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The Bible tells us that a man should have a full, untrimmed beard, while trimming the hair on the head to an acceptable length. Much of this centers on the verse in Lev. 19:27 which should be translated:
'You must not shave or cut the corners of the hairs of your head and you are not to trim (mar or clip off) the edge (corners) of your beard.'The word for 'shave' or ''cut' is tah-kih-fu and means,
'to surround, compass' 'to go or come round, of time'.1 'To make or let go around' 'with men 'taking turns' at hosting banquets. In the sense of surround or encircle'.2 'Hunting nets are cast, drawn around (Job 19:6) and Israelites are forbidden to shave or trim around the head (leaving a tuft of hair on top, emulating pagan cultists - Lev. 19:27)'.3From this we see that the prohibition in the first part of the verse, 'not to cut' or 'shave' does not mean that men shouldn't cut or trim their hair but that it shouldn't be like what many youth do today. They shave or cut a patch of hair above their ears, encircling their heads. This is a pagan custom, most likely having to do with grieving for the dead. Bellinger states,
'The phrase, Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head is probably a foreign mourning rite, as also may be the intentional cutting of the beard in some way.'4James Freeman tells us that it could also be a form of divination:
'Among the ancients the hair was often used in divination. The worshippers of the stars and planets cut their hair evenly around, trimming the extremities. According to Herodotus the Arabs were accustomed to shave the hair around the head, and let a tuft stand up on the crown in honor of Bacchus. He says that same thing concerning the Macians, a people of Northern Africa. This custom is at present common in India and China. The Chinese let the tuft grow until it is long enough to be plaited into a tail.'5Freeman goes on to say that cutting the hair at death was an ancient pagan practice for the dead:
'It was also an ancient superstitious custom to cut off the hair at the death of friends and throw it into the sepulcher on the corpse. It was sometimes laid on the face and breast of the deceased as an offering to the infernal gods.'6As for not cutting or trimming the hair on one's head because of Lev. 19:27a, we have two cites in Scripture that tell us that cutting the hair is an acceptable practice and even encouraged. The first is found in Ezekiel:
Ezek. 44:20: 'And their heads they must not shave and long hair they must not grow. They must trim their heads.'Here we find that the hair on the head could be cut or trimmed. We are told that it should not be too long ('and long hair they must not grow'). Turning to the Nazarite Vow at the end of the Vow, the hair was to cut off:
'All the days of his vow of separation no razor shall pass over his head. He shall be holy until the days are fulfilled for which he separated himself to Yahveh. He shall let the locks of hair on his head grow long.' (Num. 6:5)During the Vow, if no razor could cut his hair, it shows us that the cutting of the hair was an acceptable practice. The prohibition not to cut the hair prevents one from doing what one would normally do. At the end of the Vow, the person was to shave their head. If the practice was to not cut the hair at all, the Nazarite could just go on with his life. Cutting the hair at the end of the Vow shows us that cutting the hair at other times was an acceptable practice.
'The Nazarite shall then shave his dedicated head of hair at the doorway of the Tent of Meeting, and take the dedicated hair of his head and put it on the fire which is under the sacrifice of peace offerings.' (Num. 6:18)
'Both verses prohibit rounding off the hair at 'the edges' or trimming 'the edges' of ones' beard. These injunctions' 'are found listed with other abominations such as body laceration, tattooing, and even cultic prostitution. Presumably the references to the avoidance of cutting the edges of one's hair refer to the peculiar markings which the pagans put on themselves at their funerary rites (Jer. 9:26 (H 25); 25:23; 49:32). It is thought that their intention was to make the mourner incognito to the spirits hovering round the deceased. In Israel such deference to the presence of evil spirits is prohibited.'8The Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament also declares that the trimming or cutting of the beard is a pagan practice that was associated with the dead:
'In Lev. 19:27a the Holiness Code forbids trimming the edges of the hair or cutting the edges of the beard; 21:5 repeats the latter prohibition explicitly for priests. This prohibition is probably aimed at offerings of hair for the dead, using hair cut from the head.'9The question arises that if one is not cutting their beard in relation to mourning practices for the dead, is it acceptable to Yahveh? We believe the answer is 'No.' Nowhere does Yahveh state that cutting the beard is acceptable. So cutting it in relation to say, one's desires vs. paganism, is not acceptable either. One might ask another question that should help us to see the answer clearer. Is one free to celebrate Christmas if one doesn't worship Tamuz but Yeshua? Although we find no explicit reference in the Bible not to celebrate Christmas, there are many indirect references not to. 10 And although we find no explicit references not to trim one's beard outside the concept of paganism, we find numerous references to the untrimmed beard as being the standard, Lev. 19:27b forming the background.
