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Moses tells Israel in Deuteronomy 22:5,
5 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.
This law was not meant to regulate cultural styles of dress. In ancient times both men and women wore robes, with only minor differences (as we would view them today). But the Middle Eastern cultures that still dress in that fashion can easily distinguish between a man’s dress and that of a woman. Even so, styles change and are often determined by the climate in order to be practical.
After Adam and Eve sinned, God Himself clothed them, as we read in Genesis 3:21,
21 And the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.
There are some who say that these “skins” were their birthday suits that all of us live in even now. However, the whole sense of the passage is that something new was given to them. I do not see how Adam, who was made of the dust of the ground, would have functioned without skin prior to his sin. Skin is, after all, a major organ of the body that holds us together and even helps improve many people’s appearance.
From the historical book of Jasher, mentioned in Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samuel 1:18, the garment given to Adam was made of animal skin and became the possession of the one holding the birthright. It was passed down from generation to generation until Canaan stole it from Noah. That book treats the garment as actual clothing to cover nakedness, as implied by the book of Genesis.
So Moses’ injunction against crossdressing was not so much directed at cultural styles and dress codes, but upon behavior that identifies a particular manifestation of homosexuality. Even so, Moses does not attach a judgment to such behavior. Discretion is given to a judge, who would most likely administer a beating with few or many stripes, according to the law in Deut. 25:1-3. There is no law forbidding men to be homosexual, although such a condition does fall short of the glory of God and is therefore one of the diseases brought on by the condition of mortality. If, however, the man were guilty of homosexual acts, he could be given the death penalty (Lev. 20:13).
But how does this law apply spiritually?
The purpose of clothing is to cover nakedness. Nakedness itself is a Hebrew metaphor for having one’s sin exposed. This is the implication in Genesis 3:7,
7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.
When Adam and Eve sinned, their eyes were opened, that is, they knew and understood that they had done wrong. Their sin was exposed, and hence, “they knew that they were naked.” Here Moses words it to show a double meaning, linking the literal to the spiritual. Their awareness of sin made them fearful and ashamed, and so they tried to cover themselves with fig leaves. Fig leaves represent a false covering for sin, or self-justification. True covering for sin involves shedding blood for the remission of sin.
In Revelation 3:17, the church of the Laodiceans is described,
17 Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.
The seventh church is not literally naked, but metaphorically and spiritually. They are naked in that their lawlessness is exposed for all to see. This is being fulfilled even today, as the media reports the sins of priests and ministers everywhere.
In Revelation 16:15 we read God’s instruction to the church,
15 Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his garments, lest he walk about naked and men see his shame.
The metaphor pictures a thief in the night, who rides into town while most are sleeping naked in bed. They are thrown from their beds, and having no time to put on their garments, they flee naked into the street. Of course, this verse was meant to be taken on a spiritual level, for the church ought to be watchful and dressed in their robes of righteousness, lest their sin should be exposed for all to see their shame.
This Hebrew metaphor also extended to trees, which were symbols of men (Deut. 20:19). Trees are clothed by leaves. In Matt. 21:19 Jesus found a fig tree having an abundance of leaves but no fruit. He cursed the fig tree for its lack of fruit, saying, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.” That fig tree represented the nation of Judah, which, like Adam and Eve, had clothed itself with self-justifying fig leaves instead of the shed blood of the Messiah.
Later, when Jesus prophesied the revival of that fig tree in Matthew 24:32, He said that it would produce more leaves, but mentioned no fruit. In other words, the Zionist state called “Israel” was to be a major marker of the end times, but that nation would produce only fig leaves, even as in Jesus’ day. Meanwhile, true Israel would “fill the whole world with fruit” (Isaiah 27:6).
This alone is sufficient to prove that the Jewish state is not the Israel of Isaiah’s prophecy.
Once we grasp the spiritual concept of clothing, as shown by these Hebrew metaphors, we can begin to understand the spiritual law regarding crossdressing. Because this involves the clothing of both men and women, it is firmly linked to the biblical concept of marriage and covering. In other words, we are to have a godly covering. But what defines a godly covering?
It goes back to the beginning in the book of Genesis, where man was created male and female, created in the image of God—who is both male and female. Originally, Adam was in the image of both Yahweh and El Shaddai, the male and female sides of God. But when God separated the female from the male, each became incomplete and needed each other to manifest the full image of God. Likewise, each needed the other to provide a double witness in knowing God’s will for the family.
Before the advent of sin, Adam did not cover Eve, nor did Eve cover Adam, for there was no need for authority at that time. Both were covered directly by God Himself. Both Adam and Eve heard the voice of God and could therefore bear witness to each other according to the law of the double witness that establishes all things. Adam naturally heard the voice of Yahweh, the Father (male), while Eve naturally heard the voice of El Shaddai, the Breasted One (female). While the voices of the one God sounded different and revealed different details, they both heard from the same God in heaven.
Things changed when Adam and Eve sinned. Sin made it inevitable that men and women would often disagree, and so God set up an authority structure in Genesis 3:16 as a backup plan when husbands and wives simply could not agree upon some course of action. Authority in marriage is part of an Old Covenant marriage structure, but it was not so from the beginning, where a New Covenant marriage ideal is pictured.
Covering involves authority and responsibility. The husband covers his wife in an Old Covenant marriage. (Sometimes a wife covers her husband.) Extended families required a covering known as a redeemer of blood, who was the parent or legal guardian representing the victims in a court of law. He was the legal covering, responsible to protect those under his care.
Today the extended family is best described as the church or denomination, whose pastor or priest can function as a guardian of the people until they grow to spiritual maturity and can live by a New Covenant way of life.
It is obvious that where there is no sin, there are no victims, and therefore no need for a redeemer of blood. Likewise, a true New Covenant marriage has no need for a man to exercise authority over his wife, for they are in agreement. In such a case, if it were possible to return to the Edenic ideal, husbands and wives would be covered only by God Himself, and not by each other.
Here is the spiritual implication of Moses’ ban on crossdressing. In an ideal situation, men should not be covered by their wives, nor should wives be covered by their husbands. Both should be covered directly by God Himself, as it was in the beginning. This is the spiritual meaning of Moses’ injunction against a man being covered by women’s clothing, and women being covered by men’s clothing. Ultimately, it is a foundational principle of New Covenant marriage.
I realize that ideal marriages are non-existent in an imperfect world. In order to attain perfect marriage, one must go back to Eden. That day will come, as Scripture teaches, but in the present time, we are called to grow spiritually and begin to move in Eden’s direction. If both husband and wife come to some level of spiritual maturity, where both hear the voice of God clearly, it is possible for a marriage to be greatly transformed.
Authority (or compromise) is necessary while we are yet imperfect. But God’s law sets forth the ideal pattern for us to follow. David wrote in Psalm 19:7 and 8, “The law of the Lord is perfect” and “the precepts of the Lord are right.” Hence, the law in Deuteronomy 22:5 presents the principle of perfect marriage that will restore the soul and rejoice the heart.