With Asiatics, a badge of manly dignity. The Egyptians mostly shaved the hair of the face and head, except in mourning. In consonance with this Egyptian usage, Scripture, with the undesigned propriety of truth, represents Joseph as having "shaved his beard," which he had allowed to grow in prison, before entering Pharaoh's presence (Genesis 41:14). Many Egyptians wore a false beard of plaited hair, private individuals small ones, kings long ones square below, the gods one turning at the end. Their enemies are represented bearded on the monuments.
The Jews were forbidden to "round the corners of their heads or mar (i.e. shave off) the corners of their beards" (Leviticus 19:27; Leviticus 21:5). Baal worshippers rounded the beard and hair to make their faces round, like the sun. The Arabs trimmed their beard round in sign of dedication to some idol. Possibly the Israelites retained the hair between the ear and eye, which the Arabs shaved away (Jeremiah 9:26 margin; Jeremiah 25:23; Jeremiah 49:32; compare Herodotus, 3:8).
The beard is sworn by in the E. as an object of veneration. Not to trim it marked affliction, as in Mephibosheth's case during Absalom's occupation of Jerusalem (2 Samuel 19:24). An insult to it was resented as a gross outrage, as David did when Hanun shaved off half the beards of his ambassadors (2 Samuel 10:4). Compare God's threat of "shaving" away His people as "hair" with the Assyrian king as His "razor" (Isaiah 7:20). This was one gross indignity to which Jesus was subjected: "I gave My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair" (Isaiah 50:6). It was shaved in mourning (Isaiah 15:2; Jeremiah 41:5; Jeremiah 48:37). Only the nearest friends were permitted to touch the beard, which marks the foul treachery of Joab in taking his cousin Amasa's beard to kiss him, or rather it (2 Samuel 20:9). The precious ointment flowed from Aaron's head at his consecration, upon his beard (Psalm 133:2). The leper, at purification, had to shave his head and beard and eyebrows (Leviticus 14:9).