The Bible, Society and Nudity

A study of social nudity from a Biblical and secular perspective.

Return to Home Page

Return to previous page

(posting permission granted by Jeff Rockel. Jeff Rockel all rights reserved, use by permission only)

by Jeff Rockel
All material copyright 1996, 1998, 2007 by Jeff Rockel

Chapter 3

Bible References to the Word Naked

Revised: March 19, 1996

In the following sections we will examine the use of the word naked in the Bible. The verses are grouped primarily by the Hebrew word that was translated naked or some derivative. Some of the Hebrew words come from more primative roots. An English example would be the word "ice" being the primative root of "icicle". A look at the word roots can sometimes clarify the understanding of varied uses of the derived word. A secondary way of grouping the words is in their context. We have already discussed the spiritual symbolism that often underlies a physical example. Likewise, insight into the character of God and how we are expected to live for Him can be obtained by studying how the examples of physical nakedness are portrayed in scripture.

The Hebrew

Group 1

H6174 'arowm (aw-rome')

(Gen 2:25 KJV) And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

Starting once again at the beginning in Gen. 2:25 we find the first reference to nakedness. The word here represents the purest form of nakedness. This use of naked simply proclaims a state of being. Nothing good or bad is implied, although commentary may be added. In the verse above, God states that the man and his wife were naked and were not ashamed. The Hebrew words provided by Strong's Concordance for this verse are: shenayim 'arowm 'adam 'ishshah buwsh. Transliterated this becomes: twofold nude man woman (not)-ashamed. Is this just a statement of fact; a description of their state of existance?

shenayim: They were one couple, not two individuals. The distinction may escape you, but this is a picture of God. One God, three persons. God exists as one God. We are wrong to say The Father, Son, and Spirit are three gods. One God, three persons. One couple, two persons.

'adam 'ishshah. Man and woman, a distinction of persons. A distinction of roles, function, and responsibility. The Father, Son and Spirit, a distinction of persons. A distinction of roles, function, and responsibility.

'arowm: They were naked, without covering. There was nothing hidden. A simple statement of observed fact. Nothing else good or bad is implied.

buwsh: They were not ashamed. This is a primative root with many meanings derived from "to pale". To be ashamed, disappointed, delayed, confounded, confused. All things that fall short of what is to be desirable. In their created state, Adam and Eve did not fall short of any desirable goal.

State at Birth and Death

(Job 1:21 KJV) And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.

(Eccl 5:15 KJV) As he came forth of his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labor, which he may carry away in his hand.

Job and Solomon state the obvious. We are born naked and we die naked. But wait, a person can die and be buried with garments on. True, but both these men are stating that when we die, we can't take anything with us. Not even the clothes on our back.

We are spirit beings living in a flesh and blood body. When we die, our spirit departs the body and we are naked spiritually. There is no longer a body to hide within. All who see our spirit see us as we really are. When we die, we have nowhere to hide from God.

Remember how Adam and Eve tried to hide from God? Before they sinned, they were exposed spiritually before God and each other. After they sinned, they recognized their bodies as an extension or reflection of their spirit. They tried to hide their spirits by covering their bodies. We have continued to do the same throughout history.


(1 Sam 19:24 KJV) And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Wherefore they say, Is Saul also among the prophets?

(Isa 20:2-4 NIV) at that time the LORD spoke through Isaiah son of Amoz. He said to him, "Take off the sackcloth from your body and the sandals from your feet." And he did so, going around stripped and barefoot. Then the LORD said, "Just as my servant Isaiah has gone stripped and barefoot for three years, as a sign and portent against Egypt and Cush, so the king of Assyria will lead away stripped and barefoot the Egyptian captives and Cushite exiles, young and old, with buttocks bared--to Egypt's shame.

Prophets used nudity as a sign of current or future spiritual or physical condition. Whether lying down or walking among the people, there statement was clear.

Notice the connection between stripped and barefoot. These were physical signs of captivity in the times spoken of in these verses. Isaiah was commanded to walk naked among the people as a visible prophecy of what would happen.

State Before God

(Job 26:6 KJV) Hell is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering.

Even hell is exposed before God. There is nothing that God can not see through. There is no place to hide. There is no way to fool God.

Characteristics of the Ungodly

(Job 22:6 KJV) For thou hast taken a pledge from thy brother for naught, and stripped the naked of their clothing.

(Job 24:7 KJV) They cause the naked to lodge without clothing, that they have no covering in the cold.

(Job 24:10 KJV) They cause him to go naked without clothing, and they take away the sheaf from the hungry

Ungodly people do not care about others. Imagine the strong image portrayed by stripping already naked people of their clothing. If they are naked, they don't have any clothing. Yet the ungodly will try to take from people that which they don't have. How many times have we heard of robbery victims being killed because they had no money when robbed?

Caring for the Less Fortunate

(Isa 58:7 NIV) Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

God teaches us throughout scripture to care for those less fortunate than ourselves. Here we see a threefold state that is a recurring theme in scripture: food, shelter and clothing. While associated with other aspects of poverty, nakedness here is translated from 'arowm, a simple state of being. There is no shame associated with the description, it is simply a statement of fact. However, out of respect for the afflicted person, we are commanded to clothe them. After all, they require and desire clothing for protection.

To Strip Naked

(Hosea 2:3 NIV) Otherwise I will strip her naked and make her as bare as on the day she was born; I will make her like a desert, turn her into a parched land, and slay her with thirst.

The story of Hosea and Gomer is a sad yet beautiful picture of God and Israel. Hosea marries a prostitute, Gomer, to rescue her from her life of sin. Yet she will not leave her former life. In the verse above, Hosea threatens to leave Gomer destitute if she does not leave her adulterous ways. Here the statement of fact, "I will strip her naked" is coupled with the accompanying result, "make her like a desert." Being stripped naked would result in a complete lack of posessions. This would lead to destitution.

A Symbol of Defeat

(Amos 2:16 KJV) And he that is courageous among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day, saith the LORD.

Here we see the picture of utter defeat in battle. The "courageous among the mighty", the best of the best warriors, are so overpowered, that they flee with only their lives to claim as belongings.

A Symbol of Mourning

(Micah 1:2 NIV) Hear, O peoples, all of you, listen, O earth and all who are in it, that the Sovereign LORD may witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple. (...) (Micah 1:8 NIV) Because of this I will weep and wail; I will go about barefoot and naked. I will howl like a jackal and moan like an owl.

Because of the judgment Israel received from the Lord, the nation is in mourning. This reference to barefoot and naked and other references to barefoot closely resemble references to rending ones clothes as a sign of mourning. (See The Significance of Garments: A Sign of Anger or Grief) It is not unreasonable to expect that it was not only the outer clothes that were torn. Exposing one's body would reflect the vulnerable condition of the grieving individual.

