To cover or not to cover…that is the question. Is it commanded by Scripture for women to wear head coverings?
I personally believe that I should do so and it has since made a difference in my life. It is a blessing to me. I experience it to be proper respect to YHVH when I pray to Him, when I teach my children about Him and when I talk about Him – the Creator and King of the universe. YHVH deserves our respect and fear even in something that might seem so trivial or unimportant.
I have studied Scripture and have read many different articles on the subject. You can certainly reason for – or against it by interpreting Scripture in different ways. I am going to attempt to show it to you from my point of view. You may agree or disagree with me, it doesn’t matter. I am writing this because I would like others to enjoy the blessing I enjoy in being obedient to this Biblical instruction.
Can we say that wearing a head covering is Biblical instruction? If we believe that all Scripture is given to us for our instruction in righteousness, then yes, it is.
2 Timothy 3:16–17 (NASB95)
16 All Scripture is inspired by Elohim and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of Elohim may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
Let’s now have a look at the specific part in Scripture that covers the topic of head covering.
1 Corinthians 11:1–15 (NASB95)
1 Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Messiah. 2 Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to understand that the Messiah is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and YHVH is the head of Messiah. 4 Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head. 5 But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved. 6 For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head. 7 For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of YHVH; but the woman is the glory of man. 8 For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; 9 for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake. 10 Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.11 However, in YHVH, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from YHVH. 13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to YHVH with her head uncovered? 14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering.
Are these Paul’s instructions or YHVH’s?
1 Corinthians 14:37–38 (NASB95)
37 If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Master’s commandment. 38 But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.
We can also see that he is not speaking to the Corinthians only because of him saying “every man and every woman” in 1 Cor 11:3-5.
A physical covering
When Paul uses the word `covering` (Strongs nr 2619 and 177) he means a physical covering. The Greek word κατακαλύπτω katakaloopto means cover in a physical way and akatakalooptos means uncover in a physical way.
2619 κατακαλύπτω [katakalupto /kat·ak·al·oop·to/] Three occurrences; AV translates as “cover” three times. 1 to cover up. 2 to veil or cover one’s self.Strong, J. (1996).
177 ἀκατακάλυπτος [akatakaluptos /ak·at·ak·al·oop·tos/] adj. From 1 (as a negative particle) and 2619 a derivative of a compound of 2596 and 2572; GK 184; Two occurrences; AV translates as “uncovered” twice. 1 not covered, unveiled. Strong, J. (1996).
κατακαλύπτω Gn 38,15; Ex 26,34; 29,22; Lv 3,3.14
A to cover with [τί τινι] Ex 26,34; to cover [τι] (of a cloud) Ez 38,9; to cover, to flood [τι] (of pers.) Nm 22,5; id. [τινα] (of water) Hab 2,14; id. [τινα] (of dust) Ez 26,10; to cover [τι] (metaph.) Jer 28 (51),51M to disguise 2 Chr 18,29
ἡ κατακεκαλυμμένη she who is covered, she who wears a veil SusTh32; τὸ στέαρ τὸ κατακαλύπτον τὴν κοιλίαν the fat that covers the belly Ex 29,22; κατεκαλύψατο τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτῆς she had covered her face, she was wearing a veil Gn 38,15; κατακεκαλυμμένα τὰ προστάγματα the words are to remain hidden DnLXX12,9.
Lust, J., Eynikel, E., & Hauspie, K. (2003). A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint
In 1 Cor 11:15 Paul uses a different word: περιβόλαιον peribolaion. This can be translated as covering but more in the sense of a garment.
4018 περιβόλαιον [peribolaion /per·ib·ol·ah·yon/] n n. From a presumed derivative of 4016; GK 4316; Two occurrences; AV translates as “covering” once, and “vesture” once. 1 a covering thrown around, a wrapper. 1A a mantle. 1B a veil. Strong, J. (1996).
Let us try and understand this:
Firstly Paul used a different word, thereby implying a different meaning. If you look at the Hebrew word that could have been used if this was written in Hebrew (according to the Septuagint) it suggests a garment.
Secondly if Paul was saying that long hair was meant instead of a covering; how can we explain the act of covering and uncovering in 1 Cor 11:5-6. How can a woman then pray or prophesy uncovered? It would imply that she either has no hair or short hair. In this view only long hair would be permitted. We know it is not so. Long hair was given as a woman’s glory because it gave visible expression to the differentiation of the sexes. This was Paul’s point in noting that long hair was given to her as a covering.i This does in my opinion not take away from what he said before about praying and prophesying with a head covering.
A physical sign of YHVH’s authority structure
1 Cor 11:3-5 also makes it clear as to why it is expected of us as women to wear a head covering. Head covering is a sign of YHVH’s authority structure. In YHVH’s Kingdom there is only one authority structure and it is called theocracy. Unlike democracy we do not get to say how things should be done; we do not have a vote. YHVH has a very specific way He expects us to do things. It does not always make sense to us as to why or how, but it is not for us to reason the why or how, we as His servants are to do things His way.
