What is meant by covering the head in the Old Testament?

11 posts / 0 new
Last post
Deleted's picture
What is meant by covering the head in the Old Testament?

This head-covering thing started to boggle me ever since I posted the comparisons of Al-Muwatta, Sahih and Quran. I realised that I had automatically assumed it to be something like the islamic practice. Then I was like “why do we think of the islamic way of HAIR and NECK covering when we hear the phrase HEAD-COVERING?” Isn’t that falling into a stereotyped description?

I re-read the 3 quranic verses that are associated with women’s covering. None of them explicitly mentions head at all. Some have put the word head there deliberately but in the original form head is not mentioned at all. But everyone of course reads it with the hadith in mind so it sounds like head is mentioned there.

This covering thing is very confusing and one of the most obscure rules that is interpreted differently yet the most demanded one because it concerns women of course.

Now I wonder about the head-covering mentioned in the Old Testament. I wonder if the head-covering back in those times had a different purpose than what people tend to think today (chastity, decency, modesty).

* Is there an explicit description about what exactly is wanted to be covered? Full head, top of the head, hair etc.?

* Is the hair described as something “sexually attractive” that people tend to think it is the most important part to cover?

* Or is the covering demanded to appear neat and clean while present at church (before god)?

* Does the covering of the head require a scarf or something like kippa? Is the item to use as cover mentioned?

* Why does yahweh demand head covering and does he want men to cover while in church, too?



Subscription Note: 

Choosing to subscribe to this topic will automatically register you for email notifications for comments and updates on this thread.

Email notifications will be sent out daily by default unless specified otherwise on your account which you can edit by going to your userpage here and clicking on the subscriptions tab.

mykcob4's picture
I don't have much knowledge

I don't have much knowledge about islam. I do have extensive experience with Persian and Arab people. I believe, and I may be wrong, that the idea of "covering" is a way to prevent lust. In 600s, women were raped without any consequence. Islam attempted to end this practice, by blaming the women. The old "she was asking for it" bullshit. Commanding women to cover up in public was a way to curb temptation. The head and face are covered not because it is a directive by the Quran, but the most beautiful and attractive part of a woman is of course, her face. Plus since women were forced into marriage, it was a way of stopping any flirtatious looks by women.

algebe's picture
The head-fetish religions

The head-fetish religions started in the Middle East, which is a hot place with high UV. Perhaps head covering rules started as a way of preventing skin cancer.

Maybe the old bald guys who lead patriarchal religions wanted something to cover up their exposed domes. Never understimate the stupidity behind religious commandments.

The religious claim that without god human beings would turn into immoral beasts. Strict religious rules about female apparel tell us that despite all the supposed moral benefits of these religions, their male followers are so lacking in self-control and moral fiber that the mere sight of an attractive woman will turn them into rapists. Of course, that's always the woman's fault, so women need to wear tents.

chimp3's picture
Algebe : Moreover, I did not

Algebe : Moreover, I did not propose that the philosophy of science is a science; I implicitly proposed that it is just as valid, and, as a result of its simple, concise, and formal style as a school of thought, self-consistent than much of science today.

There is no way that iron - aged shepherds and bandits discerned the link between UV rays and skin cancer. They had no knowledge of the ultraviolet spectrum or the cause of any cancer.

algebe's picture

> Moreover, I did not propose that the philosophy of science is a science;
I didn't comment on that.
>There is no way that iron - aged shepherds and bandits discerned the link between UV rays and skin cancer
They would have known about sunburn, and they would have noticed that people who got badly sunburned sometimes developed seroius skin problems and then sickened and died. We shouldn't discount the intelligence or knowledge of premodern people too readily.

chimp3's picture
@Algebe: Copy that ! Must

@Algebe: Copy that ! Must have been a leftover copy and paste from another thread. But you are savvy enough that you caught the gist of it. Kudos!

watchman's picture
I believe that it may not be

I believe that it may not be the covering of the head that was considered important ... but rather the covering of the hair.....

It would seem that by displaying her hair a woman may have been seen as advertising the fact that she was "available"...

There may even be links back beyond islam ,christianity and judaism to the wide spread pagan practices of the temple prostitution cults...

However finding references ,specific to head coverings ,in the sources is somewhat fraught .... some seem to link "veiling" with prostitutes ...(Genisis 38)

While at a later date ,the Paul character supposedly authors a missive to the faithful of Corinth .....
"In Paul’s day, prostitutes wore their hair short and did not cover their heads. Because it was customary in that culture for women to wear a head covering, failure to do so would readily identify a woman as a prostitute. "


Plus there seems to have been ,at various times and at sundry places ,cultural norms current and even enforced at times regarding rank and social standing and the covering or not of covering the head.

"Most people think of the veil solely in terms of Islam, but it is much older. It originated from ancient Indo-European cultures, such as the Hittites, Greeks, Romans and Persians. It was also practiced by the Assyrians."


In any case it seems that veiling even to this day has sexual overtones....... widows take to the veil on the loss of there husband....women take the veil when taking holy orders ......and of course many brides ,even these days have their veils lifted by their new husbands......(Please note...this is not a euphemism )

Deleted's picture
Thank you to all for your

Thank you to all for your comments. Really interesting ideas and explanations.


It is true that the “covering” of women has something to do with Persian and Iraqi culture of the time. That’s exactly my point with the ‘created Islam’ story.

