Head covering- questions and thoughts

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Head covering - should we?Since my previous article on head coverings , I have learned a lot from the questions I have received. I appreciate all the feedback and have decided to put it together in a document. I just find it easier to refer to later. I want to invite you to give me your opinion on this also. Head covering is in my opinion more important than we think. It is a symbol of Yahovah’s authority. It is however not a salvation issue and definitely not something that should cause disunity. This is also not the purpose of writing this. I want to give you my view on it and share it with you because of the blessings I enjoy since I wear it.

Your view on this is also dependent on how you view the Apostolic Scriptures. Do you see any instruction given in the Apostolic writings as authoritative or not. Some people say that if you can’t find it back in the Torah, you can’t say it is commanded. I see all Scripture as instruction for my life (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and therefor I view this as very important.

Should we cover all the time?

Here are my thoughts:

If you look at 1 Cor 11 in the context, Paul is referring to conduct in the assembly: thus women are to cover their heads when praying and prophesying in the assembly. As far as I could find information; it seems that most- if not all -believing women wore head coverings in that time except for a few who started following the Greek culture. This was a problem because wearing a head covering was not just a cultural or fashionable thing to do. It was a sign of authority. This authority was established in Gen 3:16.

Is this authority only in the assembly or is it always? Authority is not a on-off thing to me. The only reference I could find about authority being removed from a woman is in Numbers 5:17 . This passage is about the woman who is accused of adultery by her husband.

Numbers 5:18
18The priest shall then have the woman stand before Yahovah and let the hair of the woman’s head go loose,

The Young’s Literal Translation (YLT) and a few other translations have it like this:

Numbers 5:18 (YLT)
18and the priest hath caused the woman to stand before Jehovah, and hath uncovered the woman’s head, and hath given into her hands the present of the memorial, it is a present of jealousy, and in the hand of the priest are the bitter waters which cause the curse.

The word “rosh” or “head”:

8031  n.masc.;  Str 7218, 7226; TWOT 20971. LN 8.9 8.69 head, i.e., the crucial part of the body containing the brain stem and other most crucial sensory input parts such as eyes, mouth, ears, etc. (Ge 3:15; 40:19; Ps 74:14); 2. LN 84.1 84.15 source, i.e., the beginning point from which a spatial extension occurs (Ge 2:10); 3. LN 81.3–81.11 top, i.e., the uppermost height of an object (Ge 8:5; 1Sa 26:13); 4. LN 37.48 37.95 head, leader, chief, i.e., a person or national entity who rules and governs as a figurative extension of the head as a crucial body part (Ex 18:25), note: as a military ruler, see also domain LN 55.14 55.22;
Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

The word “para” or go loose

7276 I. Str 6544; TWOT 1822, 1823, 1824—LN 15.165 15.186 (qal) take the lead, i.e., move to the front of a group as a leader (Jdg 5:2+), note: some sources give meaning as be unkept, be loose, 7277

7277 II. Str 6544; TWOT 1822 1. LN 39.42 39.44 (qal) be out of control, i.e., have a mob or group have no restraint in activities, implying open defiance of a known standard or authority (Ex 32:25b+); (qal pass.) be running wild (Ex 32:25a+); (nif) be unrestrained, be lawless (Pr 29:18+); (hif) cause disorder, promote wickedness (2Ch 28:19+); 2. LN 30.39 30.52 (qal) ignore, disregard, i.e., pay no attention or give no serious thought to proper actions or response (Pr 1:25; 8:33; 13:18; 15:32+); 3. LN 49 (qal) be unkept, i.e., pertaining to a state of the hair that ranges from wild and uncombed to merely long hair not bound in some fashion (Lev 10:6; 21:10; Nu 5:18+), note: used in some contexts as a signal of a diseased, possibly infectious person; (qal pass.) unkept (Lev 13:45+); 4. LN 34.40 34.41 (qal) avoid, i.e., keep away from an association as a figurative extension of not walking down a common trail or path (Pr 4:15+); 5. (hif) set free from, take away from, i.e., cease from an activity, as an extension of letting an object run free (Ex 5:4+); 6. LN 38.14 38.20 unit: )2 be just, formally, not be out of control, i.e., give recompense in a measured, just manner (Eze 24:14+), note: NIV translates hold back, apparently with the meaning of beginning an activity, see also domain LN 68.1 68.10, note: see also 7276
Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

