I have often wondered why God created us humans in the physical form that He did. There are many different aspects to this question, but the one that I want to focus on in this paper is that of cleanliness. We are filthy smelly creatures if you think about it. We defecate, we urinate, we sweat, we have menstrual or seminal emissions, we pass wind in both directions, we spit, cough, sneeze and throw up. And that is if we are healthy! If unhealthy then I guess we need to add coughing up mucous and the production of pus from infections etc. Did I miss anything? All pretty unpleasant when you spend the time to think about it. So why would a perfect divine being create something so evidently unpleasant to be His children? I think I know the answer but let us wait to see what the scriptures have to say on the subject….


The apparent lack of cleanliness started at the very beginning with the creation of man and original sin. God created Adam from the dust of the ground, an apparently ignominious start to the life of God’s first-born human son:

7 And Jehovah God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2 ASV)

This theme was resumed in the light of Adam’s original sin where his sweating from hard work was referenced, together with his return to the dust from which he was formed upon his death. An equally ignominious and unclean existence and ending to a life as it had begun:

19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou [art], and unto dust shalt thou return. (Genesis 3 KJV)

So, arising directly from Adam’s creation and sin, it appears mankind was destined to be an unclean species from start to finish.

Ritual Cleanliness

Cleanliness was clearly an important matter for the Aaronic priesthood. God made it very clear that for mankind, especially the Holy Priesthood, physical cleanliness was mandatory prior to approaching God’s Holy artefacts:

19 And Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat:
20 when they go into the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water, that they die not; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to burn an offering made by fire unto Jehovah.
21 So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not: and it shall be a statute for ever to them, even to him and to his seed throughout their generations. (Exodus 30 ASV)

And then executed as commanded:

30 Then he placed the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar and put water in it for washing.
31 And Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet at it.
32 When they went into the tent of meeting and when they went near to the altar they would wash, just as Jehovah had commanded Moses. (Exodus 40 NWT)

Whilst I am not entirely sure if feet washing is always only to be considered a ritual act of cleanliness, it also seems to have been a matter of hospitality on the arrival of honoured guests as per Abraham’s offering to wash the feet of his three famous visitors: 

4 Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: (Genesis 18 KJV)

And another example offered to an unnamed Levite and his concubine:

21 So he brought him into his house, and gave provender unto the asses: and they washed their feet, and did eat and drink. (Judges 19 KJV)

And ditto by Abigail to David’s servants:

41 And she arose, and bowed herself on [her] face to the earth, and said, Behold, [let] thine handmaid [be] a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord. (1 Samuel 25 KJV)

Uncleanness Defined In The Law

Next, we should look at the various verses from the Law of Moses that pertain to the keeping of the hygiene of the human body. First off, touching the carcass of an unclean creature or an unclean man was deemed a sin:

2 Or if a soul touch any unclean thing, whether [it be] a carcase of an unclean beast, or a carcase of unclean cattle, or the carcase of unclean creeping things, and [if] it be hidden from him; he also shall be unclean, and guilty.
3 Or if he touch the uncleanness of man, whatsoever uncleanness [it be] that a man shall be defiled withal, and it be hid from him; when he knoweth [of it], then he shall be guilty. (Leviticus 5 KJV)

So, we see that numerous living creatures could be deemed to be unclean under certain conditions, not just mankind. Also verse 3 above identifies that the uncleanness of man can come from numerous unnamed sources. Two chapters on, this theme of general uncleanness is repeated in connection with the eating of the sacrificial offering:

20 but the soul that eateth of the flesh of the sacrifice of peace-offerings, that pertain unto Jehovah, having his uncleanness upon him, that soul shall be cut off from his people.
21 And when any one shall touch any unclean thing, the uncleanness of man, or an unclean beast, or any unclean abomination, and eat of the flesh of the sacrifice of peace-offerings, which pertain unto Jehovah, that soul shall be cut off from his people. (Leviticus 7 ASV)

