Hair (properly שֵׂעָר, sedr', θρίξ) is frequently mentioned in Scripture, chiefly with reference to the head. In scarcely anything has the caprice of fashion been more strikingly displayed than in the various forms which the taste of different countries and ages has prescribed for disposing of this natural covering of the head. SEE HEAD.
1. Of the more ancient nations, the Egyptians appear to have been the most uniform in their habits regarding it, and, in some respects also, the most peculiar. We learn from Herodotus (2, 36, 3:12) that they let the hair of their head and beard grow only when they were in mourning, and that they shaved it at other times. Even in the case of young children they were wont to shave the head, leaving only a few locks on the front, sides, and back, as an emblem, of youth. In the case of royal children, those on the sides were covered and enclosed in a bag, which hung down conspicuously as a badge of princely rank (Wilkinson, 2, 327, 328). "So particular were they," says Wilkinson, "on this point, that to have neglected it was a subject of reproach and ridicule; and whenever they intended to convey the idea of a man of low condition, or a slovenly person, the artists represented him with a beard" (Ancient Egyptians, 3, 957). Slaves also, when brought from foreign countries, having beards on them at their arrival, "were obliged to conform to the cleanly habits of their masters; their beards and heads were shaved, and they adopted a close cap." This universal practice among the Egyptians explains the incidental notice in the life of Joseph, that before going in to Pharaoh he shaved himself (Ge 41:14); in most other places he would have combed his hair and trimmed his beard, but on no account have shaved it. The practice was carried there to such a length probably from the tendency of the climate to generate the fleas and other vermin which nestle in the hair; and hence also the priests, who were to be the highest embodiments of cleanliness, were wont to shave their whole bodies every third day (Herod. 2, 37).
It is singular, however and seems to indicate that notions of cleanliness did not alone regulate the practice, that the women still wore their natural hair, long and plaited, often reaching down in the form of strings to the bottom of the shoulder-blades. Many of the female mummies have been found with their hair thus plaited, and in good preservation. The modern ladies of Egypt come but little behind their sisters of olden time in this respect (see Lane's Modern Egyptians, 1, 60). Yet what was remarkable in the inhabitants of a hot climate, while they removed their natural hair, they were accustomed to wear wigs, which were so constructed that 'they far surpassed." says Wilkinson, "the comfort and coolness of the modern turban, the reticulated texture of the ground-work on which the hair was fastened allowing the heat of the head to escape, while the hair effectually protected it from the sun" (Anc. Egypt. 3, 354). Josephus (Life, § 11) notices an instance of false hair (περιθετὴ κόμη) being used for the purpose of disguise. Among the Medes the wig was worn by the upper classes (Xenoph. Cyrop 1, 3, 2). SEE HAIR-DRESS.
2. The precisely opposite practice, as regards men, would seem to have prevailed among the ancient Assyrians, and, indeed, among the Asiatics generally. In the Assyrian sculptures the hair always appears long, combed closely down upon the head, and shedding itself in a mass of curls on the shoulders. "The beard also was allowed to grow to its full length, and, descending low on the breast, was divided into two or three rows of curls. The mustache was also carefully trimmed and curled at the ends" (Layard's Nineveh, 2, 327). Herodotus likewise testifies that the Babylonians wore their hair long (i, 195). The very long hair, however, that appears in the figures on the monuments is supposed to have been 'partly false,' a sort of head-dress to add to the effect of the natural hair. The excessive pains bestowed by the ancient nations in arranging the hair and beard appears almost foppish in contrast with their stern, martial character (Layard's Nineveh, 2, 254). SEE BEARD. The practice of the modern Arabs in regard to the length of their hair varies generally the men allow it to grow its natural length, the tresses hanging down to the breast, and sometimes to the waist, affording substantial protection to the head and neck against the violence of the sun's rays (Burckhardt's Notes, 1, 49; Wellsted's Travels, 1, 33, 53, 73).
3. Among the ancient Greeks, the general admiration of long hair, whether in men or women, is evidenced by the expression καρηκομόωντες Α᾿χαιοί ("well-combed Greeks"), so often occurring in Homer; and by the saying, which passed current among the people, that hair was the cheapest of ornaments; and in the representations of their divinities, especially Bacchus and Apollo, whose long locks were a symbol of perpetual youth. But the practice varied. While the Spartans in earlier times wore the hair long, and men as well as women were wont to have it tied in a knot over the crown of the head, at a later period they were accustomed to wear it short. Among the Athenians, also, it is understood the later practice varied somewhat from the earlier, though the information is less specific. The Romans passed through similar changes: in more ancient times the hair of the head and beard was allowed to grow; but about three centuries before the Christian era barbers began to be introduced, and men usually wore the hair short. Shaving was also customary, and a long beard was regarded as a mark of slovenliness. An instance even occurs of a man, M. Livius, who had been banished for a time, being ordered by the censors to have his beard shaved before he entered the senate (Livy, 27, 34). SEE DIADEL.
