AND WHAT ABOUT THESE BIBLICAL VERSES
A CURSORY READING AND UNDERSTANDING OF SOME OLD TESTAMENT VERSES HAVE FRIGHTENED AWAY MANY WOMEN FROM WEARING CERTAIN HAIRSTYLES.
They feel these verses prove God(i.e., the Christian God: Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit) forbids women, especially Christian Black women, from wearing short Afro and bald hairstyles. But do they?
In Jeremiah 47:5 and 48:37-38, we find Israelites balding heads, cutting beards, and clipping hair to express their mourning, humiliation, and grief from suffering personal losses.
Baldness(as a token of mourning) will come upon Gaza; Ashkelon will be cut off and be dumb. O remnant of their valley and of the giant, how long will you gash yourselves(as a token of mourning)? Jeremiah 47:5.
For every head is shaven bald and every beard cut off: upon all the hands are cuts(slashes) and upon the loins is sackcloth(all to express mourning). On all the housetops of Moab and in its streets there is lamentation everywhere, for I have broken Moab like a vessel in which there is no pleasure, says the Lord. Jeremiah 48:37-38.
In ancient Eastern times and countries, people shaved their heads, cut their beards, and clipped their hairs, as their customs or traditions demanded, to signify their mourning, humiliation, shame, and deep distress. Jeremiah recorded Israelites and Moabites following those customs as dictated by their societal laws, not God’s laws.
In Jeremiah 7:29, Jeremiah shaves his head to mourn his and other prophets’ failure to get Israel to obey God’s orders to walk in all His established ways.
Cut off your hair(your crown, O Jerusalem) and cast it away, and take up a lamentation on the bare heights, for the Lord has rejected and forsaken the generation of His wrath.
Jeremiah 49:32 records Israelites clipping their hairs because of their idol worship:
And their camels will be booty, and their herds of cattle a spoil; and I will scatter to all (the four) winds those who(as evidence of their idolatry) clip off the corners of their hair, and I will bring their calamity from every side, say the Lord.
In these verses of Jeremiah, God tells Israelites and Jeremiah to cut their hair out of respect for the customs of the land, not because that is His preferred manner to express their emotions.
In Ezekiel 7:18 and 27:31, Israelites mourn and grieve over their enemy capturing and destroying their land:
They shall also gird themselves with sackcloth; horror and dismay shall cover them, and shame shall be upon all faces and baldness upon all their heads(as evidence of grief). Ezekiel 7:18
And they make themselves(utterly) bald for you and gird themselves with sackcloth, and they weep over you in bitterness of heart and with bitter mourning and wailing. Ezekiel 27:31
Isaiah 15:2 says Moabites shave their heads as a sign of humiliation since Moabites fail to protect their cities from Assyrian capture.
They are gone up to Bayith and to Dibon, to the high places to weep. Moab wails over Nebo and over Medeba; on all their heads is baldness, and every beard is cut off(as a sign of deep sorrow and humiliation).
Head shaving in these verses of Ezekiel and Isaiah symbolize their custom for reacting to failure, not God’s commandment to behave that way.
In Isaiah 22:12, Israelites shave off their hair to express their helplessness against Assyria:
And in that day, the Lord God of host called you to weeping and mourning, to the shaving off of all your hair(in humiliation) and to the girding with sackcloth .
God commands head shaving because that behavior coincides with Israel’s tradition, not God’s commandments.
Isaiah 7:20 records Judah’s deprivation and humiliation from Assyria’s attack. The head and beard shaving signify Judah’s humiliation or deep distress:
In the same day(will the people of Judah be utterly stripped of belonging), the Lord will shave with the razor that is hired from the parts beyond the River(Euphrates)-even with the king of Assyria-(that razor will shave) the head and the hair of the legs, and it shall also consume the beard(leaving Judah with open shame and scorn).
God uses allegory to explain Judah’s head and beard shaving. Head and beard shaving symbolize Judah’s deprivation and humiliation from an Assyrian attack. Judah’s customs require her to behave that way. God commands Judah to shave her head and beard because Judah’s customs require those behaviors, God’s commandments do not. God’s head and beard-shaving directive comes from His respect to follow their tradition, not His.
Micah 1:16 records Israelite head shaving as a sign of mourning over Assyrians exile of Judah’s children:
Make yourself bald in mourning and cut off your hair for the children of your delight; enlarge your baldness as the eagle, for(your children) shall be carried from you into exile.
Every family observes the rites of mourning in Amos 8:10:
And I will turn your feasts into mourning and all your songs into lamentation, and I will cause sackcloth to be put upon all loins and baldness(for mourning) shall come on every head; and I will make that time as the mourning for an only son, and the end of it as a bitter day.
Again, these verses from Micah and Amos show God’s observance of Israelite customs, not His efforts to establish different or better ones.
In Deuteronomy 14:1-2, God warns against shaving heads. Shaving-head practices would conflict with their faith in the Lord and would link them with pagan practices: You are the sons of the Lord your God; you shall not cut yourselves or make any baldness on your foreheads for the dead, for you are a holy people(set apart) to the Lord your God; and the Lord has chosen you to be a peculiar people to Himself, above all the nations on the earth.
