What does the Bible say about growing a beard? Should a Christian man in today’s society really grow a beard, or is it a sin to grow a beard? Is a beard required to be saved? Are you living in sin if you shave, or will you lose your salvation? What about churches that frown on beards or facial hair? These are interesting questions to ponder, and luckily, the Bible does have some material to draw upon for this study from both the New Testament and Old Testament.
This article will include what the Bible has to say about beards, list some men of the Bible who definitely had beards, and reveal how men should conduct their “man-scaping” (grooming) in a modern society.
Why An Article on Beards?
In today’s society, Satan is working overtime to blur the lines between a man and a woman. It is not uncommon today to see women who look just like men (both in dress, mannerisms, and hair styles). Likewise, some men wear makeup, and dress and act very effeminately with long hair and odd clothing. There are tax deductions available for those seeking “gender reassignment surgery,” and an ever growing number of transvestites and gender confusion. It seems society is getting more and more confused about the differences between a man and a woman.
God has naturally given men and women glorious distinctions, that when viewed from God’s perspective, reveal His creative power and love for both men and women as His unique children. Men and women are always equal in the eyes of God, but not the SAME. Consider these two equations: 2+2=4, and 1+3=4. Both of those equations are equal, but they most certainly are not the same. So it is with man and woman.
Satan has successfully confused people in many ways by trying to make women more manly, and men more womanly. One way Satan has done this is to make society have a more negative view on beards, as well as other gender distinctions.
What’s worse, some heretical “churches” or “cults” actually frown on men having any facial hair at all in today’s age. Can you believe it? How nonsensical is that? I’ve talked to at least a few Jehovah’s witnesses which indicated this was the case, and also other cults and false prophets “frown-on” men growing beards or facial hair. That’s one of the first sure-fire signs you’re in a cult–when they force you to do something that’s not in the Bible, or tell you not to do something that is Biblical.
In addition, this article will discuss some Old Testament passages which speak out against trimming your beard in a certain way, which have confused some people. So with all of those things in mind, here are a few general principles for you to keep in mind as you read this article:
- Beards have nothing to do with salvation. Growing a beard won’t save your soul. The only thing that will save you is placing your faith in Christ (and if you haven’t done so, please do!). Likewise, shaving a beard won’t make you lose your salvation. So let’s get this out of the way up-front. I don’t want you to get confused by this article.
- Not all men can grow full beards. Some men simply cannot grow full beards due to their natural genetics (or even no facial hair at all). If you can’t grow a beard, then fine. God didn’t allow you to do it, so don’t fret over it. It has nothing to do with salvation, and God himself created you the way you are. This article isn’t meant to belittle or condemn you. You are just as manly as a man who grows a beard. You have no obligation to do what you can’t do.
- God is far more concerned with the inward instead of the outward. God looks at the heart, not external things. Nevertheless, the Bible does have a lot of advice on outward appearances too. So it is important to avoid asking “Can’t I do what I want due to grace?” Rather, we should ask, “What would God have me do?”
- We are not under law, but under grace. We aren’t saved by works of the law, but of God’s grace. Nevertheless, we should seek God’s word and opinion on all things, including our dress, and so forth.
- Many Godly men don’t have beards (by choice). There are plenty of Godly men in the world who can grow beards, but simply prefer not to. Adrian Rogers, one of the best preachers in modern history, didn’t grow a beard. I admire him tremendously. He is but one quick example of a Godly man in modern times that doesn’t sport facial hair. Also, it’s worth mentioning that some men may not be able to grow a beard due to their occupations (such as working with food, chemicals, etc.). That’s understandable, and sometimes you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.
- Most all men of the Bible had beards, even Jesus. Though beards are not required for salvation, it’s interesting to note that nearly all men in the Bible had beards.
- God’s word reveals that beards are a blessing to men, which is sadly forgotten in today’s age. While not required, growing a beard can, in a sense, give honor and glory to a God who created man with that ability. Not out of requirement, not out of salvation, but out of appreciation for God giving man that distinction. Just like women are generally blessed with long/thick hair, and the ability to bear children–so are men blessed with the ability to grow thick facial hair.
With all of those thing being said, let’s look at what God’s word says about beards.
