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Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard – A Research Study Paper

Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard. What does the Scripture (Bible) narrate about this statement?

Many people in Israel and around the world who live by the word of Yehowah and the scriptures do not cut their beards, nor do they cut hair at the sides of their head. Over many centuries, scholars have argued what this statement means exactly.

The purpose of this research article is to inform the children of Israel (who live by the word of Yehowah) on what the scriptures say concerning beards and hair at the sides of our head, so that you can make an informed decision on what Elohim (God) actually means by the above statement.

First, we need to check how many times the words “beard” and “hair” are found in the scriptures.
 
Word in English Number of times it appears in the scriptures
Beard 16
Beards 4
Hair 64
Hairs 15

We can see that the word “beard(s)” is found 20 times and the word “hair(s)” is found 79 times in the scriptures. In order to understand what Elohim actually means by certain statements, we need to read the Bible from the beginning to understand the context. We cannot take one sentence from here and there and make a doctrine out of it. We need to go back in time and see what the intention of beard and hair was when Elohim created us.

Reading the scriptures in the chronological order from the beginning of creation:

“And Elohim created man in His image, in the image of Elohim He created him – male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). The word “image” used here comes from the Hebrew word “tselem” (Strong’s concordance number 6754). This word means replica (replicate) or resemble. So what did Elohim (God) actually do to man? He made a replica of Himself into a human being. In order to illustrate this point, we need to understand this next example:

When a son or daughter is born to a parent (father and mother), most parents generally say, “Now we have a son/daughter who looks like us from our own flesh”. Why would a parent make this statement? Because that child resembles them, as that child was born from them. To replicate means to be the reproduced copy of the parent.

Going back to the creation moment, when Elohim created man and woman, His statement was, “…in His image, in the image of Elohim He created him – male and female He created them”. This is indeed one of the greatest blessings that we human beings could inherit, that we are made in the image of the GOD MOST HIGH. This is indeed marvellous to know that we men/women are made in the image of God. While it takes some time for our mortal human minds to comprehend this beautiful statement, the truth cannot be hidden. Yes, we human beings are created in the image of the Creator of Heaven and Earth. This is the fundamental point that we need to understand and that is, when God created us, He made us resembling Him.

The first mention of shaving in Genesis can be traced to Genesis 41:14: “Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph and they hurriedly brought him out of the dungeon. And he shaved and changed his garments, and came to Pharaoh”.

From the above verse, it can be inferred that Joseph shaved the hair on his head and any facial hair or shaved his whole body. So it can be said that Joseph did have hair on his head and face/body. First, we need to know why Joseph shaved his hair. During the time of Joseph, when a person who knew how to interpret dreams was presented to the Pharaoh, the Pharaoh considered such a person as divine (one sent by God). Keep in mind that in the Egyptian culture during the time of Joseph, the Pharaoh considered himself to be god on earth. The titles of Pharaohs linked them with aspects of the likes of the hawk-god Horus, the vulture-goddess Nekhbet and the cobra-goddess Wadjet. During the time of Pharaohs, Egyptian priests had to shave their body hair every two days, so that they wouldn’t have any lice when serving their gods. The Egyptian priests had to wear only linen garments and they were not allowed to wear other clothing.

That is why in Genesis 41:14 it says that they quickly brought him out, because the Pharaoh was very eager to see Joseph. Since Joseph knew the Egyptian traditions, he knew that he could not come before the Pharaoh unless he shaved and changed his garments with appropriate ones, and he had to interpret the Pharaoh’s dream. So unofficially, we could say he looked like an Egyptian priest in the Pharaoh’s eyes, even though he never worshipped any of their gods (with no hair and dressed in the appropriate garments).The Pharaoh knew that Joseph was sent by God. That is why in verse 38 the Pharaoh said, “Could we find another like him, a man in whom is the Spirit of Elohim?” In verse 45, we then read that the Pharaoh gave him a wife of their priests (Egyptian).

What we can conclude from Genesis 41:14 is that Joseph did shave the hair on his body because necessity demanded, not because it was his norm. Moreover, you need to remember that Joseph was living in bondage (slavery) before the Pharaoh made him the top ranking official in his kingdom.

Now the question to be asked is, how come starting from the book of Genesis (Bereshith in Hebrew) up to the book of Leviticus (Wayyiqra in Hebrew) there is nothing mentioned about cutting the hair at the sides of one's head or trimming off the edges of one's beard (except for Genesis 41:14, the case of Joseph)? The time gap between Genesis and Leviticus is indeed considerable, comprising hundreds of years.

Can we assume that when God created us He did not expect us to cut the hair at the sides of our head or clip off the edges of our beard? Since it does not say anywhere before the book of Leviticus that we must cut them, we must assume that from the time man was created we were not supposed to cut/trim what God had created, as we were created in the image of God. After all, it was God who created our hair and beard. If it was meant to be shaven off, why bother creating it? It does not add up nor does it make any sense. Therefore, we need to assume, based on the scriptures (not based on human reasoning), that we are not supposed to cut/clip off what God created, which is the hair on the side of our head and beard.

