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The Barber's Razor

The English word barber originated from an old Latin word, barba, which meant a beard. From that, a "barber" came to mean someone who cut head and facial hair. The later English word barbarian (no doubt created by "civilized" men who were shaven) was derived from the same root word - not because "barbarians" cut beards (unless during the act of cutting someone's throat in an act of violent "barbarity"), but because they had beards.

There is only one word in the Holy Scriptures, which itself is used only once, that literally means barber. It's the Hebrew word pronounced gawl-lawb. It is found in Ezekiel 5:1 - as spoken by the LORD to Ezekiel The Prophet:

"5:1 And thou, son of man, take thee a sharp knife, take thee a barber's razor, and cause it to pass upon thine head and upon thy beard: then take thee balances to weigh, and divide the hair. 5:2 Thou shalt burn with fire a third part in the midst of the city, when the days of the siege are fulfilled: and thou shalt take a third part, and smite about it with a knife: and a third part thou shalt scatter in the wind; and I will draw out a sword after them." (Ezekiel 5:1-2 KJV)

"Take thee a barber's razor, and cause it to pass upon thine head and upon thy beard"

While there is only one specific mention of "barber" in the Scriptures, there are many references to shaving, right from the earliest times of Genesis.

People

"41:14 Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph [see The Israelite Patriarchs - Joseph], and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon: and he shaved himself, and changed his raiment, and came in unto Pharaoh." (Genesis 41:14 KJV)

Shaving was sometimes done for reasons of medical examination or treatment.

"13:29 If a man or woman have a plague upon the head or the beard; 13:30 Then the priest shall see the plague: and, behold, if it be in sight deeper than the skin; and there be in it a yellow thin hair; then the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is a dry scall, even a leprosy upon the head or beard. 13:31 And if the priest look on the plague of the scall, and, behold, it be not in sight deeper than the skin, and that there is no black hair in it; then the priest shall shut up him that hath the plague of the scall seven days: 13:32 And in the seventh day the priest shall look on the plague: and, behold, if the scall spread not, and there be in it no yellow hair, and the scall be not in sight deeper than the skin; 13:33 He shall be shaven, but the scall shall he not shave; and the priest shall shut up him that hath the scall seven days more: 13:34 And in the seventh day the priest shall look on the scall: and, behold, if the scall be not spread in the skin, nor be in sight deeper than the skin; then the priest shall pronounce him clean: and he shall wash his clothes, and be clean." (Leviticus 13:29-34 KJV)

Shaving was also sometimes prescribed for treatment of infectious diseases.

"14:8 And he that is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes, and shave off all his hair, and wash himself in water, that he may be clean: and after that he shall come into the camp, and shall tarry abroad out of his tent seven days. 14:9 But it shall be on the seventh day, that he shall shave all his hair off his head and his beard and his eyebrows, even all his hair he shall shave off: and he shall wash his clothes, also he shall wash his flesh in water, and he shall be clean" (Leviticus 14:8-9 KJV)

Priests were not to shave their heads bald (while natural baldness was acceptable i.e. "13:40 And the man whose hair is fallen off his head, he is bald; yet is he clean" Leviticus 13:40 KJV), nor let their hair grow long."

"21:5 They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard, nor make any cuttings in their flesh. 21:6 They shall be holy unto their God, and not profane the name of their God: for the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and the bread of their God, they do offer: therefore they shall be holy." (Leviticus 21:5-6 KJV)

"44:20 Neither shall they shave their heads, nor suffer their locks to grow long; they shall only poll their heads." (Ezekiel 44:20 KJV)

On the other hand, Nazirites were to let their hair grow long, "All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled."

"6:5 All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow. 6:6 All the days that he separateth himself unto the LORD he shall come at no dead body. 6:7 He shall not make himself unclean for his father, or for his mother, for his brother, or for his sister, when they die: because the consecration of his God is upon his head. 6:8 All the days of his separation he is holy unto the LORD." (Numbers 6:5-8 KJV)

Samson was a Nazirite. That was the point of his uncut hair.

"16:17 That he told her all his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother's womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man" (Numbers 16:17 KJV)

Like the men, women were not to deliberately shave their heads bald.

"11:5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. 11:6 For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered." (1 Corinthians 11:5-6 KJV)

Fact Finder: Did Jesus Christ have long or short hair?
See What Did Jesus Look Like?


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