If you look at the possible meanings of “head” it can mean physical head or chief or authority and to “go loose” is to make unrestrained or to “set free from”. I am by no means an expert on Hebrew, but to me it looks as if her husbas authority is removed in order for this jealousy issue to be dealt with. How would it be possible for the priest to visibly remove the husbands authority? Could it imply that her head was physically uncovered as it was translated in the YLT – the sign of the authority was physically removed?

If you study the historical writings of Josephus and Philo on this passage – it also imply that the woman’s head covering was removed:

6. (270) But if anyone suspect that his wife has been guilty of adultery, he was to bring a tenth deal of barley flour; they then cast one handful to God, and gave the rest of it to the priests for food. One of the priests set the woman at the gates that are turned towards the temple, and took the veil from her head, and wrote the name of GOD on parchment,
Josephus – Antiq 3.270

56) And the priest shall take the barley and offer it to the woman, and shall take away from her the head-dress on her head, that she may be judged with her head bare, and deprived of the symbol of modesty, which all those women are accustomed to wear who are completely blameless
Philo Special Laws 3

Philo mentioned it as a symbol of modesty. It was modesty in the sense of a symbol of being married. Could there be more to it than modesty? Could this be the Torah reference we have been looking for regarding head covering as a sign of authority?

Apart from the above I feel convicted to wear a head covering most of the time. Two reasons: firstly it is a sign of authority and secondly to me – and I am sure everybody would agree -praying is not just something for the assembly, therefor if I am to cover my head in the assembly to pray, I am to cover whenever I pray. We are also told to pray without ceasing…

1 Thessalonians 5:17
17 pray without ceasing;

We are also not to pray in order to be seen in a hypocritical way.

Matthew 6:5-6
5When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

If you were to look at it practically – if you were convinced that you should wear a covering when praying; You have three options: wear a covering always, or to always keep a scarf handy and put it on -which is not impossible -or to go find a covering -which is a bit more difficult. You might then be viewed by some as wanting to be seen praying. Not necessarily but maybe.

Should men not wear hats?

Now with regards to men.  We should be able to apply what we apply to women in reverse to men; otherwise we contradict ourselves and are not in line with scripture. Scripture says women are to cover and men not when praying or prophesying. It is in my opinion easier for a man to discreetly remove a hat than it is for a woman to put a head covering on. But I also ask myself the question: what about men in the construction business wearing hard hats or a motorcycle helmet? They can’t take it off. Can it perhaps fall into the same category as people who have to work on the Sabbath for example – healthcare workers. A hard hat or motorcycle helmet is protective gear and required for safety and by law. Any other hats etc. should be removed by men when praying or prophesying. Just my thoughts…

But once again I am no authority on this. It is a personal conviction to me and just my opinion.

What type of covering?

Should we cover all our hair or are we to wear a sign of authority on our heads?

We can see it from two angles. Firstly what was described in the Bible and secondly what is the reason for the covering?

Some people say that what is referred to in the Bible is a full body veil. If you use a Strongs Concordance or Thayers Lexicon it will be your view. We have looked at more modern lexicons which uses semantic domains in their explanation of the words. This means that words are grouped according to cultural context.

If you look at the word Paul uses for cover it literally means to cover the head. He didn’t specify a certain type of covering

  (an idiom, literally to have down on the head): to wear a covering over one’s head to have one’s head covered, to cover one’s head.

for if a woman does not have her head covered 1 Cor 11:6.
any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered 1 Cor 11:4.
Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 1: Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament : Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (93–95). New York: United Bible societies.

