Women, Pants, and Deuteronomy 22:5 – Part 1

My post on Transvestism in Ancient Israel generated much discussion about the issue of women wearing pants. Several readers, in private communication, called my attention to two posts (here and here) by Kent Brandenburg in which he challenged my conclusion that Deuteronomy 22:5 deals with pagan practices. Deuteronomy 22:5 reads: “A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God.”

In my post, I wrote the following:

Although scholars have rejected the anti-transvestism law of Deuteronomy 22:5 to be a ban on Canaanite practices, I take the view that this Deuteronomic prohibition is a protest against the immoral practices of Canaanite fertility religion.

In reply to my post, Brother Brandenburg wrote:

They simply speculate the intention of the biblical text. God prohibits women from putting on the male garment and men from putting on the female garment, but instead the intention was to avoid Canaanite worship rituals.

He also wrote:

Deuteronomy 22:5 isn’t hard to understand. . . . The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God. . . . We see nothing in the verse about Canaanite worship or women in the military or transvestism. It is about as straightforward as it can get.

Brother Brandenburg concludes:

I’ve dealt with the interpretation of Deuteronomy 22:5. Now I will show you that women in dresses and skirts and men in pants is how that it has been practiced.

Our country practiced the pants as male dress and the dress or skirt as the female dress. Those were the designed distinctions. None other served as the distinction between the genders. They were erased by the culture because the culture didn’t care to keep those distinctions any longer, despite what God had said. They were replaced by nothing.

To prove his argument, that Deuteronomy 22:5 teaches that women should wear dresses and skirts and that men should were pants, Brother Brandenburg quotes several biblical scholars and their comments on this text.

Brother Brandenburg begins his argument by quoting Martin Luther: “When the devil has persuaded us to surrender one article of faith to him, he has won; in effect he has all of them, and Christ is already lost.” When the issue of whether or not women should wear pants becomes an article of faith then we have enthroned a cultural practice into the realm of church doctrine.

Brother Brandenburg then quotes several biblical scholars on this issue. I will cite Keil and Delitzsch as an example. They wrote:

As the property of a neighbor was to be sacred in the estimation of an Israelite, so also the divine distinction of the sexes, which was kept sacred in civil life by the clothes peculiar to each sex, was to be not less but even more sacredly observed. There shall not be man’s things upon a woman, and a man shall not put on a woman’s clothes.

The distinction between the sexes is established by God and taught in the Bible. When God created human beings, he created them male and female. God blessed them and told them to increase and multiply. This is the reason that in the sexual act, a man joins his wife and they become one flesh.

Homosexuality, both male and female, violates this created order because it destroys this divine distinction between the sexes: homosexual relations do not include a man and a woman. The people involved in a homosexual relationship cannot procreate and they do not become one flesh.

Although sexual distinction between the sexes was established by God, Deuteronomy 22:5 is not teaching that women should wear dresses and skirts and men should wear pants.

There are several Egyptian monuments showing Semites (probably Hebrews or Hapiru) entering Egypt. The image below shows Hebrew men and Hebrew women pictured on monuments.

Semites entering Egypt

Image: Semites Entering Egypt

It is clear from the image above that none of the Hebrew men were wearing pants. In addition, both men and women are wearing robes and in the image some of the robes of the men and women are identical in color and style.

In addition, on the various monuments of other nations of the Ancient Near East, men of various nations and different cultures are portrayed: none of the men are wearing pants.

In the image below, a representation of the obelisk of Shalmaneser III, Jehu, king of Israel appears bowing before the king of Assyria. Neither Jehu nor the Assyrians are wearing pants.

Jehu and Shalmaneser

Image: Jehu Paying Tribute to Shalmaneser III

In the image below, several Hebrews are represented on the obelisk of Shalmaneser. The image shows that the men are not wearing pants.

Jehu and IsraelitesImage: Jehu and Israelites Paying Tribute to Shalmaneser III

If Brother Brandenburg is correct, that Moses ordered men to wear pants, then all of these Hebrew men were violating God’s command. The truth is that Deuteronomy 22:5 is not teaching that women should wear dresses and skirts and men should wear pants.

A closer look at the monuments gives evidence that this statement is true.

