A Note on Modesty: from a Hebrew word and a Hebrew man

A Note on Modesty

“She needs a doily.”

This expression is occasionally used by me and my wife when a lady is showing a little too much skin. It’s a way for my wife to say, “Avert your eyes,” and for us to have a little fun with outdated modes of modesty at the same time.

Pre-Sin Nakedness & Post-Sin Clothedness

In my study through Genesis, I gave a longer than normal amount of thought to Adam and Eve’s pre-sin nakedness and post-sin clothedness. Modesty is not something that’s discussed in great length in the Scriptures. Some people view it as being very subjective and tied solely to our culture. But I’d just like to make two particular observations concerning a Hebrew word and a Hebrew man.

Let’s begin with some background. Genesis 3:7 tells us that immediately as Adam and Eve’s eyes were open to their sin, their first thought was they were unclothed. Even though they had been naked since their creation (and we can only guess how much time had passed since then) they were both immediately uncomfortable naked.

There was no one else to see them, and they were standing in front of the exact same person who had seen them naked their entire lives, yet they were ashamed.

The very first human occupation noted in the Bible is that of a gardener (Adam and Eve’s responsibility). The second was a tailor. The first was ordained by God; the second was created by sin. Sorry, seamstresses and tailors. :-)

The point is, they were immediately embarrassed by their nakedness and sought to remedy the situation. Later on when the Lord confronted them, nakedness again was brought up. “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself” (v. 10). Then for a third time our attention is brought to their nakedness because after Adam and Eve received the consequences of their sin, God Himself made them clothes.

What Kind of Clothes Did Adam and Eve Make?

1. What caught my attention was the description of the clothes Adam and Even made for themselves. The Hebrew word chagorah is often translated loincloth. “Loins” refers to a very specific region of the human body best defined as “the hips and the lower abdomen regarded as a part of the body to be clothed or as the region of strength and procreative power.” In the waking moments of their sin, Adam and Eve covered their reproductive organs. Now, I have no idea how long Eve’s hemline was, but I do know that the inherent indecency of revealing that area of their bodies was foremost in their minds.

The word used to describe the clothes God made for them has a broader connotation. The coat/tunic/robe/covering God made appears to have done a better job of covering them up than their own loincloths.

2.  I don’t want to be unnecessarily descriptive here, but I believe this is an important point to make when discussing modesty; especially concerning women. My second observations come from the divinely inspired writings of a Hebrew man named Solomon. The Song of Solomon is a book that some Christian parents don’t want their young men reading. I can almost understand why. At the same time, it’s God’s Word and He didn’t include an “R” rating.

It is clear to see that Solomon had a pronounced preoccupation with breasts.

There. I said it.

This wouldn’t bear observing were it not included in the cannon of God. I believe it is safe to say, though, that inherent in men is a preoccupation (of one kind or another) for that particular area of a woman’s body. I understand that there are always exceptions, but history is fraught with countless literary examples, and the massive porn industry I think proves my point.

I shall speedily progress to my final thoughts without leaving too much time for unhealthy imagining.

So What is Modesty?

Modesty should be defined in its most base form as a covering of the reproductive organs. I believe it is fair to extend this to our posteriors as well. Both areas of the body were designed by God for procreation as well as waste removal. The obvious coupling by God of the front and back demand that we treat them equally.

But I don’t think we can leave modesty there. I also believe that our divine insight into the sexuality of human males dictates that in the same way sex should be saved for marriage, so should exposing a woman’s bosom.

It is clear to see that even secular society agrees with my observations. Most people feel very uncomfortable exposing those parts of their bodies in public. There are governmental ordinances forbidding indecent exposure. Even the term “Indecent exposure” refers to the three main areas I’ve detailed here. Where do these feelings of shame come from? They are inherent in our sinful humanity. Our sin causes us to be uncomfortable when we’re naked in the presence of other people. Of course, like any other sin, we can become immune and calloused.

No one can argue that nakedness is always attributed with extreme purity, shame, or sexuality. The first is impossible for us to achieve, the second should always be avoided, and the third has divine precepts governing it.

Ladies and gentlemen, we must be modest.

Application

Now, the last thing I want to do is be pharisaical. I don’t want to say something that God doesn’t say, but I would like to simply point out a wise idea.

If God wants my loins covered, then I should probably not stretch the tightest fabric known to man over it so that every detail, line, and curve is observable. The same would go for women’s upper bodies. If it’s that big of a deal (and we can see from Genesis that it is), why do we try to be as tight, low, and high as we can?