Men in the Bible Who Had Beards
The Bible does mention many Godly men who had beards: First, Aaron, Moses’ brother, definitely had a beard:
It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments (Psalm 133:2)
We also see that Samson, who took the Nazirite (or Nazarite) vow, also must have surely had a beard:
That he told her all his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazirite unto God from my mother’s womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man. (Judges 16:17)
And King David, the man after God’s own heart, also wore a beard. In perhaps the funniest passage of all the Bible, David, fearing for his own life, pretended to be insane to escape death from King Achish. Can’t you imagine poor David blurting out gibberish, scrabbling on a door, and spitting all over himself to appear insane? Well, it worked! I laughed out loud the first time I read this:
And he changed his behavior before them, and feigned himself mad in their hands, and scrabbled on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle fall down upon his beard. (1 Samuel 21:13)
Ezekiel also wore a beard, as we see in this passage where God has him to shave part of his hair and beard, as a symbolic gesture showing the shame that would soon come upon Jerusalem. Shaving the head or beard of a man in these times would have caused severe humiliation, and God used this illustration by his prophet Ezekiel to reflect the impending shame that Jerusalem would soon feel by the hands of their enemies (the Babylonians):
“Now, son of man, take a sharp sword and use it as a barber’s razor to shave your head and your beard. Then take a set of scales and divide up the hair. (Ezekiel 5:1)
Joseph, the son of Jacob, also wore a beard, as we see in the passage below. He was to be presented to Pharaoh, and it was Egyptian custom to be clean-shaven:
Pharaoh sent for Joseph at once, and he was quickly brought from the prison. After he shaved and changed his clothes, he went in and stood before Pharaoh. (Genesis 41:14)
Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth, also referred to as Saul’s son since he was his grandson, also grew a beard, as we see in this passage when he hadn’t groomed it for a time due to mourning:
And Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king. He had neither taken care of his feet nor trimmed his beard nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he came back in safety. (2 Samuel 19:24)
Ezra, after learning that the Israelites had broken God’s strict command of not intermarrying with the surrounding women, tore his garments and beard in complete horror of their sin:
And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonished. (Ezra 9:3)
Last, but certainly not least, the scriptures show us that Jesus Himself had a beard. The following passage is a prophecy from the book of Isaiah, and it depicts the future Messiah (Jesus) as a suffering servant. This prophecy was fulfilled literally as Christ stood in front of his mockers before he was crucified:
I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. (Isaiah 50:6)
Note how in the above passage, His beard was pulled out. This interesting for a few reasons: First, this reveals that Christ certainly had a beard, and it wasn’t a very short beard. How long? We don’t know. My beard is about 1/2 to about 3/4 inches long, and it is very hard to grab hold of it due to it being so short. So I imagine His beard was probably twice the size of mine at least, maybe a bit more. It was enough so you could grab it with your fingers and yank it out.
The second thing I’d mention about that passage is this: Beard hairs are very sensitive. I’d much rather someone pluck a hair from my head than my beard. I assume the face must have more nerves in this area, and I know from experience that it hurts very badly to have a hair pulled here. It pains me to imagine how much our dear Lord suffered on our behalf! Christ accepted this suffering so that we can be redeemed from our sins. Thank God.
The last thing to notice in that passage is the shame. They treated Christ so shamefully (spitting on him, ripping his beard out), and this speaks of how He took all of our shame on Himself. Though Christ had no reason to be shamed, for He was without sin, He bore our shame, our sins, our punishment on Himself. He was despised that we might have life. What an amazing Savior we have!
So the Bible clearly teaches that Kings, the Prophets, and even our Lord Jesus had a beard. In other words, beards are Biblical. I think any denomination or cult who shuns beards need to read their Bibles again! How dare anyone frown on growing a beard, when Jesus Himself had a beard and was without sin. Most all Godly men: From Abraham, Adam, Moses, etc. would have worn a beard. God made men with the ability to grow beards, and therefore, most men in the Bible grew them.
And don’t suggest people today should not grow beards by using the lame argument, “That was a different culture. Things have changed.” Friend, we don’t need to change the Bible to fit in with the world, we need to change the world to fit in with the Bible.
To Shave or Cut a Man’s Beard Was To Shame or Humiliate Him
Now that we’ve established the fact that most God-fearing men wore beards, let’s now turn and notice how beards are held in great esteem by men in the scriptures. In the Bible, not having a beard was an embarrassment to a man, especially if it was taken from Him in a shameful way. Here are some scriptures that reveal how beards are held in esteem, and shaving a beard was a grave embarrassment.
In this first passage, we see how men were greatly ashamed that their beards had been cut:
So Hanun took David’s servants and shaved off half the beard of each and cut off their garments in the middle, at their hips, and sent them away. When it was told David, he sent to meet them, for the men were greatly ashamed. And the king said, “Remain at Jericho until your beards have grown and then return.” (2 Samuel 10:4-5)
Those poor men were so humiliated to have their beards cut, they were allowed to wait until they grew out before they returned. I find this interesting for one reason: The beards were only half-shaved. They could have easily shaved the other half and looked okay. But they didn’t do that. Instead, David knew what a beard meant to a man. So he ordered that they remain until their beards grew back. This proves beyond a doubt that beards were considered a big deal to these men.
