2 Chronicles 22-24: Preserving the house of David

Chapter 22

The wicked mother Athaliah is the instigator of the potential destruction of the promise and hope of Israel in her attempt to destroy all the royal family of the house of Judah.  This begins with her son Ahaziah, in her marriage with Jehoram – and unfortunately Ahaziah walked in the ways of the house of Ahab (v.3), in the counsel of those in this wicked house (v.4-5).  Rather than instilling the fear of the LORD, the knowledge of the gospel, into the hearts of the neighbouring nations, he would rather join in alliance with Ahab’s son Jehoram to make war against Syria.  It is therefore righteous and in God’s ordinance that Jehu son of Nimshi should destroy the house of Ahab and Ahaziah alongside with it (v.9).  However, this is not the same as destroying the royal house of David, which was Athaliah’s intent (v.10), for Ahaziah had a son Joash (who was not yet able to rule v.9, v.11).

It is in God’s providence that Joash is protected from the murderous intent of Athaliah and that the lamp in the house of David is not extinguished – and this is done by the hand of Ahaziah’s sister Jehoshabeath (oath of Jehovah), wife of a priest Jehoiada (knowledge of the LORD), again the preservation of the house of David initiated not by mere man, nor by mere king, but by the ordained priesthood.  Joash was therefore hidden in the house of God whilst Athaliah the whore reigned free, just as Christ was hidden in the house of God – known to those faithful to Him – awaiting the day when He would glorify the Father and display the Triune glory in fullness on the cross and destroy the whore once and for all (Revelation 17).

Chapter 23

Just like the scene of the wise men Matthew 2, Jehoiada with Azariah (whom Jehovah helps) (son of Jeroham (cherished)), Ishmael (whom God hears) (son of Jehohanan (whom God gave)), Azariah (son of Obed (serving)), Maaseiah (work of the LORD) (son of Adaiah (adorned by Jehovah)) and Elishaphat (whom God judges) (son of Zichri (memorable)) together gathered the Levites from all the cities of Judah and came to Jerusalem to announce the coming of the true king.  These are clearly men who looked forward to the Promised Seed and saw in Joash the need to overthrow Athaliah’s mad rule, Joash being the only hope and lineage from whom the Promised Seed shall come.  This is indeed a literal keeping/guarding of the law and covenant until the day of Christ’s first coming (c.f. Genesis 2:15 original Hebrew interpretation), as we see the synonymous nature of protecting Joash as if protecting the LORD Himself (v.6)!  These were men who understood what the Sabbath truly meant – an act of worship and not a secular piece of work to further one’s own kingdom (c.f. Luke 6:1-5); thus they fulfilled the true meaning of the Sabbath not by taking “rest”, but by achieving the promised rest in protecting the king of the house of David.

It is therefore a beautiful comparison in v.11-15, the imagery of the anointed, protected and elected king Joash from the line of David (with much song and dance!) contrasted to Athaliah’s madness and eventual death (v.13-15).  Therefore Jehoiada, from the protection of the king in his early youth, to the king’s anointing was very much the picture of the John the Baptist was to Christ, making the way straight for the king’s headship over the kingdom.  His covenant between himself and all the people and the king that they should be the LORD’s people (v.16) is a restoration of the status quo set down in David’s and Solomon’s day.  Like the period of Asa, Israel once again went through a reformation of its identity (v.17-18), reminded time and time again the importance of the house of David and the lineage of priests in presenting a multimedia presentation of the true King to come.  They should all know that the peace achieved after Athaliah’s death (v.21) was but a short one, a mere taste of the everlasting peace only achievable by the destroyer of the serpent’s head.

Chapter 24

However, it was foreboding that all the work and the covenant was kept by Jehoiada – but not Joash.  Joash was only a type of the foretold King, but bore hardly any quality similar to that of Christ.  Only during the days of Jehoiada that he worked to restore the house of the LORD and re-introduced the tax initiated by Moses in the wilderness (Exodus 30:12-14) as a reminder of the people’s need to focus on the House of the LORD (which was the tabernacle, the sanctuary, in Moses’ time) which defines the entire nation.  So the national dedication of the LORD’s offering was pleasing (v.8-14) and worked towards the proper reparation of the house of the LORD as well as utensils for serving in the house of the LORD (v.14), with burnt offerings offered in the days of Jehoiada’s leadership.  However, it is apparent that Joash’s heart was merely skin-deep in his love for Jesus; where Jehoiada focused not on the pomp and presentation of the House (possibly a reason why the Levites did not act quickly under Jehoiada’s leadership – v.5-6), he compensated in his spiritual influence over the kingdom that all would offer burnt offerings and provide wise advice to the king to prevent him defecting from his role as king in the house of David.  Yet, his death led to inevitable trouble (v.17) as the heart of the king was not grounded in the Word, nor the true meaning of the glorious physicality of the temple, and instead he was led astray by the princes of Judah to abandon the house of the LORD.

Joash’s eventual murder of Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada (forgetting the kindness of Jehoiada v.22 who had preserved Joash lest he be murdered by Athaliah) is a picture of the chosen nation Israel crucifying our LORD Jesus, solidifying the truth that Israel is not an elect nation due to its purity or virtue.  Rather, Israel was elected to display itself as a type of the sinner of the world, and Jesus the creator (with the Father and the Spirit) being crucified by the rebellious created.  Thus, the irony that Ahaziah and Jehoram’s invasion of Syria is brought back on its head as the Syrians return to destroy the princes of Judah and execution of Joash despite the Syrians having come with few men (v.24).  Although Jehoiada preserved Joash under the LORD’s direction, it was also His discretion to destroy Joash for not walking with Christ and for walking in the ways of his father Ahaziah and grandmother Athaliah.  However, his destruction now is the the vengeance of the LORD (at the hand of non-Israelites – the Syrians, Ammonites and Moabites c.f. v. 26 – a picture foretelling the Gentiles being led by the LORD instead of the Israelites themselves) and His justice truly served, as the house of David is still preserved in Amaziah (v.27).  The preservation of the house of David would not have been possible had Athaliah murdered Joash at the outset, yet it is in the LORD’s mercy that He should continue his steadfast love for David’s descendants, despite the Israelites’ continual relapses into rebellion.

 

2 Chronicles 22-24: Preserving the house of David

Leviticus 24:10- Ch.25: Holistic Living in the New Land

Since chapter 16 we have been working towards the newness of life, from the cleanness of being in this world (and being sanctified by the Spirit) to being completely sanctified in New Creation (with new bodies).  It is a strong reminder that Israel, then, could not have been the chosen race because of their merit – it was something they looked forward to.  Canaan, to them, was a temporary place – representative of the renewed creation of New Jerusalem.

The previous two chapters referred to the importance of the Jewish feasts on an annual basis, and the next two work towards building up on this picture of holistic living, as a preparation for true kingdom living in new creation; as well as incorporated temporarily the aspects of looking forward to new creation where this forward-looking hope is erased in Zion when all things are fulfilled (Hebrews 11).

1.  The Name (Leviticus 24:10-23)

2.  Sabbath and Jubilee (Leviticus 25)

1.  The Name (Leviticus 24:10-23)

Lev 24:10-23  Now an Israelite woman’s son, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the people of Israel. And the Israelite woman’s son and a man of Israel fought in the camp,  (11)  and the Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the Name, and cursed. Then they brought him to Moses. His mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan.  (12)  And they put him in custody, till the will of the LORD should be clear to them.  (13)  Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (14)  “Bring out of the camp the one who cursed, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him.  (15)  And speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin.  (16)  Whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.

When we first read these verses, it is easy to skim over and conclude that they relate to blasphemy.  In one sense, it is right to read it as such – but given today’s climate and interpretation of the word ‘blasphemy’, it is perhaps better to understand the actual Hebrew which seems to give it a much stronger tone (qalal – קלל – which literally means ‘to make lightly of’, but the figurative use of the Hebrew term is to despite and to curse).  Given the context and the choice of the English translation, it seems to be inclined to the Hebrew figurative.  This Egyptian-Israelite son is a blasphemer, a despiser, of the Name.

Before we move on to look at what this “Name” is, it is interesting to note the little detail about the child’s heritage.  He is of Egyptian-Israelite heritage: there can be many implications made about this mixed heritage.  Adam Clarke and Matthew Henry simply state the fundamental spiritual problem represented by the mixed heritage.  Henry goes on to say that the incorporation of the Egyptians into Israel during the Exodus is a cause of much strife since Exodus 12:38.

However, I think Calvin marks the message best.  We know from Genesis 12 that the LORD does not have essential problems against mixed-heritage marriage, so long as both are spiritual Israelites – so long as both are heart-circumcised.  Indeed, a command to marry only Israelites, and not outsiders, is more a proclamation of singleness of identity and loyalty to the LORD – the very name “Israelite” is the same as saying, “I am a citizen of those whose God fights for them”. How can an outsider, a Canaanite, or Amorite, or Ninevite say the same thing?  Their national identity preaches other truths (“Canaan” means humilitated).

Which is why the treatment of this Egyptian-Israelite child should not be different from anyone else.  v.16 explains it well: whoever blasphemes the name; the sojourner as well as the native.  The LORD does not actually differentiate between nations.  He is not making a statement against Egyptians.  He is saying that anyone who appears to be in the physical church will still be destroyed if they do not partake of the fruit of faith.  Only the spiritual church will be taken up to the Holy of Holies, and the physical church like the rest of the world remain reprobate and judged.

On another level, his treatment of the Egyptian child is also a mark of the LORD’s acceptance of Egyptians fully into Israel and his expectation of the child to obey the laws of the land be he Israelite or not.  Thus, physical lineage does not give us the privilege in itself; it is the national citizenry which we join as born-again Israelites and Gentiles which establishes that privilege.  The LORD here is destroying he who took pride in the Exodus which the child clearly did not remember nor took seriously.  His faith in Jesus was never true.

The Name

What is “the Name”?  Let’s work backwards in the NT.  Revelation 16:9 and 19:13 reveal that the blasphemy of this “name” will lead to people’s death.  This “name” is revealed as the Word of God, as explained in John 1 as Jesus Christ.  1 John 5:13 is especially important:

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.

The Christians did not have a generic understanding of “the Name”, as if it referred to some monotheistic God of divine essence.  The Christians viewed faith as a firm belief in the name of the SON of God, that you may know you have eternal life.  1 Peter 4:14 states that if you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of God rests upon you which corresponds directly to James 5:10 who tells the Greek and Jewish NT readers to look at the OT Scripture and the OT saints who spoke in the name of the LORD.  Which LORD was James speaking of?  What name was James speaking of?  Given Peter’s explanation that our persecutions are a result of bearing not just any “name”, but the name of CHRIST, the Son, James’ reference to the LORD is synonymous to that of Christ as well.  Hebrews 1:4 – “the name” of Christ, generated from the Father, establishing his identity as far superior to that of angels.  2 Thess 1:12:

so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul had clear Trinitarian worship in 2 Thess 1:12.  He refers that in his name we are glorified, according to the grace of our God (meaning the Father), and the Son.  He understood that it is by the grace of the Father, and in Christ, that we are glorified through Christ (c.f. Ephesians 5:20).  Philippians 2:10 – “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth”.  One might ask – why would people profess another name in the OT, and why would God work under a different economy in the OT, if he intended to have people acknowledge the name of Christ in heaven, on earth, and under the earth?  If God himself has such a Christological focus of the entire creation, even in heaven and under the earth beyond what we see, perceive and understand?  The presupposition of exegesis, as we investigate the NT, shows that it must be Christological.  That it MUST presume Christ as the focus of every Israelite’s faith in the OT, before proven otherwise (c.f. Romans 9:17; 10:13).

The Council of Jerusalem shows exactly the contention shown – the Jews had no idea who this “Name” is, and that is exactly the tension between them and the circumcised Christians who understand that salvation must come through a Trinitarian understanding, by calling on the Christ, and saved and glorified by the grace of the Father:

Act 5:40-42  and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.  (41)  Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.  (42)  And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

Note, however, that v.42 implies that the some in Israel understood the name as synonymous with the Christ.  Many may not have understood the Christ to have come as God-man, but many did consider the Anointed One, the Seed, as the name on which they called.

Therefore, bringing us back to the Egyptian child – for him to blaspheme the Name is to blaspheme the very identity of the church of Christ.  He is directly blaspheming, cursing, despising, the only mediator who should be acknowledged in the heavens, earth and under the earth.

(17)  “Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death.  (18 )  Whoever takes an animal’s life shall make it good, life for life.  (19)  If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him,  (20)  fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him.  (21)  Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, and whoever kills a person shall be put to death.  (22)  You shall have the same rule for the sojourner and for the native, for I am the LORD your God.”  (23)  So Moses spoke to the people of Israel, and they brought out of the camp the one who had cursed and stoned him with stones. Thus the people of Israel did as the LORD commanded Moses.

It may sound completely ironic that after the stoning and death of the Egyptian child, v. 17-22 is preached.  However, remember that these passages relate to a tit-for-tat attitude of sin.  A sin shall be repaid – a life for a life.  However, what of the inevitable death of tens of thousands of billions of men and women who have died as a result of Adam’s inherited sin?  That must be repaid by a mediator who is more than man – a mediator who is fully man and fully God.  That is the cost of Christ’s death, and how absolutely wonderful and glorious it is!  How little of the impact of the cross we know of!  Thus, the proportionality of the punishment is reflected in the stoning prior to this commandment.  It is as if Christ is saying that the stoning is completely appropriate and proportional to the blaspheming of the Name, and so it is, for who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit who brings us the eyes of our hearts to Christ who not be saved (Matthew 12:32; 1 Corinthians 2).

2.  Sabbath and Jubilee (Leviticus 25)

Lev 25:1-55  The LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying,  (2)  “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD. (3)  For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits,  (4)  but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard.  (5)  You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land.  (6)  The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for you, for yourself and for your male and female slaves and for your hired servant and the sojourner who lives with you,  (7)  and for your cattle and for the wild animals that are in your land: all its yield shall be for food.

Again, the very first command is not to sacrifice to the LORD; it is not to do ‘good works’.  It is to simply keep a Sabbath to the LORD.  But note the important distinction: the LAND shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD.  The model of work for six, then rest on seventh.  Six days, seventh day rest.  Six years, seventh year rest.  We understand that this model of Sabbath is a continual reminder of the rest that we look forward to, that in new creation we will not work and toil in the same way as we do now.  But this commandment relates to the LAND: for the LAND is also looking forward to its own redemption as symbolised through the Sabbath (Romans 8:18-25).

(8 )  “You shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you forty-nine years.  (9)  Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month. On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land.  (10)  And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan.  (11)  That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of itself nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines.  (12)  For it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you…

While we have looked at the theology of numerology to some extent by looking at the significance of the numbers 1-7 (according to the significance shown on day 1-6 of creation, day 7 of Sabbath rest and divinity, day 8 of new creation and first day of new week, number 12 as representative of governmental perfection (c.f. the 144,000 in the new city of Jerusalem = multiple of 12, perfection of Christian political order; 12 Tribes of Israel; 12 Apostles).  Here, the Israelites are asked to wait 49 years (7 x 7 years), the fullness of the Sabbath multiplied!  The food is provided without any further need to work after the consecration of the 50th year. This is not the first time we consider the number 50 – the last time we saw this number is the commandment of the festival of Pentecost (23:15-22), simultaneous to the festival of harvest and as we know, the giving of the Spirit to both Jew and Gentile alike.  The festival was also a time of communion and unity through harvest-sharing (23:22).

