2 Kings 11-12: Jehoiada, bearing the reproach of Christ

II Kings 11:

1 Now when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the royal family.

2 But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Joram, sister of Ahaziah, took Joash the son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the king’s sons who were being put to death, and she put him and his nurse in a bedroom. Thus they hid him from Athaliah, so that he was not put to death.

3 And he remained with her six years, hidden in the house of the LORD, while Athaliah reigned over the land.

The whore of Babylon, however, has not yet been destroyed – for the end of days has not yet come. Until then, the bloodline of Satan shall continue to wreck havoc on the promised nation, this time through Athaliah, the type of the enemy.  This is the woman “whom God afflicts”, for she causes the death of the royal family for her own gain.  Even Joash, her grandson “whom Jehovah bestowed”, would not have escaped such brutal murder.  This scene is reminiscent of the hiding of Moses, and the hiding of Jesus – to ensure that the line of Israel is not destroyed (c.f. Exodus 2; Matthew 2).  Six years he spent in the house of the LORD, until the tutelage of priest Jehoiada (“Jehovah known”), growing in the faith as Athaliah sought to destroy all the royal seed (the literal Hebrew of the ESV’s adoption of “family”), destroying the possible fulfillment of Genesis 3:15.

4 But in the seventh year Jehoiada sent and brought the captains of the Carites and of the guards, and had them come to him in the house of the LORD. And he made a covenant with them and put them under oath in the house of the LORD, and he showed them the king’s son.

5 And he commanded them, “This is the thing that you shall do: one third of you, those who come off duty on the Sabbath and guard the king’s house

6 (another third being at the gate Sur and a third at the gate behind the guards) shall guard the palace.

7 And the two divisions of you, which come on duty in force on the Sabbath and guard the house of the LORD on behalf of the king,

8 shall surround the king, each with his weapons in his hand. And whoever approaches the ranks is to be put to death. Be with the king when he goes out and when he comes in.”

9 The captains did according to all that Jehoiada the priest commanded, and they each brought his men who were to go off duty on the Sabbath, with those who were to come on duty on the Sabbath, and came to Jehoiada the priest.

10 And the priest gave to the captains the spears and shields that had been King David’s, which were in the house of the LORD.

11 And the guards stood, every man with his weapons in his hand, from the south side of the house to the north side of the house, around the altar and the house on behalf of the king.

12 Then he brought out the king’s son and put the crown on him and gave him the testimony. And they proclaimed him king and anointed him, and they clapped their hands and said, “Long live the king!”

Are v.4-12 not a picture of the Old Testament?  (c.f. 1 Peter 1) The picture of Israelites, under oath in the house of the LORD to protect and safeguard the king’s son until the day of his crowning?  Some may not see his crowning, yet they long for the day when Athaliah is destroyed and the true King is crowned (Hebrews 11:13).  The object of faith has not changed – it has always been the true king Joash, as directed by Jehoiada who faithfully keeps this one royal seed of Adam and Eve and of Israel from perishing.

13 When Athaliah heard the noise of the guard and of the people, she went into the house of the LORD to the people.

14 And when she looked, there was the king standing by the pillar, according to the custom, and the captains and the trumpeters beside the king, and all the people of the land rejoicing and blowing trumpets. And Athaliah tore her clothes and cried, “Treason! Treason!”

15 Then Jehoiada the priest commanded the captains who were set over the army, “Bring her out between the ranks, and put to death with the sword anyone who follows her.” For the priest said, “Let her not be put to death in the house of the LORD.”

16 So they laid hands on her; and she went through the horses’ entrance to the king’s house, and there she was put to death.

17 And Jehoiada made a covenant between the LORD and the king and people, that they should be the LORD’s people, and also between the king and the people.

18 Then all the people of the land went to the house of Baal and tore it down; his altars and his images they broke in pieces, and they killed Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars. And the priest posted watchmen over the house of the LORD.

19 And he took the captains, the Carites, the guards, and all the people of the land, and they brought the king down from the house of the LORD, marching through the gate of the guards to the king’s house. And he took his seat on the throne of the kings.

20 So all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was quiet after Athaliah had been put to death with the sword at the king’s house.

21  Jehoash was seven years old when he began to reign.

Such a fundamental picture of Satan destroyed according to his folly and arrogance.  Though he too may shout “Treason! Treason!”, he has no justification to do so.  He wants to be God (Ezekiel 28:9), such that Athaliah’s charisma and beauty was struck down by the innocence and incomparable authority of the young king Joash.  She shall be destroyed outside of the house of the LORD (v.15) and thrown into the pit, outside of the fellowship of believers.  It is on this Sabbath day of rest that the coronation of the king is achieved; and that the house of Baal is simultaneously destroyed with the priest of Baal permanently removed.  So the ascension of Joash as king is completed in a matter of one appointed day (Hebrews 5), the fullness of time when Christ too shall return to destroy the house of Babylon and be revealed as the King of kings despite other falsities such as Athalia as the interim king / ruler.  And this judgment shall begin at the house of God (1 Peter 4:17).

II Kings 12:

1 In the seventh year of Jehu, Jehoash began to reign, and he reigned forty years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Zibiah of Beersheba.

2 And Jehoash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all his days, because Jehoiada the priest instructed him.

3 Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away; the people continued to sacrifice and make offerings on the high places.

