uncover not your heads;
that is, do not take off your mitre, as the Septuagint version; or the bonnets which they wore in the time of their ministry; for the Jewish priests always had their mitres and bonnets on when they sacrificed; in imitation of which, the Heathens had their heads covered when they offered their sacrifices F11: now it was the way, or custom of a mourner, as Ben Melech observes, to remove his mitre, bonnet, or tiara, from his head; but in this case, that no sign of mourning might be shown, Aaron and his sons are forbid to uncover the head: the Targum of Onkelos is,
``do not increase the hair,''or nourish it, or suffer it to grow, as Jarchi and Ben Gersom interpret it: now in times of distress and mourning they used to let the hair grow, whether on the head or beard, see ( 2 Samuel 19:24 ) and in this the Jews were imitated by the Egyptians, contrary to other nations; the priests of the gods in other places, says Herodotus F12, took care of their hair (or wore their hair), in Egypt they are shaved; with others the custom is, for the head immediately to be shaved at funerals; but the Egyptians, at death, suffer their hair to grow in the parts before shaved; but this custom with the Jews, though at other times used, is here forbid Aaron and his sons:
neither rend your clothes,
which was sometimes done at the report of the death of near relations, as children, in token of mourning, ( Genesis 37:34 ) ( Job 1:20 ) but here it is forbid, that there might be no sign of it: it is a particular word that is here used: Ben Melech says, there is a difference between rending and tearing; tearing is in the body of a garment where there is no seam, but rending (which is what is here meant) where there is a seam: the priests rending their garments was after this manner, according to the Jewish canons F13,
``an high priest rends below and a common priest above;''that is, as one of their commentators F14 interprets it, the former rends the extreme part of his garment next the feet, and the latter at the breast near the shoulder; but in this case no rent at all was to be made:
lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people;
so very provoking to God would be any signs of mourning in Aaron and his sons, on this account:
but let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the
burning which the Lord hath kindled:
though Aaron and his sons might not mourn on this occasion, the whole body of the people might, though not bewail so much the death of the persons, as the cause of it; and be concerned for the awful judgment of God, and for the wrath that was sone forth, lest it should proceed and destroy others also, all being sinners.
F11 "Purpureo velare comas" Virgil. Aeneid. l. 3. Vid. Kipping. Rom. Antiqu. l. 1. c. 12. sect. 17. p. 495.
F12 Euterpe sive, l. 2. c. 36.
F13 Misn. Horayot, c. 3. sect. 5.
F14 Bartenora in ib.