We understand that the trumpet points towards the victory of Christ, but why is it on the 10th of Tishri instead of 1st of Tishri?  When the trumpet is normally blared on the 1st day of the Jewish civil year, it is a forward-looking action towards new creation.  However, the 50th year, the year of the jubilee, marks the actual joining of the victory of Christ to the Day of Atonement.  This is very important: if the trumpet signifies victory won, and the Day of Atonement signifies ascension, then the commandment to preach the victory won must be part and parcel with the ascension.  The Jewish understanding of the Day of Atonement, again, must not be tied to an actual trust in the goat sacrifice; it is symbolic of Christ’s work!  And, just as sure as Genesis 3:15 is preached, so the victory of Christ is something they look forward to but the LORD wants the Israelites to consider it as a victory already achieved.

There are a few things to note under this chapter:

(a)  Redemption of the Land from the lessees to God

Lev 25:13-18  “In this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his property.  (14)  And if you make a sale to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor, you shall not wrong one another.  (15)  You shall pay your neighbor according to the number of years after the jubilee, and he shall sell to you according to the number of years for crops.  (16)  If the years are many, you shall increase the price, and if the years are few, you shall reduce the price, for it is the number of the crops that he is selling to you.  (17)  You shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God, for I am the LORD your God.  (18 )  “Therefore you shall do my statutes and keep my rules and perform them, and then you will dwell in the land securely.

The verses state that for 49 years, the land may be leased to a fellow Israelite or sojourner, but it is freed in the 50th year to the owner. The next few verses continues on this theme of freedom:

Lev 25:25-28  “If your brother becomes poor and sells part of his property, then his nearest redeemer shall come and redeem what his brother has sold.  (26)  If a man has no one to redeem it and then himself becomes prosperous and finds sufficient means to redeem it,  (27)  let him calculate the years since he sold it and pay back the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and then return to his property.  (28 )  But if he has not sufficient means to recover it, then what he sold shall remain in the hand of the buyer until the year of jubilee. In the jubilee it shall be released, and he shall return to his property.

This theme is again shown in v.25-28, that even if the redeemer has insufficient means to recover the land, the buyer shall hold the consideration until the year of the jubilee where a return of the property will happen, regardless of the redeemer’s capability!

Lev 25:29-34  “If a man sells a dwelling house in a walled city, he may redeem it within a year of its sale. For a full year he shall have the right of redemption.  (30)  If it is not redeemed within a full year, then the house in the walled city shall belong in perpetuity to the buyer, throughout his generations; it shall not be released in the jubilee.  (31)  But the houses of the villages that have no wall around them shall be classified with the fields of the land. They may be redeemed, and they shall be released in the jubilee.  (32)  As for the cities of the Levites, the Levites may redeem at any time the houses in the cities they possess.  (33)  And if one of the Levites exercises his right of redemption, then the house that was sold in a city they possess shall be released in the jubilee. For the houses in the cities of the Levites are their possession among the people of Israel.  (34)  But the fields of pastureland belonging to their cities may not be sold, for that is their possession forever.

The only difference shown here is a dwelling house in a walled city:  with a right of redemption within a year of its sale, and shall keep forever it if it is not redeemed within a year.  But every other land outside of the walled city is considered as “fields of the land” (v.31).

Contrarily, the priestly Levites have the privilege of redeeming the houses in the cities they possess at any time.  These houses are their possession among the people of Israel; but the fields are their possession forever.

Some important things should be stated here – as we understand Canaan as representative of the spiritual Israel, the walled city is akin to the walled city of Revelation 21:12-19.  Therefore, anything within the walled city can be kept forever if not redeemed.  This perhaps implies an eschatological significance of the people of Israel no longer living in “the land” in tents, but living in walled cities built by the hands of God.  The ownership in the walled city belongs to us and to Christ.  This is why there is much privilege in being a Levite during the Mosaic law period, because of their typological significance as being like Christ.  The Levites have the power of redeeming the houses in the city, and the fields that they own are in their possession forever.

The picture here is quite important: for every non-Israelite, there is much ‘exchanging’, from lessee back to owner.  It is a picture of the land being redeemed to God, who is the true owner of the entire creation.  But this picture is even clearer when we look at the Levites – only they can own the land forever.  Only they can redeem the houses within the walled city at any time.  This teaches us that for everyone who is a doulos, a slave, who is redeemed into Christ, is truly and forever owned by Christ.  Only Christ can redeem us whenever and wherever, and when Christ redeems us, we are kept forever by his work on the cross (c.f. Romans 8:38 ).  It is a picture of salvation from the LORD and kept by the LORD.  True freedom is marked here by being joined to Christ; to follow Christ, who set us free to bear the cross — that is to gain true Christian freedom (Galatians 2:4; 5:1).

(b)  Debt management & slavery

Lev 25:35-55  “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you.  (36)  Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you.  (37)  You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit.  (38 )  I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.

This is a perfect picture of kingdom living: v. 38 is the justifying verse of the behaviour of v. 36-37.  This is the type of holistic Christological lifestyle that should be conducting the actions of the Israelites and us Christians today.  Why do we love our neighbours?  Why do we love our brothers?  Why do we love our enemies?  It stems from the justification of v.38 – because He is faithful.  Because he brought the detestable and complaining Israelites out of Egypt.  The LORD did not ask anything from us as a contribution to salvation; so why would you ask your brother who becomes poor to return money at an interest?  As this holistic living is built upon salvation already won, it is not holistic living to gain the LORD’s approval.  It is how the LORD wants us to live by pondering our salvation in hindsight, and not to fight for our own salvation.

(39)  “If your brother becomes poor beside you and sells himself to you, you shall not make him serve as a slave:  (40)  he shall be with you as a hired servant and as a sojourner. He shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee. (41)  Then he shall go out from you, he and his children with him, and go back to his own clan and return to the possession of his fathers.  (42)  For they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves.  (43)  You shall not rule over him ruthlessly but shall fear your God. (44)  As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are around you.  (45)  You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their clans that are with you, who have been born in your land, and they may be your property. (46)  You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever. You may make slaves of them, but over your brothers the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another ruthlessly.  (47)  “If a stranger or sojourner with you becomes rich, and your brother beside him becomes poor and sells himself to the stranger or sojourner with you or to a member of the stranger’s clan,  (48 )  then after he is sold he may be redeemed. One of his brothers may redeem him,  (49)  or his uncle or his cousin may redeem him, or a close relative from his clan may redeem him. Or if he grows rich he may redeem himself.  (50)  He shall calculate with his buyer from the year when he sold himself to him until the year of jubilee, and the price of his sale shall vary with the number of years. The time he was with his owner shall be rated as the time of a hired servant. (51)  If there are still many years left, he shall pay proportionately for his redemption some of his sale price.  (52)  If there remain but a few years until the year of jubilee, he shall calculate and pay for his redemption in proportion to his years of service.  (53)  He shall treat him as a servant hired year by year. He shall not rule ruthlessly over him in your sight. (54)  And if he is not redeemed by these means, then he and his children with him shall be released in the year of jubilee. (55)  For it is to me that the people of Israel are servants. They are my servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

Again, v. 55 is the justifying verse for the jubilee redemption of the slaves and servants.  They are to look back on the Exodus as their salvation gained, so they can live holistically.  There is a refrain in this part of chapter 25:  The Israelite “shall not rule over (the servant/slave) ruthlessly” – the reason being v.55.  The servant/slave shall serve the Israelite until the year of jubilee.  Because of v. 55 – because we are the redeemed slaves of God – we are the LORD’s servant.  Paul’s statement is clear in Galatians 1:10 – doulos, literally meaning slave, of Christ.  v.47-55 sees the LORD maintaining national purity and integrity, requiring the relative of a slave to redeem him/her if the slave is subjected to a “stranger’s clan”.  These verses show the importance of familial redemption, and again, these verses find their meaning in v.55, and the year of the jubilee is the year of full redemption, whether the money is paid for the slave or not.

However, what of a pagan slave?  He will surely be ‘released’ back to his pagan owner!  It is not clearly stated here, but Deuteronomy 23:15-16 implies that refuge is not found in his pagan master!  Rather, refuge is found within the land of Israel, and the pagan slave shall find his identity within Israel.  The year of the jubilee therefore is a year where he is free, and will enjoy his freedom in attachment to the LORD who set him free.  The 7th years described in Exodus 21:1-4, and the jubilees, are all indicative of this inevitable redemption which is all justified from the great Exodus.  The book of Leviticus is not one of holistic living in a vacuum; and these chapters display that the work of the Exodus is not isolated either: it is tied very much to the 10 Commandments, the Tabernacle, and the new kingdom living as a result of salvation won.  The jubilee is merely a mock-representation of the great future Jubilee starting from the true Day of Atonement, the spiritual 10th of Tishri that we are all looking forward to.  However, are we merely going to wait for it, and not bring the reality of this new kingdom living now, by the power of the Spirit?  Let us continue to live as the Redeemed, and bring more strange clans and outsiders into the spiritual church of Israel so they, too, and live as the Redeemed and fight the slavery outside of Christ, for Christ alone gives us freedom in our slavery to His Name.

Leviticus 24:10- Ch.25: Holistic Living in the New Land

Leviticus 11-15: Holy, Clean and Unclean

We have dealt so slightly with the understanding of what it means to be ‘holy’, ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’.  I had initially made the mistake of thinking that ‘holy’ and ‘clean’ were synonymous – but that isn’t the case.  It is almost as if that assumption is true of our sinful fallen minds, which is why God provides through Leviticus 11-15 an extremely detailed and clear explanation of true holiness being more than just ‘clean’.

1.  Food (Leviticus 11)

2.  Birth of a child and menstruation (Leviticus 12)

3.  Leprosy: a spiritual truth (Leviticus 13-14)

4.  Bodily discharges (Leviticus 15)

Intro:  What is Holy, Clean and Unclean?

Paul Blackham created a helpful table in his Book-by-Book series.  Here is just a quick rendition:

Holy

Clean

Unclean

LORD God, heaven, new creation, Garden of Eden, Tabernacle, Tabernacle furniture, anointed priests, sacrificed animals

Israel (the congregation), the camp, ordinary equipment/utensils, a clean Israelite, clean animals

Outside of Israel, outside of the camp, defiled & decaying buildings, defiled equipment, unclean animals, unclean Israelites, Gentiles (who have not joined Israel), hell, disease, death, devil

Some have used a different diagram to help understand the distinctions of holy, clean, unclean.  Here is my rendition of what was used in the New Bible Commentary’s Leviticus commentary (with Gordon Wenham as a guide):

1.  Food (Leviticus 11)

Concerning Holy and Clean and Unclean categories, you have the sacrificial animals, the clean animals, and unclean animals; and then you move onto the separate categories within the three – creatures on earth, water and sky (the distinctions made in Genesis 1:20-30).  Finally, everything we know about these animals relate not only to animals – they also relate to men.  Exodus 3:2, and v.12-13 strongly imply this:

Exo 13:2  “Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.” …

… 12 you shall set apart to the LORD all that first opens the womb. All the firstborn of your animals that are males shall be the LORD’s. 13  Every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. Every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem.

So we begin, again, with the Angel, Son of God, speaking to them starting at v.2 concerning the:

(a)  Edible Animals on Earth (v.2-8 )

v.3 – whatever parts the hoof, and cloven-footed, chews the cud:  but, among those which chew the cud/part the hoof – you cannot eat: CAMEL – because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof (v.4);

ROCK BADGER (v.5) and HARE (v.6) for the same reasons; PIG (v.7) because it parts the hoof but doesn’t chew the cud.

So camel, rock badger, hare and pig are the exceptional animals.  Thus, v.2 & 8 act as the bookends for the edible animals on earth.  Not only can they not eat from them, but they are unclean and their carcasses should not be touched (v.8 ).

(b)  Edible creatures in the waters (v.9-12)

Edible: v.9 – Everything that has fins and scales, whether in the seas or rivers, you may eat! By contrast, everything without fins and scales, of the swarming and living creatures in the waters is detestable to us (v.10-11) – again, none of their flesh should be eaten, and their carcasses detested.  v. 12 AGAIN re-iterates this point (in a space of 4 verses this is stated three times!).

(c)  Edible creatures of the heavens/skies (v.13-25)

Detestable (i.e. inedible)  and edible birds (v.13-19)

Lev 11:13  “And these you shall detest among the birds; they shall not be eaten; they are detestable: the eagle, the bearded vulture, the black vulture,
Lev 11:14  the kite, the falcon of any kind,
Lev 11:15  every raven of any kind,
Lev 11:16  the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, the hawk of any kind,
Lev 11:17  the little owl, the cormorant, the short-eared owl,
Lev 11:18  the barn owl, the tawny owl, the carrion vulture,
Lev 11:19  the stork, the heron of any kind, the hoopoe, and the bat.

Detestable and edible insects (v.20-25)

v.20 – All winged insects on all fours are detestable, v.21 – among these, you may eat those that have jointed legs above their feet, with which to hop on the ground; of them, you may eat (v.22) the locust of any kind, the bald locust of any kind, the cricket of any kind, and the grasshopper of any kind (all of which have jointed legs above their feet).

But v.23 reiterates v.20 – all winged insects on all fours are detestable.  Again, v.24 states what has been stated with the other creatures: whoever touches their carcass shall be unclean until the evening, and v.25 – whoever carries any part of their carcass shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening.

(d) Flesh on Skeleton of v.1-25, and the contagious nature of the unclean creatures (v.26-47)

v.26 doesn’t exactly start on a new note, but we are given flesh to the skeleton of the previous 25 verses.

Again, v.27 now states that for all that walk on their paws, anything on all fours is unclean to man.

Then for the swarming things:

Lev 11:29  “And these are unclean to you among the swarming things that swarm on the ground: the mole rat, the mouse, the great lizard of any kind,
Lev 11:30  the gecko, the monitor lizard, the lizard, the sand lizard, and the chameleon.

After these further explanations, Adam Clarke’s commentary provides a good summary of the contagious nature of the unclean creatures from v.31-44:

All that touch them shall be unclean, Lev_11:31; and the things touched by their dead carcasses are unclean also, Lev_11:32-35. Large fountains, or pits of water, are not defiled by their carcasses, provided a part of the water be drawn out, Lev_11:36. Nor do they defile seed by accidentally touching it, provided the water which has touched their flesh do not touch or moisten the seed, Lev_11:37, Lev_11:38. A beast that dieth of itself is unclean, and may not be touched or eaten, Lev_11:39, Lev_11:40. All creeping things are abominable, Lev_11:41-44.

There is much necessity in understanding the creeping things of Lev 11:41-44. v.41-42 acts as if they are summary verses for everything spoken of in Leviticus 11:

Lev 11:41  “Every swarming thing that swarms on the ground is detestable; it shall not be eaten.
Lev 11:42  Whatever goes on its belly, and whatever goes on all fours, or whatever has many feet, any swarming thing that swarms on the ground, you shall not eat, for they are detestable.

And then Leviticus 11:45 is the famous verse explaining the purpose of the law.  “For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” This verse is interesting.  The word representing God changes firstly between LORD (“Jehovah”), and then says “to be your God” which in Hebrew is Elohim.  It is the LORD, Jesus, who brought the Israelites out of the land of Egypt to be our GOD, Elohim, the GOD who created the heavens and the earth.  I have gone through the implications of the word “Elohim” for it is a plural word indicating two implications: one of the Trinity, and one of magnificence.  I think both are applicable, it would be arrogant to restrict the semantic range to the meaning of ‘magnificence’ because it may lead to mono-theistic implications when the Trinity has been so clearly shown up to this point.