4 Jehoash said to the priests, “All the money of the holy things that is brought into the house of the LORD, the money for which each man is assessed—the money from the assessment of persons—and the money that a man’s heart prompts him to bring into the house of the LORD,

5 let the priests take, each from his donor, and let them repair the house wherever any need of repairs is discovered.”

6 But by the twenty-third year of King Jehoash, the priests had made no repairs on the house.

7 Therefore King Jehoash summoned Jehoiada the priest and the other priests and said to them, “Why are you not repairing the house? Now therefore take no more money from your donors, but hand it over for the repair of the house.”

8 So the priests agreed that they should take no more money from the people, and that they should not repair the house.

9 Then Jehoiada the priest took a chest and bored a hole in the lid of it and set it beside the altar on the right side as one entered the house of the LORD. And the priests who guarded the threshold put in it all the money that was brought into the house of the LORD.

10 And whenever they saw that there was much money in the chest, the king’s secretary and the high priest came up and they bagged and counted the money that was found in the house of the LORD.

11 Then they would give the money that was weighed out into the hands of the workmen who had the oversight of the house of the LORD. And they paid it out to the carpenters and the builders who worked on the house of the LORD,

12 and to the masons and the stonecutters, as well as to buy timber and quarried stone for making repairs on the house of the LORD, and for any outlay for the repairs of the house.

13 But there were not made for the house of the LORD basins of silver, snuffers, bowls, trumpets, or any vessels of gold, or of silver, from the money that was brought into the house of the LORD,

14 for that was given to the workmen who were repairing the house of the LORD with it.

15 And they did not ask an accounting from the men into whose hand they delivered the money to pay out to the workmen, for they dealt honestly.

16 The money from the guilt offerings and the money from the sin offerings was not brought into the house of the LORD; it belonged to the priests.

The activities of v.1-16 is but a picture of Nehemiah’s building up of the temple after the Babylonian captivity.  However, the hearts of men were still faulty.  Joash reveals the state of man’s heart in v. 4-5, that “All the money of the holy things that is brought into the house of the LORD, the money for which each man is assessed—the money from the assessment of persons—and the money that a man’s heart prompts him to bring into the house of the LORD,

let the priests take, each from his donor, and let them repair the house wherever any need of repairs is discovered”.  The money was a free-will offering to repair the house of the LORD, and Joash’s focus was on ensuring that this house of worship would be the focal point of Israel rather than the high places.  Such is the marked difference between the leadership of one who walks with Jesus under the guidance of a priest of God, compared to the leadership of one who walks by the flesh, heeding poor counsel.  However, the decay of the house of the LORD is an apparent departure from Solomon’s day.  V.13 – there were not made for the house of the LORD basins of silver, snuffers, bowls, trumpets, or any vessels of gold, or of silver.  All went simply to repair.  This is not the golden city of Jerusalem of Revelation 21-22.  Joash is but repairing a shadow, the importance of which has been increasingly neglected by the people of Israel – even Joash himself.  Note the invasion by the Syrians:

17 At that time Hazael king of Syria went up and fought against Gath and took it. But when Hazael set his face to go up against Jerusalem,

18 Jehoash king of Judah took all the sacred gifts that Jehoshaphat and Jehoram and Ahaziah his fathers, the kings of Judah, had dedicated, and his own sacred gifts, and all the gold that was found in the treasuries of the house of the LORD and of the king’s house, and sent these to Hazael king of Syria. Then Hazael went away from Jerusalem.

Instead of lifting up the invasion to God, we see instead Joash gifting items in the house of the LORD to the Syrians.  This act may seem strange independent of his other account in 2 Chronicles 24, which reveals that Jehoiada was the one ensuring Joash was following Jesus:

““15 But Jehoiada grew old and full of days, and died. He was 130 years old at his death.

16 And they buried him in the city of David among the kings, because he had done good in Israel, and toward God and his house.

17 Now after the death of Jehoiada the princes of Judah came and paid homage to the king. Then the king listened to them.

18 And they abandoned the house of the LORD, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols. And wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this guilt of theirs.

19 Yet he sent prophets among them to bring them back to the LORD. These testified against them, but they would not pay attention.

20 Then the Spirit of God clothed Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, and he stood above the people, and said to them, “Thus says God, ‘Why do you break the commandments of the LORD, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the LORD, he has forsaken you.’”

21 But they conspired against him, and by command of the king they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the LORD.

22 Thus Joash the king did not remember the kindness that Jehoiada, Zechariah’s father, had shown him, but killed his son. And when he was dying, he said, “May the LORD see and avenge!””

 

Instead, the king began to listen to the princes of Judah, and they “abandoned the house of the LORD” and served the Asherim and the idols.  Joash, too, abandoned the house – and thus wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem, explaining the invasion of the Syrians.  Instead, these are the rest of the acts of Joash described in the following v.19, and so the plan against Joash in the opening of 2 Kings 11 was materialized in the end of his life.  Joash, unfortunately, was not the promised Seed who would rebuild the house of God and Israel, although his life was modeled as such by Jehoiada and Zechariah, the true worshippers of Jesus Christ.  Instead, Joash dies a gruesome death, fitting to that of a king without God.

19 Now the rest of the acts of Joash and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?

20 His servants arose and made a conspiracy and struck down Joash in the house of Millo, on the way that goes down to Silla.