This later practice must have been quite general in the Gospel age, so far as the head is concerned, among the countries which witnessed the labors of the apostle Paul, since, in his first epistle to the Corinthians, he refers to it as an acknowledged and nearly universal fact. "Doth not even nature itself teach you," he asked, "that if a man have long hair, it is a shame to him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given her for a covering" (1Co 11:14-15). The only person among the more ancient Israelites who is expressly mentioned as having done in ordinary life what is here designated a shame, is Absalom; but the manner in which the sacred historian notices the extravagant regard he paid to the cultivation of his hair not obscurely intimates that it was esteemed a piece of foppish effeminacy (2Sa 14:26). To the Corinthians the letter of Paul was intended to administer a timely reproof for allowing themselves to fall in with a style of manners which, by confounding the distinctions of the sexes, threatened a baneful influence on good morals; and that not only the Christian converts in that city, but the primitive Church generally, were led by this admonition to adopt simpler habits, is evident from the remarkable fact that a criminal, who came to trial under the assumed character of a Christian, was proved to the satisfaction of the judge to be an impostor by the luxuriant and frizzled appearance of his hair (Tertullian, Apol.; Fleury, Les Maeurs des Chretiennes). SEE SHAVING. With regard to women, the possession of long and luxuriant hair is allowed by Paul to be an essential attribute of the sex — a graceful and modest covering provided by nature; and yet the same apostle elsewhere (1Ti 2:9) concurs with Peter (1Pe 3:9) in launching severe invectives against the ladies of his day for the pride and passionate fondness they displayed in the elaborate decorations of their head-dress. SEE PLAITING THE HAIR. As the hair was pre-eminently the "instrument of their pride" (Eze 16:39, margin), all the resources of ingenuity and art were exhausted to set it off to advantage and load it with the most dazzling finery; and many, when they died, caused their longest locks to be cut off, and placed separately in an urn, to be deposited in their tomb as the most precious and valued relics. In the daily use of cosmetics, they bestowed the most astonishing pains in arranging their long hair, sometimes twisting it round on the crown of the head, where, and at the temples, by the aid of gum, which they knew as well as the modern belles, they wrought it into a variety of elegant and fanciful devices figures of coronets, harps, wreaths, diadems, emblems of public temples and conquered cities, being formed by the mimic skill 6f the ancient friseur; or else plaiting it into an incredible number of tresses, which hung down the back, and which, when necessary, were lengthened by ribbons so as to reach to the ground, and were kept at full stretch by the weight of various wreaths of pearls and gold fastened at intervals down to the extremity. From some Syrian coins in his possession Hartmann (Die Hebrderinn am Putztische) has given this description of the style of the Hebrew coiffure; and many ancient busts and portraits which have been discovered exhibit so close a resemblance to those of Eastern ladies in the present day as to show that the same elaborate and gorgeous disposition of their hair has been the pride of Oriental females in every age. (See below.) From the great value attached to a profuse head of hair arose a variety of superstitious and emblematic observances, such as shaving parts of the head, or cropping it in a particular form; parents dedicating the hair of infants (Tertullian, De Animta) to the gods; young women theirs at their marriage warriors after a successful campaign; sailors after deliverance from a storm; hanging it up on consecrated trees, or depositing it in temples; burying it in the tomb of friends, as Achilles did at the funeral of Patroclus; besides shaving, cutting off, or plucking it out, as some people did; or allowing it to grow in sordid negligence, as was the practice with others, according as the calamity that befell them was common or extraordinary, and their grief was mild or violent. SEE CUTTINGS IN THE FLESH.
4. The Hebrews were fully alive to the importance of the hair as an element of personal beauty, whether as seen in the "curled locks, black as a raven," of youth (Song 5:11), or in the "crown of glory" that encircled the head of old age (Pr 16:31). Yet, awhile they: encouraged the growth of hair, they observed the natural distinction between the sexes by allowing the women to wear it long (Lu 7:38; Joh 11:2; 1Co 11:6 sq.), while the men restrained theirs by frequent clippings to a moderate length. This difference between the Hebrews and the surrounding nations, especially the Egyptians, arose, no doubt, partly from natural taste, but partly also from legal enactments, and to some extent from certain national usages of wide extent.