8.10 head. I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist on a plate Mk 6:25. In some languages it may be necessary to distinguish clearly between the head which is still a part of a body and a severed head. It is this latter meaning which is obviously involved in Mk 6:25.
In rendering 1 Cor 11:4, any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered,  it may be important to indicate that the covering is not one which is designed to cover the entire head including the face, but only the top of the head. The same applies, of course, to 1 Cor 11:5 and 7.
Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 1: Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament : Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (93–95). New York: United Bible societies.

The Swanson Lexicon has a similar definition.

2877  (katakalyptomai),  (katakalyptō):  DBLHebr 4059; Str 2619; TDNT 3.561—LN 49.16 (dep.) cover one’s head (1Co 11:6, 7+)
Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Greek (New Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

The second thing to consider is: what was the reason for this covering according to Paul? It was a sign of authority. A sign in my opinion need not be a full covering and according to these explanations it wasn’t. A hat or scarf or any other covering will in my opinion do. I do not argue that veils were used in biblical times, but veils had a different function. The passages where veils are spoken of are: (Gen 24:65) Rebekka is about to meet Isaac – her husband-to-be and covers herself with a veil

7581  n.[masc.]; ≡ Str 6809; TWOT 1946 LN 6.152 6.187 veil, i.e., a cloth covering for the face (Ge 24:65; 38:14, 19+); note: Holladay translates wrapper, shawl, i.e., a piece of clothing that covers the shoulders and upper body of a woman, but in context could also cover the face
Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Another passage that comes to mind is of Jacob who without knowing it married Lea instead of Rachel – maybe because she was covered with a veil on their wedding? Also Song of song 4:1 – a woman with a veil with her husband.

Also in Isa 47:2 -a veil

7539  n.fem.;  Str 6777; TWOT 1929 LN 6.152 6.187 veil, i.e., an ornamental covering for a woman’s face (SS 4:1, 3; 6:7; Isa 47:2+)
Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

All of the above references refer to the covering of the head as well as the face. The Greek word for face is different to the word for head, thus when Paul speaks of a head covering he doesn’t mean a face covering.

The other thing I am pondering is that if it was required in those days for modesty sake to wear clothing covering your entire body – why aren’t we doing that any more. We are to dress modestly (1 Tim 2:9)but that’s another discussion. Times change and so can head coverings. A head covering in Biblical times will look different to a head covering in modern times. It is not about the covering it is about the symbol of authority which it represents. It represents Yahovah’s structure of authority. The sign of which was given to the woman to wear upon her head.

It is difficult for us in our feministic culture to accept this. But isn’t that what being set apart is all about. We are not to be conformed to this world…

Romans 12:2
2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of Elohim is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

I would like you not to accept what I said as the last word on this. Prayerfully consider it. Ask Yahovah to reveal His truth to you. If I am wrong about this, I pray that Yahovah will show me His truth.

Reference article

For another perspective on the sotah, you can read this article http://www.katwijk.gkv.nl/anderson/pdfenglish/the_jealous_husband.pdf




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18 responses to “Head covering- questions and thoughts”

    1. covering your head must mean most of the crown of your head hiding your natural glory and allowing the glory of god to be revealed while praying or prophesying
      I has a man wear a hat some times for safety and when It is cold so if you choose to or choose not to wear a veil on the street when it hot why shoulding it be all right .according to your faith
      be it on to you

    2. Karen

      This part of scripture seems to be talking to married women. Is this a correct interpretation? Are all women to cover or just married women?

      1. Shalom Karen,
        The article is written from the perspective of a married woman. I do, however, believe that an unmarried woman can cover her head when praying out of respect for YHVH. I would need to look more into this before I can give you a proper answer.

        Shalom Elsa

        1. Karen

          Thank you. I’m very interested in what you have to say.

