FOOT. The foot of man, because it comes in contact with the earth, is thought to be less honorable than the hand or the head. But in the Christian church “the foot” (i.e., the lowest member) should not suffer a feeling of inferiority or of envy and say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body” (1Cor.12.15), nor should the more prominent directing member (“the head”) say to the foot, “I don’t need you!” (1Cor.12.21). In the East shoes are ordinarily removed when entering a house, and the lowest servant is detailed to wash the feet of the visitor. The priests, before entering the tabernacle in divine service, washed their feet as well as their hands at the laver, just outside, so that no trace of defilement would accompany their service. (For spiritual application see John.13.10; Heb.10.22). In lands where irrigation is practiced, men use shovels to move the earth for the larger channels, but a foot will suffice for a small channel to water a furrow (Deut.11.10). To completely humiliate an enemy, one sometimes put his foot on the captives’ necks as Joshua’s captains did (Josh.10.24).
The feet of the Israelites were miraculously preserved during the long journey in the wilderness (Deut 8:4). Feet suggest movement, “the feet of him who brings good tidings” (Isa 52:7). Angels guard the feet of one “who dwells in the shelter of the Most High...lest you dash your foot against a stone” (Ps 91:1, 12).
Interesting ideas are conveyed by the feet. Taking off the shoes was not only proper before entering a house, but also in the presence of God (Exod 3:5). Solomon commanded, “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God” (Eccl 5:1).
To bare the foot in public expressed mourning (Ezek 24:17) or shameing (Deut 25:9), but to take off a sandal and give to another confirmed a transaction of redemption and exchange (Ruth 4:7). The phrase tr. by the KJV in 1 Samuel 24:3 is “to cover his feet,” but this becomes “to relieve himself” in the RSV. A wicked man could communicate by scraping or tapping with his feet (Prov 6:13). Unlike present day usage, the foot was not used to measure, except possibly the foot’s length not granted to Abraham (Acts 7:5).
A learner sat at the feet of his teacher (Luke 10:39) as Mary did, yet no churchman should ask the poor to sit at his feet (James 2:3) to show discrimination. Jairus fell at the feet of Jesus in humility, respect and supplication (Mark 5:22). Feet were embraced or kissed in adoration (Luke 7:38). Egyptian monuments picture conquerors treading on the vanquished as a method of insult. The Lord promised to trample the Assyrian under foot (Isa 14:25).
“My foot has held fast to his steps” is a poetical claim to a consistent walk (Job 23:11) which has not “let the foot of arrogance come upon me” (Ps 36:11) nor let his foot offend him (Mark 9:45). In the body of Christ, a foot should not envy the hand (1 Cor 12:14, 15).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
Often the feet and shoes were dusted on the highway, as is being done in the Orient to this day, but if it were done in an ostentatious manner in the presence of a person or a community who had refused hospitality to a stranger, it was understood in the same sense in which the cutting in two of the tablecloth was considered in the days of knighthood: it meant rejection and separation (Mt 10:14; Ac 13:51).
The roads of the desert were not only dusty but rough, and the wanderer was almost sure to ruin his ill-made shoes and wound his weary feet. A special providence of God protected the children of Israel from this experience during the long journey through the wilderness. "Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years" (De 8:4; 29:5).
In the house shoes and sandals were never worn; even the most delicate would put on shoes only when going out (De 28:56). The shoes were left outside of the house or in a vestibule. This was especially done in the house of God and at the time of prayer, for whenever or wherever that might be, the law was: "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground" (Ex 3:5; Jos 5:15; Ac 7:33). This custom still prevails among the Moslems of our day. Probably it was the idea of defilement through contact with the common ground which gave rise to its moral application by the Preacher, "Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God" (Ec 5:1 (Hebrew 4:17)).
Nakedness of the feet in public, especially among the wealthier classes, who used to wear shoes or sandals, was a token of mourning (Eze 24:17 and probably also Jer 2:25 and Isa 20:2-4). A peculiar ceremony is referred to in De 25:9,10, whereby a brother-in-law, who refused to perform his duty under the Levirate law, was publicly put to shame. "And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that hath his shoe loosed." See also Ru 4:7,8.
Figurative: In the metaphorical language of Isa 52:7 "the feet" are synonymous with "the coming."