21 It was Jozacar the son of Shimeath and Jehozabad the son of Shomer, his servants, who struck him down, so that he died. And they buried him with his fathers in the city of David, and Amaziah his son reigned in his place.

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2 Kings 11-12: Jehoiada, bearing the reproach of Christ

1 Samuel 4: Death of the High Priest, Life of the Word

The prophecies of 1 Samuel 2 and 3 come to fruition in chapter 4 where the focus once again is on Samuel – that his word came to Israel.  What is the significance of his word in comparison to the words of the High Priest?  These are words which bore much implication, that would make the two ears of the Israelites tingle – that the High Priest of Israel, along with his household, would perish forever without mediation.  All the previous judges have succeeded in one sense or another in striving against Israel’s enemy and reformation of internal strife; but Eli is a fallen judge who died in this chapter as an empty shell of a priest.

At first sight, the threat seems to affect only Eli, Hophni and Phinehas.  However, the LORD’s punishment extends from the head of Israel to the body congregation.  The implication of Eli’s household being removed is fully realised in this chapter:  the physical ark inherently cannot save for it symbolises the throne room of the Father, but the Father Son and Spirit are not with Israel in their ordeal against the Philistines; 4000 Israelites die as a result of the Lord’s permission.  “Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines?” – indeed, even the Israelites know that the Philistines, no matter how mighty, could not strive even a moment against Israel if she is mediated by the High Priest.  The Levitical traditions laid out in the first few chapters of Leviticus, with the pinnacle of the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16, represent the utter importance of the holiness of this typological Mediator.  Yet, Eli has failed – and what strikes fear in the Old Testament Church’s heart is not only how astounding it is to hear of the removal of this great priest; but that his prophesied removal is the first ever heard of – and that without mediation, Israel would be the subject of judgment.  Where is the bull offering for the anointed priest’s sin (Leviticus 4:3)?  Is Samuel the man who acts presumptuously in the place of the High Priest (Deuteronomy 17:12)?  Both answers result in the negative: there is no sacrifice, for Eli has spat upon it.  There is no high priest in the household of Eli, for Samuel is the one who now receives revelation from the Son who made and is making the Father known to him.  Eli stands far away from enemy lines (v.13), though for victory to be ensured, he must proclaim success at the head of the army:

Deu 20:1-4  “When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them, for the LORD your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.  (2)  And when you draw near to the battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the people (3)  and shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, today you are drawing near for battle against your enemies: let not your heart faint. Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them,  (4)  for the LORD your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.’

Once again, where is the priest?  He is dead.  He was spiritually dead before his neck broke (v.18), but his death is to lead to the death of the congregation.  The pugilist (Hophni) and mouth of the serpent (Phinehas) were both the seed of Eli.  Is this man worthy of his name – of ascension?  By no means – he has harboured the seed of Satan and the seed of strife in his house against His will (c.f. chapter 2v.29).  And thus, Eli’s contribution as judge of Israel has not been a contribution of glory like the previous judges before him.  He did not live by the Spirit’s direction, and instead was used as an example of the fallen house of the congregation Israel.  The pain of childbirth, the immediate curse upon Eve after the fall of man, is for the first time mentioned in Scripture since Genesis 3 – and it is in the context of the descendant of the fallen High Priest, a huge contrast to the picture of doxology in Hannah’s childbirth.  Where Eli’s daughter-in-law wept because the glory has left Israel (v.22), Hannah’s weeping are tears of joy because the glory has not left Israel entirely, but that the LORD has left a remnant within Israel who are spiritually circumcised as voiced beautifully in her praise song in chapter 2.  Light has entered the world, when Israel was at its height of darkness, though this microcosm is to have a fuller display in the Assyrian and Babylonian captivity of God’s “chosen” nation.

And what of the neglected ark?  It is captured, but it does not lose its symbolism as the Father’s throne seat.  It is here that we see the glory being returned to where Israel first battled against the Philistines.  The encampment, Ebenezer, the stone of help, was the very stone of stumbling (1 Peter 2:8) which burdened the Israelites; yet by the return of the ark at the side of Samuel in 1 Samuel 7:

1Sa 7:12-13  Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the LORD has helped us.”  (13)  So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel. And the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel.

Thus, true salvation came not through Eli.  Nor through the ark of the covenant.  Especially not through the might of Israel.  For Israel is weak; the ark an icon; Eli a fallen high priest – but Samuel was led by the Word of God who he met in chapter 2 – and standing tall at the beginning of chapter 4, it is by the word that Samuel conquered and rose higher than the High Priest.  Only through the complete deprivation and erasure of the household of Eli, only through the establishment of Ichabod – of no glory in this house – did the glory of the household of Yahweh return to Israel in the ark’s symbolic return; but the true power had always been the Word which even restores the ark to its purpose.  Only through the breaking of the neck of Eli could his headship be removed from that of Israel and be entirely replaced by the Head of Christ, by the true King David.  Only by the breaking of the neck of Eli could new creation birth be praised, as opposed to birth out of creation-pains of sin.  The death of the old Adam, of Eli, symbolises the born-again life in the Son by the Spirit as we are grafted into the true vine of life (Romans 11:23).

