Nakedness as a Metaphor in Scripture: Word Study…”arowm” and “eyrom”

In our examination of nakedness as a metaphor in Scripture, we need to look into the instances where nakedness is mentioned in the Scriptures in an effort to figure out what is going on before we can draw any sort of conclusions about metaphors. As I mentioned last time, the first mention of nakedness of any kind came in Genesis 2:25 which tells us that Adam and Even were both naked in the Garden, and that they were unashamed. I also mentioned last time that the Hebrew word that was used in that verse is arowm and also that there are a total of three Hebrew words that are rendered “naked” in the Old Testament. Since we will need to explore each of these words to be clear on their meaning and usage, it seemed sensible to me to begin with arowm.

arowm (H6174) means naked as a state of being, and as such is morally neutral, meaning that it doesn’t reflect on whether or not this state of being is a good thing or a bad thing; it just is. An example might be if a person said that they were naked in the shower this morning; their having been naked in the shower is just a fact and neither good nor bad.

The word appears 16 times in 15 verses in the Hebrew Old Testament, and those verses are:

Gen. 2:25; 1 Sam. 19:24; Job 1:21, 22:6, 24:7, 10, 26:6; Ecc. 5:15; Is. 20:2, 3, 4, 58:7; Hos. 2:3; Amos 2:16; Mic. 1:8.

It is interesting to note that in these verses, not only is “naked” mentioned simply as a state of being, Genesis 2:25 is a state of being in perfect fellowship with God, 1 Samuel is in a prophetic state, Job 1:21 is in a worshipful state of humility before God, and Isaiah 20 recounts the prophet being naked at God’s command as a sign for three years. While it is way too early to draw any kind of conclusions, it would appear that a state of nakedness was not terribly unusual for prophets, and that it was not offensive to God.

eyrom (H5903) means nakedness or naked, and is used to indicated nakedness with a sense of danger or threat of harm. It is found 10 times in 10 verses in the Hebrew Old Testament:

Gen. 3:7. 10. 11; Deut. 28:48; Eze. 16:7, 22, 39, 18:7, 16, 23:29.

Aside from the sense of danger or of a threat, this too is a simple state of being; morally neutral.  An interesting example of this word is found in the Genesis 3 examples which you will recall are the post-Fall examples of Adam and Eve. After they had rebelled against God, their “eyes were opened” and they realized they were naked, so they covered themselves with leaves sewn together and hid from God. What were they afraid of  why were they ashamed? Were they afraid of their bodies or were they afraid of what God would do? Were they ashamed of their nakedness, or were they ashamed of what they had done?

I suppose we could argue about that all day long, and scholars have debated it for centuries, but for our purposes in this study, the bottom line is to see that the word was used in a context of perceived danger.

We have one more Hebrew word to look at, a word that appears 54 times in the Old Testament; we will have our work cut out for us next time!


About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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15 Responses to Nakedness as a Metaphor in Scripture: Word Study…”arowm” and “eyrom”

  1. Interesting that in each instance above, the word is morally neutral.

  2. pipermac5 says:

    So the meaning of the original words is simply a state of being without any value-judgement based on that state of being? That has the potential for having huge implications on our understanding of Scripture. .

  3. Pingback: Nakedness as a Metaphor in Scripture: Word Study…”arowm” and “eyrom” | A disciple's study

  4. My question is if in this context naked has the idea of literally naked or metaphorically naked. I feel that the suggestion of them being entirely open to God, no secrets, no shame…as opposed to the second term where they are guarded, fearful, holding back…Ana d when they realized they were naked, that God could actually see everything they were thinking, that they could have no secrets, deceit began…?
    Just wondering.

    • Don Merritt says:

      You several episodes ahead of the study here, but yes, that is where we will find ourselves before it’s over. As for the terms within their historical contexts, they are quite literal, but then metaphor has its basis in something literal as a frame of reference for something much deeper and more profound. An example of this concept is the Temple and the Temple sacrifices and worship which was literal and physical, and still only a picture of the fullness that would come in Christ, as discussed at length in Hebrews.

  5. thebenedictineoblate says:

    With regard to Eyrom, does it denote a sense of danger, or might it be better as nakedness as “exposed,” which reveals weakness and fragility (wherein lies the “danger”)

    The reference you make in Genesis is best understood in this light, I think. When we ask why Adam and Eve were ashamed, afraid, etc–it is because they were “exposed.” Which can be understood as metaphor–the exposure and desire to cover lie not in the nakedness, rather that stands as a metaphor for their reaction to God, who sees all, and knows already their sin. In this sense, they are “exposed.”– what does anyone do when they have been “caught in the act”? Over and over again our response is the same: to hide, to cover ourselves, lest our wrong doing is noticed.

    And I love your exposition on arowm–that it is a state of being, a neutral statement of fact, but that it is also a description of the perfect relationship with God.

    With regard to Eyrom, as used in Genesis, this makes sense. We are called to trust, have faith in our God–to go before Him in “arowm” not in “eyrom”

  6. thebenedictineoblate says:

    I enjoy your expositions on arowm and eyrom.

    I wonder, though. Is eyrom best understood as nakedness containing a sense of danger, or perhaps better: eyrom is nakedness in the sense of “exposed.” When we refer to exposed, this often refers to a fragility and weakness, which makes us open to danger.

    Even more, especially in reference to Genesis, I think the passage you reference is better understood in terms of “exposed.” We speak of scandal as being “exposed.” Or, when we act in secret, when we lack trust, and that action (good or bad) is discovered, we often feel “exposed,”–in danger. And this is often tied to feelings of trust or lack there of.

    In the scene in Genesis, Adam and Eve are afraid and ashamed because of their “eyrom”–their “exposure”–they have been “caught in the act” so to speak. How do we act when we think our wrongdoing has been found out? We hide.

    And then, especially in light of your explanation regarding arowm as also often used to describe the perfect relationship with God, I think this really sheds light on eyrom as “exposure.” We stand in arowm when we trust. When we have faith in God and believe Him, that He is merciful and forgivng, we are able to stand naked–arowm–warts and all, without shame, fear, etc. But, original sin broke this, it caused us to feel our nakedness as exposure–eyrom. Though, rough Christ are assured “do not be afraid”-“Trust Me”–God assures us that there is no need to stand as exposed and in fear…

    Anyway, just riffing off your thoughts. Definitely a lot to mine 🙂

  7. I stumbled onto this read while looking for an author with the same name who wrote a book called Hatch’s Island back in the 80s. As an avid nudist who is also a Christian I look forward to your further writings on this.

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