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"My Brother Esau Is a Hairy Man"Hair and Identity in Ancient Israel$
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Susan Niditch

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195181142

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195181142.001.0001

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Absent Hair

Absent Hair

(p.95) 5 Absent Hair
"My Brother Esau Is a Hairy Man"

Susan Niditch (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores a set of biblical texts dealing with the loss or absence of hair: the tale of David's envoys in 2 Samuel 10:4–5; related texts concerning conquest and images of shaving; passages discussing mourning practices and other ritual passages; and finally the significant contrasts drawn by biblical writers between hairy and smooth men. The stories of Esau and Jacob, Elijah and Elisha, and Joseph as prisoner versus Joseph as servant of Pharaoh are discussed. Saul Olyan has explored a number these texts with insight, cautioning the reader to pay special attention to shaving in context. He notes, however, that many passages concerning the elimination of hair involve some sort of alteration in status, such as a return to a state of purity after a period of uncleanness or a marking of the death of a loved one and the reintegration to the realm of the living after the loved one's demise.

Keywords:   ritual passages, hairy Esau; Jacob, smooth Esau; Jacob, Joseph, shaving, status, purity, uncleanness, death

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