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 the sandals were removed. An essential, virtually obligatory mark of hospitality was to wash the feet of a guest, the service being performed either by the householder or by a servant; or at least water was provided for the purpose.—Gen. 18:4; 24:32; 1 Sam. 25:41; Luke 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 barefooted. (Ex. 3:5; Josh. 5:15) No sandals were included in the instructions for making the priests’ garments.—Ex. chap. 28.
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. (John 13:5-14; compare 1 Timothy 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 one 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 Exodus 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. (John 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; Gal. 6:1; Heb. 12:13; see WASHING OF FEET.
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; Prov. 1:16; 4:26; 5:5; 19:2; Rom. 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. (Gen. 6:9; compare Ephesians 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. (1 Sam. 2:9; Ps. 25:15; 119:105; 121:3; Luke 1:78, 79) On the other hand, he will cause the wicked to lose their footing and go down in defeat. (Deut. 32:35; Ps. 9:15) Jehovah warns against associating in a course with bad persons, or going in a bad path, (Prov. 1:10, 15; 4:27) He advises one 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.—Eccl. 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 (Gen. 8:9; Deut. 28:65); “a footbreadth,” to indicate the smallest parcel of land one could possess (Acts 7:5; Deut. 2:5; compare Joshua 1:3); ‘lift up the foot,’ to take or initiate a course of action (Gen. 41:44); “make your foot rare at the house of your fellow man,” not taking undue advantage of his hospitality (Prov. 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 (Acts 5:1, 2); ‘falling at one’s feet,’ in obeisance (Mark 5:22); ‘putting under the feet,’ in subjection (1 Cor. 15:27; Heb. 2:8); ‘bruising or treading under feet,’ in victory (Mal. 4:3; Rom. 16:20); ‘putting feet upon the neck of an enemy,’ as a symbol of subduing or conquering him (Josh. 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’—Judg. 3:24; 1 Sam. 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 their brothers of Israel. (Deut. 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.—Ruth 3:4, 7, 8.
Jehovah has special regard for the feet of those proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom, calling them “comely.” (Isa. 52:7; Rom. 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 upon them from a higher source, from heaven.—Matt. 10:14.
‘Cut off your foot’
Jesus used the term “foot” figuratively in saying: “If, then, your hand or your foot is making you stumble, cut it off and throw it away from you,” meaning that if something as precious as the hand or foot is causing us to sin, or if something is leading us to sin with the hand or foot, we should get rid of that thing rather than to forfeit integrity and life itself.—Matt. 18:8.
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.”—1 Cor. 12:15.
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 adds: “I shall glorify the very place of my feet.”—Isa. 60:13, 14; see ATTITUDES AND GESTURES; HEEL; TOE.