God Said Men Pee Standing Up
Recently, while I was helping one of my younger sons “do his business” in the men’s YMCA locker room after swimming and before taking a shower, I was reminded that God makes a basic gender distinction in the Bible by referring to the specific stance men assume while peeing:
1 Samuel 25:22: So and more also do God unto the enemies of David, if I leave of all that pertain to him by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall.
To my surprise, I first read this rendering of the bolded section in my Bible devotions after I had switched to the King James Version. I did a double-take when I came across this phrase initially and immediately consulted the Hebrew and confirmed this was in fact the actual wording in the text (and not the single and general word “man” though it does represent men of course figuratively and emphatically in context)!
In this first use of the phrase in Scripture, David is the one speaking, outraged that Nabal would not follow the standard custom of taking care of his men with meals in return for their protecting Nabal’s men in the field against potential attacks. He is talking with Abigail, and threatening to kill all of her husband’s men in retaliation. Thankfully, Abigail talks him down with her feminine grace; and so, later in the conversation, David repents and refrains—yet he retains what is obviously a Hebraic idiom and repeats it in verse 34: For in very deed, as the LORD God of Israel liveth, which hath kept me back from hurting thee, except thou hadst hasted and come to meet me, surely there had not been left unto Nabal by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall.
Rather than using adam or the much more common word ish in the Old Testament Hebrew generically for “man,” David speaks in a deliberately aggressive sense making use of this metaphorical expression for rhetorical effect. While our modern and Western “sensibilities” (or should we say, pansyish sensitivities?) might prefer he use something softer or more bland, we must pause to notice that God Himself speaks the same “vulgar” vernacular elsewhere. Such as when it next appears in 1 Kings 14:10:
Therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, and will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam, as a man taketh away dung, till it be all gone.
Here, the Lord is speaking through the prophet Ahijah to King Jeroboam’s wife who is sent by him to enquire about whether their sick son will recover. God pronounces judgment on Jeroboam’s house and kingdom for all his sins, and among a number of punishments listed is that He will cut off “him that pisseth against a wall,” indicating of course, men, as Matthew Henry naturally assumes: “He thought, by his idolatry, to establish his government, and by that he not only lost it, but brought destruction upon his family, the universal destruction of all the males, whether shut up or left, married or unmarried” (emphasis added). Note also that in this case, while Ahijah is blind, yet by God’s advance information he sees past the cloaking disguise of Jeroboam’s wife—though not pretending to be a man, this also is relevant considering the idiomatic expression being studied against the idiotic influential tsunami of the transgender, transvestite, and non-binary movement.
The same phrase is again used in 1 Kings 16:11 to express how Zimri, the captain of King Elah, turned on his king and slew him and his household (especially his men)—and it was as a result of being just like King Jeroboam per above. Though this time the phrase is not directly out of God’s mouth, it clearly within context is God’s prophetic judgment.
The Lord again uses these choice words Himself through the prophet Elijah against King Ahab (connecting it once more to the punishment previously sworn against the house of Jeroboam) in 1 Kings 21:21-23. And later in 2 Kings 9:8, the prophet Elisha sends God’s message through other prophets pronouncing judgment on Ahab and removing his kingdom:
For the whole house of Ahab shall perish: and I will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel:
Many translations that neuter this deliberate “smack in your face” statement as “man” leave the inspired wording with its rhetorical tone lost on most readers. But the earthy Hebrew words are literally, "the one urinating on a wall,” which only can refer to a male’s biological ability to uniquely angle his stream (and which is why, in addition to toilets for sitting, urinals still stand in public restrooms for men).
Plenty have observed this same urinating distinction between male and female canines, and alluding to such in the animal kingdom may also be intended by these Scriptures to critically identify and add insult before injury. Regardless, the King James and Geneva Bibles pass on to us as a given the Biblical differentiating of masculine and feminine urinating positions reflecting the reality of differently designed gender anatomy. Further, David and God threatened to take away the section of society most designed to go to war and protect (yet another Biblical gender distinction taken as a given).
