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Why is David described as ruddy in the bible? Does it mean he had red hair? Or (LOL) that he blushes a lot?

12 So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance. And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.”
— 1 Samuel 16:12

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    Esau is described the same way (Genesis 25:25)
    – b a
    Feb 25, 2019 at 10:08
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    Red hair is very rare in Asia and Middle East. It is commonly thought that the red-hair gene was popularized during the Viking age and that they spread it to the british Isles and so forth. It is believed that it originated with the Celts or Norsemen, see here thedockyards.com/red-hair. So most likely the Israelites have never seen a red-haired guy, and we can safely assume that David was not red-haired as well, but had a ruddish complexion. See song of songs 5:10 where this complexion is considered attractive.
    – bach
    Feb 25, 2019 at 19:39
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    See this Q and A: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/80268/…
    – Lesley
    Jul 18, 2023 at 16:12
  • @bach red hair is rare in the Middle East but not unheard of. I think that red hair makes more sense than anything else. It is commented on in the verse precisely because it was uncommon. Nov 28, 2023 at 22:36

2 Answers 2

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Ruddy, in this instance, refers to David's complexion. The word means having a healthy reddish colour usually from leading an outdoor life.

David was a shepherd and so his complexion had a healthy, weather-beaten look. Some Bible translations say his skin was dark.

Ruddy does not necessarily mean that David had red hair, or that he was prone to blushing.

https://www.quotescosmos.com/bible/bible-concordance/H132.html

Strong's Concordance, Hebrew Dictionary: Ruddy, reddish (of the hair or the complexion)

Hebrew: אַדְמֹנִי, ʾadmōnî (H132)

1 Samuel 17:42: “And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance.”

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    May I ask your source?
    – Ruminator
    Feb 16, 2021 at 16:59
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    @Ruminator - Certainly! But I will have to dig it out and right now, I have to sign off for the evening. Will get back to you tomorrow.
    – Lesley
    Feb 16, 2021 at 18:09
  • @Ruminator - My source was my 1979 Collins English Dictionary: "1- (off the complexion) having a healthy reddish colour, usually resulting from an outdoor life." For example, after being out in freezing cold wind this morning, I came home with ruddy cheeks. My hair (originally black) is white. Here is another definition I just found: av1611.com/kjbp/kjv-dictionary/ruddiness.html
    – Lesley
    Feb 17, 2021 at 16:01
  • Ah, I was concerned that you might have been looking at an English dictionary. Since the question relates to a Hebrew word, you would need to confer with a biblical Hebrew lexicon. Even the KJV source has this: "Definitions from Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828." Please see my comments on Tony Chan's answer, and his answer for some good sources. Thanks, Lesley.
    – Ruminator
    Feb 17, 2021 at 16:07
  • Please note that Tony's answer still cites a concordance, which is NOT a valid primary source. I've asked him to clean that up but so far has not, so I haven't upvoted his answer. Please do not follow that bad example. But most of his post is a good example of using good sources.
    – Ruminator
    Feb 17, 2021 at 16:11
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Genesis 25:25

The first came out red [H132], all his body like a hairy cloak, so they called his name Esau.

Strong's Concordance

admoni: red, ruddy
Original Word: אַדְמֹנִי
Part of Speech: Adjective
Transliteration: admoni

This Hebrew word is related to the name Adam and the color of the reddish earth.

Ellicott

It appears, therefore, that Esau's body was entirely covered with red down, which developed in time into hair as coarse as that of a kid (Genesis 27:16), and betokened a strong and vigorous, but sensual nature.

Now let's see David in 1 Samuel 16:12 English Standard Version

And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy [H132] and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.”

Esau was red and David was red, the same Hebrew word for red.

Adam Clarke interprets this as red hair and complexion.

He was ruddy - I believe the word here means red-haired, he had golden locks. Hair of this kind is ever associated with a delicate skin and florid complexion.

The following two websites were pointed out by Ruminator in his comments:

https://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7061-hair

The hair of the ancient Hebrews was generally black (comp. Cant. iv. 1, v. 11). In Eccl. xi. 10 black hair is designated as a sign of youth in contrast with the white hair of age. Josephus narrates ("Ant." xvi. 8, § 1) that Herod dyed his gray hair black in order to appear younger. Black hair was in any case considered beautiful, black being the general color, while light or blond hair was exceptional. David is designated as "admoni" = "ruddy" (I Sam. xvi. 12, xvii. 42), this expression being also applied to Esau's hair (Gen. xxv. 25). The Hebrews had thick hair (Ezek. viii. 3). Long, heavy hair was considered as a sign of vitality. In the case of Samson, traced back to religious reasons (he having been dedicated to God), the connection of long hair and bodily strength was based on the current views. Absalom's famous hair (II Sam. xiv. 25 et seq.) was considered not only as an ornament, but as a token of strength. A bald head, therefore, was an object of mockery (II Kings ii. 23; comp. Isa. iii. 17, 24).

https://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7061-hair#anchor8 show the prevalence of red hair among Jewish populations.

in Caucasia, where the natives are dark, the Jews show 96 per cent of dark hair. The proportion of red hair is also quite high, reaching 4 per cent in some observations. This has been considered characteristic of the Jews by some anthropologists. It appears to be not of recent origin, and was not unknown among the ancient Hebrews (Esau was "red, all over like a hairy garment"; Gen. xxv. 25).

The consensus among anthropologists seems to be that by far black hair was the dominant trait. Red-haired Israelites were possible exceptions.

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    A concordance is an inappropriate source. Please consult a lexicon. Thanks.
    – Ruminator
    Feb 16, 2021 at 17:26
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    Any pointers to free ones?
    – user35953
    Feb 16, 2021 at 17:28
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    Yes, both are Hebrew (Gesenius) and Greek (Thayers) are available here: blueletterbible.org/nlt/1sa/16/12/t_concl_252012
    – Ruminator
    Feb 16, 2021 at 17:30
  • I'm using them. Unfortunately, for G132, they are not helpful because it is a word that rarely used.
    – user35953
    Feb 16, 2021 at 17:33
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    Right. Thanks for your research. I added your inputs to my answer.
    – user35953
    Feb 16, 2021 at 18:14

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