The expressions in De 32:35, "their foot shall slide in due time," and in the traveler's song, Ps 121:3, "he will not suffer thy foot to be moved," Ps 66:9; Jer 13:16, have reference to the dangerous character of the narrow roads or paths of the East, over rocks and beside precipices where a sliding foot was often fatal. See also Isa 8:14; Lu 2:34. Nakedness of feet was a sign of mourning. God says to Ezekiel, "Make no mourning for the dead, and put on thy shoes upon thy feet," Eze 24:17. It was likewise a mark of respect. Moses put off his shoes to approach the burning bush; and most commentators are of opinion that the priests served in the tabernacle with their feet naked, as they did afterwards in the temple. The Turks never enter their mosques till after they have washed their feet and their hands, and have put off the outward covering of their legs. The Christians of Ethiopia enter their churches with their shoes off, and the Indian Brahmins and others have the same respect for their pagodas and temples. Eastern conquerors used to set their feet on the necks of conquered princes, Jos 10:22, and action often figured in ancient sculptures, Ps 8:6; Isa 49:23; 1Co 15:25; Heb 2:8. See NINEVEH.
The orientals used to wash the feet of strangers who came off a journey, because they commonly walked with their legs bare, and their feet defended only by sandals, Ge 24:32; 43:24. So Abraham washed the feet of the three angels, Ge 18:4. This office was usually performed by servants and slaves; and hence Abigail answers David, who sought her in marriage, that she should think it an honor to wash the feet of the king's servants, 1Sa 25:41. Paul would have a widow assisted by the church, to be one who had hospitably washed the feet of saints, 1Ti 5:10. The practice is still met with in Palestine. Says Dr. Robinson, at Ramleh, "Our youthful host now proposed, in the genuine style of ancient oriental hospitality, that a servant should wash our feet. This took me by surprise; for I was not aware that the custom still existed here. Nor does it indeed towards foreigners, though it is quite common among the natives. We gladly accepted the proposal, both for the sake of the refreshment and of the scriptural illustration. A female Nubian slave accordingly brought water, which she poured upon our feet over a large shallow basin of tinned copper, kneeling before us and rubbing our feet with her hands, and wiping them with a napkin. It was one of the most gratifying minor incidents of our whole journey." Our Savior, after his last supper, gave a striking lesson of humility, by washing his disciples' feet, Joh 13:5-6,8, though the eighth verse shows that he had also a deeper meaning. See SANDALS.
Sandals covered only the soles, so that the feet needed washing when coming from a journey. In Joh 13:10 a distinct Greek word expresses bathing the whole person and washing the feet; "he that is washed (leloumenos) needeth not save to wash (nipsasthai) his feet, but is clean every whit." When one has been, as Peter, once for all wholly forgiven in regeneration, and so received the bathing of the whole man, i.e. justification through faith in Jesus, he needs no repetition of this as Peter requested; all he needs is cleansing from the soils that his feet contract in his daily life walk. Hence we daily pray, "give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as," etc. (1Jo 1:9.) So the priests in entering the house of God (Ex 30:19).
It was an act of humble deference to guests to wash the feet (Lu 7:38-44; 1Ti 5:10). Disciples, after Christ's example, were to wash one another's feet, "by love serving one another" (Ga 5:13). The sandals were taken off in entering a house, hence the command to Moses (Ex 3:5) and to Joshua (Jos 5:15); compare Ec 5:1. To put them on was to prepare for active duty (Eze 24:17); whereas mourners went barefoot (2Sa 15:30). To "cover the feet" was the delicate expression for easing oneself, preparatory to which the loose garment was let fall to cover the person (1Sa 24:3; compare margin 2Ki 18:27). Putting the feet on captives' necks, as Joshua did (Jos 10:24), symbolizes complete mastery (Ps 110:1; 1Co 15:25; Isa 60:14).
18/type/mstc'>Isa 3:18,18 refers to the ornaments of women's feet. Most of the metaphorical or figurative usages are connected with the idea of the feet as the lowest part of the body, opposed to the head; hence falling at a man's feet, as the extreme of reverence or humility, kissing the feet (Lu 7:38), sitting at the feet, as the attitude of the pupil (Lu 10:39; Ac 22:3). The foot was literally placed on the neck of conquered foes (Jos 10:24), as may be seen in Egyptian monuments. Hence 'under foot' is used of subjection (Ps 8:6; 1Co 15:27). In De 11:10 the reference is to some system of irrigation in vogue in Egypt, either to the turning of a water-wheel by the foot, or to a method of distributing water from a canal 'by making or breaking down with the foot the small ridges which regulate its flow' (Driver, ad loc.). Other usages arise from the feet as stained or defiled in walking. The shaking of dust from the feet (Mt 10:14; Ac 13:51) was the sign of complete rejection; the land was as a heathen land, and its dust unclean. So the sandals were removed as a sign of reverence (Ex 3:5; Jos 5:15; cf. covering the feet, Isa 6:2). To remove the sandal was also the sign of the renunciation of a right (De 25:9; Ru 4:8). To walk barefoot was the symbol of mourning (2Sa 15:30) or slavery (Isa 20:2). Jer 2:25 'Withhold thy foot from being unshod,' i.e. do not wear the shoes off your feet in running after strange gods.
