Beards and Baldness

It is a belief among many brethren in the faith that men should wear beards as did most Israelites throughout history. However, it is not considered mandatory to do so. The purpose of this study is to inform you of what the scriptures say concerning beards and to show that it is a law of Yahweh which should be obeyed.

Let's begin by looking at the actual commandment in Lev. 19:26-28; "Ye shall not eat any thing with the blood: neither shall ye use enchantment, nor observe times. Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard. Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am Yahweh."

Notice that we continue to obey verses 26 and 28 even today. The question is, do we have to obey verse 27? As we read in Lev. 19:1,2, these commandments are for the children of Israel, of whom we are through Messiah. In verse 27 the KJV uses two words which do not help in clearly understanding this verse, "mar" and "corners". Unless you have a square head and a square beard you cannot have "corners". The Hebrew for "corners" is "peah" which means the "region or extremity" according to Strong's Concordance. A word study of such verses as Ex.36:25; Job 18:14,15; Nu.24:17; Ezek.41:12; and Lev.19:9 will reveal the correct meaning to be "border" or "the outline that forms the image". Referring to the above references; the peah or border of a building is its walls; of the sea, its' coastline; of a country such as Moab, its' borders; of a field, its' borders; of the beard, the outline which forms the image. In other words, the hairline along the cheeks, lower neck, below the lower lip, etc. Goatees, mutton chops, Hitler moustaches and totally shaven faces are all forbidden by Yahweh. Incidentally, the Jewish practice of not cutting the sideburns is based on an erroneous understanding of this scripture.

The word "mar" in Hebrew is "shachath" which means to decay or ruin. It was also translated "destroy, perish, cast off, corrupt and utterly waste". So what this commandment is really saying is, "Do not utterly destroy the borders of your beard." The only way to utterly destroy the beard is to remove the hair from your face. The most common way is by shaving which totally ruins and mars the beard. It creates baldness upon your skin and, as we will see later, baldness is associated with shame and defilement throughout scripture. Trimming the length of the beard is permitted because it does not create baldness. Instead, it adds to a man's handsomeness. According to the Talmud, the beard is "the adornment of a man's face" (BM 84a). The Talmud states that a man without a beard was compared to a eunuch (Yev. 80b; Shab. 152a).

To "round the corners of your head" would mean to create baldness around one's head, as certain people do, leaving only a circular patch of hair on top.

Lev.19:27 is among a long list of commandments extending to Lev.20:21. Verses 22-26 teach us to be sanctified from the unbelieving people around us. They tattoo their bodies, stretch their necks with metal rings, shave their heads bald or carve words and designs in their hair. This shows a total lack of reverence for their bodies. How much more should we reverence our bodies which are the temple of the Holy Spirit.

A similar commandment is found in Lev.21:1-6. These verses pertain to the priests, Aaron and his sons. Believers today are said to be priests as well, so this commandment could spiritually apply to us. But even if it doesn't we can see Yahweh's feelings concerning creating baldness on ones head. Not only would the priest defile or profane himself but he would also profane the name of Yahweh (vs 6). It was holiness to a priest to remain unshaven. According to the Talmud, young priests whose beards had not yet grown were not permitted to bless the people (TJ, Suk. 3:14, 54a).

Only something holy can be profaned or defiled. Ezekiel talks about profaning the sanctuary and the Sabbath day. Both are holy and both can be defiled. Believers are also holy; in fact, we are a holy priesthood and our bodies are holy temples. If we eat pork we defile the temple of the Holy Spirit (Lev 11:44). If we create baldness on our head or face we defile the temple of Yahweh.

Lev.21:16-23 tells us about the seed of Aaron that are blemished. Whenever something happens to a priest that alters the image that he was created with, he becomes blemished. That is why Yahweh told them not to create baldness on their head or face. They could not serve as priests until they were healed again.

Most commentators apply the last chapters of Ezekiel to the millennial kingdom. Notice in Ezek.44:20 the priests are not permitted to shave, but they are permitted to cut their hair so it doesn't grow too long. Yahweh does not want men's head hair to be too long, and He doesn't want it or the beard to appear sloppy or unkempt. The Apostle Paul, in I Cor.11, says it is a shame for a man to have long hair. It was also a shame for a man to be bald or beardless. II Sam.10:4,5 recounts the time when King David's men had half their beards shaved off by their enemies causing great shame. But notice what David said to do. He didn't tell them to shave off the other half and return to Jerusalem. He told them to wait in Jericho until their beards grew back and then return.

