Topical Studies

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What the Bible says about Shamar
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 1:26

To environmentalists, letting man have dominion over the animals and being told to subdue the earth means that God gives man free rein to do anything he wants to the planet—bend it to his uses and abuses, rape it of all its beauty and diversity—for his own benefit. "Does not the land have any rights?" they cry. "What about the plants and animals, birds and fish? What gives us the right to mine and burn and kill without care for nature?"

Certainly, God did not give man the authority to degrade and destroy His earth. Environmentalists are correct in saying that mankind should consider and address environmental concerns. They are quite wrong, however, to blame God for the earth's ecological problems; He is not responsible for man's destruction of the natural world.

To think that God gave man carte blanche to plunder and destroy the earth is simply ludicrous. He is its Creator! Why would He immediately command Adam to ruin it? Would any woodworker, upon just finishing a beautifully stained piece of furniture, tell his son to break it up for firewood? No! Just as God desires for His creation, the woodworker would put his handiwork to use and also care for it by keeping it waxed and dusted to prolong its life.

This is exactly what God told Adam. Genesis 2 contains a parallel account of creation, adding detail to certain parts of the narrative of the first chapter. Notice God's expanded instruction: "Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend [dress, KJV] and keep it" (verse 15). This greatly modifies the force of "have dominion" and "subdue it" from Genesis 1:26, 28!

Tend (Hebrew 'abad) means "to work or serve," and thus referring to the ground or a garden, it can be defined as "to till or cultivate." It possesses the nuance seen in the KJV's choice in its translation: "dress," implying adornment, embellishment, and improvement.

Keep (Hebrew shamar) means "to exercise great care over." In the context of Genesis 2:15, it expresses God's wish that mankind, in the person of Adam, "take care of," "guard," or "watch over" the garden. A caretaker maintains and protects his charge so that he can return it to its owner in as good or better condition than when he received it.

To Noah, God gives a similar command after the Flood:

So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. (Genesis 9:1-2)

Once again God gives man dominion over all other life on the earth, and with this renewed authority comes the implicit responsibility to tend and keep what was explicitly given to Adam. In this post-Flood world, God gives mankind a second chance to use and preserve the resources He had so abundantly provided. To that end Noah, after 120 years as a preacher and shipwright, took up farming and planted a vineyard (verse 20). We can assume, from what we know of human nature, that this attitude of stewardship did not pass to very many of his descendants.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Bible and the Environment

Exodus 12:40-42

Israel was to keep the Night to Be Much Observed in part as a night of watchful vigil to commemorate the reason they could leave Egypt so easily: God watched over them as His plan unfolded.

Reading Genesis 15 with the story in Exodus, we can see how God watched over them. Israel's bondage in Egypt had disciplined Israel, preparing them to go through the wilderness, and afterwards, take the Promised Land. This was God's plan for them, and He watched it brought to completion. His greater plan is not completed even now, because we are a part of it! Genesis 17 shows that it has eternal consequences and is still in operation.

The Night to be Much Observed is a significant event in God's plan. Will anyone deny that God watched out for Israel, seeing the blood on the doorposts and lintels and passing over them? Can anyone deny that He watched over them as they finished spoiling the Egyptians during the daylight portion of Nisan 14, watching as they gathered to meet in Rameses?

“Watch" does not mean that God passively observed them as they left. Instead, it means that He actively "guarded" them. "Watched" comes from the Hebrew shamar, used often and translated as “keep.” Whenever one desires to keep something, he guards and protects it. In like manner, God watched, kept, guarded, and protected Israel. Exodus 11:7 shows just how closely God watched, not allowing even a single dog to bark.

Can anyone deny that God watched as the Israelites walked out that night of Nisan 15 in the very sight of the Egyptians who were burying their dead? Most likely, the Egyptians would want to blame the Israelites for the death of their children and animals. They would be enraged. They could not see God, nor blame Him directly, as it were; but they would take it out on His people. But they stood by numbly instead of resisting or fighting.

