THE BEARD LAW
Why did the Creator God require the Israelites to practice many seemingly unnecessary and unimportant rituals and laws and what do these physical laws have to do with your salvation or the building of spiritual character? Moreover, what benefit do these laws bestow on those who practice them? These laws show the Sovereign Father's earthly children how be holy and practice holiness. These laws also define the holy attitudes, behaviors, and characteristics that holy people must have in order to live and maintain a holy lifestyle:
"And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them, You shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy" (Lev.19:1-2 KJV).
The Israelites were to be a holy people because God had separated them from among the peoples of earth in order for them to be his kingdom of priests and his holy nation which would represent him and his way of life to all other people on earth.
When the Creator God said to the Israelites, "You shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy", he did not expect them to become holy as he is holy in a spirit realm of existence (i.e., become a spirit-being and live on earth as a spirit-being). If the Israelites were to actually become as God, they would have to become totally spirit. There were no instructions given to the Israelites concerning how to enter into the spirit realm of existence during their lifetime; therefore, becoming holy for the Israelites had to do with their physical existence and the way they were to conduct their lives in the physical world as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. See Ex.19:5-6 and my study, The Holy Ones and God's Law.
The apostle Peter wrote the following to all who have been called to salvation and who desire to live a life in harmony with their heavenly Father and his son the Savior of mankind:
"Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the favor that is brought to you by the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, do not pattern yourselves after the ignorance of your former desires. But as he who has called you is holy, so you be holy in all manner of behavior; Because it is written, You be holy; because I am holy" (1.Pet.1:13-16 Para.).
This instruction is clear. Those who are members of the Father's family must be holy as he is holy. The only way you can be holy as he is holy and practice a holy lifestyle is to first know and understand what it means to be holy. In order to acquire this spiritual knowledge and understanding, you must be a willing, dedicated, responsible, and teachable student of the Father's truth and way of truth. You must be willing to learn the laws that teach holiness and then put these laws to practice in your life.
THE BEARD LAW
One of the many laws the Creator God gave to Israel that had to do with holiness was the law requiring men to wear beards.
Leviticus 19:27 and 21:1-5 are the only two texts
that give clear instructions concerning the wearing of a beard by Israelite
males of the general population and by the Levitical priesthood. The following
are the specific prohibitions and requirements of this law:
All other references concerning the beard have to do with control of infectious disease, ritual purification, various prophecies, and events which mention the beard in the context of an object lesson.
There is little doubt that most adult males of ancient Israelite, as well as the Jews of Christ's time wore full beards in compliance with the law regarding beards noted in Leviticus 19:27 and 21:5. And there is no doubt that Christ and the apostles of the early church also wore full beards in compliance with this law.
The apostle James directed the following comments to the early church in order to remind them that they should not forget who and what they are and what is required of them:
"But you be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any is a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like a man seeing his natural face in a glass: For he sees himself, and goes his way, and quickly forgets what he is. But whoever looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed" (Jms.1:22-25 KJV Para.)
What is it about a man's face that would cause him to reflect on who and what he is and what is required of him? If he wore a beard in compliance with the holiness code, he would immediately be a reminded of his obedience to God and his ways.
Although what James said does not prove that all men of the early church wore full beards, it is certainly an indication that they did; otherwise, it is difficult to determine the meaning of the reference to a man's face reminding him of what he is and what is required of him.
Today, some people teach that in order for an adult male to be in good standing with God he must be bearded, but is this true? Is it mandatory for men to wear beards during the gospel age of salvation, just as they did under the first covenant with national Israel? If it is mandatory for men to wear beards, what is so important about a beard that the Creator God placed a law concerning it in his holiness code?
Because we are so far removed from the original giving of the law to national Israel at Mount Sinai, the brevity of the scriptures concerning the wearing of beards and the difficultly in deciphering the various meanings of the Hebrew words used to define this law, make it difficult to determine the exact application of this law.
Biblical Law and Holiness
If the law regarding the wearing of beards does apply during the gospel age of salvation, adult males of the Father's earthly family who are capable of growing beards should wear a full beard, because they have an understanding of both the letter and the spirit of this law. In order to determine whether or not adult males under the gospel age agreement are required to wear full beards, we must search the scriptures to see if other biblical laws, concepts, or principles give insight into the reason(s) that the Creator issued a law concerning a man's beard and the application of this law under his agreement with national Israel.
The first instruction concerning the wearing of beards is found in Leviticus chapter 19, which contains a list of laws that were to govern the Israelite's behavior as the Creator God's representatives on earth. Each of these laws is meant to reflect God's character, his goodness, and his intended perfect way of life for mankind. The Israelites were to practice and maintain Gods' righteous and holy ways in order to prosper and show the distinct difference between God's way of life and mankind's way of life. Moses is told to speak to the whole nation of Israel in Leviticus 19:1-2 and give them God's laws:
"And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them, You shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy" (KJV).
Therefore, it is clear that the instructions concerning beards applied to all adult Israelite males and is a part of the terms and conditions of the covenant between God and national Israel.
To All Adult Israelite Males
"You shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shall you mar the corners of your beard"
The word corners is noted in the instructions for both the head and beard. So perhaps, understanding the instruction concerning the hair on the head would help us to further understand the instruction concerning the beard. Does "not round the corners of the head" mean not to alter the ends of the hair, thus prohibiting cutting off the hair or trimming the length of the hair? Or does it mean not to alter the outline of the hair on the scalp?
The English word round in verse 27 is translated from the Hebrew word naqaph which is a primitive root; meaning to strike, to strike off; with more or less violence (beat, fell, corrode); by implication (of attack) to knock together, i.e. to surround, to go around, to enclose, to compass, to round circulate, to make round, or to round off.
