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Word study - naked

This study arose originally out of interest in the connotations of the word 'naked' as used in the early passages in Genesis (chapters 2 and 3) describing Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. These passages have little to do with the historical and chronological considerations forming most of these pages, but have great significance in other areas of life and so are included out of interest. If the Hebrew text does not correctly display, please refer to the Obtaining fonts link above.

There are two main families of Hebrew words for naked or nakedness used. They are tackled in turn below with references and other information. In summary, the usage in the Garden is from the word-family based on ‘ûwr, where nakedness is seen as a state of being, possibly needing help to resolve, but not with a strong sense of condemnation or shame. Other uses of the Genesis 3 word (‘êrôm) have the connotation of abandonment or helplessness. The other main word-family, where the noun forms have a much more definite sense of shame attached, are largely used by the prophets. The main use in the Pentateuch is in the legal passages, not narrative, with the exception of Noah's drunkenness. Interestingly, the verb form of this second family need not have a shameful connotation, but can have an ethically neutral sense (emptying something) or even a positive sense (the Spirit being poured out).

There is an interesting transition from Genesis 2 to 3. In Gen 2 (translated "They were naked and felt no shame"), the word used suggests a simple descriptive state of nakedness. In Gen 3 ("They were naked and sewed leaves ... they were naked and hid ... who told you you were naked") there is still an essentially descriptive usage, but with the added connotation of being poor and destitute, and in need of help. It is important to note that at this point there is not the added significance of shame attached which comes later, in situations of deliberate or reckless actions. The first of these is seen with Noah's drunkenness, then (other than legal passages in the Pentateuch) the main use is in the prophetic writings. Often here the use is as part of an extended metaphor image. But the earliest use, at the Fall, does not have the connotation of shame so much as of poverty and destitution.

Based on ‘ûwr

  ‘ûwr (rW[) [Strong's 05783]  
  To be exposed or bare  
  Used once only, in Habakkuk 3.9  
‘ârôm (~owr"[) [06174] ‘êrôm (~owrE[) [05903] ma‘arôm (~owr\[;m) [04636]
Naked, nude Naked, nakedness Something naked
Gen 2.25 (naked without shame)
1 Sam 19.24 (Saul among the prophets)
Job 6 times
Eccl 5.15 (naked a man comes...)
Isa 4 times
Hosea, Micah and Amos
Gen 3.7, 10, 11
Deut 28.48 (hunger and thirst, nakedness and dire poverty)
Eze 6 times (condition of abandonment)
Used once only, in 2 Chron 28.15 (Israel reclothing captives from Judah)
Suggests factually naked with no disgrace attached Suggests naked in the sense of being poor and without protection  

Based on ‘ârâh

  ‘ârâh (h"r"[) [06168]
  To be naked or bare
  Gen 24.20 (emptying a pitcher)
Lev 20 twice (sexually exposing near kindred)
2 Chron 24.11 (emptying a chest)
Ps 37.35 (the wicked flourishing), 137.7 twice (Edomites wanting to tear down the Temple), 141.8 twice (leave not my soul destitute)
Isaiah 3.17, 22.6 (exposure of hidden things), 32.15 (pouring out the Spirit), 53.12 (pouring out his [Jesus'] soul)
Lamentations, Habakkuk, Zephaniah once each (exposing hidden things)
  Suggests being naked or bare in the sense of being emptied, uncovered, exposed or made vulnerable
‘erevâh (h"w>r<[) [06172] ‘ereyâh (h"y>r<[) [06181]  
Nakedness Nakedness
Gen 9 twice (Noah drunk), 42.9 (nakedness of the land)
Ex twice (not being exposed at the altar)
Lev 18-20 many times (prohibitions on sex with near kindred)
Deut 23.14 and 24.1 (uncleanness)
1 Sam 20.30 ("to the shame of your mother")
11 times in Isaiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel and Hosea all in contexts of shame
6 times in Ezekiel, Micah and Habakkuk in contexts of inappropriate nakedness that should be covered
Suggests being naked in a shameful or disgraceful way Suggests being naked through ignorance or carelessness, needing to be covered

Additionally the word pâra‘ [06544] is sometimes translated naked (eg Ex 32) but the prime meaning suggests being unrestrained, lacking in control, or let loose.

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