Among the Hebrews, little emphasis was placed on a covering for the head as a regularly worn article of clothing. When necessary, the common people may at times have used the mantle or the robe for this purpose. Ornamental headdress, however, was often worn by men in official positions and by both men and women on festive or special occasions. The priests of Israel had their prescribed form of headgear.—Ex 28:4, 39, 40; see CROWN; DRESS.
Types of Headdress in Hebrew Scriptures. The head covering first mentioned in the Bible is the headcloth that Rebekah put on when she met Isaac. (Ge 24:65) The Hebrew word used here is tsa·ʽiphʹ, elsewhere translated “shawl.” (Ge 38:14, 19) The wearing of this “headcloth” evidently signified Rebekah’s subjection to her betrothed Isaac.
The turban (Heb., mits·neʹpheth) of the high priest was of fine linen, wrapped around the head, having a gold plate tied to its front with blue string. (Ex 28:36-39; Le 16:4) The ornamental headgear of the underpriests was also “wrapped” around the head, but a different Hebrew word (migh·ba·ʽahʹ) is used for their headdress, indicating that it was different in form and perhaps not as elaborate as the high priest’s turban. Nor did the underpriests’ headgear have the gold plate.—Le 8:13.
Job mentions the turban in a figurative sense, likening his justice to a turban. (Job 29:14; compare Pr 1:9; 4:7-9.) Women sometimes wore turbans. (Isa 3:23) Here the Hebrew word is tsa·niphʹ. It is used in the expression “kingly turban” at Isaiah 62:3, and at Zechariah 3:5, for the high priest’s headgear.
The peʼerʹ, evidently turbanlike, was worn by a bridegroom (Isa 61:10) and was a symbol of joyfulness. (Isa 61:3; compare Eze 24:17, 23.) This word is also used for the headdress of women (Isa 3:20) and for that of the priests.—Eze 44:18.
The headbands (Heb., shevi·simʹ) seem to have been made of network. (Isa 3:18) The “pendant turbans” (Heb., tevu·limʹ) described by Ezekiel as being on the heads of Chaldean warriors may have been highly colored and decorated.—Eze 23:14, 15.
Daniel’s three young Hebrew companions, fully dressed and even wearing caps, were thrown into Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace. The caps may have been worn to denote their title or rank. Some believe that they were conical in shape.—Da 3:21.
Ancient and Modern Headgear. Most of the representations on monuments and reliefs of Egypt, Babylon, and Assyria depict scenes of war and hunting, or of the royal palace or the temples. However, the Egyptians, particularly, have a good many illustrations of workmen plying various arts and trades. In these the kings, chieftains, and nobles are shown wearing widely varying forms of headdress, while the common people are often pictured without head covering, or sometimes with rather close-fitting headgear.
A very similar form of headdress in the Middle East today is the kaffiyeh, worn by the Bedouin. It consists of a square cloth folded so that three corners hang down over the back and shoulders. It is bound on with a cord around the head, leaving the face exposed and affording protection from sun and wind for the head and neck. It is possible that such a covering for the head was worn anciently by the Hebrews.
Head Covering and Feminine Subjection. The apostle Paul directed that women have on a head covering when praying or prophesying in the Christian congregation. The woman thereby acknowledged the headship principle, according to which the man is the head of the woman, Christ is man’s head and, in turn, God is the head of Christ. Paul said that a woman’s long hair is naturally given to her “instead of a headdress.” The apostle was then writing to the Christians at Corinth, living among Europeans and Semites, with whom this natural distinction between males and females as to length of hair was the case. Slave women and those caught in fornication or adultery had their heads shaved. Paul pointed out that the long hair of a woman was a natural evidence of her womanly position under man’s headship. The woman, seeing this natural reminder of her subjection, should, in consequence, wear a form of head covering as “a sign of authority” on her head when praying or prophesying in the congregation, thus demonstrating before others, including the angels, her personal recognition of the headship principle. (1Co 11:3-16) This had doubtless been the practice of prophetesses of ancient times, such as Deborah (Jg 4:4) and Anna (Lu 2:36-38), when they prophesied.—See HAIR.