Burying Poop the Bible Way!

Who says the Bible doesn’t have practical advice:

Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover up your excrement. (Deuteronomy 23:12-13.)

Sound advice. If you’re going to poop, don’t leave it in your tent. Don’t leave it in your neighbor’s tent. Don’t leave it in the space between your tent and your neighbor’s tent.

After all, why stink up the camp?

There’s a spiritual aspect to this burying poop, too. The passage goes on to say:

For the Lord your God moves about in your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you. Your camp must be holy, so that he will not see among you anything indecent and turn away from you. (Deuteronomy 23:14.)

The Indecency of Bowel Movements?

I read that passage a few nights ago and wondered what connection there could be between our bodily excrement and holiness before God. After all, God called all his creation very good (Genesis 1:26-31), so I figure even our bowel movements must have been a good thing for God to create.

Then again, the connection of pooping and holiness isn’t the only connection I wonder about. Food is another area. God told the Israelites what they could and could not eat, calling permitted foods clean and forbidden ones unclean.

Then there is life under the New Covenant, where these food rules no longer apply and the spiritual connection with eating formerly forbidden food no longer exists. (Acts 10.) The New Testament writings don’t speak of bowel movements specifically, but with all that the New Testament does say about our freedom from Old Testament legal regulations it’s safe to say that the spiritual aspect of disposing with poop is gone too.

Why, then, should we bother learning the cleanliness regulations in Deuteronomy 23 at all?

Because it still provides an analogy for our spiritual lives now.

Burying Sin in a Hole

God used physical excrement to represent spiritual uncleanness to the Israelites. Having to step outside the camp provided a tangible and daily opportunity for the nation of Israel to remember that God dwelled with them, right there with them in their very camp, and that they were to live in a way that acknowledged his holy presence.

God is with us under the New Covenant too, and he lives not in our camps but in our very selves. (Ephesians 2:22.) The Bible encourages us to remember that we are cleansed of our sins (2 peter 1:9), meaning that unlike the Israelite camp which the Jews needed to keep holy we are now kept holy by God himself.

Yet God’s people still sin. (Romans 7.) The question then becomes: what are we to do with that sin?

  • First, we should rejoice that all of our sins – past. present and future – have already been forgiven. (Colossians 2:13.)
  • Second, we are to remember that God never condemns us for our sins. (Romans 8:1-2.)
  • Third, we can follow the example of the Israelite camp. If you have sinned in whatever way, don’t keep that sin close to you where it will continue to tempt you. (James 1:14.) Don’t keep it somewhere you will come across it easily. Instead, put it aside and remove yourself as best you can from the temptations the led you to it, and move on by the power of the Holy Spirit.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13.)

What about when we don’t resist temptation, though. The passage in Deuteronomy 23 gives good advice on what to do with that sin: leave it behind like the refuse it is.

And remember, the Spirit of Christ lives in us and we are eternally holy to our heavenly Father who never lets us go. (John 10:27-30.)


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16 Responses to Burying Poop the Bible Way!

  1. Laura Droege says:

    I think your third point is really good (they all are, of course, but this one caught my attention). I’ve heard that when we’re tempted to sin, we need to stop, pray, and then do the next thing. Don’t sit there and meditate on “oh, I’m so tempted to do thus-and-such, and oh, how am I going to resist this temptation and . . .” because then we’re focussing on the temptation and not God. We’re also needing to move on. There are other things to be done, and even menial tasks can take our mind off the pressing urge we have to sin that particular sin. Read the Bible. Do the laundry. Unload the dishwasher. Change the baby’s diaper. Go grocery shopping. Go rake the leaves in the yard or a neighbor’s yard. Even things like that can help, and it puts the temptation further away from our immediate attention.

    • Tim says:

      Great advice, Laura. Focusing on the temptation focuses our minds on the sin. Hebrews 12:1-2 says we should focus on Jesus, and that this is part ot turning from those temptations and sins that entangle us. Turning to the task God has put in front of us is part of focusing on him as well, I think, and it is by doing those things that we can distance ourselves from those temptations.

  2. Jeannie says:

    I wonder if any pastors ever preach on that section from the pulpit? And yet it must be in the Bible for a reason, as you’ve shown. The part about how the Jews needed to keep the camp holy, but God is the one who keeps us holy, is really helpful.

  3. Jeremy M. says:

    It always makes me happy to see someone use a rarely taught on passage for a blog, a lesson, or sermon. I guess it often seems that people have the same books of the Bible and same sections they like using, and the rest well just kind of gets ignored.

    I’d say you even took a passage that is ignored and brought solid points out of it. Like Laura I really liked the connection of the story to your third point later. It is a good connection.

  4. Bronwyn Lea says:

    Yes! Another poop post! (and as always, well applied). Let’s take that stuff OUTSIDE the camp.

  5. Aimee Byrd says:

    This interesting section of Scripture reminds me of Hebrews 13:10-14. I may be totally stretching things here, but I am reminded that things are different now under the new covenant. Just as the animal sacrifices were also burned outside the camp, Jesus’ suffering on the cross was outside the city gate, placed with the filth and the cursed. And so the Hebrews were encouraged that they too needed to step outside of the old sacrificial system to participate in try worship due to the once and for all sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    • Tim says:

      Isn’t it amazing how Hebrews 13 tells us it’s OK to go outside the camp where the unclean things are, that this is where we will find our Savior? I am so glad you pointed us to that passage, Aimee.

  6. VelvetVoice (Susan Donroe) says:

    LOL I really enjoyed this! The way you take any scripture and refer to other parts of scripture as interpretation. Of course, I love poop too. One of my favorite subjects to ease the tension.

  7. Pastor Bob says:

    Well done.

  8. e-Scatology blog of the month

  9. Ty says:

    Regarding your “new covenant” idea. Which came first the old or the new covenant? Bible say’s that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord and that Abraham believed and it was counted to him for righteousness. Seems that the New Covenant came first, the old was a rudimentary application of the new. Your idea that burying your poop is an old testament law that doesn’t apply to us today is absolutely ludicrous.

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