The English word corners in verse 27 is translated from the Hebrew word peah which can mean mouth in a figurative sense, or a corner, an edge, a side, a quarter, a direction, a region, or an extremity.
We know from the scriptures that it was acceptable and prudent for men to cut their hair (See Num.6:5; 2.Sam.14:26; Ezk.44:20; 1.Cor.11:14); therefore, the Hebrew word peah in verse 27 must refer to the outline of the hair on the scalp (i.e., the confines of the hair on the skin, not the hair length).
The instruction "not round the corners of the head" may have been a prohibition against shaving the hair on the head in the fashion of the ancient Egyptians and other cultures who cropped their hair short or shaved it to form a circle, which was a part of the worship of their gods. These types of haircuts may also have been prohibited because they disfigure a man who is made in the image of God and therefore is a show of open contempt for God and his creation.
The second part of this instruction is "neither shall you mar the corners of your beard." The English phrase "mar the corners" in verse 27 is translated from two Hebrew words shachath and peah. Shachath can mean to decay, (i.e., to cause ruin, cast off , corrupt, destroy, or mar). Therefore, we know that the beard is not to be disfigured or destroyed.
As with the hair on the head, in order to clearly understand this instruction, we have to know what "the corners of a beard" are. Does "the corners" of a beard mean the ends of the beard, thus prohibiting trimming the length of the beard? Does it mean not to alter the outline of the hair on the skin of the face?
From the many meanings of the word peah, it could be assumed that a priest was prohibited from trimming the length of his beard. However, it seems logical that if this were what was intended, a Hebrew word that clearly indicated the end or termination of something would have been used, such as, a derivative of the Hebrew verb qasa, which means cut off. The Hebrew words qsat, qaseh, qeseh,and qasu, derived from qasa in noun form express a termination point of a thing such as a border or a coastline or the tip of a rod.
Because the Hebrew word peah used in verse 27 does not clearly define the totality of the beard and is the same word used to define the limits of the hair on the head and no Hebrew word is used in verse 27 to define the length of the beard, it seems logical to assume that the corners (i.e., the peah) of the beard refers to the hair on the skin of the face and not the hairs length.
The meaning of both Hebrew words that define what was not to be done to a man's beard depends on the context in which these words are used; therefore, the following are logical assumptions concerning a man's beard:
It is clear from the instruction in verse 27 that
a prohibition against disfiguring the beard is contained in this law, so the
following can be logically assumptions thus far in the analysis of this law:
Although the law does not clearly state that all adult Israelite males must wear beards, the biblical evidence clearly shows that this was the case. The record also shows that it was a disgrace for an Israelite male to have his beard disfigured or shaved off for reasons other than those specifically granted within God's law or required by God for a specific reason.
Although there is no clear instruction that required Israelite men to continually wear a beard as is required of the Levitical priesthood, what is clear is that, if a man wears a beard, he must wear a full beard and he is prohibited from altering the outline of the beard on the face as a repetitive routine practice. See Lev.19:27.
The Levitical Priesthood
The second instruction concerning the wearing of beards is found in Leviticus, chapter 21. This whole chapter contains various instructions to the priesthood concerning their conduct and things that they must avoid and not do in order to remain in a condition of ceremonial purity. In verse 1, Moses is told to speak specifically to the priesthood and in verses 4-5 the priests are prohibited from shaving their beards and intentionally scaring their skin by cutting it:
"And the Lord said to Moses, Speak to the priests the sons of Aaron . . . A leader shall not defile himself among his people to pollute himself; they shall not make baldness on their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard, nor make any cuttings in their flesh" (Lev.21:1;4-5 KJV). See also Lev.19:27-28; Deut.14:1.
The application of the law of beards for the priesthood in Leviticus, chapter 21 is firmly attached to the issue of defilement. Leviticus 21, verses 4-5 prohibit a priest from defiling himself by doing certain things, such as making bald spots on his head, shaving off the corners of the beard, or cutting his skin, which the societies around them did in mourning for their dead. The English word defile in verse 4 is translated from the Hebrew word chalal, which means to bore, and implies to wound or to dissolve and figuratively to profane or defile.
Leviticus 21, verses 16-23 further confirm that a priest is to be perfect physically in order to officiate in God's sanctuary.
All of the things mentioned in this chapter to be avoided by a priest had to be avoided in order for him maintain his ceremonial purity and to reflect godly character in the performance of his priestly office.
The English word shave in verse 5 is translated from the Hebrew word galach which means to be bald, to shave (off), to lay waste. The instruction is clear. A Levitical priest is prohibited from "shaving off the corner of his beard."
The English word corner in verse 5 is translated from the same Hebrew word (peah) used in Leviticus 19:27 concerning the general adult male population and the beard; therefore, we can assume that the prohibition is the same.
What is clear in the instruction to the priesthood concerning the beard is that the Creator God considered a priest defiled and unfit to serve as a priest if he altered the outline of the hair on his face.
The biblical and historical records clearly document that Israelite priests wore full beards and Psalms 133:1-3 confirms that Aaron, the first high priest of Israel, wore a beard in compliance to the holiness code:
"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore" (KJV).
The following seem to be logical assumptions concerning
a priest and his beard:
Israel, a Kingdom of Priests
"Now therefore, if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure to me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And you shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation" (Ex.19:5-6 KJV).
The Creator God chose Israel to be his personal representatives on earth; they were to be a nation of priests to be examples and teachers of his holy way to the rest of mankind. Therefore, they were not to mimic the religious practices of the nations around them as evidenced by his following three instructions:
"And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, I am the Lord your God. After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein you dwelt, shall you not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, where I bring you, shall you not do: neither shall you walk in their ordinances" (Lev.18:1-3).
