Is Elijah’s hair on his shaggy head or on his goatskin shirt?
“Lord of hair” בַּעַל שַׂעָר occurs only in 1 Kings 1:8 and might be nothing more than a literary device to balance “lord of the flies” in the same paragraph. Opinions vary about its meaning. For instance, although the NIV reads, “He had a garment of hair,” their footnote says it could mean “He was a hairy man.”
Many authors and translations say it means Elijah’s hair and beard were a mess.
- “hair down to his waist”
- “Chest hair coming out your shirt, arms a woolly carpet, a big bushy beard and wild, unkempt hair”
- Both the New Living Translation and the NASB say, “He was a hairy man.”
In this view, Ira had to explain to Elijah: Look, when you hear, “How are you?” don’t say, “Not too shaggy.”
I put a goatskin shirt on Elijah, but not as fancy as this.
- Zechariah 13:4 notes that prophets wear hairy garments.
- The English Standard Version and Darby’s word-for-word translation have “garment of hair” and “hairy garment.”
- Easton’s Bible Dictionary gives him a garment of camel hair.
- The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry says, “Elijah wore, most probably, a camel’s hair girdle.”
- The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge says, “a rough garment, either made of camels’ hair… or of a skin, dressed with the hair on.” 🙂
- Sir J. Chardin says, “a hairy garment.”
- One author even wonders if the priest Zecharias in Luke 1:5 found Elijah’s old camel hair garment in the temple and gave it to John the Baptist!
- Maybe the deciding factor was my 1950s middle-class upbringing among clean-shaven men with neatly trimmed hair.
At any rate, I dressed Elijah in a goatskin shirt with the hair turned out, something like the one on this shepherd.