In Exodus 3, Moses is commanded to take off his shoes because he is standing on holy ground, yet before him is appearing an Angel of the LORD, not God himself (in contrast to Exodus 19 an onward where Moses is on Mt Sinai before actual God himself where scripture does NOT note the removal of his footwear.)

This led me to wonder,

1) are there any other passages where the removal of sandals are commanded due the the holiness of the ground (I think this passage is unique in this regard)

2) Why is the ground holy, but other appearances of the Angel of the Lord and even God himself do not note footwear removal. (Eg, Eg, Genesis 16:7-14, Genesis 22:11-15, Numbers 22:22-38, Judges 2:1-3, Judges 6:11-23, Judges 13:3-22)

3) What is the significance of this act? (I am aware that the exchange of a sandal can signify a contract and was part of business law and that throwing a sandal at an individual can be considered a serious insult - are they related?)

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    Joshua 5:15 says something very similar: Then the Commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so.(NKJV) Sep 2, 2015 at 3:48
  • @JamesShewey I didn't cover the "tossing the sandal" or handing the sandal questions-they bring up another aspect of 'shoe' but aren't(IMO) related to the Holiness of God, which the Exodus passage(and Joshua passage) are about.
    – Tau
    Sep 2, 2015 at 8:42
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    One question that begs to be answered is why cultures in south, southeast and fareast Asia have sanctity of the home as reason not to wear shoes at home?
    – Cynthia
    Sep 2, 2015 at 11:00
  • @BlessedGeek A social norm(we do it as well), but not to be confused with "holiness".
    – Tau
    Sep 2, 2015 at 11:49
  • What "holiness" ? Muslims' and Hindus' in south and southeast asia sanctity is not holy enough ? Sacredness in Shinto Japan is not holy enough? Only the "holiness" of people who celebrate christmas or hanukah is qualified to be considered holy ?
    – Cynthia
    Sep 3, 2015 at 4:47

3 Answers 3


While not stated directly, the Sabbath is evidence that holy ground first occurred during creation.

The Sabbath is holy to God's people and it is holy to the LORD:

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you. You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’” And when He had made an end of speaking with him on Mount Sinai, He gave Moses two tablets of the Testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God. (Exodus 31:12-18 NKJV)

While the Sabbath is a day of the week, it is also a period of time which lasts 24-hours; the same amount of time it takes the earth to make a complete revolution. Therefore, blessing a 24-hour day would result in that blessing "covering" the entire earth.

The first man and woman were created naked; they did not have clothes for their bodies, or sandals for their feet. That changed in the Garden of Eden:

Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them. Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” — therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. (Genesis 3:21-23 NKJV)

They left the Garden of Eden wearing tunics not sandals: their feet were still "naked."

The significance of having Moses remove his sandals is to have him start the journey of bringing the nation out of Egypt without wearing sandals, the same manner in which the first man began his journey out of the Garden of Eden. In Exodus, the holy ground was due to the presence of the LORD; in Genesis it was the created state of the ground which had also been blessed.


Meaning of "Remove Your Sandals"

Another passage where the shoe(sandal) is commanded to be removed is Joshua 5:15,

And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? 14 And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant? 15 And the captain of the LORD'S host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.

In both instances; Moses and Joshua, the shoe, being "profane", is removed at the request of the Angel of the Lord. In the case of Moses, it is God Himself, in the case of Joshua, it is the Captain of the Army of the Host of God; what is important is that the place of the Lord's "Presense" is holy, and therefore the shoe is to be removed before the holiness of God.

Our first source of information concerning the shoe is the Bible. Here the shoe partakes of the character of the profane, symbolizing the Earthly in contrast with the Holy. Removing the shoes signifies putting off something profane, obligatory upon those who approach the Holy."Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground", is the command to Moses.(Taken from Jacob Nacht-Symbolism of the Shoes in Reference to Jewish Sources/JQR)

Another point which Jacob Nacht mentions is:

"The Levites, whose function it was to carry the vessels of the Tabernacle, were required to take off their shoes while performing this holy service. The priests, likewise had to be barefooted when performing their service in the Sanctuary; this regulation has in part continued to be observed to this very day on occasion of the Priestly Blessing pronounced on festivals."(ibid)

The understanding is from Ex. 30:18-21,

Thou shalt also make a laver of brass, and his foot also of brass, to wash withal: and thou shalt put it between the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar, and thou shalt put water therein. 19 For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat: 20 When they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water, that they die not; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to burn offering made by fire unto the LORD: 21 So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not: and it shall be a statute for ever to them, even to him and to his seed throughout their generations.

The understanding is that the Temple contained the Presense of God, in 2 Chr. 5:14 we read,

So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God.

Therefore, the whole "Sanctuary" was holy ground, and the priests and Levites who ministered there, from the clothes they wore to the bare soles of their feet, were mindful of this, that they were in the Presense of God and had to be 'circumspective', lest they die.