Christological expressions of food, ‘creeping things’, ‘unclean until evening’, and Leviticus 11:45

The problem with Leviticus 11 is that people primarily see it as a set of commandments concerning hygiene.  I believe that argument holds little water – there is no explanation why certain creatures are seen as unclean; furthermore there is no explanation why being cloven footed is a requirement for land animals.  However, that is the implication of Leviticus 11 – that there are certain creatures, good for food, which are completely clean under any circumstance!  This brings me to verses like Romans 1:23, in the ESV which says that we exchanged the glory of the immortal God for “mortal man, and birds and animals and creeping things”.  Yet, I like the KJV’s faithfulness to the Greek here: “uncorruptible (aphthartos meaning immortal and non-decaying) God into an image made like to corruptible man (phthartos meaning decaying), and to birds, and fourfooted beasts (tetrapous meaning quadruped), and creeping things.”  These two details are crucial in understanding what Paul is writing.  The juxtaposition of exchanging a undying, eternal God for a decaying man, birds, fourfooted beasts and creeping things seem to relate directly to Leviticus 11.

Exodus 3:2 and 3:12-13 already self-explanatory in the sense that man and beast are treated alike, in the symbolism of the latter.  Thus, the birds of v.13-19 make much sense.  These are all birds of prey, which eat carrion and insects and flesh from which blood is not properly drained.

Contrarily, the clean land animals were those that chew the cud, meaning that they are vegetarian.  These clean land animals should ALSO be cloven-footed, and not only chew the cud, rather than having claws/talons.  Finally, the clean water creatures are those with fins and scales.  I stumbled across an interesting comment on a dietary website commenting on the Jewish laws:

Interestingly kosher dietary laws prohibit the eating of fish without both scales and fins. That eliminates a number of delicious sea foods, including shellfish, shrimp, catfish, lobster, mussels, eels, sharks, sturgeons, and swordfish, just to name a few.

Clearly their law-giver knew something that has taken scientists years to discover. Now we know that fish with scales AND fins are equipped with a digestive system that prevents the absorption of poisons and toxins into their flesh from the waters they call home. Flounder, cod, haddock, and salmon are a few examples of fish with scales and fins.

Catfish have fins, but do not have scales. These scavengers are primarily bottom feeders and have digestive systems designed to absorb toxins from the water. Clams, lobster, shrimp, crabs, mussels and squid do not have scales or fins and are believed to be highly toxic. They naturally absorb all the toxins in the water they live in. Interestingly, lobster and crabs are crustaceans and are a part of the arthropod family, which include caterpillars, cockroaches, and spiders!

For the comment in the second paragraph, the logic is undoubtedly inverted (the assumption being that the ‘scientists’ know better).  Other than that, I find the rest of the writer’s observations very interesting, and no doubt this supports much truth behind the cleanness of the animals thus far.  God doesn’t want us to eat of birds of prey which eat flesh without the blood drained properly; and similarly, he doesn’t want us to eat fish without scales and fins, lest we consume fish without a proper digestive system and eat of all types of carcasses underwater.  Finally, only certain vegetarian insects are clean, and anything four-footed (on all fours) is unclean except those which have jointed legs and hop (thus not remaining on the ground).

There is much to be said about these three categories which tie them together – the model of Genesis 1:27.  Only green plants were given as food for all animals.  Furthermore, in the Garden, there was no death, no predatory behaviour, no bloodshed, no disease, no dead bodies (v.24-25 and Numbers 5:2 indicates that any touching of dead carcasses renders the toucher unclean) above all, and no decay.  This isn’t the only model of unfallen creation – but also of new creation (Isaiah 11).  However, Leviticus 11 deals exactly with all these themes, all of which symbolise the parallelling truth to men.

An animal which is cloven-footed and chews the cud is an example of the Edenic animal – both vegetarian and without capacity to harm (unlike the ones with claws or talons).  Not only that, they are not on all fours, which is a mock-representation of the snake, the animal epitomising the Fallen Angel who crawls not only on all fours but entirely swarming and slithering on the ground cursed by God (Genesis 3).  This emphasises the importance of animals not being on all fours, but being joint-legged so they can hop or at least not remain on the ground entirely.  This explains Paul’s reason for writing Romans 1, who most likely refers to corruptible man; corruptible birds (i.e. birds of prey), and corruptible quadruped beasts.  He was referring to the uncleanness represented by each animal.  Romans 1:23 thus no longer is making the normal comparison between God and the common and clean.  He is saying that our fallen minds naturally turn away from the most holy, and turn to the most DEBASED.  Any Catholic thought of not having an entire corruption of natural powers is immediately revoked: Paul is essentially saying that without the Spirit, we are entirely useless and Godless.

This finally brings me to v.45.  The significance of the usage of the term is important: Jesus is defining himself in two offices.  One – that of Jehovah, of LORD, who brought the Israelites out of Egypt; and then becoming the God, the Elohim, the one who partook with the Creator Father and the Powerful Spirit.  This is akin to Philippians 2:9-11:

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father

Yet, Christ has already been at the right hand of the Father, and has been slain before the foundations of the world, as explained by the seemingly mysterious verse in Revelation 13:8.  This therefore intrigues me to the most, that God’s identity has been eternal and true, but revealed to us in his becoming.  That we must be portrayed a process of death, decay and resurrection before we fully understand the truth of Jesus Christ on the cross.  This presentation has already been portrayed in Genesis 1 in the days of creation, and fleshed out in different ways in their dispensations but they refer very much to the same covenant established in Genesis 3:15, which was true even prior to Genesis 3:15.  Thus, as the events in OT play out to the NT, we learn how God’s usage of Israel as a priesthood, a holy nation (Exodus 19:6) never meant for the Gentiles to be seen as ‘unclean’ either – hence the implications of Acts 10:

Act 10:9  The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray.
Act 10:10  And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance
Act 10:11  and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth.
Act 10:12  In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air.
Act 10:13  And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.”
Act 10:14  But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.”
Act 10:15  And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.

After the ascension of Christ, when the Spirit was given to the world, Christ’s identity was cemented a la Philippians 2.  But was the Spirit not given in the OT?  He was! but restricted to the physical land of Israel.  Was Christ not given in the OT to the OT saints?  He was!  But again, the LORD appeared to the saints of Israel.  But remember that the land of Israel is merely a physical restriction of Exodus 20, a covenant on Sinai, represented by Hagar (Galatians 4) – but the true covenant was not made at Sinai, but to Abraham (Genesis 12).  Because Genesis 12 precedes Exodus 20, the physical boundaries between Israel and the world were always going to be destroyed.  Yet, Jonah 3 displays that unless the sign of Jonah is complete (i.e. the success of Jonah’s evangelism is symbolically shown after he was in the “pit” of the whale for 3 days, only to ‘resurrect’ and rise again on the third day), the division would still be there – until the giving of the Spirit, there is no physical manifestation of the Gentiles being included.  Thus, Peter’s conversation with God is important:   “What God has made clean (i.e. what was ‘unclean food’ prior to the cross and the Pentecost), do not call common (in the Greek, ‘common’ is koinos which can mean defiled and polluted, whereas the Hebrew word “tahor” which is translated to ‘common’ in the English actually means pure and clean).  What God really means is that the division between the Gentiles and the Israelites is now destroyed – to fulfill the true meaning of Genesis 12, that the law and the gospel is no longer restricted to the physical land of Israel!  In the NT, both Jews and Gentiles, wherever they are, stand before God as clean men.  The symbolism of Gentiles as unclean in the OT is due to the awaiting of the fulfillment of the covenental law of Exodus 20, completed on the cross.

There is much to be said about God’s being in becoming, yet that is the implication of Leviticus 11:45, which in turn is the true implication of the food.  What you eat is really what you are – and what we are is clean, and what we need to be is more than just clean.  We need to be holy, and sanctified like the priests in the preceding chapters (Leviticus 8-10) – and only the blood of CHRIST, not any other blood can do that.  This is why touching the carcasses and eating flesh which consumed other flesh without drained blood has such huge implications.  Are we to becomes creatures of uncleanness by nailing our God to the cross and causing him to bleed?  Indeed, that is who we were.  But we are to be in Him, so we no longer crucify Him but to partake in His holy glory.

2.  Birth of a child and menstruation (Leviticus 12)

Son:  Lev 12:1; after the birth of a son, who is to be circumcised the eighth day, (Lev 12:2, Lev 12:3) the mother is seen as unclean for forty days, Lev 12:4.

Daughter:  After the birth of a daughter, eighty days, Lev 12:5.

Menstruation:  this isn’t strictly related to children, but it also concerns the flow of the woman’s blood – and this is also seen as unclean (Lev 12:2).

When the days of her purifying were ended, she must bring a lamb for a burnt-offering, and a young pigeon or a turtle-dove for a sin-offering, Lev 12:6-7. If she is too poor to bring a lamb, she must bring either two turtle-doves or two pigeons v.8.

What is implied in v.7 is that she is unclean from the flow of her blood whether she bears a male or a female child, or is in the time of menstruation.

Christological expressions of the flow of the blood and birth of children

The importance of blood is again emphasised in Leviticus 12.  Genesis 3:15-19 states that one of the curses of woman is that child-bearing is now painful, and in this pain will the Promised Seed come.  In these very verses, the coming of the Son of God is already implicated to be one where he will suffer by incarnating into this world – the Second Adam suffering by the sin contributed by First Adam.

Again, like the way we look at food, even the way we look at childbirth affects man, beast AND creation.  Romans 8:19-22 reminds us that this curse is not restricted to man, for man’s sin has wrought such a turbulent effect on whole of creation.  It is worth quoting the section from Romans 8 here:

Rom 8:18  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Rom 8:19  For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.
Rom 8:20  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope
Rom 8:21  that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
Rom 8:22  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
Rom 8:23  And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
Rom 8:24  For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?

Thus, the pain of childbirth, represented most well by the flow of the blood, is an example of this groaning.  Romans 8:23 expresses it best: us, with the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit, also groan inwardly awaiting eagerly for adoption as sons and redemption of our bodies.  We are now physically adopted and redeemed?  Not yet.  Yet, every law laid down in Leviticus 11 and 12 pertaining to blood is to point to that groaning, point to that pain since Genesis 3 thus pointing towards a renewal and a re-creation by the Seed born from pain and blood, but conquered death with His blood.

There are two smaller details we should not overlook – the fact that only the male are circumcised; and secondly, the difference of being unclean for 40 days (for male) and 80 days (for female).  The latter has an implication of the woman not needed for work for 40 days and 80 days respectively (thus resting and awaiting to be established as ‘clean’ once again), making it especially fortunate if she bore a female.  Yet, if the distinctions of men and women remain clear – that men represent Christ the Head, and women represent the church.  That men represent the heavens from which Christ was sent, and women represent the terra which receives the Seed.  That Jesus Christ, the Seed, is sent by the power of the Spirit into Virgin Mary, who received the Seed.  So, the bearing of the male in one set of forty days represents the suffering and the temptation of Christ for forty days, a theme explored when it rained for forty days and forty nights in the story of Noah and the flood.  Yet, 80 days – twice of forty, is to look further on.  Bearing the male represents Second Adam; bearing the FEMALE represents Second Eve – the second mother of all living.  And this will leave the mother 80 days unclean – thus the time of TESTING is longer than the awaiting of Christ fulfilling his work on the cross.  40 days represent the first advent of Christ; and 80 days represent the second advent of Christ when creation will no longer groan and will bear NEW creation, represented by the “second female ‘terra'”, born of the “first female ‘terra'”.

The former I have already explained: menstruation of the woman preaches the message of creation, of the groaning female terra (c.f. my commentary on Genesis 1 – the creation of heavens and earth).  It is the female terra that has been groaning from Day 8, and will continue to groan until our Resurrection Day.  If the menstruation of women preaches that message (and indeed, that sign of the curse remains on them in both Old and New Testament, meaning the message preached by menstruation is NOT yet fulfilled until creation ceases its groaning), then the circumcision of men preaches a message already fulfilled (hence the lack of necessity to circumcise; and instead, to baptise infants today after the cross and the giving of the Spirit).  It is important not to view sacraments as more important than they are – menstruation can be seen also as a sacrament from God, a sign of his curse, just as the rainbow (or more biblically, the “bow”) is a warrior bow preaching the truth of God’s judgment on everyone not in the ark of Jesus.  The monthly menstrual cycle which makes a woman unclean for 7 days also preaches the truth of the first creation, which lasted 6 days plus 1 day of Sabbath.  But she is clean after the 7 days.  So we look forward to new creation born of the groaning creation (Romans 8 ), that meanwhile we look forward to the eighth day of cleanness, and we’ve passed through the 40 days leading to the first advent, and we await the new city after the symbolic second advent after 80 days of testing.  The significance of the birth of the boy leading to a 7 day uncleanness, and awaiting further purification for 33 days, versus 14 days of uncleanness, and further purification for 66 days should not be overlooked either.

We are now in the symbolic second week of creation.  The first seven days saw the heavens and earth as we know it now.  The second seven days, since the first 8th day, involves the LORD working towards new creation (John 5:17) in this new week.  But in this second week, while the LORD is working towards new creation, the world is still groaning.  We now look forward to the symbolic second 8th day of the second new week, working from the 1st advent to the 2nd advent of Jesus.

3.  Leprosy: a spiritual truth (Leviticus 13-14)

When one approaches chapters 13 and 14 of Leviticus, it is quite easy to be discouraged on two levels: the detail given for the handling of leprosy and the seeming lack of mercy for those who are unclean and leprous (the two are not synonymous as you will later find).  This is unsurprisingly, given the spiritual significance of leprosy overweighing the ‘hygienic’ and purely physical and material significances.  This is especially shown in v.12-13, where the most common form of infectious skin diseases would not have been classified as unclean!

Leprosy, some have said, is an example of sin spreading in our hearts to the neighbouring factions – and indeed, that is the overarching principle of this skin disease (and leprosy does not refer to one type, but many types of skin diseases).  The example of decay is manifested in not only the diseases on the body, but diseases spread to the clothes and the buildings causing their decay.  This is where the English translation is especially unhelpful: in the Hebrew tsaah’rath, while it refers to the decaying flesh for the skin, it is actually translated as ‘mildew’ if found on clothing and buildings.  Thus, “leprosy” is inappropriately limited in the English translation of the Hebrew word.

The two chapters are relatively long, so it is important to summarise each segment.

Chapter 13:1-59 – speaks of the different types of skin diseases on both humans and clothing

14:1-32 – the cleansing of the skin diseases

14:33-57 – Disease in buildings

There are also several refrains in these two chapters:

“Symptoms are displayed on the surface” (13:3, 49; 14:37)

“but more than skin deep” (13:3, 14:37)

“in a specific area” (13:9-13; 14:37, 42, 55)

“but spreading further” (13:7, 51; 14:44)

On that note, let’s start with chapter 13.

Leviticus 13:  Different Skin Diseases on both Humans and Clothing

Clarke is unsurprisingly helpful here and I’ve edited it for better reading:

13:1-2 It is to be known by a rising in the flesh, a scab, or a bright spot

13:3  When the priest sees these signs he shall pronounce the man unclean, infected with the leprosy, and unfit for society

13:4-8  Dubious or equivocal signs of this disorder, and how the person is to be treated in whom they appear

The interesting thing about v. 2-8 is the way of dealing with the potential leprous disease:  the treatment and waiting is always in sets of weeks, in sets of 7 days.  And on the 7th day, the priest checks whether the disease is leprous or temporary.  If the disease is ‘checked’ and not spread in the skin, then the man/woman is locked up for seven days again.  v. 6 explains it quite clearly – if the diseased area has faded and disease has not spread in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him as clean.  Contrarily, if this ‘eruption’ does not subside, but spreads in the skin, he is now seen as unclean with a leprous disease.

