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Holman Bible Dictionary

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(KJV “vail”) Cloth covering.

1. Womens' veils. Rebecca veiled herself before meeting Isaac (Genesis 24:65 ). Her veil was perhaps the sign that she was a marriageable maiden. Tamar used her veil to conceal her identity from Judah (Genesis 38:14 ,Genesis 38:14,38:19 ). Another Hebrew term renders veil at Isaiah 3:23 . Here veils are but one of the items of finery which the elite women of Jerusalem would lose in the coming siege. The same Hebrew term is rendered, “shawl” (NAS), “cloak” (NIV, REB), and “mantle” (KJV, NRSV) at Song of Song of Solomon 5:7 . There, removal of the shawl was part of a humiliating assault on the king's beloved. At Isaiah 47:2 , the removal of one's veil is again a sign of shamelessness. Paul regarded the wearing of veils as necessary for women praying or preaching (“prophesying”) in public (1 Corinthians 11:4-16 ).

2. Moses' veil. Moses spoke to God with his face unveiled and then delivered God's message to the people with his face still unveiled. Afterwards, Moses veiled his face (Exodus 34:33-35 ). For Paul, Moses' practice illustrated the superiority of the new covenant: Christians see the abiding splendor of the era of the Spirit and God-given righteousness; Israel saw the fading splendor of the era of death reflected in Moses' face (2 Corinthians 3:7-11 ). Moses' veil further illustrated the mental barrier preventing Israel from recognizing Christ in the Old Testament (2 Corinthians 3:12-15 ). Through faith in Christ the veil is removed, and believers enjoy free access to God which transforms life (2 Corinthians 3:15-18 ).

3. Imagery. The “veil which is stretched over the nations” (Isaiah 25:7 NAS) is likely an image for death which is also swallowed up ( Isaiah 25:8 ). The veil possibly includes reproach as well.

4. Temple veil. This curtain separated the most holy place from the holy place (2 Chronicles 3:14 ). Only the high priest was allowed to pass through the veil and then only on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:2 ). At Jesus' death the Temple veil was ripped from top to bottom, illustrating that in Christ God had abolished the barrier separating humanity from the presence of od (Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; compare Luke 23:45 ). Hebrews 10:20 uses the tabernacle veil, not as the image of a barrier, but of access: Access to God is gained through the flesh of the historical Jesus (compare John 10:7 ).

Chris Church

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Veil'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hbd/​v/veil.html. 1991.
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