Then we have the whole of Leviticus Chapter 11, which contains a litany of the unclean animals that the Children of Israel were not meant to eat. Rather than reproduce the whole of the chapter, I provide a couple of relevant verses towards the start and end of this rather large list of unclean animals to give you the sense of the thing:

4 Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof: [as] the camel, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he [is] unclean unto you. (Leviticus 11 KJV)

46 This [is] the law of the beasts, and of the fowl, and of every living creature that moveth in the waters, and of every creature that creepeth upon the earth:
47 To make a difference between the unclean and the clean, and between the beast that may be eaten and the beast that may not be eaten. (Leviticus 11 KJV)

In the introduction, I made much more of the uncleanness associated with healthy humans than for those with ill health. Scripture does not necessarily follow that pattern. As we saw above, a whole chapter of the Law was devoted to the eating of unclean animals, so we have the whole of Leviticus 13 devoted to the identification and management of the plague of leprosy and its victims defined as unclean. Again, I provide verses near the beginning and end of that chapter to give you a flavour of the nature of the whole. It starts with the identification of leprosy in the man or woman and ends with the washing of the clothes worn by the victim:

2 When a man shall have in the skin of his flesh a rising, a scab, or bright spot, and it be in the skin of his flesh [like] the plague of leprosy; then he shall be brought unto Aaron the priest, or unto one of his sons the priests: (Leviticus 13 KJV)

59 This [is] the law of the plague of leprosy in a garment of woollen or linen, either in the warp, or woof, or any thing of skins, to pronounce it clean, or to pronounce it unclean. (Leviticus 13 KJV)

As if this were not quite enough, we then have the whole of chapter 14 devoted to the ‘medical’ treatment of the disease. Again, a small number of verses should suffice to set the tone:

2 This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought unto the priest: (Leviticus 14 KJV)

8 And he that is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes, and shave off all his hair, and wash himself in water, that he may be clean: and after that he shall come into the camp, and shall tarry abroad out of his tent seven days.
9 But it shall be on the seventh day, that he shall shave all his hair off his head and his beard and his eyebrows, even all his hair he shall shave off: and he shall wash his clothes, also he shall wash his flesh in water, and he shall be clean. (Leviticus 14 KJV)

56 And for a rising, and for a scab, and for a bright spot:
57 To teach when [it is] unclean, and when [it is] clean: this [is] the law of leprosy. (Leviticus 14 KJV)

While we are on the subject of leprosy, it is noteworthy that Jehovah used the built-in human susceptibility for the uncleanness of this disease as a punishment on those who disobeyed Him, King Uzziah being a notable example:

20 And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked upon him, and, behold, he was leprous in his forehead, and they thrust him out quickly from thence; yea, himself hasted also to go out, because Jehovah had smitten him.
21 And Uzziah the king was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a separate house, being a leper; for he was cut off from the house of Jehovah: and Jotham his son was over the king's house, judging the people of the land. (2 Chronicles 26 ASV)

Then we have the whole of Leviticus 15 dedicated to what appears to be the lack of cleanliness in the reproductive equipment of perfectly healthy folk. I do not think we are here looking at sexually transmitted diseases but the uncleanness associated with seminal and menstrual discharges. Again, a small sample of verses should suffice to set the tone:

2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When any man hath a running issue out of his flesh, [because of] his issue he [is] unclean. (Leviticus 15 KJV)

32 This [is] the law of him that issues, and of him from whom semen goes out, for uncleanness by it;
33 and of her who is menstruating in her impurity, and of him from whom the issue [goes], of a male or of a female, and of a man who lies with an unclean woman. (Leviticus 15 GLT)

Finally in Chapter 22 we have a wrap-up section summarising all the previous items that can cause uncleanness in the human body:

4 Any man of the seed of Aaron that [is] leprous or has an issue, he shall not eat of the holy things until he is clean. And he who touches any uncleanness of a person, or a man whose semen has gone out of him;
5 or a man who touches any swarming thing which is unclean to him, or touches a man who is unclean to him, by any of his uncleanness,
6 the person who touches it shall even be unclean until the evening, and shall not eat of the holy things, but shall bathe his flesh with water. (Leviticus 22 GLT)


