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Deut 22:5 teaches that women should not wear that which pertains
unto a man.
first assertion, which states that Deuteronomy specifically forbids the wearing of
“that which pertaineth unto a man,” deserves careful study. As
with the study of any scripture, it is important to
read the passage in context and examine the relevant words and their meanings in the original
text. A reputable Bible dictionary or lexicon can be an invaluable aid.
“The woman shall not put on [the weapons/armor of a warrior], neither shall a [warrior] put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.”
Many scholars agree with this translation. Adam Clark, commenting on Deuteronomy, states,
“As the word...geber is here used, which properly signifies a strong man or man of war, it is very probable that armour is here intended; especially as we know that in the worship of Venus, to which that of Astarte or Ashtaroth among the Canaanites bore a striking resemblance, the women were accustomed to appear in armour before her.”4
John Gill in his Exposition of the Entire Bible sees a similar meaning in 22:5:
“...and the word [keliy] also signifies armour, as Onkelos renders it; and so here forbids women putting on a military habit and going with men to war, as was usual with the eastern women; and so Maimonides illustrates it, by putting a mitre or an helmet on her head, and clothing herself with a coat of mail; and in like manner Josephus explains it, 'take heed, especially in war, that a woman do not make use of the habit of a man, or a man that of a woman...'” (sic) 5
Rabbi Jon-Jay Tilsen of The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism writes in an excerpt from an article entitled “Cross Dressing and Deuteronomy 22:5,”
“In another attempt to identify the quintessential 'men's items,' Rabbi Eliezer ben Jacob, quoted in the Talmud (edited about 800 C.E.), says, ‘What is the proof that a woman may not go forth with weapons to war?’ He then cites our verse [Deuteronomy 22:5], which he reads this way: ‘A warrior's gear may not be put on a woman’ (B. Naz. 59a). He reads kli gever [geber] as the homograph kli gibbor, meaning a ‘warrior's gear’.”
Rabbi Tilsen further states,
“This same understanding is followed by Midrash Mishlei (Proverbs) which contends that the Biblical character Yael in the Book of Judges kills General Sisera with a tent pin instead of a sword in order to comply with this law. It would have been 'unlady-like' for her to use a sword -- worse, a violation of the law -- because a sword is a man's tool...”
Considering the sheer specificity of Deut 22:5 and the precise nature of
those things that are forbidden, Deut 22:5 is most likely
ceremonial law rather than moral law, which would mean that it would
have little, if any, implications for Christians today.
Many believe, however, that this verse still applies to us today because
this verse states that violators of this law are an abomination to God
and that which was an abomination to God in the Old Testament would also
be an abomination to God in the New Testament. However, the usage of the
word abomination in Deut 22:5 does not necessarily make it
a timeless moral law because any violation of God’s mandates is an
abomination to Him, whether it is a violation of ceremonial law or moral
law. Furthermore, Deut 22:5 is placed squarely in the middle of,
and is completely surrounded by, ceremonial laws. If it is indeed a
principle to be literally followed today, why would God choose to bury
this verse in the middle of what are clearly ceremonial laws?
“…a long-sleeved tunic worn over the sadhin, likewise a shirt with sleeves... Here the ‘coat’ (Hebrew ‘KThohneth) was the ordinary “inner garment ‘worn by the Jew of the day, in which he did the work of the day (see Mt 24:18; Mk 13:16). It resembled the Roman tunic, corresponding most nearly to our ‘long shirt,’ reaching below the knees always, and in case it was designed for dress occasions, reaching almost to the ground.” 8
Easton’s Bible Dictionary states that this basic garment was worn by both men and women:
“The ‘coat’ (kethoneth), of wool, cotton, or linen, was worn by both sexes.”
Easton’s further states that,
“The robes of men and women were not very much different in form from each other.” 9
The second part of the common Jewish costume was the “outer garment.”
Throughout the Old and New Testaments, the outer garment varied in size,
shape and purpose. It is given various names (both in the original
Hebrew and in translation) and is used in a variety of ways. This outer
garment was commonly used to cover the head of both men and women (cf.
Ruth 3:15, 2 Sam 15:30) and was also commonly wrapped around the
shoulders (cf. Isa 3:22). While the outer garment served many purposes and was at
times used in different ways by men and women, the way it was used was
not consistent with either sex. The garment itself does
not appear to have been made functionally different to any significant
degree, and the distinctions between the male and female outer garments were merely
stylistic (i.e. color, trim, size, etc.).
Many that forbid women to wear pants argue that if it is acceptable for women to wear pants, then it should be acceptable for a man to wear a dress or a skirt. This is a valid point. However, there is no inherent sin in a man putting on a skirt-like garment, which is a common practice in some cultures around the world just as it was in the Bible. The error would be in the fact that a man wearing a skirt in modern American society would be deemed as counter-culture to the very people we, as Christians, are trying to be examples to -- namely unbelievers. However, women wearing pants is hardly counter-culture. While there was once a time in our society when a woman in pants would have been viewed negatively by society, such is not the case today. Is that because society’s morals have declined, and it no longer sees women in pants as the sin that it is? Of course not, it is merely a change in fashion. Just because society had a particular view in the past, does not mean that such a view was inherently more moral. Ford once made only black cars and refused to make any other color. Today, Fords come in every color under the sun. Was that the result of some sort of moral backsliding? No, it is just that society's tastes have changed. In Renaissance Europe, silk hosiery were considered appropriate attire for men, yet today they are deemed as feminine. Changes in style and fashion aren’t inherently sinful and most of the time only reflect a change in taste. Women’s pants are no different. Women did not start wearing pants as a means of rebellion or to be more “manly” but because they were more comfortable and functional. Fashion has been moving in the direction of more function and less style for well over a century now. This is evidenced most recently by the fact that suits and ties are much less common in the workplace now, having been replaced by khakis and button-up shirts. Does that signal some moral decline? Absolutely not -- it only reflects a trend in fashion for more basic and functional clothing just as women’s fashions did in moving toward pants. It is important that we do not have a knee-jerk reaction to every change in fashion. Clearly, some are indicative of moral decline, but many are not. As with everything, changes in fashion must be weighed against biblical truths to make the determination.
In short, the issue of clothing must always be carefully, thoughtfully and honestly studied from a scriptural perspective while allowing the scriptures to be the ultimate authority on such issues. A thorough study into the clothing norms of the Bible reveals that there was no distinction between men’s and women’s clothing in the Bible beyond stylistic differences such as trim, color and size. In fact, God Himself made clothing for Adam and Eve that was so similar that one word (kethoneth) could describe the specific garment he made for each of them. This same word describes the clothing worn by Godly men and women throughout the Bible from the Old Testament to the New Testament. Yet today, many Christians demand much more than even the Bible did by requiring not only a difference in style but a difference in function and form as well. If God makes no such clothing demands on His people, then who are we to make them? Do we know better than God?
4- Clark, Adam. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 22:5". "Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible".
5 - Gill, John. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 22:5". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible".
6 - "History of the American T-Shirt." http://