). Natural baldness, as seen commonly in otherwise healthy aging men of our communities, was uncommon in Biblical times. When unwanted baldness did occur it was regarded in one instance, at least, as being due to hard work or disease. In Ezekiel 29:18
, Nebuchadnezzar’s campaign against Tyrus is mentioned in which “every head was made bald and every shoulder was rubbed bare.” This was presumably from the carrying of material used in the siege of the city over a period of thirteen years.
Baldness as a sign of disease was promised to the vain young women of Jerusalem (Isa 3) where the prophet contrasts the proud gait and gaudy appearance of these empty people with the degradation of the future. It thereby illustrates the folly of trusting in transient physical appearance to the neglect of the soul.
As Elisha returned from Elijah’s ascension some youths came out of the city and jeered at him, saying “Go up you baldhead! Go up you baldhead!” (2 Kings 2:23). The phrase “go up” is a jibe which really says, “you go up into the sky in the way you say Elijah did. We know very well you have killed him.” This coupled with the implication that he suffered from a disease such as leprosy or syphilis together with the fact that the voluble ones were far older than “children” amply explains the justice of the retribution.
There are a number of instances in which people made themselves bald as a sign of mourning, the implication being that they were too sorrowful to be concerned with personal appearance (Jer 16:6; 48:37; Ezek 27:31; Mic 1:16).
Generally baldness was something with unpleasant associations except in the case of the Nazarite vow where the shaven hair was offered to God (Num 6:18 and Acts 18:18). In Egypt it was the custom to shave head and face, so that Joseph was merely conforming to the local situation (Gen 41:14).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
See Hair; Shaving.
Jacob W. Kapp