Firstly – it is the priest who announces one as unclean, and NOT the person himself.  This shows something of the truth of Christ – HE is the one who announces whether we are righteous or not.  Leprosy is not something we can control.  The sets of 7-day waiting is a good example of exactly what we can do nothing about.  Rather, these 7-day waiting periods are again to show the progression between the initial creation in the first 7 day week, awaiting new creation with a new week starting on the 8th day.  Something similar is of course preached here: the priest is awaiting a new week before making a new discernment of leprosy.  Ideally, the leprosy will be gone by the end of the second week; and also, for us, our leprosy will be gone by the end of the second week when we look forward to the second advent of Christ.

13:9-13  In what state of this disorder the priest may pronounce a man clean or unclean

13:14-15  Of the raw flesh, the sign of the unclean leprosy

13:16-17  Of the white flesh, the sign of the leprosy called clean

I find the parallel between ‘raw flesh’ and ‘white flesh’ quite interesting.  Raw flesh is a sign of flesh uncooked – for the Israelites never sacrifice any flesh without fire; it must be burnt!  Similarly, food must be cooked with its blood properly drained.  The message here clearly relates to blood.  If it is raw flesh, then there is blood and there is sign of life being drained.  It is thus unclean – for in God’s future kingdom, there is no life being drained.  Which is why, if the leprosy spreads to the whole body then it is no longer seen as ‘unclean’.  Which is why, when the raw flesh recovers and turns white again (v.16), it is pronounced clean once more.  The ‘white flesh’ and ‘raw flesh’ are thus the points of comparison.

13:18-20  Of the leprosy which succeeds a boil

13:21-22  Equivocal marks relative to this kind of leprosy

13:23  Of the burning boil

13:24-25  Of the leprosy arising out of the burning boil

13:26-28  Equivocal marks relative to this kind of leprosy

With boils, the comparison is now different: either the boil leads to a spreading of the disease, or whether there is white hair and it appears deeper than the skin, and this will lead to the priest announcing his uncleanness.  On the contrary, everything else is seen as clean.

There is quite a bit to be said here.  Why the ‘white hair’ and the ‘deeper than the skin’ and the ‘spreading of the disease’?  Because all relate to the same truth – death, and the progression towards it.  White hair is a sign of aging and otherwise caused by skin diseases; if the sign of ‘sin’ and ‘death’ is deeper than the skin and it is spreading, it is undoubtedly seen as unclean.  Everything else points to new life, new creation and regeneration, which is why they are pronounced as clean.  In the healing of the boil, we see Jesus’ rejoicing in the regneration of the skin – which points to the regeneration of our soul and our flesh.

13:29  Of the plague on the head or in the beard

13:30-37  Of the itch, and how it is to be treated

The same truth is preached here – the 7-day periods of waiting, and the regeneration of the black hair as opposed to thin yellow hair.  If the itch is healed, unchanged and not more than skin-deep, it is seen as clean.  The ESV translation says “itch”, but the KJV says “scall or scurff” which is the original Hebrew.

13:38-39  Of the plague of the bright white spots

13:40-41  Of the bald head

13:42-44  Of the white reddish sore in the bald head

If the spots on the skin of the body are of a dull white, it is leukoderma that has broken out.  He is clean.  This again, is not seen by the LORD as unclean – what the LORD considers unclean is very specific: again, listen to the refrain.  “More than skin-deep”, “spreading disease”, “reddish-white”, “raw flesh”, “white hair”, “yellow hair”.  In comparison, a breaking out of white-spots is not seen as unclean.

13:45  The leper shall rend his clothes, put a patch on his upper lip, and cry unclean

13:46  He shall be obliged to avoid society, and live by himself without the camp

Verses 45-46 serves as a summary for everyone classified in the last 44 verses to be ‘unclean’.  They live alone, they wear torn clothes, hair is hung loose, covered upper lip, crying out “Unclean, unclean“, and he shall dwell outside of the camp.

Can you imagine the pain and the suffering of being obliged to avoid society?  Yet – that is the truth of skin-disease; it points to what sin does to you and what God will not tolerate.  In New Jerusalem, we will be dwelling outside of the camp of Zion if we continue to bear these skin diseases.  If our Jesus Christ, our Priest, does not pronounce his righteousness upon us, so that we gain a spiritual regeneration and sanctification and renewed bodies, then we will remain outside the camp.  Yet, in Christ, we recover new bodies which will not decay, nor degenerate, and is better than ‘clean’ flesh.  The passages in v.1-46 clearly preach that even clean flesh can have outbreak of white-spots and other deformities; but only the sanctified flesh and spirit can withstand the holiness of the LORD and partake in the intimacy of the Trinity without mourning outside the camp which is forever proclaimed as unclean.

13:47-52  Of the garments infected by the leprosy, and the signs of this infection

13:53-58  Equivocal marks relative to this infection, and how the garment is to be treated, by washing or by burning

13:59  Conclusion relative to the foregoing particulars

There is of course much distinction between ‘garments’ and ‘men’ with leprous diseases.  The 7-day lock-up period still persists, even with garments, ever so proving that this theme is possibly the most concurrent theme throughout Leviticus – the theme of first creation, then new creation.  The specific different of garments is that if the disease has not faded from the garment, it shall be burnt up (v.52-57).  Only if the diseased area has faded after being washed, and then washed a second time will it be seen as clean (v.58 ).

This is quite interesting – the first and second waiting periods.  This has occurred throughout the other parts of Leviticus 13.  I believe this undoubtedly refers to the first advent and second advent of Christ again; the first advent, which leads to some renewal and giving of the Spirit to the world; and the second advent where true cleansing and restoration occurs.  We are in the period of the firstfruit of the Spirit; but some people may lapse and return to the dog faeces from which they came.  Some may continue to look to Christ and persist in the fight of faith to see the second advent and to be washed anew with new bodies.

Leviticus 14:1-32  The Cleansing

When a leprous person is healed, after being outside the camp however long it takes for the healing to occur, then the priest will command the person to be cleansed with two live clean birds and cedarwood and scarlet yarn and hyssop.

Scarlet yarn is one of the materials used in the tabernacle (Exodus 26:1, v.31), and the purging by the hyssop is symbolic of cleansing (Psalm 51:7).  Cedarwood is seen as a material for kings: read 1 Kings and you realise how much ‘cedar’ is the centre of the story, then Ezekiel 17:23, 31:3, and the house of Solomon in Songs of Solomon is made of cedar (Songs of Sol 1:17; 8:9).

The command is then to kill one of the birds in an earthenware vessel over fresh water; and take live bird with the cedarwood and scarlet yan and hyssop, dipping the bird in blood of the bird killed over fresh water. (v.1-6)

Fresh water is symbolically of new creation water which is not salty.  The waters of punishment were salty (the waters above the heavens) – but the waters in new Jerusalem will be fresh (Ezekiel 47:9); earthenware vessels, besides the focus on the ‘earth‘ (i.e. naturally made), is a vessel for good preservation (Jeremiah 32:14).  Whatever is in the vessel will last for a long time.  The implications of v.1-6 of Leviticus 14 is therefore one of the gospel re-displayed.  The death of the bird, representing an Angel of God, in an earthenware vessel over fresh water, meaning the preservation of such a sacrifice over new creation waters – in exchange for the life of the other bird with the material of kings, the tabernacle and of purification.  The living bird is then escaped to the open field, granted new life by the blood of the first bird, now free from decay.  This is a picture of Christ’s preserved and persisting death for us so we can live in new waters, partake in purification and to be imputed the blood and righteousness of the King.

This is sprinkled seven times on him who is cleansed of leprous disease – he is then pronounced as CLEAN and the living bird goes to the open field. (v.7)

The cleansed person shall wash his clothes, shave off all his hair and bathe himself in water (v.8 ).  He will stand outside his tent seven days; he must then shave all the hair off his head/beard/eyebrows, and wash again in water.  The SHAVING is important: so that nothing growing from the time of decay would be brought forth to new creation of the eighth day, and from the eighth day forward everything that stems from our flesh will be new and clean.

The following procedure is akin to the anointing of the priest prior to priestly work.

Lev 14:10  “And on the eighth day he shall take two male lambs without blemish, and one ewe lamb a year old without blemish, and a grain offering of three tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, and one log of oil.
Lev 14:11  And the priest who cleanses him shall set the man who is to be cleansed and these things before the LORD, at the entrance of the tent of meeting.
Lev 14:12  And the priest shall take one of the male lambs and offer it for a guilt offering, along with the log of oil, and wave them for a wave offering before the LORD.
Lev 14:13  And he shall kill the lamb in the place where they kill the sin offering and the burnt offering, in the place of the sanctuary. For the guilt offering, like the sin offering, belongs to the priest; it is most holy.
Lev 14:14  The priest shall take some of the blood of the guilt offering, and the priest shall put it on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot.
Lev 14:15  Then the priest shall take some of the log of oil and pour it into the palm of his own left hand
Lev 14:16  and dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand and sprinkle some oil with his finger seven times before the LORD.
Lev 14:17  And some of the oil that remains in his hand the priest shall put on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot, on top of the blood of the guilt offering.
Lev 14:18  And the rest of the oil that is in the priest’s hand he shall put on the head of him who is to be cleansed. Then the priest shall make atonement for him before the LORD.
Lev 14:19  The priest shall offer the sin offering, to make atonement for him who is to be cleansed from his uncleanness. And afterward he shall kill the burnt offering.
Lev 14:20  And the priest shall offer the burnt offering and the grain offering on the altar. Thus the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be clean.

Notice again the focus on the 8th day, and the focus on the right-hand-side.  Leviticus 14 thus shows the sanctification of the clean man – he isn’t merely cleansed.  He is made like a priest!  And that is the picture of Exodus 19:6.  We are not to leave some as priests, and some as ‘clean’.  No – the symbolism of sin spreading in our lives, will be healed not by merely waiting.  On the symbolic 8th day of new creation, we too will become exactly like Christ – the High Priest of all ages.

v.21-32 covers the same procedure, but with two pigeons/turtledoves and one male lamb.  The male lamb seems to be the concurrent sacrificial animal whether you are poor or rich – same as Christ is to us, whether we are either poor or rich.

Leviticus 14:33-57 Disease in Buildings

This part of Leviticus is actually one of the most intriguing aspects of the book.  v.53 says it all: “So he shall make atonement for the house”.  One can make atonement for a house?

The procedures in v.33-57 actually resembles the cleansing of the leprous person in v.1-33.  The LORD is actually teaching us that one cannot over-spiritualise the truth of Leviticus 14; whatever happens to man will spread to creation, whether birds, animals, swarming things or even to apparently ‘dead’ things like buildings.  This supports the truth of new creation being physical.  We are not entering a merely spiritual heaven; but we are entering a heaven of new buildings, of new roads, of a new river of fresh water, of new trees which do not die, of new animals who will sleep alongside men.  If these are the truths preached in Revelation, then undoubtedly, the disease on tents and buildings represents the renewal necessary of ALL things within God’s kingdom.

Isaiah 6:3-5 displays it clearly – God’s presence with his people is dependent on uncleanness being excluded from Israel:

Isa 6:3  And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
Isa 6:4  And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.
Isa 6:5  And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

4.  Bodily discharges (Leviticus 15)

Leviticus 15:31-33 summarises this chapter.  Ultimately, the LORD’s dwelling-place must be clean.  Any truth of God joining us in the community of holiness must start with the renewal of everything – the buildings, the city, the animals, the people (Revelation 21).  Paul Blackham gives the structure for this chapter:

Male bodily discharges (15:2-18 )

Female bodily discharges (15:19-30)

Long term discharge (15:2-12)

Menstrual cycle (15:19-23)

Cleansing by sacrifice (15:13-15)

Sexual intercourse (15:24)

Temporary discharge (15:16-17)

Long term (15:25-27)

Sexual intercourse (15:18 )

Cleansing by sacrifice (15:29-30)

What is clear from this chapter is the uncleanness is transferred to people, even beds and even chairs.  We have already established that this is no personal matter – sin spreads everything and everything.

Natural bodily discharges makes a person unclean, but the passage of time will remove the uncleanness, therefore no sacrifices are needed for such discharges.  Our bodies which leak fluids of semen and blood is an example of life falling from our flesh.  Our bodies should be given immortality and corruption (1 Corinthians 15), and our bodies now preach anything but.

Which brings me to ‘sexual intercourse’ which is seen as unclean.  Why?  Firstly, because of the curse of Genesis 3, which shows that we have disordered sexual desires (c.f. Romans 1 and Paul’s argument which starts with sexual immorality).  Secondly is the loss of bodily fluids when having sexual intercourse, and Genesis 9:4 and Leviticus 17:11 show that there is life in blood and semen.  The life comes as a Seed, and in Christ, the Seed of all seeds, can we have true eternal life.  Most importantly it is a temporary period of washing, and the period of impurity is short, for this is the body which we inherit from Adam’s sin which we committed in his loins (Hebrews 7:9-10).

What say you about the distinction between sacrifices made for leprous flesh, but none needed for the uncleanness of our leaking bodies?

Conclusion

Throughout this chapter, we see that human sin has huge implications for both mankind and creation (Genesis 3:17-18, Deuteronomy 28:25, Amos 4:7, Romans 8:20); the Israelites had recognised in the OT that healing from such diseases should be coupld with the same offerings made to sinners.  The connection therefore between the man with skin disease and the man with sin becomes synonymous, for both need the same sacrifice – Christ.  Even before this Levitical law was given, skin diseases may already have been prevalent; and no doubt, this would have already stirred much thinking concerning the truth behind skin diseases.  What the Mosaic law does is display our transgressions with a beamlight, yet at the same time pointing out with much clarity the cure for such scrutinised transgressions.  It is important to remember time and time again that diseases is not necessarily a cause of our sins (John 9:1-3) – many times, it is simply a result of our fallen flesh and nature.  Praise be to God for these ordinances which point out our utter fallenness, and his magnificent holiness and grace in dealing with our corruption and decay, wrought by the first Deceiver Satan, and first man Adam.  It is by his Son, who was also thrown outside the camp (Hebrews 13:12-13) that he can sympathise and die for us sinners for he became the representation of the one cursed on the tree (Deut 21:22-23), thrown outside the city, made unclean for oursake so we can be the bird who escapes from decay.

Leviticus 11-15: Holy, Clean and Unclean

Leviticus 8-10: Jesus, our only High Priest

We have covered the significance of the sacrifices, and just in how many multitude of ways they provide a 3-D rendition of the spiritual truth of Christ Jesus, in front of the tabernacle, which is also a physical manifestation of the truth of the heaven in relation to earth and the church of the Sent One.

From chapters 1-7, we have seen just how crucial the details are behind the sacrifices.  We have seen the intricacies, the types of animals, the ways the animals are cut, the way the blood is either drained or thrown onto the altar sides or horns… and the person at the center of all these sacrifices at large are the priests.  Thus, these next three chapters I will turn to understand the importance of the priests which we have touched upon in the previous 7 chapters.  One interesting thing to note is this: the sacrifice is a type of Christ, and the heart-circumcised Jews knew that in the OT.  The high priest is also a type of Christ.  Try meditating on the picture of a high priest sacrificing an animal – and both priest and animal are types of Christ and imagine the implications of Christ’s work on the cross.  I will be working through that in the latter part of this post.

1.  The Sanctification of Jesus Christ with the anointing of the Spirit (Leviticus 8 )

2.  The acceptance of Aaron’s offering (Leviticus 9)

3.  The Death of Aaron’s two sons – Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10)

1.  The Sanctification of Jesus Christ with the anointing of the Spirit (Leviticus 8 )

The first few verses sums up the chapters ahead:

1(A) The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2“Take Aaron and his sons with him, and(B) the garments and(C) the anointing oil and the bull of the sin offering and the two rams and the basket of unleavened bread. 3And assemble all the congregation at the entrance of the tent of meeting.” 4And Moses did as the LORD commanded him, and the congregation was assembled at the entrance of the tent of meeting.