Washing the feet stained with the dust of the road was part of the regular duty of hospitality (Ge 18:4; Ex 30:19; 2Sa 11:8; Song 5:3; Lu 7:44). The use of ointment for this purpose was the sign of the penitent's lavish love (Lu 7:38, Joh_Joh 12:3). The washing of the feet at the Last Supper is primarily connected with this custom (Joh 13). Christ 'the Lord and Master' assumes the garb and does the work of a slave (Joh 13:4). The lesson is not merely one of humility (cf. the dispute in Lu 22:24), but of ready and self-sacrificing service. An interesting Rabbinic parallel is quoted on Eze 16:9 : 'Among men the slave washes his master; but with God it is not so.' Edersheim further sees in the act a substitute for the washing of hands which was part of the Paschal ceremonial; and there may be a reference to the proverb, connected with the Greek mysteries, that a great undertaking must not be entered upon 'with unwashed feet.' The service of the Kingdom of heaven (or in particular the crisis of that night) is not to be approached in the spirit of unthinking pride shown in the dispute about precedence (see D. Smith, The Days of His Flesh, p. 440). Besides the lesson of humility, there is also the symbolism of purification. St. Peter, at first protesting, afterwards characteristically accepts this as literal. Christ's reply takes up the figure of one who has walked from the bath to his host's house, and needs only to have the dust of his journey removed. Broadly, they are clean by their consecration to Him, but they need continual cleansing from the defilements of daily life. 'It seems impossible not to see in the word "bathed" a foreshadowing of the idea of Christian baptism' (Westcott, ad loc.). The same or other commentaries should be consulted for later imitations of the ceremony (cf. 1Ti 5:10).
C. W. Emmet.
FOOT. Anciently it was customary, to wash the feet of strangers coming off a journey, because generally they travelled barefoot, or wore sandals only, which did not secure them from dust or dirt. Jesus Christ washed the feet of his Apostles, and thereby taught them to perform the humblest services for one another. Feet, in the sacred writers, often mean inclinations, affections, propensities, actions, motions: "Guide my feet in thy paths." "Keep thy feet at a distance from evil." "The feet of the debauched woman go down to death." "Let not the foot of pride come against me." To be at any one's feet, signifies obeying him, listening to his instructions and commands. Moses says that "the Lord loved his people; all his saints are in thy hand: and they sat down at his feet," De 33:3. St. Paul was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel. Mary sat at our Saviour's feet, and heard his word, Lu 10:39.
It is said that the land of Canaan is not like Egypt, "where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot," De 11:10. Palestine is a country which has rains, plentiful dews, springs, rivulets, brooks, &c, that supply the earth with the moisture necessary to its fruitfulness. On the contrary, Egypt has no river except the Nile: there it seldom rains, and the lands which are not within reach of the inundation continue parched and barren. To supply this want, ditches are dug from the river, and water is distributed throughout the several villages and cantons: there are great struggles who shall first obtain it; and, in this dispute, they frequently come to blows. Notwithstanding these precautions, many places have no water; and in the course of the year, those places which are nearest the Nile require to be watered again by means of art and labour. This was formerly done by the help of machines, one of which is thus described by Philo: It is a wheel which a man turns by the motion of his feet, by ascending successively the several steps that are within it. This is what Moses means in this place by saying, that, in Egypt they water the earth with their feet. The water in thus conveyed to cisterns; and when the gardens want refreshment, water is conducted by trenches to the beds in little rills, which are stopped by the foot, and turned at pleasure into different directions.
2. To be under any one's feet, to be a footstool to him, signifies the subjection of a subject to his sovereign, of a slave to his master. To lick the dust of one's feet, is an abject manner of doing homage. In Mr. Hugh Boyd's account of his embassy to the king of Candy, in Ceylon, there is a paragraph which singularly illustrates this, and shows the adulation and obsequious reverence with which an eastern monarch is approached. Describing his introduction to the king, he says, "The removal of the curtain was the signal of our obeisances. Mine, by stipulation, was to be only kneeling. My companions immediately began the performance of theirs, which were in the most perfect degree of eastern humiliation. They almost literally licked the dust; prostrating themselves with their faces almost close to the stone floor, and throwing out their arms and legs; then, rising on their knees, they repeated, in a very loud voice, a certain form of words of the most extravagant meaning that can be conceived, that the head of the king of kings might reach beyond the sun; that he might live a thousand years," &c. Nakedness of feet was a sign of mourning. God says to Ezekiel, "Make no mourning for the dead, and put on thy shoes upon thy feet," &c. It was also a mark of respect: "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet; for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground," Ex 3:5. The rabbins say that the priests went barefoot in the temple. "If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day," Isa 58:13; if thou forbear walking and travelling on the Sabbath day, and do not then thine own will. We know that journeys were forbidden on the Sabbath day, Mt 24:20; Ac 1:12. Kissing the feet was often practised as a mark of affection and reverence.