(a.) Clipping the hair in a certain manner, and offering the locks, was in early times connected with religious worship: many of the Arabians practiced a peculiar tonsure in honor of their god Orotal (Herod. 3:8), and hence the Hebrews were forbidden to "round the corners" (פֵּאָה, lit the extremity) of their heads? (Le 19:27), meaning the locks along the forehead and temples, and behind the ears. (See Alteneck, Coma Hebraeorum, Viteb. 1695.) This tonsure is described in the Sept. by a peculiar expression, σισόη (the classical σκάφιον), probably derived from the Hebrew צַיצַית (comp. Bochart, Canaan, 1, 6, p. 379). That the practice of the Arabians was well known to the Hebrews appears from the expression קצוּצֵי פֵאָה, rounded as to the locks, by which they are described (Jer 9:26; Jer 25:23; Jer 49:32; see marginal translation of the A.V.). The prohibition against cutting off the hair on the death of a relative (De 14:1) was probably grounded on a similar reason. SEE CORNER.
(b.) In addition to these regulations, the Hebrews dreaded baldness, as it was frequently the result of leprosy (Le 13:40 sq.), and hence formed one of the disqualifications for the priesthood (Le 21:20, Sept.). SEE BALDNESS. The rule imposed upon the priests, and probably followed by the rest of the community, was that the hair should be polled (כָּסִם, Eze 44:20), neither being shaved, nor allowed to grow too long (Le 21:5; Ezekiel 50). What was the precise length usually worn we have no means of ascertaining; but from various expressions, such as פָּרִע רֹאשׁ, lit. to let loose the head or the hair (solvere crines, Virgil. En. 3:65; 11:35; demissos lugentis more capillos, Ovid, Ep. 10, 137) by unbinding the head-band and letting it go disheveled (Le 10:6, A.V. uncover your heads"), which was done in mourning (compare Eze 24:17); and again גָּלָה אֹזֶן, to uncover the ear previous to making any communication of importance (1Sa 20:2,12; 1Sa 22:8; A.V., margin),.as though the hair fell over the ear, we may conclude that men wore their hair somewhat longer than is usual with us. The word
פֶּרִע, used as =hair (Nu 6:5; Eze 44:20), is especially indicative of its free growth (see Knobel, Comm. on Le 21:10). In 2Ki 1:8, "a hairy man;" literally, "a lord of hair," seems rather to refer to the flowing locks of Elijah (q.v.). This might be doubtful, even with the support of the Sept. and Josephus--ᾷΟπωΤροᾷ Σαᾷᾷᾷ--and of the Targum Jonathan — סַעֲרָן גּבִר — the same word used for Esau in Ge 27:11. But its application to the hair of the head is corroborated by the word used by the children of Bethel when mocking Elisha (q.v.). "Bald-head" is a peculiar term (קֵרֵח), applied only to want of hair at the back of the head; and the taunt was called forth by the difference between the bare shoulders of the new prophet and the shaggy locks of the old one. Long hair was admired in the case of young mea; it is especially noticed in the description of Absalom's person (2Sa 14:26), the inconceivable weight of whose hair, as given in the text (200 shekels), has led to a variety of explanations (comp. Harmer's Observations, 4, 321), the more probable being that the numeral כ (20) has been turned into ר (200): Josephus (Ant. 7, 8, 5) adds that it was cut every eighth day. The hair was also worn long by the bodyguard of Solomon, according to the same authority (Ant. 8, 7, 3, μηκίστας καθειμένοι χαίτας). The care requisite to keep the hair, in order in such cases must have been very great, and hence the practice of wearing long hair was unusual, and only resorted to as an act of religious observance, in which case it was a "sign of humiliation and self-denial, and of a certain religious slovenliness" (Lightfoot, Exercit. on 1Co 11:14), and was practiced by the Nazarites (Nu 6:5; Jg 13:5; Jg 16:17; 1Sa 1:11), and occasionally by others in token of special mercies (Ac 18:18); it was not unusual among the Egyptians when on a journey (Diod. 1, 18). SEE NAZARITE.
