Beards have been an important part of men’s history and culture for thousands of years. If you’ve ever wondered, “What does the Bible say about beards?” – you’re not alone. Many people are curious if growing a beard is encouraged, forbidden, or simply a matter of personal choice according to biblical scripture.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The Bible does not explicitly command men to grow or shave off beards. However, growing a beard is presented in a positive light at several points, and was common cultural practice in biblical times.
Beards in the Old Testament
Leviticus 19:27 – Do Not Cut the Edges of Your Beard
In the Old Testament, beards were seen as a sign of holiness and devotion to God. Leviticus 19:27 states: “Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.” This law was likely intended to separate the Israelites from the pagan nations around them that cut their beards in unique styles as part of idol worship (GotQuestions).
By leaving their beards untouched, Israelite men demonstrated their commitment to following God’s commands.
2 Samuel 10:4-5 – David’s Men Wore Beards
In 2 Samuel 10, David’s men are described as having beards. When David’s delegates were humiliated by the Ammonite king, it says he “took David’s men, shaved off half of each man’s beard, cut off their garments at the buttocks, and sent them away” (v. 4). This was considered a grave insult.
The beards of David’s men represented their maturity and status as warriors. Forcing them to shave was an attempt to shame them.
Beards Represented Wisdom and Dignity
Throughout Israel’s history, beards were associated with wisdom, honor and dignity. Kings, prophets, priests and elders typically wore full, flowing beards as a sign of their age and leadership roles. For example, Aaron the first high priest and his descendants were commanded not to shave their beards (Psalm 133:2).
facial hair represented their spiritual maturity and close relationship with God. Cutting one’s beard could signify grief, shame or contempt (2 Samuel 19:24; Isaiah 15:2). Beards distinguished Israelites men as wise dignitaries.
Jesus and Beards in the New Testament
Jesus Likely Wore a Beard
Though the Bible does not specifically state whether Jesus had a beard, most biblical scholars agree that he likely did. As an observant Jewish man living in 1st century Judea, a beard would have been the cultural norm.
Several prophetic passages in the Old Testament associate beards with honor and dignity (Psalm 133:2; Isaiah 50:6). Since Jesus is seen as the fulfillment of these prophecies, the implication is that He too would have had an honorable beard.
There are also several textual clues that suggest Jesus had facial hair:
- The Roman soldiers plucked His beard during the Passion (Isaiah 50:6).
- The Apostle Paul uses Jesus’ beard to illustrate a theological point about head coverings (1 Corinthians 11:14).
So while the Gospels do not provide a detailed physical description, contextual evidence infers that Jesus conformed to cultural beard expectations. As the model of spiritual perfection, Jesus would have had a full, dignified beard befitting His holy status.
The Apostles Likely Had Beards
Like their Master, it is highly probable that the twelve Apostles also wore beards. As zealous Jewish men, maintaining an untrimmed beard would have been a matter of religious identity. There are a few potential clues about specific Apostles’ beards:
- Peter may have cut off part of the high priest’s servant’s right beard ear when he struck him with the sword (Matthew 26:51; John 18:10).
- The sudden growth of Paul’s beard after shaving it earlier in a vow ritual astonished the crowd (Acts 18:18).
So while specifics are scant, we can reasonably assume that the Apostles’ beards would have marked them as patriarchal figures and wise sages when preaching the Gospel. Their full beards lent gravity and authority to their witness about Jesus Christ.
The Cultural Significance of Beards in Biblical Times
Beards Demonstrated Manliness and Honor
In ancient Biblical cultures, growing a beard was seen as a sign of masculinity, wisdom and honor. Biblical texts often associate beards with manhood and strength. For example, in 2 Samuel 10:4-5, the Ammonite king Hanun humiliated David’s ambassadors by shaving off half their beards.
This was considered a grave insult to their manhood. The common advice was to “let the beard grow along with the person” (Talmud Bavli, Nedarim 32b). Young men were encouraged to grow beards to demonstrate their virility.
The beard also represented a man’s dignity. The Mishnah prohibited pulling out a man’s beard because it compromised his honor (Makkot 3:5). Shaving was seen as degrading. When King David’s servants were captured by the Ammonites, the king was told: “the king’s enemies shaved them to disgrace them” (2 Samuel 10:4-5).
Forcibly removing someone’s beard was a way to shame them.
Shaving Could Represent Shame
In some cases, the Bible presents shaving beards in a negative light. When God commissioned Ezekiel, He ordered him to use a razor to shave his head and beard to symbolize the coming destruction and humiliation of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 5:1).
Egyptian murals depict conquered peoples being shaved by their captors. Shaving a man’s beard diminished his status.
However, the Nazirite vow involved shaving one’s head after completing the vow, which was considered an honorable act (Numbers 6:18). Samson’s uncut hair was linked to his strength, and when Delilah cut his hair, it represented his weakness (Judges 16:17-19).
So in certain ritual contexts, shaving could represent holiness and sacrifice rather than shame.
Should Christian Men Grow Beards Today?
The Bible Does Not Forbid or Command Beards
When it comes to whether Christian men should grow beards today, the Bible does not explicitly forbid or command the wearing of beards. There are a few biblical passages that mention beards, but none that establish an absolute standard for all believers in all times and places.
For example, Leviticus 19:27 states that Israelite men should not cut the edges of their beards. This command was likely intended to distinguish God’s people from the pagan nations around them who cut and styled their beards in unique ways as part of their idol worship.
However, this command was specifically given to ancient Israel under the Old Covenant. There is no indication that it universally applies to all believers across all eras.
It Is a Matter of Personal Choice and Conviction
Given the lack of direct biblical commands, whether or not Christian men today grow beards is largely a matter of personal choice and conviction. There is freedom for each person to decide based on their cultural context, personal taste, and convictions before God.
Some men may feel having a beard is an important part of their masculinity or is more attractive. Others may view shaving as a matter of good hygiene and professionalism. Some may grow beards to honor cultural traditions, while others may shave to better assimilate into their current cultural setting.
Ultimately, each Christian man must follow his conscience on this issue. He should make a wise, thoughtful decision based on biblical values of holiness, cultural sensitivity, avoiding unnecessary offense, cleanliness, and good personal care of one’s body.
But whether to grow a beard or not is not a major moral issue in itself.
In the end, the Bible neither requires nor forbids men having beards. Many important biblical figures had beards, which were culturally significant at the time. But scripture places the emphasis on Inner character rather than outward appearance.
For modern Christians, the decision whether to grow a beard is largely a matter of personal choice, though some men grow them to honor biblical culture or principles. Most importantly, we should focus on cultivating inner godly character over debating beard-growing rituals.