What is Uncovered Nakedness?

People from around the world helped make this video. It features voices from Israel.

Objection 2:
We are commanded not to see other people’s nakedness.

In the 18th and 20th chapters of Leviticus, we are repeatedly instructed NOT to “uncover the nakedness of…” a long list of specific individuals.

It seems like a clear and simple prohibition against seeing other people naked. Perhaps it also means that we cannot be seen either?

We can determine the true meaning by agreeing to interpret Scripture carefully, with historical and grammatical context.

It Means Something Else

Bible scholars agree that uncovering nakedness is a Hebrew idiom. An idiom is something used in place of something else, such as “raining cats and dogs.” 

Evidently, scholars tell us that “uncover nakedness” always means “to participate in sexual intercourse.” Sometimes, it can also be a means of challenging rulership.

When you hear someone say, “I’m sleeping with so and so,” your cultural knowledge will tell you that they aren’t really sleeping. It’s a modern euphemism for sex.

Idioms and euphemisms often change across cultures and over time, so we should tread carefully when we discover one.

Going Modern

So, take a moment to pick up a modern translation of Scripture and flip to the verses in Leviticus chapters 18 and 20. Translators have updated them to read “Do not have sexual relations with….”

If you turn over to Leviticus 20:11, you get a double euphemism, but at least the modern writing is more clear!

The man who lies with his father’s wife has uncovered his father’s nakedness; both of them shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.

Leviticus 20:11

In reality, non-sexual nudity was commonplace in Bible times. Public nudity was normal. People bathed, worked, exercised, and played while naked. 

Bathers in the Forest (1897) by Pierre Auguste Renoir

God made us with these “skin suits” and they are perfect, just as they are. 

In conclusion, simple nakedness is simply not prohibited.

A prohibition against illicit sexual activity is not a prohibition against simple nudity.

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