Micah 1 Vs. 1:2-9 These verses describe the Lord descending in judgment against Israel (and its capital Samaria, v. 6) and against Judah (and its capital Jerusalem, vv. 5b, 9, 12) because of idolatry. Samaria was captured by Assyria in 722 B.C.; Jerusalem was besieged by Sennacherib in 701 (2 Kings 18:13-16) and by Nebuchadnezzar in 605 and later.1

H5903 'eyrom (ay-rome')

(Gen 3:7-10 KJV) And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?

Going back to Genesis, we are at the second reference to nakedness in the Bible. Where Gen 2:25 occured just before the Fall, Gen 3:7-10 records what happened just after the Fall. This use of naked is different than the first use of naked. Strong's Concordance provides the very simple definition of "nudity, naked." Yet the Hebrew word in Gen 3:7-10 is different and the context is different from the word used in Gen 2:25. We will see from other verses that use this word, that the context is most often more negative. The use of this word seems to be connected with a sinful action or state of being in most cases.

The only two authors who use this Hebrew word are Moses (in Gen and Deu) and Ezekiel. Both of these authors use other Hebrew words that translate to naked or a derivative, and the other words used have a stronger, often more sexual, shameful, or desolate connotation. The use of 'eyrom, while different than the simple 'arowm, is still not the strongest word we will encounter.

Other than the fact that Adam and Eve dissobeyed God, we can not draw a lot of insight from the use of 'eyrom here in Genesis. It is clearly a different perception of nakedness than was described before the Fall, but it is not the picture of utter depravity or destitution that we will see later.

Nakedness, Aligned with Sin

(Deu 28:48 KJV) Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the LORD shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee.

Throughout the Old Testament, we see God exacting punishment upon Israel because of sinful disobedience. Capture and enslavement by enemies was often the method of this punishment. Be sure that the punishment, or better stated, discipline, was imposed for the purpose of drawing Israel back to worshiping God. In the verse above, nakedness is associated with the lack of basic needs. When we are aligned with God, we are promised that our basic needs will be provided by Him. In this example, being aligned with sin results in the loss of all basic needs.

(Ezek 16:7 KJV) I have caused thee to multiply as the bud of the field, and thou hast increased and waxen great, and thou art come to excellent ornaments: thy breasts are fashioned, and thine hair is grown, whereas thou wast naked and bare.

(Ezek 16:22 KJV) And in all thine abominations and thy whoredoms thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, when thou wast naked and bare, and wast polluted in thy blood.

(Ezek 16:39 KJV) And I will also give thee into their hand, and they shall throw down thine eminent place, and shall break down thy high places: they shall strip thee also of thy clothes, and shall take thy fair jewels, and leave thee naked and bare.

(Ezek 18:7 KJV) And hath not oppressed any, but hath restored to the debtor his pledge, hath spoiled none by violence, hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment;

(Ezek 18:16 KJV) Neither hath oppressed any, hath not withholden the pledge, neither hath spoiled by violence, but hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment,

(Ezek 23:29 KJV) And they shall deal with thee hatefully, and shall take away all thy labour, and shall leave thee naked and bare: and the nakedness of thy whoredoms shall be discovered, both thy lewdness and thy whoredoms.

Ezekiel contrasts two states of existance: one that is nurtured and blessed by God and one that is our natural state in sin without God. In the state of existance with God, Ezekiel uses descriptions like: multiply, increased, waxen great, excellent ornaments, fair jewels, and eminent place. The state of existance without God is described as: naked and bare, abominations, whoredoms, poluted in blood, and stripped of clothing.

The similarity with Gen. 3 is that we can experience two states of existance: one in reliance on God and one in reliance on self. When Adam and Eve's eyes were openned, they began to rely on self to make judgements of each other. They learned what existance apart from God was like. The nakedness they discovered was no longer seen as the innocent state of existance God had created. Living without God is literally living without the basic requirements of life.

H4636 ma'arom (mah-ar-ome')

(2 Chr 28:15 KJV) 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 them, and gave them to eat and to drink, and anointed them, and carried all the feeble of them upon asses, and brought them to Jericho, the city of palm trees, to their brethren: then they returned to Samaria.

This is the only place this Hebrew word is found in scripture. It comes from the same root word (to be studied next) as 'arowm and 'eyrom. It carries the picture of being forcibly stripped bare and being seperated from all dignity and needs. We see here an act of caring which goes way beyond clothing naked captives. We see full repatriation of citizens after being prisoners of war.

H6191 'aram (aw-ram')

(Psa 83:3 KJV) They have taken crafty counsel against thy people, and consulted against thy hidden ones.

This Hebrew word is the root that 'arowm, 'eyrom, and ma'arom are derived from. It is defined in Strong's Concordance as: a primative root; properly to be (or make) bare; but used only in a derivative sense (through the idea perhaps of smoothness) to be cunning (especially in a bad sense). In Psa 83:3 it is translated "crafty." In 1 Sam 23:22, Prov 15:5, and Prov 19:25, it is translated "subtly", "prudent", and "beware" respectively. The derivatives of 'aram that we already studied carry the idea of being stripped bare, but do not carry the picture of utter destitution, shame, disgrace, and emptyness that we will see next. The picture of nakedness derived from 'aram, while at times associated with loss of basic needs, is still a state of being rather than the act of will that will be presented next.

Group 2

H6168 'arah (aw-raw')

(Lam 4:21-22 KJV) Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom, that dwellest in the land of Uz; the cup also shall pass through unto thee: thou shalt be drunken, and shalt make thyself naked. O Daughter of Zion, your punishment will end; he will not prolong your exile. But, O Daughter of Edom, he will punish your sin and expose your wickedness.

While this is the only place 'arah is translated "naked", its derivatives are found numerous places. By itself, 'arah is defined to mean: to be bare; hence to empty, pour out, demolish. It is translated: leave destitute, discover, empty, make naked, pour (out), raze, spread self, and uncover. In some of these situations, it is used in a sexual context (Lev 20:18, 19 and Isa 3:17) and hence implies physical nakedness.

Although Edom was allotted the rural areas of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar (Ezek. 25:12-14; Obad. 11-14), she would eventually drink the cup of God's wrath.2 As in the previous section, the ultimate result of the punishment is shame and disgrace.

H4626 ma'ar (mah'-ar)

(Nahum 3:5 KJV) Behold, I am against thee, saith the LORD of hosts; and I will discover thy skirts upon thy face, and I will show the nations thy nakedness, and the kingdoms thy shame.

The word ma'ar is defined in Strong's Concordance as: a nude place, i.e. (literally) the genitals, or (figuratively) a vacant space. The only other verse that contains this word (1 Ki 7:36) has it translated "proportion".

No one should want God against them. No country should want God against them. God will reveal Himself and His goodness, and man's sin will be revealed in His light. In Nahum, we see God revealing to the nations the "nakedness" or "proportion" of Nineveh. He reveals that which we think is hidden from view, that which under our skirts.

