Veil (or Vail [q.v.]) is an essential article of female apparel in the East.SEE DRESS.
I. Original Terms. — These may be divided, for the sake of convenient and clear treatment, into several classes.
(I.) General. — The following words (which, however, are the only ones rendered "vail" or "veil" in the A. V. as an article of dress) may be explained to be rather shawls, or mantles, which might at pleasure be drawn over the face, but not designed for the special purpose of veils, or for concealment of the features alone.
1. Mitpáchath (מַטפִּחִת, from טָפִח, to expand) denotes the wide outer and upper garment of a female (see Schroder, De Vestit. Mulier. Heb. c. 16), and is rendered "vail" in Ruth 3, 15; "wimple" in Isa 3; Isa 22. It evidently was one of the wrappers of different kinds in which the Eastern women envelop themselves when they quit their houses, These are of great amplitude, and, among the common people, of strong and coarse texture, like that in which Ruth carried home her corn (Ru 3:15). The illustration will show how sufficient the out-door veils of the Eastern women are for such a use. SEE WIMPLE.
2. Radid (רָדַיד, from רָדִד, to stamp out), rendered "veil" in Song 5:7; "vail" in Isa 3:23, apparently was another large and loose upper covering, probably of finer materials, from the manner in which it is mentioned in these texts. The former passage shows that it was an outdoor veil, which the lady had cast around her when she went forth to seek her beloved. SEE APPAREL.
3. Tsá'yiph (צָעַיŠ, from צָעִŠ, thought by Gesenius to be = עָטִפ, to cover up), invariably rendered "vail," is mentioned in Ge 24:65; Ge 38:14,19, under circumstances which show that it was one of those ample wrappers which women wore out of doors. The etymology, referred by some to the Arabic, subduplicavit, suggests that it was "doubled" over the shoulders, or folded about the body, in some peculiar manner which distinguished it from other veils. It is clear that it concealed the face, as Judah could not recognize Tamar when she had wrapped herself in a tsá'yiph. SEE ROBE.
4. Masveh (מִסוֶה, from סָוָה, to hide), invariably rendered "vail," is only used of the veil which Moses assumed when he came down from the mount (Ex 24:18). In 2Co 3:13-16 Paul designates it by the corresponding Greek word κάλυμμα, a covering. A cognate word, suth (סוּת, A, V. "clothes"), occurs in Ge 49:11 as a general term for a man's raiment, leading to the inference that the masveh also was an ample outer robe which might be drawn over the face when required. The context, however, in Exodus 34 is conclusive as to the object for which the robe was assumed, and, whatever may have been its size or form, it must have been used as a veil. SEE MOSES.
5. Massekáh (מִסֵּכָה, from מָכִך, to screen) is a general term for a covering of any kind ("vail," Isa 25:7; "covering," 28:20).
6. The words כּסוּת עֵינֵיַם, kesuth eyndyim, literally rendered "a covering of the eyes" (Ge 20:16), are rendered by some interpreters "a veil for the eyes," i.e. a complete veil, to conceal Sarah's beauty, and that she might in future be known to all as a married woman. But the phrase "a covering of, or for, the eyes" is used in the sense of a present offered as an expiation for some fault, in order that one may shut his eyes upon it, connive at it, or take no more notice of it: "Behold, this (the thousand pieces of silver) is to thee a penalty for all which has happened with thee and before all men" a compensation for the wrong Abimelech did to Sarah by forcibly depriving her of her liberty, and a public declaration of his honor and her innocence. There can be no doubt that the veil for concealing the face is of very remote antiquity; but we have no evidence that it was a general article of female attire in the time of Sarah, either in Egypt or Palestine. From the monuments of Egypt, it seems not to have been worn by the females of that nation, as the women in the reign of the Pharaohs exposed their faces and were permitted as much liberty as the ladies of modern Europe. This custom was not changed till the conquest of Egypt by the Persians. — SEE COVERING OF THE EYES.
7. The Greek word ἐξουσία, literally translated "power" in 1Co 11:10, seems to denote metaphorically a kind of head-gear, a veil, or the ancient couvrechef (kerchief); hence the emblem of subjection to the power of a husband. But the apostle, in pointing out certain irregularities in the Christian assemblies, observes that every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoreth her head," i.e. her husband. Hence, as the woman is to be in subjection to her husband, the apostle enjoins, "For this cause ought the woman to bring honor upon her head (i.e. upon her husband) for, the sake of the angels," i.e. the ministers, that they may not be put to the trouble of adverting to any such irregularities in the assemblies of the faithful (ver. 3-16). SEE WOMAN.
(II.) Special. — Another class of coverings which alone offer any resemblance to the veils used among us are those which the Eastern women wear indoors, and which are usually of muslin or other light texture, attached to the head-dress and falling down over the back. They are of different kinds and names, some descending only to the waist, while others reach nearly to the ground. — The Heb. terms that follow appear to designate some of these, but they are never rendered "vail" or "veil" in the A. V.
1. Mispechdh (מַספּחָה, from סָפִח, to pour out) is used of the veils which the false prophets placed upon their heads (Eze 13:18,21; A. V. "kerchiefs"). The word is understood by Gesenius (Thesaur. p. 965) of cushions or mattresses, but the etymology of it is equally, if not more, favorable to the sense of a flowing veil, and this accords better with the notice that they were, to: be placed "'upon the head of every stature," implying that the length of the veil-was proportioned to the height of the wearer (Fürst, Lex. s.v.; Hitzig.in Ezekiel loc. cit.). SEE KERCHIEF.
