Published on February 25th, 2018 | by Natan Margalit


Hair in TaNaKh: The Symbolism of Gender and Control

An article in JAGNES

Abstract: This paper will explore the symbolic meanings of hair in the Hebrew Bible, or TaNaKh. It will deal only with head hair, highlighting a few important examples which give insights into the symbolic role of hair in these texts.

The theories of Edmund Leach, C.R. Hallpike, and Gananath Obeyesekere will be examined in light of the debate over the relative merits of psychoanalytical versus sociological understandings of hair symbolism. I claim that the division which both Leach and Obeyesekere make between individual and social symbols may be understood by including the individual within a broad sociological framework. I will show that hair can be seen as a key to the symbolic language of the TaNaKh, and stands at the center of a cultural dialectic between order and control on the one hand, and freedom and spontaneity on the other. I will also demonstrate how hair is especially important for understanding the TaNaKh’s symbolism of gender. [download to read full article]

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