"When the Lord your God shall cut off the nations from before you, where you go to possess them, and you succeed them, and dwell in their land; Take heed to yourself that you are not snared by following them, after that they are destroyed from before you; and that you inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. You shall not do so to the Lord your God: for every abomination to the Lord, which he hates, have they done to their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. What ever thing I command you, observe to do it: you shall not add to it, nor diminish from it" (Deut.12:29-32).
"When you are come into the land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not learn to do after the abominations of those nations" (Deut.18:9). See also Jer.10:2.
Some biblical scholars suggest that the only purpose for a law regarding wearing beards was to differentiate Israelites from other peoples. This reason seems unlikely given the context in which the law is set forth and the instructions the Creator gave to the Israelites not to mimic the religious practices of other nations.
A more plausible reason for prohibiting Levitical Priests from shaving portions of their heads and beards is that it was common for the priests of false gods to shave their heads and beards as a part of their religious practice. Also many priests of religions in opposition to the true God cut and fashioned their hair and beards in a certain way as a part of their superstitions, religious practices, and worship of their gods.
Because both Leviticus 19:27 and 21:1-5 prohibit an adult male Israelite from altering the outline of his beard, most likely the law concerning beards has something to do with a prohibition against practicing religious rituals of other nations and the defilement of a man's natural form, which adversely impacts his relationship with God.
Because all Israelites were to be part of a kingdom of priests (Ex.19:6) as the Creator's representatives to the world, another reason for the requiring all Israelite men to wear a full beard was probably to distinguish them from the pagan nations around them and to identify them as a nation of priests who served the Creator God.
The new covenant with national Israel will not be fully ratified until Christ returns and gathers the tribes of Israel into a new nation under his rule, so the law concerning the wearing of beards is still in force for all adult Israelite men who claim to remain within a covenant relationship with the Creator God.
Some assume that because the law concerning beards is stated twice, both references are intrinsically tied to each other in application (i.e., the law is to be universally applied to all adult males). However, this is not the case, because the priesthood is directly addressed with a rule specific to them. Perhaps the reason the law is stated twice is to clarify the difference in application between the general population and the priesthood.
RITUALS AND THE LAW
Consecration of the Levites
"God spoke to Moses, saying, Take the Levites from among the sons of Israel, and you shall cleanse them: sprinkle the water of the sin offering on them. And they shall shave all their flesh with a razor, and shall wash their clothes and clean themselves" (Num.8:5-7 Para.).
Here we see that in the initial consecration, all the hair was to be removed from the man's flesh, which includes the head and face.
The Nazarite Vow
"God spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the sons of Israel, and say to them, When a man or woman shall make the vow of a Nazarite in order to dedicate themselves to the Lord . . .. During the time of the vow no razor shall come upon the head. That one shall be holy until the vow that is made to the lord is completed. That one shall let the locks of the hair on their head grow all the days of their separation to the Lord" (Num.6:1-5 Para.).
Although the law regarding beards is silent concerning males under a Nazarite vow, it seems logical to assume that, because no razor was to touch the head during the performance of a Nazarite vow, an Israelite male who was required by law to wear a beard would not shave it off for the duration of the vow ( See Num.6:2-21).
EXCEPTIONS TO THE LAW
the following circumstances a man could shave off his beard without violating
Leviticus chapters 13 and 14 explain what to do in cases where there is an infection in the skin under the hair, on the head, or under the beard and how to perform the purification rituals after a person has been cured of leprosy.
"If a man or woman have a sore on the head or under the beard; the priest shall examine it, and if it appears to be more than skin deep and the hair in it is yellow and thin, the priest shall pronounce that person is unclean and has an infectious disease on the head or under the beard. But if it does not seem to be more than skin deep and there is no black hair in it, then the priest is to put the infected person in isolation for seven days. On the seventh day the priest is to examine the sore, and if it has not spread and there is no yellow hair in it and it does not appear to be more than skin deep, the infected person must shave all the hair except for the infected area, and the priest is to keep him in isolation another seven days" (Lev.13:29-32 Para.).
"But it shall be on the seventh day, that he shall shave all his hair off his head and his beard and his eyebrows, even all his hair he shall shave off: and he shall wash his clothes, also he shall wash his flesh in water, and he shall be clean" (Lev.14:9 KJV).
Although these two instructions are speaking to the control of an infectious disease, they do show that there are circumstances where it is necessary to shave off a part or all of the beard.
Israelite men of the general population of national Israel are permitted to shave off an existing beard for a legitimate reason other than personal preference. See Lev.13:29-32; 14:9; Num.6:1-5.
A Levitical Priest is permitted to shave off his beard for a legitimate reason other than personal preference. See Lev.13:29-32; 14:9; Num.6:1-5; Ezra 9:1-3; Ezk.5:1-4.
ARGUMENTS FOR AND AGAINST A FULL BEARD
This section reviews some of the popular arguments for and against the wearing of a full beard.
Made in God's Image
Some people believe that the
following are the two most compelling arguments in favor of men wearing a full
Made in His Image
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them" (Gen.1:27 KJV). See also Gen.9:6.
Is a physical man a true physical reflection of what God looks like? If we want to know what Jesus Christ who was the Creator God (Jn.1:1-3; Heb.1:1-3) and the Sovereign Father look like in their glorified form we need to review what the apostle John was told to record about the appearance of Jesus in his glorified form.
"I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou see write in a book . . . And I turned to see the voice that spoke to me and I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like the Son of man . . . His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters . . . and his appearances was as the shining sun . . . and he said to me, do not be afraid; I am the first and the last. I am he that lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore . . ." (Rev.1:10-18 KJV Para.).