Thus, where the Israelites used the ‘ark’ superstitiously for their own glory, Samuel was used by LORD’s Word and Son to lead Israel to glory in spite of the widespread non-messianic Judaism.  It is not by Eli’s failed high-priesthood mediation that Israel is to be redeemed; but that Israel is to be condemned by the law, of the failures in fulfilling the high-priestly role, so that the Word can be the True High Priest and True and Only Mediator as established through Samuel.  So I end this chapter on the prophetic and faithful words of Job:

Job 33:23-26  If there be for him an angel, a mediator, one of the thousand, to declare to man what is right for him,  (24)  and he is merciful to him, and says, ‘Deliver him from going down into the pit; I have found a ransom;  (25)  let his flesh become fresh with youth; let him return to the days of his youthful vigor’;  (26)  then man prays to God, and he accepts him; he sees his face with a shout of joy, and he restores to man his righteousness.

1 Samuel 4: Death of the High Priest, Life of the Word

Leviticus 21-22: New Creation bodies

The last four chapters 16-20 spoke of the holy priesthood.  What of the priests?  What about their “lifestyle”?  What about what they eat?  Who can also eat?  What about what is offered by the people?  Leviticus 21-22 seeks to answer these questions, moving from the nation of priests to the true priests themselves and the pattern of our lifestyle.. in New Creation.

1.  Without Blemish: the renewed Bodies (Leviticus 21)

2.  Priestly food: the Tree of Life (Leviticus 22:1-16)

3.  Priestly sacrifices: the unblemished Lamb (Leviticus 22:17-33)

1.  Without Blemish: the renewed Bodies (Leviticus 21)

Matthew Henry points out the distinctions in Leviticus 21:

This chapter might borrow its title from Mal_2:1, “And now, O you priests, this commandment is for you.” It is a law obliging priests with the utmost care and jealousy to preserve the dignity of their priesthood.  I. The inferior priests are here charged both concerning their mourning and concerning their marriages and their children (Lev_21:1-9).  II. The high priest is restrained more than any of them (Lev_21:10-15).  III. Neither the one nor the other must have any blemish (Lev_21:16, etc.).

Note that while the priests themselves are ‘lower’ than the high priest, the priest witnesses to the high priest, just as the high priest witnesses directly to Christ.  However, note that there is no partiality in terms of blemish: both must be without blemish, whether high priest or not.  Let’s understand Jesus better by looking at the meanings of God’s establishment of holiness on these priests.

Lev 21:1-24  And the LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: No one shall make himself unclean for the dead among his people,  (2)  except for his closest relatives, his mother, his father, his son, his daughter, his brother,  (3)  or his virgin sister (who is near to him because she has had no husband; for her he may make himself unclean).  (4)  He shall not make himself unclean as a husband among his people and so profane himself.

The meanings of these verses display the complete dedication of the priests to their duty, to the point where they have no ‘liberty’ to weep for peopl besides the immediate family.  This may sound harsh, but it reflects much about Christ’s work.  Christ indeed wept for people during his 30-year ministry on earth:

Joh 11:32-35  Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  (33)  When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.  (34)  And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”  (35)  Jesus wept.

Who was this dead man? Lazarus: yet, did Jesus know him intimately?  No.  In fact, if we were to read Leviticus 21:1-4 correctly, it appears that the only people Christ would have wept for is Mary, Joseph, and James, depending on whether you see him as Christ’s blood brother or spiritual brother (I vouch the former, for not many other Christians in the New Testament were referred to specifically as the LORD’s brother).  However, Jesus’ weeping for Lazarus means something incredibly profound: that he would consider us so dear to him like the “closest relatives” (Leviticus 21:2), before Lazarus even rose from the dead!  That is the significance of Christ’s love for us, before we even loved Him; his faithfulness to us, before we even try to be faithful (Romans 3:4).

(5)  They shall not make bald patches on their heads, nor shave off the edges of their beards, nor make any cuts on their body.  (6)  They shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God. For they offer the LORD’s food offerings, the bread of their God; therefore they shall be holy.  (7)  They shall not marry a prostitute or a woman who has been defiled, neither shall they marry a woman divorced from her husband, for the priest is holy to his God.  (8 )  You shall sanctify him, for he offers the bread of your God. He shall be holy to you, for I, the LORD, who sanctify you, am holy.  (9)  And the daughter of any priest, if she profanes herself by whoring, profanes her father; she shall be burned with fire.  (10)  “The priest who is chief among his brothers, on whose head the anointing oil is poured and who has been consecrated to wear the garments, shall not let the hair of his head hang loose nor tear his clothes.  (11)  He shall not go in to any dead bodies nor make himself unclean, even for his father or for his mother.  (12)  He shall not go out of the sanctuary, lest he profane the sanctuary of his God, for the consecration of the anointing oil of his God is on him: I am the LORD.  (13)  And he shall take a wife in her virginity.  (14)  A widow, or a divorced woman, or a woman who has been defiled, or a prostitute, these he shall not marry. But he shall take as his wife a virgin of his own people,  (15)  that he may not profane his offspring among his people, for I am the LORD who sanctifies him.”

