The Hebrew text of 2 Kings 1:8 states,
ח וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו אִישׁ בַּעַל שֵׂעָר וְאֵזוֹר עוֹר אָזוּר בְּמָתְנָיו וַיֹּאמַר אֵלִיָּה הַתִּשְׁבִּי הוּא
The English phrase “hairy man” occurs one other time in Gen. 27:11 wherein Esau is described as an אִישׁ שָׂעִר (ʾîš śāʿir)—“a hairy man,” while his brother Jacob is described as אִישׁ חָלָק (ʾîš ḥālāq)—“a smooth man.” However, in 2 Kings 1:8, rather than אִישׁ שָׂעִר, the Hebrew text states different: אִישׁ בַּעַל שֵׂעָר (ʾîš baʿal śēʿār)—“a man, an owner of hair,” with the inclusion of the noun בַּעַל (baʿal), meaning “owner, possessor, master,” and rather than the adjective שָׂעִר (śāʿir)—“hairy,” it has the noun שֵׂעָר (śēʿār)—“hair.”
Concerning the word בַּעַל, HALOT provides one definition as “owner of an object” and lists 2 Kings 1:8 under that definition, which seems to suggest that they interpret it as though Elijah owned a hairy garment.1 On the other hand, Gesenius interprets the phrase אִישׁ בַּעַל שֵׂעָר as “a hairy man” in his entry on בַּעַל (baʿal),2 yet in his entry on שֵׂעָר (śēʿār), he elaborates, saying, “אִישׁ בַּעַל שֵׂעָר a rough, hairy man, i.e. wearing a hairy mantle, 2 Ki. 1:8.”3
In his commentary on 2 Kings 1:8, Carl Friedrich Keil wrote,4
The servants described the prophet according to his outward appearance, which in a man of character is a reflection of his inner man, as אִישׁ בַּעַל שֵׂעָר, vir pilosus, hirsutus. This does not mean a man with a luxuriant growth of hair, but refers to the hairy dress, i.e., the garment made of sheep-skin or goat-skin or coarse camel-hair, which was wrapped round his body; the אַדֶּרֶת (2 Kings 2:8; 1 Kings 19:13), or אַדֶּרֶת שֵׂעָר (Zech. 13:4, cf. Matt. 3:4, Heb. 11:37), which was worn by the prophets, not as mere ascetics, but as preachers of repentance, the rough garment denoting the severity of the divine judgments upon the effeminate nation, which revelled in luxuriance and worldly lust. And this was also in keeping with “the leather girdle,” אֵזֹור עֹור, ζώνη δερματίνη (Matt. 3:4), whereas the ordinary girdle was of cotton or linen, and often very costly.
This seems to satisfy the idea that Elijah both possessed a hairy garment, and was himself hairy, though his hairiness was due to the hairy garment with which he wrapped himself, not that he was naturally hirsute.
Gesenius, Heinrich Friedrich Wilhelm. Gesenius’s Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures. Trans. Tregelles, Samuel Prideaux. London: Bagster, 1860.
Keil, Carl Friedrich. Commentary on the Old Testament. 1900. Reprint. Trans. Harper, Andrew; Martin, James; Taylor, Sophia. Vol. 3. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986.
Koehler, Ludwig; Baumgartner, Walter. A Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. Trans. Richardson, M. E. J. Ed. Baumgartner, Walter; Stamm, Johann Jakob. Leiden: Brill, 2002.
1 p. 143. If this be the case, then שֵׂעָר (“hair”) is likely being used to represent a אַדֶּרֶת שֵׂעָר (“garment of hair”) (cp. Zec. 13:4) via metonymy.
2 p. 131
3 p. 793
4 p. 202