Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard. Leviticus 19:27
The full, rounded beard was a sign of manhood and a source of pride to Hebrew men. It was considered an ornament, and much care was given to its maintenance. In fact, the wealthy and important made a ceremony of caring for their beards. Custom did not allow the beard to be shaved, only trimmed (Lev ; 21:5), except in special circumstances. For example, shaving the beard was a requirement for the man cleansed of an infectious skin disease (Lev 14:9), and people in mourning would often shave or pull out their beards (Ezra 9:3; Is 15:2; Jer 41:5; 48:37). Ezekiel was told by God to shave off his beard as a symbol of coming destruction (Ezek 5:1).
The beard was also an object of salutation (2 Sam 20:9), the focus of oaths (Mt ) or blessings (Ps 133:2) and even the focus of shame or curses. An attack on the beard is an attack on the person. Because the beard was a symbol of manhood, it was a great insult to degrade someone’s beard. Thus David’s men suffer grave humiliation when they return from a diplomatic mission with half of each man’s beard shaven by the Ammonites. In fact, they did not return to
Similarly, Isaiah warns
(ed. Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, Tremper Longman III, Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinios, 1998, pgs 80-81)