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What the Bible Says

Introduction

When my youngest son was in high school, he decided to let his hair grow out. One of his Christian friends quoted to him 1 Corinthians 11:14, "Doth not even nature itself teach you that if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?" So he came to me and asked me what the Bible taught about men and long hair. This study was the answer to his request.

1. Is long hair shameful?

The one time it is mentioned in the Bible is 1 Corinthians 11:14 mentioned above. Is this a command from God? Is this just man’s opinion? What does it mean? It is plain that elsewhere in the Bible long hair is spoken of in a positive manner. Does the Bible contradict itself?

2. The Nazarite vow.

Numbers 6:5 & 7 speak of the Nazarite vows’ requirement of not cutting the hair. Most Nazarites took a vow for 100 days or less, but as the Believer’s Bible Commentary states, "In some rare cases, people were Nazarites for life – e.g. Samuel, Samson, John the Baptist." In fact Judges 16:17 specifically states Samson never had a razor touch his head. Nazarites must have had very long hair but nowhere are they condemned. They were only following God’s command. Would God in one place in the Bible encourage long hair, and then in another place condemn it?

3. Long hair praised.

In 2 Kings 1:8 the messenger’s description of a man with long hair and a leather girdle caused the king to instantly realize it was the prophet Elijah. He must have had long hair indeed. In fact the Hebrew words the servant used to describe Elijah were ba’al sa’ar which means "lord of hair." In 2 Samuel 14:25-26 Absalom’s long hair was praised for its handsome appearance and nowhere is it ever referred to as shameful. In Leviticus 19:27 God commands that men should not cut the hair on the corners of their head (NIV – "temples") or the corners of their beard. In 2 Samuel 10:4-5 Harun shaved off half the beard of David’s servants. The men were so ashamed David told them to wait at Jericho until their beards grew back and then return home. In this case, being clean-shaven was considered shameful! Psalm 133 praises the oil flowing down Aaron’s beard to his collar.

4. Greek word study.

In 1 Corinthians 11:14 the Greek word translated "long hair" is komao which means tresses of hair or locks. It comes from the root word meaning "to take care of" which indicates some kind of preparation to make the hair appear in tresses. Komao appears only three times in the Bible, and all three times are right here in the 11th chapter of 1 Corinthians. The usual word for hair is thrix. It is possible Paul is referring to some pagan practice of fixing the hair in a feminine manner, and this is what he is condemning for men, although condoning for women. Some hairstyles were considered immodest and condemned in 1 Timothy 2:9 and 1 Peter 3:3. At any rate, Paul would not teach anything contrary to the rest of scripture.

5. Conclusion.

1 Corinthians 11:13 says, "Judge for yourselves...." and verse 16 seems to imply there was no custom concerning this in the churches. It seems the interpretation is up to each individual depending on the cultural standards of their day. I think the New Bible Commentary sums up best how we should look at this issue, "To dress with decorum is a Christian principle of permanent validity for the outward appearance reflects the inner attitude. How this principle finds expression in detail will vary from place to place and from age to age."

Footnotes:

This study on Should Men Have Long Hair 1991 by David Humpal. All Rights Reserved.

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