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Did You Know?

Did You Know?

Why did Joseph shave before seeing Pharaoh?

An ancient Egyptian wall painting showing a barber at work

According to the Genesis account, Pharaoh ordered that the Hebrew prisoner Joseph be quickly brought before him to interpret his troubling dreams. By this time, Joseph had been imprisoned for a number of years. Despite the urgency of Pharaoh’s summons, Joseph took the time to shave. (Genesis 39:20-23; 41:1, 14) That the writer mentions this seemingly insignificant detail at all shows that he was familiar with Egyptian customs.

Letting one’s beard grow was the norm among many ancient nations, including the Hebrews. In contrast, “the ancient Egyptians were the only Oriental nation who objected to wearing the beard,” says McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature.

Was shaving limited to the beard? The magazine Biblical Archaeology Review suggests that some Egyptian ceremonial customs required a man to prepare to appear before Pharaoh as he would to enter a temple. In such a case, Joseph would have had to shave all the hair of his head and body.

The Acts account says that Timothy’s father was a Greek. Does this mean that he came from Greece?

Not necessarily. In his inspired writings, the apostle Paul sometimes contrasted Jews with Greeks, or Hellenes, as if using the Greeks to represent all non-Jewish peoples. (Romans 1:16; 10:12) One of the reasons for this was doubtless the extensive use of the Greek language and Greek culture through the areas in which Paul preached.

Whom did the ancients consider to be Greek? In the fourth century B.C.E., the Athenian orator Isocrates, for one, spoke proudly of the way Greek culture was spreading in the world. He noted that as a result, “those are called Greeks that have had the advantage of our education, rather than the natives of Greece.” It is thus possible, although by no means certain, that Timothy’s non-Jewish father and others whom Paul referred to as Greeks were Greek by culture and not by birth.​—Acts 16:1.