A flat sole of leather, wood or matted grass strapped to the foot by laces, usually leather thongs passing between the big toe and second toe, around the heel and over the top of the foot. In some cases the strap may have gone as high as around the ankle. Sometimes the thongs passed through holes in the edge of the sole, through loops or “ears” attached to the sole, or were themselves fastened to the sole.
The Egyptians also made sandals of fibrous material such as palm leaves or papyrus stalks. Egyptian sandals usually turned up at the toe. Some Bedouins around Mount Sinai are said to wear sandals made of a species of Dugong (a seallike sea animal found in East Indian and other waters). Jehovah speaks figuratively of shoeing Jerusalem with “sealskin” (Heb., taʹhhash). (Ezek. 16:10) Some Assyrian sandals consisted only of a casement for the heel and side of the foot, fastened over the foot by thongs and having no sole for the front part of the foot. The Beni-hasan panel pictures some Asiatics in Egypt; in it the women have on a low boot trimmed with a white band around the top and reaching above the ankle. The Romans wore sandals, and are said also to have worn shoes similar to modern ones. The aristocracy and royalty of the Assyrians, Romans and others wore more elaborate sandals or bootlike shoes.
The priests are said to have served at the tabernacle and the temple barefooted. (Compare Exodus 3:5; Joshua 5:15; Acts 7:33.) But to go about outdoors barefoot was a sign of grief or humiliation. (2 Sam. 15:30; Isa. 20:2-5; contrast the command to Ezekiel [24:17, 23].) On a long journey it was a custom to carry an extra pair of sandals as the soles might become worn out or the laces broken. Jesus, in sending out the apostles, and also seventy disciples, commanded them not to take two pairs, but to rely on the hospitality of those who accepted the good news.—Matt. 10:5, 9, 10; Mark 6:7-9; Luke 10:1, 4.
Under the Law a widow took the sandal off one who refused to perform brother-in-law marriage with her, and his name was called, reproachfully, “The house of the one who had his sandal drawn off.” (Deut. 25:9, 10) The transfer of property or of right of repurchase was represented by handing one’s sandal to another.—Ruth 4:7-10.
By the expression “over Edom I shall throw my sandal” (Ps. 60:8; 108:9), Jehovah may have meant that Edom would be brought under subjection. It possibly had reference to the custom of indicating the taking of possession by throwing one’s sandal on a piece of land. Or, it could have indicated contempt for Edom, since Moab is called “my washing pot” in the same text. In the Middle East today throwing the sandal is a gesture of contempt.
David instructed Solomon to punish Joab, who had “put the blood of war . . . in his sandals” during peacetime—a figurative statement representing Joab’s bloodguilt for killing Generals Abner and Amasa. (1 Ki. 2:5, 6) This, together with the fact that one putting on his sandals was about to undertake some business away from his house (or wherever he was staying; compare Acts 12:8), illuminates the apostle Paul’s admonition to Christians that they must have their feet “shod with the equipment of the good news of peace.”—Eph. 6:14, 15.