The Night to Be Much Observed is the official marking of God's watchful care. It is good and right that we celebrate what God did and continues to do. We can easily see that this portion of the first day of Unleavened Bread is of great significance, not just on the basis of its prior history in the life of Abraham, but also its significance to the Exodus. An entire nation of slaves just got up, and without lifting a hand to achieve their liberty, they walked away.

Most people, in order to win their liberty, must undergo bloody warfare, and many people lose their lives. Those who do not suffer the loss of life usually lose their material wealth. Israel did not lose any lives and came away rich! The captor nation was helpless to do anything to retain its slaves because God restrained the Egyptians.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Night to be Much Observed

Leviticus 19:1-27

Verse 1 informs us that God spoke directly to Moses and that he was to share all of this with the children of Israel. In the next verse, God says, “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” Holy means “sacred” and “set apart.” The points that follow are designed to set Israel apart, and if observed, these statutes and judgments would keep Israel undefiled.

Verses 3 and 4 cover the first, second, fourth, and fifth commandments, and the following four verses deal with sacrificing. Verses 9-10 handle harvesting procedures and leaving something for the poor. Verse 11 covers the eighth and ninth commandments, while verse 12 rephrases the third commandment. Verse 13 gives counsel on dealing with neighbors and employees, and verse 14, with the handicapped. Verse 15 encourages us to judge righteously. Verse 16 condemns gossip, and verses 17-18 concern familial relationships.

After this, verse 19 begins: “You shall keep my statutes . . ..” The Hebrew word underlying “statutes” is shamar, “to hedge about, guard, protect, attend to, preserve, observe, and to treasure up in your memory.” God covers a great deal of ground in the first 18 verses, so at the chapter's halfway mark, He inserts a reminder that these laws and life principles, this huge amount of wisdom, is to be guarded, protected, attended to, preserved, and observed. He closes the chapter in verse 37 with the same reminder.

Notice the three matters listed in verse 19: “You shall not let your livestock breed with another kind. You shall not sow your field with mixed seed. Nor shall a garment of mixed linen and wool come upon you.” Sandwiched between His admonition to bear no grudges and love your neighbor (verse 18) and the penalty for adultery (verse 20), we have these three directives.

Are they on a par with some of these others? No, of course not. Nor is idol worship (verse 4) comparable with gleaning the fields (verse 9). The chapter ends with God commanding us to observe “all My statutes and all My judgments.” We have to discern what this means.

Some of these verses deal with the Ten Commandments. Do any of us doubt that these are still in force and to be kept? Even so, few of us farm the land anymore, so what does mixing livestock or seed have to do with us? For that matter, how many tailors do we have today? What do we know of mixing fabrics? It is possible that pagan priests wore this mix; that one fabric signifies the Old Covenant, and the other, the New; that it was simply a consumer protection law; or that all of the above are true, which is likely. But what does it mean for us today?

Verse 27 admonishes us not to shave around the sides of our heads or “disfigure” the edges of our beards. These were things Egyptians did, and perhaps some of the Israelites had adopted those practices. From this distance in time, we do not really know what they were doing with their beards and hair, but God tells them, “No, don't do that. You are a special people. Come out of Egypt.” So, although we do not have to worry about our beards or hair as much in this regard, we still have to be aware of the “Egypt” around us and come out of her.

This same principle applies to mixing wool and linen. Note that this prohibition does not stand alone because in the same verse, God also forbids mixing cattle and seed. It is the principle of clean and unclean, righteous and unrighteous, Christian or pagan, Egypt or God.

In Matthew 5:17-18, Christ says:

Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.

Even the smallest point in the Old Testament is not “done away” until “all is fulfilled,” until “heaven and earth pass away.” Has that happened yet? Of course not. Some of the physical rituals—such as circumcision, the various washings, sacrifices and offerings—may not have to be performed anymore, but the spiritual intent lives on.

The Old Covenant emphasized physical things as a means of righteousness, but the emphasis under the New Covenant is on spiritual elements in our relationship with God and each other. Under the New Covenant, we become a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1), and that sacrifice begins in our mind. This change from the Old to the New forces us to make spiritual use of the laws already written. They are not done away; we just have to figure out how they apply to us now.

Mike Ford
Wool and Linen


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