Arom: עָרוֹם Erom: עֵירֹם Ervah: עֶרְוָה
Sounds like: ahrohm/ehrohm/air’vah
Let us begin by saying… naked is not a dirty word. We all came into this world without a stitch of clothing. Nakedness is, in essence, our natural state. In shame we covered ourselves up and clothing acted as a form of protection from the elements and our own embarrassment. Now clothing has more to do with ornamenting ourselves than it does protecting ourselves. Capitalizing on our shame, the fashion industry has grown into a massive industry. Humans spend billions of dollars to wear the latest styles and to follow the latest trends.
Our Naked Progenitors: Eve & Adam
But in the Garden of Eden, Eve and Adam originally walked about without any covering, bare and exposed. They were naked, and it didn’t bother them one bit:
And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
But the moment they tasted sin, Eve and Adam felt shame, and the first thing they did was cover up:
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked [erummim]; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.
They heard the sound of YHWH God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of YHWH God among the trees of the garden. Then YHWH God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”
He [Adam] said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked [erohm]; so I hid myself.”
And He [YHWH] said, “Who told you that you were naked [erohm]? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.”
Then YHWH God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
Sin immediately caused them to feel shame, and they suddenly realized they were naked and they hid from YHWH’s presence. The greatest joy in Eden was being in the presence of YHWH, and in their shame they lost this great happiness. In hiding, they exiled themselves from God. The forbidden fruit gave them a whole new feeling in their gut… the feeling of being unworthy to be in His presence. And so they hid from God and covered themselves up. Disobeying God had a terrible price.
Nakedness turned into Shame
As humanity grew in exile from Eden they eventually put laws into place against uncovering nakedness:
YHWH: “None of you shall approach any blood relative of his to uncover nakedness; I am YHWH.”
- Your father
- Your mother
- Your step-mother
- Your sister
- Your grand-daughter
- Your step-sister
- Your paternal aunt
- Your maternal aunt
- Your paternal uncle
- Your daughter-in-law
- Your sister-in-law
- Any woman, her daughter, and her grand-daughter
- A woman during the time of her menstruation
- Any blood relative
These laws help us understand Noah’s reaction when he was caught drunk and naked by his son Ham:
Then Noah began farming and planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness [er’vat] of his father, and told his two brothers outside.
But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it upon both their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness [et er’vat] of their father; and their faces were turned away, so that they did not see their father’s nakedness [w-er’vat].
When Noah awoke from his wine, he knew what his youngest son had done to him. So he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants he shall be to his brothers.” He also said, “Blessed be YHWH, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant.”
Although it was Noah who had originally behaved badly (got drunk and naked), it was Ham’s disrespectful reaction that was highlighted here. Shem and Japheth did not look upon their father’s nakedness; they respectfully walked backwards, averted their eyes and covered him up.
How we react to the sins of our parents says something about who we are. Do we judge and expose them or do we respectfully care, cover and protect them?
References to Noah’s shame can be found in many places in the Bible. When YHWH pointed out the sins of His people, uncovering their fathers’ nakedness was listed amongst the sins of killing, shaming a woman, disrespecting the Sabbath, and dallying with mountain shrines:
YHWH: “You have despised My holy things and profaned My sabbaths. Slanderous men have been in you for the purpose of shedding blood, and in you they have eaten at the mountain shrines. In your midst they have committed acts of lewdness. In you they haveuncovered their fathers’ nakedness; in you they have humbled her who was unclean in her menstrual impurity.”
In the B’rit Chadashah (New Testament) John’s Revelation indirectly pointed to the story of Noah getting drunk, falling asleep, and revealing his nakedness:
“Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame.” And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon.
Staying awake, keeping alert, and covering up would keep God’s followers from being exposed in the last days.
Nakedness and Sacred Spaces
Now that nakedness was so intrinsically associated with shame, there had to be special precautions taken at the Tabernacle. Priests had to be careful when they went to the altar, making sure they didn’t expose their nakedness as they walked up the stairs to the altar:
YHWH said to Moses: “You shall make an altar of earth for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you. If you make an altar of stone for Me, you shall not build it of cut stones, for if you wield your tool on it, you will profane it. And you shall not go up by steps to My altar, so that your nakedness [er’vat’ka] will not be exposed on it.”
In order to address this particular nakedness problem, priests were given special undergarments to cover their bare flesh:
“For Aaron’s sons you shall make tunics; you shall also make sashes for them, and you shall make caps for them, for glory and for beauty. You shall put them on Aaron your brother and on his sons with him; and you shall anoint them and ordain them and consecrate them, that they may serve Me as priests. You shall make for them linen breeches to cover their bare flesh [b’sar er’vah]; they shall reach from the loins even to the thighs. They shall be on Aaron and on his sons when they enter the tent of meeting, or when they approach the altar to minister in the holy place, so that they do not incur guilt and die. It shall be a statute forever to him and to his descendants after him.”