2. Ráal (plur. realoth, רעָלוֹת, from רָעִל, to flutter) is used of the light veils worn by females (Isa 3:19; A.V. "mufflers"), which were so called from their rustling motion. The same term is applied in the Mishna (Sab. 6:6) to the veils worn by Arabian women, meaning a slender piece of dress fastened above the eves in such a manner that one part was thrown over the head and fell down Upon the back, while the other shaded the face and dropped on the breast; 'which perhaps approached as near as any other article of antiquity to the modern veil. SEE MUFFLER.
3. Tsammâh (צִמָּה, from צָמִם, to cover) is understood by the A. V. of "locks" of hair (Song 4:1,3; Song 6:7; Isa 47:2); but the contents of the passages in which it is used favor the sense of veil, the wearers of the article being in each case highly born and handsomely dressed. As these passages refer to the effect of the veil as connected with the head-dress, it may perhaps have been one of those veils which have been already described as a part of in-door dress, although it must be admitted that the expressions are almost equally applicable to some kind of street-veil. SEE HEADDRESS.
II. Use. — In ancient times the veil was adopted only in exceptional cases, either as an article of ornamental dress (Song 4:1,3; Song 6:7), or by betrothed maidens in the presence of their future husbands, especially at the time of the wedding (Ge 24:65; Ge 29:25), SEE MARRIAGE, or, lastly, by women of loose character for purposes of concealment (Ge 38:14). But, generally speaking, women both married and unmarried appeared in public with their faces exposed among the Jews (Ge 12:14; Ge 24:16; Ge 29:10; 1Sa 1:12). At present females are rarely seen without a veil in Oriental countries, so much so that in Egypt it is deemed more requisite to conceal the-face, including the top and back of the head, than other parts of the person (Lane, Mod. Egypt. 1, 72). Women are even delicate about exposing their heads to a physician for medical treatment (Russell, Aleppo, 1, 246). In remote districts and among the lower classes the practice is not so rigidly enforced (Lane, 1, 72). Much of the scrupulousness in respect to the use of the veil dates from the promulgation of the Koran, which forbade women appearing unveiled except in the presence of their nearest relatives, (Koran 23, 55; 59). Mohammedanism has introduced a very marked change in this respect wherever its influence has extended. The change, as Mr. Lane has remarked (loc. cit.), is peculiarly observable in Egypt. The burao, or face- veil, a long strip of muslin, concealing the whole of the face except the eyes, and reaching nearly to the feet, which is now a regular part of an Egyptian lady's walking attire, is never represented in the ancient paintings and sculptures of Egypt, and may certainly be inferred not to have been worn. And if not in Egypt, still less likely in Canaan. It is probable that in both countries alike the chief head-covering of the women, besides the loose mantle or kerchief occasionally thrown over it and drawn to some extent upon the face, was the long plaited hair, which appears from the Egyptian remains to have often consisted of a number of strings of hair reaching to the bottom of the shoulder-blades, the ends being left loose, or with two or three plaits fastened together at the extremity by woollen strings of corresponding color (Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt. 3, 369). Long hair, perhaps similarly done up, certainly, often plaited, was used by the Greek females; thus very commonly they appeared in public. Hence, also, Paul contends, in Church meetings they should have a head-covering, formed either of a mantle or shawl (peplumt) drawn somewhat over the countenance, or a veil in the stricter sense (κατακαλύπτω, 1Co 11:5-6). Such a partial covering seemed to become females in public assemblies; and for Christian women to have departed in such a matter from the general practice of the countries where they resided would inevitably have brought reproach upon the Christian name. The attempt of some, therefore, at Corinth to do so, was wisely discountenanced by the apostle as implying an assumption of equality with the other sex; and he enforces the covering of the head, as a sign of subordination to the authority of the men (ver. 5-15). The same passage leads to the conclusion that the use of the talith, SEE FRINGE, with which the Jewish males cover their heads in prayer, is a comparatively modern practice, inasmuch as the apostle, putting, a hypothetical case, states that every man having anything on his head dishonors his head, i.e. Christ; inasmuch as the use of the veil would imply subjection to his fellow-men rather than to the Lord (ver. 4). In modern times, as already observed, Oriental females are veiled with great strictness. Their ideas of decency forbid a virtuous woman to lay aside, or even to lift up, the veil in the presence of men. The female who ventures to disregard this prohibition inevitably ruins her character, and is regarded as a woman of easy virtue. To lift up the veil is reckoned a gross insult; and when females are out of doors propriety requires a man to let them pass without seeming at all to observe them. Some of the face-veils worn by modern Syrian, Arab, and Egyptian ladies are made of white muslin richly embroidered with colored silks and gold, and hanging down behind nearly to the ground. Sometimes they are made of black crape, and often ornamented with spangles, gold coins, false pearls, etc. The mere size and shape of the veils differ in different parts of the East. The outer garment, when out of doors, is a large piece of black silk for a married lady, of white silk for the unmarried; for the poorer females white calico, which completely, conceals every part of the dress excepting a small portion of a very loose gown and the face-veil. The ladies of Syria often have the veil gracefully thrown over the tantur, or horn (q.v.). See Hartmann, Hebriaerin, 2, 316 sq., 334 sq., 428 sq.; Jahn, Archaöl. I, 2, 130 sq.; Thomson, Land Hand Book, 1, 33 sq.; Van Lennep, Bible Lands, p. 537. SEE ATTIRE.