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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

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Women were wont to cover their faces with veils in token of modesty, of reverence, and subjection to their husbands, Genesis 24:65; 1 Corinthians 11:3 , &c. In modern times, the women of Syria never appear in the streets without their veils. These are of two kinds, the furragi and the common Aleppo veil; the former being worn by some of the Turkish women only, the latter indiscriminately by all. The first is in the form of a large cloak, with long straight sleeves, and a square hood hanging flat on the back; it is sometimes made of linen, sometimes of a shawl or cloth. This veil, reaching to the heels, conceals the whole of the dress, from the neck downward; while the head and face are covered by a large white handkerchief over the head dress and forehead, and a smaller one tied transversely over the lower part of the face, hanging down on the neck. Many of the Turkish women, instead of the smaller handkerchief, use a long piece of black crape stiffened, which, sloping a little from the forehead, leaves room to breathe more freely. In this last way, the ladies are completely disguised; in the former, the eyes and nose remaining visible, they are easily known by their acquaintances. The radid is a species of veil, which Calmet supposes is worn by married women, as a token of their submission and dependence, and descends low down on the person. To lift up the veil of a virgin is reckoned a gross insult; but to take away the veil of a married woman is one of the greatest indignities that she can receive, because it deprives her of the badge which distinguishes and dignifies her in that character, and betokens her alliance to her husband, and her interest in his affections. This is the reason why the spouse so feelingly complains; "They took away my veil, רדד , from me," Song of Solomon 5:7 . When it is forcibly taken away by the husband, it is equivalent to divorce, and justly reckoned a most severe calamity; therefore, God threatened to take away the ornamental dresses of the daughters of Zion, including the radidim, the low descending veils: "In that day the Lord will take away the changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the veils," Isaiah 3:18 , &c.

The ordinary Aleppo veil is a linen sheet, large enough to cover the whole habit from head to foot, and is brought over the face in a manner to conceal all but one eye. This is perhaps alluded to by the bridegroom in these words: "Thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes,"

Song of Solomon 4:9 . In Barbary, when the ladies appear in public, they always fold themselves up so closely in their hykes, that, even without their veils, one can discover very little of their faces. But, in the summer months, when they retire to their country seats, they walk abroad with less caution; though, even then, on the approach of a stranger, they always drop their veils, as Rebekah did on the approach of Isaac. But, although they are so closely wrapped up, that those who look at them cannot see even their hands, still less their face, yet it is reckoned indecent in a man to fix his eyes upon them; he must let them pass without seeming at all to observe them. When a lady of distinction, says Hanway, travels on horseback, she is not only veiled, but has generally a servant, who runs or rides before her to clear the way; and on such occasions the men, even in the market places, always turn their backs till the women are past, it being thought the highest ill manners to look at them. A lady in the east considers herself degraded when she is exposed to the gaze of the other sex, which accounts for the conduct of Vashti in refusing to obey the command of the king. Their ideas of decency, on the other hand, forbid a virtuous woman to lay aside or even to lift up her veil in the presence of the other sex. She who ventures to disregard this prohibition inevitably ruins her character. From that moment she is noted as a woman of easy virtue, and her act is regarded as a signal for intrigue. Pitts informs us that in Barbary the courtezan appears in public without her veil; and, in Proverbs 7:13-14 , the harlot exposes herself in the same indecent manner: "So she caught him, and kissed him, and with an impudent face," a face uncovered and shameless, "said unto him, I have peace-offerings with me, this day have I paid my vows." But it must nevertheless be remarked, that, at different times, and in different parts of the east, the use, or partial use of the veil has greatly varied.

Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Veil'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​wtd/​v/veil.html. 1831-2.
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