What the Bible says about women who won't go barefoot

In the coming global food riots, keep a close eye on women who don't go barefoot: when things get grim enough that families start eating the youngest children, it's the mother who wears shoes who will eat her babies in secret so she don't have to share.

Deuteronomy 28: 56-57:

56 The tender and delicate woman among you, which would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness and tenderness, her eye shall be evil toward the husband of her bosom, and toward her son, and toward her daughter,

57 and toward her young one that cometh out from between her feet, and toward her children which she shall bear: for she shall eat them for want of all things secretly in the siege and straitness, wherewith thine enemy shall distress thee in thy gates.

On the other hand, a woman who wears Vibram 5 Fingers will still eat her babies, but she'll at least offer her husband some of the lesser cuts of meat.

What the Bible says about women who won't go barefoot

UPDATE: People a lot smarter than I am have pointed out that the warning is even more dire than I thought. It turns out *everyone* is going to be eating babies, not just shoe wearing moms.

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  1. That seems like a pretty generous interpretation. It reads to me like it’s more a warning about women who stay at home and do nothing rather than whether they wear shoes.

    But that’s half the fun of the bible, it’s been translated so many times who knows if we’re getting the same message that was written in the original Hebrew.

    1. Why do you associate shoes with work?  Outside the home the ground was sand and dirt.  INSIDE the home the floor was swept sand and dirt. 

      Seems pretty clear to me.  It’s bad for people to take care of themselves at the expense of their children.  Tadaaaaa.  No cannibalism, no Women’s Lib.

      1.  Huh. I got the same thing. I assumed the cannibalism part was more about not raising full people because of personal selfishness, but hey, IANABS

      1. Deuteronomy was originally written in Hebrew.  Only a few of the later books of the Old Testament (Daniel comes to mind) had much Aramaic.

      2. Damn you!  I came here to say the exact same thing!

        “Here may be found the last words of Joseph of Arimathea.
        He who is valiant and pure of spirit may find the…”

      3. It wasn’t originally written in Hebrew, actually, but in Aramaic.

        Aramaic?  Really?

        It’s amazing, the things one can learn on the Internet.  :-)

        1. Not true. Different tenses, totally different vowel presentation, verb/noun structure is different, alphabet is 2 letters shorter and included 1 that was not passed on to Hebrew, total number of known words is only about 60% the size of classical Hebrew. Pronunciation rules are utterly different, especially for sibilants. Capitalization, grammar, punctuation all different.

          I’m tired of this 100 year old “Aramaic = Hebrew” argument. It’s false. They are related but it’s very doubtful that someone who spoke one would be able to communicate with the other more than anyone who spoke only Italian could communicate with someone who spoke only Spanish.

          Your argument only exists because in the 1950s we thought that the Aramaic we knew then, which had been interpreted and represented by generations of Hebrew language scholars, was actually classical Aramaic. Archeolinguists have since found that the original Aramaic was far more foreign than they had thought.

  2. There are some modern translations out there that at least try to make sense of where the Deuteronomist is coming from. For example:

    …the mother that wears yoga pants shall so neglect her children running between her legs that they shall fall into the pit of balls without her knowing or caring, and languish eating chicken nuggets off the floor until they perish.

  3. What the ever-loving flames and death is this supposed to be about? A commentary on the inadvisability of taking quotes out of context both of original text and culture? A discussion about food scarcity and alternate nutrition sources? Misogyny in the Old Testament and the Paleo movement?  The reason Mark’s sleeping on the couch for the next month?

  4. I will never understand women and minorities who follow any religion based on the bible. Women are treated harshly in all the text, and then the whole thing about slaves needing to be obedient to their masters. It’s like loving the jaws that rend your flesh limb from limb. It’s completely illogical.

    There are lots of silly commandments in the bible (there are not 10 commandments, there are a little over 600). Stoning to death a son who accidentally sees his fathers nuts on the temple stairs…

    1. There are 613 mitzvot, if you want to be exact. Of course, in Judaism, because women have more binah than men because they were built or constructed rather than formed, women are not mandated to follow them all, just three (Nerot, Challah and Niddah).

      Also, women in Hebraic cultures were permitted to buy, sell, and own property, and make their own contracts, unlike the majority of women throughout history, and had the right to be consulted about marriage instead of just being married off.

