John Gills Exposition of the Bible Commentary

Verse 5 (1 Corinthians 11:5)

But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth ,.... Not that a woman was allowed to pray publicly in the congregation, and much less to preach or explain the word, for these things were not permitted them: see 1 Corinthians 14:34 but it designs any woman that joins in public worship with the minister in prayer, and attends on the hearing of the word preached, or sings the praises of God with the congregation, as we have seen, the word prophesying signifies,

with her head uncovered . It may seem strange from whom the Corinthian women should take up this custom, since the Jewish women were not allowed to go into the streets, or into any open and public place, unveiled F21 Maimon. Hilch. Ishot, c. 24. sect. 12. . It was a Jewish law, that they should go out no where bare headed F23 T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 72. 1. : yea, it was reckoned scandalous and ignominious to do so. Hence it is said, F24 R. Sol. Jarchi in Numb. v. 19. שגלוי הראש גנאי להם , "that uncovering of the head is a reproach" to the daughters of Israel: and concerning the adulterous woman, it is represented as said by the priest F25 Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 9. fol. 193. 2. ,

"thou hast separated from the way of the daughters of Israel; for the way or custom of the daughters of Israel is להיות מכוסות ראשיהן , "to have their heads covered"; but thou hast gone "in the ways of the Gentiles", who walk with head bare.'

So that their it should seem that these Corinthians followed the examples of the Heathens: but then, though it might be the custom of some nations for women to go abroad bare headed; yet at their solemnities, where and when they were admitted, for they were not everywhere and always, they used to attend with their heads veiled and covered F26 Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 4. c. 17. . Mr. Mede takes notice indeed of some Heathen priestesses, who used to perform their religious rites and sacrifices with open face, and their hair hanging down, and locks spreading, in imitation of whom these women at Corinth are thought to act. However, whoever behaved in this uncomely manner, whose example soever she followed, the apostle says,

dishonoureth her head ; not her husband, who is her head in a figurative sense, and is dishonoured by her not being covered; as if she was not subject to him, or because more beautiful than he, and therefore shows herself; but her natural head, as appears from the reason given:

for that is even all one as if she were shaven ; to be without a veil, or some sort of covering on her head, according to the custom of the country, is the same thing as if her head was shaved; and everyone knows how dishonourable and scandalous it is for a woman to have her head shaved; and if this is the same, then it is dishonourable and scandalous to her to be without covering in public worship. And this shows, that the natural head of the man is meant in the preceding verse, since the natural head of the woman is meant in this.

- John Gills Exposition of the Bible Commentary