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Bible Dictionaries

Holman Bible Dictionary

Hair

The covering of the human head and of animals. Ordinarily human hair is meant in biblical references (Numbers 6:5 ), though animal hair (wool) may be in mind (Matthew 3:4 ). Beautiful hair has always been desirable for both women and men (Song of Song of Solomon 5:11 ). In Old Testament times both men and women wore their hair long. Both Samson and Absalom were greatly admired for their long locks (Judges 16:13; 2 Samuel 14:25-26 ). In the New Testament era, men wore their hair much shorter than women did (1 Corinthians 11:14-15 ).

Gray or white hair was a respected sign of age (Proverbs 20:29 ). But baldness could be considered embarrassing or even humiliating (2 Kings 2:23; Ezekiel 7:18 ). In Leviticus 13:1 , which gives extensive instruction on the diagnosis of leprosy (probably including other skin diseases), the color of the hairs in an infected area of skin indicated whether the disease was present or had been cured. A cured leper was required to shave his entire body (Leviticus 14:8-9 ).

Hair among the Israelites required good care. Women usually wore their hair loose, but sometimes they braided it (2 Kings 9:30 ). New Testament writers cautioned against ostentation in women's hairstyles (1 Timothy 2:9; 1 Peter 3:3 ). Hair that was anointed with oil symbolized blessing and joy (Psalm 23:5; Hebrews 1:9 ). Some hosts provided oil to anoint honored guests (Luke 7:46 ). Mourning was indicated by disheveled, unkept hair (Joshua 7:6; 2 Samuel 14:2 ). Jesus told His followers not to follow the custom of the Pharisees, who refused to care for their hair while they were fasting (Matthew 6:17 ).

Israelite men trimmed their hair, but the law prohibited them from cutting off the hair above their ears (Leviticus 19:27 ). This restriction probably originally forbade some pagan custom (Deuteronomy 14:1-2 ), but orthodox Jews still wear long sidecurls. Those who took a Nazirite vow were forbidden from cutting their hair during the course of their vow, but afterward, their entire head was to be shaved (Numbers 6:1-21; Acts 18:18; Acts 21:24 ).

Because hairs are so many, they may symbolize the concept of being innumerable (Psalm 40:12 ). Because they seem so unimportant, they can stand for insignificant things (Luke 21:18 ).

Kendell Easley

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Hair'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hbd/h/hair.html. 1991.

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