H6181 'eryah (er-yaw')

(Micah 1:11 KJV) Pass ye away, thou inhabitant of Saphir, having thy shame naked: the inhabitant of Zaanan came not forth in the mourning of Bethezel; he shall receive of you his standing.

The prophet Micah foresaw the invasion of Israel by the Philistines. He predicted that the women would be captured and paraded as the Philistines' spoil. As captives they would be stripped naked and paraded around in that state. Here, naked is also a modifier to shame. Their shame is clearly revealed. It is bare with nothing concealing it. The shame is natural since the women have been forced into this condition. The shame is also symbolic since the nation's capture is the result of disobedience to God. The spiritual state of the nation of Israel is revealed through the forced nakedness of the captured women.

The word 'eryah is most often translated "bare" and is paired with the word "naked" ('eyrom) that we studied earlier. (See Ezek 16:7, 22, 39 and 23:29) Hence "bare" is a modifier, perhaps implying complete exposure, i.e. nothing is hidden. In Hab 3:9 it is translated "quite" and modifies "naked" (studied later).

Vs. 16:5-7 Jerusalem, a foundling child thrown out and left to die, was rescued by the Lord.

Vs. 16:8-14 The child, now grown, became the Lord's bride. I spread the corner of my garment over you. An act that symbolized marriage (Ruth 3:9).

Vs. 16:15-34 The wife became unfaithful by practicing idolatry (vv. 15-22) and by entering into alliances with foreign countries (vv. 23-34).

Vs. 16:35-52 Israel's punishment is described (vv. 35-43) and justified, because her sin is worse than that of her two sisters, Sodom and Samaria (vv. 44-52).3

H6172 'ervah (er-vaw')

Exposure of the Genitals

(Gen 9:22-23 KJV) And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness.

Back to Genesis and the story of Noah. The word 'ervah is found in 40 verses. Strong's Concordance translates 'ervah to mean: literal nudity, especially the genitals or figurative nudity, disgrace or blemish. It is translated nakedness, shame and unclean (-ness).

As we discussed earlier, the use of nakedness ('ervah) here in Genesis may be a statement of observed fact (Ham saw Noah's genitals), and may have sexual implications because of the reference to genitals. When used in Lev, Ezek and Hosea, the implication is clearly sexual activity. The other references to this word all clearly describe either genitals, unclean behavior, or shame.

(Exo 20:24-26 NIV) "'Make an altar of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you. If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it. And do not go up to my altar on steps, lest your nakedness be exposed on it.'

God is giving instruction as to the proper method of service by the priests in the tabernacle. It is most likely that God intends to prevent the accidental display of the priest's genitals while offering sacrifices on the alter.

Exo. 20:24-26 An acceptable altar had to be made of earth or natural (unhewn) stone, and without steps (to prevent indecent exposure while climbing up to the altar).4

In Ex 20:25, God commands to not build the altar out of dressed (hand worked) stones. An altar that is hand crafted would draw attention to itself and the craftsmen. God wanted all the attention directed towards Himself. Since 'ervah has the figurative meaning of disgrace or blemish, we could consider the prohibition of ascending steps as an attempt to prevent the priest from experiencing pride, or to prevent the people from seeing the priest as someone more exhalted than themselves. Only God should be exalted above His people. We see the problem of priestly pride many places in the New Testament. I think God has given a fair warning here in Exodus.

(Exo 28:2 NIV) Make sacred garments for your brother Aaron, to give him dignity and honor.

(Exo 28:42 KJV) And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach:

(Exo 28:42 NIV) "Make linen undergarments as a covering for the body, reaching from the waist to the thigh. Aaron and his sons must wear them whenever they enter the Tent of Meeting or approach the altar to minister in the Holy Place, so that they will not incur guilt and die.

In Exo 28:42 and in surrounding verses, we see God prescribing in precise detail the type of clothes the priests were to wear. We are reminded of God's clothing Adam and Eve in the Garden. The linen breeches described here are under garments.

Sacred means separated for divine use. The men who would mediate between God and man would be set apart. They were first set apart by ceremonies of anointing with oil. They were further set apart by the garments they wore while conducting their priestly duties. The people were to treat God's representatives with dignity and honor.

The linen undergarments were required to be worn, under penalty of death, whenever the priests ministered in the Tabernacle. The purpose was to cover their nakedness. Here again we see a correlation between nakedness and a spiritual condition. Whether the nakedness refers to shame or disobedience or some other spiritual state we have seen, it likely does not refer to physical nakedness. Many other outer garments, much longer than the linen breeches, were prescribed to be worn in the service of the Lord in the Tabernacle. The linen undergarments would not have added any visual protection from nudity.

(I will add that I do not know how opaque the outer garment material was. It may be possible that the linen undergarments prevented silhouette viewing of the priest's body when back lit. Because of the shame associated with the body then, and now, this would prevent distraction from attention due God.)

Sexual Activity

(Lev 18:6 KJV) None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness: I am the LORD.

(Lev 18:6 NIV) No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am the LORD.

In Lev 18 and 20, God instructs in precise detail how to avoid sexual impropriety with family members. From our perspective, we may consider the many examples given as unnecessary. We would say, "Have sexual relations only with your spouse." But the family unit was much more complicated then, and with the influence of surrounding pagan cultures God chose to be very detailed in His explanation.


(Deu 23:14 KJV) For the LORD thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy: that he see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee.

(Deu 23:14 KJV) For the LORD thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy: that he see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee.

(Deu 24:1 KJV) When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.

Here 'ervah is translated uncleanness. Uncleanness or unholiness is a condition that should not be found among God's people. Whether Deu 23:14 refers to sexual impurity specifically, or unholiness in general, the principle is the same. In Deu 24:1, the wife's uncleanness is clearly sexual impropriety.

Diverse Sin

1 Sam 20:30; Isa 20:4; Isa 47:3; Lam 1:8; Ezek 16:8; Ezek 16:36; Ezek 16:37; Ezek 22:10; Ezek 23:10; Ezek 23:18; Ezek 23:29; Hosea 2:9

All of the above verses translate 'ervah as nakedness or shame. Some of the verses imply sexual sin, some imply diverse sin. In any case, the language is strong in these cases and the implication is very negative.

(1 Sam 20:30 KJV) Then Saul's anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said unto him, Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman, do not I know that thou hast chosen the son of Jesse to thine own confusion, and unto the confusion of thy mother's nakedness?

(1 Sam 20:30 NIV) Saul's anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, "You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don't I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you?

Saul vented his anger against Jonathan with the most offensive language. The expressions unto the confusion of thy mother's nakedness or to the shame of the mother who bore you are used to mean, "Your mother will be ashamed that she brought you into the world."5

(Lam 1:8 KJV) Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore she is removed: all that honored her despise her, because they have seen her nakedness yea, she sigheth, and turneth backward.

When we sin, we risk the danger of having everything good removed from us. Those who honored us will despise us. This is the picture given of Jerusalem. When Israel sinned against God, they lost the peace and status they enjoyed. Their disobedience was seen by those who respected them. Their sin was exposed and they were naked before everyone.