God wants Israel to maintain a lifestyles and reputation totally distinct from pagan nations. This requires Israel to avoid head shaving and balding. Not doing so will make her somewhat similar to pagan nations. God prohibits head shaving and balding to ensure Israel remains unique and socially set apart from all pagan nations, not because He disapproves of bald heads as a hairstyle.
Deuteronomy 21:12 records a woman head shaving her head as a ritual symbolizing her grief from starting a new life as an Israelite: Then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall save her head and pare her nails(in purification from heathenism).
This verse records another example of Israel separating herself from paganism, not from a hairstyle disapproved by God.
Leviticus 14:8-9 details the ritual cleaning of a person cured of an infectious skin disease, not a punishment or warning against wearing Afros or bald heads: He who is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes, shave off all his hair, and bathe himself in water; and he shall be clean. After that he shall come into the camp, but stay outside his tent seven days. But on the seventh day he shall shave all his hair off his head, his beard, his eyebrows, and his(body); and he shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and be clean.
Leviticus 21:5 says The priests(like the other Israelite men) shall not shave the crown of their heads or clip off the corners of their beard or make any cuttings in their flesh.
The priests must behave this way to avoid association with pagan mourning customs since such association would render them unholy and would profane God’s name. God does not command this priestly behavior to disapprove certain hairstyles.
Ezekiel 5:1 refers to the mourning Ezekiel experienced after Babylon sieged Jerusalem:
And You, son of man(Ezekiel), take a sharp sword and use it as a barber’s razor and shave your head and your beard. Then take balances for weighing and divide the hair into three parts. Ezekiel 5:1
This verse also indicates another example of God respecting Israel’s custom of symbolizing mourning through head and beard shaving. This verse does not prove his effort to forbid a hairstyle.
Ezekiel 44:20 says Neither shall they shave their heads or allow their locks to grow long; they shall only cut short or trim the hair of their heads.
The priests must follow these duties to differentiate them from the common people or to help the people see the difference between holiness(priests) and unholiness(common people). These duties have nothing to do with God prohibiting certain hairstyles.
1 Corinthians 11:5-6: And any woman who(publicly) prays or prophesies(teaches, refutes, reproves, admonishes, or comforts) when she is bareheaded dishonors her head(her husband); it is the same as(if her head were) shaved. For if a woman will not wear(a head) covering, then she should cut off her hair too; but if it is disgraceful for woman to have her head shorn or shaven, let her cover(her head).
In Corinth, women customarily appear in public with heads covered. Wives especially do so to show honor to her husband. Both behaviors represent established traditions of their societies. 1 Corinthians 11:5-6 emphasize husband honor and social customs, not God’s commandment for head shaving or hairstyling. Even these New Testament verses do not reveal God’s displeasure or dishonor from Israelites following or not following the head shaving, beard cutting, and hair clipping rituals of their lands.
Jeremiah 16:6 says Both the great and the small shall die in this land. They shall not be buried, neither shall men lament for them or cut themselves or make themselves bald for them.
God warns Jeremiah of an imminent carnage and wants to restrict his response to it. To protect Jeremiah, God commands him not to follow the custom of showing normal emotions of grief(i.e. head shaving) because the survivors of the impending carnage will find no one to console them in their grief. God does not command Jeremiah to behave this way to show His disapproval of a hairstyle.
All of these Old Testament verses reveal traditions, customs, or rituals Israel establishes and follows to express her emotions after repeatedly failing to follow God’s instructions. God commands Israel to follow those established traditions, customs, and rituals out of respect for the customs of their land, not to indicate His preferred customs. When God commands Israel to bald, cut, or clip heads and hairs to express her grief, mourning, and despair, He does so because Israelite customs, traditions, or rituals demand them to follow those methods of expressing certain emotions, not because God prefers or prescribes them. God behaves this way to respect their customs, not because He prefers them. God does not command Israel to express her fear, remorse, humiliation, shame, or other emotions through head balding, beard cutting, and hair clipping. Exclusively credit Israel for establishing those traditions.
Think about it this way: does God command choir members to wear robes or ushers to wear all-white or all-black outfits while singing or serving during worship services? No! Church choir and usher board members, not God, command those dress codes.
No Biblical law states God’s disapproval of certain hairstyles. One cannot especially cite the aforementioned Scriptures as proof of God forbidding His followers from wearing short Afro or bald hairstyles. Those Scriptures reveal traditions, customs, or rituals Israel adopted to symbolize her failures, regrets, and fears about disobeying God directives. They do not pertain or even insinuate God’s displeasure, dishonor, or disrespect with those traditions, customs, or rituals.
God does not feel displeased, dishonored, or disrespected from women wearing certain hairstyles. Some churches, societies, religious orders, and countries do, but God does not. Since God does not, any woman, especially Christian Black women and women losing hair from cancer, auto-immune disorders, hormone imbalances, head injuries, ignorance, medicine, neglect, or other head, scalp, and body diseases, should feel free to wear short Afro and bald hairstyles without any fear of violating God’s Biblical laws.