Matthew 10:14 NASB

14 Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet.

Acts 13:51 NASB

51 But they shook off the dust of their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium.

After being rejected by a city/people Jesus taught the disciples to shake off the dust from they feet.This seems to have been some form of protest or symbolic gesture which was a testimony against them.

Could this symbolic gesture have been steeped in some Jewish culture?


2 Answers 2


The Jews decreed foreign soil (i.e., dirt from Gentile lands) to be unclean.1

For it was taught, Yose ben Yoʿezer of Tzereida and Yose ben Yochanan of Yerushalaim decreed uncleanness concerning the land of the nations (i.e., Gentiles) and glass vessels.

דתניא יוסי בן יועזר איש צרידה ויוסי בן יוחנן איש ירושלים גזרו טומאה על ארץ העמים ועל כלי זכוכית

They assumed a possibility that the dirt came from a heathen grave, and it would thus transmit uncleanness to the Jew who came in contact with it. This notion is referred to as ספק עפר הבא מארץ העמים (safek afar ha-ba meʾeretz ha-ammim)—“doubt of the dust that comes from the land of the nations.”

Therefore, the Jew who came from or had contact with soil from a foreign land would shake it off.

John Lightfoot explains the significance of the Lord Jesus Christ’s command,2

Therefore that rite of shaking the dust off the feet, commanded the disciples, speaks thus much; “Wheresoever a city of Israel shall not receive you, when ye depart, shew, by shaking off the dust from your feet, that ye esteem that city, however a city of Israel, for a heathen, profane, impure city; and, as such, abhor it.”


1 Babylonian Talmud, Seder Moʿed, Tractate Shabbat, Chapter 1, Folio 14b, Gemara
2 Lightfoot, p. 186


Lightfoot, John. Horae Hebraicae et Talmudicae: Hebrew and Talmudical Exercitations. Trans. Gandell, Robert. Vol. 2. Oxford: UP of Oxford, 1859.

  • That's brand new information to me, thanks! +1
    – Ruminator
    Dec 3, 2018 at 19:34

Yes it was. Though it was a symbol of getting rid of sinful Gentile land (anything Gentiles stepped on were considered contaminated with sin), during the time of Jesus it also meant to move on from them and no longer hang out with them to share the Good News (because they were not welcome at all to begin with).

The gesture as akin to saying "You don't want what we're offering? Your loss." but much deeper. It brought with it a sense of indigation, saying "You people are worse than Gentiles."

https://biblehub.com/commentaries/ellicott/matthew/10.htm https://www.studylight.org/language-studies/difficult-sayings.html?article=445

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