Chronology of the word “beard” in the scriptures

The first time the word “beard” appears is in Leviticus chapter 13:29: “And when a man, or a woman, has an infection on the head or in the beard, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean, it is an eruption, a leprosy of the head or beard”. We can gather from this verse that for men it was the norm since the time of creation to have a beard. The verse does not say, “if you have a beard”, but it says, “in the beard”. The whole chapter 13 and the subsequent chapter of Leviticus are talking about leprosy, which is a highly infectious disease. When a person is in the recovery stage from leprosy, they must then shave off the hair on their body, including their head, beard, eyebrows and wherever hair is present (Leviticus 14:9).

So when do you shave your beard/hair (the reason to shave)? The first instance as per the scriptures is when you are recovering from a highly infectious disease such as leprosy (a medical condition).

When we come to Leviticus 19:27, the scripture says, “Do not round the corner of your head, nor destroy the corner of your beard” (Institute of scripture research Bible Translation). What do the words “round”, “corner”, and “destroy” mean as per Leviticus 19:27?

The word “round” comes from the Hebrew word “naqaph”, which means not to destroy or round (Strong’s concordance number 5362).

The word “corner” comes from the Hebrew word “peah”, which means extremity, corner or side (Strong’s concordance number 6285). In this particular context, corner means side.

The word “destroy” comes from the Hebrew word “shachath”, which means ruin, spoil or mar (Strong’s concordance number 7843).

The question that we need to ask now is, how can we destroy or ruin the corner of the head or the beard? In this particular context, the only way we can destroy the hair is by cutting it or shaving it off. When you do this, you technically have ruined/spoiled its natural beauty, which God created.

The next question that pops up is, what do you mean by “corner of your head” and “corner of your beard”?
corner of your head
Figure 1: Which is the corner of your head as per Leviticus 19:27?

If we look at Figure 1, we can basically say both A and B are corners of the head (this is where you can see the hair). But we need to read everything in its context. For instance, Leviticus 19:27 says, “Do not round the corner of your head, nor destroy the corner of your beard”. In this context, if area B was the corner of our head, then we wouldn’t see a beard just after the corner of B. So we can say that God is not referring to this as the corner as shown in the above figure labelled as area B.

When we look at area A, we notice that this area is very peculiar because it connects with the beard. In Leviticus 19:27, the verses are continuous and it perfectly fits with what the scriptures are referring to as the corner of the head. This area A is called sideburn. A sideburn is defined as “a strip of hair grown by a man down each side of the face in front of his ears”. So this area is what God is referring to as per Leviticus 19:27.
 
corner of your beard
Figure 2: Which is the corner of your beard as per Leviticus 19:27?

From Figure 2, you can say that all the areas where the red line originates in principle represent the corner of the beard. These are the areas of the beard that we should not disfigure (spoil, ruin or shave).

The question that comes to mind is why would Elohim ask the children of Israel not to round the corner of their head, nor destroy the corner of their beard? When Elohim instructs us to do something, He does not give us a reason in many cases, because He expects us to do what He has told us to do. For example, when you instruct your four-year-old child to do something, you expect them to do it rather than reason on why they must listen to the instruction.

The problem with human beings is that when God creates something that is beautiful in His eyes, we always have a tendency to destroy it. When God creates hair for us, we have a tendency to shave it off and the same holds true for beards. When God created trees and forests, we have a tendency to destroy them and cut them down under the pretext of creating jobs, industries, and for other purposes. We always want to find an excuse for not doing what God tells us to do.

One of the most often asked questions is why Elohim created hair on the human body. The medical literature shows that:
 
1. Hair protects us against the harmful ultraviolet radiation of the sun.

2. Facial hair protects our face from flying debris that is commonly seen in the environment we live in.

3. For some reason, if our body gets toxic due to any chemicals, the hair on our body helps us to identify this toxicity. In fact, the concentration of these toxic substances found in the hair is higher than that found in urine or blood.
 
4. Hair helps us to keep cool in summer months. The hair on our scalp provides us shade and covers us from the sun. Hair insulates our body to prevent a drop in body temperature.
 
5. Hair helps us to maintain the equilibrium of our body. When our body spins or falls, sensory hair cells are provoked by a sequence of events within the ear to release transmitter chemicals, which in turn stimulate sensory neurons to give us our orientation.  
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

God created facial hair for men to protect us from the harmful ultraviolet radiation, because we as men get more exposed to sun light than women when we work outdoors (farming, labour, construction, vehicle driving and other outdoor occupations). For instance, a study published by the Journal of Radiation Protection Dosimetry found that people with long beard and moustache (facial hair) were more protected from ultraviolet radiation than people with little or no facial hair (beard/moustache). The full research study was published by Parisi, A.V., Turnbull, D.J., Downs, N. & Smith, D. 2012, “Dosimetric investigation of the solar erythemal UV protection provided by beards and moustaches,” Radiation Protection Dosimetry, vol.150, pp.278-282.

Later in Leviticus 21:4-5, we read, “A leader does not defile himself among his people, to profane himself; they do not make any bald place on their heads, and they do not shave the corner of their beard, and they do not make a cutting in their flesh”.

