Prior to Exodus 3:5 was it customary to take off one's shoes on sacred ground?

In Exodus 3:5, when Moses encounters God at the burning bush, God commands Moses to remove his sandals, for the ground on which he was standing was holy. This has led many people to wonder whether it was customary to remove one's shoes on sacred ground prior to this encounter.

While there is no clear evidence that removing shoes was a specific custom in the ancient Near East prior to the time of Moses, there are several indications that it may have been a common practice.

In some cultures, it was customary to remove shoes or other footwear as a sign of respect or reverence. For example, in some Hindu and Buddhist temples, visitors are required to remove their shoes before entering the sacred space.

Another indication comes from the fact that the Bible contains other references to removing shoes or sandals in the presence of God or on sacred ground. In Joshua 5:15, when Joshua encounters the commander of the army of the Lord, he is told to remove his sandals, for he is standing on holy ground.

Similarly, in Isaiah 6:1-7, when Isaiah has a vision of God in the temple, he is struck by his unworthiness and cries out, "Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty." In response, one of the seraphim touches his lips with a live coal from the altar and says, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for."

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Jamie Larson