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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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In time of mourning the Jews shaved their heads, and neglected to trim their beards. The king of the Ammonites shaved off half the beards of David's ambassadors, which was the greatest insult he could offer. This will appear from the regard which the easterns have ever paid to the beard. D'Arvieux gives a remarkable instance of an Arab who, having received a wound in his jaw, chose to hazard his life rather than to suffer his surgeon to take off his beard. It was one of the most infamous punishments of cowardice in Sparta, that they who turned their backs in the day of battle were obliged to appear abroad with one half of their beard shaved, and the other half unshaved. The easterns considered the beard as venerable, because it distinguished men from women, and was the mark of freemen in opposition to slaves. It was still, in times comparatively modern, the greatest indignity that could be offered in Persia. Shah Abbas, king of that country, enraged that the emperor of Hindostan had inadvertently addressed him by a title far inferior to that of the great shah-in-shah, or king of kings, ordered the beards of the ambassadors to be shaved off, and sent them home to their master. "One of the buffoons of the bashaw," says Belzoni, "took it into his head one day, for a frolic, to shave his beard, which is no trifle among the Turks; for some of them, I really believe, would sooner have their head cut off than their beard. In this state he went home to his women, who actually thrust him out of the door; and such was the disgrace of cutting off his beard, that even his fellow buffoons would not eat with him till it was grown again."

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Shaving'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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