Angelic Visitations in General

The 2 passages where the Angel of the Lord commands to remove one's sandals implies that the subject recognizes the Holiness of a Holy God, and it is communicated as such. In the instances of Gen. 16:7-14, Gen. 22:11-15, Num. 22:22-38, Judges 6:11-23, and 13:3-22, the angel appears as a messenger to send relief, comfort, or carry a particular message. Also, in the cases of Hagar and Balaam, it's questionable whether or not they would recognize the requirement of holiness in the Presense of God; the burden is "too great" for unregenerate men to come into the Presense of God. A key example of this is in 1 Sam. 5:9, after the Philistines had captured the Ark of the Covenant, the most sacred object in the Temple, located in the Holy of Holies,

And it was so, that, after they had carried it about, the hand of the LORD was against the city with a very great destruction: and he smote the men of the city, both small and great, and they had emerods in their secret parts.

'Emerods', or "hemorrhoids" as they are commonly called, are usually a result of "straining" in bowel movements, and other activities. Verse 11 says,"the hand of God was very heavy there," which for those who have no concept of the holiness of God, can be very heavy indeed. The result was they put the Ark on a cart, drawn by 2 cows with a trespass offering; representative of the 'trespass' which they made on the Ark of the Covenant(the Holiness of God manifested to the children of Israel).


"To remove one's sandals from one's feet" is to acknowledge the Presense of God, and the consecration that Presense demands. Angelic visitations may or may not require such consecration, but those who ministered in the Lord's courts were required to carry such consecration-the sign of which was to 'bare one's feet'.

  • This question was originally spawned by this other question in which we decided that a messenger (angel) of the LORD is not the same as the LORD himself and therefore the angel refuses worship. Were the angel God and removal of shoes always required to acknowledge the presence of God, we would expect to see this in the numerous other passages all of which are listed here. Sep 2, 2015 at 15:28
  • @JamesShewey Yes, I agree, but it's obviously not a universal rule that when an angel shows up, remove your shoes. The point in the 2 examples is that "holiness" was required. I didn't want to appear 'anachronistic', but my suspicion was when Mary and the Apostle John received angelic visitations, they were already unshod. Your point of when the angel speaks, God is speaking is correct; the consecration required of Moses and Joshua is not the same as Hagar and Balaam, Gideon, and other examples in the OT. Also, if they were 'barefoot' when the angel appeared-there's no need to tell them.
    – Tau
    Sep 2, 2015 at 21:01
  • Does anyone know if being barefoot was a requirement for entering the Holy of Holies? Sep 2, 2015 at 21:06
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    @JamesShewey By virtue of the bathing of both hands and feet in the Bronze Laver, which Moses, Aaron, and the priests were required to do, was one able to enter the Holy of Holies. I found a Babylonian Tractate(Therefore there must be nothing interrupting between the priests and the floor (BT Zevachim 2, 1), and every Jewish source states that the High Priests(and all the priests) ministered barefoot in performance of their duties. This is why feet are washed, and shoes are not mentioned for the priest's clothing.
    – Tau
    Sep 3, 2015 at 5:18

Who is the commander of the Lords army? Scripture tells us this is the title for Michael the archangel. Archangel means "Chief commander of the angels". Nowhere in scripture does it ever tell us an archangel is an angel himself, just the chief of the angels. In the book of Revelation, Jesus is given the title of commander of the lords army, the exact title given to Michael. Michael in Hebrew means "he is like YHWY". Yahushua means "YHWYs salvation". Michael is holy were told, Therefore when he appeared to Moses, Moses had to remove his sandals. The book of Enoch also declares Michael holy. Michael is the only spirit being ever titles as an archangel. So Michael is holy, and a spirit. Therefore Michael is the holy spirit. Yahushua is in the flesh, but Michael is his spiritual representative. They are the same person, just in 2 different realms (spiritual and fleshly). Even Satan had a different name for the spirit and the fleshly world. Lucifer in the spirit realm and Devil in the fleshly realm. Yahushua is the same. He is Michael is the spiritual realm (the holy spirit) and Yahushua in the fleshly realm. God made it clear in his commandments, only he can be worshiped. Yahushua was allowed to be worshiped, because he is the image of God, God in the flesh. Michael, the same person, is of the spirit realm, and also is allowed to be worshiped when he appears on earth in the spirit, for he is the earthly spiritual representation of God. Ezekiel gives an end time prophesy and tells us that Michael will come to earth in the last days with 10 ten thousands of his army of angels to defeat satan in battle. Interesting enough, John the revelator gives this same prophesy in the book of Revelation, but uses the name Yahushua instead of Michael. Because they are the same person. John says Yahushua will yell with the sound of an "archangel".

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