Next, Isaiah, prophesying the impending attack from the Assyrians, symbolically described their attack as shaming the entire body of Judah (again, showing the shame of shaving one’s head and beard):
In that day the Lord will shave with a razor that is hired beyond the River—with the king of Assyria—the head and the hair of the feet, and it will sweep away the beard also. (Isaiah 7:20)
He has gone up to the temple, and to Dibon, to the high places to weep; over Nebo and over Medeba Moab wails. On every head is baldness; every beard is shorn; (Isaiah 15:2)
And in the Book of Jeremiah, we see how shaving a beard was a sign of deep mourning or shame:
Eighty men arrived from Shechem and Shiloh and Samaria, with their beards shaved and their clothes torn, and their bodies gashed, bringing grain offerings and incense to present at the temple of the LORD. (Jeremiah 41:5)
For every head shall be bald, and every beard clipped: upon all the hands shall be cuttings, and upon the loins sackcloth. (Jeremiah 48:37)
And I’ve already mentioned other verses above of Ezekiel 5:1 above of God symbolically using his shaved beard/head to represent the coming humiliation to Jerusalem, and in Isaiah 50:6 of Jesus’ beard being ripped out to humiliate Him publicly.
All of these verses make it clear that not only did Godly men wear beards, but they also had great esteem for their beards. They recognized God’s creative power in giving men and women distinct characteristics. To shave their beard meant great humiliation or shame. It also was used as a bold sign of great calamity, or great mourning.
Doesn’t the Bible Forbid Trimming a Beard?
One verse that is sometimes a point of confusion is this:
You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard. You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:27-28)
In this passage, God is forbidding the Israelites to emulate the surrounding pagan nations, who often cut a sort of “bowl cut” on the top of their heads, and squared off their beards as an act of worship to their false Gods/idols. These nations would also make cuts on their bodies when mourning, and place tattoos on themselves. Funny how some things never change, eh?
God has always called His people to be separate from “the world,” and grace didn’t change that. In the New Testament we are also told not to be yoked together with unbelievers, and to avoid worldly appearances, and to not be “of the world.” Law or grace has nothing to do with separation or Godly principles for living (or clothing yourself).
So what this passage is really saying is that God doesn’t want His people to look or act like unGodly people. Tattoos, cutting of the body, freakish hairstyles–these are all things pagans/unbelievers have done (and still do).
This doesn’t mean you can’t groom your beard, or cut your hair. In fact, God actually wants us to have good hygiene. He wants us to keep our bodies, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit, clean and Holy to glorify God. The scriptures teach that men should keep short hair on their heads, which is only done by regular grooming:
They shall not shave their heads or let their locks grow long; they shall surely trim the hair of their heads. (Ezekiel 44:20)
Also, in the case of disease, God did actually command that a beard be shaved to prevent spreading of infection, and to aid in recovery:
“When a man or woman has a disease on the head or the beard, the priest shall examine the disease. And if it appears deeper than the skin, and the hair in it is yellow and thin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean. It is an itch, a leprous disease of the head or the beard. And if the priest examines the itching disease and it appears no deeper than the skin and there is no black hair in it, then the priest shall shut up the person with the itching disease for seven days,and on the seventh day the priest shall examine the disease. If the itch has not spread, and there is in it no yellow hair, and the itch appears to be no deeper than the skin, then he shall shave himself, but the itch he shall not shave; and the priest shall shut up the person with the itching disease for another seven days. And on the seventh day the priest shall examine the itch, and if the itch has not spread in the skin and it appears to be no deeper than the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him clean. And he shall wash his clothes and be clean.
(Leviticus 13:29-34) (underlining by me)
So these scriptures show us that we shouldn’t grow facial hair in a way to emulate pagans or ungodly people. Of course, we are free to groom our hair and beards to keep them looking respectful. And yes, we can even do a clean shave as well, although beards were the preferred default for men in the Bible.
Should Christian Men Grow Beards or Facial Hair?
With all of the scripture above being considered, the Bible makes a strong case that growing a beard is an honor for a man, and glory to God. Why? Well, first, we see that Godly men (and our LORD) wore a beard/facial hair. Next, we see that the men of the Bible held their beards in high esteem, and it was shameful or humiliating to have it shaved or removed. Next, we see God forbidding Israelites against pagan practices, which including trimming the beard in a way the pagans did in honor of their deity.
Also, we should note that this is a highly distinguishing characteristic that God gave specifically for men. With the minor exception of a few women with severe medical conditions or genetic defects, only a man can grow a thick beard. This is a God-given honor.
Not all men must grow beards, and if you can’t grow a beard (or simply prefer not to), then of course that’s fine. Also, you have freedom on how long you want to grow your beard. Some men prefer to keep a short beard. Others keep stubble. Still others may clean shave.
