazarites wore it uncut, a sign of humiliation and self-denial, at the same time of dedication of all the strength, of which hair was a token, to God (Nu 6:5; Jg 13:5; 16:17). Shaving the head was often practiced in fulfillment of a vow, as Paul did, the shaving being usually followed by a sacrifice in 30 days (Ac 18:18); probably his vow was made in some sickness (Ga 4:13).
Black was the favorite color. Song 5:11, the bridegroom's locks are "bushy" (curled), betokening headship; Song 4:1, the hair of goats in the East being fine like silk and flowing, the token of the bride's subjection; Song 1:5; 7:5, "purple," i.e. glossy black. Ec 12:5, "the almond tree shall flourish." does not refer to white hair on the old, for the almond blossom is pink, but to the almond (lit. the wakeful) tree blossoming in winter, i.e. the wakefulness of old age shall set in. But Gesenius, "(the old man) loathes the (sweet) almond."
In Song 7:5, for "galleries" translated "the king is held (fascinated) with the flowing ringlets." The hair was often platted in braids, kept in their place by a fillet. So Samson's "seven locks" (Jg 16:13,19; compare 1Ti 2:9; 1Pe 3:3). Egyptian women swear by their sidelocks, and men by their beards; the Jews' imitation of this our Lord condemns (Mt 5:36). Hair represents what is least valuable (Mt 10:30); innumerable to man, but "all numbered" by God's providence for His children. "Hair as the hair of women" (Re 9:8), long and flowing, a mark of semi-barbarous hosts (1Co 11:14-15).
The usual word in OT is s
Given by God as an ornament and a protection for the head. The Israelites were not to "round the corners of their heads," doubtless in allusion to some heathen practice, one of which has been described as "cutting the hair in a ring away from the temples." Le 19:27. Neither were they to make any baldness between their eyes for the dead. De 14:1. Baldness should come as a judgement. Isa 15:2; Jer 9:26, margin; Jer 48:37.
Long hair is referred to in the N.T. as the natural covering of a woman, as owning her subjection to the man, and is a glory to her; but nature teaches that if a man have long hair, it is a shame to him. His head must not thus be covered, for "he is the image and glory of God." 1Co 11:6-15. "Hair as the hair of women" is a symbol of subjection to a head, and effeminacy. Re 9:8.
The Hebrews were fully alive to the importance of the hair as an element of personal beauty. Long hair was admired in the case of young men.
In times of affliction the hair was altogether cut off.
Tearing the hair
and letting it go dishevelled were similar tokens of grief. The usual and favorite color of the hair was black,
as is indicated in the comparisons in
a similar hue is probably intended by the purple of
Pure white hair was deemed characteristic of the divine Majesty.
The chief beauty of the hair consisted in curls, whether of a natural or an artificial character. With regard to the mode of dressing the hair, we have no very precise information; the terms used are of a general character, as of Jezebel,
and of Judith, ch. 10:3, and in the New Testament,
The arrangement of Samson's hair into seven locks, or more properly braids,
involves the practice of plaiting, which was also familiar to the Egyptians and Greeks. The locks were probably kept in their place by a fillet, as in Egypt. The Hebrews like other nations of antiquity, anointed the hair profusely with ointments, which were generally compounded of various aromatic ingredients,
more especially on occasions of festivity or hospitality.
It appears to have been the custom of the Jews in our Saviour's time to swear by the hair,
much as the Egyptian women still swear by the side-locks, and the men by their beards.
HAIR. The eastern females wear their hair, which the prophet emphatically calls the "instrument of their pride," very long, and divided into a great number of tresses. In Barbary, the ladies all affect to have their hair hang down to the ground, which, after they have collected into one lock, they bind and plait with ribands. Where nature has been less liberal in its ornaments, the defect is supplied by art, and foreign is procured to be interwoven with the natural hair. The Apostle's remark on this subject corresponds entirely with the custom of the east; as well as with the original design of the Creator: "Does not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given her for a covering," 1Co 11:14. The men in the east, Chardin observes, are shaved; the women nourish their hair with great fondness, which they lengthen by tresses, and tufts of silk down to the heels. But among the Hebrews the men did not shave their heads; they wore their natural hair, though not long; and it is certain that they were at a very remote period, initiated in the art of cherishing and beautifying the hair with fragrant ointments. The head of Aaron was anointed with a precious oil, compounded after the art of the apothecary; and in proof that they had already adopted the practice, the congregation were prohibited, under pain of being cut off, to make any other like it, after the composition of it, Ex 30:32-33. The royal Psalmist alludes to the same custom in the twenty-third Psalm: "Thou anointest my head with oil." We may infer from the direction of Solomon, that the custom had at least become general in his time: "Let thy garments be always white, and let thy head lack no ointment," Ec 9:8. After the hair is plaited and perfumed, the eastern ladies proceed to dress their heads, by tying above the lock into which they collect it, a triangular piece of linen, adorned with various figures in needlework. This, among persons of better fashion, is covered with a sarmah, as they call it, which is made in the same triangular shape, of thin flexible plates of gold or silver, carefully cut through, and engraven in imitation of lace, and might therefore answer to ???????, the moonlike ornament mentioned by the prophet in his description of the toilette of a Jewish lady, Isa 3:18. Cutting off the hair was a sign of mourning, Jer 7:29; but sometimes in mourning they suffered it to grow long. In ordinary sorrows they neglected their hair; and in violent paroxysms they plucked it off with their hands.
John Baptist was clothed in a garment made of camel's hair, not with a camel's skin, as painters and sculptors represent him, but with coarse camlet made of camel's hair. The coat of the camel in some places yields very fine silk, of which are made stuffs of very great price; but in general this animal's hair is hard, and scarcely fit for any but coarse habits, and a kind of hair cloth. Some are of opinion that camlet derives its name from the camel, being originally composed of the wool and hair of camels; but at present there is no camel's hair in the composition of it, as it is commonly woven and sold among us.