Women and the veil in Biblical times

   There exists very often among Christians the error of confusing Muslim customs with the customs of Biblical times. Many believe, including some scholars and professors of seminaries that women in Biblical times lived with their faces covered by a veil like the Muslim women of today. There is no such thing. As a nuptial custom, a woman used a veil to present herself before the man who she was going to marry, but that was only for that purpose, the rest of her activities and life, she walked around with her face uncovered. Nowadays a bride also uses a veil during the marriage ceremony.

   Decent women did not have to cover their faces, the ones that covered their faces were the prostitutes, as we can see in the passage I present below, in which Judah upon seeing his daughter in law Thamar, thought she was a prostitute because she had a veil covering her face. Even it says that the reason why he thought she was a prostitute was because she was covered. If all the women of that time would have been used to wearing a veil over their faces, Judah would not have thought that a woman who he saw with a veil covering her face was a prostitute.


   14 And she put her widow's garments off from her, and covered her with a vail, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife. 15 When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot, because she had covered her face.”          

                                                  (Genesis 38:14-15)


   From the reading of these two previous verses, it is evident that decent women did not walk around with their faces covered, but the prostitutes. The error of many is that they confuse Biblical customs with Muslim customs.

   This same idea is perceived in Genesis 24:65 where it shows that Rebecca walked around without a veil in front of Abraham’s servant and the ten men under his keep. Rebecca only put the veil on when she saw that Isaac, her future husband was coming to meet with her. If Rebecca had always used a veil, she would not have had to put it on when Abraham’s servant told her that her fiancée was coming to her.


    For she had said unto the servant: What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us? And the servant had said: It is my master. Therefore she took a veil, and covered herself.”                            (Gn 24:65)


   It is clearly seen that Rebecca was not wearing a veil in front of Abraham’s servant, and therefore, in front of all the men who were in the retinue.

   Further along, in Genesis 29:17 it says that Rachel (Rebecca’s niece) had a beautiful face. That does not give us a very wide margin to think that it was hidden under a veil.

   In addition, I do not remember any passage which may lead us to think that the women in the Middle East at that time, covered their faces with a veil. That came after the Muslims imposed with blood and fire their religion and their customs to that area.


Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured.”                                 (Gensis 29:17)


   If Rachel’s pretty face could be appreciated, it is because she did not wear a veil, because hidden behind a veil, all faces are the same.

   To interpret the Bible correctly, it is good to know ancient customs, but throughout the Bible, not books written by confused authors. 

Back to the index