{Word Study} Come “Karav”


Exodus 3:5: “Draw (come) not nigh hither” God said: “Put off thy shoes from thy feet, for the place whereupon thou standest is holy ground.”
Come (draw) – Hebrew: Karav – to draw near, to come, approach, heart

Practically every Christian commentary I’ve read seems to agree (which is unusual for Christian commentators) that removing one’s shoes before God is a sign of respect and reverence.  This is based upon sound reasoning.  In the oriental culture one removes his shoes before entering a house of royalty or the home of someone of great honor. This is done to show respect and reverence for that person.  Are we then to submit to oriental culture?  You mean God is not a capitalist or an American?  Then too, does God have to demand respect from us?  I’ve performed many weddings and somehow when I ask the groom if he will love, honor and respect his bride, I get this look like: “Any other stupid questions?”   I mean when you are in love, honor and respect comes with the territory. I ask that question for 10 years later when you might not feel in love. If you love God, He doesn’t have to demand you show respect, you just do.

The word “come” (Heb. Karav) is in a simple qal imperfect form.  It is not in a piel imperative (intense command) as most English translations render this.  So this it not a command nor a suggestion, but more of a request, giving Moses an option.     However, I doubt God was requesting Moses to remove his shoes to get comfortable.   He did it because he was on “holy ground.”  Yet, he was already standing on “holy ground” when God made this request, so it wasn’t as if lightning would strike him dead if he did not remove his shoes.

I checked through Jewish literature and, like in Christianity, almost all Jewish scholars without exception seemed to agree (which is unusual for Jewish scholars),  that God wanted Moses to remove his shoes so that his flesh would come in contact with the presence of God.  It was to make a connection between heaven and the natural world.  Spiritually speaking, shoes are symbolic of the materialism and natural obstructions of the world.  The sages teach that when Moses removed his shoes he was removing any natural, physical hindrances that stood between God and him.
Indeed, it is very interesting that the writer used the Hebrew word “karav” for “come” or “approach” rather than “yalak.”   The word “karav” has a double meaning, particularly when used with the adverb “halom (hither, closer).”   “Karav” can also mean one’s heart.  With the adverb “halom (hither, closer)” it would be an invitation to enter God’s heart.   When  God invited Moses to remove his shoes he was  inviting  Moses to remove all obstructions of physical desires and to enter His heart so He could share the secrets of His heart with Moses.

So the next time you are worshipping God and feel compelled to remove your shoes, I would suggest two things: First, consider this as an invitation from God to take off your natural obstructions (financial pressure, job pressure, relationship pressure etc) and to enter God’s heart.   Perhaps, like Moses,  God is saying: “I want to speak with you, I want to share my heart’s desire with you, but I can’t do if you are stressing out over your job or finances.  Take your shoes off (take off your natural desires)  and come, let’s share our hearts together.”
The second thing I would suggest – Dr. Shoell’s Foot Deodorizer.