Nakedness as a Metaphor in Scripture: Perspective

I’ve heard people say that nakedness is always bad in Scripture; pastors, professors, regular folks; this idea seems to be widely held. Yet as we have already seen in this study, it may be widely held, but it isn’t quite accurate. About ten years ago, I was teaching Genesis in a church Sunday school class, and one day I was covering chapters 2 and 3. As you know, at the end of chapter two there is the verse (2:25) that says “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” Which is then followed by the Fall in chapter 3, and the scene in which they realized they were naked and wove leaves together as a covering as they hid themselves from God (Gen. 3:7 ff.). Of course the question of whom and/or what were they hiding from came up and the discussion ran pretty much along the same lines that we have had here in our study. After the class, the pastor came up to me and said that he had really enjoyed the discussion, that it had been very interesting, and then he said, “I don’t care what anybody says, being naked is a sin.”

I thought this was a really fascinating statement on his part, and replied, “Did you take a shower this morning before church?”

“Yes, of course, but nobody saw me.”

Isn’t that an interesting thing to say? So I said, “Hypothetically speaking, suppose that right at the moment you were stepping out of the shower someone, thinking the bathroom was empty, opened the door and walked in, seeing you there getting out of the shower. Who is the sinner; you thinking you were alone, or the one who thought the bathroom was vacant?”

His reply?

“I can’t stand around here chit-chatting I have to go greet people!”

That remark says it all…

By examining the three Hebrew words for naked/nakedness, we have discovered that naked, as a state of being is not in and of itself offensive to God, and if anyone doubts that at this point, I would have to remind them that God actually commanded Isaiah to go and prophesy naked for three years as a sign; God does not command us to do wrong of to commit sin (Is. 20:2). We also have the account of Saul in 1 Samuel 19 in which Saul took of his clothes and prophesied along with the other prophets, who were accustomed to doing their prophesying while naked. If being naked is a sin or offense before God, then it seems unlikely that the Holy Spirit would come upon a naked person to bring a message from God for the people.

Looking at the difference between the three Hebrew words we have studied, and looking at the context in which they fall, we can begin to discern that nakedness is as much a state of mind as it is a state of being, which will lead us to a concept that many of us are already quite familiar with which is called “naked before God”.

I think that I’ll wrap this post up with this:

The other day I received a call from a good friend who is a sociologist with many years in Christian counseling. He was calling because he had been following the posts here about the image of God and these on nakedness as a metaphor in Scripture, and had come to the realization that we were covering a basic human need. He said that the three most basic needs of any human being (and I hope I get this right in my paraphrasing) are first for safety from harm and danger, having basic physical needs met, and intimate relationship (not necessarily of a physical nature) with at least one other human being. He went on to say that this is what he is seeing in Genesis 2:25, the basic human need to be “naked and unashamed” before at least one other person, and God Himself; to be completely transparent, and to be safe when doing so.

That is what nakedness represents in Scripture, and we will see this more and more as we continue our study.

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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32 Responses to Nakedness as a Metaphor in Scripture: Perspective

  1. gaustin00 says:

    Your blog is a hoot….and this was as revealing as I have seen it in discussions about this very topic. Your question to the pastor is just like the questioning in Greg Koukl’s book on Tactics…getting the other person to think about what they are really are a good apologist has anyone ever told you that?

    • Don Merritt says:

      Thank you, I appreciate that. No, I haven’t ever been told I’m a good apologist, but I have been told I’m a good debater. Happily, however, I don’t debate any more 🙂

  2. That’s an interesting thought about our human needs: to be “naked and unashamed” in front of another human being and feel safe and loved. I believe God sees us that way, though at times we try to “dress things up” even for Him.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Yes, I’d have to say that maybe we try to dress it up for Him, as though He didn’t know better… at least we seem to convince ourselves we are dressing it up 🙂

  3. pipermac5 says:

    “Don’t bother me with the truth because my mind is already made-up!!!” That is sad, and he calls himself a pastor? I have run into that attitude many times, and most recently from a missionary and from a pastor. The missionary said that I couldn’t be a Christian, and the pastor called me a debased-pervert who needs to get my heart right with God.

    “I don’t care what anybody says, being naked is a sin.” WOW! That sounds like a Pharisee talking.



    • Don Merritt says:

      To be completely fair, I think maybe there is a little “Pharisee” in all of us. The gentleman I mentioned, and probably your missionary and pastor, has served the Lord faithfully for many decades, has brought hope for eternal life to many, and has changed lives for Christ… and yet has his “blind spots” as we all do, and to be honest most Western Christians have difficulty with this particular concept.

      • pipermac5 says:

        Yes, you are quite right, and they believe that they are doing God a “favor” by defending that dogma. I used to be the same way, but I have changed, but only after I became willing to BE changed. We all have certain pieces of “theological-furniture” which we cling tenaciously to, which we have even “bolted-down”, and when someone challenges its place in our lives, we break out the “welder” and “weld” it in place. It is only when we allow the Holy Spirit to “rearrange” or even “remove and discard” some of that “furniture” will we be able to come to the TRUTH which sets us free.

  4. NOdeb8 says:

    Does God even see if we have clothes on?

    Jeremiah went naked and was poor to depict the spiritual poverty of Israel. That is a different context.