Thus begins the detail about Aaron and his sons.  We knew from Exodus 4 that Aaron is going to be Moses’ assistant, chiefly his mouthpiece because of Moses’ ‘uncircumcised lips’ (i.e. speech problem); but slowly, Joshua exchanged the role with Aaron as his chief disciple and assistant, whereas Aaron became Moses’ helper, his peer – from bearing Moses’ arm during the fight against the Amalekites through Yeshua/Joshua’s victory.  Throughout Exodus, Moses’ work is inextricably tied with Aaron’s work – as if they were nigh inseparable.  Moses’ presence and faith in Christ is the picture which dominated the book of Exodus, until Exodus 28 points towards Aaron and his sons as the priests of the to-be-built tabernacle.  Now, the time has come, and Aaron is the prophesied high priest.  Yet, without Moses, Aaron’s work would not have occurred.  Moses therefore plays the role of the Christ in the Old Testament: the Christ who physically saves as the Angel, and as the LORD who brought them out of Egypt.  But in the New Testament, our Christ fulfills the meaning of that physical salvation by completing the true spiritual salvation by the blood.  So what if the Israelites are saved from the Egyptians?  They will still fall into idolatry.  It is the salvation by the blood of Christ which he brings into the room of the Holy of Holies which clinches that peace between us and the Father.  Moses – the type of OT Christ, the Rock, the Saviour, the type of the one who brought the Israelites out of Egypt, the land of no Jesus; Aaron – the type of NT Christ, the Lamb, the High Priest, the type of the one who emphasises that the physical exodus is only true if we are circumcised via the spiritual exodus to new Jerusalem (Galatians 4).  Make no mistake: the OT and NT are tied together; we are born under the Old Covenant so we can turn to the New.  And under both instances, we turn from law of Christ to the gospel of Christ – Christ is at the centre of both typologies of Moses and Aaron.

So, when we look at Aaron, we actually understand Christ better as he presented himself in the NT.  So often I hear that NT Christ sheds light on OT sacrifices; but that is not true.  If anything, without the OT, NT means nothing; however, with the OT, we can more of less shape the gospel save understand the fullness of the time in which Christ will come.  But the Israelites at this point already have a good grasp of the fundamental offerings, the mediator-nature of their Yahweh, and most definitely a visible concept of the Holy Trinity.  The NT is just a time of fulfillment (NOT ‘special’ revelation, for the entire OT is already special revelation of Christ); the OT is one of prophecy awaiting Christ who has already been specially revealed as Angel (Genesis 16, Exodus 3), as Lamb (Genesis 22), as animal sacrifice (Genesis 3), and now as High Priest.

So how can Aaron and co. be sanctified (i.e. set apart) for the LORD’s work?  How can they be holy?  This is different from being clean, as I hinted in the previous post.

The process of sanctification, of being set apart as Holy for the LORD, follows some procedure.  Adam Clarke sums it up nicely (and I put in the bracketed numbers to help you navigate):

(1)  Moses is commanded to consecrate Aaron and his sons, Lev 8:1-3.

(2)  Moses convenes the congregation; washes, clothes, and anoints Aaron, Lev 8:4-12.

(3)  He also clothes Aaron’s sons, Lev 8:13.

(4)  Offers a bullock for them as a sin-offering, Lev 8:14-17.

(5)  And a ram for a burnt-offering, Lev 8:18-21.

(6)  And another ram for a consecration-offering, Lev 8:22-24. The fat, with cakes of unleavened bread, and the right shoulder of the ram, he offers as a wave-offering, and afterwards burns, Lev 8:25-28. The breast, which was the part of Moses, he also waves, Lev 8:29.

(7)  And sprinkles oil and blood upon Aaron and his sons, Lev 8:30.

(8 )  The flesh of the consecration ram is to be boiled and eaten at the door of the tabernacle, Lev 8:31, Lev 8:32.

(9)  Moses commands Aaron and his sons to abide seven days at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, which they do accordingly, Lev 8:33-36.

Let’s quickly decipher them.  Moses, in this picture, is like the OT Christ baptizing the NT Christ – the reason I say that is because the New Testament picture provides that of John the Baptist baptising Jesus (Matthew 3:15), when Jesus began his public work as the Anointed One (“Christ” is the greek for the Hebrew term “Messiah/Mashiyach”, meaning “Anointed One” or the “Consecrated One” -משׁיח c.f. Psalm 132:10).  This explains why, in verses 4-12, Moses convenes a congregation (Hebrew: edah, meaning assembly, the Hebrew equivalent for ekklesia, church, in the NT) of Israel before the consecration of the High Priest.  The direct parallel is also shown in Matthew 3, when the church of Israel witnesses Jesus Christ being consecrated for his ministry as THE Anointed One, the High Priest fulfilling all righteousness.  More on this when we speak of the anointing with the oil as the third step of the ritual.

The establishment of the ministry of the Anointed One

The reason I make the typology of Moses as John the Baptist and as role played by Christ in the OT is twofold.  Firstly, John the Baptist is the very last prophet of the Old Testament prior to the first advent of Christ – and every prophet is merely a typology of THE chief prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15), THE chief messenger – Christ.  As Moses is playing the role of prophet, his role right here parallels the image of John the Prophet and Baptizer of Jesus.  Jesus as the Anointed One is now being portrayed by Aaron, the now consecrated High Priest, in front of the assembly/ekklesia/church of Israel.  Secondly, is the way I play with the name “Moses”, which means “drawn out of the water”.  How much more fitting is it therefore for Moses to baptise Aaron with the water for washing, drawing from the water of the Spirit (as represented by the oil later) after being kept alive by being drawn out out of the waters of punishment?

This is followed closely by the clothing of the priests AFTER the washing as the second step.  The clothing of the priests I’ve largely covered in the commentary in Exodus.  Primarily, the significance is to tie the burden and the hearts of the Israelites to this one High Priest – the stones on his shoulders and on his breastplace continually remind him that he is standing as the mediator between the Father and the church.  He is stepping temporarily into the shoes of Jesus.

The third step is the important ritual of anointing with oil.  v.10 reveals that Moses consecrated the tabernacle first, before consecrating Aaron and his sons.  1 Samuel 16:13 –

Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah.

This shows just how important the Spirit is to any ministry.  Without oil, representing the Spirit, the work of the High Priests are in vain (1 Corinthians 2; 1 Corinthians 12).  Thus, the truth of the Spirit resting on Jesus, the Messiah, the Anointed One, is strengthened clearly in the picturing of oil everywhere (Isaiah 42:1-4, 61:1-3; Luke 4:14-21).  The oil comes again later in v.30.

The offerings in the preparation of Aaron & his sons

In v. 14-17, Aaron and his sons put their hands on the head of the bull as sin offering.  The bull, which “absorbs” the sin of Aaron and his sons is then destroyed away from the camp, so as not to threaten the purity of the camp or the Tent.  This “Great Exchange” of imputing our sins to Christ and his sins to us is spoken of in Romans 3 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 –

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Just is the essence of true Christian justification: we aren’t just made into a blank slate with the Father solemnly approving our entrance into heaven.  No no, much more!  We are actually pleasing in the Father’s eyes so long as Christ is our captain, and we are in Him, the true Noah’s ark!  The Father now looks on us like how he looks on his eternal Son!

Now that the altar is purified, the preparation of the priests is completed, to which we turn to the burnt offering for the atonement of their sins.  The first sin-offering cleansed them; and now, the burnt offering puts them in a position of pleasure before the LORD (refer back to 2 Corinthians 5:21) through the necessary substitute death of the animal sacrifice.  This anger of the LORD being soothed, the fellowship offering from v.22-29 takes the next stage.  First and foremost, all the offerings mentioned in these verses are forms of fellowship/peace offering (so they do not break-away from the 5-types of offerings in chapters 1-7, as if they are a sixth or seventh type of offering).

The reason why fellowship offering is so important is because it represents table fellowship with the LORD, so that we can eat with the Father and not only with the Incarnate Son (c.f. Last Supper).  Without the prior sin and burnt offering, this fellowship offering could not occur: this once against focuses on the truth of the importance of Jesus’ work on the cross before we can come before God as pleasing aroma of Christ and enjoy fellowship with Him.  Often, I have heard a simple phrase of “God is love” or “God is grace” – as biblical as the former is (1 John 4:16), the phrase is often taken out of 1 John’s context.  God is love through the propitiating blood of Jesus Christ.  God is love because of the propitiating blood of Jesus Christ.  Too often “Christ” and “blood” and “sacrifice” and “propitiation” is taken out of the picture, and we see a God who isn’t ‘judgmental’, but simply a God who is nice and loving – and this has caused the reason of so many heresies like contemporary pop-Marcionism: the OT God is full of wrath, the NT God is full of love.  Both the LORDS spoken of in OT and NT are Jesus Christ (yes, even the Old Testament usage of “LORD”, for who has known the Father without firstly knowing the visible Son of God (Luke 10:22)), and the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all angry at sin, yet the work of the cross fully deals with our punishment on the tree, and that is no blind grace – it is a true and legally justified salvation by grace.

One interesting difference is however found in the ordination/consecration (in the KJV) offering (v. 22-24).  The blood is applied on the priest’s lobe of the right ear, thumb of the right hand, and big toe of the right foot.  The right hand side is often seen as more important throughout Scripture (Genesis 48:14; Exodus 15:6; Deuteronomy 33:22; 1 Kings 2:19; Job 40:14; Psalm 16:8, 18:35; Ephesians 1:20), whether as a blessing on the next generation or as a powerful and protective force.  Jesus himself sits at the right hand of God, and many times people take refuge in the right hand of God, which depicts the power, protection and refuge of Jesus Christ.  Thus, the blood on the right hand side displays a full-allegiance not only to “God”, but to the right hand of God, Jesus Christ.  This right-hand side smearing of blood is practised later in Leviticus 14 on a leper, who through doing so is restored to full fellowship with God.  The priest is thus similarly cleansed and accepted into table fellowship with the Trinity.

The conclusion of the ordination ritual

The ordination ritual thus comes to an end with oil in v.30, covering the priests and their clothing once again.  The oil thus begins and ends as bookends for the offerings and depicts a clear message of what the Anointed One will do for spiritual Israel.  When priests are therefore engaged in their work, we will definitely think – “this, also, is what the Anointed One will do!”  This is far more profound than the shy provision of oil for prophets and kings: the priest is completely covered in the Spirit!  Psalm 133:2 –

“It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!”

This section of Psalms presents some deep theology: the precious oil on the head of Aaron runs down his beard to the collar of his robes and later covering his clothing.  So also: the Spirit on the head of Christ, runs down to his body, the church, and through the work of the Consecrated and Anointed Priest – the work of the Great Exchange of imputing our sin to him and his righteousness to us so we can have table fellowship with the LORD – is then the church manifested by the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit to come to new life.

When these rituals are completed, Aaron and his sons are given the offerings to eat at the entrance of the tabernacle, and so these prototype mediators stand between the LORD and His assembly, eating the LORD’s meat whilst in the priestly clothing representing the church.  This is very similar to the eating and drinking before the LORD in Exodus 24, the table fellowship with the seen Jesus.  Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu are now re-experiencing that wondrous moment in the thickness of the clouds of Mt. Sinai, on the border of the cloud of darkness and pillars of fire – the boundary between heaven and earth, between east of the garden of Eden and the Garden itself.

The final five verses of Leviticus 8 finishes the ritual of the priests:

31And Moses said to Aaron and his sons, “Boil the flesh at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and there eat it and the bread that is in the basket of ordination offerings, as I commanded, saying, ‘Aaron and his sons shall eat it.’ 32And what remains of the flesh and the bread you shall burn up with fire. 33And you shall not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting for seven days, until the days of your ordination are completed, for it(U) will take seven days to ordain you. 34As has been done today, the LORD has commanded to be done to make atonement for you. 35At the entrance of the tent of meeting you shall remain day and night for seven days, performing what the LORD has(V) charged, so that you do not die, for so I have been commanded.” 36And Aaron and his sons did all the things that the LORD commanded by Moses.

Thus, if the priests fail to eat of the remainder of the flesh, the pronouncement of judgment on the sinful flesh, it shall be burnt with fire – a picture of the true punishment via the lake of fire (Revelation 21).  This is mildly preached when Jesus ate the fish (Habbakuk 1:14 and Genesis 1 – the fish and sea creatures have no life in them, c.f. my post on Genesis Day 2 and 5), as a pronouncement of judgment on the mindless fish – the unsaved men.

And unsurprisingly, the seven days focus takes us back to the creation of the world in 6 days, and sabbath on the 7th.  This picture of creation of heaven and earth completed in 7 days is a foretelling of the re-creation of the world also told in the symbolic 7 days through the priestly work of Christ.  From the 8th day, the work of re-creation has already begun, just as Christ was resurrected on the 8th day (c.f. Genesis 17 circumcision, and Christ rising again on the 8th day AFTER the Sabbath on the 7th day, a picture of the new work of re-creation of heavens and earth, taking into account the symbolic second set of 7 days).  Hence, we move onto the 8th day in Leviticus 9.

A final note on the ordination is the question of whether modern-day ordination has similar significance.  Yes and No – Yes, in the sense that (as I will later cover in Leviticus 10), the ordination of these high priests is akin to the ordination of ministers and pastors.  They are given a highly responsible role of stewarding the sheep in the Shepherd’s stead, though of course, aligning to the Shepherd’s teachings.  The pastoral epistles such as Timothy and Titus were not written for any laymen, just as the 70 elders of Israel were chosen with specific character qualities.  However, the ordination of Leviticus 8 is not the same as the ordination of ministers at the same time – because the ministers are not made “holy” because of the ordination.  Rather, the holiness is one which all Christians inherit by the power of the Spirit.  We are to be a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6), not a kingdom of laymen and minority of priests!  The message spoken of here is a message of us taking on the nature of Christ through his propitiating and cleansing work of his own blood and the waters and oil of the Spirit.  In that sense, today’s ordination of ministers does not make them any more “holy” than the time that they were, when they first came to Christ prior to their ordination.  Therefore, a minister’s state of ‘holiness’ is no more than the state of ‘holiness’ that we are given by the power of the Spirit in whatever ministry we are anointed to perform.

2.  The acceptance of Aaron’s offering (Leviticus 9)

The significance of the 8th day shouldn’t be downplayed.  You should feast your eyes on Bullinger’s Numbers in Scripture’s chapter on the number 8, and here is just a small excerpt which is by no means enough to show the parallel of 8th day and new creation:

EIGHT BY ITSELF:  It is 7 plus 1. Hence it is the number specially associated with Resurrection and Regeneration, and the beginning of a new era or order.

When the whole earth was covered with the flood, it was Noah “the eighth person” (2 Peter 2:5) who stepped out on to a new earth to commence a new order of things. “Eight souls” (1 Peter 3:20) passed through it with him to the new or regenerated world.

Hence, too, circumcision was to be performed on the eighth day (Gen 17:12), because it was the foreshadowing of the true circumcision of the heart, that which was to be “made without hands,” even “the putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (Col 2:11). This is connected with the new creation.

The first-born was to be given to Jehovah on the eighth day (Exo 22:29,30). But RESURRECTION is the great truth which is signified. Christ rose from the dead on “the first day of the week,” that was of necessity the eighth day.

So what happens on the 8th day is of serious importance to the understanding of God’s work of re-creation.  Adam Clarke’s commentary comes in useful again, with my edited numbering and extra notes in italics:

(1)  Aaron is commanded to offer, on the eighth day, a sin-offering (bull calf) and a burnt-offering (ram), Lev 9:1, Lev 9:2.

(2)  The people are commanded also to offer a sin-offering (male goat), a burnt-offering (calf and a ram, a year old without blemish), peace-offerings (ox and a ram), and a meat-offering (I think A.Clarke meant grain offering – mixed with oil) , Lev 9:3, Lev 9:4. They do as they were commanded; and Moses promises that God shall appear among them, Lev 9:5, Lev 9:6.

