Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Part 6 - Warmth and Protection

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. But why?

We continue our survey of biblically valid purposes for clothing.

Clothing to Keep the Body Warm

A very clear purpose for clothing in the Bible is for warmth and protection. Here are some examples in the Scriptures where it can be found.

1 Kings 1:1 – “Now King David was old, advanced in age; and they covered him with clothes, but he could not keep warm” (NASB)

The clothing which they gave the aging king was for the purpose of keeping him warm.

Job: 31:19-20 “If I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing, Or that the needy had no covering, If his loins have not thanked me, And if he has not been warmed with the fleece of my sheep…” (NASB)

Job claimed innocence from any sin that he could think of, including the sin of failing to provide clothing for the needy… that is, neglecting to provide them a way to keep warm.

Exodus 22:25-27 - “If you lend money to My people, to the poor among you, you are not to act as a creditor to him; you shall not charge him interest. If you ever take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you are to return it to him before the sun sets, for that is his only covering; it is his cloak for his body. What else shall he sleep in?” (NASB)

Deuteronomy 24:12-13 – “If he is a poor man, you shall not sleep with his pledge. When the sun goes down you shall surely return the pledge to him, that he may sleep in his cloak and bless you;” (NASB)

We looked at this one before, noting that clothing could be used as collateral and/or currency. But we can also see from these passages that if we held someone’s cloak as a “pledge,” we were not to keep it overnight. He would need it to “sleep in”… protecting him from the cool of the night.

It should be noted that this law only applied if you held the cloak of a man  who was actually poor. This underscores the fact the poor often had only one garment (if that much). Those who were wealthy evidently had other means to keep warm at night.

James 2:15-16 “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” (NASB)

This is perhaps the clearest passage that shows that a central purpose for clothing is to provide warmth for the body. It would be wrong to say to someone “be warmed” without providing clothing, just as it would be wrong to say “be filled” without providing food. Clothing is used to keep the body warm.

Whenever in the Scriptures we are told to clothe the naked, this passage confirms to us that the core purpose for that provision is to allow them to keep their bodies warm.

Clothing for Protection

Eph. 6:11“Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. (NASB)

References to armor abound in the Scriptures, but only in Eph. 6:10-17 do we ever see a clear description of the various pieces of armor. We know that Paul attached spiritual meaning to each piece in this passage, but without much doubt, he used his knowledge of a Roman soldier’s real armor to guide his writing. In fact, it’s probable that he could actually see a Roman soldier as he penned the words, since it is generally believed that he was in a Roman prison when he wrote the book of Ephesians.

Each piece of the armor was designed and worn to protect the body from physical harm.

Observation #6
Clothing is used in the Bible to protect the body from cold or harm.

Biblically speaking, we can see that one very important purpose for clothing is to protect the body from cold or some other form of physical harm, therefore, it must be considered Scripturally valid usage for clothing.

Does it Fit “Before and After” the Fall?

Did Adam and Eve have a need for warmth or protection? Did anything change from before the Fall that would introduce the need for physical protection of the body from cold or harm after the Fall?

I submit that there is! Let’s look at Genesis 3:

Gen. 3:17-18 “…Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. “Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field;” (NASB)

Gen. 3:24 “So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.” (NASB)

  • When Adam and Eve sinned, they were subsequently cursed by God. As a part of that curse, the ground would now yield thorns and thistles which would impede the man’s efforts to work the ground to produce food. Thorns, of course, represent a real danger to a person’s physical body.
  • Before the Fall, Adam and Eve lived in the perfect environment of the Garden of Eden. It had been custom designed for the human couple to live in without any need for clothing. The temperature must have been such that day or night, they were comfortable.

    However, once they were cast out of the Garden, they had to find their way in other places. These places could have easily been more hostile to them with a wider range of temperatures throughout the day and night. We are not told the environment outside of the Garden, of course, but this is definitely a plausible reality.

The Real Reason God Clothed Adam and Eve.

The Scripture text does not tell us directly why God clothed Adam and Eve. However, we can certainly assume that He did so for a distinct purpose. We can also assume that God’s purpose was good. As stated at the outset of this study, any purpose that we suggest must be in keeping with Scripturally valid purpose for clothing, and it must also fit the “Before/After” context of the Fall. We could legitimately add one more condition for God’s purpose: it must also be in keeping with the character of God Himself.

With the suggestion that God’s purpose for clothing Adam and Eve was to provide warmth and protection to their bodies, we see that all three of those requirements are met:

  • Life outside of the Garden of Eden would include thorns—and likely a less hospitable climate.
  • Warmth and protection are biblically valid purposes for clothing.
  • God is a God of mercy and grace. While cursing the serpent, He promised a Savior; when expelling Adam and Eve from Eden, He provided physical protection in the form of warm and durable clothing.

None of the other biblical purposes for clothing fit the context as well is this one. I find that this purpose for the clothing of Adam and Eve is both compelling and satisfying since the reasons for which warmth and protection might be needed are found in the immediate context.

— 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


Han Champion said...

It seems like another large leap to go from discussing everyman's clothing to the uniform of a soldier. I see no parallel between a soldier's breastplate, sword, shield or helmet and the clothes worn by ordinary people. In the illustrations I have seen, the soldier's armour was worn on top of and in addition to his tunic. It wasn't his basic clothing, rather it represents the tools of the soldier's trade. To equate armour with clothing seems to be a real stretch.

Are there no examples of clothing providing protection from anything but cold?

Matthew Neal said...

Thanks for your comment, Han. Your point is well taken.

However, I think my point stands if you are pondering the idea of the valid reasons for covering our bodies. Armor is not clothing, but neither is the armored man naked.

Putting something on the body to protect it from harm is valid. And that's my point.

As far as examples of clothing protecting from something more than cold, the only real example I can think of that is found in the bible are sandals... but it is only be inference and reasoning that we can suggest that sandals are for protecting the feet from stones or other sharp objects on the ground. It's reasonable, to be sure, but it's not explicitly stated in the Bible.