Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Part 3 - Sign of Position

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 and no 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 to Denote Position

Genesis 41:39-42 “So Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and according to your command all my people shall do homage; only in the throne I will be greater than you.’ Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.’ Then Pharaoh took off his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put the gold necklace around his neck.” (NASB)

When Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of the entire land of Egypt, He gave him a fine linen garment and some impressive jewelry… all to signify his important position in the land of Egypt.

Exodus 28:2-3 – “Make sacred garments for your brother Aaron to give him dignity and honor. … 4 These are the garments they are to make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a woven tunic, a turban and a sash. They are to make these sacred garments for your brother Aaron and his sons, so they may serve me as priests.” (NIV)

When God established the nation of Israel, it was established as a Theocracy. This means that God was their “King” and the “Government Officials” were the priests. God never established any particular requirements of the Israelites in reference to clothing, but for the Priests—or more specifically, the sons of Aaron—God prescribed in great detail the “uniform” (down to their underwear!) they were to wear during their service in the temple before the altar. Exodus 28 gives all the details, but the purpose of the clothing was stated very clearly in Exodus 28:2-5

The garments were specifically for the position of the Aaronic Priestly line. They were designed specifically to give the priests “dignity and honor” in their role as priests. They were to be the mark of their peculiar ordination as priests (verse 41) and were required to be worn whenever the priests entered the tent of meeting or approached the altar… on pain of death (verse 43)!

Another evidence of clothing denoting an exalted position can be found in Isaiah 6. The Prophet was in the temple when he saw a vision of the Lord on His throne. The Lord is described in this vision as having a robe with a train. The train, Isaiah tells us, is “filling the temple.” (Isa 6:1)

Isaiah 6:1 “In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.” (NASB)

This raises some interesting questions… like why was the Lord “wearing” anything at all? Does God need clothing? And what is the purpose of the “train” of a robe?

Like a wedding dress that may have a train, the purpose of a robe with a train is to bring honor to its wearer. The train itself can serve no other function. Consequently, the purpose of God’s “robe” and its train in Isaiah 6 is to denote or portray the “lofty and exalted” position of its wearer.

Observation #3
Clothing is used in the Bible to signify the exalted position of its wearer

So, clothing can serve as an outward indication of the wearer’s positional stature. Not only did God prescribe it for the Aaronic priests, He allowed Isaiah to see Himself in a robe with a train to emphasize His own greatness as King.

Does it Fit “Before and After” the Fall?

So, if the exaltation of a person’s position is a biblically valid purpose for clothing, could this be why God provided clothing for Adam and Eve in Gen. 3:21?

Clearly, it was not. Adam and Eve were not being exalted by the animal skin coats that God made for them. These were not clothes that would indicate to everyone who saw them of the great honor and positional status that they held. The truth is that they had suffered a pretty significant demotion rather than any sort of elevation of position.

— 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

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