The Hebrews gave much care to the cultivation of their hair, which they kept long (compare Ezek. xliv. 20) except on such occasions as are mentioned, Lev. xiii. 45, x. 6, etc. (R.V.), and always well oiled; and accordingly considered Baldness as a still greater reproach than did the classical nations (compare II Kings ii. 23, "bald head," as an abusive term). Nevertheless, Baldness could not have been very rare, if it be considered that the Egyptian wall-paintings figure the old princes and chiefs of the Semites, more often than not, as baldheaded. The same conclusion may be drawn from such passages as Lev. xiii. 40, 41, where Baldness on the crown is referred to, and Baldness in front—euphemistically designated as "high forehead," it would seem. Names like Kareaḥ and Koraḥ, which signify "bald," are also quite common.
Most of the passages of the Old Testament, however, in regard to Baldness refer to the total or partial shaving of the head as a sign of mourning—like cutting the beard, wearing sackcloth, and other disfigurements. In Deut. xiv. 1, "baldness between the eyes [that is, perhaps, on the forehead] for the dead" is forbidden; "to make baldness upon the head" is specially prohibited to priests (Lev. xxi. 5; compare Ezek. xliv. 20).
Numerous passages show that, in pre-exilic Israel, such shaving (or clipping) was general (compare Amos viii. 10; Isa. xv. 2, iii. 24 [of women], xxii. 12; Ezek. vii. 18; Job i. 20; Micah i. 16). A complete shaving, a "baldness as the eagle" (or rather "vulture"; compare R. V. margin), is mentioned. Partial shaving of the corners of the head and beard is referred to and prohibited (Lev. xix. 27). The long temple-locks of the Ashkenazim ("peies") can be traced back to this passage. Opposed to the custom of wearing temple-locks is that of the desert tribes, of always cutting the hair at the sides of the forehead and neck, compare Jer. ix. 26, xxv. 23, xlix. 32; Herodotus, iii. 8; Egyptian representations; and see Beard.
The mourning custom of "shaving" the head is attributed to the Philistines (Jer. xlvii. 5), to the Moabites (Isa. xv. 2; Jer. xlviii. 37), to the Tyrians (Ezek. xxvii. 31). The customs of most ancient nations were analogous. If Herodotus is to be trusted, the Egyptians formed an exception, and shaved the head regularly (Her. iii. 12), but allowed the hair to grow in mourning (idem, ii. 36); see, however, Wiedemann, "Herodot's Zweites Buch," p. 157, on these statements of Herodotus, which are, to say the least, of too general a nature to warrant definite conclusions.