(Lev. 19:27-28) Why couldn’t the Jews trim their beards or their hair or get tattoos?

CLAIM: Critics argue that arbitrary laws like this seem quite bizarre. Why would God care about trimming our beards or getting tattoos?

RESPONSE: In ancient Near Eastern culture, beard trimming and tattoos were closely connected with Pagan practices of contacting the dead, which was expressly forbidden in Israel (Deut. 18:11). This is why the text clearly states, “You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead” (Lev. 19:28). Copan writes, “The act of men trimming their hair on the sides of their head or the edges of their beard… was a Canaanite practice of offering one’s hair to departed spirits to appease them (cf. Deut. 14:1).”[1]

[1] Copan, Paul. Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2011. 91.