And you, son of man, take a sharp sword, take it as a barber’s razor, and pass it over your head and your beard; then take scales to weigh and divide the hair. Ezekiel 5:1( NKJV)
|Behind the Word – Beard (Hebrew) zaqan, pr, zaw’-kawn – Strong’s 02206 — beard|
Every morning millions of men follow this instruction. Even men like myself with a full beard have a little morning maintenance to perform. In Leviticus 19:17, God instructed the Israelites — You shall not shave around the sides of your head, nor shall you disfigure the edges of your beard. (Finally, a decree of God I have kept for over thirty years.) Because of this commandment, the beard took on a special significance in Hebrew culture.
Leviticus 19:17 is translated above, nor shall you disfigure the edges of your beard….. but a better translation for edges would be corners. Corners? Do beards have corners? During the enslavement of the Jews by Egypt, the Egyptian style was to trim the beard square (with corners). To imitate this style was to imitate enslavement and disrespect God’s deliverance in the Exodus. A Hebrew man’s beard was considered his finest adornment. Many would swear by their beard. To lose their beard would have been the greatest imaginable loss, equal to loss of life. In 2 Samuel 10 when the king of the Ammonites died, David, who had been friendly with the king sent a cadre of servants to comfort his son and the new king, Hanun. Hanun’s people convinced him that David had really sent the servants as spies, and — 4 Therefore Hanun took David’s servants, shaved off half of their beards, cut off their garments in the middle, at their buttocks, and sent them away. 5 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.”
Conversely, it was considered a sign of most respectful greeting for one man to grab the other by the beard. What was socially respectable for the ordinary Hebrew often flowed from what was absolutely required of the priests of Yahweh, and this was true with traditions about the beard.
In this beard centric culture, God told Ezekiel, a priest, — take it as a barber’s razor, and pass it over your head and your beard… The sight of a beardless and hairless priest then would have received the same reaction we might have today in church if a pastor walked to the lectern to preach one Sunday, naked. People would scream and run, covering their faces. Most would condemn him. God was requiring of Ezekiel an act that while it might bring temporary shame to him personally, would assure that people noticed him sufficiently that they would receive God’s warning about their future. God is just. God is good. He prefers repentance to rebuke. His desire was that His chosen people would return their hearts to Him.
Ezekiel complied and shaved it all, but God’s children continued to ignore Him.