EXAMINING THE BIBLE, CHRISTIANITY SEEMS LESS FRIENDLY TO THOSE WITH HAIR LOSS THAN, SAY, BUDDHISM.
Since this article is looking at baldness in the Bible, it seems appropriate to start off with a favorite Bible verse, to wit:
“And so God looked out upon the assembled, and His light shone forth, and most especially it shoneth upon those whose pates were bare of hairiness. And God saw that their baldness reflected back His glory, which pleased Him mightily. And this was good.”
OK, so that quote doesn’t actually appear anywhere in the Bible. Wouldn’t it be a kick, though, if it did? After all, the Bible is a pretty influential book. It’s held in high esteem, especially in the United States; whole societies have used it as their foundation. Just a few verses like the fake one above could have changed the course of hairless history. If absolutely nothing else, having an endorsement of baldness from the Good Book might have been a major deterrent to the rise of “big hair” televangelists.
Unfortunately, there really aren’t any ringing endorsements of baldness to be found in this particular sacred text. Instead, one finds things such as the following:
“And he went up from thence unto Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, ‘Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.’
And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.” — 2 Kings 2:23-24
The “he” in the above quotation is Elisha, the Old Testament prophet, who comes across as rather touchy about being bald. Many who read this verse are appalled that he could retaliate for being taunted by having 42 children killed by a pair of bears. To be fair, however, many biblical scholars believe that the word here translated as “little children” should more properly be translated as “youths.” While Elisha may still have overreacted, it becomes somewhat more understandable if one imagines that a large group (at least 42) of rowdy, perhaps drunken young men has surrounded Elisha and is behaving in a most disrespectful manner to a holy man who has just inherited the mantel left by the great prophet Elijah.
A few bald biblical heroes
Elisha is one of the few individuals who are actually identified as bald in the Bible. Paul is another, as we know from this text:
“And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow.” — Acts 18:18
Then there’s Samson, of course, whose haircut from Delilah may or may not have been a total scalp shaving.
But more often, baldness is mentioned not as an identifying mark of one individual but as a concept or descriptive term, as in:
“And if there be in the bald head, or bald forehead, a white reddish sore; it is a leprosy sprung up in his bald head, or his bald forehead.” — Leviticus 13:42
“For every head shall be bald, and every beard clipped: upon all the hands shall be cuttings, and upon the loins sackcloth.” — Jeremiah 48:37
“Ye are the children of the Lord your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead.” — Deuteronomy 14:1
“Make thee bald …”: Head shaving in the Good Book
Sometimes people were instructed to shave their heads:
“And they shall make themselves utterly bald for thee, and gird them with sackcloth, and they shall weep for thee with bitterness of heart and bitter wailing.” — Ezekiel 27:31
“Make thee bald, and poll thee for thy delicate children; enlarge thy baldness as the eagle; for they are gone into captivity from thee.” — Micah 1:16
For a book as voluminous as the Bible, however, there are surprisingly few references to baldness. Most of them occur in the Old Testament and frequently in reference to shaving one’s head as a sign of mourning or repentance.
One can make guesses about biblical personages that may have been bald, of course. For instance, it’s hard to believe that Methuselah could live all the way to his reputed 969 years without losing a few hairs along the way. It also seems to make sense that Cain must have had, at the very least, a high forehead, in order for people to clearly see the mark God had placed there for murdering his brother.
Noah was 600 years old when the Flood came; if he wasn’t bald when the rains started, surely spending all that time on a little boat with hundreds of smelly, randy animals, three sons perpetually asking, “Are we there yet?” and a wife whose every glance said, “We had room for a pair of flea-infested water buffalo, but my mother we had to leave behind?” would have been enough to cause him to tear out his hair.
Those who created the Bible, of course, had more on their minds than the amount of hair on an individual’s head. Still, if “the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:30), couldn’t a little more space have been devoted to identifying some of those whose hairs number in the lower digits?