There is much to be said about v.5-15, but it would be entirely appropriate to classify these verses under the priest’s sexual purity.  v.5-6 speaks of holiness manifested through the priests’ obedience in not making marks on their bodies, most likely reflecting the pagan cultures surrounding them – and again, it is re-emphasised that they are not merely called to be clean – but to be holy (v.6).  Therefore, their purity is maintained by not marrying a prostitute, or a woman divorced from her husband – thus, a virgin (v.7-9, 13-15).  This is entirely significant, and follows on from the imagery of Adam and Eve in the Garden.  God created both in his image (Genesis 1:26-27), and both revered God as to embody the picture of Adam’s headship over Eve’s submission, which manifestly displays Christ’s love for the church which submits (Ephesians 5:22-33).  However, where is this picture shown when the priest, or High Priest, ‘goes into’ or ‘knows’ (both terms relating to sexual intercourse) or ‘marries’ a prostitute or a divorced person?  The reason simply given in Leviticus 21:7 is “for the priest is holy to his God“.  Holiness is readily defined time and time again throughout Leviticus, which ultimately speaks of God’s personality.  Leviticus is God’s biography – and he is manifestly telling us that Christ is not going to marry a corrupt, ungodly church.  That is the picture of adultery, when Israel has been constantly referred to as idolatrous and adulterous because of her unfaithfulness (c.f. books of Hosea and Ezekiel).  Thus, for a priest to marry a prostitute is akin to Christ marrying, for example, a Canaanite who still offers herself to other gods and idols. That is why in v.14 it says that he shall take a virgin from his own people – for Christ marries none other than his own.  What kind of gospel are we preaching when we, as Christians and as priests of God, date or marry a non-Christian?  It is a ‘gospel’ of universalism and open theism.  Let us not be false teachers people, and learn to devote ourselves to Christ in our relational life.

But why marginalise the ‘prostitues’, ‘divorced’ and ‘widowed’, over the ‘virgin’?  This is speaking about the purity of the person coming before the priest; the purity of the person coming before Christ.  The definition of ‘purity’ and ‘without blemish’ will come more into play in the later verses, but it is important to note that this seeming partiality towards the divorced and the prostitute is extremely important in our eschatological theology.  What the LORD is essentially telling us, is that in new Jerusalem, where we have our wedding feast with Christ – only there will we be officially married to Christ.  It is most important to remember however that before we can even stand before Christ in new creation, we must be in our wedding garbs of righteousness (Isaiah 61).  What this means is mani-fold, but just to pick out two: it means that we are completely righteous before Christ and the Father, as if we are Christ himself (since we are in Christ now).  Remember however that Christ is a virgin – that he never knew a person during his lifetime on earth.  This, along with other reasons why he remains celibate, completely contradicts the “Brownian effect” (a term I coin for Dan Brown’s ludicrous theology), and is just merely an expression of someone who simply did not understand Christ’s ministry on earth.

If we are in Christ, and we are presented to the Father as if we were Christ himself, that means we inherit his body, his resurrection, his ascension, his righteousness… and undoubtedly, his virginity.  Therefore, it is most important that the wife is a virgin – to emulate the virginity of Christ, as the church takes on Christ’s very being.

(16)  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (17)  “Speak to Aaron, saying, None of your offspring throughout their generations who has a blemish may approach to offer the bread of his God.  (18 )  For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, a man blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long,  (19)  or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand,  (20)  or a hunchback or a dwarf or a man with a defect in his sight or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles.  (21)  No man of the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer the LORD’s food offerings; since he has a blemish, he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God.  (22)  He may eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy and of the holy things,  (23)  but he shall not go through the veil or approach the altar, because he has a blemish, that he may not profane my sanctuaries, for I am the LORD who sanctifies them.”  (24)  So Moses spoke to Aaron and to his sons and to all the people of Israel.

People may read v.16-21 and say that it is harsh.  Remember however, that this priesthood was not ‘gained’ by Aaron and his sons, because of their faithfulness.  It has always been God’s pattern to gift us with ministries and salvation (Genesis chapters 12, 15; Romans 9:6).  If we continually look at the priests Christologically, we are learning something valuable about the comparison of the human priests to our God-King-Priest Yeshua/Joshua/Jesus.  Because, the human priest is after all weak, and will succumb to God’s sovereignty over their birth defect, or defect eventually gained in their life (v. 18 ).  But the fully divine AND human priest is sinless, and without blemish.  The LORD, through the expression of these verses, is solidifying his holiness over man’s incapability of remaining holy without the LORD’s permission or sovereignty over even his own birth.  One cannot help but read these verses and completely kneel and give oneself to the living God’s interaction with us, and ability to humble us so we do not misappropriate the true role of priesthood in our own hands, when we have been given this privilege through Christ alone, who is our only sinless High Priest without blemish (Hebrews 4:15).  Without a High Priest without blemish, he would not be capable of representing the assembly of Israel to take the blood of the sacrifice before the ark of the covenant within the Holy of Holies (v.21 and 23).

However, do not be discouraged because you are born with, or you now have, a physical defect.  That is not God’s intention nor his expression in these verses: he is actually giving us a message of hope and humility to stand before him without arrogance, and trusting only in Christ.  Because Christ took on human flesh, he rose again in a renewed body.  In the same way, our Christ whose body was without blemish, who was a virgin, who ascended to heaven and sat at the right hand of God – WE also, will appropriate these things because of him.  Leviticus 21 is a picture of hope for us only if we stand by the unblemished High Priest, so we look forward to our new creation bodies without blemish.