(Ezek 16:36 NIV) This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Because you poured out your wealth and exposed your nakedness in your promiscuity with your lovers, and because of all your detestable idols, and because you gave them your children's blood,

(Ezek 23:18 NIV) When she carried on her prostitution openly and exposed her nakedness, I turned away from her in disgust, just as I had turned away from her sister.

Here nakedness is associated with promiscuity and idol worship.

(Ezek 22:10 KJV) In thee have they discovered their fathers' nakedness: in thee have they humbled her that was set apart for pollution.

(Ezek 22:10-11 NIV) In you are those who dishonor their fathers' bed; in you are those who violate women during their period, when they are ceremonially unclean. In you one man commits a detestable offense with his neighbor's wife, another shamefully defiles his daughter-in-law, and another violates his sister, his own father's daughter.

Vs. 22:1-12 The catalog of Judah's sins includes idolatry (v. 3), bloodshed (vv. 2-4, 6, 9, 12), immorality (vv. 10-11; dishonor their fathers' bed (discover their fathers' nakedness) meant to defile their fathers' wives; Lev. 18:7), indecency (v. 7), and extortion (v. 12).6

(Ezek 23:10 KJV) These discovered her nakedness: they took her sons and her daughters, and slew her with the sword: and she became famous among women; for they had executed judgment upon her.

(Ezek 23:18 KJV) So she discovered her whoredoms, and discovered her nakedness: then my mind was alienated from her, like as my mind was alienated from her sister.

(Ezek 23:29 KJV) And they shall deal with thee hatefully, and shall take away all thy labor, and shall leave thee naked and bare: and the nakedness of thy whoredoms shall be discovered, both thy lewdness and thy whoredoms.

Chapter 23 gives an allegory of two sisters, Samaria (representing the Northern Kingdom, Israel, v. 4) and Jerusalem (representing the Southern Kingdom, Judah, v. 4). Verses 1-10 describe the unfaithfulness and punishment of Oholah (Samaria); verses 11-21 depict the unfaithfulness of Oholibah (Jerusalem); verses 22-35 reveal her punishment. Verses 36-49 also describe the punishment of the two sisters.7

(Gen 42:9 KJV) And Joseph remembered the dreams which he dreamed of them, and said unto them, Ye are spies; to see the nakedness of the land ye are come.

(Gen 42:12 KJV) And he said unto them, Nay, but to see the nakedness of the land ye are come.

Joseph's brothers have come to Egypt to buy food. They did not recognize the brother that they had sold into slavery. He had been blessed by God to be second only to Pharaoh in all of Egypt. In order to trick his brothers into bringing the youngest to Egypt, Joseph accused them of being spies. I say all this to say that the word translated nakedness in the King James Version of the Bible means unprotected as in the NIV. This would be an accurate picture of being caught with your pants down and legs spread wide apart. The clear picture is one of vulnerability.

In all of the references above, nakedness is symbolic of some sin or action. The physical nakedness is not being condemned; the associated sin is being condemned. We recognize that physical nakedness in conjunction with sexual union is quite acceptable between spouses in a marriage. Yet, outside of that specific relationship, the sexual union is not acceptable. By implication, the nakedness would not be acceptable if it encouraged or led to the sexual activity.

Group 3

H6544 para' (paw-rah')

(Exo 32:25 KJV) And when Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies:)

(2 Chr 28:19 KJV) For the LORD brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israel; for he made Judah naked, and transgressed sore against the LORD.

These are the only two places that para' is translated "naked". In both cases it is translated differently in the NIV (see below). The Hebrew word is defined: to loosen; by implecation to expose, dismiss; figuratively to absolve, begin. It is translated various places: avenge, avoid, bare, go back, let, (make) naked, set at nought, perish, refuse, and uncover.

In Exodus 32, in the story of the worshipping of the Golden Calf, we see a picture of the people being out of control, and running wild. The scene involved simultaneous sacrifices to Jehovah and the pagan Calf. As the activity became more and more sinful, sexual activity developed and a drunken orgy resulted.

(Exo 32:25 NIV) Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies. (2 Chr 28:19 NIV) The LORD had humbled Judah because of Ahaz king of Israel, for he had promoted wickedness in Judah and had been most unfaithful to the LORD.

The word para' is also found in the following verses: Exo 5:4; Lev 10:6; Lev 13:45; Lev 21:10; Num 5:18, Judg 5:2; Prov 1:25, 4:15, 8:33, 13:18, 15:32, 29:18; Ezek 24:14.

H5783 'uwr (oor)

(Hab 3:9 KJV) Thy bow was made quite naked, according to the oaths of the tribes, even thy word. Selah. Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers.

This word is a simple primative root used only here and means to bare, to be bare, or be made naked.

H4589 ma'owr (maw-ore')

(Hab 2:15 KJV) Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!

This word is a dirivative of 'uwr and refers to the exposure of the genitals. Here we see one man getting his friend drunk to take advantage of him. History tells us this was a common practice among the Babylonians to disgrace someone by getting them drunk and then stripping them naked. Hmmm... Times don't change much, do they?

The Greek

G1131 gumnos (goom-nos')

Lacking Basic Needs

(Mat 25:36 KJV) Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

See also: Mat 25:38, 43, 44; James 2:15

This Greek word, gumnos, is the root from which the next two words we will study are derived. It is the word from which we get "gymnasium", literally a place to exercise in the nude.

Jesus is teaching the commandment, "love others" here. Clearly the reference to naked is clusterred with other afflictions of oppression. When a person is afflicted in any way, it is our responsibility to care for them when possible.


(Mark 14:51-52 KJV) And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him: And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.

This account is from the arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. When Jesus was arrested, a young man who was with him was seized also. In his escape, he slipped out of his simple garment and left it in the hands of his would-be captors. There are historical reports of early converts who were baptized in the nude and then clothed in a simple white sheet signifying their new purity. This young man may have recently been baptized and was with Jesus when the arrest took place.

(Acts 19:16 KJV) And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

Like the young man in the Garden of Gethsemene, these men were fleeing for their lives. Some magicians (Jews who claimed to be able to cast out demons, but who were not followers of Jesus) tried to profit through the exorcism game. They saw how the apostles cast out demons in the name of Jesus as preach by Paul. One day they tried to cast out a demon saying, "In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out." The evil demon they had encountered replied, "Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" The ensuing battle between the demon possessed man and the magicians, seven in all, sent them running out into the streets naked and bleeding. More than just their bodies were exposed by this failure. While the use of "naked" is certainly literal, there is a spiritual picture here also. Their true spiritual state was revealed through this experience, making their position before God exposed for all to see.

Socially Acceptable

(John 21:7 KJV) Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.

