Isaiah’s Description of Messiah’s Suffering: Beard Ripped Out

The Messiah Will Be Beaten In His Face And Have His Beard Pulled Out By His Revilers

 “I gave My back to those who struck Me, And My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard…” —Isaiah 50:6b

New Testament Fulfillment:

 “Then they spat in His face and beat Him; and others struck Him with the palms of their hands. ” —Matthew 26:67

Pulling out the beard of a condemned man before crucifixion was a part of the humiliation that was carried out against those who were crucified. The historical records of the Jews, consistently describes men who were condemned to death as having their beards torn from their faces.[1]

Isaiah is clear that Messiah will experience the ripping of His beard during the time of His crucifixion. Matthew describes the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy when they spit in Jesus face, and struck Him with their hands. It was during this time, that those condemned to death by crucifixion received the dishonor of having their beards torn from their faces.

Isaiah 50:6c …I did not hide My face from shame and spitting.

Isaiah 50:6b I gave My back to those who struck Me And My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard…”

In order to understand why Jesus’ beard was ripped from His face, we must go back and read the text from this event. In Matthew chapter 26, Jesus is before the leaders of Israel. These men question Him regarding His true identity and the fact that on many occasions, Jesus had claimed to be the Messiah.

It was because Jesus had stated that He was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah, that these members of the Sanhedrin were now seeking evidence to condemn Jesus. If He confessed that He was the Messiah, they could use Jesus’ words as evidence to condemn Him to death.

Although no evidence was brought forth at any time that Jesus had committed blasphemy, and He had, in fact, displayed all the evidence necessary to prove that He was both God and Messiah, as the scriptures describe, the Jewish leaders ignored these evidences and proceeded to trap Jesus into saying that He was Messiah.

“Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none. Even though many false witnesses came forward, they found none. But at last two false witnesses came forward and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’ ” And the high priest arose and said to Him, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?”  But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!”

“Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! What do you think?” They answered and said, “He is deserving of death.” Then they spat in His face and beat Him; and others struck Him with the palms of their hands, saying, “Prophesy to us, Christ! Who is the one who struck You?”  ~Matthew 26:59-68

Why Didn’t Matthew Say: “Beard Torn From His Face?”

Critics assert that Matthew’s omission of these specific words, proves that this prophecy failed. This conclusion is often made in various places by people who are untrained. It is common for individuals to make false statements about subjects of history for which they have no education to understand.

Scholars who realize what was taking place here, see the omission of the words, “beard torn,” as stunning evidence of authenticity.

First, all men condemned to death by crucifixion by the Jews (hanged on a tree), always had their beards torn from their faces.[1] This was a part of the humiliation that was intended for those who would blaspheme God.

In the above text from Matthew 26:59-68, as the high priest is questioning Jesus and He answers in the affirmative that He is the “Son of Man” (Messiah), at this point Jesus face was spit upon, punched with the palm of the hand, and His beard torn out. The Pharisees did this to Jesus in response to His statement:

It is as you said. (I Am Messiah) Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

This statement by Jesus, gave the leaders of Israel the right (in their minds), to proceed with the conventional process of spitting, punching, and tearing of the beard that blasphemers always experienced before their execution.

Second, the omission by Matthew of this detail of Jesus beard being torn from His face, was a common artifact of the four Gospels. We often see other places in the four Gospels where critical information is not included, though it is certain that it happened.

It is interesting that there are no New Testament verses which specifically state that they drove nails into Jesus’ hands and feet, but we know that this was always done during crucifixion.

It is by the later testimony of John Chapter 20:25 that we see the disciples knew, that Jesus’ hands and feet had been pierced by nails during His crucifixion.

“Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails…” ~John 20:25

Just as the specific pulling of Jesus beard during His crucifixion is not mentioned, so also was there no mention of nails being driven into His hands and feet. This does not mean these things did not happen, only that they were so common and understood by people who had seen a crucifixion, it was not necessary to mention them in the Gospels.

Differences In Statements Between Matthew And Luke Concerning Jesus As He Is Before The High Priest

Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” But Jesus remained silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I demand in the name of the living God—tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Jesus replied, “You have said it. And in the future you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothing to show his horror and said, “Blasphemy! Why do we need other witnesses? You have all heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?” “Guilty!” they shouted. “He deserves to die!” Then they began to spit in Jesus’ face and beat him with their fists. And some slapped him, jeering, “Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who hit you that time?” ~Matthew 26:62-68 (NLT)

This verse doesn’t make sense upon first examination. When thee men began to beat Jesus in His face with their fists, and slap Him, they ask Jesus “who hit you that time?”