Exposing nakedness in sacred spaces was a guilty sentence, punishable by death. The Tabernacle and altars were a tiny dose of Eden on earth. It was where one could be as physically close to YHWH as possible. Nakedness was a symbol of what was lost in the Garden; a reminder of the division between man and God, and not appropriate for the Tabernacle or altars devoted to the reunification of YHWH and humanity.
Naked as a Sign
When Eve and Adam cursed themselves with their actions, those actions followed humanity around throughout human history. Over and over, people disobeyed God, and in their cursed existence they often found themselves suffering and naked. It was a strange twist of fate. In Eden nakedness was natural and unburdened with shame, but the moment sin crept in they wanted to cover up. Now the great shame was nakedness, and what was once a natural state turned into a state of feeling desolate and abandoned:
“So all these curses shall come on you and pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you would not obey YHWH your God by keeping His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you. They shall become a sign and a wonder on you and your descendants forever.
Because you did not serve YHWH your God with joy and a glad heart, for the abundance of all things; therefore you shall serve your enemies whom YHWH will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness [u-v-erohm], and in the lack of all things; and He will put an iron yoke on your neck until He has destroyed you.
Adam and Eve had it all, they were naked and living abundantly. But with one bite nakedness became a burden. In the Garden humanity had everything that it needed, but in lust and greed humanity wanted more, and so YHWH took it all away to destroy the lust and the greed. And this great fall, from power to enslavement, would become a sign and a wonder for the future humans to see and reflect upon.
It is interesting that YHWH chose nakedness to be a sign. His prophet Isaiah walk around naked as a sign and token for three years:
In the year that the commander came to Ashdod, when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him and he fought against Ashdod and captured it, at that time YHWH spoke through Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, “Go and loosen the sackcloth from your hips and take your shoes off your feet.”
And he did so, going naked [arom] and barefoot. And YHWH said, “Even as My servant Isaiah has gone naked [arom] and barefoot three years as a sign and token against Egypt and Cush, so the king of Assyria will lead away the captives of Egypt and the exiles of Cush, young and old, naked [arom] and barefoot with buttocks uncovered, to the shame [nakedness: er’vat] of Egypt.
Whether Isaiah was buck naked or just stripped to his knickers is a matter of debate, but the point is, he was a symbol of the exposure and subjugation that Egypt and Cush would find themselves in, under the dominance of Assyria.
Nakedness and shame under the dominance of your enemies wasn’t just for Egypt and Cush. Isaiah predicted (centuries in advance) that Babylon and Chaldea (whom Bablyon defeated and assimilated), would also, one day, feel the same shame that Egypt and Cush experienced:
Isaiah 47:1-3 Lament for Babylon
“Come down and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon; sit on the ground without a throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans! For you shall no longer be called tender and delicate.
Take the millstones and grind meal. Remove your veil, strip off the skirt, uncover the leg, cross the rivers. Your nakedness [er’vatek] will be uncovered, your shame also will be exposed; I will take vengeance and will not spare a man.”
Egypt, Cush, Assyria, Chaldea and Babylon were all antagonists of the Hebrew people, and as enemies of God’s children they would not stand strong forever. But when God’s children turned their back on Him, they opened themselves up to exposure and nakedness as well.
Jerusalem sinned greatly, therefore she has become an unclean thing. All who honoured her despise her because they have seen her nakedness [er’watah]; even she herself groans and turns away.
The prophet Micah was burdened with the knowledge of what would occur in response to the sins of Israel (Samaria) and Judah (Jerusalem). To call attention to their fate, Micah also felt the need to go publicly naked and barefoot:
Hear, O peoples, all of you; listen, O earth and all it contains, and let the Lord YHWH be a witness against you, the Lord from His holy temple.
For behold, YHWH is coming forth from His place. He will come down and tread on the high places of the earth. The mountains will melt under Him and the valleys will be split, like wax before the fire, like water poured down a steep place.
All this is for the rebellion of Jacob and for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the rebellion of Jacob? Is it not Samaria? What is the high place of Judah? Is it not Jerusalem?
For I will make Samaria a heap of ruins in the open country, planting places for a vineyard. I will pour her stones down into the valley and will lay bare her foundations. All of her idols will be smashed, all of her earnings will be burned with fire and all of her images I will make desolate, for she collected them from a harlot’s earnings, and to the earnings of a harlot they will return.
Because of this I must lament and wail, I must go barefoot and naked [w-arom]; I must make a lament like the jackals and a mourning like the ostriches. For her wound is incurable, for it has come to Judah; it has reached the gate of my people, even to Jerusalem.