Leviticus 21:4-5 is talking about not shaving the corner of the beard when you mourn dead people. When Israel came out of Egypt and when Elohim took them into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Hivites and Jebusites, these people were pagans worshiping pagan gods and used to have pagan rituals. One of these rituals was to cut their flesh (body) and shave their heads/beards when one of their people was dead. Since the children of Israel were a set-apart (holy) people, they were not supposed to follow the traditions and practices of other people in the land where they were living.

Conclusion

In the Torah (the first five books of law), the book of Leviticus is the only book that contains the law of beard and the law not to cut the hair at the sides of your head. It is evident from the above statements that we are not supposed to cut the beard or cut the hair at the sides, as it was meant for our own protection. Every part of the human body, including our hair, is created for a particular function. When we try to remove/destroy that hair from its original abode, then we invite all sorts of skin illnesses such as skin cancer. Hair (beard/sideburns) for men was intended/meant to do good. When God created men and women, He used beard in men to distinguish between a man and a woman. Since women don’t have beards, we men need to have beards as this is how we were created. In today’s generation, when we walk on the street, it is sometimes hard for us to distinguish men from women because of the lack of facial hair (beard) in men. Sometimes we need to think twice if they are actually a male or a female!

At the end of the day, it is our choice whether we want to follow the way of God or follow the way of men (traditions or practices existing in today’s society). In today’s generation, we see that the prevailing practice is not to have a beard and to shave our hair. In life, we always have a choice, just like the choice we had in the garden of Eden when God said “…but do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for in that day that you eat of it you shall certainly die” (Genesis 2:17). But our choice was to disobey God and follow our way.

God does not enforce His laws on us at this point in time. That is the same choice we had in the Garden of Eden. We hope this article will lead you to the way of God and we pray that His truth and His way of life set you free. In closing, we would like to quote Psalms 133: 1-2 “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe”.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. I’d like to have a beard, but I am hardly able to grow one. What can I do?

You technically can’t do anything. That is how you were created by Elohim and that is how it will be.

2. Due to some health reasons, I need to shave or cut off my beard and hair to get medical treatment. What do I do in such a situation?

You would have to shave or cut your hair. Using the principle (spirit of Torah) of the scriptures as found in Leviticus chapter 13, you are doing this to get well. You are not doing it because it is the norm of today’s society.

3. I have a facial injury which does not allow me to grow a beard. In such a situation, what should I do?

The answer to this question can be found in the answer to question two.

4. My work regulation does not allow me to have a moustache or beard, nor does it allow me to grow hair on the sides of my head. What do I do in such a situation? (Seen in military/police under the code of discipline.)

There are a number of professions and work situations that make it hard for people to have a full beard. For example, people working in mines, army/police professionals, certain medical professions, or a profession that requires you to be very close to rotating machinery/equipment. If one wants to work in such professions, it is a matter of choice most of the time. It is important to have a clear conscience in such matters, and one must be convinced in their own mind that they have made their decision based on the scriptures, because the principle of having a clear conscience in such situations is very important. Therefore, we need to be absolutely convinced that the decision we have made is the right one based on the circumstances that we are living in. William Penn once said, “Those who will not be governed by God will be ruled by tyrants”. This statement is very true. Either we are ruled by God or we are ruled by men.

5. I am quite young and my hair is getting grey (white hair) on my beard. Can I dye my hair?

We don’t see any scriptures that say you shall not dye your hair. So there are no issues with this. The primary reason for dyeing hair is to look neat (fine-looking) provided that the colour you use matches your natural hair colour.

6. The beard style that I use from time to time is goatee, van dyke or French beard. Are these beard styles still acceptable?

The scriptures tell us that you are not to mar or destroy your beard. Since all of the above styles include “substantial amount of shaving and trimming”, it is advisable not to have such beard styles.

7. I work in the mines and I have to wear a respirator mask all the time and my long beard is a hindrance when wearing the mask. In such a situation, what should I do?

The answer to this question can be found in the answer to question four.

8. Is there any specific length that you need to have for the beard?

No, you can grow it as much as it naturally grows.

9. My moustache is growing towards my lips and it is causing discomfort when I eat or talk. Can I trim it?

You can trim the area that is causing the problem, so that it does not create any discomfort.

10. Is it shameful for men not to have a fully grown beard?

In Biblical times, it used to be a shameful matter not to have a fully grown beard. People who live by the Torah, which is the Word of YHWH, believe it is shameful for them not to have a beard. For instance, in 2 Samuel 10:1-5 we see that a person called Hanun shaved off King David’s servants’ beards. We then read King David’s answer to this, “And they informed David, and he sent to meet them, because the men were greatly ashamed. And the sovereign said, ‘Wait at Yeriho until your beards have grown, and then return’” (2 Samuel 10:5). As you can see from the scriptures, it was a shameful matter even for King David to see men without beards.

11. I have started growing my beard and I have found after a few months that I am getting acne on the skin under my beard.

Unfortunately, some skin types are prone to acne, especially when you have a long beard.  In such situations, you can shorten or trim your beard so that you can prevent/control the acne. If the acne gets worse and is causing much discomfort, then you will have to shave your beard off for health reasons.