'There are five edges of the beard, each of which it is forbidden to shave (Rashi). But as a practical matter, since the exact areas of these edges are not clearly defined, it is forbidden to shave the entire beard.'11It would seem that whatever or however the Rabbis defined the five edges, the 'outer edges' or the 'ends' of one's beard would seem to be included in this. The Commentary on the Old Testament states,
'Neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard,' sc., by cutting it off (cf. ch. 21:5), which Pliny reports some of the Arabs to have done'.12James Freeman states that the beard was a sign of manhood. In reference to Hanun taking King David's messengers and shaving off one half of their beards (2nd Sam. 10:4) he writes that,
'According to Oriental sentiment a greater indignity could not have been put upon them. The beard is considered a symbol of manhood, and, in some places, of freedom - slaves being compelled to shave their beards in token of servitude. By shaving half their beard Hanun not only treated David's embassadors with contempt, but made them objects of ridicule. The beard is usually kept with care and neatness; and thus when David feigned madness in the presence of Achish, king of Gath, he 'let his spittle fall down upon his beard, ' which convinced the beholders that he must be bereft of his senses. 1 Sam. 21:13. So disgraceful is it considered to have the beard cut off, that some of the Orientals would prefer death to such a punishment.'13Freeman comments on Joab's slaying of Amasa by first touching his beard:
'To touch the beard of another was an insult, unless done as an act of friendship and a token of respect. Joab therefore showed the base treachery of his heart by coming to Amasa in the manner of a friend, thus entirely concealing his murderous intent. He inquired after his health, gently touched his beard as if to give a kiss, and then suddenly grasped it with his right hand and quickly stabbed the unsuspecting Amasa with the unnoticed sword which he held in his left.'14Freeman also notes that Jews didn't trim their beards. Citing Lev. 19:27 he states,
'By the idolaters the beard was also carefully trimmed round and even. This was forbidden to the Jews. Dr. Robinson says, that to this day the Jews in the East are distinguished in this respect from the Mohammedans the latter trimming their beard, the former allowing the extremities to grow naturally.'15Under 'Beard', The Illustrated Bible Dictionary states,
Israelites and their neighbors generally wore full round beards which they tended scrupulously. The beard was a mark of vitality and of manly beauty (Ps. 133:2; cf. 2 Sa. 19:24); to shave or cover it was a sign of grief or mourning (Is. 15:2; Je. 48:37, etc.; cf. Lv. 19:27; 21:5, enacted probably against idolatrous practices), or of leprosy (Lv. 14:9). To mutilate another's beard was to dishonor him (2 Sa. 10:4; Is. 50:6).16The cite for shaving or covering the beard (Is. 15:2), stresses the plight of another people (Moab), in being defeated (every head is bald and every beard cut off). Of course, this cannot be used to justify trimming one's beard. Jeremiah 48:37 also speaks of Moab and its destruction with the accompanying signs of this: the head is shaved and every beard cut off. That the leper was to shave the beard implies that all men were to have beards.
'The Hebrews generally wore full rounded beards, as contrasted with the desert nomads who frequently clipped or cut their beards (cf. Jer. 9:26; 25:23; 49:32; etc.). The Egyptians were clean shaven, although high officials wore artificial beards.' 'The Torah forbad trimming the edges of the beard (Lev. 19:27), though Ezekiel was told to shave off his beard as a token of coming destruction (Ezk. 5:1).'17One of the humiliations of a conqueror was to shave or take off the beards of the men. This Ezekiel displays to the Jewish people as a picture of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, under the direct command from Yahveh. Unger's Bible Dictionary, under 'Hair' states this about the beard:
'Among the Hebrews the beard was considered an ornament and was not shaven, only trimmed (2 Sam. 19:24).' 'The removal of the beard was a part of the ceremonial treatment proper to a leper (Lev. 14:9).' 'The custom in mourning was and is to shave or pluck out it and the hair (Isa. 15:2; 50:6; Jer. 41:5; 48:37; Ezra 9:3), to neglect it in seasons of permanent affliction (2 Sam 19:24), and to regard any insult to it as the last outrage that enmity can inflict (10:4-5). The beard was an object of salutation (20:9), and it was a custom to swear by it (Matt. 5:36). The law (sic) forbade the deforming of the head by cutting away the hair around it, and of the beard by cutting the corners (Lev. 19:27). This is understood to mean that the hair was not to be cut in a circle from one temple to another, as among the Arabs; neither might that portion of the face where the beard and hair met be shaved. 18 These regulations are thought by some to have reference to the fact that among some nations these customs are part of idolatrous worship.'19Events or incidents recorded in the Tanach don't mean that Yahveh endorsed them. For example, the mustache of Mephibosheth (which is cited above in terms of 'trimmed') doesn't tell us that God authorized trimming of the mustache. It records for us what might have been an acceptable practice in his day (versus what the Torah prescribes):
'Then Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king; and he had neither cared for his feet, nor trimmed his mustache, nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he came home in peace.' (2nd Sam. 19:24)It doesn't tell us that all Israel trimmed their mustache or that King David trimmed his, only that one man did so. Therefore, this cite cannot be used to allow for the trimming of the mustache or the beard. And of course the sacrifice of Jephthah's daughter by Jephthah doesn't mean that Yahveh condoned child sacrifice. It just shows us how far he was from the Torah:
Judg. 11:30-31: 'Jephthah made a vow to Yahveh and said, 'If You will indeed give the sons of Ammon into my hand, then it shall be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the sons of Ammon, it shall be Yahveh's and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.'Judges only records Jephthah's vow. No mention is made of it being a gross sin and violation of Torah but obviously it was against God's will. This is what can happen when one is devoid of Torah knowledge and understanding. So Mephibosheth, not having trimmed his mustache during the time of David's hasty departure from Jerusalem, doesn't mean that one could trim their mustache or shave their beard and still be following what the God of Israel desired for His People.
Judg. 11:34-35: 'When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, behold, his daughter was coming out to meet him with tambourines and with dancing. Now she was his one and only child; besides her he had no son or daughter. When he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, 'Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you are among those who trouble me; for I have given my word to Yahveh and I cannot take it back.'
'If you make an altar of stone for Me, you shall not build it of cut stones, for if you wield your tool on it, you will profane it.' (Ex. 20:25 NASB)The way that God has made Man is with a beard. 22 When we shave it to beautify 23 ourselves, as the ancient Greeks and Romans did, we alter God's design for us. It is a profaning or defiling of what God has made. The Hebrew word used in the translation, 'profane' is tih-hal-leh-hah, which means, to 'defile'. Benjamin Davidson says it means, 'to be pierced, wounded' 'to make common, to profane, pollute, defile' 'to violate, break, a covenant'.24