November 18, 2013

The Devil’s Haircut or A Righteous Restyling

A hairstyle or haircut usually refers to a styling of hair on the human scalp either male or female. The fashioning of hair is usually to be considered an aspect of personal grooming, beauty and fashion. The haircuts and cutting of hair in the Bible though tend to take on more practical, cultural, or spiritual consideration.

From a practical standpoint we see a haircut as part of the procedure for cleansing from skin diseases like leprosy:

Leviticus 14:8-9 ~ “The person to be cleansed must wash their clothes, shave off all their hair and bathe with water; then they will be ceremonially clean. After this they may come into the camp, but they must stay outside their tent for seven days. On the seventh day they must shave off all their hair; they must shave their head, their beard, their eyebrows and the rest of their hair. They must wash their clothes and bathe themselves with water, and they will be clean.

This is the conclusion of the ceremony and also involved laundering cloths and shaving off hair and then bathing completely. After this the people would then be able to return to the community. Further steps would be needed eight days later without the aid of a priest as the priest assisted with the first set of ceremonies. Homes were also cleaned of contamination. It should be noted that any type of skin rash or imperfections could be consider leprosy as of the writing of the Law, not the actual disease that causes the rubbing away of limbs and appendages. It should also be noted that at this time shaving off hair could be considered a sign of rebirth and or mourning.

From a spiritual and cultural standpoint, there is a prohibition of a certain type of haircut in Leviticus 19. This is still practiced by Hasidic and Orthodox Jews. It is the prohibition to not cut or round the corners of their heads. The corners or payot/peyos refers to a man’s sideburns. We understand that this is a chapter that refers to cultic practices that surround the Jews at the time. The pagan nations around Israel at the time practiced cutting their beards in a certain fashion and did so in connection with the worship of their gods. If an Israelite adopted the same style people might take this to be a symbol of his religious beliefs, signifying that he upheld pagan worship. The surrounding verse support this context. Verse 26 says not to practice divination. Verse 27…

Leviticus 19:27 ~ “Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.

The verse following this verse tells people to not cut bodies for the dead or tattoo one’s self. All these were practiced by the surrounding pagan culture. They all appeared to be mourning practices. The concern was not the acts themselves but the ideas and principles behind the actions and the impression they projected. There was a fear that these practices would defile the thinking of the people. Therefore the so-called prohibition against tattoos today based on this verse is semi-valid for the same reasons. If anything, we should frown upon the tattoo culture of today because of the idolatrous sensual associations of many that are tattooed…not the tattoo itself.

When an Israelite took a Nazarite vow, he was initially not to cut his hair. When this time of separation was completed, it was then that he shaved his head and burned the hair.

Numbers 6:5 ~ “During the entire period of their Nazirite vow, no razor may be used on their head. They must be holy until the period of their dedication to the Lord is over; they must let their hair grow long.

Numbers 6:13 ~ “Now this is the law of the Nazirite when the period of their dedication is over. They are to be brought to the entrance to the tent of meeting.

Numbers 6:18 ~ “Then at the entrance to the tent of meeting, the Nazirite must shave off the hair that symbolizes their dedication. They are to take the hair and put it in the fire that is under the sacrifice of the fellowship offering.

We will see Paul (and others) take a Nazirite vow and shave his head in the New Testament (Acts 18:18, 21:24).

Acts 18:18 ~ “Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sisters and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchreae because of a vow he had taken.”

The significance of the Nazirite vow is that it was often used to signify being set apart of consecrated. This vow was not mandated nor required. As such it did not act in the form of a sacrament similar to a baptism. In essence those that had performed this vow had literally been set aside for a special purpose. Its underlying principle was that of maintaining purity so God's blessing be maintained. The name Nazirite from the Hebrew root nazar, meant "to separate". Not only did it symbolize the consecrated character of all the Israelites, but it did so at the individual level too…in a visible pious manner. Samson and Samuel were two prominent Old Testament life-long examples. It was usually a voluntary dedication to God’ service.

Because of the vow’s connection to Samson it is probable that the imagery in the vow spoke of or represented the strength and vitality of the individual. The long hair of the Nazirite would have symbolized the dedication of the Nazirite's strength and vigor to God.

The Nazirite specifically did not withdraw from society except in the particulars of these restrictions as they were acting as visible examples of consecration in their lives and behaviors along with growth and then shaving of their heads.

As mentioned above, when Samson (under a life-long Nazirite vow) had his head shaved all his strength left him.

Judges 16:19 ~ “After putting him to sleep on her lap, she called for someone to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him. And his strength left him.

Moving to the time of the Kings was see that the miscreant Absalom cut his hair once a year because it got too heavy.

2 Samuel 14:25-26 ~ “In all Israel there was not a man so highly praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom. From the top of his head to the sole of his foot there was no blemish in him. Whenever he cut the hair of his head—he used to cut his hair once a year because it became too heavy for him—he would weigh it, and its weight was two hundred shekels by the royal standard.”