Next: The Canaanite connection. Read Women, Pants, and Deuteronomy 22:5 – Part 2

Transvestism in Ancient Israel

Transvestism in Ancient Israel

Women, Pants, and Deuteronomy 22:5 – Part 1

Women, Pants, and Deuteronomy 22:5 – Part 2

Jesus Wore Pants

Women, Paris, and Pants

Women Wearing Pants: The Consequence

Did Jesus Wear a Dress?

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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4 Responses to Women, Pants, and Deuteronomy 22:5 – Part 1

  1. Joshua says:

    I think you are completely missing the whole thrust of Brandenburg's argument. He isn't arguing that Moses was explicitly talking about pants in Deuteronomy. Let's walk through the steps in his argument and see where you disagreeStep 1. He was stating that the Israelites were told that they were to maintain a distinction between the genders in terms of dress, and anyone who attacked those distinctions by donning the opposite sex's garment was designated an abomination by God. He takes all this from Deuteronomy 22:5Here you disagree that this is a correct interpretation. You showed Brandenburg's argument against yours, but you've done nothing to attack it. So lets move on to his second step.Step 2. It is clear from I Corinthians that garments are related to authority. This isn't to say that the Hebrew women were usurping masculine authority by wearing their garments, this is just another point that stands on its own.Do you agree that this inference is reasonable from the passage in 1 Corinthians about headcoverings?If yes then we move on to the third part of his argument – the bit where the two pieces of Scriptural information apply to modern society.Step 3. Women in Western society deliberately rebelled against God-designed distinctions across the board. This was manifest in their rebellion against gender distinctions in clothing, specifically in starting to wear pants. The pants also had an authority connotation, and as such were a particularly high profile target.See what happened there? Deut 22:5 stands on it's own. 1 Cor stands on its own. Both are applied in tandem to show that the cultures rejection of the gender distinction was an attack both upon God's standard of distinction AND on the God given authority of men.That's what he is arguing. To counter that with "Moses wasn't talking about pants" is redundant. Brandenburg isn't arguing that. Maybe I've got you wrong and you'll clear it up in the next post.I think Brandenburg's critique holds here: you've rejected the plain reading of Deuteronomy passage on the assumption that it must be about transvestism. You are guessing about the intent of God here, and then forcing that guess to completely change the plain reading of it. That's akin to me guessing that the prohibition against murder is really a protest against Canannite child sacrifice, and murder actually means infanticide. Thus, God hasn't said I can't kill the guy down the street that annoys me.

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  2. Gary says:

    Joshua,

    Hello my friend, long time no talk to (Kent's What is Truth June 08, 2009 Issue of Designed Gender Distinction). How's the family and is your sister back from her mission's trip.Remember Kent's argument was not based on only gender distinctions, but also authority. Remember he could not give one example outside of 1 Corinthians 11 to support his theory. When asked to give historical(during Moses' time)proof or even OT examples he was found wanting. At least Dr. Mariotinni has some historical and biblical backing.His problem is that he assumes that the clothes have to be distinctly different between the sexes, but I still assume that there is just as much distinction between male and female pants as there were between the garments of old.One more thing, slightly off topic, what do you think about those who believe that 1 Cor 11 is not about a veil, but hair only. Wow!! That would really mess up Dr. Kent's argument. Maybe Dr. Platypus could post something on it.Dr. Mariotinni,Thank you for this post. I'm looking forward to the Canaanite connection. God bless

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  3. Joshua says:

    Hello again Gary.

    My sister is still out abroad!I've written more in response to Dr Mariottini's Part 2. I think what you wrote here is showing a fundamental misunderstand of Pastor B's argument, hence why you found him to becoming frustrated.I've tried to outline the strawman you believe Kent is arguing, and to also demonstrate his actual argument. Have a look there, and then we'll see where we standa fter that.

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  4. Joshua,

    The reason you are misunderstanding my argument is because Deuteronomy 22:5 does not deal with the issue of authority.Using Deuteronomy 22:5 to explain 1 Corinthians 11 is not just wrong, it is a false analogy; it is comparing oranges with grapes because the two texts are dealing with two different subjects.

    Claude Mariottini

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