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Holman Bible Dictionary

Razors, Shaving

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Instruments used in and process of removing facial hair. The customs of ancient nations regarding facial hair varied greatly. The availability of inscriptional and pictorial evidence as to these customs shows that nations had their own individual practices. Egyptians were known for their fastidious attention to personal cleanliness and did not shave the hair of their beard and head only in times of mourning. Their normal custom was to shave both with the motive of cleanliness. The pictures and statues of pharaohs show them with beards which we now know were fake. The custom of shaving the face and head was less common among the Hebrews. Among them, in parallel with most Western Asiatics including the Assyrians, the beard was considered as an ornament and point of pride, and was not shaven, but only trimmed (2 Samuel 19:24 ; Ezekiel 44:20 ). The beard was cherished as the badge of dignity of manhood.

Shaving was done with a sharp cutting instrument made from a variety of materials, but usually from either flint, obsidian, or iron (Isaiah 7:20 ; Ezekiel 5:1 ), but only in unusual circumstances. The razor could be a simple knife, probably elongated with a rounded end, or an elaborate instrument, sometimes decorated. Shaving was practiced as a sign of mourning (Job 1:20 ; Jeremiah 7:29 ), as a sign of subservience to a superior (Numbers 8:7 ; Genesis 41:14 ), and as a treatment for a person with leprosy (Leviticus 14:9 ).

Jimmy Albright

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Razors, Shaving'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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