The Headcovering: A Chuppah of Divine Protection … by Melanie Ellison

How is it possible that a piece of fabric could convict angels, challenge men, symbolize Yahweh’s entire authority structure, and provide multifaceted protection for the women who wear it? If it is nothing more than a cloth, these implications would be too much to ask of a headcovering. However, if the headcovering is truly an ordinance from the Creator, such great impact is not too much to expect.

The eminent Bible commentator Matthew Henry, explained a similar physical sign that carried spiritual strength—Samson’s long hair—with these words: “The making of his bodily strength to depend so much on his hair which could have no natural influence upon it either one way or other, teaches us to magnify divine institutions, and to expect God’s grace and the continuance of it” when we follow them.

One Sabbath, I was pondering the relationship between the headcovering and the covering mentioned in Isaiah 4:5, which states that the pillar of cloud and fire will be returning in the end days: “Then the Lord will create above every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night. For over all the glory there will be a covering.”

I have taken special delight in the last part of that verse (over the glory there will be a covering) because it seems so directly applicable to the headcovering (a woman’s hair being her glory—1 Corinthians 11:15).

So that Shabbat, I looked up the meaning of that word “covering” from Isaiah and was surprised by the discoveries that ensued. The word “covering” in Isaiah 4:5 is the Hebrew word “chuppah” (pronounced “huppah” with a throat-clearing “kh” at the beginning). A chuppah is a cozy booth-like canopy that has enfolded many Hebrew weddings for century after century. The Bible mentions a bridegroom coming forth from his chuppah in Joel 2:16 and Psalm 19:6. But let’s go back to the verse in Isaiah where “covering” was translated from chuppah. The meaning of this word is incredible. Chuppah means: “divine protection.”

Does the word for a women’s covering also come from chuppah? 1 Corinthians 11 is the main headcovering passage in Scripture, other than the story in Numbers 5 where the tabernacle priest removes the woman’s headcovering in the process of judging whether she has sinned. So, let’s compare chuppah with the words for covering in 1 Corinthians to see.

Of course, these words come from the Greek, since we are digging in the New Testament. The two words used here are “katacalupto,” meaning “veil” in verse 5, and “peribolain” meaning “mantle” in verse 15, where it says “her hair was given to her for a covering” (in other words, “her hair was given to her for a mantle”—that same Greek word for covering is translated mantle in Hebrews 1:12).

It seems at first glance that the chuppah word is left out of this picture. However, upon a deeper look at a comparison of the Hebrew words with the Greek ( we find that “katacalupto” in Greek (G2619) corresponds to… would you believe it? “chuppah” in Hebrew (H2654)! This implies that, based on the meaning of the word, the headcovering is literally given for divine protection! How exciting!

I have definitely had personal experience of divine protection resulting from wearing a headcovering. On the first day of my one and only year at college, we prepared for an elegant welcome dinner. The Resident Assistants sent all the students out on the lawn to get ready to walk over to it. The guys were in one group, and the girls in another, having just come separately from their respective floors. Then, the RAs announced boldly that everybody had to pair up, each guy had to march to the dinner with a girl on his arm. Hearts started pounding, as mine does in recounting it. I knew this was not a situation in which I wanted to be. The guys were looking the girls over, “shopping” in a way, for who was the most attractive… and then the grab began. They paired up faster than I would have thought possible.

I knew as a daughter of Yahweh, that I did not in any way desire to participate. I had never given my arm to any young man and did not intend to do so until the Father brought my husband along. So, I was in a stressful pinch. Guys were coming for all the girls, and the leaders of this idea had not provided any way out. The edict stood that everyone was to be matched up—and in a hurry! Well, the Father, through my headcovering—of that I am convinced—kept me protected and gave me the idea of engaging in a conversation with a hunched-over girl with a limp who felt very awkward. I knew she’d never be chosen under this sort of instant peer pressure. So I didn’t look up, but just kept talking to the girl as if we were having an ordinary conversation not surrounded by stress.

I sensed the guys walking around us, heard the panicked girls plead, “But I don’t have someone!” And then she and I were alone at the back of the procession. It was over and we could straggle in, unpaired. I know that the headcovering fulfilled its mission as a sign of divine protection that evening. It sent a message to those young men that I would not be available for temporary emotional attachment. If I had had the same convictions but had not worn the headcovering, I’m not convinced that the story would have gone the way it did. It would have been a lot harder to avoid the “edict” and would probably have taken explanations to each young man who came up to me.

The other experiences my mother and I have had of divine protection from the headcovering have been numerous. There was the time when we had to walk a block to meet my dad at a business convention in a dangerous inter-city section of Baltimore. A gang huddled along the sidewalk, but as we walked past, the gang parted! It simply dissolved.

The headcovering is an avenue of protection for women in a number of ways.

1). Mentally. The enemy tends to attack women primarily through our minds. Overall, we are more prone to doubt and anxiety than men (they have different struggles—interestingly, Yahweh has provided the tzitzits of Numbers 15 to cover their area of temptation). Thus, wearing a covering on our heads shields our minds in the spiritual realm. Some women have even found relief from recurring nightmares by donning a headcovering at night.

2). Relationally. 1 Corinthians 11:10 describes the headcovering as a symbol of authority. When a man sees his wife or daughter in a headcovering, it challenges him to better protect those under his authority. It’s harder for him to treat them unkindly when he sees that sign. The headcovering is a protection from relational quarrelling by halting the man, and also by reminding us women of our place. One thought of it is enough to stop us from arguing in a store, for instance ?. Many women have testimonies of how the headcovering has functioned as a sign, both to protect them from immoral relationships (the other guy is supernaturally blocked), and also to protect them from strife within godly relationships.

3). Spiritually. The headcovering settles for people the issue of Who’s we are. They know we are believers. One summer day, my mom and I walked across a Walmart parking lot and a lady we had never seen before came right up to us and said, “It’s so hot out here; I don’t want to burn up in hell!” We were then able to share with her that she did not have to and prayed with her right in the door of Walmart that she’d find the way to the Savior! It’s not likely that she would have unburdened herself to strangers if she had not seen our headcoverings. Therefore, others receive the benefit of our spiritual protection, too, as the headcovering opens up opportunities to witness.

If the Hebrew word for covering means: “divine protection,” what does “uncovered” mean? As 1 Corinthians 11:13 states: “Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to Elohim with her head uncovered?” The discoveries with this word are even more incredible.

“Uncovered” comes from “akatakalupto” in Greek. This makes sense because “a-” usually means without, so akatakalupto means “without a covering.” The corresponding Hebrew word is “para” and it has a surprising, but completely relevant meaning. According to the meaning of the word, to be uncovered means to act as a leader, to be loosened of restraint.

The story of the golden calf also contains this word in Exodus 32:25: “Aaron let them loose, to their shame among their enemies.” The Hebrew word for “let them loose” is the same word translated “uncovered” in 1 Corinthians 11. Also, that word is used in Numbers 5:18 when the priest removes the woman’s headcovering. Wow! Given that the headcovering is a symbol of submitting to authority (1 Corinthians 11:10), it’s incredible that the meaning of the word “uncovered” embodies the opposite!

It’s our choice, whether we desire to be loosed of restraint to authority, or whether we choose to embrace the divine protection offered us through the symbol of submission that God has given in the headcovering. One thing is certain; obedience is the place of blessing! Don’t we have a wonderful God in Heaven, to give us a symbol to wear for our own well-being? He has offered each of us ladies our very own chuppahs of divine protection!