By Jeanna Smiley
The prohibition against women cutting their hair is one of the most highly cherished and strictly enforced doctrines of William Branham’s “Message”. The Message convinces women that cutting or clipping their hair is an act of rebellion against God and their authority figures (husbands if married, fathers if single). This study compares Branham’s teaching with the Word of God – the Holy Scriptures.
According to the Message, a woman who cuts her hair dishonors her husband, thereby giving him a right to divorce her:
I had a hot one on that, down the other day in Shreveport. They was talking about the women, and should women wear long hair. And I said, “A woman that bobbed her hair, her husband had a right and a Bible right to divorce her.” That’s right. That’s what the Bible says. That’s exactly right. Oh, my! Holy Ghost women sitting there, just the way they been taught, that’s all. See? Just, that’s slipped loosely.
He said, “Now, if they would cut it, if there’s something wrong they had to cut their hair,” said, “let her take a razor and shave it all off,” and make her hair real slick, until it comes out her head. That’s right. That’s what the Scripture said. And It says, “If she cuts her hair, she dishonors her husband. And a woman that’s dishonorable has a legal right to be put away and divorced.” But, he can’t marry again, now. But he—but he can put her away in divorcement. That’s right. That’s Scripture.
(53-0729 - Questions and Answers on Genesis*)
Dissolving a marriage is no small matter. Malachi 2:16 and Mark 10:2-8 indicate that God hates it. The Lord Jesus stated the only justification for divorce in Matthew 5:32: “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” The Bible does not encourage divorce, nor does it provide grounds for a man to put away his wife because she cuts her hair.
William Branham taught that Christian women are under a Nazarite vow which restricts them from cutting their hair:
You said, “Cutting hair, what’s that got to do?” Brother, let’s stop here just a minute. I just feel somebody resented that. Might have been out on the wire somewhere. Listen. A hair to a woman is a Nazarite vow. Hair to Samson was a Nazarite vow. And when a woman cuts off her hair, she—she absolutely denies her Nazarite vow that she is a Bride to Christ. Because, there, that one thing, she spoils the whole Picture. Correctly! A Nazarite is “one that is consecrated for a purpose.” Is that right? Samson was consecrated to a age and to a purpose, therefore he had long hair. The woman that’s a child of God, lets her hair grow, to show that’s she’s consecrated to every Word of God.
(65-0801M - The God of This Evil Age*)
The Nazarite vow is not mentioned often in Scripture, but we do know that males and females could and did perform it. Incidentally, the most notable Nazarites in the Bible are men. Numbers 6 outlines God’s instructions for this unique act of consecration:
1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of dedication to the LORD as a Nazirite,
5 “During the entire period of their Nazirite vow, no razor may be used on their head. They must be holy until the period of their dedication to the LORD is over; they must let their hair grow long.
8 Throughout the period of their dedication, they are consecrated to the LORD.
13 “Now this is the law of the Nazirite when the period of their dedication is over. They are to be brought to the entrance to the tent of meeting.
18 “Then at the entrance to the tent of meeting, the Nazirite must shave off the hair that symbolizes their dedication. They are to take the hair and put it in the fire that is under the sacrifice of the fellowship offering. 19 After the Nazirite has shaved off the hair that symbolizes their dedication, the priest is to place in their hands a boiled shoulder of the ram, and one thick loaf and one thin loaf from the basket, both made without yeast. 20 The priest shall then wave these before the LORD as a wave offering; they are holy and belong to the priest, together with the breast that was waved and the thigh that was presented. After that, the Nazirite may drink wine. 21 This is the law of the Nazirite who vows offerings to the LORD in accordance with their dedication, in addition to whatever else they can afford. They must fulfill the vows they have made, according to the law of the Nazirite.
The rules regarding the Nazarite vow applied to both males and females. No Scripture in this passage or anywhere else in the Old Testament forbids the cutting of hair. In the New Testament, the Nazarite vow is only mentioned in Acts 18:18 and Acts 21:20-26; however, we do not see any instructions for female Christians to observe this law.
1 Corinthians 11 has been subject to vastly differing interpretations among Christian groups. William Branham, his followers and other holiness sects invoke this portion of Scripture to validate their stance concerning women’s hair:
3 But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. 5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. 6 For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head. 7 A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9 neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. 16 If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.
“Rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15) is fundamental to understanding the meaning of Scripture and its proper application to our lives. We must consider the audience to whom it was written along with their unique cultures and histories at the time of the writing. Since the Apostle Paul was addressing the Corinthian church, we need to study the customs regarding women’s hair in first-century Corinth to ascertain why hair covering was so significant.
While the Message urges that long hair is the covering mentioned in verses 5 and 6, Paul was referring to a covering separate from the hair. If the Message rendering were accurate, these verses would read as thus:
5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered HAIR CUT dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. 6 For if a woman does not cover her head CUTS HER HAIR, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head NOT CUT HER HAIR.
This interpretation simply does not make sense. Furthermore, if Paul meant that cutting, clipping or trimming the hair renders a woman “uncovered”, then it could rightly be argued that a man can have any length of hair if he at least trims it. Paul was instructing the Corinthians to uphold the then-current tradition of women wearing head coverings.
For further study, I highly recommend:
*All quotes of William Branham were accessed from http://table.branham.org on March 22, 2018.
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