2.  Priestly food: the Tree of Life (Leviticus 22:1-16)

If the holiness and unblemished character of the priests reflect that of Christ’s unblemished nature, what of the priestly food?

Lev 22:1-33  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (2)  “Speak to Aaron and his sons so that they abstain from the holy things of the people of Israel, which they dedicate to me, so that they do not profane my holy name: I am the LORD.

The opening verses of chapter 22 follows on naturally from chapter 21 – firstly, if the priest is holy, so also the “things” are holy.

It is quite interesting as to why both priest and the offering are holy – for they speak of how Christ is both priest and sacrifice.  We play no role in creation nor redemption!  We are partakers, and taken up into that role of creation and redemption.  Here, we see a picture of God’s definition of redemption: that Christ the holy priest offers himself as holy offering.  Jurgen Moltmann in his “The Church in the Power of the Spirit: A Contribution of Messianic Ecclesiology”:

“It is not the church that has a mission of salvation to fulfill in the world, it is the mission of the Son and the Spirit through the Father which includes the church”

It is therefore through Christ that we can even partake in God’s work.  God continually reminds the Aaronic priests that it is not them actually remitting the sins of Israel, for they are actually sinful!  This is explained in v.2 – that the Aaronic priests should abstain from the holy things while he has uncleanness as explained in v.3 onwards:

(3)  Say to them, ‘If any one of all your offspring throughout your generations approaches the holy things that the people of Israel dedicate to the LORD, while he has an uncleanness, that person shall be cut off from my presence: I am the LORD.  (4)  None of the offspring of Aaron who has a leprous disease or a discharge may eat of the holy things until he is clean. Whoever touches anything that is unclean through contact with the dead or a man who has had an emission of semen,  (5)  and whoever touches a swarming thing by which he may be made unclean or a person from whom he may take uncleanness, whatever his uncleanness may be–  (6)  the person who touches such a thing shall be unclean until the evening and shall not eat of the holy things unless he has bathed his body in water.

This is actually a great verse, in exposing the truth of Genesis 3:22.  Here is the verse:

And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever…

Now, some people think there is a defect in the translation – and I think there is.  But it is better interpreted as such in the context of Genesis 3.  Remember that man has eaten from the tree of good and evil, celebrating the seeming autonomy of man pitted against God.  Satan has effectively influenced man through the tree of the law – and man attempted to do the works of the law and fulfill the law in itself.  However, man can at any time take from the tree of life, having already sinned against God.  Can man just live forever and God will look away at man’s great offence against Him?  No – and that is why God bars the way to the tree of life.  We simply do not deserve it: and our sin must be dealt with.  To live forever as self-proclaimed and self-righteous and self-justifying “God-men” (in terms of judging what is good and evil for ourself) is simply heresy.

However, we can eat from this holy tree, if we are clean.  Adam and Eve solidified their uncleanness by eating of the tree of good and evil, thus God barred the way to the tree of life signified by the cherubim and the burning sword, manifested in the veil with the cherubim pattern.  The only way we can enjoy the food, the feast, is if there is blood to cleanse us so we have renewed bodies.  Only with a renewed body can we take food from the tree of life – any other attempt is futile and we will only be caught up in the veil-flame between the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place.  Revelation 2:7 and 22:14:

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

and

Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

And who can overcome?  Who can do his commandments?  Christ.  And in Christ, God looks at us as if we are Christ himself – and we stand as the righteous and blessed man, through His Son’s blood and water.

(7)  When the sun goes down he shall be clean, and afterward he may eat of the holy things, because they are his food.  (8 )  He shall not eat what dies of itself or is torn by beasts, and so make himself unclean by it: I am the LORD.’  (9)  They shall therefore keep my charge, lest they bear sin for it and die thereby when they profane it: I am the LORD who sanctifies them.  (10)  “A lay person shall not eat of a holy thing; no foreign guest of the priest or hired servant shall eat of a holy thing,  (11)  but if a priest buys a slave as his property for money, the slave may eat of it, and anyone born in his house may eat of his food.  (12)  If a priest’s daughter marries a layman, she shall not eat of the contribution of the holy things.  (13)  But if a priest’s daughter is widowed or divorced and has no child and returns to her father’s house, as in her youth, she may eat of her father’s food; yet no lay person shall eat of it.  (14)  And if anyone eats of a holy thing unintentionally, he shall add the fifth of its value to it and give the holy thing to the priest.  (15)  They shall not profane the holy things of the people of Israel, which they contribute to the LORD,  (16)  and so cause them to bear iniquity and guilt, by eating their holy things: for I am the LORD who sanctifies them.”

v.16 – “For I am the LORD who sanctifies them”.  What of this seeming intolerance of “lay persons”?  Let’s go through verse by verse.  v.7-8 is a re-iteration of the law on eating, and the refrain again: “I am the LORD who sanctifies them” (v.9).  Then, v. 10: a lay person shall not eat a holy thing.  Therefore, the contrast is established: a holy unblemished priest can eat of holy things: but a lay person, who is merely clean cannot eat of holy things.  v.11 explains: a slave bought as the priests property for a price, can eat of it.

Let’s stop here for a bit: a doulos (greek for slave) who is bought at a price for his life?  1 Corinthians 7:22:

For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ.