      Yeah, the Bible when read from the context of a modern society is pretty damn harsh towards women, but compared to the cultures surrounding the Hebrews when it was being codified and practiced for thousands of years, they were freakin’ liberals.

      1. Lets say everybody else at the time was level 1. then the bible went up to level 2. Modern society is level 3 or higher.

        We can say thanks for helping us get to level 2 but when people say, hey you level 3 guys, go back down to level 2, then its holding us back

        1. If you slavishly attempt to emulate the traits of level 2, then you wind up like the Confucians in their Legalist opponent’s eyes: you saw a rabbit run into a stump and die, and you’ve been waiting next to it ever since hoping another one would do the same so you could eat again. So this particular society was doing a good job with things at the time, sure. Do you really believe it was the BEST POSSIBLE SOCIETY, or just a pretty good effort for the time considering the constraints?

          If, however, you choose to take the lessons learned in the context of the shift from level 1 to level 2 and apply them to level 3, you can actually get somewhere and prevent yourself from reinventing the wheel. I always back an integrative approach to human thought, which is why I wind up reading so much theology and spirituality that others tend to discard. You can learn a lot by going back to the Middle Ages when Christianity was supposedly “destroying all knowledge” and “preventing all progress” and find brilliant dissections of issues that form the foundation of modern philosophical inquiry.

    1. Mona, I partly disagree. Why wouldnt a white man believe in a tool that allows be dominant of all those around him?

      (i’m a white male, i dont believe in that crap, and i dont want to dominate those around me outside)

  5. The context is a prediction of a city under siege (“seige and straitness”); note the reference to the enemy at the gates.  Even the posh women, who normally dine in delicacies, out of desperate hunger (“want of all things”), will turn against their families and cannibalize their children.  Also, I found a translation of “young one” as “afterbirth,” which has the virtue of not being redundant. It’s implied that poor women resort to such extremes under much less dramatic circumstances.

    Context is everything.

  6. This is completely upside-down..  Context: these are the Big Bad Curses that will befall the people if they turn to sin.  

    The verse should be read as “EVEN the tender and delicate woman among you. . .her eye shall be evil toward the husband of her bosom.”  

    Contrary to the post, the text implies that delicate, shoe-wearing women, who so typically shun violence and other harsh things, EVEN THEY will turn to baby-eating in the famines that the LORD will bring should you stray from Him.

    It is a simplistic (but hilarious!) reading to conclude the opposite– i.e., that the text implies some causal relationship between shoddenness and baby consumption.

  7. Read the whole chapter for context.

    This is but one of the many horrible curses that (the Deuteronomist says) will be visited upon those who do not obey God.  (The first half of the chapter details all the blessings that will be showered upon those who do). 

    So it’s not like it’s a general rule for everyone -you really don’t need to worry about the wife and her Doc Martens as long as you obey God. 

    And of course you do, right? :-)

  8. What I’ve never really understood is why Christians read the old testament at all?  Isn’t the whole deal with Jesus supposed to be that the old covenant is null and void, and that his sacrifice is a new covenent?  Am I wrong on that?

    1. Isn’t the whole deal with Jesus supposed to be that the old covenant is null and void, and that his sacrifice is a new covenent?

      That’s what the church I grew up in taught (basically).  The OT was only of interest as history, and none if its rules applied any more.

      Of course, they’d still recite the Ten Commandments, and cherry-pick occasional verses that supported their positions.  But most of them never really read it.  

      Heck, most of them never really read the New Testament, for that matter.

      Reading the entire bible from cover to cover was one of the things that propelled me away from the church.  Even aside from all the High Weirdness in the Old Testament, I’d’ve had to discard most of the Pauline Epistles to produce anything I could live with.  

      Well, that, and understanding that the Book of Revelation was written by a mystical kabbalist living in exile on an island where psilocybin mushrooms grew wild. :-)

    2. Jesus fulfills the old covenant. The old covenant’s entire point is to let you know it is impossible for man to meet Gods request for perfection. Jesus paid that price. He came not to destroy the law but fill it. Pay the price required by justice.

  9. Can’t they just replace this part of the Bible with a few of those Old Jews Telling Jokes videos? iPads seem like they would make this possible…

  10. Wow, there’s so much valuable information in the Bible.  Plus in a pinch the pages seem to work as good rolling papers.

