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What About Men Like Samson Who Had Long Hair?

Head Covering Objections
The Objection: When Paul said that long hair on a man is disgraceful he must have being speaking about how it was viewed through the eyes of Corinthian culture. He couldn’t have been speaking about all men as those who took the Nazirite vow (like Samson) had long hair and that was approved by God.

Some object to the view that long hair should be worn only by women due to the fact that some men in the Bible had long hair too. Samson, a “Nazirite to God from the womb” (Judg 13:5) is one such example. His mother was told by an Angel of the LORD that “no razor shall come upon his head” (Judg 13:5). So if the Angel of the LORD told Samson’s mother that he was never to cut his hair, how can Paul say long hair on a man is disgraceful (1 Cor 11:14)? It’s a really good question. I believe this tension can be relieved by understanding that if God commands an exception for a specific purpose, it does not nullify the normal natural order. We can safely arrive at this harmonization by seeing God do this other times in the Scriptures. He has many times, for a specific purpose, told his people to do something that He is against. Let’s take a look at two such examples right now.

Hosea Marries a Prostitute

When we take a look at the life of Hosea we see that he was instructed to marry a prostitute (Hosea 1:2). Just as God’s people were unfaithful to Him, Hosea’s wife (Gomer) would be unfaithful to him also. Their marriage would be a living symbol of the broken relationship between God and Israel. Though Gomer continues to commit adultery (Hosea 1:2, 3:1), Hosea calls her back to himself just like God does to His people. We understand that Hosea’s marriage does not overturn the fact that we are commanded to not be unequally yoked (2 Cor 6:14) and to not connect ourselves sexually with a prostitute (1 Cor 6:15-16). God told Hosea to do this for a specific purpose, not to give license to the people of God to marry practicing prostitutes. This should be seen as an exception to the rule that does not overturn God’s purpose for marriage (Gen 2:24, Eph 5:31-32).

Isaiah Goes Naked for 3 Years

In Isaiah 20 we see another example of God commanding something He forbids elsewhere. God instructs Isaiah to “…loose the sackcloth from your waist and take off your sandals from your feet.” Isaiah did so and went about “walking naked and barefoot.” He was then told to continue doing this for three years as a sign “against Egypt and Cush” (Isa 20:3). Isaiah’s three years of walking naked was going to be symbolic of what God was going to do to those two nations. God said that He would lead the young & old of Egypt and Cush away “naked and barefoot, with buttocks uncovered” (Isa 20:4). Just like in the previous example, this does not overturn the requirement for God’s people to keep themselves clothed (Gen 3:21, 1 Cor 12:23). What Isaiah did was good and right because of who it was that told him to do so. That could not be said if others followed suit thinking that Isaiah was to be an example that overturned what is natural for men and women to do post-fall.

Consecrated and Separate

Among those who took the Nazirite vow, only three men were called to do it for their whole lives. 1) Samson, Samuel and John the Baptist For the rest, it was for a limited time where when the vow was completed he would “shave his consecrated head” (Num 6:18). Afterwards he would presumably allow his hair to grow back to it’s normal short length. The vow “consecrated” one’s head and made him “separate” from the rest of the people of God (Num 6:8). So the very fact that the men were to not cut their hair during this time indicates it was something unusual and different from what everyone else was doing. They were being distinct from the people which would support the fact that it was indeed “natural” for men to wear their hair short. Other distinct things they did were abstaining from eating & drinking from the grapevine (Num 6:4) or going near a dead body, even if it was a relative (Num 6:6-7). The rest of the people did not have to do this. So taking a Nazirite vow marked one both visually as well as by practice, as consecrated to God and separate from everyone else. Just like with Isaiah, or Hosea, believers should not allow an exception to overturn the natural order. Unequally yoked marriages, public nudity and men wearing their hair long are all wrong, unless God for a specific purpose, said otherwise.

Summary Points

  • If God commands an exception for a specific purpose, it does not nullify the normal natural order.
  • The accounts of Hosea and Isaiah show us that God has in the past instructed his people to do something He is against.
  • The very fact that men were not to cut their hair during the Nazirite vow indicates it was something unusual and different from what everyone else was doing (since they were consecrated and separate). This supports the fact that short hair on men is natural.


 Samson, Samuel and John the Baptist
Jeremy G.

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