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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
hed (ro'-sh, Aramaic re'sh, and in special sense gulgoleth, literally, "skull," "cut-off head" (1 Ch 10:10), whence Golgotha (Mt 27:33; Mk 15:22; Jn 19:17); mera'ashah, literally, "head-rest," "pillow," "bolster" (1 Ki 19:6); qodhqodh, literally, crown of the head (Dt 28:35; 33:16,20; 2 Sam 14:25; Isa 3:17; Jer 48:45); barzel, "the head of an axe" (Dt 19:5, the Revised Version margin "iron"; 2 Ki 6:5); lehabhah, lahebheth, "the head of a spear" (1 Sam 17:7); kephale): 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 (Gen 3:15), the head of the sacrificial ram, bullock and goat (Ex 29:10,15,19; Lev 4:4,24), 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 (Ex 36:38; 38:28; 2 Ch 3:15); of mountains (Ex 19:20; Nu 21:20; Jdg 9:7; Am 1:2; 9:3); of a scepter (Est 5:2); of a ladder (Gen 28:12); of a tower (Gen 11:4).
4. Beginning, Source, Origin:
As a fourth meaning the word occurs (Prov 8:23; Eccl 3:11; Isa 41:4) in the sense of beginning of months (Ex 12:2), of rivers (Gen 2:10), of streets or roads (Isa 51:20; Ezek 16:25; 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 Ch 13:12); "Knowest thou that Yahweh will take away thy master from thy head?" (2 Ki 2:3); "head-stone" the Revised Version (British and American) "top stone," i.e. the upper-most stone (Zec 4:7).
5. Leader, Prince:
Israel is called the head of nations (Dt 28:13); "The head (capital) of Syria is Damascus, and the head (prince) of Damascus is Rezin" (Isa 7:8); "heads of their fathers' houses," i.e. elders of the clans (Ex 6:14); compare "heads of tribes" (Dt 1:15), also "captain," literally, head (Nu 14:4; Dt 1:15; 1 Ch 11:42; Neh 9:17). The phrase "head and tail" (Isa 9:14; 19:15) is explained by the rabbis as meaning the nobles and the commons among the people; compare "palm-branch and rush" (Isa 9:14), "hair of the feet .... and beard" (Isa 7:20), but compare also Isa 9:15. In the New Testament we find the remarkable statement of Christ being "the head of the church" (Eph 1:22; 5:23), "head of every man" (1 Cor 11:3), "head of all principality and power" (Col 2:10), "head of the body, the church" (Col 1:18; compare Eph 4:15). The context of 1 Cor 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 Eph 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 Eph 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.
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 (Gen 49:26; Dt 33:16; Jdg 9:57; 1 Sam 25:39; 2 Ch 6:23; Ezek 9:10; 11:21; 16:43; 22:31). For this reason hands are placed upon the head of a person on which blessings are being invoked (Gen 48:14,17,18; Mt 19:15) and upon the sacrificial animal upon which sins are laid (Ex 29:15; Lev 1:4; 4:29,33). Responsibility for a deed is also said to rest on the head of the doer (2 Sam 1:16; 3:29; 1 Ki 8:32; Ps 7:16; Acts 18:6). The Bible teaches us to return good for evil (Mt 5:44), or in the very idiomatic Hebrew style, to "heap coals of fire upon (the) head" of the adversary (Prov 25:22; Rom 12:20). This phrase is dark as to its origin, but quite clear as to its meaning and application (compare Rom 12:17,19,21). The Jew was inclined to swear by his head (Mt 5:36), as the modern Oriental swears by his beard. The head is said to be under a vow (Nu 6:18,19; Acts 18:18; 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. (Lev 19:27; compare also Dt 14:1; Am 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" (Ps 23:5; 92:10; Heb 1:9) was a sign of joy and hospitality, while the "covering of the head" (2 Sam 15:30; Est 6:12; Jer 14:3), "putting the hand upon the head" (2 Sam 13:19) and putting earth, dust or ashes upon it (Josh 7:6; 1 Sam 4:12; 2 Sam 12; 13:19; Lam 2:10; compare Am 2:7) were expressive of sadness, grief, deep shame and mourning. In Est 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 Cor 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 Tallith or prayer shawl, while women were considered sufficiently covered by their long hair (1 Cor 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" (Gen 3:15) means to injure gravely; "to smite through the head" (Ps 68:21) is synonymous with complete destruction. "To shake or wag the head" (Ps 22:7; 44:14; 64:8; Jer 18:16; 48:27; Lam 2:15; Mt 27:39; Mk 15:29) conveys the meaning of open derision and contempt. "To bow down the head" (Isa 58:5) indicates humility, sadness and mourning, but it may also be a mere pretense for piety. (Sirach 19:26).
H. L. E. Luering
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Definition for 'head'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". bible-history.com - ISBE
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