However, given the potential exegetical fallacy in comparing the NT greek for ‘doulos’ with the OT ‘ebed (עבד Hebrew for bond-servant), there is a high possibility that they convey subtle different meanings.  Indeed there is – the word doulos is in fact such a limited semantic choice the translators picked for the ESV.  Consider the LXX on v.11:  psyche (ψυχή), which actually means breath or spirit.  Thus, matching the LXX against the Hebrew, it can be re-translated as “but if a priest buys any soul as his property for money“.  The semantic range for “soul” (psyche in Greek, nephesh in Hebrew, נפשׁ ) is vast:  it can simply mean a breathing creature, a creature which has life or simply Spirit (though I think a living creature is more appropriate, since the Spirit is often referred to as wind, or ruah in Hebrew).

The Trinity in relation to those who take part in the House of the Priest

Let’s look at the first semantic choice: if a slave can now eat of the holy food as if he was actually born in the house of the priest (aka, becoming one of the priestly line), then he is adopted into the Holy family!  What a wonderful picture of the Holy Trinity!  Matthew 11 is my proof text for comparison:

Mat 11:25-27  At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;  (26)  yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.  (27)  All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

These verses from Matthew reveals just how closely intertwined one’s salvation is to one’s knowledge of the Trinity: one simply cannot be saved without acknowledgment of the Trinity.  When we are adopted into the Holy Family of God, we are now seen as sons of God (meaning the Father: c.f. Romans 8:14, so we are not sons of Christ), like Christ, because we are joined to, and in Christ! We NOW partake in Christ’s sonship and directly capable of speaking to the Father by the power of the Spirit making all of this possible.  Without the Trinity, salvation simply does NOT make sense.  The implications of this are vast – or should I say explicit nature, rather than implicit nature.  If we follow after Abraham’s faith in Romans 4, and Hebrews 11 states very clearly that these Old Testament saints had the same faith which we now follow, then how is it possible that the Old Testament saints can even be saved without any saving knowledge of the Trinity?  Leviticus 21-22 is a lesson plan, teaching them about the Trinity in the context of New Creation!  For the people alive during Moses time who not only had the passages of Genesis and Exodus to read concerning the Angel of the LORD, the Burning Bush, the Pillar of Cloud and Fire, the Passover Lamb, the Three Tabernacle Furniture described BEFORE the Tabernacle itself, the Father who descended on Mt. Sinai on the Third Day – these are all profound and explicit pictures of not the multi, but tri-Personal nature of the Trinity.  Otherwise, there is profound difficulty in Jesus being the sacrifice to himself – when he is clearly bringing his blood to the Father, and not to himself!  What we may end up with is a modalistic nature of God who ‘acts’ as sacrifice, Son, Father, Spirit when he wishes, which is clearly impossible given the separate actions of each to fulfil the fulsome picture of a Holy Family who are separate in number and persons, but not separate in entity.

That, however, is merely the limited semantic concerning the English translation ‘slave’ or ‘bondservant’.  What of the specific usage of psyche and nephesh – the spirited creature?  I have investigated the claim concerning fish which are the only creatures without breath, without a soul (Genesis 1:30 implies that only the birds in heavens, beast of earth and everything that creeps on the ground has the breath of God sustaining them).  This in fact is a picture of salvation, coloured by the salvation of spirited beasts in Jonah (Jonah 3: 8 ) – which points again towards New Creation (Isaiah 11:6-10) where only the creatures with the Spirit sustaining them will co-exist with us there peacefully.  Thus, v.11 isn’t exclusive of the beasts who, throughout Scripture, are mentioned to be saved unto God to new Creation – and the semantic range of v.11 simply refers to the salvation of every creature (including man and beast) to New Creation, by adoption through Christ, the true priest!

A layman is simply ‘clean’ – and even God says that is not enough.  That is the explanation of the Ascension: if we are left with death and resurrection, then as Christians, we are left with a blank slate whenever we return to Christ.  He is like an eraser, who erases our sins.  But that is merely a burnt and a sin offering for cleansing.  What about our priestly ordination?  What about our ability to eat of the holy fruit: we must become holy; we must be sanctified.  This is why the ascension is CRUCIAL to the work of the cross: without it, we will not be sanctified and go with Christ through to the Holy of Holies.  We would forever remain as clean laypeople but barred from even going through the veil of fire.  What good would that be?  What kind of God ‘saves’ us, but leaves us stranded on the proverbial limbo?  Not the Jesus of the Bible: for he desires not only to cleanse us, but to impute to us HIS holiness, so WE as a body of Christians can commune with the Triune God manifested through food, as symbolised by the great wedding feast which is the first thing that awaits us in New Creation!  He is, as He repeatedly says, the LORD who sanctifies us – through Jesus Christ alone.

3.  Priestly sacrifices: the unblemished Lamb (Leviticus 22:17-33)

(17)  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (18)  “Speak to Aaron and his sons and all the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of the house of Israel or of the sojourners in Israel presents a burnt offering as his offering, for any of their vows or freewill offerings that they offer to the LORD,  (19)  if it is to be accepted for you it shall be a male without blemish, of the bulls or the sheep or the goats.  (20)  You shall not offer anything that has a blemish, for it will not be acceptable for you.  (21)  And when anyone offers a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering from the herd or from the flock, to be accepted it must be perfect; there shall be no blemish in it.  (22)  Animals blind or disabled or mutilated or having a discharge or an itch or scabs you shall not offer to the LORD or give them to the LORD as a food offering on the altar.  (23)  You may present a bull or a lamb that has a part too long or too short for a freewill offering, but for a vow offering it cannot be accepted.  (24)  Any animal that has its testicles bruised or crushed or torn or cut you shall not offer to the LORD; you shall not do it within your land,  (25)  neither shall you offer as the bread of your God any such animals gotten from a foreigner. Since there is a blemish in them, because of their mutilation, they will not be accepted for you.”