"To the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things says the Son of God, whose eyes are like a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass" (Rev.2:18 KJV Para.). See also Rev.19:11-13.
John says that Jesus Christ has bright white hair, eyes that look like fire, feet the color of hot liquid brass, a voice like rushing water and a radiant sun like appearance. Because Jesus is the express image of the Father according to the writer of the Book of Hebrews (Heb.1:1-3), we can assume that God the Father looks similar to his firstborn son.
If men looked like the outward appearance of God all men would have white hair, eyes that glow like fire, feet the color hot liquid brass, and a radiant sun like appearance. Physical men do not look or sound like John's description of Jesus Christ in his glorified form.
The Heavenly and The Terrestrial
While speaking to the Corinthians about the resurrection to immortality, the apostle Paul explains the following differences between the heavenly realm and terrestrial composition of humans:
"There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differs from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body" (vs.40-44).
In verse 44, Paul explains that there are two types of bodies which can be inhabited by a spirit-being; one is physical and the other is spiritual and these bodies are different in glory and power.
"And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening [i.e., living] spirit. However, that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual" (v45).
In verse 45, the English word soul is translated from the Greek word psuche, which means breath or by implication a living sentient being. The first man was created as a physical being with a sentient thought process. The English word quickening used to describe the transformed human is the Greek word zoopoieo which means to (re-) vitalize (literally or figuratively).
"The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly"(vs.46-49).
In verse 49, the English word image is translated from the Greek word eikon, which means a likeness, i.e., (literally) statue, profile, or (figuratively) representation, resemblance. Humans in their physical form only bear a slight resemblance to the Sovereign God or he Creator God.
Jesus the Image of God
Some people assume that what Jesus and Paul said in the following statements proves by inference that God the Father wears a beard:
Jesus tells Philip that "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, Show us the Father?" (Jn.14:9).
This seems to say that Jesus looked exactly like God the Father; however, the English word seen in verse 9 is translated from the Hebrew word horao, which means discern or perceive. Jesus was talking about the Father's character and not about his physical appearance.
Paul wrote to the elect at Corinth, "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (2.Cor.4:5 NIV).
In verse 5, the English word image is translated from the Greek word eikon, which means statue, profile, likeness, representation, or resemblance.
A careful analysis of verses 1-6 clearly shows that the context is speaking about spiritual knowledge and understanding concerning the good news message about Christ and the salvation that is offered through him by the Sovereign Father; it is not about the physical appearance of Jesus. Therefore, the Greek word eikon in verse 5 is meant to convey the sense of the glory of Christ as a representation of God the Father's message to humanity.
The apostle Paul shows that before becoming the Messiah, Jesus was a god-being who gave up his immortal existence to become a physical man:
"Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men" (Phil 2:6-7 KJV).
In verse 7, the English word likeness is translated from the Greek word homoioma, which means resemblance, made like to, likeness, shape, or similitude. Jesus not only took on the physical nature of man but also took on the outward physical appearance of man, which is very different from the outward appearance of a god-being as recorded in the Book of Revelation.
The Creator God became human in every aspect. He bore the image of a physical man, but now he bears the image of an immortal spirit-being in the likeness of his heavenly Father.
Although there are some similarities between the outward appearance of man and God, man is not an exact representation of the outward appearance of God. Moreover, there are no scriptures that clearly say that the Creator God had a beard or that the Sovereign Father has a beard. Just because men have beards does not prove that God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ have beards. The fact is that there is no scriptural proof that god-beings grow or wear beards.
The Express Image of God
"God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by his Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Heb.1:1-3).
The English phrase express image in verse 3 is translated from the Greek word charakter and in this context means an exact copy or (figuratively) representation.
JOSEPH IN EGYPT
Some people say that the account of Joseph in Genesis 41:14 proves that men have the discretion to be clean shaven and remain beardless:
"So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh" (Gen.41:14 NIV).
The Hebrew word for shaved in verse 14 is galach, which means to be bald, to shave (off), to lay waste.
It was the cultural practice of the Egyptians during Joseph's lifetime to shave the entire body including the head and face. It was also a practice for those who were considered to have paranormal abilities, such as the Egyptian priests, to have their entire body including the head and face shaved at least three times a week. Therefore, it is highly likely, although unprovable, that Joseph shaved his entire body including his head and his face before presenting himself to interpret Pharaoh’s dream.
There are three facts that
must be considered if one is going to use this text to show that the wearing
of a full beard is a personal choice for adult males of the Sovereign Father's
earthly nation of king-priests:
Did Jesus Wear a Beard?
There are two compelling arguments that indicate that Jesus wore a full beard. The first argument is the prophecy that speaks of his torture prior to his crucifixion and his willingness to be humiliated by allowing his beard to be defaced:
"I offered my back to the beaters, my cheeks to those who pluck; I did not hide my face from being humiliated or spit on" (Isa.50:6 Para.).
The Hebrew word for pluck in verse 6 is maw-rat, which in this verse means to make bald.
The second argument is that Jesus was a Jew of the tribe of Judah and was therefore subject to covenant law. The New Testament clearly records that Jesus did not sin; therefore, we know that he obeyed all covenant law that pertained to him, which included the law concerning the wearing of beards.
The historical evidence indicates that most devout Jewish men of Jesus' day wore a full beard. Jesus would have worn a beard, not because it was a social custom of the time, but because it was a law that had to be obeyed in order to live a pious life in obedience to the holiness code for Israelite men. Moreover, Christ came to magnify God's Law, which included the law regarding beards. See Isa.42:21; Matt.5:17-20.