    1. For rolling papers, you want the thin, compact volumes – they’re printed on rice paper.

      The big desktop family bibles make terrible rolling papers. :-)

    2. Well, most of the pages are a little too inky for that, but usually there’s a fly leaf, a title page (like I didn’t know I was reading “The Holy Bible”) and a few other blank pages in the beginning that work fine.

  11. Pharoah Magnetic is right.  I’m an atheist and not inclined to defend biblical craziness. If you read this in context, it’s clearly not about women going barefoot.  In fact, if you read the preceding verses, you will see it says the same thing about the men, that even the sensitive
    ones will be eating their children in secret (28:53-55).

    1. Phew — for a minute I thought this was something weird. Turns out it’s crystal-clear horse sense.

      1. The mistake you make is you are actually reading the words. Instead, you should just blindly follow the interpretations your preacher makes for you.  Still sounds kinda weird? Don’t you worry your head, little sheep.

        1. The Bible is the inspired message of the Christian God and is to be taken literally unless it’s a parable in which case it isn’t except for when it’s metaphor which it is unless it isn’t. 

          Glad I could clear that up for you.

  12. Seems to me it is a commentary on the selfishness of the mani/pedi’d, Louis Vitton carrying, BMW driving, housewives of the Wall Street rich.  If I’m wrong, I’ll eat my shoe.

  13. Wow, I never realized how much fun it was to take words out of context and pretend to be scholars of ancient literature who can’t even distinguish between the forms of literature!  Let’s do this more often.

  14. RE: context, taking things out of:  This is not unique to Mark.  Every sermon I sat through from age 0 to 18 focused on a single verse.  Seems like every even vaguely Christian church does this, and both times I’ve been to Temple, they did it too.  They pick a passage, isolate it, then spend two hours talking about the meaning of “is.”

    This is how Onan’s Sin became a story about wasting sperm, instead of a story about the evils of not-impregnating-your-dead-brother’s-widow.

    1. This is how Onan’s Sin became a story about wasting sperm instead of a story about the evils of not-impregnating-your-dead-brother’s-widow.

      Yep – even weirder, the idea that ‘Onanism’ is the sin of masturbation.

      He wasn’t masturbating – the specific act was coitus interruptus.  And he wasn’t, IMHO, punished for that specific act, but for the spiteful and willful defiance and disobedience he exhibited by doing it.

      My childhoood church once hosted a visiting preacher who’d developed a whole set of books, pamphlets, lesson plans and speaking engagements based on the notion that when Jesus said “Suffer the little children come unto me” (Mark 10:14, et cetera), what that *really* meant was that “Parents must suffer so that their children may come to Jesus.”

      He spent the better part of an hour regaling the congregation with examples and anecdotes of all the various ways that bringing your children to Jesus can inflict suffering, and capped it with call-and-response exhortations to endure even the most dire suffering for the sake of the children.

      Even at the tender age of 14, it was all I could do to keep from busting out laughing.

      1. My childhoood church once hosted a visiting preacher who’d developed a whole set of books, pamphlets, lesson plans and speaking engagements based on the notion that when Jesus said “Suffer the little children come unto me” (Mark 10:14, et cetera), what that *really* meant was that “Parents must suffer so that their children may come to Jesus.”

        Wait, why was Jesus ever concerned with little children coming on him in the first place? Christ, what a sicko! ;-)

  15. Way to alienate readership, taking a random out-of-context potshot at the foundation of a religious faith. Going to do the Torah and Quran as well? I thought not.

    1. I would think that anyone religious enough to be alienated by this would know that taking potshots at the old testament is exactly equivalent to taking potshots at the Torah.

      Anyway, no one’s alienating me.

  16. Yeah, this is a good example of the hazards of biblical interpretation by clueless amateurs taking single verses out of context.  Mark posts one verse, and next thing you know, people are discussing it as if it’s a general prohibition of women wearing shoes or some such silliness.

    Unfortunately, this sort of thing isn’t confined to the Secular Humanist Sneering Society – it’s rampant in the churches, from the pulpits to the choirs to the potlucks, as well.

  17. Seems like children were considered a lot more expendable back in The Day.

    “Honey, what’s for dinner? I’m starving!”

    “Sorry, we’re under siege, so… nothing.”

    “Aw, damn. Well, let’s see. Who’s the youngest? C’mere little Billy.”

  18. Part of this topic is a minor plot point in the new Terry Pratchett book _Snuff_. I won’t say more, but he makes an almost distressingly good argument for putting morality in context.

  19. What I want to know is, what do Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann propose to do to address the menace of shoe-wearing cannibal mothers, in case either is elected president? Oh, wait, forget about Bachmann … she has children and I seem to remember her wearing shoes.

  20. I think it’s been said several times in the comments above, but the verse says nothing about women who don’t go barefoot. In predicting a terrible food shortage due to siege, this passage describes just how bad things will get: even the most gentle and well-to-do ladies will be driven to cannibalism of their own families.

    Aren’t random, out-of-context bible quotes used to support a given argument (in this case, that the bible is misogynistic and weird) the exact anti-logic that Sceptics hate so much in loopy fundamentalists?

    To be honest, I expected better than this from the writers of Boing-Boing.

    1. Aren’t random, out-of-context bible quotes used to support a given argument (in this case, that the bible is misogynistic and weird) the exact anti-logic that Sceptics hate so much in loopy fundamentalists?

      It might be described as hypocritical if it was done by people who are supposed to take the Bible seriously.  But perhaps the people taking quotes out of context simply don’t take the Bible seriously, in which case taking quotes out of context for comic relief is a form of humor, not serious Biblical scholarship or criticism. 

      In fact, I thought that would be obvious.  The people poking fun at the Bible aren’t taking it seriously.  QED.  It’s the notion that everyone, even atheists, should take the Bible totally seriously that makes a lot of us want to make fun of it all the more.  It’s a form of religious privilege (well-demonstrated in this thread) to say, “Hey, you can’t make fun of my holy book!  You have to give it the most charitable reading possible!” 

      Just like some people don’t care about the nitty gritty of how diesel engines work or how QB rating is calculated but nonetheless drive cars or watch football, people can talk about the Bible and even poke fun at it without taking Biblical scholarship very seriously.  The people who are offended by this should get over themselves.

  21. I find that with odd verses like this a little context is helpful.

    The book of Deuteronomy is modeled after a Hittite treaty of loyalty, saying what the obligations of the subjects are and the duties of the ruler in return.  The last sections of the book describe what will happen to the subjects should they shirk their obligation. Almost all political treaties in the era had this feature, as it was a basic part of their legal structure: contracts bind two parties together to a certain course of action, if both succeed prosperity ensues, if they fail devastation ensues.

    The oddball verse in question comes from Deuteronomy’s section on the consequences of breaking the treaty. Relative to most treaties, this section is fairly brief and has an odd focus on having punishments be delivered from the foreign invading enemies–probably retrojected by later editors in the second temple period. In particular, it describes what will happen as the cities are being besieged by their enemies; that even young, carefree women will be starving to the point of contemplating eating their children.

     This isn’t a warning against barefooted women, it’s using an allusion to young women of the era commonly going barefoot and placing this figure in the midst of a horrible siege.

    Hopefully this makes more sense now.

  22. Hmm, I think that’s the King James Bible?  Not exactly a paragon of accurate translation, neither literally nor in capturing the intent.  Let’s try the New International Version:

    The most gentle and sensitive woman among you—so sensitive and gentle that she would not venture to touch the ground with the sole of her foot—will begrudge the husband she loves and her own son or daughter 57 the afterbirth from her womb and the children she bears. For in her dire need she intends to eat them secretly because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of your cities.
    Makes much more sense as a hyperbole about how even the most gentle member of the community will withhold the last shreds of food from her family and will eat her own children without sharing because she’s starving from the siege.

  23. Re: using the bible as a source for rolling papers – bad idea, way too smoky.  Maybe somebody should print a bible specifically on rolling papers.   Bam!  Two birds, one stone(d)!

    1.  using the bible as a source for rolling papers – bad idea, way too smoky.

      Actually, the rice-paper editions work pretty well.  For many years, the bibles the Gideon Bible Society placed in hotel rooms were compact rice-paper editions (may still be, for all I know – haven’t checked lately).