Application of the Law

The Book of Numbers then goes on to explain, for certain instances, as to how the uncleanness defined by the Law needs to be dealt with:

10 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If any man of you or of your generations shall be unclean by reason of a dead body, or be on a journey afar off, yet he shall keep the passover unto Jehovah.
11 In the second month on the fourteenth day at even they shall keep it; they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs: (Numbers 9 ASV)

So, above we have an example of uncleanness associated with touching a dead body. Under these circumstances, Jehovah deemed such uncleanness to be a valid reason for not celebrating the Passover festival on its due date but to wait to celebrate it a month later as a late Passover. This is a practice that the LWs and orthodox Jews still keep today.

Chapter 19 then goes on to consider uncleanness in connection with ritual sacrifice. This starts off with ensuring that the sacrificial heifer is a clean animal:

2 This [is] the ordinance of the law which the LORD hath commanded, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, wherein [is] no blemish, [and] upon which never came yoke:
3 And ye shall give her unto Eleazar the priest, that he may bring her forth without the camp, and [one] shall slay her before his face: (Numbers 19 KJV)

Following on from this, the priest is deemed unclean through touching the carcass of the sacrificed animal and was required to wash to cleanse himself:

7 Then the priest shall wash his clothes, and he shall bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp, and the priest shall be unclean until the even. (Numbers 19 KJV)

This Chapter then continues with the rituals associated with the cleansing after touching a dead body:

11 He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days.
12 He shall purify himself with it on the third day, and on the seventh day he shall be clean: but if he purify not himself the third day, then the seventh day he shall not be clean. (Numbers 19 KJV)

Then suddenly, out of nowhere in the Book of Deuteronomy, we get a comment related to the uncleanness associated with men of war after a battle with an accident at night (the reader can draw his own conclusions as to the likely cause) and defecation in the field:

10 'When there is in thee a man who is not clean, from an accident at night -- then he hath gone out unto the outside of the camp -- he doth not come in unto the midst of the camp -- (Deuteronomy 23 YLT)

13 And a peg should be at your service along with your implements, and it must occur that when you squat outside, you must also dig a hole with it and turn and cover your excrement. (Deuteronomy 23 NWT)

Spiritual Cleanliness

I think it is clear from all the above, that God knew very well that His creation was, by its very nature, an unclean being. This was clearly a deliberate action on God’s part to design and produce such filthy offspring. We start to see God’s true message for us on this in the writings of David where, in the space of five verses, he requests that God makes him clean in both body and spirit:

7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Cause me to hear joy and gladness; the bones You have crushed will rejoice.
9 Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me out from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. (Psalms 51 GLT)

The same message is forthcoming in God’s Word to the Prophet Ezekiel:

25 And I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.
26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.
27 And I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep Mine ordinances, and do them. (Ezekiel 36 JPS)

Isaiah’s vision also intimates that God intended more than physical cleansing:

16 Wash yourselves, purify yourselves. Put away the evil of your doings from My sight; stop doing evil. (Isaiah 1 GLT)

Let us see if the New Testament scriptures continue with this overall message…


New Testament Scriptures

Unsurprisingly we find the New Testament Scriptures continue to throw a new light on the subject of cleanliness as did the Old Testament scriptures in the previous section. Matthew sets the scene nicely by comparing physical cleanliness to the more important cleanliness within the human spirit:

1 Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying,
2 Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
3 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? (Matthew 15 KJV)

25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.
26 [Thou] blind Pharisee, cleanse first that [which is] within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead [men's] bones, and of all uncleanness.
28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. (Matthew 23 KJV)

In similar vein, Mark describes Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees for following the rules of physical cleanliness laid down by men, whilst ignoring the true spiritual cleanliness required by God:

5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?
6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with [their] lips, but their heart is far from me.
7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men.
8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, [as] the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. (Mark 7 KJV)

The ritual of foot washing was clearly established in Old Testament times but Jesus’ washing of His disciples’ feet turned it into a rather broader topic than merely keeping His brothers’ feet clean. Here it has become a baptism in the spirit. His faithful disciples being made clean for their sealing into the salvation of the 1st New Covenant:

5 After that he put water into a basin and started to wash the feet of the disciples and to dry them off with the towel with which he was girded.
6 And so he came to Simon Peter. He said to him: Lord, are you washing my feet?
7 In answer Jesus said to him: What I am doing you do not understand at present, but you will understand after these things.
8 Peter said to him: You will certainly never wash my feet. Jesus answered him: Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.
9 Simon Peter said to him: Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.
10 Jesus said to him: He that has bathed does not need to have more than his feet washed, but is wholly clean. And you men are clean, but not all. (John 13 NWT)

Ananias continued the concept of the cleansing of the spirit by his baptism of Saul, aka Paul:

16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. (Acts 22 KJV)

Paul broadened out this notion by effectively applying the baptism in water to the whole of Christ’s church. But this is a cleanliness provided in the spirit by the Word of Christ to remove spiritual blemishes from the congregation. This clearly followed on from the physical washing to remove physical blemishes in the Law of Moses:

25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5 KJV)

In his second letter to the congregation at Corinth, Paul confirmed the need to keep clean in both body and spirit:

1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 7 KJV)

With a similar message in his letter to the Hebrew congregation:

22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10 KJV)

This concept of washing the faithful ones to be clean in the spirit is nicely summarised by Paul in his letter toTitus:

5 not by works [done] in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, (Titus 3 ASV)

And Peter clearly states the supremacy of spiritual cleanliness over that of the physical body:

21 The like figure whereunto [even] baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: (1 Peter 3 KJV)

John’s 1st letter puts it even more graphically in that confessing our sins will enable their being washed away by our faith in the sacrificial blood of Christ:

7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1 KJV)

Even more graphically we see John’s vision of a bloodied Christ leading the host of heaven who all appear clean and spotless:

13 And he [was] clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
14 And the armies [which were] in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. (Revelation 19 KJV)

As a final but separate differentiation between the Law and faith we find that, in contrast to God’s using leprosy as a punishment, Jesus used men’s faith as a reason to release them from that physical uncleanness. A clear case of spiritual cleanness overriding a lack of physical uncleanness:

12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:
13 And they lifted up [their] voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
14 And when he saw [them], he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. (Luke 17 KJV)



Before I began this paper, I expected to find that the natural physical uncleanness of man was a precursor to our spiritual uncleanness. The former requires a physical washing to maintain our physical health, the latter requires a confession of sins and a spiritual baptism to cleanse those sins from our hearts. I believe my expectation of this paper has been met. As I have found in numerous previous papers, the physical associated with the Old Testament is a metaphor for the spiritual of the New Testament. Whilst we humans are whole souls, comprising our spirits enclosed within our physical bodies (
Introduction 9 -  What is a Soul? What is a Spirit?), we need to keep both bodily and spiritual good health, but spiritual health is clearly the true objective. Amen.


  1. Man is evidently a naturally unclean being.
  2. Scripture demonstrates this through the first man, Adam, who was made from the dust of the Earth, sweats during his life and returns to the dust upon his death.
  3. The Law required the Aaronic priests to keep themselves physically clean before approaching the holy artefacts.
  4. The Law also defines numerous cases whereby mankind can become unclean and how to wash that uncleanness away. It also defines that the other Earthly creatures can also be unclean and that mankind can attract their uncleanness without proper care. That uncleanness extends to the contracting of communicable disease such as leprosy.
  5. Physical uncleanness is normally treated with washing or other appropriate methods.
  6. Several Old Testament scriptures begin to identify the need for whole soul cleanliness of body and spirit. The New Testament confirms this and places a clean spirit before a clean body.
  7. Cleanliness of spirit is attained through confession of sins and a spirit baptism.
  8. This is another example of the Old Testament providing a physical metaphor for the important spiritual message that follows in the New Testament.

Date of Publication: 18th October 2023

The Importance of Hygiene and Cleanliness


Image Courtesy of Wilkins Linen

Jewish Lords' Witness