Why the Beard?
Hi friends, 🙂
This may sound like a silly thing to make a post about, but some of you may have wondered why I grew out a beard… There’s actually more significance to it than may at first be obvious.
Here’s the story:
I had been clean-shaven since November of 2016. I shaved my long goatee at the same time that I cut my long hair for the third (and final) time. All of this I did when the LORD revealed to me that I had been dishonoring my parents, because they didn’t like my long hair or my long goatee.
So for 3 years I was perfectly content to have a clean-shaven face, especially since I had linked being clean-shaven, in my mind, with my decision to honor my parents.
That was until September 24, 2019 (just a few months ago). I was sitting down, reading my Bible, and I was in the book of Titus, I believe, where Paul talks about how he wants the older men to be serious and the younger men likewise to be sober-minded (Titus 2:2,6 and the surrounding text). And I asked God — “God, how can I be more of a man? How can I be more firm, serious, and godly?”
As I was thinking about this, it felt as though I heard the LORD, in my spirit (in not very many words), say: “beard.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but when I receive a word like this, at once it strikes me in two ways. On the one hand, it makes me think, “Huh, really? I never thought of that as being important.” And on the other hand, it makes me think, “Hmm… I think there’s something to this.”
Of course, I know I shouldn’t merely listen to a voice in my head, assume it’s the LORD, and do whatever that voice tells me to do — each one of us has to “test the spirits, to see whether they are of God” (1 John 4:4). So that’s what I went about to begin to do.
It was at this time that I had been researching what the early Christians believed — the writings of the Christians that lived just after the apostles. So, naturally, I looked into if they had anything to say about beards… And, believe it or not, they did!
Clement of Alexandria, for instance, living c. 150 – c. 215 AD, wrote these words:
“But for one who is a man to comb himself and shave himself with a razor, for the sake of fine effect, to arrange his hair at the looking-glass [the mirror], to shave his cheeks, pluck hairs out of them, and smooth them, how womanly!…For God wished women to be smooth, and rejoice in their locks alone growing spontaneously, as a horse in his mane; but has adorned man, like the lions, with a beard…
This, then, the mark of the man, the beard, by which he is seen to be a man, is older than Eve…In this God deemed it right that he should excel, and dispersed hair over man’s whole body…It is therefore impious to desecrate the symbol of manhood, hairiness. But the embellishment of smoothing (for I am warned by the Word), if it is to attract men, is the act of an effeminate person,—if to attract women, is the act of an adulterer; and both must be driven as far as possible from our society. ‘But the very hairs of your head are all numbered,’ says the Lord; those on the chin, too, are numbered, and those on the whole body. There must be therefore no plucking out, contrary to God’s appointment, which has counted them in according to His will…” ( http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/02093.htm )
Or Lactantius, another early Christian, living c. 250 – c. 325 AD, wrote:
“The nature of the beard contributes in an incredible degree to distinguish the maturity of bodies, or to distinguish the sex, or to contribute to the beauty of manliness and strength.” ( http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0704.htm )
The early Christians believed that the beard was a God-given distinguishing mark to separate men from women, as well as separate men from boys. Those who shaved their beards were seen as effeminate, doing what is contrary to nature and against God’s design (for who made the beard and gave it to men but God Himself?).
Now, upon finding these thoughts, my perspective was certainly changing! Why should I challenge the natural course of things, which God had established, by every day shaving what God had put there to grow?
And if these thoughts were not sufficient, I also found the Scriptures themselves in agreement that the beard was very suitable and desirable for a man.
For instance, when King David sent men to Hanun, the king of Ammon, to comfort him because his father had died, the people of the land of Ammon thought these men were sent as spies, so they “shaved off half of their beards, cut off their garments in the middle, at their buttocks, and sent them away.” (2 Samuel 10:4)
Now what was their response?