No, the Bible does not say that all skirts and shorts need to come to the knee. There is no divine three-finger rule. But the concept of modesty is evident and the importance of staying covered is obvious. God does not want us uncovering those areas of our bodies unless it’s necessary. Intercourse between a married heterosexual couple, emergency medical situations, and the unavoidable chores of being a parent of small children all fall within Christ-honoring forms of nudity. Otherwise . . . keep your clothes on.

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God’s Thoughts on Gender Roles: Part 2, “The Genesis of Gender”

God's Thoughts on Gender Roles 2

Should women employ men? Is it okay for men to cry? Biblically speaking, can a woman be president? What does God think of a stay-at-home-dad?

I hope to be able to deal with these questions and more for as long as the Lord allows us to keep up this discussion concerning men, women, and God’s plan for them in this world.

To understand the complete picture of the sexes, though, we must return to the beginning; the very beginning. Let us start with Creation. In Genesis 2:7 we read that God formed man out of the dust of the ground. God subsequently breathed into this man the breath of life (something He did not do for any other living creature). Following an unknown period of time in which Adam named the animals, God deemed it necessary to provide Adam a mate (Gen 2:19-20). Many have conjectured as to why God would wait so long. We assume when all of the other animals and birds were created, both males and females were created at the same time. Yet, God chose to make Adam significantly earlier than Eve. Here are some general items of note. Please understand that these passages do not as of yet provide any commands for the sexes, but do lay out some interesting principles and observations.

1. Adam (the male) received a unique creative process before Eve (the female).

2. Adam was allowed to live a span of time before Eve was created.

As we continue with the narrative, we hear God commenting that it isn’t good for man to be alone. It is for this reason that God said He would create a corresponding partner for Adam that will help him (2:18). The idea of “help” is a simple one. Help means to give assistance to or promote. Help is never offered from the standpoint of superiority. That is not to say that a superior cannot give help, but it is a willful submission that puts the helpers needs and desires below the one being helped. Something is always sacrificed to further the goals of the helpee. Eve was created to help Adam, not the other way around.

Here are some more observations thus far:

3. Eve’s creation was predicated on the fact that Adam needed someone to help him.

4. Eve was created to be that helper.

5. Eve was created using a piece of Adam. She was not created the same way Adam was.

6. They were commanded to bond in such a way as to create “one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24)

Again, all we have here are steps and stages. Can a doctrine of gender be construed from mere observations of form? I believe the answer is “yes” . . . to a degree. It is important to notice that God is very metaphorical. Symbolism plays a significant part in the revelation of God and His will. For God, the simplicity of the creative act is evident. He was not required to use six days, nor did He have to rest on the seventh. He could have created the world in an instant, but He chose to communicate to us via form and stages. I believe we have the same evidences here. Our Lord is a God of order. He created the home before the government which He created before the church. There are important truths to be understood in that created order. This is not to say that the highest life forms are fish and fowl simply because the were created first (we cannot misapply our hermeneutic), but it is evident that there was a purpose for Adam’s creation precipitating Eve’s.

What are the applications? I think we should wait a moment before delving into that channel. There is another Genesis passage we must consult before we can accurately apply these observations to ourselves. At this point Adam and Eve lived in an innocent stage of life. They did not know what good or evil was. We do not exist in that realm, so it is wise to note God’s ordinances for their relationship after sin was introduced to the world.

The fruit was eaten. Sin contaminated the human race. God passed judgment. In Genesis 3:16 God said to Eve, “I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you.” The final two statements bear study. 1. “Your desire will be for your husband” is not a romantic idea. To base feminine romantic preoccupation on this verse is blatantly fallacious. The idea in the original language is that “Your desire will be against your husband.” God is saying that you will “stretch out against” your husband’s authority. Interpreting this prediction would be difficult if it were not for the final statement, “And he will rule over you.” 2. To rule is to have dominion over, to reign over, to have power over. God told Eve that even though she would innately desire to have authority over her husband, she would have to submit to his will.

This verse contains a divine proclamation of order.

7. The husband will rule over the wife.

It is important to note at this juncture that the context is not that women will be ruled over by men. The proclamation is clearly set forth for the marriage relationship.

So what does the “Genesis of Gender” teach us about the roles of men and women?

1. Adam (the male) received a unique creative process before Eve. God chose for man to have an unequalled status concerning women. There is a clear preeminence shown in the creation timeline. As to its ultimate application, I do not believe we can be bold utilizing this passage alone.