(c.) In times of affliction the hair was altogether cut off (Isa 3:17,24; Isa 15:2; Isa 22:12; Jer 7:29; Jer 48:37; Am 8:10; Josephus, War, 2, 15, 1), the practice of the Hebrews being in this respect the reverse of that of the Egyptians, who let their hair grow long in time of mourning (Herod. 2, 36), shaving their heads when the term was over (Ge 41:14); but resembling that of the Greeks, as frequently noticed by classical writers (e.g. Soph. Aj. 1174; Eurip. Electr. 143, 241). Tearing the hair (Ezr 9:3), and letting it go disheveled, as already noticed, were similar tokens of grief. Job is even represented as having shaved his head, to make himself bald, in the day of his calamity (1:20); probably more, however, as a symbol of desolation than as an ordinary badge of mourning; for it is in that respect that baldness is commonly spoken of in Scripture (Isa 3:24; Isa 15:2, etc.). The call in Jer 7:29 to cut off the hair — "Cut off thine hair, O Jerusalem, and cast it away; and take up a lamentation on high places" is addressed to Jerusalem under the symbol of a woman, and indicates nothing as to the usual practice of men in times of trouble and distress. In their case, we may rather suppose, the custom would be to let the hair grow in the season of mourning, and to neglect the person. But the practice would naturally differ with the occasion and with the feelings of the individual. SEE MOURNING.
The usual and favorite color of the hair was black (Song 5:11), as is indicated in the comparisons to a "flock of goats" and the "tents of Kedar" (Song 4:1; Song 1:5): a similar hue is probably intended by the purple of Song 7:5, the term being broadly used (as the Greek πορφύρεος in a similar application =μέλας, Anacreon, 28). A fictitious hue was occasionally obtained by sprinkling gold dust on the hair (Josephus, Ant. 8:7 3). It does not appear that dyes were ordinarily used; the "carmel" of Song 7:5 has been understood as = כִּרמַיל (A.V. "crimson," margin) without good reason, though the similarity of the words may have suggested the subsequent reference to purple. Herod is said to have dyed his gray hair for the purpose of concealing his age (Ant. 16:8, 1); but the practice may have been borrowed from the Greeks or Romans, among whom it was common (Aristoph. Eccles. 736; Martial, Ep. 3, 43; Propert. 2, 18, 24,26): from Mt 5:36, we may infer that it was not usual among the Hebrews. The approach of age was marked by a sprinkling (זָרִק, Ho 7:9; comp. a similar use of sparyqere, Propert. 3:4, 24) of gray hairs, which soon overspread the whole head (Ge 42:38; Ge 44:29; 1Ki 2:6,9; Pr 16:31; Pr 20:29). The reference to the almond in Ec 12:5, has been explained of the white blossoms of that tree, as emblematic of old age: it may be observed, however, that the color of the flower is pink rather than white, and that the verb in that passage, according to high authorities (Gesen. and Hitzig), does not bear the sense of blossoming at all. SEE ALMOND. Pure white hair was deemed characteristic of the divine majesty (Da 7:9; Re 1:14). SEE GRAY.
The chief beauty of the hair consisted in curls, whether of a natural or artificial character. The Hebrew terms are highly expressive: to omit the word צִמָּח — rendered "locks" in Song 4:1,3; Song 6:7; and Isa 47:2; but more probably meaning a veil — we have תִּלתִּלַּים (Song 5:11), properly pendulous flexible boughs (according to the Sept., ἐλάται, the shoots of the palm tree) which supplied an image of the coman pendlau; צַיצַת. (Eze 8:3), a similar image borrowed from the curve of a blossom; עֲנָק (Song 4:9), a lock falling over the shoulders like a chain of ear-pendant (in uno crine colli tui, Vulgate better, perhaps, than the A.V., "with one chain of thy neck"); רהָטַים (Song 7:5, A.V. "galleries"), properly the channels by which water was brought to the flocks, which supplied an image either of the comafluens, or of the regularity in which the locks were arranged; דִּלָּה (Song 7:5), again an expression for coma pendula, borrowed from the threads hanging down from an unfinished woof; and, lastly, מִעֲשֶׂה מַקשֶׁה (Isa 3:24, A.V. "well set hair"), properly plaited work, i.e. gracefully curved locks. With regard to the mode of dressing the hair we have no very precise information; the terms used are of a general character, as of Jezebel (2Ki 9:30), תֶּיטֵב, i.e. she adorned her head; of Judith (10, 3), (διέταξε, i.e. arranged (the A.V. has "braided," and the Vulg. discriminavit, here used in a technical sense in the reference to the discriminale or hair-pin); of Herod (Joseph. Ant. 14, 9, 4), κικοσμημένος τῇ συνθέσει τῆς κύμης, and of those who adopted feminine fashions (War, 4, 9, 10), κόμας συνθετιζόμενοι. The terms used in the N. Test. (πλέγμασιν, 1Ti 2:9; ἐμπλοκῆς τπιχῶν, 1Pe 3:3) are also of a general character; Schleusner (Lex. s.v.) understands them of curling rather than plaiting. The arrangement of Samson's hair into seven locks, or more properly braids (מִחלָפוֹת from הָלִŠ, to interchange; Sept. σειραί; Jg 16:13,19), involves the practice of plaiting, which was also familiar to the Egyptians (Wilkinson, 2, 335) and Greeks (Homer, II. 14, 176). The locks were probably kept in their place by a fillet, as in Egypt (Wilkinson, 1. c.).
