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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

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hed ( ראשׁ , rō'sh , Aramaic ע ֿ2 #100 100 10rנ , rē'sh , and in special sense גּלגּלת , gulgōleth , literally, "skull," "cut-off head" ( 1 Chronicles 10:10 ), whence Golgotha (Matthew 27:33 ; Mark 15:22 ; John 19:17 ); מראשׁה , mera'ăshāh , literally, "head-rest," "pillow," "bolster" (1 Kings 19:6 ); קדקד , ḳodhḳōdh , literally, crown of the head (Deuteronomy 28:35 ; Deuteronomy 33:16 , Deuteronomy 33:20 ; 2 Samuel 14:25 ; Isaiah 3:17 ; Jeremiah 48:45 ); בּרזל , barzel , "the head of an axe" (Deuteronomy 19:5 , the Revised Version margin "iron"; 2 Kings 6:5 ); להבה , lehābhāh , להבת , lahebheth , "the head of a spear" (1 Samuel 17:7 ); κεφαλή , kephalḗ ): The first-mentioned Hebrew word and its Aramaic form are found frequently in their literal as well as metaphorical sense. We may distinguish the following meanings:

1. Used of Men

By a slight extension of meaning, "head" occasionally stands for the person itself. This is the case in all passages where evil is said to return or to be requited upon the head of a person (see below).

2. Used of Animals

The word is also used in connection with the serpent's head (Genesis 3:15 ), the head of the sacrificial ram, bullock and goat (Exodus 29:10 , Exodus 29:15 , Exodus 29:19 ; Leviticus 4:4 , Leviticus 4:24 ), the head of leviathan (Job 41:7 (Hebrew 40:31)).

3. The Head-Piece

It is used also as representing the top or summit of a thing, as the capital of column or pillar (Exodus 36:38 ; Exodus 38:28 ; 2 Chronicles 3:15 ); of mountains (Exodus 19:20 ; Numbers 21:20 ; Judges 9:7 ; Amos 1:2 ; Amos 9:3 ); of a scepter (Esther 5:2 ); of a ladder (Genesis 28:12 ); of a tower (Genesis 11:4 ).

4. Beginning, Source, Origin

As a fourth meaning the word occurs (Proverbs 8:23 ; Ecclesiastes 3:11 ; Isaiah 41:4 ) in the sense of beginning of months (Exodus 12:2 ), of rivers (Genesis 2:10 ), of streets or roads (Isaiah 51:20 ; Ezekiel 16:25 ; Ezekiel 21:21 ).

As a leader, prince, chief, chieftain, captain (or as an adjective, with the meaning of foremost, uppermost), originally: "he that stands at the head"; compare "God is with us at our head" (2 Chronicles 13:12 ); "Knowest thou that Yahweh will take away thy master from thy head?" (2 Kings 2:3 ); "head-stone" the Revised Version (British and American) "top stone," i.e. the upper-most stone (Zechariah 4:7 ).

5. Leader, Prince

Israel is called the head of nations (Deuteronomy 28:13 ); "The head (capital) of Syria is Damascus, and the head (prince) of Damascus is Rezin" (Isaiah 7:8 ); "heads of their fathers' houses," i.e. elders of the clans (Exodus 6:14 ); compare "heads of tribes" (Deuteronomy 1:15 ), also "captain," literally, head (Numbers 14:4 ; Deuteronomy 1:15 ; 1 Chronicles 11:42 ; Nehemiah 9:17 ). The phrase "head and tail" (Isaiah 9:14 ; Isaiah 19:15 ) is explained by the rabbis as meaning the nobles and the commons among the people; compare "palm-branch and rush" (Isaiah 9:14 ), "hair of the feet ... and beard" (Isaiah 7:20 ), but compare also Isaiah 9:15 . In the New Testament we find the remarkable statement of Christ being "the head of the church" (Ephesians 1:22 ; Ephesians 5:23 ), "head of every man" (1 Corinthians 11:3 ), "head of all principality and power" (Colossians 2:10 ), "head of the body, the church" (Colossians 1:18 ; compare Ephesians 4:15 ). The context of 1 Corinthians 11:3 is very instructive to a true understanding of this expression: "I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God" (compare Ephesians 5:23 ). Here, clearly, reference is had to the lordship of Christ over His church, not to the oneness of Christ and His church, while in Ephesians 4:16 the dependence of the church upon Christ is spoken of. These passages should not therefore be pressed to include the idea of Christ being the intellectual center, the brain of His people, from whence the members are passively governed, for to the Jewish mind the heart was the seat of the intellect, not the head. See HEART .