      2. Shalom Karen,

        I will only be able to look into it after Shavuot.


        1. Karen

          Respectfully waiting.

  1. Schalk

    A very touching video on head coverings. Have a look at:

  2. […] Head covering questions and thoughts Link […]

    1. Amy

      That was wonderful! I’m in tears!

  3. Ulrike

    1 Corinthians 11,7
    For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.
    1 Corinthians 11,15a
    But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her
    This says that while men and women meet to pray GOD there should be noone seen than the gloriest GOD.
    The woman is the glory of the man – so she has to cover her head to “cover” her man.
    As the hair is a glory to the woman I interpret, that she has to cover all of her hair not only a part of it. Because nothing glorious than GOD shall be seen.

    I hope I explained it good. But as I am German I am not sure if it is understandable.

    Best wishes from

    1. What if there is no “man” in the woman’s life. No husband or father, a single woman?

  4. Shalom Ulrike,

    Thank you for your comment, your English is quite understandable. Great insight, I haven’t considered it like that, I think you are right. I shall prayerfully consider it and review the article. Thank you!

    Shalom, Elsa

  5. […] have written an article on the topic of head covering as well as a follow up article to answer some questions on the topic. We shall therefor not elaborate on this any further […]

  6. RMR

    I was taught to wear a covering right from a little girl, not in our home but at church. I have seen a great falling away in our assemblies as to this teaching. In the last few years, my father and mother along with my brother and 4 of my sisters(and families) had a calling to begin a new work. My husband did not feel this call, so we did not leave our church family. We believed there were other issues involved. I give you all this background to say that when they were went back to the Bible to see if they were going to follow the traditions (as they called them) of our church or to look more deeply at Scripture, they chose to do away with women covering their heads. We also believe that women ought to be silent, so that the men can lead. My family and those that followed them chose to let women lead in the remembrance service or offer up Scripture or give a verse that the Lord had laid on their hearts. I was deeply and personally hurt. I could not believe that after rearing us to believe one way, they chose something so radically different. My mother even gave me the veils she had in her home.
    This has led me to a deeper conviction that, yes indeed, we as women are out of submission if our heads are not covered. I can sit quietly in our services and let the Spirit talk to my heart, and a thought will come to mind. Invariably, one of the men will stand up and offer a song or a Scripture on just the thing that I was thinking about. It is awesome how the Lord works! My only struggle is like so many of the ladies have mentioned here and on other blogs, how often should I be wearing my covering? As it says in I Cor. 11, women should not pray or prophesy with their heads uncovered. Is this only when we meet collectively at church or all the time? That is my battle within. God bless you for your choice to be a ‘Set Apart People’.

  7. Amy

    What do I say to my torah sisters who say, “it’s not an explicit command in the torah, and because We are told not to add to the commands, it must not really be a command.”

    1. Shalom Amy,

      I would tell them that headcoverings was something that was always done, so it need not be commanded. It is like wearing clothes, that too is not commanded. Headcoverings were part of modest apparel even until quite recently. When I was a child women still wore hats to church to give you an example. To me, it is a personal conviction to wear a sign of authority on my head.

      Hope this answers your question,
      Shalom Elsa

  8. Ruth

    I thoroughly enjoyed your article. Thank you for covering it so well :) When you look at Isaiah 3:16 – 24 יהוה talks about the pride of the daughters of Zion and how He would expose their nakedness by removing … the headbands (among other things) Could this removal maybe be a sign of their refusal to obey Him?

    I think it’s wrong to write Headcoverings off as simply “cultural” – not necessary for believers today. This walk of Torah has SO much to do with conforming to His way, His culture. The way the Father chose to reveal His way. I’m sure Ruth that came from a Moabite idolatrous background had some culture changes she had to make when she chose to follow the God of Yisrael. Torah will affect our culture and the way you walk (halacha), simply because it is a lifestyle. What a joy! Much Shalom in Messiah x

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