In the Old Testament, the Nazirites (a group of Jews) were commanded to grow their hair while other Jewish men were to cut it. In the New Testament, men were to keep their hair short in line with the cultural standard of masculinity at that time.
The Bible includes a surprising number of references to hair. During Old Testament times, hair, and how it was styled, was an important symbol. In the New Testament and modern times, the topic of men’s hair is often debated and Jesus is often depicted as having long hair. Let’s find out more.
Mentions of Men with Long Hair in the Bible
Hair features in some interesting ways in the Bible. In the Old Testament, there were laws that governed the hair (including facial hair) of the nation of Israel. And in the New Testament, in a letter to the Corinthian church, Paul directly addresses men’s hair.
Long Hair in the Old Testament
Leviticus 19:27 ESV You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard.
A typical Jewish man in the Old Testament likely had neatly trimmed hair with long sideburns and a beard in accordance with the above commandment. There was a unique situation where a Jewish man would grow his hair and that was when he was under vow as a Nazirite.
Numbers 6:5 ESV “All the days of his vow of separation, no razor shall touch his head. Until the time is completed for which he separates himself to the Lord, he shall be holy. He shall let the locks of hair of his head grow long. Not for good luck, but because of his vow.
The vow of a Nazirite would set that man apart for The LORD with an understanding that God had specific work or purpose for Him. When the work was done, the Nazirite would cut his hair as a sacrifice to The LORD. The best-known Nazirite of the Bible is Samson.
The tragic, yet victorious, story of Samson involves a young man, a judge of the nation of Israel, separated for the work of The LORD as a Nazirite. He was blessed with supernatural strength from God. He was undefeatable until his poor choices led him to a woman, Delilah. She was paid by Israel’s enemy – the Philistines – to betray him. But The LORD had a plan.
Judges 16:17,19, 21-23, 25, 28-30 ESV
And he told her all his heart, and said to her, “A razor has never come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If my head is shaved, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak and be like any other man.”
She made him sleep on her knees. And she called a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. Then she began to torment him, and his strength left him… And the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes and brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles. And he ground at the mill in the prison. But the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.
Now the lords of the Philistines gathered to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to rejoice, and they said, “Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hand.” And when their hearts were merry, they said, “Call Samson, that he may entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he entertained them. They made him stand between the pillars.
Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.”
And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life.
Long Hair in the New Testament
Jesus is often depicted as having long hair. The New Testament does not refer to him being under a vow as a Nazirite. It is possible that early artists confused the terms “Nazareth” and “Nazarite” resulting in a Jesus with long locks. It is more likely that he wore the hairstyle of a typical Jewish man; short hair with a beard.
There is only one passage in the New Testament that directly addresses hairstyles. It is often debated and a point of contention for some Christians.
1 Cor 11:14-15 ESV Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering.
Here, Paul, the apostle, is clearly admonishing the men of the church to keep their hair short. But why? And is that still a requirement of men of the church? Let’s dig a bit deeper.
Is it Shameful for Men to Have Long Hair?
1 Samuel 16:7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
In this passage, we clearly see that God is concerned with the heart. Some would argue then, that God doesn’t care what you look like. But outward appearance (clothes and hairstyling) is an outward display of an inward heart attitude.
When Paul addressed the Corinthians about hair, he was asking them to embrace who God made them to be. He was saying, if you’re a man, desire to look like a man! It’s natural because it is God’s design.
While fashions and hairstyles change over the years and differ from culture to culture, the idea of the passage remains firm. Men are to have the appearance of men and women should have the appearance of women.
In many cultures, men with long hair are considered very masculine (hello Jon Bon Jovi!). In such a culture, it would not be shameful for a man to grow his hair. In some societies, only women have long hair. Here it would be appropriate for men to cut their hair so as not to cause confusion or be a stumbling block to the gospel message.
The Bible’s Take on Men with Long Hair
God’s love for us is independent of our outward appearance. But as Christians, our attitude towards our appearance, including our hair, should reflect a trust in The God who made us and knows the very number of hairs on each of our heads (Matt 10:30).
By embracing God’s design for masculinity, men are encouraged to style their hair in such a way that is deemed masculine in the culture and society they live in. And in many cultures, it is perfectly acceptable (in terms of masculinity) for men to grow their hair.