You shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shall you mar the corners of your beard.
An injunction not to mar the beard might hardly appear necessary, since it is well known with what pride and scrupulous care the beard was cultivated by the Hebrews and other Eastern nations; that it was deemed the greatest ornament of a man, a badge of his dignity, and a type of his vigour and perfect manhood; beard and life were hence often employed as synonymous, and oaths were confirmed, and blessings bestowed, by invoking the one or the other'; suppliants, desirous to give the utmost solemnity to their appeals, touched the beards of those they addressed; and a mutilation of the beard was looked upon as an unbearable disgrace, and often regarded as more calamitous than death. In some countries the beard was the distinctive mark of free men. An old Spartan law forbade the ephori, from the moment of their taking office, to clip their beards; and those who had fled before the enemy in battle were compelled to appear in public with half-shorn beards. However, it was customary among several nations for young men "to present to their gods the firstlings of their beards"; and it was possibly to prevent the adoption of similar usages among the Hebrews that the injunction was deemed desirable. Besides, "marring the cornets of the beard" was a heathen mode of mourning, which was not to be imitated, since it might easily lead to more objectionable perversities.
(M. M. Kaliseh, Ph. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.