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Deuteronomy 22:5 and the woman in a long pair of pants

15-03-2015 - Posted by Andre Piet

In my mailbox, I received the following question:

Daughter (…) had a conversation with a woman about “men’s and women’s clothing.” The woman claimed that, according to the Bible, a woman is not allowed to wear a long pair of pants. This she took from Deuteronomy 22:5

A master’s apparel shall neither come to be on a woman, nor shall a master put on a woman’s garment, for anyone doing these things is an abhorrence to Yahweh your Elohim.

It is true that, now, we are not under this law, but how are we to understand this then? Is this, ultimately, also about the orientation/identity of male/female and the associated ranking in subordination or does it specifically just deal with the people of Israel?

Indeed, one might suffice by saying that we, as believers from the nations, “are not under the law”. The law of Moses was given to one nation at Mount Sinai and was binding until Christ (Rom. 6:14,15; Gal.3:25; 4:21). Think also of the other instructions in the same Bible chapter, including a vineyard not to be sown with mingled seed (22:9). Or not to wear a garment of different materials (22:11). Or create twisted cords upon the four corners of a garment (22:12). Is it not inconsistent to explain one verse as being mandatory and not the other?

What is more, in Deuteronomy 22:5, it is not at all about women wearing a long pair of pants. Why would a long pair of pants necessarily be a male garment? Such a statement is very culture-bound and cannot be said to be taken from the Bible. So is a long dress, with us, a piece of women’s clothing, but in the Middle East, the average man, already for thousands of years, wears one all the time.

“The apparel of a man” about which Deut.22:5 speaks, is not a very accurate translation. The word that is shown, here, as ‘apparel’ (Str.3627) occurs hundreds of times in the OT, but only in this verse is it translated ‘apparel’. Usually, it is rendered ‘objects’, ’tools’ and even ‘implements’ (for hunting or making war). About the latter, we probably have to think of in Deut.22:5, because the common word for “man” is not used, but ‘geber’, a man who acts like a man, a master. It is, in this verse, not only about a piece of clothing belonging to a man, but about his whole outfit. In other words, this verse is referring to a woman masquerading as a man.

And this latter finding also brings us to the point of this verse. Deut.22:5 condemns transvestism, i.e., deliberately posing and dressing like the opposite sex. In fact, the significance of this prohibition is not at all limited to the old covenant for Israel. Indeed, it takes us back to the beginning, namely, when God created man, “male and female created He them” (Gen.1:27). See there, the sexual identity of human beings. In the Bible, the human sexual identity is never defined by feelings or inclinations. The Bible knows, for example, no homosexual or pedophile identity. On the contrary, it is precisely such feelings and inclinations that demonstrate an estrangement of our sexual identity, regardless of what the causes may be. And transvestism is another example of such sexual alienation (disorientation). The purpose of each person is to become who he or she is. Male or female.