Cleanliness is next to godliness in the Bible
The saying “Cleanliness is next to godliness” is not in the Bible, which does not mean it is not Biblical. However, the scriptures talk about the importance of being clean and unclean. It was part of ritual, tradition, and way of life.
Hygiene among Jewish people
Hygiene was important to the Jews, but many of them had uncleaned hearts. The reason the Bible often talked about a “clean heart,” rebuking physical cleanliness.
Although there are not many verses that talk about bathing and all that, hygiene is observed among the Jews, both ceremonially and physically.
For example, the Talmud declared it forbidden for a scholar to reside in a city that did not contain a public bath [Sanh. 17b]
Public baths were important to the Jews
Jewish communities maintained public baths during the Middle Ages as part of Jewish social life and welfare institutions. Of course, those who live near the river washed themselves at least once a week. [Jewish library]
In short, bathing was an essential part of Jewish hygiene when bathing was generally considered a luxury in Europe.
Hygiene in Europe during the Middle Ages
In contrast, Europeans, even those who can afford bathing and hygiene like the monarchs, bathed once a year. They saw water as something harmful. Washing the hands before eating was ceremonial for the most part.
Baths are seen as a luxury because of fuel to heat the water. Monks, for example, were often prohibited from taking more than two or three baths in a year.
Quarantine is in the Bible
During the “Black Death of Europe,” Jews were spared from massive death because they practiced hygiene. If someone had a contagious disease, Jews observed quarantine.
The Jews distance themselves from someone who is perceived or declared “unclean,” both spiritually or physically.
Hygiene is critical in maintaining a pleasant relationship
Spiritual cleanliness is more important than physical hygiene. But even with a “clean heart,” it will be hard to live with someone who barely takes a shower, does not trim their nails, or floss teeth.
Even exfoliating your skin or putting on lotion has benefits in promoting pleasantries. Of course, vanity is another thing.
Bible verses about cleanliness
“You shall have a place outside the camp, and you shall go out to it. And you shall have a trowel with your tools, and when you sit down outside, you shall dig a hole with it and turn back and cover up your excrement.
2 KINGS 5:10
And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.”
He shall remain unclean all the days during which he has the infection; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.
As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him.
The one to be cleansed shall then wash his clothes, shave off all his hair, bathe in water, and be clean. Now afterward, he may enter the camp, but he shall stay outside his tent for seven days.
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil…