The practice common among Oriental nations of colouring the forehead or impressing on it some distinctive mark as a sign of devotion to some deity is alluded to in Rev. 13:16, 17; 14:9; 17:5; 20:4.
The "jewel on thy forehead" mentioned in Ezek. 16:12 (R.V., "a ring upon thy nose") was in all probability the "nose-ring" (Isa. 3:21).
In Ezek. 3:7 the word "impudent" is rightly rendered in the Revised Version "an hard forehead." (See also ver. 8, 9.)
The practice of veiling the face (forehead) in public for women of the high classes, especially married women, in the East, sufficiently stigmatizes with reproach the unveiled face of women of bad character. (Genesis 24:64
; Jeremiah 3:3
) The custom among many Oriental nations both of coloring the face and forehead and of impressing on the body marks indicative of devotion to some special deity or religious sect is mentioned elsewhere. The "jewels for the forehead," mentioned by Ezekiel, (Ezekiel 16:12
) and in margin of Authorized Version, (Genesis 24:22
) were in all probability nose-rings. (Isaiah 3:21
- for'-ed (metsach; metopon):
(1) In a literal sense the word is used frequently in the Scriptures. Aaron and after him every high priest was to wear on the forehead the golden frontlet having the engraved motto, "Holy to Yahweh" (Ex 28:36,38). The condition of the forehead was an important criterion in the diagnosis of leprosy by the priest (Lev 13:42,43; 2 Ch 26:20). It was in the forehead that brave young David smote Goliath with the stone from his sling (1 Sam 17:49). The faulty translation of the King James Version in Ezek 16:12 has been corrected in the Revised Version (British and American), reference being had in the passage to a nose-ring, not to an ornament of the forehead. While the cutting or tattooing of the body was strictly forbidden to the Israelite on account of the heathen associations of the custom (Lev 19:28), we find frequent mention made of markings on the forehead, which were especially used to designate slaves (see Philo, De Monarchia, I) or devotees of a godhead (Lucian, De Syria Dea, 59). In 3 Macc 2:29 we read that Ptolemy IV Philopator branded some Jews with the sign of an ivy leaf, marking them as devotees of Bacchus-Dionysos. Possibly we may compare herewith the translation of Isa 44:5 (Revised Version margin): "And another shall write on his hand, Unto Yahweh" (or Yahweh's slave). Very clear is the passage Ezek 9:4,6 (and perhaps Job 31:35), where the word used for "mark" is taw, the name of the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet which in its earliest form has the shape of an upright plus sign (Baal Lebanon Inscr; 11th century BC) or of a lying (St Andrew's) cross X (Moabite Inscr, 9th century BC), the simplest sign in the old Israelite alphabet, and at the same time the character which in the Greek alphabet represents the X, the initial of Christ. In the New Testament we find a clear echo of the above-mentioned Old Testament passage, the marking of the foreheads of the righteous (Rev 7:3; 9:4; 14:1; 22:4). The godless followers of the beast are marked on the (right) hand and on the forehead (Rev 13:16; 14:9; 20:4), and the apocalyptic woman dressed in scarlet and purple has her name written on her forehead (Rev 17:5).
(2) In a metaphorical sense the expression, "a harlot's forehead," is used (Jer 3:3) to describe the shameless apostasy and faithlessness of Israel. Ezek speaks of the stiff-necked obstinacy and the persistent unwillingness of Israel to hear the message of Yahweh: "All the house of Israel are of a hard forehead and of a stiff heart" (Jer 3:7), and God makes his prophet's "forehead hard .... as an adamant harder than flint," whereby an unflinching loyalty to God and a complete disregard of opposition is meant (Jer 3:8,9). Compare the phrase: "to harden the face," under the word FACE.
H. L. E. Luering