6. Various Uses

As the head is the most essential part of physical man, calamity and blessing are said to come upon the head of a person (Genesis 49:26 ; Deuteronomy 33:16 ; Judges 9:57 ; 1 Samuel 25:39 ; 2 Chronicles 6:23 ; Ezekiel 9:10 ; Ezekiel 11:21 ; Ezekiel 16:43 ; Ezekiel 22:31 ). For this reason hands are placed upon the head of a person on which blessings are being invoked (Genesis 48:14 , Genesis 48:17 , Genesis 48:18 ; Matthew 19:15 ) and upon the sacrificial animal upon which sins are laid (Exodus 29:15 ; Leviticus 1:4 ; Leviticus 4:29 , Leviticus 4:33 ). Responsibility for a deed is also said to rest on the head of the doer (2 Samuel 1:16 ; 2 Samuel 3:29 ; 1 Kings 8:32 ; Psalm 7:16 ; Acts 18:6 ). The Bible teaches us to return good for evil (Matthew 5:44 ), or in the very idiomatic Hebrew style, to "heap coals of fire upon (the) head" of the adversary (Proverbs 25:22 ; Romans 12:20 ). This phrase is dark as to its origin, but quite clear as to its meaning and application (compare Romans 12:17 , Romans 12:19 , Romans 12:21 ). The Jew was inclined to swear by his head (Matthew 5:36 ), as the modern Oriental swears by his beard. The head is said to be under a vow (Numbers 6:18 , Numbers 6:19 ; Acts 18:18 ; Acts 21:23 ), because the Nazirite vow could readily be recognized by the head.

There are numerous idiomatic expressions connected with the head, of which we enumerate the following: "the hoary head" designates old age (see HAIR ); "to round the corners of the head," etc. (Leviticus 19:27 ; compare also Deuteronomy 14:1 ; Amos 8:10 ), probably refers to the shaving of the side locks or the whole scalp among heathen nations, which was often done in idolatrous shrines or in token of initiation into the service of an idol. It was therefore forbidden to Israel, and its rigid observance gave rise to the peculiar Jewish custom of wearing long side locks (see HAIR ). "Anointing the head" (Psalm 23:5 ; Psalm 92:10 ; Hebrews 1:9 ) was a sign of joy and hospitality, while the "covering of the head" (2 Samuel 15:30 ; Esther 6:12 ; Jeremiah 14:3 ), "putting the hand upon the head" (2 Samuel 13:19 ) and putting earth, dust or ashes upon it (Joshua 7:6 ; 1 Samuel 4:12 ; 2 Sam 12; 2 Samuel 13:19 ; Lamentations 2:10 ; compare Amos 2:7 ) were expressive of sadness, grief, deep shame and mourning. In Esther 7:8 Haman's face is covered as a condemned criminal, or as one who has been utterly put to shame, and who has nothing more to say for his life.

In this connection the Pauline injunction as to the veiling of women in the public gatherings of the Christians (1 Corinthians 11:5 ), while men were instructed to appear bareheaded, must be mentioned. This is diametrically opposed to the Jewish custom, according to which men wore the head covered by the ṭallı̄th or prayer shawl, while women were considered sufficiently covered by their long hair (1 Corinthians 11:15 ). The apostle here simply commends a Greek custom for the congregation residing among Greek populations; in other words, he recommends obedience to local standards of decency and good order.

"To bruise the head" (Genesis 3:15 ) means to injure gravely; "to smite through the head" (Psalm 68:21 ) is synonymous with complete destruction. "To shake or wag the head" (Psalm 22:7 ; Psalm 44:14 ; Psalm 64:8 ; Jeremiah 18:16 ; Jeremiah 48:27 ; Lamentations 2:15 ; Matthew 27:39 ; Mark 15:29 ) conveys the meaning of open derision and contempt. "To bow down the head" (Isaiah 58:5 ) indicates humility, sadness and mourning, but it may also be a mere pretense for piety. (Sirach 19:26).


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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Head'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/isb/h/head.html. 1915.

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