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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Of the various senses in which the word 'foot' is used in Scripture, the following are the most remarkable. Such phrases as the 'slipping' of the foot, the 'stumbling' of the foot, 'from, head to foot' (to express the entire body), and 'foot-steps' (to express tendencies, as when we say of one that he walks in another's footsteps), require no explanation, being common to most languages. The extreme modesty of the Hebrew language, which has perhaps seldom been sufficiently appreciated, dictated the use of the word 'feet,' to express the parts and the acts which it is not allowed to name. Hence such phrases as the 'hair of the feet,' the 'water of the feet,' 'between the feet,' 'to open the feet,' 'to cover the feet,' all of which are sufficiently intelligible, except perhaps the last, which certainly does not mean 'going to sleep' as some interpreters suggest, but 'to dismiss the refuse of nature.'

'To be under any one's feet' denotes the subjection of a subject to his sovereign, or of a servant to his master (; comp. ; ); and was, doubtless, derived from the symbolical action of conquerors, who set their feet upon the neck or body of the chiefs whom they had vanquished, in token of their triumph. This custom is expressly mentioned in Scripture (), and is figured on the monuments of Egypt, Persia, and Rome.

In like manner, 'to be at any one's feet,' is used for being at the service of any one, following him, or willingly receiving his instructions (). The passage () where Paul is described as being brought up 'at the feet of Gamaliel,' will appear still clearer, if we understand that, as the Jewish writers allege, pupils actually did sit on the floor before, and therefore at the feet of, the doctors of the law, who themselves were raised on an elevated seat.

'Lameness of feet' generally denotes affliction or calamity, as in ; ; ; ; .

'To set one's foot' in a place signifies to take possession of it, as in ; , and elsewhere.

'To water with the feet' () implies that the soil was watered with as much ease as a garden, in which the small channels for irrigation may be turned, etc. with the foot [GARDEN].

An elegant phrase, borrowed from the feet, occurs in , where St. Paul says, 'When I saw that they walked not uprightly'—literally, 'not with a straight foot,' or 'did not foot it straightly.'

Nakedness of feet expressed mourning (). This must mean appearing abroad with naked feet; for there is reason to think that the Jews never used their sandals or shoes within doors. The modern Orientals consider it disrespectful to enter a room without taking off the outer covering of their feet. It is with them equivalent to uncovering the head among Europeans. The practice of feet-washing implies a similar usage among the Hebrews [WASHING OF FEET]. Uncovering the feet was also a mark of adoration. Moses put off his sandals to approach the burning where the presence of God was manifested (). Among the modern Orientals it would be regarded the height of profanation to enter a place of worship with covered feet. The Egyptian priests officiated barefoot; and most commentators are of opinion that the Aaronite priests served with bare feet in the tabernacle, as, according to all the Jewish writers, they did afterwards in the temple, and as the frequent washings of their feet enjoined by the law seem to imply [SANDAL].

Respecting the 'washing of feet,' see Ablution and Washing.





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Foot'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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