(3)  Aaron is commanded to make an atonement for the people, Lev 9:7. He and his sons prepare and offer the different sacrifices, Lev 9:8-21. Aaron and Moses bless the congregation, Lev 9:22, Lev 9:23.

(4)  And the fire of the Lord consumes the sacrifice, Lev 9:24.

The centrality of the verses above drives on two verses:  “so that the (Glory of the) LORD may appear to you”.  Part (1) relates strictly to Aaron and sons (with sin and burnt offerings), but part (2) involves the work of Aaron and sons for the congregation of Israel, which doesn’t just involve sin and burnt offerings, but also fellowship and grain offerings as fellowship and dedication to the LORD respectively.  Everything that priest has done is to involve themselves and to involve the congregation so that their own sins and the congregations’ sins are tied to these sacrifices, imputed onto them, and so that the LORD may appear to them.  This may sound odd, given that they were ALREADY witnessing the glory of God as a pillar of cloud and fire in the tabernacle!  No – what is meant here is the significance of these sacrifices in ORDER to meet with God.  They cannot just expect to dwell with Jesus, given their sinful nature (including the priests, who are after all only acting as the True Priest who is entirely sinless).

Lev 9:22  Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he came down from offering the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings. 23 And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. 24 And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.

This chapter ends on a high note – the work of re-creation, on the 8th day, is powerfully shown through the sacrifices made – and the “glory of the LORD appeared to all the people” as the High Priest lifted his hands to bless the people (an image of Melchizedek, who is Jesus, the Sent One who blessed Abraham the model of faith – Romans 4).  This “glory of the LORD” of course is no mere glory, for who has seen God except the visible person Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:15)?  Sometimes I hear people today saying things like “I saw God’s glory”, which they usually mean as “I felt the intimacy of God today”.  However, in Scripture, to see God’s glory is to actually see Him – not just to feel the intimacy, but to see Him with the eyes of our hearts, when a particular mystery in the fullness of Christ is revealed by the Spirit.  Can you see the glory of God through the music of a worship song?  Sure.  Can you see the glory of God through a pastor praying for you?  Indeed. Only if both take us back to Jesus Christ, and not because we feel like we are being loved.  It is important to distinguish the feelings from the fact of God’s revelation to us, for often the feelings of a compromising Christian precede that of fact: and this leads to all types of spiritual troubles in store for them.  Let the true glory of God, Jesus Christ, reveal more of the truth of his work on the cross for us, so we worship Him with more reverence.

The picture of fire coming out from before the LORD and consuming these offerings is one of acceptance of the people, while simultaneously pronouncing judgment on the now sinful animal sacrifices.  This rejoicing is bittersweet – they live, because of the death of another; yet, our rejoicing in Christ is not bittersweet – he will not only die on the cross, but will live and ascend to bring us up again to the new heavens and earth as fully righteous and not just a blank slate.

3.  The Death of Aaron’s two sons – Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10)

Although the last chapter ended optimistically, it is no mistake that Moses chose to juxtapose the glory of Aaron’s work, prophesying Jesus’ completed work on the cross starting from the 8th day (after Sabbath), with the decadence of the examples of Nadab and Abihu.

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them.  (Lev 10:1)

Because of this “unauthorised” fire, v.2 goes on to say that Nadab and Abihu were immediately consumed by the LORD’s fire.  What a horrific image: one moment, the church of Israel is rejoicing, because Aaron and his sons went through the steps with a mixture of solemnity (of imputing their sins onto the sacrifice), and joy (of the imputation of righteousness onto them); and another moment, Nadab and Abihu fail to remember these important steps to God’s love and are consumed!

Let’s decipher ‘unauthorised’ fire first.  In the KJV, this is “strange” fire.  The LXX translates this as “αλλοτριον” (from the lexical root allotrios), meaning strange, alien or hostile.  This is different from the “heteros”, also meaning strange but more akin to “different”, used in Jude 7 referring to different flesh.  While I understand the cultural and semantic distinctions between LXX greek and NT greek, the context helps us understand that this strange fire is very different from ‘strange flesh’ which refers in the latter part to angelic flesh.  This strange fire, however, is unauthorised as the ESV translators put it: it is alien, and it is most importantly hostile.

If we just read the narrative, the message is quite simple: both the sons of Aaron took his censer and put fire in it and literally gave a hostile offering before the LORD.  Of course, they did not think it was hostile – but the LORD did, hence His reaction in v.2.  Paul Blackham notes that some people have read v.8-9 of chapter 10 and came to the conclusion that Nadab and Abihu are drunk, though I agree with him that actually, this seems not so feasible since chapter 10 follows immediately after chapter 9.  There is no indication of a time gap, especially v.12-16, explaining how the food offerings haven’t yet been consumed.  Since v.3 follows on from v.2, the judgment on Aaron’s sons, it would perhaps give the best explanation of why Nadab and Abihu were punished:

“This is what the LORD has said, ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.'” And Aaron held his peace.

Moses’ explanation is straightforward: without committing to the right steps to salvation, committing ourselves to God’s glory through Jesus Christ, our prayers and desires are unheard.  This is extremely important: for we remain under wrath outside of Jesus Christ (John 3:16-18 ) – and so Nadab and Abihu show just how they were under judgment, if they provide unauthorised offerings.

But surely Nadab and Abihu were just adding to the offerings?  No – it isn’t that simple.  The significance of the entire sacrificial system, the priestly ordination, is that it is the LORD’s commandment.  He has ordained salvation to be wrought in an extremely specific and detailed way, and any subversion or alteration of it is to preach one thing: that we know it better than the LORD.  That we can take or add from the word of God (Revelation 22:18 ).  Some can even go as far as to say that what Nadab and Abihu were doing is a great example of works-salvation:  it is as if Aaron’s sons felt that the sacrificial offering through Jesus Christ is not enough, and they have to add their own to justify themselves.  Either way, the LORD is furious that we would want to alter, or add onto the salvation of Jesus.  HE is our rock, HE is our righteousness – not our unauthorised and hostile offerings which has no bearing on our justification before Him.

v.3-6 is a sad image of Nadab and Abihu’s relatives carrying the two brothers’ corpses out, while Aaron their father holds his peace.  Nadab, whose name means “generous”, and Abihu, whose name means “he is my father” (possibly referring to God), is carried out by their relatives Mishael (“who is what God is”) and Elzaphan (“my God has protected”), sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel (“my strength is God”).  I find it, however, quite touching how they still refer to Nadab and Abihu as brethren (in the KJV, and “brother” in the ESV), and carry them with their coats still covering them – though it is indeed a solemn reminder that the physicali clothing is not what makes them holy; the physical robes of “righteousness” still needs to be true spiritually.  Moses tells Aaron and his sons not to bewail the death of Nadab and Abihu; instead, the house of Israel will now mourn for Nadab and Abihu.

Why can’t Aaron and his sons mourn for his eldest and 2nd eldest son?  Because they are still anointed with the Spirit:

And do not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting, lest you die, for the anointing oil of the LORD is upon you.” And they did according to the word of Moses.(v.7)

This corresponds to what Jesus taught in Luke 14:25-26 – if you do not hate your parents, your wife, your brothers and sisters, your sons and daughters compared with God, then you cannot approach Jesus.  This is the intense devotion to the living God, and the mark of the Spirit on Aaron and his sons is a mark not merely of cleanness, but holiness.  God isn’t asking us to hate our human family; rather, he is teaching us to respect his authority even above the authority of our family.  If Aaron mourned, then he is akin to those who Christ are condemning in Luke 14.

Then v.10-11 implies that Aaron and his sons do not have the mere job of managing the sacrifices: they also have the duty to teach the people the meaning of the sacrifices.  How fitting it is that Moses is reminding Aaron of such a duty, after his two sons have died because they failed to understand the statute fully.  I think this is a crucial verse: so often we practise baptism, communion, sacraments, marriage and many signs of God’s grace to us, but we fail to understand its meaning.  This is why we have denominations preaching damaging lies like works-salvation, believer’s baptism, inter-faith or homosexual marriages.  They fail to remember what Scripture taught about these practices, and looked upon the physical truth and bound their subjective spiritual definitions to it.  The story of Nadab and Abihu is profound: it is telling us to listen to God, and rest on Christ alone as the definer of our faith.

v.12-18 then sees Moses asking the sons of Aaron to do as they were told and ensure that the remains of the sacrifice are dealt with as already told.  The key word in v.16, is diligent.  Moses is not half-hearted, and the message again is especially poignant after the death of Aaron’s two sons.

v.19-20 sees Aaron admitting his mistake in failing to serve the LORD properly, but there is a mark of humility and repentance in his actions: “If I had eaten the sin offering today, would the LORD have approved?”- indeed, the LORD would approve, as Moses stated.  Aaron was inwardly and spiritually mourning as the Father of the two sons, and just like those who fast because they mourn for the days of Jesus’ return (Matthew 9:15), Aaron’s fasting is a mark of his love for his two sons.  Thus, the difference between Aaron’s mistake and his sons mistake is quite significant: the former is one who continually feared and revered God and acknowledged his mistake.  However, the latter represents two people who impudently and rashly entered His presence with hostile sacrifices even though they should already know the statutes well.  Thus, the responses from the LORD are proportional and appropriate.  Here is Matthew Henry on Aaron’s repentant heart:

Moses charged the fault upon Eleazar and Ithamar (Lev_10:16), but it is probable that what they did was by Aaron direction, and therefore he apologized for it. He might have pleaded that this was a sin-offering for the congregation, and if it had been a bullock it must have been wholly burnt (Lev_4:21), and therefore why not now that it was a goat? But it seems it was otherwise ordered at this time, and therefore he makes his affliction his excuse, Lev_10:19. Observe, (1.) How he speaks of affliction: Such things have befallen me, such sad things, which could not but go near his heart, and make it very happy. He was a high priest taken from among men, and could not put off natural affection when he put on the holy garments. He held his peace (Lev_10:3), yet his sorrow was stirred, as David’s, Psa_39:2. Note, There may be a deep sense of affliction even where there is a sincere resignation to the will of God in the affliction. “Such things as never befel me before, and as I little expected now. My spirits cannot but sink, when I see my family sinking; I must needs be heavy, when God is angry:” thus it is easy to say a great deal to aggravate an affliction, but it is better to say little. (2.) How he makes this an excuse for his varying from the appointment about the sin-offering. He could not have eaten it but in his mourning, and with a sorrowful spirit; and would this have been accepted? He does not plead that his heart was so full of grief that he had no appetite for it, but that he feared it would not be accepted. Note, [1.] Acceptance with God is the great thing we should desire and aim at in all our religious services, particularly in the Lord’s supper, which is our eating of the sin-offering. [2.] The sorrow of the world is a very great hindrance to our acceptable performance of holy duties, both as it is discomposing to ourselves, takes off our chariot-wheels and makes us drive heavily (1Sa_1:7, 1Sa_1:8 ), and as it is displeasing to God, whose will it is that we should serve him cheerfully, Deu_12:7. Mourner’s bread was polluted, Hos_9:4. See Mal_3:14.

Leviticus 8-10: Jesus, our only High Priest

Exodus 31-33: The 10 words destroyed (pt. 1)

1.  The Filling of the Holy Spirit (Exodus 31:1-11)

2.  Sabbath (Exodus 31:12-18 )

3.  The Golden Calf (Exodus 32)

4.  Leaving Sinai – marks of the Holy Trinity (Exodus 33)

1.  The Filling of the Holy Spirit (Exodus 31:1-11)

Now, we see two specific mentioned; one of whom is specifically filled with the Spirit of God.  Bezalel (“in the shadow (protection) of God”) from the line of Judah was given the ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, working in gold, silver and bronze.

Oholiab (“the father’s tent”) contrarily, from the line of Dan, is appointed as Bezalel’s helper.

Then in v.6:  “…And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you…”

Why were Bezalel, from the line of Judah, and the Danite Oholiab specifically mentioned?  I’d like to hear your say on them: perhaps something to do with the scepter not departing from Judah, and justice coming from the tribe of Dan?  He who is in the protection of God, in the line of Judah vs. he who is in the father’s tent (i.e. the Father, 1st person of the Trinity) in the line of Dan?

I’d like to focus on another aspect: which is the mentioning of the Spirit filling someone specifically for the first time in Scripture (v.3).  What is the meaning of this?  Many people have decidedly interpreted John 8 that the Spirit is only given in part to the Old Testament saints, but there is no evidence of the Spirit dwelling within Bezalel, let alone (as v.6 says) all the able men who were also given the ability.  Can we be filled with the Spirit of God, without the indwelling of the Spirit?  Must we differentiate technical categories of illumination, regeneration, indwelling salvation, sanctification/filling of the Spirit?  Perhaps these distinctions are akin to the three-fold distinction of the Levitical law: completely trivial.

But this is not the first time the Spirit of God is in someone – look at Genesis 41:37-38 – The Spirit of God is in Joseph.  Numbers 27:18 – the Spirit of God is in Joshua.  Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves, but this happens many times throughout the Old Testament, prior to the giving of the Holy Spirit at the Pentecost.  But how do you reconcile that with John 7:37-39?  The Spirit is not yet given, as Jesus was not yet glorified!  Did Jesus contradict himself?

The problem is that people actually have a misinterpretation of John 7:33-39 – many think it refers to a different way of salvation; as if Christians are sealed with the Holy Spirit in the New Testament (post-Pentecostal age), and OT saints were saved differently.  But we have always had one mediator, Christ (1 Timothy 2:5); and only one mystery.

The Mystery of God

Some people think the “Mystery” refers to the Holy Spirit, but not really.  Dev has written a good post on the ‘mystery’, but here is my quick summary of his “quick” summary:  Ephesians 3:2-6 and Colossians 1:25-27, just two small examples, show that Paul’s explanation of the mystery as the inclusion of all nations within the blessings of Israel.  The revelation therefore isn’t the sudden arrival of the Holy Spirit (since he is so active in the OT), but the extension of His work to all nations.  The mystery is the global inter-racial church of both Jews and Gentiles.  That is the symbolism of Jonah 3-4; only after the sign of Jonah, the 3 days in death, resurrection and ascension, can Jonah then preach directly to a Gentile nation.  The response is national-scale salvation for Nineveh: but this story is prophetic of the necessity of Christ’s glorification for the Spirit to be given to the Gentiles as well.

So if we come back to John 7:33-39:  the Jews were actually concerned that Jesus is about to go and teach the Gentiles, but Jesus’ response affirms that the gospel is not just for the physical Israelite nation.  Anyone and everyone who comes to Him will receive the Holy Spirit; but AFTER he has been glorified (i.e. which is a direct reference to the cross John 12:23,34; 17:5), then the dividing curtain between the Jews and the Gentiles is destroyed.  Only then can the Spirit be given to anyone and everyone who believes on Him.  Only after the sign of Jonah, after the sign of the cross, can Nineveh be saved.  Jonah was a prophet unheard of in his time; no other prophet went out to evangelise to other nations.  Jesus was a prophet, priest and king unheard of in his time – yet he affirmed that this is the sign and meaning of Jonah’s minsitry.

The division between the indwelling and the filling of the Spirit is not yet laid at rest, because we haven’t considered comparing the difference between the ways the Spirit worked in the Old and in the New Testament; but the passages of 1 Timothy 2:5; 1 Corinthians 2; Jonah 3-4; John 7:33-39 point not to the Spirit given to the Jews only in the New Testament.  The Jews were already partakers of the gifts of the Old Testament, and the mystery of the New Testament fulfilled is the inclusion of the Gentiles in a different way from the OT (e.g. Rahab had to be assimilated into the Israelite community; but we don’t assimilate ourselves into the Israelite community today).  If the mystery is simply that of the inclusion of Gentiles, then that means the Gentiles are given the same gifts of salvation through the Spirit in the same way the OT saints have been enjoying all along.  This means that effectively, just as we are sealed and have the Spirit indwelling in us – so also the OT saints are possibly sealed by the Spirit, and He is indwelling in them.  We will come back to the Holy Spirit in the next post on chapters 34 onwards.

