SEEK THE CONTEXT: Biblical Texts, Language, Cultural Background & Meaning. Context Changes Everything!

The Symbolism of The Jewish Beard

The Symbolism of The Jewish Beard

Since ancient times many Israelites preferred not to shave, but to wear a beard. Males from the western culture, especially since Roman times, preferred to shave off their facial hair. And we have countless images and depictions of people from the Greco-Roman times to confirm such grooming trends.  In fact, beards are a very culturally-inculcated look. Even in modern days, many Jews, religious or secular, for fashion reasons or out of some other considerations, opt to wear beards. It is an ongoing cultural choice.  And there is a particular commandment in the Bible that prohibits Jews from harming the corners of their beards.

“You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard.” (Lev 19:27).

But why? This is such a strange commandment. It regulates hair grooming. There is probably a number of good reasons why God gave this rule. One of them is probably the symbolism of beards in Jewish culture. Beards say something. Let me illustrate it by reminding you of one biblical story…

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Pinchas

I am an educator, researcher, a faculty member and an avid believer in online education. My specialties are Sacred Texts and Cultures (Second Temple period, early Judaism and nascent Christianity). I am passionate about meaning, context, and cultural transmission of ancient texts. My preoccupations with history, ancient languages and contextual interpretation often find expression in my blog posts. Every human has a pretext, every message has a context. Context changes everything! Enjoy reading.