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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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HAIR . The usual word in OT is sç‘âr , in NT thrix . Black hair was greatly admired by the Hebrews ( Song of Solomon 4:1; Song of Solomon 5:11; Song of Solomon 7:5 ). Women have always worn the hair long, baldness or short hair being to them a disgrace ( Isaiah 3:24 , Eze 16:7 , 1 Corinthians 11:15 , Revelation 9:8 ). Absalom’s hair was cut once a year ( 2 Samuel 14:26; cf. rules for priests, Ezekiel 44:20 ), but men seem to have worn the hair longer than is seemly among us ( Song of Solomon 5:2; Song of Solomon 5:11 ). In NT times it was a shame for a man to have long hair ( 1 Corinthians 11:6 ff.). This probably never applied to the Arabs, who still wear the hair in long plaits. The locks of the Nazirite were, of course, an exception ( Judges 16:13 etc.). The Israelites were forbidden to cut the corners of their hair ( Leviticus 19:27; Leviticus 21:5 ). In neighbouring nations the locks on the temples, in front of the ears, were allowed to grow in youth, and their removal was part of certain idolatrous rites connected with puberty and initiation to manhood. These peoples are referred to as those that ‘have the corners polled’ ( Jeremiah 9:26 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ). The practice was probably followed by Israel in early times, and the prohibition was required to distinguish them from idolaters. One curious result of the precept is seen among the orthodox Jews of to-day, who religiously preserve the love-locks which, in the far past, their ancestors religiously cut.

The Assyrians wore the hair long (Herod. i. 195). In Egypt the women wore long hair. The men shaved both head and beard ( Genesis 41:14 ), but they wore imposing wigs and false heards, the shape of the latter indicating the rank and dignity of the wearer (Herod. ii. 36, iii. 12; Wilk. Anc. Egyp . ii. 324, etc.). Josephus says that young gallants among the horsemen of Solomon sprinkled gold dust on their long hair, ‘so that their heads sparkled with the reflexion of the sunbeams from the gold’ ( Ant . VIII. vii. 3). Jezebel dressed her hair ( 2 Kings 9:30 ). Judith arranged her hair and put on a head-dress ( Jdt 10:3 ). St. Paul deprecates too much attention to ‘braided hair’ ( 1 Timothy 2:9 , cf. 1 Peter 3:3 ). Artificial curls are mentioned in Isaiah 3:24 . The fillet of twisted silk or other material by which the hair was held in position stands for the hair itself in Jeremiah 7:29 . Combs are not mentioned in Scripture; but they were used in Egypt (Wilk. op. cit. ii. 349), and were doubtless well known in Palestine. The barber with his razor appears in Ezekiel 5:1 (cf. Chagiga 4 b, Shab , § 6 ). Herod the Great dyed his hair black, to make himself look younger (Jos. [Note: Josephus.] Ant . XVI. viii. 1). We hear of false hair only once, and then it is used as a disguise ( ib., Vit . 11). Light ornaments of metal were worn on the hair ( Isaiah 3:18 ): In modern times coins of silver and gold are commonly worn; often a tiny bell is hung at the end of the tress. It is a grievous insult to cut or pluck the hair of head or cheek ( 2 Samuel 10:4 ff., Isaiah 7:20; Isaiah 50:6 , Jeremiah 48:37 ). Letting loose a woman’s hair is a mark of abasement ( Numbers 5:18 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ); or it may indicate self-humiliation ( Luke 7:38 ). As a token of grief it was customary to cut the hair of both head and beard ( Isaiah 15:2 , Jeremiah 16:6; Jeremiah 41:5 , Amos 8:10 ), to leave the beard untrimmed ( 2 Samuel 19:24 ), and even to pluck out the hair ( Ezra 9:3 ). Tearing the hair is still a common Oriental expression of sorrow. Arab women cut off their hair in mourning.

The hair of the lifelong Nazirite might never be cut ( Judges 13:5 , 1 Samuel 1:11 ). The Nazirite for a specified time cut his hair only when the vow was performed. If, after the period of separation had begun, he contracted defilement, his head was shaved and the period began anew ( Numbers 6:5 ff.). An Arab who is under vow must neither cut, comb, nor cleanse his hair, until the vow is fulfilled and his offering made. Then cutting the hair marks his return from the consecrated to the common condition (Wellhausen, Skizzen , iii. 167). Offerings of hair were common among ancient peoples (W. R. Smith, RS [Note: S Religion of the Semites.] 2 324ff.; Wellhausen, op. cit. 118 f.). It was believed that some part of a man’s life resided in the hair, and that possess on of hair from his head maintained a certain connexion with him, even after his death. Before freeing a prisoner, the Arabs cut a portion of his hair, and retained it, as evidence that he had been in their power (Wellh. op. cit. 118). Chalid b. al-Walid wore, in his military head-gear, hair from the head of Mohammed ( ib. 146).

The colour of the hair was observed in the detection of leprosy (Leviticus 13:30 ff. etc.). Thorough disinfection involved removal of the hair (14:8, 9). The shaving of the head of the slave-girl to be married by her captor marked the change in her condition and prospects ( Deuteronomy 21:12; W. R. Smith, Kinship 2 , 209). Swearing by the hair ( Matthew 5:36 ) is now generally confined to the heard. The hoary head is held in honour ( Proverbs 16:31 , Wis 2:10 etc.), and white hair is associated with the appearance of Divine majesty ( Daniel 7:9 , Revelation 1:14 ).

W. Ewing.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Hair'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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