In the Introduction of this series, I looked at Gen. 1-2 and observed that while living in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had no need at all for clothing. However, after the Fall and banishment from Eden, God clothed Adam and Eve with no fanfare, explanation or mandate.
God did not tell us why He clothed our first parents, so we’re surveying the Bible to see if we can find a purpose for clothing that fits the account in Gen. 1-3.
Clothing as Currency?
Here’s an unexpected purpose for Clothing that seems to have biblical sanction… it is permitted to leave your only garment with someone as collateral for a financial loan (Exo. 22:25-26)!
I’m not sure this helps the discussion about the purpose of clothing much, but at very least it makes it pretty clear that, relative to today, clothing was much more valuable in Bible times than it is today. It was evidently common enough that someone would have one and only one multi-purpose garment… worn during the day and used as a blanket at night. And when they needed a loan, they were permitted to strip it off and give it to the “loan officer” during the day… until they needed it to stay warm at night.
Another passage in the Scriptures that uses clothing as currency is the story of Samson and his 30 Philistine companions at his wedding (Judges 14:12-18). They agreed to a bet—in the form of a riddle—and the loser had to provide clothing to the other party in payment of clothing for the lost bet. Oddly enough, the Philistines were so hard pressed to pay the change of clothes (one change of clothes each) that they threatened murder and arson if Samson’s Philistine wife didn’t tell them the answer.
Well, she must have known that they meant it, since she found out the answer and told them. So, Samson lost the bet. To pay the 30 changes of clothing, Samson had to go out and kill 30 other Philistines, strip them their clothing, and bring them to the 30 men with whom he had the bet.
Not only were the men willing to accept clothing as payment for a gambling debt, they were willing to take second-hand clothing, that was undoubtedly well-worn, sweaty, and dirty (Would Samson have washed them first?).
This story demonstrates pretty clearly how valuable clothing was in Bible times and illustrates how different a role clothing played in ancient cultures as compared to today’s norms.
In the Bible, clothing was so valuable that it could be (and was) used as currency!
This observation also helps us understand why God’s people were told repeatedly that should clothe the naked. The command is repeated so frequently that we have to conclude that it was a reality of life that one would encounter naked people that needed clothing. Why were some people in bible times naked? Most likely because they were very poor; if they owned a garment but had no food, they could literally use “the shirt of their backs” to pay for a meal.
Does it Fit “Before and After” the Fall?
Well, there certainly wasn’t any need for currency in the Garden, but neither was there immediate need for currency after the Fall! So, this Biblically discernable purpose for clothing does not help us understand God’s purpose for clothing Adam and Eve.
— Matthew Neal
This article Series:
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Introduction
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Part 1 – Shame and Fear??
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Part 2 – Clothing as Currency
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Part 3 – Sign of Position
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Part 4 – Communicate About the Person
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Part 5 – Gender Distinction?
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Part 6 – Warmth and Protection
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Part 7 – Controlling Lust??
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Conclusion
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Epilogue