CUSTOMS AND SYMBOLISM
In many ancient cultures as well as national Israel, the custom of wearing a full beard or shaving it off was symbolic of many profound physical and spiritual concepts and principles. This section discusses concepts and principles surrounding the wearing of a beard in ancient cultures.
Insult and Humiliation
After the death of the king of Ammon, King David sent some of his servants to Ammon's son, Hanun, to show his respect and comfort him. However, thinking that David had sent these men as spies in order to invade and conquer his country, the King had his men shave off half the beard of each of David's servants, cut off their clothes to the buttocks, and then send them away. See 2.Sam.10:1-5; 1.Chron.19:1-5.
Perhaps King Hanun's advisors suspected that David's servants were spies because they had not shaved off their beards and all or part of the hair on their head as an act of mourning for the dead, which was done in many ancient societies. But, David's servants could not do this because of the law prohibiting shaving off the beard and cutting or shaving of ones's hair as an act of mourning. See Deut.14:1-2
The defiling of these men's beards was a show of disrespect and contempt for David and his men. In order to save his servants from further embarrassment, David told them to stay in Jericho until their beards had grown, before returning to him. This insulting act along with other events eventually led to war between David and the Ammonites.
This account shows that it was humiliating to have one's beard defaced and that it was a sign of disrespect for someone to deface a man's beard.
Disappointment, Sorrow, and Shame
When Ezra the priest heard that many of the Levites, priests, and leaders of Israel returning from exile had participated in the religions of these lands and had taken wives from among the people that they were forbidden to marry, Ezra showed his great disappointment, sorrow, and shame for what these people had done by fasting and pulling out hair from his head and beard.
"After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, "The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians, and Amorites. They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness." When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled" (Ezra 9:1-3 NIV).
Hear we see a priest who was prohibited from shaving off his hair and beard, pulling some of it out as a sign of great disappointment and sorrow for the sins of these Israelites.
Covering the Lip and the Beard
Ezekiel, chapter 24 shows that, because of their sins, the people were instructed not show any outward signs of mourning, such as covering the lower part of the face. But they were only to sigh in silence when the temple in Jerusalem, which was the people's most beloved object, was destroyed:
"The word of the Lord came to me, saying, Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes. Yet do not lament or weep or shed any tears. Groan quietly; do not mourn for the dead. Keep your turban fastened and your sandals on your feet; do not cover the lower part of your face or eat the customary food [i.e., food of mourners]. So I spoke to the people in the morning, and in the evening my wife died. The next morning I did as I had been commanded" (Ezk.24:15-18 NIV).
"And you will do as I have done. You will not cover the lower part of your face or eat the customary food. You will keep your turbans on your heads and your sandals on your feet. You will not mourn or weep but will waste away because of your sins and groan among yourselves. Ezekiel will be a sign to you; you will do just as he has done. When this happens [when the temple is destroyed], you will know that I am the Sovereign Lord" (Ezk.24:22-24 NIV). See also Mic. 3:5-8.
The English phrase "the lower part of your face" in verses 17 and 22 are an interpretation of the Hebrew word shapham, which means the beard (as a lip piece) or beard, (upper lip) and is taken from the word sepheth, which connotes the idea of a termination (the lip as a natural boundary).
Apparently it was the custom at that time for a person to cover the lower part of their face as a show of sorrow and mourning. This instruction prohibited the covering of the beard as a sign of sorrow or mourning because the punishment was just and deserved and the people were to acknowledge their guilt and punishment in silence.
In the context of Leviticus, chapter 21, verses 1-6, it could be assumed that a part of the reason for the prohibition against shaving part of the hair on the head or any part of the beard from off the face in mourning was to prevent the priesthood from mimicking the religious practices of other nations around them in mourning for their dead.
In Deuteronomy chapter 14, verses 1-2, we find a specific command not to cut oneself or shave off some hair on one's head in mourning. Although this instruction does not mention the beard, it does show a prohibition against this type of mourning.
In Jeremiah chapter 41, verses 4-9, there is an account of eighty men coming from Shechem, Shiloh, and Samaria having shaved off their beards, torn their clothes, and cut themselves in violation of the holiness code. These came with offerings and incense intending to offer them to God; however, all but ten were killed. Although this account does not give the exact reason, perhaps they were killed because they attempted to access the house of God in a defiled condition.
Kissing of the Beard
"And Joab said to Amasa, Are you in health, my brother? And Joab took Amasa by the beard with the right hand to kiss him, However, Amasa did not notice the sword that was in Joab's hand: so he stabbed him with it in the fifth rib . . ." (2.Sam.20:9-10).
Although this scripture does not say that Joab actually kissed Amasa's beard, historical records show that this was a custom of many ancient societies including Middle Eastern societies. It could have also been a custom during King David's time for men to kiss the beard of another man when greeting him in order to show affection, friendship, or respect. This event tells us that, at this time in history, men allowed their beards to grow at least a few inches long, otherwise Joab would not have been able to grab Amasa's beard and hold onto it while stabbing him.
Kissing the beard to show affection, friendship, or respect seems to have also been the custom during Christ's lifetime. This might have been the greeting that Simon the Pharisee refused to give Jesus as he entered his house (Lk.7:39-45), and this is likely the type of kiss with which Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus (Matt.26:47-48).
The apostle Paul instructed the congregations of Rome, Corinth, and Thessalonika to greet each other with a holy kiss. For men, this kiss would have been the traditional kissing of the beard as was done anciently.
PROPHECY, PUNISHMENT, AND THE BEARD
There are many prophecies that tell of God's judgements concerning the wicked (both Israelite and non-Israelite) and the punishment that he will pour out on them because of their wickedness. Because wearing a beard, is part of the holiness code and the beard symbolized so many honorable things, God often used the act of cutting off or pulling out the beard as symbolic of his utter contempt for wicked behavior and the severity of the punishment that he was going to bring upon evil people.