Understanding that they men who struck Jesus in His face are standing right in front of Him, why would they ask “who hit you?” This makes no sense to the reader until we also read Luke’s account of the same event:

They blindfolded him and said, “Prophesy to us! Who hit you that time?” ~Luke 22:64 (NLT)

Matthew left out the detail that Luke includes, that these men had blindfolded Jesus before they began to hit Him in the face, then asked “who hit you?” The reason these men asked this of Jesus was because He had claimed to be a prophet, who is able to know the future. Without Luke’s detail that Jesus was blindfolded, using Matthew alone, none of what is said about Jesus makes any sense.

Without realizing, Matthew forgot to include the important detail that before these men had beat Jesus in His face, they blindfolded Him. Luke was a Greek Physician who is highly trained in recognizing specific details. Luke includes this fact that Jesus was blindfolded before they struck Him in the face and asked “who hit you?” We see this attribute of inclusive details for Luke in His Gospel and in the Book of Acts. Luke is a precise recorder of details and always tells the reader much more about what is taking place than Matthew, Mark, or John.

This omission was clearly unintentional and not realized by Matthew. It becomes a marker for us as the reader that these narratives are telling us the truth. In false written testimony, we do not see these unintentional errors. We find that liars make certain that their details agree so that they will not be exposed as liars.

This type of testimony where one person includes something that other witnesses leave out, is empirical evidence of genuine testimony. The witnesses didn’t realize they had done this, but we observe it 2,000 years later and it becomes a certainty that these men are telling the truth.

Athanasius (c. 295–373; fl. 325–373) Does Not Record The Beard Being Plucked

One further possibility for this imagined discrepancy is that later translations of the text from Isaiah 50:6, were changed from the original autograph. We see an indication of this when we examine Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, in his commentary on Isaiah 50:6, near 350 A.D., where he does not record Isaiah’s text with the words “beard plucked out,” but Athanasius writes Isaiah prophecy as “my cheeks to blows…” with no mention of the beard plucked out.

He Suffered, Yet He Suffered Not.: And being by nature intangible, the Word yet said, “I gave my back to the stripes, and my cheeks to blows, and I hid not my face from shame and spitting.” ~Athanasius (ACCS 29 Volumes) NPNF 2 4:572**.

Whether this is an indication that the Isaiah 50:6 text in 350 A.D., did not contain the description of Jesus’ beard being torn from His cheeks, or Athanasius merely does not mention it, is unknown. Certainly it is possible that Isaiah never said that Messiah’s beard would be ripped, but because this was a tradition for those who were crucified, later copies which had marginal commentary, added the words, “beard plucked out.”

Confirmation Of Eyewitness Accounts

One of the artifacts that professionals look for in order to detect fraud in examining the written testimony of people who claim to be eyewitnesses, is the differences between individuals who claimed to be at the same scene of an event.

  1. If all of the testimonies are exact, this is an indication of fraud.
  2. If there are slight differences in testimony, this is and indication of truth.

The fact that Matthew omitted the specific text, “beard torn,” from his testimony in the New Testament, is classic proof that the New Testament account of Jesus and His crucifixion are not only true but also accurate.

If someone were intending to falsify the account of Jesus’ life to make it match the clear Old Testament prophecies of Isaiah 50:6, it is for certain that they would include a description of Jesus having His beard pulled out.

Scholars agree that Isaiah’s description is intended for the Messiah. It would have been very easy to add a description for Jesus having His beard torn from His face, if the writers of the gospels were seeking to convince any reader that Jesus was the Messiah. By the absence of this description, it appears as if it was simply an oversight that occurred in the midst of recording the other events described in the New Testament. Such omissions of facts are often the case in actual eyewitness accounts.

John wrote that there were many other things that Jesus did which were not recorded in the New Testament. In fact, John stated that there were so many things Jesus did, that all the libraries of the world could not contain them.

And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen. —John 21:25

If there was a compilation of accounts for what occurred during the death of a person by individual witnesses, it would logically be possible that each person who observed the event would record different facts from their own unique perspective. Some of these descriptions would be identical; others would be similar but have additional details not found in the other accounts. Still others would have important items missing entirely. Finally, it is completely reasonable that some things that would seem to be important to a person doing an investigation of the facts, after the event happened, such as pulling out the beard, would be missing from the record of all eyewitness accounts of every person who watched Jesus’ crucifixion.

Expert Analysis

Scholars who study ancient manuscripts understand that the truthfulness of documents from antiquity can be validated by these minor differences in how witnesses recall what has taken place. When we are evaluating ancient literature to determine whether written text is truthful or deceptive, there are certain principles that allow us to know if the narrative is true or not.

Linguistic text analysis allows a professional to examine a text to detect certain inconsistencies and anomalies that reveal fraud. The language, syntax, and grammar that are used in describing people and events are key to determining whether a story is true or false.

Those who are experts in linguistic analysis know precisely what to look for in a written statement or story to discover if the verbal behavior is normal or exhibits signs of deceit.

