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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Deuteronomy 21:12

 

 

then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and trim her nails.

Adam Clarke Commentary

She shall shave her head - This was in token of her renouncing her religion, and becoming a proselyte to that of the Jews. This is still a custom in the East; when a Christian turns Mohammedan his head is shaven, and he is carried through the city crying, la alahila allah we Mohammed resooli Allah ; "There is no God but God, and Mohammed is the prophet of God."

Pare her nails - צפרניה את ועשתה veasethah eth tsipporneyha, "she shall make her nails." Now whether this signifies paring or letting them grow, is greatly doubted among learned men. Possibly it means neither, but colouring the nails, staining them red with the hennah, which is much practiced in India to the present day, and which was undoubtedly practiced among the ancient Egyptians, as is evident from the nails of mummies which are found thus stained. The hennah, according to Hasselquist, grows in India, and in Upper and Lower Egypt; it flowers from May to August. The manner of using it is this: the leaves are powdered, and made into a paste with water: they bind this paste on the nails of their fingers and toes, and let it stand on all night; in the morning they are found to be of a beautiful reddish yellow, and this lasts three weeks or a month, after which they renew the application. They often stain the palms of their hands and the soles of their feet in the same way, as appears from many paintings of eastern ladies done in India and Persia, which now lie before me. This staining the soles of the feet with the hennah is probably meant in 2 Samuel 19:24; : Mephibosheth had not dressed (literally made) his feet - they had not been thus coloured.


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 21:12". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/deuteronomy-21.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

The shaving the head (a customary sign of purification, Leviticus 14:8; Numbers 8:7), and the putting away “the garment of her captivity,” were designed to signify the translation of the woman from the state of a pagan and a slave to that of a wife among the covenant-people. Consistency required that she should “pare” (dress, compare 2 Samuel 19:24), not “suffer to grow,” her nails; and thus, so far as possible, lay aside everything belonging to her condition as an alien.


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Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 21:12". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/deuteronomy-21.html. 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house,.... In order to make her his wife, after some things were done here directed to; for this is not to be understood of his taking her home with a view to defile her, as MaimonidesF5Moreh Nevochim, par. 3. c. 41. interprets it; who observes, that when a man's lust so rages that he cannot subdue it, yet he ought not publicly to satisfy his lust, but to have the woman into a private and secret place, as it is said:

thou shalt bring her into the midst of thine house; nor was he permitted to lie with her in the camp, nor was it lawful for him to defile her a second time, until her mourning was at an end; though elsewhereF6Hilchot Melachim, c. 8. sect. 2. he gives a different sense of this passage, and supposes the man to have lain with the captive woman, before the introduction of her into his house; for it is a notion that prevails with the Jewish writers, that an Israelitish soldier might lie once with an Heathen woman taken captive, to gratify his lust, but might not repeat it; so it is said in the TalmudF7T. Bab. Kiddushin, fol. 21. 2. ; yet it must be observed, that there are some, though but few, who are of opinion that the first congress was unlawful, and that he might not touch her until certain conditions were fulfilled, and they were married, as R. JochananF8Apud Abarbinel in loc. & R. Sol. Urbin. Ohel Moed, fol. 14. 1. ; and which is embraced, supported, and defended by Abarbinel on the place, and in which he is undoubtedly right; and so it is understood by JosephusF9Antiqu. l. 4. c. 8. sect. 23. and PhiloF11De Charitate, p. 706. ; for this law gives no liberty nor countenance to the violation of the beautiful captive. The plain meaning is, that when a Jewish soldier was passionately in love with a captive, and was desirous of making her his wife, he was to take her home to his house, where she was to remain, to see whether his passion of love would subside, or the woman become a proselyte, or however till certain rites were observed, and then he was permitted to marry her:

and she shall shave her head; either that she might be the less engaging, her flowing locks, or plaited hair, or modish headdress, being removed from her, which had served to excite a passion for her; or as a token of mourning for her present afflicted state and condition; and in afflicted circumstances it was usual to shave the head; see Job 1:20; and though it was forbidden the Israelites, yet not Gentiles; Deuteronomy 14:1.

and pare her nails; this and the former some think were ordered to make her fit to be his wife, and were a sort of purification of her, and an emblem of her having renounced Heathenism, and having departed from it, and laid aside all superfluity of former naughtiness; but this phrase is interpreted in the Targum of Onkelos, "let her nails grow"; and so the Arabic version: and this the Jewish writers say was ordered to be done, that she might appear ugly and disagreeable to him, and be abhorred by him; so Jarchi, Aben Ezra, and Ben Melech; the same is observed by MaimonidesF12Ut supra. (Hilchot Melachim, c. 8.) sect. 5. , and is the sense of R. AkibaF13In T. Bab. Yebamot, fol. 48. 2. . Another of their writersF14R. Abraham Seba in Tzeror Hammor, fol. 146. 2. think it refers to a custom in some nations to dye their nails."The daughters of the Heathens (he says) used to adorn the nails of their hands and feet, and dye them with various colours, according to the custom of the Ishmaelites (or Turks); that there might be a variety in their hands, and men might look at them, take them and handle them until the fire of hell, and an evil concupiscence, burned; wherefore this is ordered that they might let them grow, without any preparation or die.'But perhaps this neglect of their nails, and suffering them to grow, was in token of mourning as well as shaving the head, as also sometimes even paring the nails was done on the same account.