God told Ezekiel to shave his head and beard and divide the hair into three measures in order to indicate the three types of severe punishment that he would bring upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem for their rebellion.
"Take a sharp sword and use it as a barber's razor to shave your head and your beard. Then take a set of scales and divide up the hair. When the days of your siege come to an end, burn a third of the hair with fire inside the city. Take a third and strike it with the sword all around the city. And scatter a third to the wind. For I will pursue them with drawn sword. But take a few strands of hair and tuck them away in the folds of your garment. Again, take a few of these and throw them into the fire and burn them up. A fire will spread from there to the whole house of Israel" (Ezk.5:1-4 NIV).
It is important to note that Ezekiel was not only a prophet but also a priest who was prohibited from shaving the hair off his head or shaving off his beard. The shaving of his head and beard was a clear sign to everyone who came into contact with him that something was very wrong. This account also shows that a priest could remove his beard in order to fulfill a higher purpose.
The prophet Isaiah told king Ahaz that, because of the house of Judah's rebellion, God's judgment and punishment would come like a razor against the land of Judah:
"In the same day shall the Lord shave with a razor that is hired [Assyria], namely, by them beyond the river, by the king of Assyria, the head, and the hair of the feet: and it shall also consume the beard" (Isa.7:20 KJV). See also Isa.7:10-25.
Through the symbolism of shaving off the hair of the head and beard, God foretold through the prophet Isaiah that he will humble Moab by destroying their nation:
"An oracle concerning Moab: Ar in Moab is ruined, destroyed in a night! Kir in Moab is ruined, destroyed in a night! Dibon goes up to its temple, to its high places to weep; Moab wails over Nebo and Medeba. Every head is shaved and every beard cut off. In the streets they wear sackcloth; on the roofs and in the public squares they all wail, prostrate with weeping" (Isa.15:1-4 NIV). See also Jer.48:35-38.
TRADITION AND THE ORAL LAW
Although the Torah is silent about the many questions concerning wearing a beard, Jewish tradition and the oral law, which was interpreted and administrated by the priests of ancient Israel and later by the rabbis, has much to say about the maintenance, trimming, and removal of the beard.
The Talmud regards the beard as "the adornment of a man's face" (BM 84a), and a man without a beard was compared to a eunuch (Yev. 80b; Shab. 152a). Young priests whose beards had not yet grown were not permitted to bless the people (TJ, Suk. 3:14, 54a).
Mas. Nega'im, chapter 10 of the Mishna states, "What exactly counts as the beard? The hair from the joint of the jaw to the thyroid cartilage".
NATIONAL ISRAEL AND THE ELECT
Because the scriptures describe
the elect as spiritual Jews (Rom.2:29), the Israel of God (Gal.6:16), and priests
of God (1.Pet.2:9), some people assume that the elect are subject to all the
laws that were given to national Israel through Moses; however, there are major
flaws in this assumption. The following are three of those flaws:
A COVENANT RELATIONSHIP
Some people believe that the wearing of a full beard is an outward sign of a covenant relationship with God; however, circumcision was the only physical sign of the covenant specifically commanded for all Israelite males under the first agreement with national Israel .
Under the agreement between God the Father and the sons of his new creation who are his holy nation of kings and priests, there is no requirement for a male to wear an identifying mark of this agreement. See Rom.2:28-29: Gal.5:6.
Although the law concerning the wearing of beards has to do with holiness, nowhere is a full beard referred to as a mark that must be worn to show one's covenant relationship with God the Father.
THE SOVEREIGN FATHER'S ROYAL PRIESTHOOD
The requirements for a Levitical priest to wear a full beard is clear; however, men of the Sovereign Father's priesthood are not Levitical priests.
Although the Sovereign Father's earthly children are a royal priesthood, they are neither a part of the Levitical Priesthood nor given any of the authority, functions, or responsibilities of the Levitical Priesthood. However, the elect are not exempt from the holiness code as it applies to them in the letter and spirit of the law.
The apostle Peter said of the Sovereign Father's earthly children, "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people; that you should show forth the excellence of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1.Pet.2:9 KJV Para).
The royal priesthood that Peter speaks of is composed of both males and females and is a completely different priesthood from that of the Levitical Priesthood. The Sovereign Father's earthly children are in fact his personal priesthood and temples on earth (1.Cor.3:16-17). Moreover, this priesthood has a different ministry from the Levitical priesthood who ministered to physical Israel and it serves in a much different capacity from the Levitical priesthood. Therefore, the law regarding the beard cannot apply in exactly the same way to a male priest of the Sovereign Father's royal priesthood as it did to the Levitical priesthood.
Justification and the Sacrificial System
The Father's elect children are justified (i.e., made innocent) through the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the elect are exempt from the laws pertaining to justification through the rituals of the sacrificial system as required under the Creator God's first agreement with national Israel.
Although the Father's elect are exempt from many of the laws that the Creator God gave to national Israel, the law concerning wearing a beard is not one of these exemptions, because this law is neither tied to the law of justification nor is its practice dependent in any way on the rituals of the sacrificial system.
The apostle Peter said, "Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which has called you is holy, so you be holy in all manner of behavior; Because it is written, Be you holy; for I am holy" (1.Pet.1:13-16).
The law concerning beards is found squarely in the midst of laws that define and govern holy behavior and is outside of the laws pertaining to justification through the rituals of the sacrificial system. Therefore, logically, there is nothing in this law that would nullify its practice by adult men of the Sovereign Father's holy nation during this gospel age of salvation.