Micah, the first prophet to predict the downfall of Jerusalem, exposed himself to bring attention to the fate of Judah. Israel (and Samaria) was about to fall at the hands of the Assyrians, but it would be centuries before Jerusalem would fall to the Babylonians. Micah’s announcement was terrible and bewildering and his nakedness was a sign that, if their disobedience and disrespect of YHWH continued, they would find themselves naked and exposed at the hands of their enemies.
Naked from the Womb
Solomon, in his wisdom, recognized that regardless of successes or failures, victory or defeat, in life we would leave this world as naked as we came:
As he had come naked [arom] from his mother’s womb, so will he return as he came. He will take nothing from the fruit of his labour that he can carry in his hand.
We come exposed; we leave exposed. And sometimes even in the middle of our lives, we are naked. In the case of Job, after he lost everything (his children, his livelihood, his land), he realized that he was naked and everything in his life was laid bare:
Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said, “Naked [arom] I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. YHWH gave and YHWH has taken away. Blessed be the name of YHWH.” Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.
Job was extraordinary; even though he was devastated by life events he never blamed God. He was naked and exposed but he trusted in God to cover him and save him.
Cover the Naked
Exposure and nakedness are bi-products of war and oppression, and Job (who identified with the down-trodden) was particularly distraught over the suffering of the oppressed:
Job: “…the poor of the land are made to hide themselves altogether. Behold, as wild donkeys in the wilderness they go forth seeking food in their activity, as bread for their children in the desert. They harvest their fodder in the field and glean the vineyard of the wicked. They spend the night naked [arom], without clothing, and have no covering against the cold. They are wet with the mountain rains and hug the rock for want of a shelter.
Others snatch the orphan from the breast, and against the poor they take a pledge. They cause the poor to go about naked [arom] without clothing, and they take away the sheaves from the hungry. Within the walls they produce oil; they tread wine presses but thirst. From the city men groan, and the souls of the wounded cry out; yet God does not pay attention to folly.”
As followers of YHWH, we are His hands and feet on this planet. Part of our mandate, as humans, is to give relief to the oppressed, and that includes clothing for the naked:
Isaiah 58:6-9a (see also Ezekiel 18:5-9)
“Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked [arom], to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; and your righteousness will go before you; the glory of YHWH will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and YHWH will answer; you will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’”
God sees us, and He recognizes these works that we do. We are in His presence when we do these things. Yeshua (Jesus) reinforced what Isaiah had to say:
“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked [Greek: gymnos], and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’
Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked [gymnon], and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’
The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”
This was a profound statement: when we cover the naked, we comfort God. When we help others we help Him. In fact, when we cover the naked we exposed God to the world… and the world sees Him through us. That’s an incredible responsibility!
The apostle James made the point that, as faithful believers, this was the kind of work we must do so that our faith remains living and dynamic on this planet:
What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing [naked: gymnoi] 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? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
A Naked (Shameful) Adulterous Nation
But it wasn’t just individual nakedness of the needy that was the problem; there was a communal nakedness/shame which was tearing apart the nation.
YHWH to the Hebrew people “I made you numerous like plants of the field. Then you grew up, became tall and reached the age for fine ornaments; your breasts were formed and your hair had grown. Yet you were naked [erohm] and bare.Then I passed by you and saw you, and behold, you were at the time for love; so I spread My skirt over you and covered your nakedness [er’vatek]. I also swore to you and entered into a covenant with you so that you became Mine,” declares the Lord YHWH. Then I bathed you with water, washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil. I also clothed you with embroidered cloth and put sandals of porpoise skin on your feet; and I wrapped you with fine linen and covered you with silk…
But God’s beloved people turned to harlotry. They prostituted themselves out to other nations and turned to their gods. They took the gifts of YHWH and turned them into abominations. In their greed they worshipped idols and turned their children into sacrifices:
… “Moreover, you took your sons and daughters whom you had borne to Me and sacrificed them to idols to be devoured. Were your harlotries so small a matter? You slaughtered My children and offered them up to idols by causing them to pass through the fire. Besides all your abominations and harlotries you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked [erohm] and bare and squirming in your blood.”
God’s beloved people were born naked and helpless, but He covered them and cared for them. He retrieved them from slavery in Egypt; He offered them a home; He claimed them as His very own children and made covenants with them. But they forgot it all. They dropped God like a stone and gave no heed to the One who gave them everything.
In response God allowed them to live as they had been… ignoring Him and falling deeper into depravity. He let them to expose themselves to other nations and those nations, who had once enticed them, now turned on them.