2.  Sabbath (Exodus 31:12-18 )

16Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. 17(U) It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that(V) in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and(W) on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.'”

God has repeated the significance of the Sabbath a number of 11 times between after the salvation of the Jews until now.  Clearly, this is quite important – and v. 17 etches it into their heads – it is a sign forever between me and the people of “the-God-who-fights”.  And how does God justify that model of the Sabbath?  Again, it is found in the model of creation, which is sufficient in preaching the gospel in itself.  Not observing the Sabbath will result in death; and this crime is therefore seen as heinous as that of intentional murder, and striking one’s parents.  There is a link between these heavy-sins – and it has nothing to do with the Catholic response to ‘grave’ or ‘mortal’ sins by HOW we repents.  Rather, these heavy-sins have something to do with a characteristic of God; and the Sabbath, like the respecting of one’s parents, are facets of the highest representation of God’s personality.  As I’ve stated, Sabbath represents our time in new Jerusalem where our time of rest (Genesis 2:15) in Paradise is restored and renewed.  If we forget the meaning of Sabbath, then we forget our purpose on earth; we thrive in the curse of God to toil on this earth, but God is deliberately pulling us away from that idolatrous mindset.

3.  The Golden Calf (Exodus 32)

The irony of this chapter is how quick the Israelites forgot about the LORD; especially the elders and those who ate with the LORD on the mountain of God – how is this possible?  And why does this terrible and infamous incident occur between the instructions of the tabernacle and the building of the tabernacle?

And in this period of testing, of 40 days and 40 night – the people wavered.  They had problems in waiting for Moses to come down, in the same way we have problems with waiting for Christ to return.  v.1 is very interesting: “Up, make us gods who shall go before us.” Why gods?  I think this has very much to do with the fact that they are faced with Two LORDS, the Angel and the Unseen Father; and one Spirit, thus numerically three Persons in the Triune God.

v.2-6 display a use of the gold which should have been used to build the Tabernacle with.  Instead, the gold is taken to create for themselves gods.  God makes clear that there is one golden calf (v.8 ), but the people are saying “these are your gods”. Clearly, there is a misunderstanding of some sort – but this is also a depiction of their understanding of Triune Oneness.  There may be one calf, but there are gods.  There may be one God, but THREE Persons.  However far this analogy can go, their golden calf is a perversion of the Three-in-Oneness of our God.

v.11-14 is very important: Moses asks God to remember the covenant between Him and their forefathers Abraham, Isaac, Israel, His servants.  Moses does not say: “Look at what we have done!  Look at our faithfulness!  Look at the signs which we kept!” – rather, he says “Remember what you promised us”.  Salvation is from the LORD, and only the LORD need remember what he has promised the Israelites.

Then comes v.19 – Moses threw the two tablets with the 10 words on them and broke them at the foot of the mountain.  Is he insane?  Does he not value the 10 words written by the finger of God?  Of course not – the significance of the breaking of the two tablets at the foot of the mountain is significant in the context of Moses’ righteous anger against the idolatrous Israelites.  Why did he break the tablets?  We’ll come to answer that in the next post when Moses receives two new tablets. The saddest thing of this ordeal, along with their idolatrous relationship with the idol outside of God, is that their evangelistic attempt to be a holy priesthood and a witness for all nations is crippled by this event, Exodus 32:25:

25And when Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose,(AH) to the derision of their enemies)

The enemies derided them; how much better would it have been if they remained loyal and faithful?  Indeed, salvation is of the LORD, but our interference and disobedience will lessen the credibility of the gospel given their lack of faith displayed by worshiping a golden calf.

Just three other things to quickly note in this chapter before coming back to that point of receiving 4 tablets in total in the next post:

(a)  Aaron’s nature to blame inherits that of Adam:  v.22-24 – “You know the people, that they are set on evil.  23  For they said to me, ‘Make us gods who shall go before us…24… So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf‘.  Firstly, the ridiculous logic of Aaron’s argument – did he not realise that Moses is spending time with the LORD?  Wasn’t Aaron meant to be Moses’ aide?  Instead, he sided with many and perverted justice (Exodus 23:2).  Secondly, how can a calf just come out of a fire refining gold, unless the calf was carefully sculpted?  Adam also said the same thing to God:  ‘it was the woman whom “YOU” gave me that led me to sin’.  How easy it is to place our blame on others.

(b)  Why did they create a golden calf of all creatures?  Ezekiel 1:10 – we see that the spiritual creatures have four faces: a lion, eagle, man and a bull.  Ezekiel 10:14 – again, the four faces appear but there is an alteration in the terminology: a lion, eagle, man and a cherub.  Ezekiel is referring to the same creature, but cherub and bull is interchangeable here.  It is likely that the face of a cherub is akin to the face of a bull, and this may help us understand why some world religions/cultures worship the calf because some divine creatures resemble bulls (i.e. Hindus who regard the cow as a sacred animal), or treat the calf as a sacred animal.  If Satan, as explained in Ezekiel 28 is a guardian cherub, then it is possible that the worship of the calf is a form of Satan-worship, explaining the LORD and Moses’ righteous anger.

(c)  v.26 speaks of the sons of Levi gathering around to kill three thousand men of the people (v.28 ).  Why this, and how is this related to their consequent ordination (v.29)?  Firstly, we should understand that this is the 50th day after Israel reached Sinai.  After reaching Sinai, they waited three days at the prompting of Christ, the Angel, to wait for the Father to descend to the top of the mountain of God.  Then Moses waited another 7 days before he spent another 40 days and 40 nights with the LORD (Exodus 19 and 24).  That totals to 50 days.

The sign of the third day and Jesus and the Father meeting on the third day is a prototypical display of Jesus’ victory over sin at the cross.  At the Pentecost, in Acts 2, 50 days after Jesus’ victory over sin at the cross, the LORD shook the earth and sent fire and the mighty Spirit to both Jews and Gentiles.  This is why in Acts 2:41, “3000 were added to their number that day”.  This is in direct contrast to the 50th day event here: the Levites ‘celebrated’ their Pentecost with the slaughter of 3000 as a sign of judgment; but the Christian disciples celebrated their Pentecost post-ascension with the addition of 3000 to the church of Christ, as a sign of salvation.  If you would (also notice, it is 50 days after which they left Egypt that Moses meets with the two Lords on Mount Sinai; and another 50 days before the 3000 were taken away by the Levites).  Any connection between the two sets of 50 days?

4.  Leaving Sinai: marks of the Holy Trinity (Exodus 33)

Remember throughout this chapter and previous chapters the fundament of Deuteronomy 4:12 – “no form” was seen, although this is the voice of the Yahweh-Person.  The GOD in the thick darkness is never seen – but then later, in v.7-11, Moses meets the LORD face to face as a man speaks to his friend in a tent pitched at the bottom of the mountain.  This is the seen Lord!  (v.9-11). Most importantly, note how Joshua/Yeshua, the son of Nun, remains in the tent when Moses turns to the Israelite church.

But Moses wants more than seeing the seen Lord face-to-face – he wants to also see the Unseen LORD, the Unseen Father!  But the Unseen LORD explains some very specific things: v.14 states that the LORD is happy for his presence (i.e. Christ, as explained in earlier posts) to go with them, but (v.19-23):

19…he said,(CX) “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And(CY) I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for(CZ) man shall not see me and live.” 21And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22and while my glory passes by I will put you in a(DA) cleft of the rock, and I will(DB) cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall(DC) not be seen.”

So v.20 solidifies that this is the Unseen Father speaking to Moses; and the Unseen Father wishes to reveal his backside to Moses, but only if Moses hides inside a cleft of a rock.  So also, when we hide inside the cleft of the Rock of Ages (Psalm 18:12) will we even bear the real existence of being before the Father, but that rock which Moses hid in is just a shadow of the true Rock which will completely cover us with His righteousness:

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure. – hymn “Rock of Ages” by Augustus Montague Toplady on Moses hiding in the cleft of the rock

So Moses is not rejected by the end of this chapter; rather, he is already encouraged that the Father’s ‘presence’, in whom is the proclamation of the name “the LORD” (v.19), is already a sufficient goodness to reflect the Father’s glory.  But, as it still stands, v.20 shows that we cannot live if we meet with him face to face.  Which is why we must rely on the Angel whose name is “the LORD”; we must rely on God’s presence who will go with Moses; we must rely on the rock of ages cleft for us – and only through this mediator (1 Timothy 2:5) can we even come to meet the Father who resides in the Holy of Holies.

Conclusion

There are again marks of prophecy not only in these three chapters, but in the mysteriousness of why this incident of the golden calf occured in between the instructions and the making of the tablets; why the first set of tablets were destroyed and the meaning of the changes in the second tablets (as we will later see in the next post); why there are signs and allusions to the Pentecost (i.e. 50 days after leaving Egypt; 50 days after arriving at Sinai; 3 days waiting period vs. 7 days waiting period; 40 days and 40 nights of testing for those waiting at the bottom of the mountain) – and in general how this, like Abraham’s early actions by travelling in and around Canaan is a blueprint of the future.  I will try to wrap these points up in the next post.

Exodus 31-33: The 10 words destroyed (pt. 1)

Genesis 2:15 – Salvation by works or faith alone?

We now come to a heavily misconceived topic – “Work”. The verse in Hebrew for Genesis 2:15 goes:

וַיִּקַּ֛ח יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶת־הָֽאָדָ֑ם וַיַּנִּחֵ֣הוּ בְגַן־עֵ֔דֶן לְעָבְדָ֖הּ וּלְשָׁמְרָֽהּ׃

Here is the NIV translation:

“…Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”

The Chinese 和合本 translation:

耶 和 華   神 將 那 人    安 置 在 伊 甸 園 、 使 他    修 理 看 守

The NLT translation:

The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it.

The KJV:

And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

NASB:

Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.

Finally, the ESV (I will only highlight my bolded vocabulary in the previous translations):

“…and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and to keep it“….

Notice the discrepancy over the usage of the Hebrew for ‘yanach’ (ינח) (commonly translated above as “to put”, which can be translated to ‘deposit’, ‘by implication, to allow to stay or to rest‘), ‘abad (עבד) (commonly translated as ‘dress’, ‘cultivate’, ‘work’ or ‘tend’ – also can mean to work (in any sense); by implication, to serve, till, (causatively) enslave, etc.), and ‘shamar’ (שמר) (meaning normally to ‘keep’ – also can mean to hedge about (as with thorns), i.e. guard; generally, to protect, attend to, etc.) Why such a discrepancy? Any omission of one of the valid meanings in the context can crucially change the meaning of the verse. As for the Chinese translation, it should definitely be given its due consideration come later in this post – but a quick note to see is that it’s translation for God putting man there is God “resting” man in the garden, and “rested” man in the garden to “serve” (one of the possible English translations of ‘abad) and to “keep” (excluding the term “it” after the word serve and keep – why? This surely doesn’t make grammatical sense? Serve and keep what? Nothing? Or Eden, as the other translations suggest? Are these translations even reliable, given the not-so-trivial discrepancies?).

And yet, the problem on the common evangelical view of work is the basis of the interpretation of Genesis 2:15. A book commonly used in student circles in preparation for their work ministry in the future is “Thank God it’s Monday”, which, again, bases the Godly work and secular work divide on the faulty interpretation of Genesis 2:15. Sure, the book has its positive impact on enabling people to focus on God even during their nine to five (or nine to infinity, as is common in Hong Kong), but is it that simple? Can we incorporate God into our work? Or has it always been vice versa? What does Genesis 2:15, pre-fall, really say about “work”?

The basic definition of work is what we have to do in order for us to live. The basic level is to grow, hunt, and find your food, and build and maintain your home. This can involve earning money so someone else can hunt your food, or someone else can build our home. This work is crucial to life and maintenance.

Traditional Protestant Work Ethic

The traditional Protestant work ethic lies in Genesis 1 – that work is labouring in creating the universe. And because man is created in God’s image, the “logic” is that man, is in the image of God who is a worker. And this seems to be substantiated furthermore in Genesis 2:15 – that the Lord put man in the garden of Eden to work.

But this creates the false impression that full-time paid Christian work is better than secular work (which the octogenarian John Stott had once mistakenly thought in “The Living Church”). However, all work should be good – all our work should be our worship, and work therefore isn’t refined to the ‘religious’ sphere. 1 Corinthians 9 shows that everything we do is for God. In Adam’s sin in Genesis 3, we see that work has become a drudge and becomes toilsome, but work is essentially still a good thing. Is that true? That to be godly is to be working hard at our job as a form of worship? A duty that we owe to God? So being a Christian is akin to working hard?

Self-speaking theology of work

There is something disturbing behind working hard as a form of worship. As a preliminary note, it seems to suggest to the non-Christian that Christians can only be accepted by God through their hard work – an impression we wish not to impose on the observer, as we should be living witnesses for the gospel. But what do we make of the Genesis 1 and Genesis 2:15 interpretations of God as worker and that man is a worker in His image?

The simple differentiation lies in the Hebrew, which is a shame given the majority of English translations lend no significance in gender and nuanced distinctions. The word primarily used of God’s work and man’s work are different words in Hebrew! The Hebrew for God’s work is mla’kah ( מְלַאכְתֹּ֖ו ) in Genesis 2:2 , whereas, as we already stated the Hebrew for man’s work is ‘abad ( לַֽעֲבֹ֖ד ) in Genesis 2:15.

If work is what you do in order to live, then how can this definition work with God’s definition of His work? His work had nothing to do with his own sustenance of life. What we see from His work is that creation is a present and a gift for his Son – that God had prepared creation, and a bride, in worship of his Son (Genesis 1:31 and Revelations 13:8 – the Lamb was slain before the creation of the world, for it is not good for man to be alone, and Adam was meant to be a type of Christ, so Christ was slain before the creation of the world, and left his Father to incarnate and die and ascend as the Father, before creation, prepared the race of men and women in faith to be his bride).

Furthermore, the “logic” of the image of God being akin to being Him is quite inversely contradictory – given that the image of God is a very specific thing (as mentioned in my previous post on Day 3 and Day 6 – but more needs to be said about it). Mike Reeves, UCCF theological advisor, in his sermon on theology behind work states that no God-respecting Old Testament scholar thinks that the image has anything to do with working. How do we explain Genesis 2:15 then? Again, the ‘secret’ as it were, lies in the poor Hebrew translation offered in the English NIV translation as is commonly used in European and Asian churches. To suggest that man was put in the garden to work and to care for the garden is to directly contradict Genesis 2:5 – that no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground (‘adam)… but streams came up to water the ground. Furthermore in Genesis 7:12, we don’t see rain until the Noahic flood. If that is the case, Genesis 2:5 refers directly to man working ‘adam after sin (In Genesis 2:5 we see that God states specifically that there was no-one to work the ground (‘adam) – and this is repeated again in Genesis 3 where the ‘adam is cursed – in Genesis 2:15, God is unnecessarily silent on this ‘adam which is so crucial to understanding God’s reversal of his blessing on man, from the ‘adam being a blessing to ‘adam becoming a curse), as opposed to working “it” and keeping “it” (the “it” in English is of course neutral…but does it necessarily refer to the “garden” in the Hebrew?).

