Also you shall have a place outside the camp, where you may go out; and you shall have an implement among your equipment, and when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and turn and cover your refuse. For the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and give your enemies over to you; therefore your camp shall be holy, that He may see no unclean thing among you, and turn away from you. (Deuteronomy 23:12-14)
The Law Of The Loo
There are hundreds if not thousands of laws contained within the Law of Moses. The Ten Commandments highlight the law with ten basic principles that serve as a preamble to the covenant made between the Lord and Israel at Sinai. There are laws governing the religious commandments of the priesthood, worship, sacrifices, and enumerations of consequences for rebellion against God. Included in the Law of Moses are social, economic, military, seasonal, and individual laws pertaining to the kinds of foods that are allowed and forbidden, types of clothing, marriage customs, and restrictions on travel. Every aspect of Jewish life was governed by the Law. Remarkably enough the Law also took into consideration sanitary measures when it came to the manner the people would relieve themselves.
The necessities of nature required action and the Lord did not desire for the camp to be filled with uncleanness. There is an old saying that says, “Cleanliness is next to godliness” and the Lord had this in mind when He wrote the Law of Moses. He did not want the people to be despoiled with the dirt of excrements and required the people to take certain measures to keep the camp clean. This served the purpose of hygiene for obvious reasons. Disease can spread through the inattentiveness of individuals not being careful about maintaining a level of cleanliness. The people did not understand the anatomic reasons for how disease spread through excrements but following the Law would help prevent the spread of plagues that could wipe out the whole camp. When someone went outside the camp to attend to their needs, they were required to take with them an implement with which to dig a hole and cover up it up. Considering the number of people traveling through the wilderness numbering around two-million souls, this would have a great impact for necessity.
General hygiene was one of the reasons God required the people to go outside the camp and dig a whole but there was a larger reason. The camp was a holy place where God’s holy people dwelt. He walked among His people to care for them and protect them from danger. It was not the intention of the Lord to walk among the camp and find excrements strewn around the camp. He did not suggest He would literally be walking upon the ground and find those things undesirable laying around but His desire for the people was to keep the decorum of cleanliness before Him to show godliness in their lives. A camp filled with the filth of the body would not be a place the Lord desired to visit. He incorporated into the Law of Moses, along with the laws governing murder, rape, false witness, and blasphemy (to name a few), the law of cleanliness for the camp. God did not give this as a suggestion to the people but rather emphasized the Law by reminding them that if He saw the unclean thing among the camp, He would turn away from them. The people had no choice but to obey the commandment of the Lord regarding how to attend to their needs as nature required. In the language of our English kinsmen, the Law of Moses contained a Law of the Loo. And God expected the law to be followed.