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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855

Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 21:12". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/deuteronomy-21.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house; d and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails;

(d) Signifying that her former life must be changed before she could be joined to the people of God.

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Bibliography
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 21:12". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/deuteronomy-21.html. 1599-1645.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house; and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails;

She shall shave her head — In token of her renouncing her heathenish idolatry and superstition, and of her becoming a new woman, and embracing the true religion.


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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Bibliography
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 21:12". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/deuteronomy-21.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Deuteronomy 21:12 Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house; and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails;

Ver. 12. And she shall shave her head.] In token that she must renounce her heathenism, and lead a new and holy life. And if she thus consented to marry, she saved her life by it; so do those their souls that consent to Christ, casting away their transgressions, and paring off their superfluities, by the constant practice of mortification.


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Bibliography
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 21:12". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/deuteronomy-21.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Ver. 12. She shall shave her head, and pare her nails Shaving the head was one of the external signs of mourning. See Leviticus 19:27; Leviticus 21:15. St. Jerome, and others, however, understand this shaving as a species of purification, and an abjuration of paganism. Paring the nails seems to have been also done in mourning. In the original it is, shall make her nails, which some understand of letting them grow; and this seems to us more suitable to a state of mourning; but the fashion of countries, as Calmet has well observed, must entirely determine; for we are told, that in some parts of America the women esteem it a beauty to have long nails; so that among them to pare the nails would be a sign of mourning; and this too is the case among the Chinese. Indeed, the custom of having long nails was common in Europe not above two ages ago.


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Bibliography
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 21:12". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/deuteronomy-21.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Either,

1. To take off his affections from her by rendering her uncomely and deformed; but then the last words must not be rendered shall

pare her nails, but shall nourish them, or suffer them to grow, as the Chaldee, Arabic, and divers of the learned Jews and other interpreters render it. Or,

2. To express her sorrow for the loss of her father and mother, as it follows, Deuteronomy 21:13, it being the ancient custom of mourners in most nations to shave themselves, and in some to pare their nails, in others to suffer them to grow. Or rather,

3. In token of her renouncing her heathenish idolatry and superstition, and of her becoming a new woman, and embracing the true religion; which her captive condition and subjection to his will would make her inclinable to do in profession.


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Bibliography
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Deuteronomy 21:12". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/deuteronomy-21.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

12. She shall shave her head, and pare her nails — These were signs of purification to be understood, as Keil expresses it, as “symbols of her passing out of the state of a slave and her reception into the fellowship of the covenant nation.” Comp. Leviticus 14:8; Numbers 8:7.


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Bibliography
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 21:12". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/deuteronomy-21.html. 1874-1909.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Hair. In mourning, people did the reverse to what they were accustomed to do in the days of joy. The men let their hair grow, the women cut this ornament of their head, a thing which the prophets often threaten, Isaias xv. 23., and Jeremias xlvii. 5, &c. (Calmet) --- Nails. Some would translate the Hebrew "she shall make her nails grow," as a mark of sorrow, perhaps usual among the pagans faciet ungues. But the Septuagint, Philo, &c. agree with the Vulgate; (Menochius) and the Hebrew may very well have the same sense. We must not judge of the idea which others have of beauty, by our own sentiments. Some women in America have long nails, and esteem them as marks of beauty and nobility; and in China, they let those of the left hand grow, and cut them in mourning. (Hist. Sin. iii. 1.) The people of Mauritania take a pride in having long nails. (Strabo, xvi.) The Duke of Burgundy, not 300 years ago, was distinguished among the slain, before Nancy, in France, (Haydock) by the length of his nails; (Calmet) and, in ancient times, people never cut them in voyages at sea, unless to express their grief in extreme danger. Huic fluctus vivo radicitus abstulit ungues. (Propertius iii.; Petron.[Petronius?]) Why, therefore, might not these captives follow the same custom, as all depends on fashion? (Calmet) --- The woman being deprived of her ornaments, the passion of the soldier might probably abate. St. Jerome (ep. 84,) applies this to worldly learning, which he endeavoured to make subservient to the truth, after he had cut away what was dead and pernicious in it. (Du Hamel)


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Bibliography
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 21:12". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/deuteronomy-21.html. 1859.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house; and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails;
and she shall
This was in token of renouncing her religion, and becoming a proselyte to that of the Jews. This is still a custom in the East: when a Christian turns Mohammedan, his head is shaved, and he is carried through the city, crying, la eelah eela allah wemochammed resoolu 'llahee, "There is no God but the God, and Mohammed is the prophet of God."
1 Corinthians 11:6; Ephesians 4:22
pare her nails
or, suffer to grow. Heb. make, or dress. Wëâsethah eth tzipparneyha, "and she shall make her nails;" i.e., probably neither paring nor letting them grow, but dressing or beautifying them as the Eastern women still do by tinging them with the leaves of an odoriferous plant called alhenna, which Hasselquist (p. 246) informs us, "grows in India and in upper and lower Egypt, flowering from May to August. The leaves are pulverized and made into a paste with water: they bind this paste on the nails of their hands and feet, and keep it on all night. This gives them a deep yellow, which is greatly admired by Eastern nations. The colour lasts for three or four weeks before there is occasion to renew it. The custom is so ancient in Egypt, that I have seen the nails of mummies dyed in this manner."

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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 21:12". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/deuteronomy-21.html.

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