This verse comes from an account of Jesus' appearance to His disciples after the resurrection. It appears that Simon Peter was out fishing and was naked. Several disciples had decided to return to fishing after Jesus' death. On this occasion, they had been fishing all night and had caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus appears on the shore and calls to them, "Friends, haven't you any fish?" No, they replied. "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some", Jesus said. When they did, they caught so many fish they could not haul them into the boat. At that moment, John recognizes the man on shore to be Jesus. Peter wraps his garment around himself dives in the water and swims to shore. The rest of the disciples follow in the boat, dragging the net load of fish behind them.

It would appear that Peter was observing the cultural norms. First, it appears to have been acceptable to be fishing while nude. Second, it appears that it was not socially acceptable to appear on shore in the nude. It would have been easier for Peter to swim to shore unencumbered by his outer garment. Please note that nothing in this passage condemns Peter for his being naked. It is simply stated as fact. This is only passage I have found where casual social nudity is mentioned directly. A reference to King David dancing before the Lord in celebration (2 Sam 6:14-20) implies to some that he was scantily dressed if not completely nude. However, the text plainly states David was wearing a linen ephod, a loose fitting garment that extends from the shoulders to the hips. "Michal sarcastically rebuked David for celebrating with the people in a manner that she considered unbefitting a king. David had appeared clothed only in an ephod, rather than in his royal robes."8


(1 Cor 15:37 KJV) And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain:

(1 Cor 15:37 NIV) When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else.

In this verse, gumnos is translated "bare." This is from a story that explains life after death. Paul is teaching that just as a grain of seed is buried and is reborn with a "new" body, we will be reborn as part of God's family after we die physically.

Spiritual Condition

(2 Cor 5:3 KJV) If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.

Paul again addresses the question of what will happen to us after we die. Our spirits will be clothed with a heavenly body when we die. Hence we will not be "naked" after death.

(Heb 4:12-13 KJV) For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

The simple truth is that we can not hide from God. Try as we might, God sees through our disguises. We are naked and open before Him. If we can accept this truth, and confess our sin to Him, and accept His forgiveness, then we have no reason to fear. We can be free to stand naked before him and before our fellow man because we are forgiven by God. Accept yourself and accept others. This is where true freedom begins.

(Rev 3:17 KJV) Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

Jesus, speaking through John, is commenting on the state of the Church at Laodicea. They were the luke warm Church that Jesus threatened to spew out of His mouth. Here, Jesus contrasts the view the Laodicians had of themselves to their actual state. They believed they had "need of nothing." In contract, Jesus points out that they were in need of the most basic of needs, they were naked. This church is so wrapped up with material things, that it does not recognize its true spiritual condition. Of the symbolic items Jesus commands them to buy from Him, the white clothes represent Holiness, righteousness and purity.

(Rev 16:15 KJV) Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.

This reference once again pairs nakedness with shame. When a guard was caught asleep on duty, he was overpowered, stripped and left naked. Since his duty was to guard, being left naked was his disgrace for all to see. His inattention to duty was exposed leaving him in shame. Jesus calls us to remain on guard for His coming. If we are not spiritually ready when He comes to claim His people and establish His kingdom, we will be left spiritually "naked and shamefully exposed" for all to see.

Rev 16:15: A call to surviving believers to watch and be alert. The clothes of a guard caught asleep on duty were taken from him, leaving him naked and disgraced.9

(Rev 17:16 NIV) The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire.

This verse is part of a prophecy of the end times on earth. The beast is the political system in the end times. The prostitute is the false church organization. The truth of the false church will be revealed and the false church will be left naked for all to see.

G1132 gumnotes (goom-not'-ace)

Defined as nudity, complete or absolute, this word is a little stronger in its meaning that its root, gumnos. It appears to be used both literally and figuratively, below.

(Rom 8:35 KJV) Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

The fundamental truth is nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Fortunately nothing did separate us before our salvation. Without Christ's unconditional love, we would all be lost. It appears that Paul gives us a list of ever increasing distress in this verse. Beginning with daily annoyances, continuing through outside influences to difficulty in finding food to complete loss of basic needs (nakedness) to life threatening circumstances to enemy invasion and slaughter. It seems unlikely that nakedness refers to only physical and simple nudity here. It follows along with how we have seen it used elsewhere in scripture.

(2 Cor 11:27 KJV) In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.

Clothing has always been associated with our most basic needs. Food, water, clothing, shelter. God has said that if we are in His will, He will provide all our needs. When we disobey God, we choose to be separated from Him. When God withdraws Himself from our presence, we run the risk of loosing our basic needs. In the verse above, Paul describes his condition from time to time when oppressed in the service of God. His oppression was not due to his lack of faith, but due to the efforts of ungodly men.

(Rev 3:18 KJV) I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.

Again, Jesus is entreating the Laodiceans to get their basic needs from Him. We see again that shame and nakedness are coupled together, but it is the shame that is the object of the statement. Their nakedness is obviously figurative and spiritual in this context.

G1130 gumneteuo (goom-nayt-yoo'-o)

(1 Cor 4:11 KJV) Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace;

(1 Cor 4:11 NIV) To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless.

This is the only place this word is found in scripture. The derivative of gumnos used here may be better translated "go poorly clad" or as the NIV translates it, "in rags." The apostles spoke occasionally of the oppression they suffered while preaching the gospel of Christ. Here we again see the loss of basic needs, not because God withheld them, but because man blocked God's provision.


(Mark 10:50 KJV) And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus.

This verse is from the story of a blind man who, when hearing that Jesus was near by, began crying in a loud voice, begging for mercy from Jesus. When Jesus called him forward, the man cast away his garment. We don't know if he only cast away his outer garment or his only garment. Regardless, the blind man approached Jesus exposed. He did not try to hide who he was or what he was. He believed that Jesus could heal him and he asked Jesus openly to be healed. And he was healed.

(Luke 24:12 KJV) Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulcher; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.

(John 20:5 KJV) And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.

Jesus left the linen clothes behind when He rose from the dead. If this was indeed a physical resurrection, that meant he was naked. Obviously, we must use this reference with great discretion. Jesus was in a transition time between finishing His spiritual work in Hell and ascending to the Father in a glorified physical body. His first meeting was with Mary Magdalene. (John 20:17) The report of this encounter says nothing of Jesus' physical appearance except that Mary mistook him for the gardener. In other words, there was nothing unusual about His appearance. We are told that later (Mark 16:12) Jesus appeared to others in "a different form". At other times He appeared before the disciples miraculously (upper room) and at times was not recognized by the people he was with until a certain time. (Luke 24:16) Clearly, Jesus had the power to alter His appearance and appear and disappear at will.

(John 13:4 KJV) He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.

(John 13:4 NIV) so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.

Some people will claim that Jesus washed the disciples' feet while nude. I see no substantiation of that here.

(Est 1:10-12 NIV) On the seventh day, when King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine, he commanded the seven eunuchs who served him--Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar and Carcas-- to bring before him Queen Vashti, wearing her royal crown, in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles, for she was lovely to look at. But when the attendants delivered the king's command, Queen Vashti refused to come. Then the king became furious and burned with anger.

