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Footstool is used several times in scripture.

Matthew 5:33-37 NKJV

33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.

Isaiah 66:1 NKJV

66 Thus says the Lord:

“Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest?

What I'm wondering is:

What is the meaning of the earth being God's footstool?

Are there any cultural or historical factors that would influence the interpretation what "footstool" means?

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  • @Dottard I will undelete it. I just didn't have the time to edit it to be more acceptable!
    – Jason_
    Feb 28 at 18:14

4 Answers 4

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Adding a visual to Dottard's excellent information.

A stone relief of Xerxes seated on a throne. Note Xerxes feet are on a footstool.

enter image description here

A lot has been written about ancient thrones and footstools and there are many pictures. Searching "ancient history throne footstool" will generate opportunities for many examples.
I'll attempt a summary.

A literal footstool for a throne would be something on which a ruler rested their feet. If someone came before the ruler and bowed down even the ruler's feet would be higher than the person bowing.
Often the throne and footstool would be on a platform. In 1 Kings 19 there were six steps in front of Solomon's throne. The whole arrangement illustrated that the ruler was above everyone else both in status and physically.

In the case of Matthew 5:33-37 Jesus is teaching us that in the past they had been taught that it was acceptable to swear by the Lord as long as they kept the oath but God is sovereign far above us in every way (metaphorically, heaven is his throne and the earth is his footstool). It is not acceptable that we make swear by God and that we should not swear at all.

In Isaiah 66:1 the point is seen in the rest of the passage:
Thus says the Lord:

1 “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? 2 All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

God has heaven as his throne and the earth as his footstool (which were made by God - Genesis 1) - what could people possibly build that is greater than this? God values those who have a humble and contrite spirit - one who trembles at his word over any temple made by human hands.

Since heaven is God's throne and earth as his footstool God is above, sovereign, ruler over every person and any other authority. Because of who God is everyone owes him their allegiance, obedience, and worship.

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The pertinent word here is הֲדֹם (hadom) = "footstool". It always denotes the footstool of God and is laden with overtones which may be classified as follows:

  1. The earth is God's footstool and the place where we worship, "at His feet" is the idiomatic meaning. This was symbolized by the temple/sanctuary.
  • Ps 99:5 - Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his footstool; he is holy.
  • Ps 132:7 - “Let us go to his dwelling place [the temple], let us worship at his footstool, saying,
  • 1 Chron 28:2 - King David rose to his feet and said: “Listen to me, my fellow Israelites, my people. I had it in my heart to build a house as a place of rest for the ark of the covenant of the LORD, for the footstool of our God, and I made plans to build it.
  • Isa 66:1 - This is what the LORD says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be?
  • Lam 2:1 - How the Lord has covered Daughter Zion with the cloud of his anger! He has hurled down the splendor of Israel from heaven to earth; he has not remembered his footstool in the day of his anger.
  1. Enemies under the feet or acting as a footstool symbolizes the complete victory over one's enemies. {In ancient times it was a common custom to take the king of a conquered nation, make him lie on the ground and the victorious king place his foot on the neck of the defeated king (see Josh 10:24, Ps 18:40, etc)
  • Ps 110:1 - The LORD says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”

Thus, Matt 5:35 simply alludes to Isa 66:1 and others that make the earth sacred (or at least it should be) because the earth should be or should have been a place where all people worship at God's feet (idiomatically).

The text of Ps 110:1 is a reference to God gaining the victory of the enemies of sin and Satan to restore the earth to a place where all worship at the feet of God.

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It seems that this is referring to God's transcendence, with the world being "as nothing" to his power.

Compare Isiah 40:15-17:

Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering. All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.

The idea of the world as God's "footstool" reflects these lines, but in a simpler, less sophisticated way, so easier to quote in briefer passages where this complex point needs to be raised or alluded to.

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  • Thanks apg. Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics by the way! Don't forget to take the tour to see how this site works and differs from the others!
    – Jason_
    Feb 27 at 18:52
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In addition to those, it seems unavoidable to also take it as an indication that the size and scope of God is far greater than anything imaginable. All earthly rulers, palaces, cities, armies, countries, oceans, are contained not just in God's world, but within a minor and lowly piece of God's furniture. (Using that trivial and jarring word "furniture" intentionally, to emphasize the relative triviality of all that humanity can ever do.)

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  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics! Don't forget to take the tour to see how this site works!
    – Jason_
    Feb 27 at 18:56
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