1 Corinthians 11:4

Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.

Every man praying or prophesying,.... This is to be understood of praying and prophesying in public, and not in private; and not to be restrained to the person that is the mouth of the congregation to God in prayer, or who preaches to the people in the name of God; but to be applied to every individual person that attends public worship, that joins in prayer with the minister, and hears the word preached by him, which is meant by prophesying; for not foretelling future events is here meant, but explaining the word of God, the prophecies of the Old Testament, or any part of Scripture, unless singing of psalms should rather be designed, since that is sometimes expressed by prophesying: so in 1 Samuel 10:5 "thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place, with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp before them, and they shall prophesy". The Targum renders it thus, Nyxbvm Nwnaw, "and they shall sing praise"; upon which Kimchi observes, that it is as if it was said, their prophecy shall be twryv, "songs" and praises to God, spoken by the Holy Ghost. So in 1 Samuel 19:23 it is said of Saul, that he "went on and prophesied". The Targum is, he went on, xbvmw, "and praised". And again, "he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied". Targum, xbvw, "and praised", or sung praise. Once more, in 1 Chronicles 25:1 it is said of Asaph, and others, that they "should prophesy with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals"; which Kimchi explains of Asaph's singing vocally, and of his sons playing upon musical instruments.

having his head covered; which, it seems, was the custom of some of them so to do in attendance on public worship: this they either did in imitation of the Heathens {r}, who worshipped their deities with their heads covered, excepting Saturn and Hercules, whose solemnities were celebrated with heads unveiled, contrary to the prevailing customs and usages in the worship of others; or rather in imitation of the Jews, who used to veil themselves in public worship, through a spirit of bondage unto fear, under which they were, and do to this day; and with whom it is a rule {s}, that

"a man might not stand and pray, neither with his girdle on, hlwgm varb alw, nor with his head uncovered; nor with his feet uncovered.''

Accordingly it is said {t} of Nicodemus ben Gorion,

"that he went into the school grieved, and Pjetn, "veiled himself", and stood in prayer;''

and a little after that

"that he went into the sanctuary and "veiled" himself, and stood and prayed;''

though the Targum on Judges 5:2 suggests,

"that the wise men sit in the synagogues, ylg vyrb, "with the head uncovered", to teach the people the words of the law;''

and on Judges 5:9 has these words,

"Deborah in prophecy said, I am sent to praise the Scribes of Israel, who when they were in tribulation did not cease from expounding the law; and so it was beautiful for them to sit in the synagogues, "with the head uncovered", and teach the people the words of the law, and bless and confess before the Lord;''

but it seems that a different custom had now prevailed; now from this Gentile or judaizing practice, the apostle would dissuade them by observing, that such an one that uses it, "dishonoureth his head"; meaning either in a figurative, spiritual, and mystical sense, his head Christ, in token of the liberty received from him, and because he is above in heaven, and clear of all sin, the head must be uncovered in public worship; or otherwise the reverse is suggested of him, which is highly to dishonour him, and is the sense many interpreters give into: rather the reason should be, because Christ, the believer's head, appears for him in heaven, opens a way of access for him, gives him audience and acceptance in his person, and through his blood and righteousness; and therefore should appear with open face and head uncovered, as a token of freedom and boldness; otherwise he dishonours his head as if his blood and sacrifice were not effectual, and his intercession not prevalent: but the natural head, taken in a literal sense, is rather meant; and the sense is, that by covering it, it looks as if he was guilty and ashamed, and in subjection; whereas to appear uncovered expresses freedom, boldness, and superiority, like himself, who is the head of the woman; whereas to be covered, as with a woman's veil or hood, is effeminate, unmanly, and dishonourable.

{r} Macrob Saturnal. l. 3. c. 6. Alex. ab. Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 2. c. 14. & 19. & 22.
{s} Maimon. Hilch. Tephilla, c. 5. sect. 5.
{t} T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 20. 1.