In this passage, King Xerxes, being quite drunk, orders queen Vashti to be brought before him so that all might see her beauty. But the queen refuses resulting in her banishment from the kingdom and Ester's selection as the new queen. Some suggest that Vashti refused to come before the king because the king required that she be presented wearing ONLY her crown for all to see her beauty.

Summary of Bible References

There are many other references in the Bible that refer garments being cast aside, or people being bare. I have presented those passages that are directly translated "naked" or some form of the word. I have also presented related passages that use the same Hebrew or Greek word translated "naked" somewhere in scripture.

It is clear that God abhors nakedness when it is the result of lacking basic needs, the result of a sinful act or when it is forced upon someone. To the contrary, God commanded nakedness of some prophets to present a message to the people. In addition, there are certain references to where nakedness is presented as an observed fact, neither condoned nor condemned.

We saw that before mankind sinned, nakedness was the accepted state of innocence. After the fall, it appears that man's view of nakedness changed, but God's view did not. The nakedness of Peter was not condemned.

It would appear that God does not condemn social nudity per se. If the nudity leads to acts of immorality, then God condemns the immorality. Most Christians would argue that social nudity will naturally and inevitably lead to immorality. We will learn is section two of this book that this is not true. In many cases, being in a clothed environment will provide more opportunity for immorality than an equivalent situation in a nude environment.

The Significance of Garments

"Clothes therefore, must be truly a badge of greatness; the insignia of the superiority of man over all other animals, for surely there could be no other reason for wearing the hideous things."
--TARZAN (From Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs)

Just as the Bible speaks of nudity, it speaks of being clothed. Sometimes literal, often symbolic, clothing is an expression of who we are. The following section takes a brief look at references to clothing and garments in scripture. It is not at all exhaustive, but it will give the reader an understanding of the breadth of symbolism used in the Bible.

An Outward Sign of an Inward Condition

References to clothing or garments in the Bible generally concern a symbolic representation of one kind or another. Just as we saw nudity used to represent an inner condition of the individual, clothing also represents an inner condition more often than not.

Spiritual State

(Lev 19:19 KJV) Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee.

(Deu 22:11 KJV) Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of woollen and linen together.

God wants His people to be pure. Clothing is used as an outward symbol of the inner state that God desires. That inner state should be pure and singular in focus. In the references above, God demands a single material in the clothing just as He wants a singular focus on Him.

(Zec 3:3-4 NIV) Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, "Take off his filthy clothes." Then he said to Joshua, "See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you."

In a vision, Joshua, the high priest, stands before the angel of the Lord. His filthy clothes, which represent his sin, are removed and "rich garments", representing God's righteousness, were placed on him. As this is a vision of Joshua's, the clothing is entirely symbolic.10

(Luke 24:4 KJV) And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:

These two men were angels. The shining garments represent God's holiness that the angels reflect. There are many references to angels being seen with a bright radiance about them. You will recall that Moses, after being in the presence of God for an extended period of time had a bright radiance about his face.

(2 Cor 5:2-4 NIV) Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

The Ryrie study notes for the verses above say that our heavenly dwelling is a body we will receive after our death, possibly after the resurrection of the dead in Christ. While we groan in our earthly bodies because of the burdens of life, we do not long to exist disembodied (unclothed) but to be "clothed" in the resurrection body God will give us.

Spiritual Change

(Gen 35:2 KJV) Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments:

[Ryrie study notes] The garments worn are connected to the activity performed. Later in Leviticus there are many references to garments being clean or unclean for the performance of priestly duties.

(Exo 19:10 KJV) And the LORD said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes,

(Exo 19:14 KJV) And Moses went down from the mount unto the people, and sanctified the people; and they washed their clothes.

(Num 8:7 KJV) And thus shalt thou do unto them, to cleanse them: Sprinkle water of purifying upon them, and let them shave all their flesh, and let them wash their clothes, and so make themselves clean.

(Num 8:21 KJV) And the Levites were purified, and they washed their clothes; and Aaron offered them as an offering before the LORD; and Aaron made an atonement for them to cleanse them.

In the references above, God has ordained that the clothing worn reflect the activity being performed. There were "clean" and "unclean" clothes that were worn for common or spiritual activities. We know that God does not look on the outward appearance of a person (1 Sam. 16:7). But rather He looks at the inward spirit, the "heart" of the individual. To God, the changing and washing of clothes clearly reflects the repentance and cleansing He expects in our souls when we prepare to approach Him.

Spiritual Duty

(Exo 28:2 KJV) And thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother for glory and for beauty.

(Exo 31:10 KJV) And the cloths of service, and the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments of his sons, to minister in the priest's office,

(Exo 39:1 KJV) And of the blue, and purple, and scarlet, they made cloths of service, to do service in the holy place, and made the holy garments for Aaron; as the LORD commanded Moses.

Throughout Exodus but especially in Exodus 39, the holy garments that God prescribes have symbolic significance due to their color, accessories, etc. The special clothing set the priests apart from the rest of the Israelites. Their common, Egyptian clothing was a symbol of their disobedience, their sin, their "nakedness". The special clothing was a symbol of their obedience in devotion and service to God.

(Lev 6:11 KJV) And he shall put off his garments, and put on other garments, and carry forth the ashes without the camp unto a clean place.

[Ryrie study notes] The alter garments were to be used only for the sacrifices. Ordinary garments were to be used for ordinary tasks.

A Sign of Anger or Grief

(Gen 37:29 KJV) And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes.

(Mark 14:63 KJV) Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses?

See also: Gen 37:34, Num 14:6, Josh 7:6, 2 Sam 1:11, 2 Sam 1:12, Mat 26:65, Acts 14:14, Acts 22:23.

The tearing of clothing was symbolic of grief and anger throughout the Bible. As we mentioned before, the tearing of the clothing to the point of nakedness, also symbolized the shame of the mourner.

Rend your Heart

(Joel 2:13 KJV) And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.

Joel states in clear terms what God wants of you and me. He ultimately wants our expression before Him to be from the heart. Outward expressions and deeds are meaningless if they don't reflect what is genuinely happening on the inside.

When considering the continuity of the Scriptures, Joel 2:13 clearly agrees with 1 Sam. 16:7 that God relates to us at the spiritual level. Joel says that you should "rend your heart" to repent before the Lord. Samuel states that God looks on the inward appearance of a person, no on the outward appearance. What we do physically is irrelevant if our heart is right with God. (Follow me carefully here.) Being naked or clothed is irrelevant if our heart is right with God. If a man lusts after a woman (not his wife), he sins against God whether naked or clothed. A person may worship God whether naked or clothed. The outward appearance is irrelevant before God. He sees the state of our heart.

A Sign of Caring

(2 Chr 28:15 KJV) 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 them, and gave them to eat and to drink, and anointed them, and carried all the feeble of them upon asses, and brought them to Jericho, the city of palm trees, to their brethren: then they returned to Samaria.