“When they told David, he sent to meet them, because the men were /greatly ashamed/. And the king said, ‘Wait at Jericho until your beards have grown, and then return.'” (2 Samuel 10:5)
I don’t know about you, but if I had my garments cut off in the middle, at the buttocks, I would be ashamed, too! But that’s not what King David comments on — he mentions, instead, their beards! He says, in essence, “Stay away from home until your beards grow back.” This could have been months that they were to stay away from, presumably, their wives and kids, because it would have been a shame for them to appear in public without their beards.
Now, if this same scenario happened today, we might have told King David’s men, “Just shave off the other half of the beard, and come back home!” But this was not an option in the mind of King David. He would rather have had his men wait until their beards had grown back rather than have them shamefully appear without their beards.
This significance of men having beards is further drawn out by the fact that in the Scriptures, one sign of the judgment of the LORD upon a nation, in the book of Jeremiah, involved the /shaving/ of beards:
“For every head shall be bald, and /every beard clipped/. On all the hands shall be cuttings, and on the loins sackcloth. On all the housetops of Moab, and in its streets, there is weeping for all. For I have broken Moab like a vessel in which is no pleasure, says the LORD.” (Jeremiah 48:37-38)
In the Bible, it is the assumed norm that a man has a beard. It was only in unusual cases, like judgment or mourning or public shame, that the beard was cut or disfigured.
Back in the book of Leviticus, it was even part of the law for the people of Israel that they were not allowed to cut off the edges of their beards (effectively making a goatee):
“You shall not shave around the sides of your head, nor shall you disfigure the edges of your beard.” (Leviticus 19:27)
All these things being the case, it seems every godly man in the Bible had a beard. Some we know for sure:
*Ezekiel the prophet (Ezekiel 5:1, where Ezekiel is instructed to cut off his beard to represent the coming judgment)
*King David (1 Samuel 21:13, where David let his spit dribble down onto his beard in order to appear insane — and thus not be killed)
*Amasa, one of King David’s fighters (2 Samuel 20:9, where Joab kindly took hold of his beard to kiss him, but in an insincere, deceptive way, in order to kill him — much akin to Judas betraying Jesus with a kiss)
*Aaron the high priest, Moses’ brother (Psalm 133:2, in which the psalmist describes the blessedness of friends in unity, comparing it to oil descending on Aaron’s beard)
*Even Jesus our Savior (Isaiah 50:6, wherein Isaiah prophesies about Jesus that He would let himself be beaten by others who would also pluck out His beard — which means that Jesus’ beard was long enough to be pulled)
And I’m sure I could say more, but the point suffices that as I studied this out, I found that God had truly given me a succinct and true answer when I asked Him, “What can I do to be more of a man?” and He replied merely, “beard.”
Now, would this be the answer He would give every man? Not necessarily. After all, there is a lot more to being a man than simply growing a beard. Being a godly man involves other things like good character, sober-mindedness, strong faith, gentle love, self-control, etc. But growing a beard is, as Charles Spurgeon said, “a habit most natural, scriptural, manly, and beneficial.” ( Charles Spurgeon’s “Lectures To My Students” https://www.mat.univie.ac.at/…/scian…/spurgeon/spurgeon1.pdf )
For more info about the beard, in regards to the Scriptures, etc., I found this article very good: http://miskawilhelmsson.com/beardology/
In finishing, I do not at all say this is such an important issue that I would condemn anybody who is clean-shaven. No, not at all! I just wanted to put forth why I grew my beard, in order for others to see some of what the Scriptures and the early Christians have to say about the matter — that the beard is quite natural (indeed, God-given), as a distinction between men and boys, and between men and women.
In our culture that is increasingly gender-confused, I even more greatly desired (and continue to desire) to do things the way God originally intended and make it as evident as possible that I am certainly a man, and a man of God. Praise the LORD!
#KingDavid #Leviticus1927 #Aaron #Clement #Bible #jesus #beard #EarlyChristians #Lactantius #pluck