Q. I just wanted to ask, in such places as Joshua 5:15 where one must remove footwear for being on Holy Ground, what is the significance? I guess shoes are a covering …. is there something that relates to only relying upon God as our covering? Why would it evidently have been wrong to remain shod in the Presence of God?
A. The practice of removing one’s shoes in the presence of God first appeared in Scripture in Exodus 3:5 with Moses at the Burning Bush.
But it apparently began much earlier. Ancient Rabbis taught that at the fall of man when sin entered into the world, the ground was cursed (made unclean). In Jewish law touching an unclean thing makes a person unclean, so God provided Adam and Eve with foot coverings along with their other clothing as a way to avoid contact with the unclean ground.
The presence of God in a location made that location clean, and by telling Moses to take off his shoes at the burning bush, God was authenticating Himself, saying that it was safe to stand before Him barefoot because He had made the ground holy. Same thing with Joshua when he encountered the Angel of the Lord (Jesus) outside the camp in Joshua 5:15.
So, far from being a commandment to humble man, it was God’s promise to mankind that whenever we’re in His presence, we’re on Holy Ground. The fact that it appears twice in Scripture makes it true, because two is the number of witness (Genesis 41:32 & Deut. 19:15).