Many people do not realize that it is easier to detect inconsistencies in written statements than it is for those which are made orally.

By studying word choices, it is possible to detect predictable differences between deceptive and truthful statement. These practices are used every day by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in determining whether narratives are true or contrived.

In the presence of multiple writers, their accounts will differ slightly, although telling the same story.

Narratives which are later determined as fraudulent are always found to be identical as multiple witnesses often agree ahead of time to tell the same story. Narratives which are genuine will have different accounts of the same events which validate them as authentic.

In the case of the four  Gospels there is no doubt that these men are telling the truth, as their differences of recollection are certain evidence of truthfulness.

These differences in remembered details is a certain evidence of reliable testimony.

The Beard Torn From The Face Was A Part Of Execution For Blasphemy

It is a matter of historical record that those who suffered the scourge and were then crucified often had their beards pulled out by their accusers.[1] It was considered a part of the process that a condemned man’s beard would be pulled out as a sign of the total disdain for the condemned man’s crimes.

Men of this time period considered their beards a mark of honor. There was no greater dishonor or insult to inflict upon a man than to pull out or cut off all or part of his beard.

When the king of Ammon died, David sent his servants to comfort the king’s son Hanun in his grieving. The “princes” of Hanun advised the king’s son that David’s intentions were not honorable, and in fact he was sending spies to search out the city so that David could attack and overthrow Hanun’s kingdom.

Believing the advice of his princes to be correct, this young king took the servants of David and shaved off their beards, cut off their garments to expose their buttocks and sent them back to David. These actions were meant to be the highest insult to David and his kingdom. The fact of their complete humiliation is understood by the final words of 2 Samuel 10:5, where David instructs the men to wait in Jericho until their beards have grown back.

 Therefore Hanun took David’s servants, shaved off half of their beards, cut off their garments in the middle, at their buttocks, and sent them away. 5 When they told David, he sent to meet them, because the men were greatly ashamed. And the king said, “Wait at Jericho until your beards have grown, and then return.” —2 Samuel 10:4-5

History Records The Removal Of The Beard As An Act Of Dishonor

It is a record of antiquity that the men of this time period considered these actions to be the highest insult to their honor. To pull out the beard of any man, for any reason, was viewed as degrading and dishonorable.[2] For this reason, it is certain then that during the crucifixion of Jesus, the Roman soldiers, who were known for their brutality, pulled out Jesus’ beard in handfuls rather than take the time to cut it with the sharp edge of a knife. Since it was the goal of His tormentors to inflict as much suffering on Jesus as possible and to insult and degrade Him as a man before the people who were observing the crucifixion, they must have done exactly as this 224th prophecy of Isaiah 50:6 predicts: I gave my cheeks to those who plucked out the beard.

A further area of interest in Isaiah’s prophecy is observed by the presence of death by crucifixion being described six-hundred years before it was invented. The first Crucifixion recorded in the Bible is described King Darius about 520 B.C., as noted in the book of Ezra chapter 6:1-11.

The fact that Crucifixion had not been invented at the writing of these words, gives us even greater pause and reason for astonishment over the words of God, who shows by prophecy that He knows all things. See The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ for details regarding this brutal form of execution.

Further Details Of The Messiah’s Crucifixion

The common picture given for Jesus’ crucifixion is that He was lifted up on the cross, very high above the crowd below. In reality, history records that the crucified were usually just a foot or two above the ground. It should be understood that the entire purpose of crucifixion was to humiliate the condemned by making their execution a visible horror. Those who were placed upon the cross were stripped of all of their clothing, exposing their genitals and allowing the watching crowd to witness the condemned relieving themselves by urination or defecation.[3]

The results of this horrible torture brought insects that further tormented the dying and added to their shame before the watchful eyes of those who often hated and despised the condemned criminal.[4]

A part of the punishment for those who were placed upon the cross was their close proximity to the crowd who were watching them die. The cross itself was only one or two feet above the ground, placing the faces of the condemned near the eye level of their tormentors.

The nearness of the cross to the ground is confirmed in the Jewish writings of Yev. 120b, which describes the official method for determining the actual moment of death for the condemned so that the body could be taken down from the cross. Certain ancient Hebrew writings describe that one of the ways that death was determined to have occurred was by the presence of feral animals in the area who would come and began to feed on the flesh of the feet and legs of the person crucified. These animals were able to gain access to the dead on the cross because of their near proximity to the ground. [5]

It would be quite normal for any condemned person who was on a cross just two feet from the ground below to have a Roman soldier come near and rip the beard from the face of the dying criminal as an act of contempt.