“In 600s, women were raped without any consequence. Islam attempted to end this practice, by blaming the women.” This requires citation. If you say these because of the hadiths that were written in the 10th century by Iraqi scholars, then I have to say those are the stories that created the Islam as we know today, there is no evidence that these ideas originated from Saudi Arabs. In Muwatta, there is nothing that suggests anything of the sort. Actually it displays a culture very similar to ancient Egypt and some parts of Africa where women were (according to us now) half naked. The covering in Muwatta is mentioned almost specifically about the genital parts, not face or head or even breast. The head cover is mentioned only with the prayers (with the title saying permission to wear head covers) and some women along with men veiling their faces while doing the worship around the holy building made me wonder about the type of the head cover. There are scarfs being mentioned in the book but never associated with head. When about head it is only head-cover that is mentioned without any hint about the feature. So it is possible that it was something symbolic like kippah or even the tefillin.

Also, I have to make a comment about the raping of women being claimed due to the uncovered parts, especially face and hair (not your claim of course, the claim from Islamic sources). From scientific perspective, it is the opposite. The more women are covered up, the more intense the sexual fantasies become. Because sexual need is not only physical but also has a visual aspect. From the historical point, it is interesting that the Persians and Iraqi people of that time would relate it (rape) even with women’s non sexual parts being displayed. Because that is the same period when a close by culture namely Turks (pre-Islamic of course) had death penalty as punishment for rape and no record ever shows any sign that women were blamed for being a victim. So I think the men who orchestrated these hadiths had some serious issues, issues including infant children being object of sexual desire.

I think you are right about thinking it was a way of preventing the “flirtation” of women. The men who wrote those stories were clearly obsessed with control.



“The head-fetish religions started in the Middle East, which is a hot place with high UV. Perhaps head covering rules started as a way of preventing skin cancer.”

Haha, that’s definitely one way to look at it and true too since we see Africans that are almost full naked wearing scarfs to protect their heads from the heat. But ME and even Asia had some head covering and veiling tradition that had nothing to do with sun protection or women being chaste. I guess it was more like tradition and symbolic. Even the Chinese women (probably men too) who are normally not associated with any sort of head covering had face veiling tradition (I think mainly aristocrats). The traditional Chinese weddings feature a bride with face full covered with decorative scarf. You know, symbolically like being a “pure” gift to be opened for the first time by the husband. That seems to be the first and last time they wear a head-cover.

I don’t claim to have knowledge about all the old traditions and beliefs but I think it was Judaism (Torah) that brought the idea about women being the cause of rape, and as if it was not enough, also the first one to be considered to be punished for the crime. The guys writing the Quran and later the hadiths were probably influenced by those ideas since Islam was created as an opposition to Christianity that was invading the region back then. They had to support similar rules but claiming their book (the word of god) had been corrupted and Islam was the one correcting it, not changing.



“It would seem that by displaying her hair a woman may have been seen as advertising the fact that she was "available"...

Absolutely true for some ME and Asian cultures of that time. I even know that those head covers (also the patterns of rugs) would feature the message of a son or daughter that joined the family. The colors too had a message. If a girl was of age to be married, or engaged to be married. Very rich culture indeed. However, with one significant difference. They never covered the whole hair the way people do now as if the hair itself was a sexual object. It was a tradition that probably stemmed from need of head cover for both genders and in time became a useful item to give messages and tell stories about oneself.

Actually all ancient head coverings were used symbolically, even the crown! And it was not a gender focused thing. It was usually the socially upper classes that wore some sort of head cover to be distinguished from ordinary people and also know their ranks and act accordingly in the gatherings with other aristocrats. If we look at the old paintings and descriptions, a man without a head cover is impossible to come by. I think it would make them look unimportant or worse “common”!

With the information in the links you provided, I have started to develop the idea that this head-covering thing as we know today was nothing but the result of a “telephone game” appearing in texts copied by men from other texts that included distant culture information they had no idea about and thus interpreted completely out of context! That is the only explanation I can come up with the obscure and irrelevant head covering turning into covering up the hair and even the face of a woman!

So the conclusion is that nobody exactly knows the definition, description and purpose of the head-cover mentioned in the Old Testament.

But with all the information and personal opinions provided, I can easily conclude that;

* Head cover was originally not about the covering of the hair, neck, or face of the women.

* It was a hat, decorative scarf, tiara like item that were used to identify the social or marital status (probably women only), and also worn during religious practices.

* But of course women using it for beautification purposes too caused most of the “head-cover” talk being associated with women and this probably led it to be perceived something unique to women. Then the telephone game of the religious texts happened

Deforres's picture
" Then the telephone game of

" Then the telephone game of the religious texts happened"

Cut it. Print it. Send it to the box office.

kathleenkirvin271's picture
Covering the head in the Old

Covering the head in the Old Testament symbolizes reverence and submission to God's authority. It's a sign of humility and respect, acknowledging God's sovereignty. This practice is rooted in cultural and religious traditions, reflecting devotion and obedience to divine commandments. You can find further insights on biblical customs at https://www.quia.com/profiles/wi221c

VItor's picture
Unlock the potential of your

Unlock the potential of your real estate business with custom CRM software development services. Dive into the ultimate guide at Glorium Technologies for bespoke solutions tailored to your needs. Streamline operations, enhance client management, and maximize efficiency. Learn more: https://gloriumtech.com/custom-real-estate-crm-software-development-the-...

Donating = Loving

Heart Icon

Bringing you atheist articles and building active godless communities takes hundreds of hours and resources each month. If you find any joy or stimulation at Atheist Republic, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner.

Or make a one-time donation in any amount.