Scripture Focus: Micah 1.16
16 Shave your head in mourning
     for the children in whom you delight;
 make yourself as bald as the vulture,
     for they will go from you into exile.

Reflection: Wail-Patterned Baldness
By Erin Newton

The ancient world viewed hair as an outward expression of inward devotion—for good or for evil. Nazarites made vows to God and would never cut their hair. This is part of the epic of Samson, whose hair was cut, and his strength failed.

Deuteronomy 14.1 strictly prohibited shaving one’s head for the dead. Likely due to similar practices by the Canaanite cult of the dead. Shaved heads, in this case, would suggest infidelity to God and the embrace of idolatry.  

Sometimes hair needed to go. Leviticus 14.8 prescribed head shaving after cleansing for a skin disease. I can see the practicality of this command. The skin disease had been defiling, and removing all hair would provide a clear picture of any spots hidden on one’s scalp. It would be like a clean slate for the person, yet shamefully everyone would have known.

Joseph’s head was shaved when he was brought up from prison to interpret Pharaoh’s dream. When his interpretation proved valid, he was rewarded with honor and authority in Egypt.

In Micah 1, the prophet described God descending to the earth in judgment. It is the epic Divine Warrior scene. The mountains melt underfoot. The valleys split apart. The mere presence of God undoes the creation.

God was coming to judge the nation because of Judah’s high place in Jerusalem. High places were where sacrifices occurred. Archaeological discoveries show massive standing stones (some over 10 feet tall). During periods of reform, Hezekiah removed high places and destroyed the Asherah poles. Sadly, these high places were rebuilt by Manasseh, including altars to Baal and Asherah.

God tells the people that judgment is coming—exile. Their children would grow up and lose their homes, their livelihood, their community, and their sense of identity. They were called to grieve the loss they were about to incur.

Shockingly, God told them to do the unthinkable—shave their heads in mourning—an act specifically prohibited.

Their baldness was a sign: Was it idolatry and worshiping the gods of the Canaanites? Was it a disease and uncleanliness? Were they, like Joseph, just released from prison? In a way, the answer to all these questions is yes.

They had sinned through idolatry, their hearts were sick and unclean, and they were headed to captivity.

Our hair care is not threatened by judgment anymore, but our hearts should be equally exposed as we mourn our sin.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Small Verse
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone. — Isaiah 9.1

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Micah 1 (Listen 2:46)
Psalm 79 (Listen 1:50)

Read more about Cost of Immature Leadership
Wartime captives would be shaved and marched naked. Shaving half the envoy’s beards…implied they were on their way to being prisoners.

Read The Bible With Us
Reading the Bible systematically and with time for reflection helps build deep knowledge and vibrant faith. Join our Bible reading plan.