    Your assumption and conclusion are just spot on.

  5. paulfg says:

    Random thought.
    The community that evolved though blogging night be considered to be naked. Who we are, what we do, what we look like, where we live, how we live, how we speak, our family and friends, our likes and dislikes are – in the main – out of sight. We come naked to this community. And yet …

    I have tried that same approach with one group here who met for the first time (and another who will tomorrow). That very focus not on “what do you do” but “why do you love the Lord” leaves all that “clothing” of the usual “this is me- who I am – what I am – what I do – where I peg myself on the groups hierarchy – where you should peg me on the group hierarchy” outside.

    And then the rest doesn’t matter. The connection of “skin to skin” has been made before the clothes and wardrobe are revealed.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Interesting thought Paul; I think you are right to a certain extent. As for the rest, I’m not sure, still considering…

      Here’s another random thought… and this might make for a fun discussion… When a poker player has his cards in his hand, he can bluff, for the identity of his cards is “out of sight”. He isn’t “naked” until the cards are on the table face up.

      What I find most amazing about the metaphor of “nakedness” is that it runs so deep.

  6. Thanks for posting this, Don! I hadn’t really considered it that way much before. It stands to reason that the whole point of the story of the garden in the beginning was that, being naked, Adam and Eve bared themselves body, mind, and soul. When they sinned, then they felt the shame that affected the entire dynamic of the shameless and limitless intimacy that they shared with The Father. The shame of the transgression tainted all that God had declared was good.
    Thanks again!

    • theologycake says:

      Excellent! You paraphrase well, Nikki. It makes sense why they were naked and unashamed in Genesis 2:25 (arowm) then naked and ashamed. It helps my exegesis better if the writer had then used “ervah” (haha) but I think it is still relevant. Your previous example in the word study for “ervah” Don, illustrates the difference well.

      I am very interested in this series. I also conducted a word study on “nakedness” but did not get any farther in answering my questions. Nakedness, as you have said, carries strong symbolism in the Bible, especially, I suspect, with salvation. But I could never discover exactly what it was. Perhaps it just wasn’t the right time to receive that revelation for me.

      I look forward to reading your series, Don, and even pick up my own study again. I probably should read your series before I as the question, but do you address nakedness in soteriology?

  7. I know I commented on Brother Paul’s comment also but I wanted to let you know that I had a very similar experience in Globe, Arizona as an Associate Pastor. The only difference there is that the Senior “Pastor” as time went on had some really troubling ideas that he expressed from the pulpit. I had to pray several times for the Lord to release me from that ministry as I felt I was enabling him as I continued, until a day came when he was preaching something 180 degrees from truth in the Scriptures and it was that service where the Lord confirmed by His Spirit to myself AND Sue, my wife that it was time to go. Looking back at that situation and the time we devoted, it was one of those teaching times in our life when God was teaching us how NOT to be and He really opened up the Book of Jeremiah to me while I was there!

    Love your teaching Brother! I have enjoyed the ability the last couple of days to really dig in!! God bless you my friend!

  8. Very interesting. I think this has deep pastoral implications. Nakedness involves a deep level of vulnerability, openness, and trust, and that’s precisely what many believers struggle with. When they are Naked with God, they are ashamed. But that’s part of the curse that Jesus came to remove. Really good stuff, thank you.

  9. pipermac5 says:

    Being “naked” is to be vulnerable, whether physically, emotionally or spiritually. It means shedding that which hides our flaws and our imperfections. As we remove our disguises, we become more “real”, which makes many people feel uncomfortable because we prefer to hide behind our carefully-crafted masks of self-important social-status and all that goes with it. We can’t stand to be “known”.

    I had the opportunity yesterday to meet and visit with the new General Manager of the resort I minister in, and his first impression of the people there was how open and friendly they are. When we choose to be naked in community with other people, whether we live in a tent or a mansion, drive a “beater” or a Bentley, or are a ditch-digger or a doctor no longer matters. All those trappings of our social-status are left behind. We are human-beings being human, and our warts and flaws are all part of our humanity. We can never be any “more” when we are clothed than when we are naked.

  10. I often wondered from a man’s perspective, “What is so appealing about a woman’s breasts as opposed to a man’s breast?” What is it about the human anatomy that ignites lust for one another? Can you imagine driving down your street and all the houses have no walls to hide how they live? Those darned trees in the Garden.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Whose idea was it to put them there anyway? 🙂

    • theologycake says:

      John, I think that the sexuality of the feminine form is due in part to our western culture ( I am of course assuming you come from a western culture) and it’s God’s design. That is God’s design for sex in marriage. Love making is a gift from God (Proverbs 5:18-19) and for a husband to enjoy the sensuality of his wife’s form is a part of it. This is not lust, but God’s blessing. But the sexualization (as a negative thing pertaining to lust), I think, is in part a reactionary response to Victorian (maybe Puritan, I would have study that history) modesty, where sexuality was shameful and sinful. You see this in the liberation of the 20s into the 60s. And it is also in part due to human nature. Lust is as old as Eve in the garden, wanting something that’s not yours.

  11. Leon Pippin says:

    Reblogged this on Guarded Hearts and commented:
    I thought this was a great message. Thanks. It reminds me of my memoir Naked With Clothes On and how vulnerable we sometimes are before humans and sometimes before God.

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