This is a perfect example of how a people or persons can be consecrated and set aside for use by God and fail horribly in the purpose they have been chosen for. In the end, even though was are chosen for God’s purposes, we are still responsible for our choices in this life. We see this in the nation of Israel in the Old Testament and we see it today in the negligence and failures of many unbiblical churches today. They/we can be chosen but either uncooperative/stiff-necked or outright apostate and in rebellion.

In another case of blatant disobedience Ezra heard that Jews had intermarried with the pagan Canaanites and other nationalities. He was so disgusted and upset that he ended up plucking hair from his head and beard

Ezra 9:1-3  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. 2 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.

In a similar instance at the same time as Ezra, another case of inappropriate intermarriage takes place. Nehemiah punishes and pulled out the hair of some men of Judah as he charged them not to intermarry.

Nehemiah 13:23-25 ~ “Moreover, in those days I saw men of Judah who had married women from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab. Half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod or the language of one of the other peoples, and did not know how to speak the language of Judah. I rebuked them and called curses down on them. I beat some of the men and pulled out their hair. I made them take an oath in God’s name and said: “You are not to give your daughters in marriage to their sons, nor are you to take their daughters in marriage for your sons or for yourselves. 

To further show that shaving one’s head was a sign of mourning and demonstration of grief we need only look to Job after losing his children.

Job 1:20 ~ “At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship

What separates Job from the typical pagan reactions of grief that would’ve been similar is his sincere act of worship to God in his grief. This is something that those in the pagan culture that also practiced shaving their heads wouldn’t have done. He does not shake a puny fist at the sky in defiance of God, cursing Him also. No, he does just the opposite. He does not ask, “Why me?” He bows to the ground and says, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

…and as Scripture further says, “…in all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.”

This is the difference between a pagan or borderline Christian and a true reverent and repentant Christian. So it was true then, so it is true now. This is exactly why Job 1:1 tells us that Job was

Job 1:1 “…blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.”

In another narrative of disobedience, Jeremiah tells the people of Jerusalem to cut off their hair. As we know from history, it will be to no avail as the people of Jerusalem will be sent into exile anyway for their disobediences and sin against God. He is trying to instill a sense of remorse and repentance in a recalcitrant people but they would have none of it.

Jeremiah 7:29 ~ “Cut off your hair and throw it away; take up a lament on the barren heights, for the Lord has rejected and abandoned this generation that is under his wrath.

Finally, we see Ezekiel use his own hair in one of his skits for the people of Israel.

Ezekiel 5:1-4 “Now, son of man, 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 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 hairs 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 all Israel.

Ezekiel then dramatizes Jerusalem's fall. He takes a pair of scales and divides the hair into thirds...(a) He was to burn up one third in the city when the days of the siege have ended (1/3 would die of plague and famine). (b) Take the second third and slash [it] with the sword all around the city. Scatter one third to the wind (God would “draw a sword” to chase after Israel). (c) Take a few strands from the hair and secure them in the folds of his [Ezekiel’s] robe (those spared the first two judgments would be God preserving a remnant). (d) Take the remaining strands, throw them into the fire, and burn them in it, fire will spread from it to the whole house of Israel. These last few hairs mentioned seem as if they would spark a blaze that would have purifying effect on the whole remainder of Israel. Why do I say this? It says “the whole house of Israel” in this scenario even the remnant. If the remnant wasn’t to be destroyed then why burnt or put through fire? Fire is a symbol of judgment or purification in the Bible.

To summarize…

In nearly all of the instances pointed out above we see either an element of consecration or and element of separation unto God for holy and righteous purposes. We also see these instances of unique grooming as punishment and chastisement for not being holy or righteous. We can also see them as symbols of mourning used by righteous men to show that all is not right with the world (or themselves). That is because the system of the world which is of the devil holds sway in the hearts of all but the righteous. In the case of the prophets of Jeremiah and Ezekiel we see them as portends of judgment that is inevitable for being unrighteous.

All stem from righteousness or unrighteousness. All stem from either the obedience to God and His statutes or a failure to do so. In some way, all these haircuts are symbols of a separation from the things of the Devil, and adherence to him or punishment for thinking like him in a rebellious manner. In a strange way…they are the Devil’s haircut, either in a deliberate fight against what the Devil stands for by standing for God or it is a symbol of having given into the Devil’s deceptions and temptations.

But like hair…we can divest ourselves of the burden of sin and rebelliousness by shaving it off of our person or being and we can start over. As I said in the beginning of this post, head shaving was a common Ancient Near Eastern symbolism for rebirth. In the case of the Bible a rebirth and consecration (setting apart) for use by God. This is what each and every Christian is to be after coming to the saving knowledge of Christ. A new creation set apart as a holy people for use by God. That principle is all over the New Testament.

Romans 12:1-4 ~ “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

2 Corinthians 5:17 ~ “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

1 Peter 2:9 ~ But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

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