(Mat 25:36 KJV) Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

See also: Job 31:19, Prov 25:20, Isa 58:7, Ezek 18:7, Ezek 18:16, Mat 25:44.

We are instructed to clothe those who cannot clothe themselves. Whether the result of captivity, oppression, poverty or disaster, our act of compassion and charity will be as unto the Lord.

A Sign of Concern

(Mat 6:31 KJV) Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

God sees clothing as a necessity of life. We need it for protection against the elements. God says He will provide all our needs.

As a Symbol

A Sign of Position or Status

Clothing is used as a sign of position or status. One of the professed benefits of a nude society is the absence of these caste symbols. People are brought to a more level playing field when the relate to each other. No one is implied to be better or worse than another by what they are wearing. This does not deny the uniqueness of individuals. That is still plainly visible. However the differences are natural, not artificial.

The following verses illustrate the use of clothing as a sign of position or status.

Symbols of status or position:

(Gen 38:14 KJV) And she put her widow's garments off from her, and covered her with a veil, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife.

Symbol of wealth:

(Isa 3:6 KJV) When a man shall take hold of his brother of the house of his father, saying, Thou hast clothing, be thou our ruler, and let this ruin be under thy hand:

Symbol of poverty:

(Isa 3:7 KJV) In that day shall he swear, saying, I will not be an healer; for in my house is neither bread nor clothing: make me not a ruler of the people.

Symbol of priesthood:

(Num 20:28 KJV) And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there in the top of the mount: and Moses and Eleazar came down from the mount.

Symbol of position:

(Deu 22:5 KJV) The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.

There is much more being said here than simply not to cross dress. The culture in which this was written put specific status and responsibility on the man and the woman. The man was the head of the household, the spiritual leader, the money maker, the politician, and so on. The woman bore the children reared the children and maintained the household. If married, she was under the dominion of her husband and would not undertake his business or responsibilities.

Again, in the consistency of scripture, we know that God is interested in our intent. God has given each of us a role and responsibility in His kingdom. If we are given the role of a caregiver, we are not to "dress" as a pastor. If we are given the role of a teacher, we are not to "dress" as a prophet. In other words, do not deceive others within the body by taking on the actions, mannerisms and appearance of someone otherwise gifted.

Outward appearance does not determine the inward state:

(Jer 4:30 KJV) And when thou art spoiled, what wilt thou do? Though thou clothest thyself with crimson, though thou deckest thee with ornaments of gold, though thou rentest thy face with painting, in vain shalt thou make thyself fair; thy lovers will despise thee, they will seek thy life.

(James 2:3 KJV) And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:

See also: Gen 38:19, Num 20:26, Mat 11:8, Mat 22:11, Mat 23:5, Mark 1:6, Mark 12:38, Luke 7:25, Rev 1:13, Rev 11:3.

A Sign of Devotion

(Neh 4:23 NIV) Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went for water.

These men were devoted to their task. They did not remove their clothes even when the daily task would have normally called for removal. They stood ready to defend the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem at all times.

To Deceive

(Zec 13:4 KJV) And it shall come to pass in that day, that the prophets shall be ashamed every one of his vision, when he hath prophesied; neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive:

(Mat 7:15 KJV) Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

Again, we see that individuals are identified by what they wear. If the outward appearance changes, the observer may be deceived.

Flesh as Clothing

(Job 10:11 KJV) Thou hast clothed me with skin and flesh, and hast fenced me with bones and sinews.

God's design when making Job. This is more a statement of anatomy than anything else. Job is extolling the power of God in designing and making mankind.

Symbolic Clothing

Symbolic based on Color

Throughout the Bible, colors are used as symbols. The symbolism of clothing is also affected by the color of the clothing.

Purple, the color of royalty and wealth:

(Mark 15:17 KJV) And they clothed him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about his head,

(Luke 16:19 KJV) There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:

White, the color of purity and holiness:

(Rev 3:5 KJV) He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.

(Rev 4:4 KJV) And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.

(Rev 19:14 KJV) And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.

Scarlet (red), the color of sin:

(Rev 18:16 KJV) And saying, Alas, alas, that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls!

(Isa 1:18 NIV) "Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.

Scarlet and crimson were both glaring and colorfast. The colors are difficult to remove as is our sin. But God has the power to remove them completely.


(Exo 28:31 NIV) "Make the robe of the ephod entirely of blue cloth,"

[Ryrie study notes] robe of the ephod. A violet-colored robe worn under the ephod. It reached a little below the knees and had bells on its hem. When the high priest made an offering in the Holy Place, where he was not visible to the people, the bells enabled them to know he was still alive. In addition all of the temple accessories and the arc of the covenant itself were covered with blue cloth when traveling.

Priests' Garments

(Exo 28:2 NIV) Make sacred garments for your brother Aaron, to give him dignity and honor.

Anyone carrying out the work of God was to be specially clothed.

A Sign of Riches

(Psa 65:13 KJV) The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing.

(Luke 12:28 KJV) If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?

The pastures are richly clothed with flocks of sheep. The grass is richly clothed with flowers and grain. Should we as God's children expect anything less?

Clothed with Salvation

(2 Chr 6:41 KJV) Now therefore arise, O LORD God, into thy resting place, thou, and the ark of thy strength: let thy priests, O LORD God, be clothed with salvation, and let thy saints rejoice in goodness.

(Psa 132:16 KJV) I will also clothe her priests with salvation: and her saints shall shout aloud for joy.

(Isa 61:10 KJV) I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels. While symbolic, being clothed with salvation implies that others will visibly recognize that we are saved. Our lives should reflect our position in God's family.

Clothed with Righteousness

(Job 29:14 KJV) I put on righteousness, and it clothed me: my judgment was as a robe and a diadem.

(Psa 132:9 KJV) Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness; and let thy saints shout for joy.

Righteousness and judgment become outward symbols in our lives. They change our position and status in how we conduct our lives before others.

Clothing God Wears

God is pictured as being clothed by many things. Since God is spirit, these references are purely symbolic and give us a picture of God's character.

Majesty and Strength

(Psa 93:1 KJV) The LORD reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved.

Honor and Majesty

(Psa 104:1 KJV) Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty.


(Psa 104:2 KJV) Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain:

Light is itself a symbol of truth. God is by very nature, truth.

Clothed with Warmth

(Job 37:17 KJV) How thy garments are warm, when he quieteth the earth by the south wind?

These garments are worn by us. Being in God is a source of warmth and protection.

Clothed with Thunder

(Job 39:19 KJV) Hast thou given the horse strength? hast thou clothed his neck with thunder?

Clothed with Strength and Honor

(Prov 31:25 KJV) Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.

Clothed with Shame

(Job 8:22 KJV) They that hate thee shall be clothed with shame; and the dwelling place of the wicked shall come to nought.

(Psa 35:26 KJV) Let them be ashamed and brought to confusion together that rejoice at mine hurt: let them be clothed with shame and dishonour that magnify themselves against me.