…Therefore, O harlot, hear the word of YHWH. Thus says the Lord YHWH, “Because your lewdness was poured out and your nakedness [er’vatek] uncovered through your harlotries with your lovers and with all your detestable idols, and because of the blood of your sons which you gave to idols, therefore, behold, I will gather all your lovers with whom you took pleasure, even all those whom you loved and all those whom you hated. So I will gather them against you from every direction and expose your nakedness [er’vatek] to them that they may see all your nakedness [er’tavek]. Thus I will judge you like women who commit adultery or shed blood are judged; and I will bring on you the blood of wrath and jealousy. I will also give you into the hands of your lovers, and they will tear down your shrines, demolish your high places, strip you of your clothing, take away your jewels, and will leave you naked [erom] and bare.
The Hebrew people were torn down, demolished, stripped, and left naked and alone. It would be a hard climb to get back to the God they had abandoned.
Everything is Exposed (Naked) in YHWH’s Eyes
The truth is, everything is naked in front of YHWH… He sees good and He sees evil; He sees the grave and the places of darkness and He sees those living in the light. Everything is completely exposed in His sight:
“The departed spirits tremble under the waters and their inhabitants. Naked is Sheol [arom Sheol] before Him, and Abaddon has no covering.”
…there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open (naked) [gymna] and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
Even demons recognized that they had no covering or protection when Yeshua was in their midst. They were exposed. The demon possessed man whom Yeshua visited in the Decapolis was naked literally, and the demons within him were naked metaphorically… completely exposed to the Messiah:
Luke 8:26-28 (see also Mark 5:1-20)
Then they [Jesus and the disciples] sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. And when He came out onto the land, He was met by a man from the city who was possessed with demons; and who had not put on any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house, but in the tombs. Seeing Jesus, he cried out and fell before Him, and said in a loud voice, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me.”
The completely exposed demons recognized that Yeshua was the Son of God. Yeshua could not hide who He was. He was exposed in front of the powers of darkness, but He did not fear them. They demons begged to live. They were exposed in the man, but perhaps they could hide in the swine feeding on the mountainside. Yeshua granted their request, and the possessed pigs were overcome with fear and confusion. They ran down the mountain and threw themselves off the cliff and drowned in the depths of the sea, taking the demons with them.
After Yeshua’s death and resurrection, many of His disciples continued to remove demons from those who were suffering. In a twist, those who tried to take on demons in the name of Yeshua, but without the sincerity, ended up naked and at the mercy of the demons they tried to expel:
Acts 19:11, 13-16
God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul …But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this.
And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked [gymnous] and wounded.
These people were trying to stand up for what they did not understand, and the powers of darkness knew it. The pretenders fled naked, but they had already exposed themselves.
There seems to be a small theme of fleeing naked, in the Bible. The prophet Amos spoke of the day of judgement. It would be a day when the strong would fall, the swift would freeze in fear and the brave would flee… naked:
“Flight will perish from the swift, and the stalwart will not strengthen his power, nor the mighty man save his life. He who grasps the bow will not stand his ground, the swift of foot will not escape, nor will he who rides the horse save his life. Even the bravest among the warriors will flee naked [arom] in that day,” declares YHWH.
Certainly Yeshua’s arrest and execution was a day of judgement… but not the judgement that those waiting for the Messiah expected. Prophetically, at Yeshua’s betrayal and arrest, an unnamed disciple fled naked:
Immediately while He [Jesus] was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs, who were from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now he who was betraying Him had given them a signal, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him and lead Him away under guard.”
After coming, Judas immediately went to Him, saying, “Rabbi!” and kissed Him. They laid hands on Him and seized Him. But one of those who stood by drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear.
And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me, as you would against a robber? Every day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me; but this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures.” And they all left Him and fled.
A young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked [gymnou] body; and they seized him. But he pulled free of the linen sheet and escaped naked [gymnos].
Every single friend of Yeshua’s abandoned Him in that hour. They would rather run shamefully away, (even to the point of nakedness), than be caught with Yeshua. Any associate of His would risk being found guilty as well. They escaped, but now they would suffer with the guilt of abandoning their Messiah.
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole Roman cohort around Him. They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they knelt down before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”
Clothed in Righteousness
They stripped Yeshua and exposed Him, and then they dressed Him up and made a mockery of Him. This is the kind of Messiah He was… willingly and humbly stripped and exposed so that we could be clothed in His righteousness.
I will rejoice greatly in YHWH, my soul will exult in my God; for He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up, so the Lord YHWH will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.
In YHWH’s sight we are completely naked and exposed, but He has wrapped us in righteousness, and through the sacrifice of Yeshua we are saved. We are no longer shameful in our nakedness, instead we wear His Salvation. We have nothing to fear because with His love YHWH has redeemed us!
Who will separate us from the love of Messiah? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness [gymnotes], or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Messiah Jesus our Lord.
Nakedness has nothing on us. We already know we are exposed in the sight of YHWH, and yet He still loves us. That’s what it’s like to be loved unconditionally. It’s very freeing to be naked in front of our Creator.
Next week: Selah