This is YHVH’s structure of authority or theocracy:
YHVH is the head (authority over) Y’shua and Y’shua over man and man over woman.
YHVH’s glory is made manifest in and through Y’shua Who was made flesh and dwelled among us. Y’shua in His physical form was under YHVH’s authority.
John 5:19 (NASB95)
19 Therefore Y’shua answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.
It is also said that man is the glory of YHVH, woman the glory of man and that a woman’s glory is her hair.
In the covering of the head of the woman when praying and prophesying both the glory of man and her own glory -her hair- is covered, thus only YHVH’s glory can be seen.
He chose the woman to wear a sign of this authority on her head. A head covering is also a sign to the angels. This “sign to the angels” part is difficult to understand. Could it be as a means to remind the angels that we as mere mortals choose to obey YHVH and submit ourselves by choice under His authority? Some angels like haSatan wanted that authority for himself. He didn’t want to submit to YHVH’s authority . We can also think of what happened in Genesis 6:2-4.
YHVH chose the women to wear the sign of authority on her head as a constant reminder to her that she is to submit to YHVH’s authority and to her husbands authority. A part of the punishment given to the woman in the garden after the fall was that her desire would be for her husband and he would rule over her.
Genesis 3:16 (NASB95)
16 To the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you.”
This doesn’t mean that women are inferior to men, but it does mean that the role of a woman from a Biblical perspective is different from the way things operate in the world.
Ephesians 5:22–24 (NASB95)
22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to YHVH. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as the Messiah also is the head of the assembly, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the assembly is subject to the Messiah, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
Ephesians 5:33 (NASB95)
33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.
The woman is to respect her husband ….
A head covering reminds a woman of her place in YHVH’s theocracy and her role toward her husband.
Titus 2:5 (NASB95)
5 to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of YHVH will not be dishonored.
Let us look at the word ὑποτάσσω (hupotasso)
5293 ὑποτάσσω [hupotasso /hoop·ot·as·so/] AV translates as “put under” six times, “be subject unto” six times, “be subject to” five times, “submit (one’s) self unto” five times, “submit (one’s) self to” three times, “be in subjection unto” twice, “put in subjection under” once, and translated miscellaneously 12 times. 1 to arrange under, to subordinate. 2 to subject, put in subjection. 3 to subject one’s self, obey. 4 to submit to one’s control. 5to yield to one’s admonition or advice. 6 to obey, be subject. Additional Information: A Greek military term meaning “to arrange [troop divisions] in a miliary fashion under the command of a leader”. In non-military use, it was “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden”. Strong, J. (1996).
The possible meanings of this word describes this attitude of submission really well: to arrange under, to subordinate, to yield to one’s admonition or advice and a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating assuming responsibility and carrying a burden.
Read it again and you will begin to understand YHVH’s heart in giving this instruction. All of the above will contribute to peace if not create peace at home. He thought it well fitting to help the wife remember how He wants her to conduct herself with regards to her husband and marriage. I have read an article by Myron Horst who grew up in a Mennonite church. He writes on the correlation between women wearing a head covering as is instructed in 1 Corinthians 11 and the divorce rate.
“As the years have passed, many Mennonite churches dropped the head covering. I have observed that among those churches that viewed the head covering as no longer necessary or important and discontinued wearing the head covering, the divorce rate among church members has significantly increased. At the same time the Mennonite churches that continued to require the wearing of the head covering continued to have a very, very low divorce rate. The Amish, whose ladies also wear a head covering, have almost a zero divorce rate.” This is very interesting……
Quoting this, we do not support the doctrine of the Mennonite church or any other statements made by this author.
The head covering, a reminder to the husband
The head covering is also to remind the husband of his place in YHVH’s theocracy. You may ask – How so?
If you are submissive to your husband and wears the sign of YHVH’s authority on your head, surely it would be a reminder to your husband if he is disobedient to go back to YHVH’s way..
1 Peter 3:1–2 (NASB95)
1 In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2 as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.
Head covering is a reminder to us of YHVH’s authority over us just like wearing tzit-tzit is a reminder to us that we are to keep His commandments. (Num 15:39-40).
Well if you look at what Scripture says and what a head covering symbolizes; could you still say it is just a cultural thing for a people in that time and it only applies to them?
We are set apart people to YHVH, should we follow the world and it’s culture or should we follow YHVH and His commandments?
Psalm 119:172 (NASB95)
172 Let my tongue sing of Your word, For all Your commandments are righteousness.
i Walvoord, John F., Roy B. Zuck, and Dallas Theological Seminary. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-.