Ornaments were worked into the hair, as practiced by the modern Egyptians, who "add to each braid three black silk cords with little ornaments of gold" (Lane, 1, 71): the Sept. understands the term שׁבַיסַים (Isa 3:18, A.V. "cauls") as applying to such ornaments (ἐμπλόκια);
Schrider (Vest. Mul. Heb. cap. 2) approves of this, and conjectures that they were sun-shaped, i.e. circular, as distinct from the "round tires like, the moon," i.e. the crescent-shaped ornaments used for necklaces. The Arabian women attach small bells to the tresses of their hair (Niebuhr, Trav. 1, 133). Other terms, sometimes understood as applying to the hair, are of doubtful signification, e.g. הֲרַיטים (Isa 3:22; acus; "crisping- pins"), more probably purses, as in 2Ki 5:23; קַשֻׁרַים (Isa 3:20, "head-bands"), bridal girdles, according to Schroder and other authorities; פּאֵרַרם (Isa 3:20, Vulg. discriminalia, i.e. pins used for keeping the hair parted; comp. Jerome in Rufin. 3, capult.), more probably turbans. Combs and hair-pins are mentioned in the Talmud; the Egyptian combs were made of wood and double, one side having large, and the other small teeth (Wilkinson, 2, 343); from the ornamental devices worked on them we may infer that they were worn in the hair. See each of the above terms in its place. In the Talmud frequent references are made to women who were professional hair-dressers for their own sex, and the name applied to whom was גידלת (probably from גדל, to twine or plait), "femina gnara alere crines" (Maimon. in Tr. Shabbath, 10, 6; comp. also Wagenseil, Sota, p. 137; Jahn, Archceöl. pt. 1, vol. 2, p. 114).
The Hebrews, like other nations of antiquity, anointed the hair profusely with ointments, which were generally compounded of various aromatic ingredients (Ru 3:3; 2Sa 14:2; Ps 23:5; Ps 45:7; Ps 92:10; Ec 9:8; Isa 3:24); more especially on occasion of festivities or hospitality (Mt 6:17; Mt 26:7; Lu 7:46; comp. Joseph. Ant. 19, 4, 1, χρισάμενος μύροις τὴν κεφαλήν, ώς ἀπὸ συνουσίας). It is, perhaps, in reference to the glossy appearance so imparted to it that the hair is described as purple (Song 7:5). SEE OINTMENT.
It appears to have been the custom of the Jews in our Savior's time to swear by the hair (Mt 5:36), much as the Egyptian women still swear by the sidelock, and the men by their beards (Lane, 1, 52,71, notes). SEE OATH.
Hair was employed by the Hebrews as an image of what was least valuable in man's person (1Sa 14:45; 2Sa 14:11; 1Ki 1:52.; Mt 10:30; Lu 12:7; Lu 21:18; Ac 27:34); as well as of what was innumerable (Ps 40:12; Ps 69:4), or particularly fine (Jg 20:16). In Isa 7:20, it represents the various productions of the field, trees, crops, etc.; like ὅπος κεκομημένον ὔλῃ of Callim. Dian. 41, or the humus comans of Stat. Theb. 5, 502. White hair, or the hoary head, is the-symbol of the respect due to age (Le 19:22; Pr 16:31). Hence we find in Da 7:9, God takes upon him the title of "Ancient of Days" (comp. Re 1:14), the gray locks there represented being the symbol of authority and honor. The shaving of the head, on the contrary, signifies affliction, poverty, and disgrace. Thus "cutting off the hair" is a figure used to denote the entire destruction of a people by the righteous retributions of Providence (Isa 7:20). "'Gray hairs here and there on Ephraim" portended the decline and fall of the kingdom of Israel (Ho 7:9). "Hair like women's" forms part of the description of the Apocalyptic locusts (Re 9:8) and is added to complete the idea of fierceness of the anti-Christian troop of cavalry, bristling with shaggy hair (comp "rough caterpillars," i.e. hairy locusts, Jer 51:27); long and undressed hair in later times being regarded as an image of barbaric rudeness (Hengstenberg, ad loc. Rev.).