Some people try to use Gen.41:14 to prove that men could shave if they wanted to. The most logical way to understand this verse is that the Egyptians made Joseph shave when he met Pharaoh just as they made him change his clothing. If a man is kept in a dungeon for two years and then is brought quickly out to meet Pharaoh, he is not going to put on his best clothing because he undoubtedly doesn't have a change of good clothing. The Egyptians would have given him new clothes and they would have required him to clean up and shave. Almost all Egyptians had shaven heads and no beards with the exception of some pharaohs who had plaited beards growing only on their chin.

Acts 18:18 and 21;23-26 show that Paul shaved his head because he had taken a Nazarite vow which is spoken of in Nu. 6:1,13,18. Once the vow was fulfilled Paul's head was shaved and his hair burnt for a peace offering. Samson was under a Nazarite vow as well, through which his long hair gave him great strength until it was shaved off by Delilah. There were only two reasons Yahweh allowed for shaving ones head: 1) A Nazarite vow 2) Leprosy or infection on the head. Shaving for any other reason, including to make oneself more attractive, would defile the person and profane Yahweh's name.

Yahweh spoke two interesting prophesies concerning baldness. In Is.3:16,17,24 baldness is spoken of as something negative and undesirable that Yahweh will bring upon the daughters of Zion because of their haughty attitude. Amos 8:9,10 shows that in the Day of Yahweh, He will cause baldness upon every head; in other words, shame and mourning.

Many people have been misled by todays society into believing that a well shaved, smooth face is desirable and permissible when, in reality, it is against the law of Yahweh and defiles our temple. Yahweh created men to have beards and then commanded men to not destroy their beards. He desires men to maintain the same image that He created them with. He does not want us to look like Egyptians, Romans, Hindus, or the other nations around us.

Even Yeshua the Messiah, who is our ultimate example, had a beard (Is.50:6). In their attempt to disrespect and shame Yeshua, his persecutors tore out the hair from his beard.

There are certain commandments in the Old Testament which we no longer observe because they have been fulfilled in some way. However, concerning beards and baldness, there are no fulfillments. If we don't have to obey these commandments anymore, then when and why did they cease?

Some brethren believe the law against shaving the beard was a cultural requirement for Israel alone. If that be the case, we could say the same for all the feast days and many other laws. The fact that Yahweh created men with beards, as a natural part of their body, shows that they are desired by Yahweh for all men, not just for Israelites. Since Galations 6:16 calls believers "the Israel of God ", then we should be subject to the laws of Yahweh given to Israel.

Others will say that not all men can grow beards, therefore they don't have to either. Not all believers can mark the beginning of Sabbath by the visual sunset, yet they must keep the Sabbath holy. Yahweh will not hold such a person accountable if he cannot grow a beard. Nor will He look away from a man who loses his hair naturally. However, the man who willfully shaves his beard or his head, aside from the scripturally permitted reasons, will be held accountable.

Another objection to wearing a beard is the belief that the command only applies to shaving for the dead. Here is the command in context;

Lev 19:26  You shall not eat any thing with the blood: neither shall you use enchantment, nor observe times. 
Lev 19:27  You shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard. 
Lev 19:28  You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am Yahweh. 
Lev 19:29  Do not prostitute thy daughter, to cause her to be a whore; lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness. 
Lev 19:30  Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am Yahweh.

Lev 19:31  Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am Yahweh your Elohim. 
Lev 19:32  Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am Yahweh. 
Lev 19:33  And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, you shall not vex him. 
Lev 19:34  But the stranger that dwells with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am Yahweh your Elohim. 
Lev 19:35  You shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure. 
Lev 19:36  Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have: I am Yahweh your Elohim, which brought you out of the land of Egypt. 
Lev 19:37  Therefore shall you observe all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: I am Yahweh. 

As you can see, verse 27 falls within a list of various laws. Verse 28 refers to not making cuttings in your flesh for the dead. It is not part of verse 27. Yahweh is instructing Israel how to maintain holiness (verse 2). If the "dead" was also part of verse 27, then Yahweh is not saying you can shave your beard off anytime you want except for the dead. He would be saying you cannot shave your beard off, not even for the dead.

The evidence is conclusively in favor of the continued observance of these commandments and I, for one, will never put a razor to my face again. What about you?