Deuteronomy 21:12

Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house; and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails;

Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house,.... In order to make her his wife, after some things were done here directed to; for this is not to be understood of his taking her home with a view to defile her, as Maimonides {e} interprets it; who observes, that when a man's lust so rages that he cannot subdue it, yet he ought not publicly to satisfy his lust, but to have the woman into a private and secret place, as it is said,

thou shalt bring her into the midst of thine house; nor was he permitted to lie with her in the camp, nor was it lawful for him to defile her a second time, until her mourning was at an end; though elsewhere {f} he gives a different sense of this passage, and supposes the man to have lain with the captive woman, before the introduction of her into his house; for it is a notion that prevails with the Jewish writers, that an Israelitish soldier might lie once with an Heathen woman taken captive, to gratify his lust, but might not repeat it; so it is said in the Talmud {g}; yet it must be observed, that there are some, though but few, who are of opinion that the first congress was unlawful, and that he might not touch her until certain conditions were fulfilled, and they were married, as R. Jochanan {h}; and which is embraced, supported, and defended by Abarbinel on the place, and in which he is undoubtedly right; and so it is understood by Josephus {i} and Philo {k}; for this law gives no liberty nor countenance to the violation of the beautiful captive. The plain meaning is, that when a Jewish soldier was passionately in love with a captive, and was desirous of making her his wife, he was to take her home to his house, where she was to remain, to see whether his passion of love would subside, or the woman become a proselyte, or however till certain rites were observed, and then he was permitted to marry her:

and she shall shave her head; either that she might be the less engaging, her flowing locks, or plaited hair, or modish headdress, being removed from her, which had served to excite a passion for her; or as a token of mourning for her present afflicted state and condition; and in afflicted circumstances it was usual to shave the head; see Job 1:20; and though it was forbidden the Israelites, yet not Gentiles; Deuteronomy 14:1

and pare her nails; this and the former some think were ordered to make her fit to be his wife, and were a sort of purification of her, and an emblem of her having renounced Heathenism, and having departed from it, and laid aside all superfluity of former naughtiness; but this phrase is interpreted in the Targum of Onkelos, "let her nails grow"; and so the Arabic version: and this the Jewish writers say was ordered to be done, that she might appear ugly and disagreeable to him, and be abhorred by him; so Jarchi, Aben Ezra, and Ben Melech; the same is observed by Maimonides {l}, and is the sense of R. Akiba {m}. Another of their writers {n} think it refers to a custom in some nations to dye their nails.

"The daughters of the Heathens (he says) used to adorn the nails of their hands and feet, and dye them with various colours, according to the custom of the Ishmaelites (or Turks); that there might be a variety in their hands, and men might look at them, take them and handle them until the fire of hell, and an evil concupiscence, burned; wherefore this is ordered that they might let them grow, without any preparation or die.''

But perhaps this neglect of their nails, and suffering them to grow, was in token of mourning as well as shaving the head, as also sometimes even paring the nails was done on the same account.

{e} Moreh Nevochim, par. 3. c. 41.
{f} Hilchot Melachim, c. 8. sect. 2.
{g} T. Bab. Kiddushin, fol. 21. 2.
{h} Apud Abarbinel in loc. & R. Sol. Urbin. Ohel Moed, fol. 14. 1.
{i} Antiqu. l. 4. c. 8. sect. 23.
{k} De Charitate, p. 706.
{l} Ut supra. (Hilchot Melachim, c. 8.) sect. 5.
{m} In T. Bab. Yebamot, fol. 48. 2.
{n} R. Abraham Seba in Tzeror Hammor, fol. 146. 2.