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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
The word is found in the following passages: English Versions of the Bible, "He went barefoot " (2 Samuel 15:30 ); "(Isaiah) did so, walking ... barefoot " (Isaiah 20:2 ); and like the Egyptians, "naked and barefoot " (Isaiah 20:3 , Isaiah 20:4 ). It seems that David in his flight before Absalom "went barefoot," not to facilitate his flight, but to show his grief (2 Samuel 15:30 ), and that Micah (Micah 1:8 ) makes "going barefoot" a sign of mourning (Septuagint: "to be barefoot"; the King James Version "stripped"). The nakedness and bare feet of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 20:2 ) may have been intended to symbolize and express sympathy for the forlorn condition of captives (compare Job 12:17 , Job 12:19 , where the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) have "spoiled," but some authorities give as the true translation "barefoot").
Jastrow, in article on "Tearing the Garments" (Jour. of the Am. Oriental Soc .,
2. An Ancient Oriental Custom
The "shoes" of the ancients, as we know from many sources, were "sandals," i.e. simply soles, for the most part of rawhide, tied to the feet to protect them against the gravel, stones or thorns of the road. Shoes of the modern sort, as well as socks and stockings, were unknown. In ancient times it was certainly a common custom in Bible lands to go about in and around one's house without sandals. The peasantry, indeed, like the
3. Priests on Duty Went Barefoot
The priests of Israel, as would seem true of the priests in general among the ancients, wore no shoes when ministering (see Silius Italicus , III, 28; compare Theodoret on Ex 3, questio 7; and Yer. Shet ., 5, 48d ). In ancient times, certainly the priests of Israel, when going upon the platform to serve before the ark, in Tabernacle or temple, as later in the synagogue to bless the congregation, went barefoot; though today strange to say, such ministering priests among the Jews wear stockings, and are not supposed to be barefoot (
4. Reasons for the Ancient Custom
The reason or reasons for the removal of the shoes in such cases as the above, we are not at a loss to divine; but when it comes to the removal of the shoes in times of mourning, etc., opinions differ. Some see in such customs a trace of ancestor-worship; others find simply a reversion or return to primitive modes of life; while others still, in agreement with a widely prevalent Jewish view, suggest that it was adopted as a perfectly natural symbol of humility and simplicity of life, appropriate to occasions of grief, distress and deep solemnity of feeling.
The shoes are set aside now by many modern Jews on the Day of Atonement and on the Ninth of Ab.
Winer, Robinson, Biblical Researches , under the word "Priester und Schuhe"; Riehm, Handwörterbuch des bib. Alt ., under the word "Schuhe."
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Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Barefoot'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/isb/b/barefoot.html. 1915.