Now, we turn to priestly sacrifices which are also seen as without blemish (v.20-21).  If our priests are without blemish, and that the food they (and the other priests, including slaves of priests and those who return to the house of the priest as wholly devoted, like the woman who has returned to singlehood and no longer bound to another, so she can devote herself fully to Jesus in spiritual marriage to Him) eat gives them life as classified as a holy thing, then HOW can we receive these things?  Through sacrifices without blemish.

You may wonder: what does this have to do with v.24-25 – the sacrifice’s ‘testicles’?  This is because this is where the seed comes from: the seed that gives life.  I have investigated the truths behind ‘semen’, behind ‘seed’ theology (Genesis 1:11), behind circumcision (Genesis 17) – and that they find their definitive meaning of renewed eternal life in the Seed of Genesis 3:15.  Therefore, to provide an animal with crushed testicles, then that is to preach that the animal is incapable of giving new life – that the animal is not an appropriate sacrifice which preaches Jesus’ ability to give new life, as symbolised by the renaming of Eve as the mother of all living, and through Mary the literal mother of the Son of True living.

(26)  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (27)  “When an ox or sheep or goat is born, it shall remain seven days with its mother, and from the eighth day on it shall be acceptable as a food offering to the LORD.  (28 )  But you shall not kill an ox or a sheep and her young in one day.  (29)  And when you sacrifice a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the LORD, you shall sacrifice it so that you may be accepted.  (30)  It shall be eaten on the same day; you shall leave none of it until morning: I am the LORD.  (31)  “So you shall keep my commandments and do them: I am the LORD.  (32)  And you shall not profane my holy name, that I may be sanctified among the people of Israel. I am the LORD who sanctifies you,  (33)  who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the LORD.”

Again, let’s not smoothe over the details of the birth of the ox or sheep, which awaits the 8th day of Christ’s resurrection after Sabbath to be seen as acceptable as food offering to the LORD.  It is a forward looking sacrifice to new creation of the 8th day.  The cutting of the flesh through which seed is borne in the male genitalia (Genesis 17) is directly analogised to the cutting of the flesh of the beast – and both are suitable examples of Christ’s work on the cross – he is the God, the man, and the Lamb.

v28 is interesting and is a humane presentation of God’s view to sacrifices – he is not bloodthirsty: but the sacrifices are still necessary.  Here is Matthew Henry’s take on the verse:

That the dam and her young should not both be killed in one day, whether in sacrifice or for common use, Lev_22:28. There is such a law as this concerning birds, Deu_22:6. This was forbidden, not as evil in itself, but because it looked barbarous and cruel to the brute creatures; like the tyranny of the king of Babylon, that slew Zedekiah’s sons before his eyes, and then put out his eyes. It looked ill-natured towards the species to kill two generations at once, as if one designed the ruin of the kind.

And v.29-30 is again a re-establishment of the laws already taught in Leviticus 7:15; 19:6-7.

No Foreigners

v.10 and v.25 of chapter 22 speaks quite clearly against foreigners: this immediately symbolised the purity of Israel which we have already looked at.  It is a witness towards spiritual purity – and that the only acceptable person to eat of the Holy food, off the Tree of Life, is a Christian – not a ‘foreigner’ who confesses not Christ.  Secondly, the animal sacrifice shall be provided by a local, and not a foreigner – again to display the salvation of Christ through the Jews, explaining his incarnation as a Jew – to be part of their ethnic and spiritual identity.

Conclusion

The last two verses of chapter 22 summarise many of the truths spoken of since Exodus 20 to Leviticus 22: “I am the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the LORD”.  Since Exodus 20, every statement has been a pattern of things to come – that even the 10 commandments are filled with “You shall” statement.  Statements of promise that we will do these things without blemish.  Similarly, v. 31 repeats it: “you SHALL keep my commandments” – not you must.  Remember this is no works-salvation: the Israelites are learning these commandments on the basis of having been already saved – the constant phrase of “I am the LORD who saved you out of the land of Egypt“.  A God who saves will not then require them to prove themselves as save-worthy – that would be akin to asking the Israelites to do as Nadab and Abihu did, and provide strange, additional hostile offering.  Rather, this is a God making promises: Here is a Father, and the Son, and the Spirit, authoritatively and confidently establishing what we will and we shall do eventually – in new creation.  Are you confident in your own ability to be the priest who provides an unblemished sacrifice of your own, whether in the form of your devotion in religion, the number of times you pray, or the number of pilgrimages and fasts you have committed yourself to?  Or are you confident in Christ’s ability to be the priest who provides himself (Genesis 22) as the unblemished sacrifice?

Let us inherit the hope of New Creation – looking forward to our own sanctification so we can finally eat of the Tree of Life which God had always intended for us to enjoy with us by His side.

Leviticus 21-22: New Creation bodies