Monday, March 2, 2009

Going barefoot

Although shoes were worn in ancient Samaria and Egypt, historians believe most people went barefoot. Shoes were worn only by the rich and influential and when they went barefoot this was taken as significant. According to the Holy Scriptures barefoot walking intimated one of three states: the lack of social status, humility, or reference to the Divine.

A common punishment or judgement was being forced to go without shoes it can be concluded wearing shoes was a privilege extended only to the few. Prisoners and slaves were made to go barefoot to prevent escape.

'At the same time spake the LORD by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, Go and loose the sackcloth from off thy loins, and put off thy shoe from thy foot. And he did so, walking naked and barefoot.'
Is 20:2

'So shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians prisoners, and the Ethiopians captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, even with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt.'
Is 20:2-4

The footwear of captives may even have been taken as trophies. The corollary was also true and the right to wear shoes was a declaration of freedom and reinstatement of social standing. Reference to this appears in the Old Testament.

'And the men which were expressed by name rose up, and took the captives, and with the spoil clothed all that were naked among them, and arrayed them, and shod themÉ.'
2 Chron 28:15

'I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers skin, and girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk.'
Ezek 16:10

Later in the New Testament in the parable of the prodigal son, Luke described the old Hebrew custom.

'But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.'
Luke 15:22

In Ancient Rome it was the right of a citizen to wear sandals. Feet represented the inner state and deliberately going without shoes demonstrated self-exile or a spiritual poverty. It was also used as a warning to others and barefoot prophets acted out the fate of those destined as sinners. By the Middle Ages it was common for pilgrims to walk barefoot as visible penance for their sins. Another Biblical custom, which involved removal of shoes, is referred to in Ezekiel in the parable of the boiling pot and related to the self-imposed captivity of mourning. When Davis was in mourning he went barefooted.

'And David went up by the ascent of mount Olivet, and went as he went up, and had his head covered, and he went barefoot'
2 Sam 15:30

Going barefoot in respect for holy ground is well referenced with barefoot worship considered the will of God. Moses (circa early 12 century BC) was reminded of this by the burning bush.

'And he said, Draw not nigh hither; put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place where on thou standest is holy ground.'
Exodus 3:5

This is repeated again, at the confirmation of Joshua as the new Moses.

'And the captain of the LORD's host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot: for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.'
Josh 5:15

In the New Testament the same message is repeated.

'Then said the LORD to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet; for the place where thou standest is holy ground.'
The Acts 7:33

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