Ezekiel 44:20

Ezekiel 44:20

Yoel Halevi One comments

There is an interesting question raised in the laws about the Kohanim in Ezekiel 44:20. Ezekiel uses several laws which are known from Leviticus 21.

וְרֹאשָׁם לֹא יְגַלֵּחוּ וּפֶרַע לֹא יְשַׁלֵּחוּ כָּסוֹם יִכְסְמוּ אֶת רָאשֵׁיהֶם
“They are not to shave their heads or let their hair grow long, but must keep their hair carefully trimmed”

The above translation uses the traditional Jewish understanding of the verbs כָּסוֹם יִכְסְמוּ which understands that the Kohanim are to have short trimmed hair. This understanding is based on the analysis that the root is כסס which means “to trim, cut very small”. However, this verb is mostly common in Hebrew after the bible and is probably not the root or the meaning. 
It is more likely that the root is כסמ and that contextually it means “to keep fashioned and organized”. This meaning can be understood from the Akkadian word kasāmu which means “to cut in the common fashion”. Considering the fact that men in the ancient world had long hair it stands to reason that the priest’s hair was long and not short.

This concept of hair can also be understood from the context which prohibits shaving the head and growing the hair wild. Hence, Ezekiel is presenting laws similar to that in Leviticus 21:5&10

לֹא (יקרחה) יִקְרְחוּ קָרְחָה בְּרֹאשָׁם
אֶת רֹאשׁוֹ לֹא יִפְרָע וּבְגָדָיו לֹא יִפְרֹם

“They are not to make bald spots on their heads…”

He is not to make his hair wild (i.e., stop grooming his hair), and he will not tear his clothes”.
The above verses are used for regular kohanim and the high kohen, but Ezekiel has enhanced laws which expanded the laws to both types of kohanim and are based on Torah law. It is clear that Ezekiel knows the laws of the Torah and the prophecy uses them. However, Ezekiel is presenting specific laws in regards to hair that are not specified within the Pentateuch, a device that can be perceived as an intertextual interpretation of existing law. Hence we can look at Ezekiel using his priestly function and not only as a prophet. As a priest, it is in his power to determine the law as was practiced in ancient Israel.

One comments

Joey bag of doughnuts

January 3, 2022 at 8:02 pm

Wait, so Ezekiel was also a rabbinate ? 🙂

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