The Hebrew reʹghel and the Greek pous basically refer to the lowest part of the leg, the body part upon which a person or an animal stands. Both terms are used literally and figuratively.
In ancient times, as in many parts of the earth today, the feet were the main means of transportation. Some of the common people went barefoot, but sandals consisting of little more than a sole were commonly worn. (See SANDAL.) On entering a house, a person removed his sandals. An essential, virtually obligatory mark of hospitality was to wash the feet of a guest; the service was performed either by the householder or by a servant, or at least water was provided for the purpose.—Ge 18:4; 24:32; 1Sa 25:41; Lu 7:37, 38, 44.
Since the sandals were removed when one was on holy ground, the priests when performing duties in the tabernacle or the temple undoubtedly served barefoot. (Ex 3:5; Jos 5:15) No sandals were included in the instructions for making the priests’ garments.—Ex chap 28; see ATTITUDES AND GESTURES.
Christ Washes Disciples’ Feet. Jesus Christ gave his disciples a lesson in humility and service to one another when he, their Master, washed their feet. (Joh 13:5-14; compare 1Ti 5:9, 10.) On this occasion Jesus said: “He that has bathed does not need to have more than his feet washed, but is wholly clean,” doubtless referring to the fact that even if a person was bathed, his feet would get dusty even in a short walk and would frequently need washing. In the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry, the priests and Levites on guard duty at the temple, after immersing themselves early in the morning, were not required to bathe again that day, except to wash their hands and feet. (See also Ex 30:19-21.) By saying, “you men are clean, but not all [referring to Judas],” Jesus apparently gave his actions on this occasion an additional spiritual significance. (Joh 13:10, 11) At Ephesians 5:25, 26 Jesus is shown as cleansing the Christian congregation with “the bath of water by means of the word” of truth. Logically, Jesus’ faithful followers were likewise to show humble concern not only for the physical needs of their brothers but even more so for their spiritual needs. Thereby they would help one another to keep clean from the daily temptations and entanglements that might contaminate a Christian while walking in this world.—Heb 10:22; Ga 6:1; Heb 12:13; see WASHING OF FEET.
“Walking.” The words “foot” and “feet” are frequently used to denote a person’s inclination or the course he takes, good or bad. (Ps 119:59, 101; Pr 1:16; 4:26; 5:5; 19:2; Ro 3:15) The word “walk” is used with similar significance, as in the statement, “Noah walked with the true God,” meaning that he took a course in harmony with God’s will and commandments. (Ge 6:9; compare Eph 2:1, 2.) God directs the feet of his faithful servants in the right path, figuratively, showing them the way to go so as not to stumble to a spiritual fall or be ensnared in evil, and sometimes even safeguarding them against capture by the enemy. (1Sa 2:9; Ps 25:15; 119:105; 121:3; Lu 1:78, 79) On the other hand, he will cause the wicked to lose their footing and go down in defeat. (De 32:35; Ps 9:15) Jehovah warns against associating in a course with bad persons, or going in a bad path. (Pr 1:10, 15; 4:27) He advises a person to guard his feet when going to the house of God. The person should draw near with a sincere heart to hear and to learn.—Ec 5:1.
Other Figurative Uses. Other figurative expressions are ‘resting-place for the sole of the foot,’ that is, a place of residence or possession (Ge 8:9; De 28:65); “a footbreadth,” to indicate the smallest parcel of land one could possess (Ac 7:5; De 2:5; compare Jos 1:3); ‘lift up the foot,’ to take or initiate a course of action (Ge 41:44); “make your foot rare at the house of your fellowman,” not taking undue advantage of his hospitality (Pr 25:17); ‘walking barefoot,’ in humiliation or mourning (captives often being led barefoot) (Isa 20:2); ‘laying something at the feet of’ a person, as a gift or offering (Ac 5:1, 2); ‘falling at one’s feet,’ in obeisance (Mr 5:22); ‘putting under the feet,’ in subjection (1Co 15:27; Heb 2:8); ‘bruising or treading under feet,’ in victory (Mal 4:3; Ro 16:20); ‘putting feet upon the neck of an enemy,’ as a symbol of subduing or conquering him (Jos 10:24); ‘washing the foot in blood,’ in execution of enemies (Ps 68:22, 23); ‘covering the feet,’ easing nature (literally, ‘keeping the feet hidden’; Jg 3:24; 1Sa 24:3). The phrase “dipping his foot in oil” was used prophetically in foretelling the fat, or abundant, portion that the tribe of Asher would have among the other tribes of Israel. (De 33:24) Ruth uncovered the feet of Boaz and lay down at his feet as a notification for him to take legal action in the matter of brother-in-law marriage.—Ru 3:4, 7, 8.
“Comely” feet. Jehovah has special regard for the feet of those proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom, calling them “comely.” (Isa 52:7; Ro 10:15) The Christian must have his feet shod with “the equipment of the good news of peace” so that he can properly carry the good news. (Eph 6:15) Jesus instructed his disciples that when those in a house or a city refused to take them in or listen to their words, they should shake the dust off their feet, thereby showing that they left the unreceptive house or city to the consequences that were due to come from a higher source, from heaven.—Mt 10:14.
‘Cut off your foot.’ Jesus spoke of ‘cutting off one’s foot,’ not literally but in a figurative sense, when he said: “If, then, your hand or your foot is making you stumble, cut it off and throw it away from you.” He meant that, instead of letting a body member such as a hand or a foot cause its owner to commit unforgivable sin, he should deaden such body member as completely as if it were severed from the body.—Mt 18:8; Mr 9:45; compare Col 3:5.
In the Christian “body.” The apostle Paul, likening the Christian congregation to a human body, highlights the interdependence of the members thereof when he says: “If the foot should say: ‘Because I am not a hand, I am no part of the body,’ it is not for this reason no part of the body.”—1Co 12:15.
God’s Footstool. Jehovah pictures himself in his sovereign position as sitting on a heavenly throne with the earth as his footstool. (Isa 66:1) He says to Zion that he will beautify the place of his sanctuary, and he adds: “I shall glorify the very place of my feet.”—Isa 60:13, 14; see HEEL; TOE.