As specified in Leviticus 19:27 and 21:4-5, if a man who is one of the Father's elect sons wears a beard, the beard must be worn as a full beard and cannot have its outline on the face altered, because the law only allows for the wearing of full beards. The wearing of goatees, mutton chops, moustaches only, or other trimmed facial hair configurations are clear violations of the law regarding how a man should wear a beard. There are only two options available under this law: a full beard or no beard at all.
WHY IS THERE A LAW ABOUT BEARDS?
There are a number of God's laws that prohibit defiling, defacing, or destroying the body: Some of these laws concern cutting your own flesh, tattooing the skin, the acceptable hair length for men and women, wearing certain types of clothing, and eating animal flesh that is unfit for human consumption. From the context in which the law regarding beards appears, there is no doubt that it fits into the category of laws dealing with defilement of the body. According to God's law of holiness, anything that defiles the body in prohibited. Notice what the apostle Paul says about defiling one's body:
"Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man defile the temple of God, God shall destroy him; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you are" (1.Cor.3:16-17 KJV).
The English words defile and destroy are both translated from the Greek word phtheiro, which means to ruin, corrupt (self), defile, or destroy.
Paul's admonition to respect the sanctity of one's body reveals that the holiness code in respect to one's body was still binding on the elect of the early church.
Three uncontested facts are that beards are God's creation (not man's creation), adult male Israelites grew beards as a natural function of their bodily process, and a beard is persistent and will continue to grow unless it is shaved off.
REASONS FOR A MANS BEARD
There are many reasons that man was created with a beard and many reasons for God placing a law in his holiness code prohibiting a beard's disfigurement. The following are some of these reasons.
A Sign of Maturity
The Hebrew word for beard is zaqan and is related to the word zaqen, which is a primitive root meaning to be old. Therefore, the Hebrew word zaqan (beard) not only indicates age but also is symbolic of age.
In many cultures, the beard is still a symbol of maturity and age. Normally, a boy cannot grow a beard because he has not passed through puberty to manhood. The outward sign that a boy has passed beyond boyhood into manhood is the beard. Although a full beard is a sign of physical maturity and sets adult men apart from boys, the ability to grow a beard or the wearing of a beard certainly does not guarantee emotional or mental maturity.
In many cultures, both in the past and the present, wearing a full beard conveys far more than the fact that a person is an adult male. Throughout history, the custom of wearing a full, well-groomed beard has symbolized and conveyed many meanings, including maturity, honor, dignity, wisdom, experience, and rank or position in the community.
A Sign of Masculinity
The apostle Paul warns, "Don't you know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Don't be deceived: neither fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, abusers of themselves with mankind, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, or extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God" (1.Cor.6:9-10 KJV).
One reason for a man to wear a full beard is in order to distinguish him from a woman. Although a bearded man can act effeminate, a fully bearded man cannot be easily mistaken for a woman because there is nothing soft or effeminate about the appearance of a man wearing a full beard.
Although most women have facial hair, this hair is normally very thin, soft, colorless, and mostly unnoticeable; however, the facial hair of most mature men is thick and coarse with a pronounced color. Abundant thick, course, colored facial hair is unique to the male. Even a man with soft features who has a short haircut and a full beard can never be mistaken for a woman. Therefore, one way for a man to assert his masculinity is to wear a full beard.
A Distinction Between the Sexes
The blurring or the elimination of the distinction between men and women violates the principles of God's law concerning the maintenance of a distinction between the sexes: "The woman shall not wear that which pertains to a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are an abomination to the Lord your God" (Deut.22:5). The violation of God's various laws concerning making a distinction between the sexes has brought great sorrow and misery on men, women, and society as a whole.
God purposed that a mature man and woman be distinct and distinguishable from one another. A full beard on a man clearly marks the differences between the sexes.
Some people feel that the reason for the prohibition against altering the appearance of the beard is that trimming and fashioning the beard speaks to the issue of vanity. Although excessive attention to the design, appearance, and care of facial hair certainly could be a vanity issue, it is just as true that a fully bearded man could also have a vanity issue concerning his beard. However, the context in which the law concerning beards is given deals with the issues of defilement and holiness, not vanity.
The wearing of a full beard was no trivial matter for an Israelite male, because wearing a full beard was a constant reminder of his status as a citizen of the Creator God's holy nation. Every pious Israelite also knew that his full beard represented his obedience to God and that to voluntarily deface it was rebellion against God and his law.
The Bible teaches the following
things about wearing a beard:
The following facts are some of the most compelling
arguments for a man to wear a full beard:
IS THE BEARD LAW VALID TODAY?
There are many laws noted
under the first agreement with national Israel that are not specifically mentioned
in the New Testament as being a part of the new agreement established by Jesus
Christ; nonetheless, they are a part of its terms and conditions. Listed below
are some guidelines for determining whether or not a particular law must be
Questions and Answers
Q. Isn't wearing or not wearing a beard just a matter of personal choice concerning grooming and appearance?
A. Wearing a full beard is much more than an external matter if it is worn with the knowledge and understanding of the letter and spirit of the law.
Q. Does wearing or not wearing a full beard affect a man's holy status?
A. It depends on circumstances and attitude.
A. If the beard is removed for a reason that is sanctioned by God or is removed or disfigured through circumstances beyond one's control as was done to king David's servants, one's holy status is not affected because there was no intent to violate the law.
A. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin (Rom.14:23).
Q. Is it permissible under the law to trim the beard's length?
A. The only biblical reference that comes close to revealing whether or not it is permissible to trim the length of a man's facial hair is the account of Mephibosheth not grooming his mustache:
"And Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king, and had not dressed his feet, nor done his mustache, nor washed his clothes, from the day the king went away until the day he came in peace" (2.Sam.19:24 Para.).