Isaiah also speaks of the Messiah being struck in the face by His accusers in this prophecy, as well as Isaiah 52:14 (Prophecy 230). Under normal circumstances, when a human being sees a blow coming towards his face, a natural mechanism in the brain will cause the person to recoil his head backwards in anticipation of the strike to his head, which lessens the effects of the blow. If a person has had his vision obstructed, as was the case with Jesus when they blindfolded Him and then struck His face, there would be no opportunity to recoil and lessen the severity of the blow. Jesus experienced the full force of the punches which were targeted at His face and suffered grievous damage to His appearance.

 And having blindfolded Him, they struck Him on the face and asked Him, saying, “Prophesy! Who is the one who struck You?” —Luke 22:64

 Just as many were astonished at you, So His visage was marred more than any man, And His form more than the sons of men. —Isaiah 52:14

Oh Lord, how much You suffered for us. How great was Your pain. By the exhibition of your suffering for us, You have shown us how great is Your love!

See Also:

The Crucifixion Of Jesus
Empirical Evidence For The Resurrection Of Jesus Christ

This prophecy from Isaiah, is 1 of 400 Messianic Prophecies that are included in my new books: “Prophecies of the Messiah,” and  “These Things Were Written,” now available at Amazon.

See the shocking descriptions of Jesus’ Crucifixion

[1] According to the Pulpit Commentary, the Jews often made use of ripping or shaving off the beard as the ultimate insult during punishment.
Nehemiah 13:25 So I contended with them and cursed them, struck some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters as wives to their sons, nor take their daughters for your sons or yourselves.
2 Samuel 10:4 Therefore Hanun took David’s servants, shaved off half of their beards, cut off their garments in the middle, at their buttocks, and sent them away.
[2] William of Tyre, an eastern archbishop, Gesta Dei, p. 802, quoted in Harmer, vol. ii. p. 359.
[3] Seneca, Dialogue “To Marcia on Consolation”, in Moral Essays, 6.20.3, trans. John W. Basore, The Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1946) 2:69
Licona, Michael (2010). The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach. InterVarsity Press,. p. 304. ISBN 978-0-8308-2719-0. OCLC 620836940.
[4] Conway, Colleen M. (2008). Behold the Man: Jesus and Greco-Roman Masculinity. Oxford University Press. p. 67. ISBN 978-0-19-532532-4. (citing Cicero, pro Rabirio Perduellionis Reo 5.16).
[5] Tosef, Git 7:1 and Git 70b, As the exact time of death was not ascertainable, the fact that a man was seen hanging on a cross was not sufficient evidence of his death (Yev. 16:3). It might be otherwise when wild beasts or birds had already attacked him at vital parts of the body (Yev. 120b).

Categories: The Crucifixion of Jesus, The Historical Crucifixion of Jesus, The Suffering of Jesus, Why Jesus had to die

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5 replies

  1. You say that crucifixion was described six hundred years
    before it was invented. Where can I find this description?


  2. Not likely Christ took a shaving kit into the wilderness.(40days)


  3. Rather than assuming there was a later change to the Isaiah account to comply with the NT witness, it would benefit the inquirer to look at the witness of Isaiah 50:6 in the Septuagint, which was translated by faithful Jews into their Hellenized Greek centuries before Christ’s Incarnation. In the account preserved in the Septuagint, one finds blows to the face, rather than plucking of a beard. Perhaps at this time, if there was another text available saying otherwise, it was not available to the Alexandrians or proved to be a curious variant.


    • Anthony,

      Thank you for your comments and observations. I live in a world where facts are more important than bias. Your comments are well thought out and relevant and I sincerely appreciate them. My 44 years of researching this subject carefully and meticulously, have resulted in conclusions that Jesus beard was torn in handfuls, though the Gospel writers did not mention this. It is not really important that the Gospels recorded every tiny detail that took place in Jesus’ life. Those that are most important are what we find in the texts. The historical record validates that men who were under crucifixion, particularly being accused of the crimes Jesus was accused of–blasphemy and claiming to be God–certainly would have their beard ripped from their face. It was a mark of disgrace that the Jewish leaders would want to highlight as they conducted their examination of Jesus. The leaders of the Sanhedrin wanted to disgrace Jesus before the people, and pulling out His beard was an action the common people understood as utter abhorrence towards Jesus.

      There are many in the world today who constantly seek to impugn the Gospel of Christ. One area that is under consistent assault, it the area of Messianic Prophecy. I have many conversations with orthodox Jews who tell me that most of the scriptures I assert as Messianic, are not. Of course I understand what Paul said that for the time, “blindness in part has happened to the Jews,” and this is the reason many Jews today cannot see that the prophecies which are regarded by scholars such as myself, are valid Messianic predictions.

      Even greater, there are many Jews who do not believe that Jesus is not the true Messiah because He has not met the expectations of leading Jews today.

      I have spend my entire life examining the scriptures which describe Messiah, and documenting how Jesus fulfilled all 400 with extreme precision. My two books Prophecies of the Messiah, and The Messianic Prophecy Bible, reflect this evidence.




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