2. Adam was allowed to live a span of time before Eve was created. This seems to illustrate the above point.

3. Eve’s creation was predicated on the fact that Adam needed someone to help him. Seemingly, the woman had no reason for existence had man never been created. Her founding purpose is tied to the man’s needs. There is no reason to argue that her core purpose has changed throughout the years. If, in a perfect world, a woman’s highest calling was to be the perfect completer of a man, what makes us think that God created a lesser purpose because of sin? Could their be a higher purpose if the original was perfect as it was?

4. Eve was created to be that helper. No one can help a man like a woman. Side Note: It can be inferred that a man cannot help a man nor a woman a woman the way God intended. This must be a potent observation for homosexuals.

5. Eve was created using a piece of Adam. She was not created the same way Adam was. I have two observations. First, it is undeniable that Eve was the secondary creation in the human race. In fact, as far as we know, she was the last direct creation. Therefore, the creative process leads us to think there is a difference in God’s mind between the man and woman. Eve represented a portion of man as she was removed from his chest. Her entire being was created by his rib. What exactly the difference is between men and women I do not believe can be extrapalated from this passage. But it definately cannot be said that Eve was as common as an animal. Her unique creation and the fact that she was rooted in the equally unique creation of man shows that she is much more than animal and should be treated as such. The rule Adam was given over Eve is not the same dominion that Adam and Eve were given over the world. Eve was not a possession nor a lower life-form. She was a co-steward over the rest of God’s created world. Women today share this responsibility with men as they always have.

6. They were commanded to bond in such a way as to create “one flesh.” In marriage there is a unique relationship formed that transcends all other human relationships. Though husband and wife become a single entity, do not make the fundamental flaw that both are completely equal in all matters. The Trinity is a perfect example for us. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all 100% God. They do not differ in composition, but there is a divinely ordained hierarchy within the perfect unity. The same is true in husband/wife relationships.

7. The husband will rule over the wife. In this sinful world, God ordained that the man (an obvious choice given the aforementioned priority put on man) be the final word in the marriage relationship. There is no misconstruing God’s words on this point. To argue it would be to say God messed up.

So, can we start applying now? I believe we can.

A. As I mentioned before, we cannot be dogmatic at this point in our study in the application of our first two points. Yes, man was created first. Yes, certain rights and privileges were given to Adam long before Eve was created. But, to step into clear delineations between voting rights or employment is overreaching God’s Word.

B. We must acknowledge that women were created for men. This truth stands in the face of most contemporary feministic movements that purport that women don’t need men. In truth, men need women, and women need to fulfill that need within God’s will.

C. Within the marriage relationship (which I believe it is safe to say that women were created to participate in) the man is to be the leader.

So, let’s tackle one of the questions I opened with. How about last one? Does this passage have any bearing on a father being a stay-at-home-dad? I believe it does. But it’s not so much the action of staying-at-home as it is the attitude behind it. I have a friend whose wife is an anesthesiologist. She works and he takes care of their three children. Now, I am not intimately familiar with the unique dynamics within their house, but let’s say for sake of argument that the wife is the head of the household. She wants her career and she expects her husband to support her in that. Well, there’s a clear biblical problem with that. She would be obviously be desiring (and usurping) her husband’s authority. On the other hand, if the husband has chosen that his wife’s skills are far more conducive than his in providing for the family and maintaining the standard of living the family is used to, and they have come to an agreement that this is God’s will for their family under the direction of the husband . . . then I believe all is well.

We may encounter other passages along the way that would contradict our current application, and if that happens we need to reapply in order to take into consideration the whole counsel of God. But for now, we must accept that man and woman were created in two unique ways for two unique purposes and given two unique sets of responsibilities.

Your thoughts, questions, concerns, and observations are always invited and I hope we can sharpen each other through this discussion.

Click here to read Part I: God’s Thoughts on Gender Roles.

“Why I’m Not a Christian” – Jeremy Larson

Why I'm Not a Christian

I appreciate Jeremy Larson’s handling of Bertrand Russell’s philosophies in his blog post Why I’m Not a Christian.

I have found that atheists are incurably inconsistent. It is true this is a common problem among humans, but it is not an issue with God. That is why when we argue from Scripture, inconsistencies cannot abide. But for the atheist, whose sole ground of authority lies in human reasoning, their arguments are fraught with inconsistencies and holes.

But, praise God, between those inconsistencies I find that God’s Word fits rather nicely.