In this verse, the English words dressed and done are both translated from the Hebrew word asa, which means to do, fashion, or accomplish. In a general sense asa often connotes an ethical obligation or something that must be done and sometimes with the emphasis on making or fashioning something. The derivative of asa is maaseh, which means deed or work
The English word mustache in 2.Sam.19:24, is translated from the Hebrew word sapham, which can mean the lip or a lip-piece. This is important because the Hebrew word for the beard is zaqan, not sapham. Therefore, we know that it is the mustache that is being referenced and not the beard.
There would be no reason to mention Mephibosheth's mustache in the context of his appearance unless it had something to do with a normal part of personal grooming at that time. Moreover, it seems that the unkempt mustache is only mentioned in order to emphasize Mephibosheth's grubby appearance while he waited for the return of his father.
Some people might not consider the mustache a part of the beard; however, in reality the mustache is an extension of the beard. Because the law concerning beards prohibits the altering of the outline of the beard, which includes the hair on the upper lip, the usage of the Hebrew word asa in reference to Mephibosheth's moustache and his unkempt appearance and lack of hygiene could imply the work of brushing or dressing the mustache in order to give it a pleasant appearance, or it could imply the trimming of his moustache in order to keep it out of his mouth.
I have researched much historical information about the moustache and reviewed opposing opinions of many biblical researchers and Orthodox Rabbis and have not been able to find a consensus of opinion among any of them or a satisfactory historical, Talmudic, or linguistic answer to whether or not the mustache can be trimmed under the law governing how a man should wear his beard.
Because it is unclear what the Hebrew word asa means in 2.Samuel 19:24, it seems that this event neither sanctions nor permits the trimming of the mustache; it just shows that Mephibosheth had not groomed his mustache in a presentable fashion in accordance to the customs of that time. It may well be that an authoritative answer to the question will go unanswered until Christ returns, so you must simply follow your conscience in this matter. However, it does seem logical for a man to trim the mustache in order to keep hair out on the mouth.
EXEMPTIONS AND EXCEPTIONS
The following are a number of logical exemptions from the law governing how beards should be worn.
Priesthood and Temple
No aspect of the law, such as the cleansing of the leper (Lev.14:1-32) or the completion of the Nazarite vow (Num.6:1-21) that require the existence of the Levitical priesthood and the temple can be practiced by the elect or anyone else until these two requirements are in place and functioning.
No Facial Hair
Any adult male who cannot grow a beard because of a medical condition, heredity, or some other physical circumstance that prevents him from growing a beard is obviously exempt from this law.
Beards and Personal Safety
In today's world, there are a number of professions and work situations that make it extremely difficult or virtually impossible to wear a full beard safely, such as a profession that requires one to wear respirators to protect against hazardous vapors or by the nature of some work place the face very close to rotating machinery.
Practicing some professions may, under certain circumstances, exempt a man from having to wear a beard. However, from the perspective of the elect's responsibility to conform to both the letter and the spirit of the law, a decision concerning whether or not to work at a profession requiring one to be clean shaven is a personal choice. Moreover, one should be convinced in their own mind that they have made their decision predicated on the best evidence available to them, because the principle of having a clear conscience in what one decides to do applies to this issue. See Rom.14:22-23.
All too often people judge other people by appearance. Although, a person's outward appearance is sometimes a reflection of their attitude and heart, simply judging a person by their appearance is wrong, because only God knows the true intent of the heart. Being bearded or not being bearded neither imparts or removes holiness. It is the intentional defilement of the beard that causes a violation of the law and thus produces an unholy result.
Concerning passing judgment (i.e., condemnation) the apostle John said, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (Jn.7:24).
Although the Father's children are his personal priesthood, they are under a different agreement from the agreement that the Creator God had with the ancient Israelites. If a man wears a beard according to the law, it must be a full beard, because to voluntarily deface or pervert the beard is to defile what God has created and brings one under the condemnation of the law. See 1.Cor.3:16-17.
The following are strong indications
that a beard should be worn by men of the Sovereign Father's earthly family
The apostle Paul gave the following warning to those who defile their body:
"Don't you know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone
defiles the temple of God, God shall destroy that person; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you are" (1.Cor 3:16-17 Para.). See also 1.Cor.6:19-20.
The apostle Paul told Timothy, "Earnestly study to show yourself approved to God a worker unashamed" (2.Tim.2:15 Para.) and, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished to all good works" (2.Tim.3:16-17 KJV).
To what body of scripture was Paul referring? Did the early church study what is commonly called the New Testament today? The answer is, no! They did not have these writings in the format in which we have them today. The early church studied the law, the prophets, and the writings set forth prior to the advent of Christ, as well as the writings of the apostles as they were made available to them. See Acts 1:20, 7:42, 15:13-31, 24:14, 28:23; 2.Tim.3:13-17.
Paul also said the following concerning one who is a part of the Sovereign Father's holy nation of king-priests:
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Rom 12:1-2 KJV).
Although the law concerning the wearing of beards is not specifically mentioned anywhere in the writings of the New Testament, neither are many other laws that are without a doubt binding on the elect because they are a part of the holiness code. Thee laws include the dietary laws concerning what animal flesh is unfit for human consumption , hair length for men and women, wearing certain types of clothing, and defacing the body.
Despite Paul's warning to not be conformed to this world, many of the Sovereign Father's elect refuse to follow his truth and way of truth and allow themselves to be guided by this world's principles and lifestyles.
The following words of King David should be taken seriously by men who seek to please their heavenly Father and come into compliance with his law concerning the wearing of a beard:
The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver. Your hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn your commandments" (Psa.119:72-73 KJV).
By B.L. Cocherell
File alw5 2/10/2008