To sum up quickly: Earth is an uncultivated wasteland – a lot of work is needed to feed hungry Adam; yet the Lord forms Adam out of that wasteland outside Eden and then we get to see (v. 8-9) the Lord planting a finished garden, where Adam can receive the food that he needs (more on this point of food later on). So in this uncultivated wasteland, we have the garden of Eden which was planted in the east. Why does God take Adam from the uncultivated wasteland and put him in the garden? Genesis 2:15 should be an answer to this subtle point, which many people miss when they preconceive that Adam was made in the garden, which he wasn’t. The significance lies in him being brought to the garden from outside in. Unlike v.8 (where he used the word “put” to mean “to put (used in a great variety of applications, literal, figurative, inferentially, and elliptically)wholly, work.” – a type of putting that is NOT the same as the Genesis 2:15 “put” — Moses therefore did not use the word “the Lord put Adam there”, but Moses said he “rested him” (akin to “sabbathed” him – and in fact, this fits the Chinese translation!) in the garden. The man is therefore given rest in the garden, not work! But we still haven’t explained Genesis 2:15 – it doesn’t say rest… or does it?

The problem lies in the translation of the word “it” – but we can find comfort in the fact that God’s work (in Genesis 2:2) is not the same work used in v. 15, though the English seems to say so. The 3rd person pronoun of “it” in Hebrew however has a male and female distinction. Remember in my first few posts (Genesis 1:1, Genesis 1:2, and details of day 1) that the gender is essential to understanding exegetical insights which prevents problems of liberal or feminist thinking by understanding our roles in relation to God. If we were to respect the Hebrew grammar similarly, we should treat every feminine/male distinction with the same theological distinction as it deserves, which English does not preserve. So here we go.

In Hebrew, the gender for ‘garden’ (‘gan), is masculineגַן ” – yet, in v. 15, the word “it” (which in the English seems to be referring to the garden) is feminine -“הּ” . Essentially this would mean work “her” and keep/take care of “her” which simply doesn’t fit well if we were to imply that Adam was working/tilling/keeping the garden in v. 15 (let alone re-interpreting the word “work” in v. 15, which is different from v. 2). This displays a clear grammatical error in the English translation.

Genesis 3:23 shows God’s punishment for sin, each part of God’s curse being a reversal of Adam and Eve’s previous blessing. They had life, and now they have death. They had rest, and now they had work. If we were to give Genesis 3:23 its contextual understanding in light of pre/post-fall status of man, then we should give Genesis 2:15 its respectfully more accurate translation:

God rested/sabbathed man in the garden to serve and to keep

And why do I not include the word “it”? Because the nature of the word “it”, if used in this context (in English) would wrongfully include the “garden” as an object of the work. However, if we stay sensitive to the grammar, the word “keep” (kamar) is in fact quite similar to the keeping of the covenant in other situations (Genesis 17:9-10; Exodus 19:5; Leviticus 18:4-5; Deuteronomy 7:9). If we were to then understand the context of the female “it” and the consistency of “work/keep” with the keeping of the covenant (since we don’t work the covenant, instead, we kamar “it” (that is used in Genesis 2:15) and kamar the covenant). Therefore, kamar, the keeping of the covenant, is what we know as worship of God – for we, as Christian, serve the Lord and keep his commandments as worship and not as works-salvation in itself (Romans 7:7-25).

Thus it is not the garden that we serve and keep! But it is the gift that God established through his provision of the garden that we ‘serve’ and ‘keep’! The gift of the covenant which he established before creation, the covenant which he ‘barach’ed/cut @ Creation, the gift of salvation through his faithfulness (Romans 3:4)!

This is unsurprising given that the Lord God commanded the man in v. 16 to worship and obey – so the gift is given to man for a finished package to enjoy. In v. 19 we see that the Lord brings animals to man (v. 20-21) – man didn’t have to find the animals. The Lord then finds a suitable helper for man. Man can rest and all he needs to do is worship the Lord and have everything given to him! All of this fleshed out day 6 in Genesis 2 – so that, on the seventh day (the first day after man was made), man can have Sabbath. God has done everything for humanity and delivered them a pure gift. Man did nothing, God did everything.

If creation is a sheer gift of grace, undeserved and unearned love, then the Sabbath, also, is all about the gospel. Sabbath is life all about simply trusting the Lord, not the physical day in itself. Hebrews 4 shows that God’s rest is entered only by believing the gospel – simply trusting the Lord like that ends our attempts to end his favour. Hebrews 4:10 – anyone entering God’s rest = resting from his own work just as God did from his, intended for Adam. Similarly, salvation is about receiving God’s rest – that Christian faith and love lies in the truth that we no longer have to work to have true life – the Lord providing entirely for our salvation.

Therefore, unlike the Pharisees’ whose skewed theological understanding is enables us evangelicals to see that rest, rather than an absence of activity, is in fact absence of work which is different from activity! Israel wouldn’t have Sabbath days only but also Sabbath years. However, the Pharisees turned the Sabbath into earning God’s favour, and the point of the Sabbath is that God will provide entirely. But human sin is the choice to reject God’s favour, and the choice to embrace sin (Genesis 3). Thus, man is cursed with work, yet God still yearns to give humanity the rest we are given to enjoy. So what does God do after day seven? Indeed, to give humanity rest again through His work (John 5:17).

Therefore, the work of redemption through the Christ is to give us rest again in the second week after the first seven days!!!

Work of Redemption

John 5:16 – Jesus has just healed a man on the Sabbath; Genesis 2 shows that healing on the Sabbath is a good thing! Yet, it isn’t seen as ‘work’ – John 5:17 – I too am “working as is the Father”. So has this work anything to do with us? Absolutely not – this work of redemption, which the Lord had been doing after his Sabbath on (Genesis 3) is the work of redemption.

John 9 – We meet a blind man in this chapter; the disciples ask why he is blind and Jesus answers in v.3, so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. In v. 6 and 7, Jesus heals and miraculously brings healing through true sight – the gospel of redemption. The work of God after Genesis 3 therefore is a work of redemption and salvation. Jesus in John’s gospel goes to the cross to do the work of redemption. So in v. 4, as long as it is day, we must join in God’s work! To help in bringing healing and redemption to God’s world!

So, the good works (Ephesians 2:10) is joining in GOD’S work which not implicitly, but directly proclaims the gospel which glorifies His name to His good pleasure (Philipians 2:13)! To help in bringing healing and redemption to God’s world!

Two Types of Work

Therefore, we have two types of work: the work to live (temporarily in this fallen world, post Adamic-exile where he banished to the east), and then there is God’s work, which we join, to bringing about redemption. However, can we blend these two together? After all, we work to live, and not live to work!

And similarly, Paul expresses that our labour/work IN THE LORD that is not in vain – that when Christ calls his disciples/fishermen, he stops them and calls them away from their profession. Same with Paul himself, in Acts 18, we learn that he earns his own living through tent-making, but that is not the identity which he carries. No, he does that tent-making work, so that he can do God’s work! God’s work in that work is possible, but that work is merely a stepping stone, a launching pad so he can do God’s work! Therefore, he does that work in mind of the bigger picture of God’s work in redemption.

This is why what job you do or what you choose to do (whether full-time Christian work or not) isn’t the big issue – if you can be a stunningly effective-gospel preacher as a policeman (witnessing to many) but being a compromising pastor, then the former is much more pleasing to God’s work of redemption. Thus, we are missionaries wherever we go, whether we are in the law firm, in the hospital, in the office, on the field. This therefore makes sense of Colossians 3:23, which has been so poorly misused – Colossians 3:23 describes how our work is to partake in GOD’s work. Thus, we work so we can be about God’s work, and we must never confuse the two – since working hard at being a lawyer and doctor and teacher has nothing to do (except to send mentally and physically healthier people to hell) with the clarity of redemption through the gospel of Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension. Or, that we do work that provides us with enough flexibility to spread the gospel – indeed, our work must be related to the gospel. Are we providing our finances to God’s work? Are we providing our time to God’s work? Are we providing our work to God’s work? If not, then you have turned your work into works-salvation, a matter that is not edifying but only an emulation of Adam’s fallible choice in Genesis 3 to not keep or serve, but to reject the gift of the covenant of grace.

Genesis 2:15 – Salvation by works or faith alone?

Genesis 2:1-3 – Day Seven – the Sabbath

Let’s take a look @ Genesis 2:1-3

v.1-3: Day seven – a day representing (temporary) completion. God blessed this day specifically, in contrast to day 1-6. The Sabbath is especially important, and it is blessed because God rested from all his work. The theme in Hebrews 3 and 4 follows after this ‘rest’, a new creation which we strive for – the permanent Sabbath in the new heavenly and earthly kingdom. In John 5 we see the Father giving works to Christ for the sake of new creation.

Sabbath

Like the 7th Day Adventists, the Sabbath obsession of legalistic Pharisaism, it is easy for us to fall into the trap of somehow specifically setting aside one day for God (let alone argue over setting aside a “Saturday” or a “Sunday” for God) and that the other six days are days of secular labour. No — all days belong to God, all of our life belongs to God, all our works come from God (Colossians 3:23). Without diving too deep into the whole ‘good works/Godly works’ vs ‘the curse of work’ post-curse in Genesis 3 (to which I will come to in the next post), let us look firstly at why God specifically blessed day seven and the implications it has for man, who was created on day 6, simply to be whisked away to the Garden for rest on his very first day after his birth?

Exodus 16:23:

“This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning.'”

Exodus 16:26:

Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is a Sabbath, there will be none.”

Exodus 20:10:

the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.

Exodus 31:13-16:

“You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you. You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever.

Deuteronomy 5:14:

…the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you.

Nehemiah 13:15-17:

In those days I saw in Judah people treading winepresses on the Sabbath, and bringing in heaps of grain and loading them on donkeys, and also wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of loads, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them on the day when they sold food. Tyrians also, who lived in the city, brought in fish and all kinds of goods and sold them on the Sabbath to the people of Judah, in Jerusalem itself! Then I confronted the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this evil thing that you are doing, profaning the Sabbath day?

Ezekiel 20:12:

Moreover, I gave them my Sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them.

Matthew 12:8:

For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.

John 5:18:

This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

Colossians 2:16:

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.

In the verses above, the holy Sabbath is treated with the absolute obedience it deserves. Why does one day of the week deserve such significance? Because it is a shadow that preaches the truth of perfection, which the six days thus far only preached in part. The goodness that is awaiting fulfillment – for the Sabbath was made for man, not man for Sabbath – this Sabbath which is a sign for all generations of all times of the covenant between Adam (men) and God – the covenant of grace.

Following this, can we exegetes get anything more out of the number 7, which seems to occur so often in Scripture as well, often connected with the Sabbath?

Significance of the number ‘7’

Lest we become secular numerologists, we should know that our Lord, who is Lord of everything, our Logos, who is the -logy of everything, would have unsurprisingly invoked much symbolism carried behind every number used consistently throughout the Bible – from Satan’s mockery of the Trinity with his 666 (6 being the day man was created, thus 666 as a ‘created’ version of the false Satanic Trinity as opposed to the uncreated Holy Trinity aptly 777) to Jewish gematria. E.M. Bullinger in his “Number in Scripture” has this to say on the number seven:

“We come now to the great number of spiritual perfection. A number which, therefore, occupies so large a place in the works, and especially in the Word of God as being inspired by the Holy Spirit. In the first part of this book we have enlarged somewhat on the importance of this number in Nature and in Grace, so that we need not here repeat many of the interesting facts already given. As a number the actual word and number “SEVEN” is used as no other number is. Seven and its compound occur in multiples of seven in the Old Testament… It is, however, when we come to consider its significance that the true glories of its spiritual perfection as revealed. We have just seen that six is the number which is stamped upon all things human, as being emphatically the number of man.”

In the same chapter he goes on to describe quickly:

“In the Creation we have the six days and the seven. The six of labour and the seventh of rest.”

Then, in considering the chiasm consistent throughout the Hebraic Scripture in Psalm 8:6-8; Isaiah 11:2; Joel 2:28-29; and Romans 9:4 – all of which show the pattern of an umbrella exclamation (in Psalm 8:6-8 ) “Thou hast put all things under his feet” (followed by 6 things); (in Isaiah 11:2) “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him” (followed by six explanations of this Spirit of the Lord); (in Joel 2:28-29) “I will pour out My spirit upon all flesh;” (followed by six types of flesh); (in Romans 9:4) “Who are the Israelites;” (followed by six descriptions of the Israelites). All 7 verses in which 6 are used for explanation – not very much unlike the 6 days of labour used to explain and look forward to day seven the Sabbath day of rest.

Side note:  Bullinger then also looks @ the pattern of the Golden Candlestick, of the six branches out of one central stem, making seven in all…

More importantly, Bullinger especially dissects the Hebrew of the word ‘Seven’:

“In the Hebrew, seven is shevah. It is from the root savah, to be full or satisfied, have enough of. Hence the meaning of the word ‘seven’ is dominated by this root, for on the seventh day God rested from the work of Creation. It was full and complete, and good and perfect. Nothing could be added to it or taken from it without marring it. Hence the word Shavath, to cease, desist, rest, and Shabbath, Sabbath, or day of rest. This root runs through various languages; e.g., Sanscrit, saptan; Zend., hapta; Greek, hepta; Latin, septem. All these preserve the ‘t’, which in the Semitic and Teutonic languages is dropped out; e.g. Gothic, sibun; Germ., sieben; Eng., seven.

It is seven, therefore, that stamps with perfection and completeness that in connection with which it is used. Of time, it tells of the Sabbath, and marks off the week of seventh days, which artificial as it may seem to be, is universal and immemorial in its observance amongst all nations and in all times. It tells of that eternal Sabbath-keeping which remains for the people of God in all its everlasting perfection.

Another meaning of the root Shavagh is to swear, or make an oath. It is clear from its first occurence in Genesis 21:31, “They sware both of them,” that this oath was based upon the “seven ewe lambs” (vv. 28, 29, 30), which point to the idea of satisfaction or fulness in an oath. It is security, satisfaction, and fulness of the obligation, or completeness of the bond, which caused the same word to be used for both the number seven and an oath; and hence it is written, “an oath for confirmation is an end of all strife,” Beer-sheba, the well of the oath, is the standing witness of the spiritual perfection of the number seven.”

In the creative works of God, seven completes the colours of the spectrum and rainbow, and satisfies in music the notes of the scale. In each of these the eighth is only a repetition of the first.

Thus makes sense of the Sabbath year and Jubilee in Leviticus 25/27: 7 years, and 7 x 7 years – 50th year = Jubilee year – with characteristics akin to the Sabbath – Leviticus 25:11-12:

That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of itself nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines. For it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you. You may eat the produce of the field.

So after the Sabbath day, the day of perfection and fulfillment, was Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath, resurrected and preparing for his ascension 40 days later and then return to his Father’s right hand. This very Sabbath, which is merely a shadow of the eternal rest which God is working towards on our behalf, until the finalities of his creations on the Day of resurrection when all creation is destroyed and also resurrected into new life, new heaven, new earth – not mere goodness but perfection as I emphasised in the previous post. The day itself is not important, the number itself is not important – the Israelites have given their 7th day as a shadow of fulfillment, and Christ has fulfilled all. Christ IS our Sabbath. He IS our eternal rest. David understood that truth when he ate the bread of presence which under the law he was forbidden to eat – that is because he saw through the legalism of Sabbath-idolaters, of Pharisaic worshippers, and knew that the true Bread of Life is Christ himself, that Christ himself is the Lord of Sabbath. Like the tabernacles and temples of yesteryear which were destroyed and rebuilt, an unending eternal Temple awaits; like the observations of the moons, suns and stars which in themselves provide only a fraction of God’s true glory and themselves will also be destroyed, so also the shadow of the Sabbath day will be destroyed only to be replaced by the truth of the eternal Day of rest.

Genesis 2:1-3 – Day Seven – the Sabbath