Frankly, I am fairly prudish and prefer that people not announce their need to use the loo with, “I gotta pee!” I much prefer the more euphemistic, “I have to go to the bathroom,” and I even often joke for myself, “I need to go powder my nose,” looking for a laugh because that’s something proper ladies might say in the past before visiting the restroom. These texts do not necessarily warrant a lack of manners and decorum when announcing the need to use the bathroom in a more becoming and civilized way befitting courteous Christians. The point is that the Scriptures here acknowledge that men urinate standing up and women do not due to their anatomical differences given by God from birth as a universal truth used to make an emphatic threat; if this were not an undeniable fact, such statements would not be possible expressions of communication.
There have been movements to pressure men to relieve themselves sitting down on the toilet—though including for potential health benefits and obviously helping to limit the need to clean up misfires that can happen especially training toddler boys, certainly it also is an effort grasping at castrating manhood and squeezing it into effeminate oblivion.
In addition, it is worth noting in closing that when Paul commands courage in 1 Corinthians 16:13 by saying to “quit ye like men,” that phrase is one word in the Greek based on the root for “man” and is literally something like “act like a man.” While not speaking about a physical posture of relieving oneself here of course, one’s manhood as different from womanhood is again taken as a given for the expression to make sense and have its intended stylistic effect chosen by the Holy Spirit effectively communicated.
This basic distinction is something that should be seriously considered by a NYC Presbyterian church elder who outrageously lamented in USA Today recently that though he called himself a “devout Christian” on a Christian seminary application, because he also self-identified as a transgender man he was denied entrance as a student.
As culture desensitizes to the reality of gender differences, perhaps we should be more careful not to desensitize God’s words that emphasize the difference between men and women at the most basic biological functions such as, in this case, urinating, however crude the literal linguistic expression may seem to us. For as the saying goes, “So goes the church, so goes the State.”
Grant Van Leuven has been feeding the flock at the Puritan Reformed Presbyterian Church in San Diego, CA, since 2010. He and his wife, Fernanda, have seven covenant children: Rachel, Olivia, Abraham, Isaac, Gabriel, Gideon, and Giulianna. He earned his M.Div. at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA.
Picture By Dave Pape - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2502588
 Such a reminder at its locale stands out to the author against the sad situation earlier this year at another YMCA in his area in which a young woman made national news for daring to challenge the allowance of a man changing in the women’s locker room because he self-identified as a female: she was part of one of the author’s children’s homeschooling clubs this year in which she later shared she had to move on from that particular Y location not because of her own boycotting but because of the aggression against her afterward.
 This was during the author’s seminary days after determining he needed to upgrade from what he had cut his teeth on while observing that whenever his Greek professor went around the classroom surveying various translations from students on important theological texts in the New Testament, the King James Version always conveyed the best sense of the original language (the issues were never the Greek sources but the most accurate wording and doctrine from the same words in Greek). Further, it should be noted that his Greek professor was not trying to make a case for the KJV as superior; in fact, he used the NIV (though he read and preached from the Greek) and the Greek critical text and apparatus. It was merely a matter of exegeting selected texts together and his off-the-cuff curiosity with how they were rendered in various translations that were had by students in the class. For a three-part lecture series by the author in his church’s membership class about why the King James Version of the Bible is used, following the first chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith and emphasizing section 8 on providential preservation (which includes lengthy, detailed handouts with a helpful map), see: www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=10721356275095. While this is not an apologetic on which Bible translation to use, it is relevant and provocative enough to give some attention to it here for those who may have interest for further inquiry.
 The author’s eldest daughter requested, in light of modern movements, a note here that disclaims God is not mocking or degrading the male gender as beneath the female, but rather is calling out these men for not being the Biblical godly leaders they should be and so they receive the most blunt and direct judicial attention. Just as in Scripture Adam is the one held responsible for Eve’s first sin and yet is still upheld as the Biblical head.