      They were a constant help in time of need for roadies travelling with a band who didn’t want to attract attention by buying rolling papers in some unfamiliar small town.

      The blank pages at the back were best, since they had no ink – but those were often long gone. 

      Much late-night amusement was had looking for appropriate verses to roll a doobie in. :-)

  24. “It turns out *everyone* is going to be eating babies, not just shoe wearing moms.”

    This is HORRIBLE!  Absolutely dreadful.  I’ve no idea what kind of wine to have with baby. Would a craft beer be more suitable?

  25. There really is no good reason to read the King James version if you just want to understand what the Bible says (as opposed to the “poetry” of it or whatever).

    “The most gentle and sensitive woman among you—so sensitive and gentle
    that she would not venture to touch the ground with the sole of her
    foot—will begrudge the husband she loves and her own son or daughter
    the afterbirth from her womb and the children she bears. For in her
    dire need she intends to eat them secretly because of the suffering your
    enemy will inflict on you during the siege of your cities.” — NIV

    Obviously going barefoot was considered to be a bad thing, not a good thing.

    This chapter is part of the big project of transformation of Jewish religion into monotheism.

    Edit: Sorry, subhan already said the same thing above. Oh well.

  26. wherewith thine enemy shall distress thee in thy gates.

    Well, this is clearly a warning about internet viruses and worms and DDOS attacks etc.

    This is HORRIBLE!  Absolutely dreadful.  I’ve no idea what kind of wine to have with baby. Would a craft beer be more suitable?

    Come on over to Pharyngula, where we atheists  – who are obviously vastly experienced at the culinary uses of christian babies – can explain exactly how to make best use of the prime cuts and what beverages go well with them. Mother’s milk, is of course, one good option.

  27. The account given by Josephus, the Jewish historian who witnessed and recorded the war, is almost an echo of the predictions of Christ. Women ate their own children from starvation; the Jews within the city fought each other as well as the Roman army; on August 10, A.D. 70, the city was stormed and there was a universal massacre; 1,100,00 persons perished, and 100,000 survivors were sold into slavery.

    1. Likely because they were retrojected onto Jesus by an early Christian. He probably made some dire warnings–given his strong anti-temple agenda for a 1st century Palestinian Jew–but specific details were probably inserted by dutiful apostles at a later date.

      Also, this is from Deuteronomy, so it isn’t Jesus, but we observe the same phenomenon: the destruction of the city is put in the mouth of Moses, when it was either a) 1st temple Deuteronomic redactors putting it in to play up fears of the Assyrians, or more likely b) 2nd temple priests adding it on as a direct recall of the Babylonian exile. These glosses likely occurred over passages of similar content in more original versions of the oral tradition.

      1. Likely because they were retrojected onto Jesus by an early Christian.

        That sounds vaguely pornographic.

        And Josephus may have just copied his stories from older sources. He’s entertaining, but not particularly reliable what with being a Roman apologist and all.

  28. I’m glad we could take our attention off the clearly unimportant war on wall street, so that you could make a comment on something you clearly don’t believe.  Extremely effective.

  29. Yes, I fondly recall all the sermons in which these verses were read. The preacher said “this is the crux of Christianity. All that love thy neighbor stuff is bullshit. Obscure Old Testament verses about eating babies, that is what your faith is based on.” It’s interesting because many of my Jewish friends have also been taught this. You win 2 ancient faiths!

  30. No, She WON”T touch her delicate “sole” (naked foot) to the ground. Instead, she will stalk her her children  “barefoot”. If the woman was wearing shoes. the children would hear her and think she was leaving and be on high alert. But she’s barefoot, sending a sense of calm. She’s barefoot so she can sneak into her children’s rooms and feast. 

  31. Yeah… there seems to be a bias against delicate women in the old testament. This verse, I believe, is warning men against women who won’t venture outside barefoot, because in hardship they will turn against their family. I guess they liked them sturdy wimenz.

    As a Boing Boing apologist, I have to agree with Daniel, when criticism is made by amateurs, it shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

    The “Update” in this post makes it even more laughable. I would have, however, appreciated an objective & thorough analysis of some of the more “out there” verses in the OT, but I suppose it’s not news to anyone that Boing Boing is not the place to find such examination of faith.

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