FW: Cover your feet, please!

Dan Wagner Dan.Wagner at datastream.net
Fri Mar 2 20:35:08 EST 2001

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Leeroy Malachinski [mailto:Leeroy at cool.dk]
> Sent: Saturday, February 17, 2001 18:21
> To: Biblical Hebrew
> Subject: Re: FW: Cover your feet, please!
> >Some commentators have attempted to explain the etymology of 
> "cover your
> >feet" by saying that a man's long robes would literally 
> cover his feet
> >when he squatted down to do his business.
> This explanation could suffer from the problem of assuming that people
> would have pants or at least one kind of clothing for the 
> upper body and
> one for the lower. 

"Feet" may also be euphemistic for genitals. This is the case elsewhere:
Ezk. 16:25 (female "spreads her feet"); Isa. 7:20 (shaves feet of a male);
and thus here also perhaps. (I think there's another example, can't find it
right now.)

> In that case
> they would actually "uncover their feet". 

Yes, this still applies; thus it's a doubly euphemistic. Rather that
"uncover the genitals" (for the purpose of excretion), it's "cover the
feet"! (Perhaps, i agree, we conjecture here.)

>In Ruth 3 we hear that Ruth
> should go and uncover Boaz' feet.

Possibly relevant, but don't be too quick on that one. The word for feet is
different, and based on a similar alternate form for "hands" as used in the
image in Daniel (=upper body), Block's excellent new commentary on Judges &
Ruth (NAC) takes it as the entire lower region, but as an intentionally
different word to avoid the sexual connotation that "uncovering [Boaz']
feet" might bring. 

> Now, if to uncover the feet 
> is the exact
> opposite of covering the feet, these passages might in fact throw some
> light on the passages in question. It seems to me that also here it is
> unclear what exactly is going on. :(  Certainly, she is not 
> waking him up.
> While it could be understood that  the purpose would be to 
> know him - in
> the biblical sense - again it does not seem to be what is going on.

I agree. Sex here just does not seem to be the case. Daniel Block has a good
discussion of it.

> A case for sleeping should not be rejected a priori, however. For
> instance, whatever the expression in Ruth means, sleep is 
> indeed present.
> Another detail in the 1 Sam 4 story says that David secretly 
> cut off the
> corner of Saul's robe. The word for secretly is "lat" (24:4). In Judg.
> 4:21 Yael is also secretly ("lat") sneaking up on Sissera who 
> is sleeping
> or at least lying down. And again in Ruth 3:7, Ruth is 
> sneaking  secretly
> ("lat") up on the sleeping Boaz. So perhaps "lat" has 
> something to do with
> sleeping, although not all occurrences include the theme of 
> sleep. What is
> also interesting is that the root "lot" can mean "to cover", 
> so perhaps it
> is a wordplay in all these instances.
> None of this, however, is conclusive (not to say highly 
> speculative) and
> the expression might easily mean to relieve oneself or something else.
> Here one could note that in both the Judg. 3 and 1 Sam 24 
> Saul and Eglon
> seek to (or are thought) "to cover their feet" in a cool place and in
> privacy. This meaning is how tradition seems to have 
> understood it (Some
> versions, and Jewish commentators).
> It would be interesting to hear if anyone know of a similar 
> expression in
> a cognate language.

YES! Me too. Anybody????

Good observations. I appreciate your reply. I'm going to post separately on
the Judges passage.

Dan Wagner

> I too would love to hear other interpretations.
> All the best,
> Leeroy

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