Hair in Ancient Israel: Hair and Identity in Ancient Israel

Hardcover | May 1, 2008

bySusan Niditch

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Over the last decade, there has been an explosion of scholarly interest in the relationship between culture and the body. One topic that has emerged is the role of hair in the presentation of the body. Hair plays an integral and intricate role in the way human beings represent and identifythemselves. The way we treat our hair has to do with aesthetics, social structure, religious identity, and a host of other aspects of culture. In societies both modern and ancient, the hairdo is one of the keys to a group's cultural code. In the traditions of ancient Israel, hair relates toimportant aspects of identity concerning gender, ethnicity, and holiness. In this book, Susan Niditch seeks a deeper understanding of Israelite culture as expressed, shaped, and reinforced in images of hair - a complex symbol drawn from the body. Among the examples she considers is the tradition'smost famous long-haired hero, Samson. The hair that assures Samson's strength is a common folktale motif, but it also represents his ritual consecration as a Nazirite. Niditch examines the meaning of the Nazirite status - held by Samuel and Elisha as well as Samson - in detail, arguing that longhair is involved in a complex set of cultural assumptions about men, warrior status, and divine election. In addition to the biblical texts, Niditch looks at pictorial representations of hair and other material evidence. Her final chapter turns to the troubling passages in which men impose haircutting or loosening upon women which, she argues, reveal much about attitudes to women and the place of women in Israelite culture.

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From the Publisher

Over the last decade, there has been an explosion of scholarly interest in the relationship between culture and the body. One topic that has emerged is the role of hair in the presentation of the body. Hair plays an integral and intricate role in the way human beings represent and identifythemselves. The way we treat our hair has to do...

Susan Niditch is Samuel Green Professor of Religion at Amherst College.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:176 pages, 9.25 × 6.13 × 0.98 inPublished:May 1, 2008Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:019518114X

ISBN - 13:9780195181142

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"Theoretically engaged, drawing upon a broad range of textual and material data, and sensitive to the complex relationship of hair, context, and meaning, Susan Niditch presents a compelling, accessible analysis that advances our understanding on a number of fronts." --Saul M. Olyan, Samuel Ungerleider Jr. Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of Religious Studies, Brown University "Hair, for Susan Niditch, is not a trivial or frivolous matter in making sense of the Hebrew Bible and the ancient Israel from which the Bible comes... Niditch makes her case by close and perceptive readings of the relevant Biblical texts, alive to their subtle nuances and ironical plays in language and imagery. Woven into her readings is an appeal to a wide range of other sources both textual and pictorial, and drawn from all over the ancient Near East and beyond to illuminate the darker corners of the Biblical texts. The value of Niditch's analysis is enhanced by her fluent, lucid style; she has written a book that is fully accessible to non-professional readers, even as it will have much to say to professionals in Biblical and related fields." --Peter Machinist, Hancock Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages, Harvard University "Engaging in its lucid and lively prose, erudite in its presentation of diverse theoretical discussions, and enlightening in its analysis of the major biblical passages in which hair is prominent, Niditch's book offers the reader new insights into the fascinating complexity of representations of body hair in the literature of ancient Israel." --Carol Meyers, Mary Grace Wilson Professor of Religion, Duke University