In ancient times, hair (besides being a natural covering for the head) was used symbolically in many ways. And many of those ways had to do with whether or not the hair was cut, how it was cut, or for what reason it was cut.
Pieces of hair were used in the ancient divination, as elements of sacrifice, as a public statement of one's religion, to signify membership in a religious sect or cult, as a token or pledge, and as a sign of mourning, sorrow or degradation.
From Maimonides: "…and so with others, it was usual for young men to consecrate their hair to idols…as such practices were used on account of the dead, as Aben Ezra observes." (37. Hilchot Obede Cochabim, c. 12. sect. 1.)
From Homer: "Achilles, at the funeral of Patroclus, cut off his golden locks, which his father had dedicated to the river god Sperchius, and threw them into the flood." And, "In the midst of them, his comrades bore Patroclus and covered him with the locks of their hair, which they cut off and threw upon his body. " ("Iliad", Book 23, p.447. Orange Street Press edition, 1998.)
From Rev. John Roberts: "Among the Hindoos (Hindus), a person in a distant country sends to those who are interested in his welfare a ring, a lock of hair or a piece of his nail as a "pledge" of his health and prosperity. ("Oriental Illustrations of the Sacred Scriptures"; Commentary on 1 Samuel 17:18. Published 1844.)
From the King Jame's Version: "And the Nazarite shall shave the head of his separation (end of his dedication or vow) at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall take the hair of the head of his separation, and put it in the fire which is under the sacrifice of the peace offerings." (Numbers 6:18.)
The phrase "rounding the corners of the head" means literally "clipped on the temple" or to "round the border of the hair". The margin reads: "those who have the hair polled (sheared)".
One of the ancient rituals involved in the adoration of heavenly bodies was to trim the hair in a bowl-like shape or to clip the beard so that it took on a rounded shape. How this particular practice came about is not exactly known except that some scholars think that the rounding may have been done to show honor or signify their allegiance age to the sun or the moon, both of which were round objects.
From Robert Brown (Greek Literature scholar): "Herodotus further illustrates the solar character of Orotal. He describes the Arabians as saying that they follow or imitate their divinity in their mode of cutting the hair, which from his account, they appear to have cut or shaved in a circular form. In fact, they seem to have worn a kind of tonsure, a practice particularly forbidden to the priests of Israel, but followed by those of Uasar, a being who, according to Macrobius, is nothing else but the Sun. ("The Great Dionysiak Myth Volume 1" p.223. Published 1877, London.)
From Herodotus: "The Macians, a people of Libya, cut their hair round, so as to leave a tuft on the top of the head. In this manner, the Chinese cut their hair to the present day. This might have been in honor of some idol, and therefore forbidden to the Israelites. ("Historia", lib. iv., cap. p. 175.)
There is a second and somewhat more obscure meaning to the "corners" part of this phrase, that of having a direct reference to "those who reside in heathen lands" or the outer corners of the known world. The reason for this thought is that the rounded hairstyle --with some variations-- was adopted by nearly all of those who practiced some form of idolatry, most of which lived remotely to the Israelites. (See Jeremiah 9:25, 26. Jeremiah 25;23. Jeremiah 49:32.)
In this text, God is speaking to the Children of Israel and admonishing them not take on any outward personal appearance or display that would associate them with false gods.
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