Bible Question:

The Old Testament says that people should not cut their hair. Why do Christians not follow that rule?

Bible Answer:

You have asked, “Is it wrong for Christians to cut their hair?” The Old Testament has a number of commands about cutting or not cutting hair. In general, the Old Testament does not prohibit a person from cutting their hair.

Priests and the Nazirite Vow

The Old Testament provides guidelines for the hair of priests and those who take a Nazirite vow. For the priest, God required that the hair of their head not be too long, contrary to modern belief. Their hair could not be too short either and they could not be bald. They were not allowed to shave the edges of their bread. God wanted the priests to have a full beard which regularly trimmed.

A man or a woman who took a Nazirite vow was not allowed to cut their hair (Numbers 6:2-4). The Nazirite vow was a very unusual vow of dedication to God. It was taken for a period of time in which the person dedicated themselves to God. It was an expression of total commitment. The Nazirite vow had a starting point and an ending point. The most interesting commitment a person had to make during the vow was to not cut his hair. However, when the period of time was over, the person was required to cut his/her hair.

CategoryRequirementReference
Priests
Could not have any physical defect.Leviticus 21:17-21
Could not marry a widow or divorced person.Leviticus 21:14-15
Do not touch the dead.Leviticus 21:1
Have no wine.Leviticus 10:9
Cutting of the hair was regulated.Leviticus 21:5
Ezekiel 44:20
Nazirite Vow
Do not touch the dead.Numbers 6:6-7
No contact with wine.Numbers 6:1-4
At Initiation: Do not cut the hair or beard.Numbers 6:5
Upon Completion: Cut the hair or beard.Numbers 6:13-18
Prohibition against unclean food.Judges 13:4-7

Just like the priests, a person who took a Nazirite vow could not cut his/her hair but only for a short period of time.

For the Dead

God also prohibited the Jews from cutting their hair in honor of the dead.

You are the sons of the LORD your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor shave your forehead for the sake of the dead. Deut. 14:1 (NASB)

Cutting of the Hair

The Jewish people were allowed to cut their hair for a number of reasons. The following is a list of Bible references to people who cut their hair, including some whom God told to cut their hair.

The Cutting of HairReference
Lepers were to cut their hair once they were healedLeviticus 14:8-9
Absalom cut his hair.2 Samuel 14:26
A group of people were described as those who cut their hair (maybe very close).Jeremiah 7:29
Jeremiah 9:26
Jeremiah 25:23
Jeremiah 49:32
God commanded Ezekiel to cut his hair.Ezekiel 5:1

These are the major references to times when people in the Old Testament did cut their hair.

Conclusion:

The Old Testament only commands priests and Nazirites to not cut their hair. Otherwise, there is no general prohibition against a person cutting his/her hair.

Reference Links:

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