(Psa 109:29 KJV) Let mine adversaries be clothed with shame, and let them cover themselves with their own confusion, as with a mantle.

(Psa 132:18 KJV) His enemies will I clothe with shame: but upon himself shall his crown flourish.

From what we have seen before, being clothed with shame is analogous to being naked.

Clothed with Cursing

(Psa 109:18 KJV) As he clothed himself with cursing like as with his garment, so let it come into his bowels like water, and like oil into his bones.

Clothed with Violence

(Psa 73:6 KJV) Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment.

Clothed with Desolation

(Ezek 7:27 KJV) The king shall mourn, and the prince shall be clothed with desolation, and the hands of the people of the land shall be troubled: I will do unto them after their way, and according to their deserts will I judge them; and they shall know that I am the LORD.

Clothed with Humility

(1 Pet 5:5 KJV) Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

Clothed with the Sun

(Rev 12:1 KJV) And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:

Garments of Vengeance

(Isa 59:17 KJV) For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak.

Garments of Praise

(Isa 61:3 KJV) To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.

Clothed with Rags

(Prov 23:21 KJV) For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.

Heavens Clothed

(Isa 50:3 KJV) I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering.

Jerusalem Clothed

(Isa 52:1 KJV) Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean.

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

Summary of Section One

In the passages we have looked at (which I believe is an exhaustive list) we have seen the word naked used in several different ways. There are references to physical nakedness. There are references to spiritual nakedness before God. There are references to physical condition or state of being. Nakedness is used as a visible symbol by the prophets of God's view of and response to the above.

In the Garden of Eden, physical nakedness was the natural state. Adam and Eve knew no other existence. After the fall, Adam and Eve clearly hid their bodies from each other and from God. It is not stated whether they ever confessed their sin before God. Without this confession, their shame and guilt could not be removed by God's forgiveness. Hence they likely carried their body shame with them and passed the shame on to their children.

Physical nakedness is an undesirable state when we have no choice in the matter. Lacking our most basic needs, being in captivity, sexual immorality and lacking self control through demon possession are all examples given of unacceptable physical nudity. Scripture focuses on the cause of the nudity in all these cases. The nudity itself is a byproduct or symptom of the real evil.

Spiritual nakedness before God is a constant, unavoidable condition. God sees our spiritual state plainly in His Light. Our correct response to what God sees should be to acknowledge and accept our condition, receive His forgiveness and live freely in our spiritual nakedness. This freedom then allows us to be spiritually and emotionally naked before others. The result of this exposure is to help them (and ourselves) recognize areas of need and go to God for strength to change.

A destitute physical condition is referred to as nakedness. Truly, when destitute and without access to the basic needs of food and water, we are vulnerable and controllable by others. God strongly states that this is unacceptable. His creation must be cared for. God promises to provided all our basic needs, but when His plan is altered by man, His promises are denied. This is sin and must be avoided.

Prophets were commanded by God to display the people's vulnerability and God's impending judgment through public nudity. Clothes were torn, sometimes to the point of nudity, to show the grief or shame of the wearer. Nakedness is a recurring symbol of shame, vulnerability and judgment.

Nudity was the normal, acceptable condition in the Garden of Eden before the fall. Nudity also appears to be an acceptable condition when working as demonstrated by Peter. There is no clear evidence that nudity is forbidden or evil when practiced in an open, moral environment. (Some will argue that nudity and morality can not co-exist. We will see in the section Society and Nudity that the evidence strongly suggests that it is not only possible but normal.)

Conclusion to Section One

The overwhelming use of nakedness in the Bible is to symbolize an unacceptable spiritual or physical condition. Each example we have studied provides teaching or insight into a relational state of being. Whether that state of being is before God or our fellow men and women, the Godly action, attribute or attitude is clearly, graphically presented. In all these examples, the principle exists under the umbrella of the commandments: love God and love others.

Social nudity as it is practiced today does not seem to be directly addressed in the Bible. Like many life decisions, we must draw upon general rules and principles given to us by God to determine whether our actions are appropriate. The guidelines that we can use to determine the acceptability of social nudity are the following:

1) Love God: A social nude environment must not encourage sexual impurity. This argument is used by most religious individuals opposed to social nudity. It is argued that a man can not possibly be around nude women without succumbing to sexually impure thoughts or actions. (The argument is not generally used toward women because men are more visually aroused.) The demonstrable fact is that in a socially neutral environment (one not designed to be sexually stimulating) a man is more likely to be aroused by a clothed woman than a naked woman. The mystery of the unknown is more powerful to a man than the disappointment of the plainly seen. (An in-depth review of published studies concerning men's sexual reaction to social nudity is presented later.)

2) Love Others: Nudity must never be forced upon someone. An individual should never be forced to strip, nor be forced to view nudity. We should never use our liberty to be nude as a license to offend or shame others in public or private.

These two criteria are all I see as necessary to protect our relationship with God and others. Once in a social nude setting, all of the normal social skills and cautions we use in relationships apply. If an action would be considered rude in a clothed society, it would probably be rude in a nude society. Morals, ethics, politeness, mutual respect all apply equally in a nude society as in a clothed society.

"Nude, not lewd" is a common differentiation used by nudists. In a clothed society, a lewd action is one that intends to evoke a lustful, sexual response. The same is true in a nude society. This may be done by sensuously putting on certain clothing. It may be done through certain body action or adornments. It may be done verbally. But the intent is the same whether in a clothed environment or a nude environment.

When considering the continuity of the Scriptures, Joel 2:13 clearly agrees with 1 Sam. 16:7 that God relates to us at the spiritual level. Joel says that you should "rend your heart" to repent before the Lord. Samuel states that God looks on the inward appearance of a person, not on the outward appearance. What we do physically is irrelevant if our heart is right with God. (Follow me carefully here.) Being naked or clothed is irrelevant if our heart is right with God. If a man lusts after a woman (not his wife), he sins against God whether naked or clothed. A person may worship God whether naked or clothed. The outward appearance is irrelevant before God. He sees the condition of our hearts.

Nudists simply claim to enjoy the freedom from clothing. They claim many physical and emotional advantages to the practitioner of nudism. Beyond this, their existence in a nude environment is no different than that in a clothed environment. In the section Society and Nudity, we will review some of the objective studies that have been done on social nudity. We will see how social nudity has existed in history and what social nudists do today. After reading all of this work, I hope that you will understand the joy and freedom of this lifestyle.

Return to Outline

Click on footnote number to return to text.

1 Ryrie Study Bible, Expanded Edition, (Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, 1994).
2 (Ryrie study notes)
3 (Ryrie study notes)
4 (Ryrie study notes)
5 (Ryrie study notes)
6 (Ryrie study notes)
7 (Ryrie study notes)
8 (Ryrie study notes)
9 (Ryrie study notes)
10 (Ryrie study notes)

Last revised July 27, 1997 and April 17, 2007 by Jeff Rockel