Even though many Godly men grew beards, some may say, “I don’t live under the law.” Well, that’s true we don’t live under the law, but is growing a beard a law? Has it ever been a law? It is just the way God made a man to be. Have you ever seen a lion? He has a wonderful God-given beard, which beautifully distinguishes him from his female lioness. There’s no “law” that a lion has to have it’s beautiful beard, it’s just the way he’s made.
“But I’m saved by grace alone, and I have freedom in Christ for my hairstyles,” yet another man may quip. Well, that’s true too. We certainly are saved by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone. But in all of this talk about grace, legalism, and law, let’s consider another point about beards.
The Apostle Paul knew a great deal about grace, law, and faith. In fact, he is the guy who wrote the chapters on it! But even though Paul loathed the Judaizers and the Pharisees teaching works-based salvation, and always upheld Grace alone doctrines, let’s see what the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write:
I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you. But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.
A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.
Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.
I Corinthians 11:2-16 (underlining mine)
Paul, in his argument about hair length and head coverings, appeals to nature. Here he suggests, by the Holy Spirit’s power, that it is dishonorable for men to have their head covered (either by long hair, or an actual covering). Likewise, it is dishonorable for a woman to pray without her head covered (meaning long hair, or an actual covering).
He says, “Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him?” In other words, Paul is saying: “Hey guys, it’s pretty obvious that women ought to have long hair (or their head covered), because this is how God created a woman to be. And men ought to not cover their heads, since their heads are usually uncovered (ie, balding or short hair).
Isn’t a beard merely an extension of this very same “nature” argument? By nature, don’t most men produce facial hair? Is it not just as obvious as the Apostle Paul suggests here with regard to hair length? It is a God-given honor to grow facial hair (whether a full beard, or even a partial one). It is a glorious distinction between the sexes. Even if a man can only grow a little scruff, long sideburns, or a mustache–it is still a glorious distinction and an honor God gave us.
This has nothing to do with salvation. It has nothing to do with law or grace or sin. But it does have something to do with nature itself–the very nature of a man! Your nature (ie, genetics) makes you grow hair on your face.
Now, you don’t have to grow a scraggly beard to your knees. You can trim it nicely. Just like you should trim the hair that naturally grows on your head. And again, if you can’t grow a beard, or choose not to, you’re no less of a man. God made you that way, so honor Him the way He made you.
Benefits of Growing a Beard
Aside from scripture, as a man, I can attest to the very practical reasons to grow a beard. Here are a few of the benefits:
- Saves time and money–My beard generally needs to be trimmed only every couple of weeks. It takes just minutes. Contrast that with people who have to lather up their faces daily. Furthermore, I just use an electric trimmer (the same I use to cut my hair). I never have to waste money on shaving cream, razors, etc. This adds up to possibly hundreds or thousands of dollars in savings over a lifetime (do the math!).
- Keeps you warm in the winter–Beards act as natural insulators to the face, helping it to stay warm.
- Hides imperfections on the face–Have a weak jaw line, a strange mole, or other imperfections on your lower face? A beard will have you covered (literally).
- Enhances your appearance–My wife is a very attractive woman, and without hesitation, she tells me that my beard is one of her favorite features on my face. She loves my beard. Not all women like beards (at least, at first), but many of them do once they realize how you look with it grown out and groomed.
- Glorifies God and honors you–Again, given the fact that God created us to grow hair here, and that by our very nature beards are the natural result, I think it gives honor to the man, and glory to the God that made man with his God-given beard.
The only downsides to having a beard is that occasionally a hair will fall out. No big deal, and it’s no different than a head of your head falling down. Plus, you can trim it to any length
you want, so don’t worry about looking like some Amish person or renegade. If you want a closely cropped beard, go for it!
Conclusion: We Need a Beard Revolution!
As a Christian, growing facial hair (or the length of your facial hair) is completely optional. You are no less of a Christian if you have a clean shave. There is no law or requirement to grow a beard as a Christian. Nevertheless, the Bible does place great emphasis on beards. Many Godly men wore them, and beards were held in high esteem. Facial hair is a bold distinction God has generally given to men. Christian men should strongly consider the verses above, and the distinctive characteristics that facial hair offers a man.
Let us embrace our God-given distinction, and reject Satan’s objective to blur the lines between males and females. Did Jesus not say,
And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
Don’t get the idea that I’d ever look down on a Christian brother who didn’t (or couldn’t) grow a beard. I know many great brothers in Christ with a clean shave. I’ve also known wonderful Christian men who wished they could grow a beard, but couldn’t. All I’m trying to do in this article is reveal the scriptures, show how beards do glorify God by revealing His distinctions, if God enabled you to do so.
Charles Spurgeon is considered by many to be one of the greatest preachers of the ages. He is often called “The Prince of Preachers.” I’ll leave you with a quote from him as he lectured a group of students:
“Growing a beard ‘is a habit most natural, scriptural, manly, and beneficial.’”
So what do you say, guys? Is it time to start a beard revolution?