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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
(1) The English word "barber" is from Latin barba, "beard" = a man who shaves the beard. Dressing and trimming the hair came to be added to his work. "Barber" is found only once English Versions of the Bible, in Ezek 5:1, "Take thee a sharp sword; as a barber's razor shalt thou take it unto thee, and shalt cause it to pass upon thy head and upon thy beard" (compare Chaghigha' 4b, Shab, section 6).
(2) In Gen 41:14 we probably have a case of conformity to Egyptian, rather than Palestinian custom, where Joseph "shaved himself, and changed his raiment, and came in unto Pharaoh." It is known that Egyptians of the higher classes shaved the beard regularly and completely (as the Hittites, Elamites and early Babylonians seem to have done), except that fashion allowed, as an exception to the rule, a small tuft, or "goatee," under the chin.
(3) We learn from various Scriptural allusions, as well as from other sources (compare W. Max Muller, Asien und Europa, 296 ff), that the business of the oriental barber included, besides ceremonial shaving, the trimming and polling of the hair and the beard. Compare 2 Sam 19:24 where it appears that the moustache (Hebrew sapham; the King James Version "beard") received regular trimming; and 1 Sam 21:14, where the neglect of the beard is set down as a sign of madness.
That men wore wigs and false beards in ancient days, the latter showing the rank of the wearer, appears from Herodotus ii.36; iii.12; and Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt, II, 324, etc. Josephus, Vita, II, gives one case where false hair appears to have been used as an intentional disguise. See also Polyb. iii.78.
(4) The business of the barber (see Ezek 5:1, "as a barber's razor shalt thou take it unto thee, and shalt cause it to pass upon thy head and upon thy beard"), outside of ceremonial shaving, may have consisted in trimming and polling the beard and the hair of the head. Of other nations with whom Israel of old came in contact, the Hittites and Elamites, it is now known, shaved the beard completely, as the earliest Babylonians also seem to have done.
(5) The prohibition enjoined in the Mosaic law upon "the priests the Levites, the sons of Zadok" (Ezek 44:15,20) forbidding either "shaving the head," or "suffering their locks to grow long," or shaving off the corners of their beard (Lev 21:5), was clearly, in a sense peculiar to the priests, etc.: "They (the priests) shall only cut off," i.e. trim, not shave, "the hair of their heads" (Ezek 44:20b). But in the Apostolical Constitutions, I, 3, insistence is laid upon the Biblical prohibition as applicable to all as regards the removal of the beard (compare Clement of Alexandria, Paed., III, edition Migne, I, 580 f). Jerome on Ezek 44:20 and some of the Jewish sages find the basis of this prohibition in the fact that God gave a beard to man to distinguish him from the woman--so, they reasoned, it is wrong thus to go against Nature (compare Bahya, on Lev 19:27).
(6) In the Israel of the Greek period, say in the 3rd century BC, when there was a large infusion of Hellenic population and influence, clipping of the beard prevailed in some circles, being omitted only in times of mourning, etc. The common people, however, seem to have seen little distinction between clipping the beard and shaving. But see pictures of captive Jews with clipped beard in the British Museum.
Benzinger, heb. Arch., 110; Nowack, Lehrbuch der Heb. Arch., 134; W. Max Muller, Asien und Europa, 296 ff.
George B. Eager
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Definition for 'BARBER'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". bible-history.com - ISBE
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